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Bats In The Belfrey As Inspection Opens Super DIRT Week XXXVII In Syracuse


Syracuse, NYOctober 7, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director
*Bob Armbruster Jr. Photo

The scene was reminiscent of the one that took place nearly 30 years ago on Inspection Day to open Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds. Another black car was the center of attention on this occasion but a pair of “1s” was missing leaving the no. 2 Modified machine to make its own mark in Moody Mile folklore.

“They’re trying to go back to the Balough days,” remarked Bob Dini, Director of Technical Operations for DIRTcar Racing NorthEast, after scrutinizing the newest creation by TEO Pro Car fabricator Bobby Hearn on Tuesday afternoon. Dini’s reference was to the revolutionary no. 112 Continental Mark X/I Lincoln-bodied Big-Block that led the infiltration of ground-effect cars during the 1980 fall classic which forever changed the Syracuse landscape. “It’s a beautiful car with some good thought behind it and certainly a good design, just not done by the rule book.”

Ironically, Dini was hired by DIRTcar founder Glenn Donnelly immediately following that drubbing of the DIRTcar stars by Floridian Gary Balough in the notorious ‘Batmobile’ machine. “Glenn gave me the rule book and asked why the 112 car was legal. Back then the rules only accounted for minimums so over the winter the whole book was rewritten to include maximum measurements. I even went to the (owner) Ferraiuolo garage in New Jersey and looked at the whole car from front to back. A lot of things were changed after that and we put it in writing to be sure,” Dini added.

After today’s tech team dissected the ultra-aerodynamic Wm. Larned-Palmer’s Service-Morris Auto Group entry, Hearn only smiled then came back two hours later with an updated ride that was more conforming to the 2008 Modified guidelines.

“I like to step out of the box once in awhile and the things we changed were not in the rule, we just took advantage of a gray area,” figured Hearn, who began implementing his newest ideas in June making sure the frame and body would work together. His father Gordon Hearn was instrumental in the construction stage as the car came full-circle in its completion just prior to Super DIRT Week. “I’ll be even happier now if we can make it go fast.”

“The car looks a little different so I knew there would be more attention our way. The funny part is, all the things I thought could cause a problem turned out okay. And the those things I never even worried about became big issues. We made all the changes that they told us so hopefully we can come back to be just as strong,” Hearn said.

While the alleged ‘Batmobile 2’ was grabbing all the attention, 79 other cars were checked over by the Dini-led tech team that included experienced assistants Tom Curtis, Rich Lemieux, Jim Malloy, Scott Fremouw George Johnson, Red Muir, Tom Newell and Ken Parsels. Filing away the vital paperwork throughout the seven-hour shift was Joyce Parsels, now serving as Chief Registrar for the 11th season at Super DIRT Week.

“Most cars were only off a little bit in a few areas, from bolts to bumpers and some sheet metal changes, a lot had to do with safety,” noted Curtis, who was a staple pitside throughout the summer at Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series events for the Big-Blocks. “The biggest thing was a lot of cars had used longer fuel lines, something significant around here as every team knows that mileage is the name of the game in any pit stop race.”

For the second straight year, perfect autumn weather conditions greeted race teams on arrival Tuesday afternoon for ‘early bird’ inspection which offered a sneak preview of the many cars and stars signed up for the 37th edition of Super DIRT Week at the Syracuse Mile. Inspection under the main grandstand began at 2:10 p.m. with the last car pushed back into its hauler just after 9 o’clock.

Among the first-day entrants for the headline Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Rite Aid 200 were a number of past champions, including five-time winner Brett Hearn (1985, 1990-91, 1993, 1995), current Advance Series points leader and pre-race favorite Billy Decker (1998, 2000-01, 2005) and veteran Jack Johnson (1979, 1984), father of day one headliner Ronnie Johnson. Hearn is also the defending champion of the ‘Salute to the Troops’ 150 Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series title race and is back aboard Vinny Salerno’s Four Star Motorsports no. 4 Kruger-Kosakowski Plumbing/TEO mount looking to repeat.

“At Syracuse everything just has to be so right to win on Sunday,” commented Hearn, who remains an early race favorite despite last capturing DIRTcar NorthEast’s crown jewel in 1995. Earlier in the ’08 season the Sussex, New Jersey standout posted his 100th career victory in Advance Series competition on home soil at Orange County Fair Speedway. “In ’95 it was kinda scary how perfect that car was, I haven’t had one quite like it since.”

