Thursday, Oct. 4: Live Updates From NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week
It’s Qualifying Day for the DIRTcar big-block Modified VP Small Engine Fuels 200 and Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150 at the one-mile New York State Fairgrounds. Time Trials for both divisions were scheduled for this afternoon, but with wet track conditions forcing a late start to practice officials announced at 2:25 p.m. that big-block Modified time trials will be contested starting at 4:45 p.m. and 358-Modified qualifying will be pushed to tomorrow (Friday) at 11 a.m.
Click the ‘Read More’ link below for live updates of the action on the ‘Moody Mile’ and other news and notes throughout the day, and check back tonight for updates from the World of Outlaws Late Model Series/Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series doubleheader at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge, N.Y. Be sure to refresh your browser regularly to read the latest information.
Rolling Wheels Raceway Park: World of Outlaws Late Model Series
A five-eighths-mile semi-banked track, Rolling Wheels is hosting the WoO LMS for the fourth time. There have been three different winners in the previous races: Chub Frank in 2005, Darrell Lanigan in 2010 and Rick Eckert in 2011 (the first World of Outlaws show run as part of NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week).
For live updates of all the news, pit notes and results from tonight’s action, click the HERE.
Rolling Wheels Raceway Park: 358-Modified Series
A-Main (75 laps): 1. 20 Brett Hearn; 2. 27J Danny Johnson; 3. 7 Lee Gill; 4. 17d Danny O’Brien; 5. 4* Tim McCreadie; 6. 3b Chad Brachmann; 7. 89b Todd Burley; 8. 55x Frank Caprara; 9. 6m Mat Williamson; 10. 66x Carey Terrance; 11. 007 Roy Tarbell; 12. 77x Dale Planck; 13. 1R Jeff McGinnis; 14. 55 Perry Francis; 15. 12Y Yannick Ledoux; 16. 71 Mike Bowman; 17. 53 Shane Donath; 18. 38 Ryan Susice; 19. 007x John Lazore; 20. 22c Mario Clair; 21. 26 Rick Richner; 22. 45 Mike Ward; 23. 9s Matt Sheppard; 24. 37s Tommy Flannigan; 25. 7F Vic Coffey; 26. 25R Erick Rudolph; 27. 93 Richie Vinson; 28. 117 Alex Tonkin; 29. 113 Eldon Payne; 30. 74 Matt Billings
Heat 1: 1. Coffey; 2. Gill; 3. Planck; 4. Vinson; 5. Burley; 6. Donath; 7. Francis; 8. Roger Chrysler; 9. Dagenais; 10. Jones
Heat 2: 1. Clair; 2. Caprara; 3. Rudolph; 4. Terrance; 5. Johnson; 6. Susice; 7. Tonkin; 8. Rauscher; 9. White; 10. Randy Chrysler
Heat 3: 1. Hearn; 2. McCreadie; 3. O’Brien; 4. Lazore; 5. Williamson; 6. Richner; 7. Payne; 8. McGinnis; 9. Chevalier; 10. Kane; 11. Aubertine
Heat 4: 1. Bowman; 2. Brachmann; 3. Tarbell; 4. Sheppard; 5. Ward; 6. Ledoux; 7. Billings; 8. Papineau; 9. Flannigan; 10. Venuto
B-Main: 1. Donath, 2. Susice, 3. Francis, 4. Tonkin, 5. Jones, 6. Flannigan, 7. Randy Chrysler, 8. Dagenais
B-Main: 1. Ledoux; 2. Payne; 3. Richner; 4. Billings; 5. Chevalier; 6. Papineau; 7. McGinnis; 8. White; 9. Aubertine; 10. Rauscher; 11. Kane
Time Trials: 1. 20 Brett Hearn, 20.437; 2. 22c Mario Clair, 20.437; 3. Vic Coffey, 20.736; 4. 71 Mike Bowman, 20.760; 5. 4* Tim McCreadie, 20.763; 6. 3b Chad Brachmann, 20.874; 7. 007x John Lazore, 20.909; 8. 25R Erick Rudolph, 20.985; 9. 007 Roy Tarbell, 21.051; 10. 55x Frank Caprara 21.094; 11. 9s Matt Sheppard, 21.133; 12. 7 Lee Gill 21.137; 13. 17d Danny O’Brien, 21.144; 14. 38R Ryan Susice, 21.144; 15. 76x Dale Planck, 21.160; 16. 66x Carey Terrance, 21.263; 17. 27J Danny Johnson, 21.270; 18. 6m Mat Williamson, 21.281; 19. 26 Rick Richner, 21.292; 20. 45 Mike Ward, 21.367; 21. Richie Vinson, 21.368; 22. 117 Alex Tonkin, 21.414; 23. 89b Todd Burley, 21.440; 24. 74 Matt Billings, 21.448; 25. 12Y Yannick Ledous, 21.540; 27. 12 Chad Chevalier, 21.542; 28. 15J TimJones, 15.569; 29. 124 Pierre Dagenais, 21.578; 30. 53 Shane Donath, 21.615; 31. 55 Perry Francis, 21.630; 32. T21 Roger Chrysler, 21.684; 33. 113 Eldon Payne, 21.741; 34. 03 Zach Aubertine, 21.769; 35. 37s Tommy Flannigan, 21.803; 36. 37s Tommy Flannigan, 21.803; 36. 21k Randy Chrysler, 22.025; 37. 70 Ron White, 22.029; 38. 188 David Papineau, 22.045; 39. 48T Dave Rauscher, 22.066; 40. 2K Katelyn Kane, 22.258
Planck Prepares for Rolling Wheels
7:08 p.m. Dale Planck is focusing his attention on his modified tonight at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park.
