Weedsport, NY — June 6, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Jay Fish Photo
Third time is supposed to be a charm. Yet so far in his third year firmly entrenched in the Big-Block Modified ranks, its been a bewitching experience for Pennsylvania Modified pilot Kevin Bates as he continues to chase success on the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series.
Bates is hoping to uncover a four-leaf clover in time for Saturday’s ‘Showdown at Sundown’ presented by Bradco Supply and Ferris Mowers, as his hometrack of Fulton Speedway hosts round four of the Advance Auto Parts Series on June 7. The rising Big-Block star from Lake Ariel, Pa. will be looking to get back on track and returning to familiar territory may finally help tip the wheel of fortune in his favor.
“Its just been one big struggle so far, right now the thought of winning hasn’t really entered my mind. Just to finish would be a highlight the way things have been going lately,” figured Bates, 22, who currently stands 17th in the Advance Series point standings with a 15th-place best posted at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park on May 4. He closed out the DIRT Challenge Cup Twin 50s at Rolling Wheels with a blown rear-end just three days after a crash at Virginia Motor Speedway relegated him to 28th in the 2008 tour opener. “Its tough to start out this way and its gonna take awhile to recover.”
“The car has been pretty decent whenever its run but between parts failure and crashes there hasn’t been much to brag about. It’s quite a bit different on tour with all the top teams but I still expected to run a lot better. On the weekends I expect to be in the top-five and we’ve only stayed up there twice. In the (Fulton) 100-lapper I think I can run better than a lot of the locals but not as good as the series regulars. Hopefully, things will turn around pretty quick, we should know more where we stand after this weekend,” Bates said.
Following his regular Friday night stop at Brewerton Speedway, Bates will be looking to improve on his ninth-place finish logged last year in Fulton’s Advance Series 100-lapper. He is seventh on the 2008 points chart at Fulton with top-10 finishes scored in all three features run, and held down third at Brewerton with second and fourth-place tallies his best efforts in five main events.
“I’ve always been confident coming to Fulton but I don’t really set any goals,” noted Bates, who owns eight DIRTcar Sportsman wins there. “I’m just trying to run well and keep getting more experience. That’s the biggest difference when you get to run a few times every week, it really adds up. Our equipment is just as good yet the guys that run all the time know what to do and when to do it, which is something very hard to beat.”
Bates began his career back in 1996 racing go-karts near home at Hamlin Speedway. He set his sights on the open-wheel DIRTcar Sportsman Modified division and finally made his racing debut at the now defunct Lake Moc-a-Tek (Pa.) Speedway in 2002. The Keystone State chauffeur took on the tough Central New York competition found at both Fulton and Cayuga County Fair Speedway, wearing both track Sportsman crowns in 2005 while placing 2nd in the overall Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar standings.
Accompanied by his ever-present parents, Gary and Joanne, Bates ventured north soonafter and befriended all-time DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature winner Alan Johnson, learning the ropes in the pit area with every new experience providing him more important lessons on set-up as well as driving an open-wheel race car.
“Beating Alan is certainly one to remember, you know you’ve done something,” smiled Bates, recalling his second career Big-Block win last October at Cayuga County in front of his idol ‘A.J. Slideways’ during Super DIRT Week. “I think Alan really only helps me out because I was with him for so long. He really only used to talk with Bob McCreadie and maybe Pat Ward, two guys he ran with for such a long time, but when he gets to the track nowadays its all business. I don’t go around too much either. Once you’re decent enough out on the track there isn’t too much advice you’re gonna get from anybody anyway.”
Bates closed out his rookie Big-Block campaign ranked 19th in the final 2006 Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block with nine Advance Series starts under his belt. A pair of top-10 feature finishes in 20 appearances carried him to 15th before a late season conflict dropped him to 43rd in the final standings.
“With the way we started, my hopes aren’t too high right now but you never know,” added Bates, who will be back aboard his familiar family-owned blue no. 42B Blaise & Son Racing-Locklin’s Bottled Gas/Bicknell entry. “After Harvey (Fink, former Fulton owner) sold the track and a new surface was put down I just haven’t run the same. We’re still changing around some stuff, trying to get back to what we know best.”
“And racing is the only thing I really know how to do. I’ve been involved in it ever since I was a kid and wouldn’t know what to do on a Saturday if I wasn’t racing. Besides snowplowing in the winter, its all I really have or care about, so we’ll keep following the tour and hopefully not fall behind too much more in the points,” Bates said.
Fulton pit gates are scheduled to unlock Saturday at 3 p.m. with hot laps slated for 6 o’clock. Heat race qualifiers take the first green flag at 7 p.m. following Integra Shocks Modified Time Trials that begin at 6:30 and the main grandstands open for seating at 5 p.m.
Contact Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed at the DIRTcar NorthEast Office (315/834-6606) or log into www.superdirtcarseries.com for additional Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series information. Fulton Speedway www.fultonspeedway.com is located south of the village on County Route 57 and officials can be contacted in the track office at 315/593-6531 with the race line accessible at 315/668-RACE.
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.