“Last year the track was probably the best its been in a long time. I think the dust was swept off the outside every night and that really helped widen the groove. We finally had a couple lanes to choose from and a lot of guys found they were able to pass both high and low. I’m hoping the track crew does the same type of job this year, the weather is supposed to be just as good,” Hearn added.

What has becomes standard fare in recent years, teams were afforded the opportunity to fill out registration forms themselves to help speed up the tech process. The honor system has proved successful and the familiarity among the teams passing through the inspection line has made the practice just as efficient. A new trend began yesterday with motors being sealed on the Big-Blocks and roll cages being sealed on all entries with intent of making teams unable to switch cars once qualifying begins.

Super DIRT Week XXXVII activity continues Wednesday, October 8 with more inspection for Big-Block Modified and 358-Modified cars. The first action trackside is slated that afternoon with an extended ‘Happy Hour’ practice session for Advance Auto Parts Modifieds staged from 3-5 p.m. Tomorrow evening open-wheel teams head to the north country as Can-Am Motorsports Park hosts a Mr. DIRTcar Series doubleheader for 358-Modified and Sportsman divisions. Race time is 7:00pm.

The customary Advance Auto Parts ‘Media Day’ press conference on Thursday, October 9 officially kicks off Super DIRT Week XXXVII with the infield media center staging the popular event beginning at 12 noon followed immediately by Futures practice & qualifying and time trials for both Big-Blocks and 358-Modifieds.

Traditionally reserved only for Big-Block Modified cars and those 358s attempting to either qualifying to gain valuable track time on the Moody Mile, the 2008 edition of Inspection Day marked the first time both Sportsman Modified and UMP Pro Stock entries were allowed to participate. While 55 Mods and 18 Small-Blocks registered, so did a half-dozen Sportsman and one Pro Stock to account for 80 vehicles on day one.
“I just couldn’t wait, I’ve been looking forward to racing on the mile for a long time,” divulged 20-year Pro Stock veteran Dean Charbonneau, 48, who boasted the lone full-fender entry to cross the tech line on Tuesday evening. Also signed up for the ‘Futures’ event, the Clifton Park, New York racer has contended in a handful of Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Series shows over the years and called Fonda Speedway his home track in ’08. “I just wanted to come early and get everything checked over, make sure everything is alright. Don’t want any problems, just can’t wait to get out there and race,” added Charbonneau, who suffered a broken fuel pump on his pick-up truck while heading west toward Syracuse in the morning hours.

A pair of 44s unexpectedly showed up on Tuesday, with third-generation Canadian chauffeur Stewart Friesen registered aboard the M.R.Burdick Enterprises/Jeff Daley and Sons Oil/TEO entry while veteran Frank Cozze’s Waite’s General Contractors/PMC car was one of the last Big-Block cars through the line. “This deal just kind of came together quick, Jeff had a car and Burdick had a Morrison motor so I told them I could drive it,” said Friesen, who finished 2nd at Syracuse last year subbing for Chad Brachmann in the 358-Modified Championship while placing 7th aboard the no. 20 Madsen Overhead Doors machine in the 2005 Big-Block title event. “The car was just put together at the same shop that the Buzz Chew Chevrolet Busch team runs out of north of Old Forge. We’re not really sure how things will turn out yet, but the sun is out and we’re here so that’s a good start.”

While Cozze was expected to arrive at the NYS Fairgrounds on Wednesday, former crew chief Brent Tittle and Dave Hoffman, brother of 1996 Rite Aid 200 winner Doug Hoffman, were waiting in the wings to get Super DIRT Week underway for the Pennsylvania team. “Everything on this car is the way it should be coming to Syracuse,” said Tittle, son of veteran Modified campaigner Butch Tittle. “Nothing is brand new but the chassis is a good and the motor is fresh. All Frank needs here is a little luck here and we’ll be alright.”

The entire DIRTcar Racing community joins in the mourning of respected car owner George Smith Sr, who passed away the evening of Saturday, October 4. Northeast Modified Hall of Famer Billy Osmun steered Smith’s familiar red Statewide #3 Modified to victory in the third-ever Syracuse Championship in 1974 — back then known as the Schaefer 100 which was shortened to 95 laps that year due to rain. Long-time son-in-law Jimmy Horton and Kenny Brightbill, both Super DIRT Week winners, were among some of the other legendary drivers to strap into the Smith ride and enjoy considerable success up and down the Atlantic Coast.

*All tmes and events subject to change.
8am Advance Auto Parts Mod, 358-Mod , DIRTcar Futures Inspection (under main
3-5:00pm Advance Auto Parts Modified ‘Happy Hour’;
10pm Pit Area Closed.
7:30pm Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified & Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Series at Can-Am Motorsports Park.

