Weedsport, NY — March 6, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Jay Fish Photo
The upcoming Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series opener at Hagerstown Speedway is expected to attract one of the finest fields of the season to the storied Maryland oval, including invading New Yorker Billy Decker, the reigning overall Mr. DIRTcar points king.
On the other end of the spectrum, finishing 15th —final point fund payoff spot— in the Big-Block standings a year ago, Decker’s Gypsum teammate Pat O’Brien from Kingston, Ontario will also be back. In 2009, his sights are clearly set on improving from his ’08 debut made following the premier tour of its kind on both sides of the border.
“Obviously, we didn’t have nearly the kind of year that we had hoped for when the series started,” admitted O’Brien, 44, who wound up with just two Top-10 finishes in 17 of the 26 Advance Series events attended. Despite missing some Saturday shows at weekly stop Can-Am Motorsports Park, he placed fourth in the track standings with a pair of feature wins to his credit. “Our intent again is to try and run the whole series.”
“The toughest part is the lack of experience compared to the teams that have traveled the tour for years. A couple tracks we’ve never even been to, and most of the others just not enough laps to make an impact. Places like Can-Am (9th) and Fulton (8th, set fast time) we feel most comfortable and the results showed. Whatever happens this year, continuing to improve is our primary goal. If we can run decent, we plan to stay at it and make them all,” remarked O’Brien, who opens the ’09 trail at Hagerstown and Big Diamond, the only tracks on tour he has yet to compete in a quarter-century of racing.
The 2009 Advance Series begins at Hagerstown on Saturday, March 28 with the $6,000-to-win ‘North-South Shootout 100’ scheduled to kick off for the 10th consecutive year below the Mason-Dixon Line. Seven straight months on the trail will provide the second-generation standout plenty of experience yet offer no guarantees as he takes on the best in the Big-Block business at 19 tracks around the DIRTcar Northeast circuit.
“Over the winter we took a long look at everything we had going, evaluated the entire program inside-out and found that we weren’t really doing anything wrong, weren’t that far off,” figured O’Brien, who will be back aboard the red Gypsum Racing no. 6 730 Truck Stop-Gypsum Logistics-Milestone Concrete/Bicknell entry. Plans include starting out the year with a freshened Enders powerplant under the hood and as the season unfolds he expects to experiment with an in-house engine program recently expensed by Gypsum Express Ltd. President/Owner John Wight. “We’re still confident with our team’s ability to contend and the new motor program should help out.”
“When we ran against a lot of the tour guys regularly in the past at Can-Am and Thunder Alley we managed to hold our own. So starting out the series last year we thought that the top-5 and top-10 series finishes we always had would carry over to the other tracks. A lot of guys usually shoot for a win whenever they show up, but running consistent and being better at the end of the year than at the beginning is something we always try to focus on. The Advance Series presents one of the biggest challenges with so many top teams and we want to think we’re one of them. Hopefully we can turn the corner this year and run a little more respectable. On tour is a nice place to be for the next few years if we can find some success at it,” O’Brien said.
Firmly established in the Small-Block ranks, O’Brien joins DIRTcar’s all-time Big-Block winner Alan Johnson as the only other four-time Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Champion. Those titles were earned from 1988-95 and he stands fourth on the all-time DIRTcar Small-Block list with 142 feature wins. Another 26 victories are chronicled in the Big-Block record book with two of those registered in Advance Series competition at Can-Am (1990) and Brockville Ontario Speedway (2007).
“There’s not much of a difference from the 358s and I’ve run against most of the tour guys for a lot of years now,” said O’Brien, who also ran Brewerton Speedway regularly in 2008. “There are probably more quality cars running the Big-Block Series on a regular basis throughout the entire year, but you see those same names at all the major 358 races once the track points finish.”
