Weedsport, NY — July 30, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Jay Fish Photo
It’s been exactly one year since Jimmy Phelps scored his last victory in the Super DIRTcar Series, so the trip back to Merrittville Speedway can’t come soon enough in his defense of the Wilkens Memorial at the storied Thorold, Ontario oval.
“I don’t like to use the word ‘struggle’ but we’re a little disappointed we haven’t had a few more wins up to this point,” admitted Phelps, 34, one of the most consistent series campaigners, although taking his only checkered flag this season at Cayuga County Fair Speedway in a weekly DIRTcar Racing Northeast Big-Block Modified event. “We’re actually off to a pretty good start, just a little bit off here and there but getting closer.”
“We’re still searching for something to take us over the top. We’ve just been really close a lot more times than usual without getting a win. But everybody is working hard and we’re confident going into some of the next events that we’ve found success at in the past,” Phelps noted.
The 17th Trevor Wilkens Memorial at Merrittville on Monday, August 3 kicks off the month of August action and Phelps is anxious to return to the site of his last tour triumph. Steering the potent H&H Motorsports no. 98H Mohawk Northeast-New England Race Fuels/Troyer entry, the Baldwinsville, New York pilot experienced one of his most dominating performances since joining the Super DIRTcar Series full-time in 2005, leading 97 of the 100 feature laps, capturing his qualifying heat and time trialing fourth-fastest among 36 entries.
“Last year was only our third race at Merrittville but we’ve always been pretty fast there,” remarked Phelps, who lasted only one lap in the 2006 edition after suffering a broken rear-end, then finished sixth the following summer. “I kinda grew up at Brewerton which is tight like Merrittville, so I feel like I’m a little better there than at some of the other tracks on tour.”
“Everything seemed to fall our way last time, it was just one of those nights when the whole team was clicking and we didn’t get away from our plan much from beginning to end. We’d like to keep it going when we get back, it’s a place that really seems to suit us well,” said Phelps, currently standing fourth in Super DIRTcar Series points behind all-time tour winner Brett Hearn, reigning Mr. DIRTcar Champion Billy Decker and Matt Sheppard, who is enjoying the best season of his young career to date, while recent All-Star Weekend winner Ryan Phelps completes the top-five.
Since joining up with the H&H tandem of John Holland and Al Heinke, the ‘B’Ville Blizzard’ has slowly climbed the charts, placing ninth in his 2005 debut, improving to seventh in ’06 and advancing to fourth in ’07 before settling for runner-up honors in the overall Mr. DIRTcar rundown last season. Four wins —Brewerton, Williams Grove, Rolling Wheels, Merrittville— accompanied a handful of Integra Shocks Fast Time awards over the first four seasons and given Team Troyer plenty of motivation to move up just one more spot in the final rankings.
“We typically run decent at the tracks coming up in August, but so do Brett, Billy and Matt, so I think its critical we do well to have a chance at the championship,” stated Phelps, who logged his sixth career fast time at Brockville on July 9 and won three qualifying heats along the way. “Everybody at H&H knows the importance of the late season races and they always stay prepared and provide good equipment.”
“We just have to have more of those nights like Merrittville throughout the whole season. We seem to be in a little bit of a rut so we need to give a good effort down the stretch. I know Brewerton very well but I’m not quite comfortable yet at Canandaigua, I always feel like we leave the track with a better car than where we finished. We were counting on doing well during the Canadian swing so the rain hurt our momentum but we get another chance at Cornwall and later on at Drummond. I’ve always been up and down at Can-Am, and I know anything can happen there, but I’m fortunate to have the equipment to be good at Lebanon Valley. When the month ends, hopefully we’ll be in better position to make a second half run,” Phelps said.
The rise to the top will be no easy task as the leader board is locked down with the best in the Big-Block business today. While Phelps has remained a threat in the early stages of the series, front runners Hearn, Decker and Sheppard continue to be among the biggest forces on tour while cousin Ryan Phelps is riding a two-race win streak heading across the border.
“Its not like we’re slowing down, those guys have just raised the bar a little higher this season,” figured Phelps, who owns six top-five finishes in the initial nine series shows. “And the problem with Brett is that even an off night has been fifth, and we’ve all had bad nights already. Consistency is always the key in a long series like this and so far the top guys are also winning which makes the whole deal even more challenging when we’re not.”
With a dozen more drivers just as competitive as the current point leaders, Phelps will have to fend off fellow tour travelers Justin Haers, Gary Tomkins, Dale Planck and past Merrittville series winners Alan (2006) and Danny Johnson (2007), as well as young guns Billy Dunn, Mike Storms and Larry Wight. The local Small-Block leaders will also be out in full force led by Canadian Hall of Famer Pete Bicknell and track 358 regulars Larry Lampman Jr., Scott Wood, Chris Steele and Mike Bowman, along with New Yorker Chad Brachmann.
Centrally located in the heart of the Niagara Region, Merrittville Speedway is easily accessible from all sides including Buffalo and Niagara areas in the states and Hamilton and Toronto areas in Canada. Gates are scheduled to unlock Monday at 4 p.m., Integra Shocks Modified Time Trials will get underway following 6:30 hot laps while the first qualifying heat is set for 7 o’clock. Both U.S. and Canadian currency are accepted at equal value with adult general admission tickets $25 each, Seniors (65+) & Students (13-18 yrs) $20, Juniors (8-12) $10 and Children (under 8 yrs.) Free. A Family Pass is also available for $65 while the Pit Pass fee is $25 for DIRTcar members and $30 for non-members.
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 Super DIRTcar Series material. More track notes can found by logging into www.merrittvillespeedway.com 24/7.
The Big-Block Modified Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors 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, 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.