8am Pit Gates Open;
8am-10am Inspection Area Open (under main grandstand, AAP Mod, 358 Mod, DIRTcar Futures allowed);
10am Grandstands Open, Advance Auto Parts Modified practice;
11am Syracuse 150 358-Modified Practice;
12:00noon Advance Auto Parts ‘Media Day’ Press Conference – Infield Conference Bldg;
1 pm DIRTcar Futures Practice/Qualifying (Sportsman, Pro Stock);
1:30pm Troyer, Inc. 358-Modified Time Trials (2-laps, Top-6 Qualify for Front-3 Rows);
2:15pm DIRTcar Futures Practice/Qualifying (358-Modified/Modified);
2:45pm American Traditions Motorsports/Teo Pro Modified Time Trials (2-laps, Top-6 Qualify for Front-3 Rows);
4:00pm DIRTcar ‘Futures’ Feature Events (Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman, Pro
10pm Pit Area Closed.
7:30pm Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series at Brewerton Speedway.

8am Pit Gates Open, Town Mechanical, Inc. Sportsman Inspection Open;
10am Grandstands Open, Syracuse 150 358-Modified Practice;
10:45am Advance Auto Parts Rite Aid 200 Modified practice;
11:30am Town Mechanical, Inc. Sportsman Practice;
12noon Pullen’s Truck Center 358-Modified Twin 20s (10 non-qualified cars advance
from each);
1:30pm Advance Auto Parts Mod Triple 20s (10 non-qualified cars advance from each);
2:45pm P & M Fabrication and MSS Sportsman Time Trials (2-laps, Top-24 Qualify);
3:00pm Optional Early Bird Pro Stock Inspection (East End of Main Grandstand);
3:30pm Modified Pit Stop Competition;
10pm Pit Area Closed.
7pm Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified & Sportsman Series at Rolling Wheels Raceway.
7:30pm ASCS Patriot Sprints and Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock Series at Cayuga County Fair Speedway.

8am Pit Gates Open, BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Inspection Open;
9:00am Syracuse 150 358-Modified Championship Driver and Crew Chief Meeting (in pit building);
9:15am Town Mechanical, Inc. Sportsman Driver’s Meeting (in pit building);
9:30am Grandstands Open, Track open for Syracuse 150 358-Modified Final Practice;
10am BNC Motorsports Pro Stock First Practice;
10:30am Town Mechanical, Inc. Sportsman Final Practice;
11:15am BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Practice Second Practice;
11:45am Dig Safely New York Sportsman Last Chance Qualifier;
12:15pm Terrell’s Potato Chips Pro Stock Time Trials (2-laps, Top-24 Qualify);
1:30pm Syracuse 150 358-Modified Championship Pre-Race ceremonies;
2pm Syracuse 358-Modified Championship (150 laps, 40 cars to start);
4pm Town Mechanical, Inc. Sportsman Championship (30 laps, 30 cars to start);
7pm ESS/URC/ASCS PSG Sprint Challenge at Rolling Wheels Raceway.
7:30pm Pullen’s Truck Center presents the SUNY Canton “Win and You’re In” Big-Block/Small-Block Twin 25’s plus BRP CanAm Late Model Series at Cayuga County Fair Speedway (Mod Overall Winner Earns 45th starting spot in the Rite Aid 200).

8am Pit Gates Open;
9:15am BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Driver’s Meeting (in pit building);
9:30am AAP Rite Aid 200 Modified Driver and Crew Chief Meeting (in pit building);
10am Grandstands Open, Track Open for Pro Stock Final Practice;
10:20am Advance Auto Parts Series Rite Aid 200 Final practice;
10:45am Dig Safely New York Pro Stock Last Chance Qualifier;
11:15am Dig Safely New York Modified Last Chance Qualifier;
11:45am Mandatory Advance Auto Parts Modified Top-30 Autograph Signing under grandstand (Top 30 in Thursday Time Trials);
12:00pm BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Championship (25 laps, 30 cars to start);
12:45-1:45pm Rite Aid Cold Pit Tour of Pit Row;
1:30pm Rite Aid 200 Modified Championship Pre-Race ceremonies;
2:15pm Rite Aid 200 Modified Championship (200 laps, 44 cars to start)

Mon-10/13 -TBA- Rain Date for Saturday or Sunday events.

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

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 and Sunoco Race Fuels. Promotional partners include AMB i.t., Rite Aid Corporation and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Integra Shocks, MSD Ignitions, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks and Wrisco Industries.