“I generally like the tracks we do good at and have had more laps. Over the years I’ve felt comfortable going to Canandaigua and Brewerton, and Rolling Wheels is right up there too with all the times we’ve run there in the Small-Block. We’re looking forward to going back for the Canadian swing in July and putting on a better show at the tracks closer to home. All the travelers are just as familiar at those same places, we just want to figure in the Top-5 a little more often,” smiled O’Brien.
O’Brien adds his name to Hagerstown’s all-star roster of Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series standouts, already spotlighting defending Mr. DIRTcar Champ Decker, Jimmy Phelps, Dale Planck, Gary Tomkins and all-time Advance Series winner Brett Hearn. The list of top tour challengers in 2009 also includes Matt Sheppard, Frankie Capara, Steve Paine, Ryan Phelps, Justin Haers, Billy Dunn, Larry Wight, Jeff Brownell Jr. and the Johnson brothers, Alan and Danny.
For additional information, contact DIRTcar Racing Northeast Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed via cell (315/224-9009) or in the DIRTcar Northeast Office (315/834-6606). Also log into www.superdirtcarseries.com, phone the speedway office at 301/582-0640 or visit the track website at www.hagerstownspeedway.com. Race teams planning to attend the ‘North-South Shootout’ at Hagerstown Speedway are encouraged to call Advance Series PR Director Tom Skibinski at DIRTcar NE headquarters (x28) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
2009 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Schedule
NP=Non-Point event; SP=Show-Up Point event.
*All events subject to change.
DAY-DATE TRACK WINNER/LOCATION
Wed-Feb 11 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Pat Ward
Thr-Feb 12 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Pat Ward
Fri-Feb 13 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Jamie Mills
Sat-Feb 14 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Brett Hearn
Sat-Mar 28 Hagerstown Speedway Hagerstown,MD
Sun-Apr 26 Big Diamond Raceway Minersville,PA
Sun-May 24 -TBA-
Sat-Jun 6 Lebanon Valley Speedway West Lebanon,NY
Sun-Jun 7 Airborne Speedway-SP Plattsburgh,NY
Wed-Jun 17 Orange Co Fair Speedway Middletown,NY
Fri-Jul 3 Ransomville Speedway Ransomville,NY
Sat-Jul 4 Fulton Speedway Fulton,NY
Thr-Jul 9 Brockville Ont Speedway Brockville,ONT
Fri-Jul 10 Autodrome Granby Granby,QUE
Sat-Jul 11 Autodrome Drummond Drummondville,QUE
Sun-Jul 12 Cornwall Motor Speedway Cornwall,ONT
Sat-Jul 18 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Sun-Jul 19 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY ($20,000-to-win)
Mon-Aug 3 Merrittville Speedway Thorold,ONT
Fri-Aug 7 Brewerton Speedway Brewerton,NY
Sat-Aug 8 Canandaigua Speedway Canandaigua,NY
Fri-Aug 21 Can-Am Motorsports Park LaFargeville,NY
Thr-Aug 27 Lebanon Valley Speedway West Lebanon,NY ($17,500-to-win)
Sun-Sep 6 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Mon-Sep 7 Rolling Wheels Raceway Elbridge,NY
Fri-Sep 11 Lernerville Speedway Sarver,PA
Sat-Sep 19 -TBA-
Sat-Sep 26 Rolling Wheels Raceway Elbridge,NY
Sun-Oct 11 New York State Fairgrnds Syracuse,NY ($50,000-to-win)
Sun-Oct 18 -TBA-
Sun-Oct 25 -TBA-
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation www.riteaid.com, Dig Safely New York www.digsafelynewyork.com and the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks www.barsproducts.com, Bert Transmission www.berttransmission.com, Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, Brodix Cylinder Heads www.brodix.com, Ferris Industries www.ferrisindustries.com Holley HP Carburetors www.Holley.com, Integra Shocks www.integrashocksandsprings.com, Intercomp www.intercomp-racing.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Rislone Oil Stabilizer www.barsproducts.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.