The 358-Modified Series point leader ran in both the World of Outlaws Late Models Series and 358-Modified Series races last year at the Wheels, but tonight hopes narrowing his scope can help him tackle the difficult 5/8-mile track.
“This is a place I usually don’t run all that well. It’s been hit or miss but hopefully we come out of here with a real solid finish,” Planck said in the pits before the race. “It’s just always been a track I’ve struggled at. I’ve always had decent finishes, but I’ve never really been on fire. I’m going to try and change that.”
His team changed the setup on the small block in hopes of finding success at “the Fast Track.” Additionally, Planck expects driving in one division to result in fewer curve balls as the night progresses.
“They’re just totally different cars,” said Planck, who nonetheless finished tenth in both divisions during last year’s event. “They react differently, they drive differently. you can’t apply anything from one to the other.”
Big-Block Time Trials
6:42 p.m. – For the fifth time in his career, Billy Decker wins the pole for the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 with a lap of 32.997 seconds. David Hebert, Peter Britten, Brett Hearn, Bobby Varin and Gary Tomkins rounded out the top six positions.
4:40 p.m. – Hot laps for 358-Modifieds are now complete with Tim McCreadie topping the speed chart in the 4-Star Racing machine at 33.871 seconds. Brett Hearn was second at 34.367 seconds, followed by Billy Decker (34.484), Bobby Varin (34.679) and Billy Dunn (34.752).
A quick hot-lap session for DIRTcar Sportsman-Modifieds is now on the track as big-block teams make final preparations for time trials, which are scheduled to begin at about 4:45 p.m.
Looking for one more spot
4:10 p.m. – Gary Tomkins knows what it feels like to come close in DIRTcar big-block Modified racing’s biggest event. He’s finished second twice in the VP Small Engine Fuels 200, taking the runner-up spot in both 2002 and ’04.
Tomkins is hoping he can pick up that one elusive finishing position this week in his return to Syracuse big-block competition after a two-year absence. A 14-time starter in the 200, he’s entered in the self-owned car he drove weekly this season at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.
Tomkins’s NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week effort carries brand-spanking-new sponsorship from Pole Position Raceway, the indoor karting track that opened on Monday in the Destiny USA mall and entertainment complex in Syracuse. His crew, meanwhile, includes his fellow Canandaigua big-block regular Derrick Podsiadlo.
4 p.m. – Frank Cozze, a 25-time VP Small Engine Fuels 200 starter and winner of the 2008 event, is absent from the Syracuse big-block action for the third consecutive year. The 56-year-old driver from Wind Gap, Pa., now focuses his racing energy on 410 Sprint Car racing in central Pennsylvania — a division he conquered with his first feature win earlier this season.
But Cozze is here in the ‘Cuse pit area, helping and working the radio for his longtime friend Mike Perrotte. He’s pictured below (at left) talking with his former crew chief Brent Tittle, who is assisting Jimmy Blewett’s racing efforts this week.
3:50 p.m. – With the start of on-track action comes the start of race car mechanical problems. Just ask Ronnie Johnson and Roy Bresnahan.
Johnson sits second on the speed chart following big-block Modified practice (Bobby Varin was fastest at 31.734 seconds), but that’s little consolation to the second-generation driver. The engine in his primary car broke during hot laps — and after he took his backup machine out for some fast laps, he returned to the pit area with its powerplant overheating. His crew is now working on the motor in his second car to diagnose the problem.
Bresnahan, meanwhile, might have seen his big-block assault on NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week end abruptly. He lost his brand-new engine during practice and, with no backup available at the track, a crewman said the team might concentrate its efforts on their 358-Modified for the remainder of the week.
Practice for 358-Modifieds is currently underway with bright, sunny skies and rising temperatures prevailing. Big-block Modified time trials are scheduled to begin at 4:25 p.m., and pit steward Dennis Moquin said qualifying will be followed by a practice session for the 60 DIRTcar Sportsman-Modifieds currently on the grounds.
