Weedsport, NY — September 11, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Cory Stivason Photo – #83 Brian Swartzlander
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series main event Friday at Lernerville Speedway is billed as the ‘North-South 100’ as top touring teams from New York are ready to clash with the leading locals on day one of Advance Auto Parts Autumn-Motive Fest Modified Madness in the Keystone State.
Although only hours separate the main flux of Empire State travelers from the weekly track favorites stationed in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, the popular Sarver, Pa. oval will be a unique setting to showcase the best Big-Block drivers that still occupy two distinct racing regions on the DIRTcar NorthEast circuit.
Firmly in the forefront in this budding rivalry are 1998 overall champion and current Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar points leader Billy Decker and recently crowned Lernerville points king Brian Swartzlander. Although these open-wheel veterans rarely cross paths during the regular season, the September 12 stop at Lernerville offers a special opportunity to measure competition on both ends of the speedway spectrum.
“Make no mistake, these (Pennsylvania) guys still get around this place pretty good,” remarked Decker, 43, who returns to Lernerville as the defending Advance Series winner after reaching victory lane in 2006. The Unadilla, New York chauffeur ran third in ’05 while adding fourth (1998) and eighth-place (1997) finishes in the initial tour visits made a decade earlier.
“Our only advantage is probably the tons of experience we’ve got running at tracks all over the Northeast. These guys know their own track far better than us but we’re used to running longer races and know more what to expect when the track changes in a 100-lapper. The equipment is pretty much the same, its just keeping it going a little longer that separates the field right now,” noted Decker, who will be looking to establish an all-time Advance Series single-season mark with victory number 11 on the 2008 tour steering the potent LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int’l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell entry.
While Decker has placed among the top-10 in all four previous trips to Lernerville, six-time track champion Swartzlander is yet to crack the top-20 in those same Advance Series shows. Rear-end problems (2005) and a race-ending crash (’06) resulted in identical 29th-place finishes with six laps scored each time out.
“We’re definitely excited to get another chance this weekend and put a lot more laps under our belt, something always seems to bite us in this big race,” said Swartzlander, 49, who will be back aboard the familiar McCutcheon Enterprises no. 83 Precise Racing Products-B&J Motorsports/TEO machine looking for his seventh win of the season at Lernerville. “It’s always nice to run against these guys, hopefully we can give a better showing on Friday.”
“I’m looking forward to the tour drivers coming in and putting on a professional show. It’s always tough to beat them but it should be a real treat for the fans to see them in action. It’s always interesting to see how the track changes in this longer race and how our drivers adjust to some of the same conditions they’ve hardly ever faced,” Swartzlander added.
While Decker is facing a 5-1/2-hour haul from the Gypsum shop in Central New York on Friday morning, Swartzlander can stay home for lunch and still make it to the track in plenty of time from his Leechburg residence located just 15 miles away. But once at the track, everybody will be in the same time zone and have to crank the wheel left when they reach turn one.
“Lernerville is a pretty neat track, its comparable to Brewerton and Fulton where there’s enough room and you can’t hold back the fastest car,” commented Decker, who recently garnered his fourth title at Brewerton over the summer. He’s been the hottest driver all season, posting a circuit-wide best 22 feature wins in Big-Block competition.
“I remember getting off turn two was tricky and carrying the speed down the back chute very challenging. At first you don’t think you can get the bite when it turns dark but there’s a lot of good racing all the way around. And as the race goes on the amount of motor needed becomes less and less. I know in that last win we became pretty well balanced by the end of the race,” added Decker, who time trialed 20th and fell into 11th on the starting grid before out-dueling Tim Fuller for the dramatic victory in ’06.
Along with Decker and Swartzlander, the all-star field will be filled by current points runner-up Dale Planck, third-place runner Jimmy Phelps, reigning overall Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar Champion Brett Hearn and Gary Tomkins, who has combined with Decker to win seven of the last nine Advance Series features. Matt Sheppard, Frankie Caprara, Steve Paine, Justin Haers and Ryan Phelps rank among the top-10 in points while Alan Johnson, Billy Dunn, Danny Johnson and 15 year-old rookie Larry Wight pose outside threats as the tour winds down.
Following Swartzlander —listed fourth all-time with 60 Big-Block Modified feature wins at Lernerville— on the final 2008 season points chart are Kevin Bolland (5 wins), Del Rougeux Jr. (2), Tom Winkle and Jeremiah Shingledecker (2).
Lernerville Speedway www.lernerville.com is located approximately 25 miles north of Pittsburgh, just below Butler, Pa. on the map. General Admission ticket prices on Friday are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and $14 for students 11-17 and as always, kids 10 & under are admitted FREE! Reserved seats may be purchased for an additional $2 per ticket. Kids 10 & under are subject to student pricing for reserved seats. Pit Passes are available for $25 for UMP/DIRTcar members and $30 for non-members. For more information contact the track at 724/353-1511.
Pit gates are scheduled to unlock at 4 p.m. on Friday and the main grandstands open at 5 o’clock with hot laps slated for 6:30 p.m. Heat race qualifiers take the first green flag at 7:30 p.m. following Integra Shocks Modified time trials.
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.