Weedsport, NY — August 13, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Boris Rudzinski Photo
Success on the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series hardly comes overnight for those fortunate enough to follow the premier traveling tour for Big-Block Modifieds in the Northeast.
Just ask Billy Dunn, who waited four seasons just for the chance to join the DIRTcar Racing Modified mainstream. Now engaged in the middle of his second full season chasing points in the Advance Series, the talented driver from Watertown, New York anxiously awaits his first tour win against the best in the Big-Block business today.
“Sooner or later we’ll be in a better position to get a win, just have to keep putting a good foot forward and continue to improve as we go,” figured Dunn, 24, who made his Advance Auto Parts Series debut at Virginia Motor Speedway in May of 2007 and has not missed a tour race since. Launching his motorsports career in 2001, he copped the ’02 New York State UMP-type Modified title yet engine woes the next two seasons allowed him to contest in only a handful of Big-Block events. ‘Big Gun’ currently stands 12th in Advance Series points with a pair of top-10 tour finishes posted back-to-back at Brockville Ontario Speedway (6th) and Autdrome Granby (7th) in July. “Sooner or later things have to turn around.”
There’s no better time to get back on track than this weekend when the Advance Series visits Dunn’s hometrack, Can-Am Motorsports Park, the site of his first Big-Block win on July 8, 2006. Sandwiched between tour stops at Brewerton Speedway on Friday, August 15 and Cornwall Motor Speedway on Sunday, August 17, Can-Am hosts the F.X. Caprara Car Companies 100 on Saturday night, with Dunn placing eighth and fifth last year when the event featured twin 50-lap Modified mains.
“Last year we did more than expected, even finished second in a series race at Weedsport, but this season we’re getting our fill of the unexpected,” said Dunn, who continues to race regularly at Can-Am (4th points) and Cayuga County Fair Speedway (5th) still in search of his first win of 2008. “We’re qualifying faster and finishing better in the heats yet there have still been a lot of weird things happening all season.”
“We’ve also had some engine trouble, like breaking a rod in a brand new motor in the twin 50s at Rolling Wheels. But odd things like a broken input shaft in the transmission and a leak inside an oil line have set us back as well. Weekends have gone pretty good yet it seems anything that can happen on the series has. Last year Can-Am was slow and slippery, that’s my kind of track. If its fast and tacky that will make things pretty tough for us no matter how our luck goes,” noted Dunn, who ended his initial Advance Series assault last season 10th in points with six more top-10 finishes complementing his runner-up tally at Cayuga County.
Despite the untimely episodes of misfortune on the ’08 Advance Series, Dunn has also gained ground in his quest for success on the Big-Block trail. While leading his first laps last year in tour competition, the Watertown warrior recently paced the Granby field for 39 circuits and scored his initial heat race victories at Brockville, Granby and Merrittville.
“The one thing that has improved the most is our consistency on the weekends,” remarked Dunn, who is quickly gaining recognition within the racing fraternity behind the wheel of his father Norm Dunn’s red Number One Speed No. 49 American Traditions-Fast Lube Watertown/Bicknell entry. “Yet we’re still down in races this year with all the rain and that’s hurt our progress toward the series. During regular weekend races is the time to try out some new set-ups. With a lot more riding on the series shows you want to be pretty much set when you arrive and not have to experiment.”
“The tour gets tough to follow sometimes financially but we know we have to keep going to show our sponsors we’re committed and hopefully attract some new ones along the way. Right now we have one good car and one good motor, and a back-up if needed, yet ideally you need three of each to run comfortably up front. Jimmy Phelps is a perfect example of sticking with it even through the bad times. He struggled early on and kept at it and today he has a great program behind him,” pointed out Dunn, who owns three career DIRTcar Big-Block feature wins —Can-Am and Thunder Alley in 2006, Cayuga County in ’07.
Residing in the neighborhood of New York State’s Thousand Islands Region, Dunn has plenty of success stories to fall back on from fellow north country runners Bob and Tim McCreadie and Tim Fuller. Yet he still doesn’t want to fall into their shadows when it comes time to someday measure his own accomplishments on the DIRTcar circuit.
“We’ve got a lot of great drivers on tour, but I wouldn’t mind when a couple decide to retire,” smiled Dunn, who grew up idolizing many of the same wheelmen that he competes against today. “But I don’t want to think I’m better just because three or four guys move on. I always had a dream of racing a Big-Block Modified, nothing more, so I’m obviously hoping I can make a go and keep it there for a long time no matter who’s in contention.”
“I still talk to guys like Bob and Tim (Fuller), they give me a lot of confidence when I bounce things off them. Even Billy (Decker, current Advance Series points leader), he’s gone above and beyond being fair with me when I’ve asked questions without giving away his own secrets. Now that I’m a little faster I think I’ve gained some respect. When I wasn’t as fast last year I stayed out of everybody’s way and wasn’t a nuisance, and I think they remember that.”
Come Saturday, Dunn hopes even more to remember that as the day he reached victory lane for the first time in the Advance Auto Parts Super Series. Taking that initial checkered flag continues to drive his motivation, but patience has remained a centerpiece of everything that happens to him on the track.
“Some advice I received early on that I still remember to this day is not to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong and keep the front end on the car and finish races. I always take pride in not wrecking the car and being able to load up every night in one piece. If you crash, there’s money needed to get it going again. And you need fresh tires to run your best so any money spent on fixing the car takes that advantage away,” Dunn added.
Back on home soil Saturday, Dunn will be looking for any advantage to hold off Advance Series all-star Billy Decker, a winner of a career-best seven tour races in 15 tries. Decker tops the points chart ahead of runner-up Brett Hearn and Dale Planck, who share five victories on tour in ’08. Jimmy Phelps, Matt Sheppard, Gary Tomkins, Steve Paine, Frankie Caprara, Danny Johnson and Ryan Phelps fill out the top-10 in points with Justin Haers and Alan Johnson joining talented newcomers Dunn and Larry Wight in their climb up the points ladder.
For more tour information, please contact DIRTcar Racing NorthEast Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed at the DIRTcar NorthEast Office (315/834-6606) in Weedsport, New York or log into www.superdirtcarseries.com for additional Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series material.
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 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.