3:15 p.m. – Tim Hindley is attempting something he’s never done before at NAPA Super DIRT Week: start both the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 and Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150 in the same season.
The veteran from Monticello, N.Y., has started both marquee events four times, but never in the same year. His 358-Modified appearances came consecutively from 1999-2002 (his best finish was eighth in ’00), and he competed in the big-block 200 in 2005 (27th place), ’07 (28th), ’09 (ninth) and ’10 (29th).
In the big-block division, Hindley is driving the Dave Phillips-owned machine he steered to four wins and a third-place finish in this year’s points standings at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y. He’s running Joe Sarvis’s car in the 358-Modified ranks.
Hindley is one of three OCFS regulars in this week’s big-block Modified field, joining Jerry Higbie and Bob McGannon.
3 p.m. – Jimmy Blewett of Howell Twp., N.J., is a paved-track specialist who stars on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but he’s taken a liking to dirt racing. Last year he made his 358-Modified debut on the Syracuse Mile – after beginning to dabble in dirt action at his homestate’s New Egypt Speedway – and he’s back this week to take another shot.
Blewett, 32, didn’t qualify for last year’s Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150, so he’s hoping for better results. He understands that he’s fighting an uphill battle, however, on the experience front.
“I ran some dirt races this year but not nearly enough,” said Blewett, who pulled back his dirt racing this season to focus more on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. “I definitely have a lot to learn, but I love running on dirt and I really like being part of this deal here at Syracuse.”
Blewett’s 358-Modified is a red, white and blue No. 76 that mirrors the look of his NASCAR Modified. It’s a paint scheme that has deep roots in the Blewett family – his father, John Blewett Jr., ran cars styled in the same manner throughout the ’70s and ’80s, and his late brother, John Blewett III, who lost his life in a 2007 NASCAR Modified crash at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, also used it on his machines.
“I decided to go back to the ‘family colors’ about six races ago on the Modified Tour,” said Blewett. “I think it’s just right to have my cars like this. It gives me chills.”
Blewett is also fielding a big-block Modified this week for his good buddy Jeff Strunk, a Pennsylvania 358-Modified star who last month pocketed $50,000 for winning the Freedom 76 at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa. Strunk has started the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 seven times (top finish of sixth in 1999), but he’s been absent from the event’s starting field since 2005. The last two years Strunk has attended NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week to help his pal Stewart Friesen, assisting in the pits and working Friesen’s radio on race day.
“Jeff has just been a good friend,” Blewett said when asked why he has brought Strunk (at right in picture below with Blewett) to Syracuse. “He’s always helped me when I had questions about dirt racing and steers me in the right direction.”
Varin fastest so far
2:55 p.m. – With a half-hour remaining in big-block Modified practice — and sunny blue skies beginning to overtake the speedway from the west — Bobby Varin tops the speed chart with a lap of 31.734 seconds. He’s followed by Ronnie Johnson (31.873), Matt Sheppard (32.139), Tim McCreadie (32.277) and Billy Decker (32.558).
Still a ‘Sunny’ day
2:40 p.m. – Jack Cottrell – the Capital District known as the ‘Rock City Falls Rocket’ during his successful DIRTcar big-block Modified driving days – is in the Syracuse pit area for the first time in a decade. He’s not making a return to the cockpit, but rather helping his son, Jimmy, who is set to make his ‘Moody Mile’ debut in this week’s DIRTcar 358-Modified competition.
“It feels good to be back,” said the 57-year-old Cottrell, who made 12 starts in the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 from 1986-99 with a top finish of 10th in ’94. “I’ve always liked this place, but when I stopped racing, I stopped.”
Cottrell is anxious to assist his 29-year-old son, who is brimming with anticipation to tackle the mile. A DIRTcar Modified regular at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., Jimmy has dreamed of lapping the historic track.
“I’ve been coming here for Super DIRT Week 26 years straight,” said the younger Cottrell. “I work at the family paper mill and this is the week I take for vacation every year. I’ve been camping all week already over at Rolling Wheels and now I’m ready to get out there.”
Jimmy, who will also compete in the DIRTcar 358-Modified ‘Futures’ event for first-time Syracuse entrants, is running a sharp No. 8 machine sporting sponsorship from the Sunny D juice brand. He made a promotional appearance for Sunny D with his car on Monday afternoon at a Wal-Mart in nearby Camillus, N.Y., drawing plenty of attention to his backer and NAPA Super DIRT Week.
2:25 p.m. – With cars now hot-lapping at speed on a track surface that is rapidly coming around, officials have announced the plan for the remainder of the afternoon.
According to pit steward Dennis Moquin, the track will remain open for big-block Modified practice until 3:25 p.m. The 358-Modifieds will then hit the speedway to test-and-tune their machines until 4:30 p.m., with big-block Modified time trials for the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 — qualifying the top six drivers into Sunday’s main event — to follow.
In light of the fact that many DIRTcar 358-Modified entrants must head over to Rolling Wheels Raceway Park for tonight’s Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series event that is being run in conjuction with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, time trials for the Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150 and practice/qualifying for the DIRTcar 358-Modified and Sportsman-Modified Futures events will be moved to tomorrow (Friday). Time trials for the 150 are tentatively slated to begin at 11 a.m.
2:05 p.m. – Two-time VP Small Engine Fuels 200 winner Jimmy Horton has an interesting deal set up to give him a shot at victory in both the big-block and 358-Modified action this week.
In the big-block ranks, Horton, 56, will drive a car owned by New Jersey’s Dieter Schmidt, who has fielded the equipment Horton has campaigned all season at Bridgeport (N.J.) Speedway. The veteran will bid for success in the Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150 behind the wheel of a machine owned by Pennsylvania’s Dick Biever, whose role as Horton’s car owner ended last year.
Both of Horton’s mounts are Teo-Pro cars – Schmidt’s has been sitting in his garage for nearly six years, while Biever’s is a machine Horton assembled three years ago and has run in the last three 358-Modified 150s at Syracuse. Notable, however, is that Schmidt’s car is carrying a big-block engine from Biever’s stable and Biever’s car is equipped with one of Schmidt’s small-block powerplants.
“We were coming here with Dieter to run the big-block, but he didn’t have a car for the small-block race,” said Horton. “He talked with Dick and they worked out a deal to team up.”
Horton, by the way, will attempt to make his 37th career start in the VP Small Engine Fuels – more than any other driver in the race’s history. He failed to enter the event just once (1990) since making his debut in 1975 and won the classic in 1987 and ’94.
The resident of Neshanic Station, N.J., has made 15 starts in the Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150, with a top finish of second in 1987 when the race was run over the 30-lap distance.
1:50 p.m. – Motors are running and, for the first time of NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week 2012, cars have begun to circle the mile. The surface is not quite ready for hot laps, but with machines now packing the clay officials hope to get practice sessions underway soon.
Pit steward Dennis Moquin said he would like to get big-block Modified practice rolling first and give teams at least an hour of track time to prepare their cars for qualifying. He’ll then send 358-Modifieds out for practice, with a probable best-case scenario putting the start of big-block Modified time trials at 4 p.m.
Wearing two hats
1:05 p.m. – The most notable announcement of today’s press conference concerned a pair of Super DIRTcar Series events in 2013 – both races that will have big-block Modified drivers on the promotional end.
DIRTcar star Brett Hearn will return as the promoter of the ‘Big Show V’ at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. The 100-lap event will be contested on July 9, 2013.
“This is the first time we’ve had a date (secured) this early,” said Hearn, who promoted SDS races at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y., before moving his event to Albany-Saratoga in 2012. “We’re excited.”
New to the promotional game next season will be two-time VP Small Engine Fuels 200 winner Stewart Friesen, who is joining with special-event promoter Brett Deyo to present the ‘Dirty Jersey 60’ on June 18, 2013, at New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway. The inaugural Friesen-Deyo Promotions event will mark New Egypt’s first Super DIRTcar Series show in six years.
Following the press conference, Deyo and Friesen joined Super DIRTcar Series director Joe Skotnicki for a photo opportunity (below) in front of a sign publicizing the ‘Dirty Jersey 60.’
12:25 p.m. – Cars still haven’t been able to get on the racetrack, which remains soggy, especially on the frontstretch. Track crews are continuing to work on the straightaway with rollers and other equipment in hopes of getting it ready for fast laps.
The annual NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week press conference is now underway in the infield media center. Sponsors, Super DIRTcar Series drivers and other dignitaries are being recognized in front of the press and several newsworthy announcements are being made.
Pit steward Dennis Moquin is tentatively hoping to begin calling cars to the speedway for track-packing following the press conference, at approximately 1 p.m. That was originally when time trials were scheduled to start, so officials will be adjusting the sked.
10:40 a.m. – With skies remaining overcast and little wind blowing across the Fairgrounds, the one-mile oval, which was drenched by rain on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, is taking some extra time to come around this morning. Officials had hoped to begin practice sessions by 9 a.m. to give drivers their first laps of NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, but the track was not ready at that time.
According to pit steward Dennis Moquin, the “fluid” plan is to call cars to the track momentarily to begin surface-packing efforts. He said he would like to get the track run in to allow DIRTcar 358-Modifieds to start hot laps around 11:30 a.m., but he must then stop on-track action at 12 noon for the annual NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week press conference in the infield media center.
“The backstretch is good and the corners are good,” said Moquin. “The homestretch is what we still need to come around and we’re working on it. it’s tough without any sun and wind to help dry everything out.”