Weedsport, NY — August 27, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series PR Director
*Jay Fish Photo
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series returns to Cayuga County Fair Speedway for the second time this season on Sunday, August 31. And for the second straight year Advance Series star Jimmy Phelps is also on the verge of picking up the coveted Big-Block Modified points title at the historic fairgrounds oval.
Plenty of points are on the line Sunday when Cayuga County hosts the Budweiser Twin 54s presented by Taylor Rental, with each feature offering $3,000-to-win. Phelps has been the most consistent runner in the past five tour races at the home of DIRTcar NorthEast, yet a checkered flag in Advance Series competition has remained just out of grasp for the Baldwinsville, New York driver.
“We’re probably a little more at ease coming into the weekend this year,” said Phelps, 33, who beat out Steve Paine last year for his first title and holds a 15-point lead over Alan Johnson on the track chart coming into Weedsport’s ’08 Big-Block finale. The next six point-chasers are also tour regulars, with Phelps ranking third in the current Advance Series standings. “But we know a couple wins could help us out with some additional bonus points, so there’s still a little pressure to do well.”
“The summer has been kind of hit-and-miss, seems like the Cayuga County deal has been down-played due to the weather. Its tough if you look at putting your best five track finishes towards the Mr. DIRT title when you only get eight races in. We’ve got two wins in Weedsport this year so the biggest benefit on Sunday is that there’s two more chances,” figured Phelps, who is the most consistent driver at Cayuga County being the only one to post front-five finishes in each of the past five tour outings, including third in the Hall of Fame 76 in May. Last year the ‘B’Ville Blizzard’ finished third and fourth in the Hall of Fame Twin 53s, then logged second and third-place finishes in Cayuga County’s twin-bill on Labor Day Weekend.
“We’re still pumped up about getting some good finishes. Our series set-up has been pretty much the same as our own car on the weekend, especially this past year after changing over our short-track engine program. The track conditions are fairly similar every race so even with fewer shows we know what to expect and haven’t lost anything development-wise,” Phelps remarked.
Two of the biggest obstacles for Phelps will be current Advance Series front-runner Billy Decker and points runner-up Dale Planck. Both southern tier chauffeurs are having career seasons and they shared victory lane trips the past two tour events at the Port.
“Its definitely been tough for everybody else, a bad night for Billy has still been a top-5,” noted Phelps, who captured his lone Advance Series win this year at Merrittville (Ont.) Speedway and chalked up 10 front-five and 16 top-10 finishes along the way. Decker has scored a career-best eight tour wins —two shy of the all-time single-season record— and has yet to finish out of the top-10 in 18 series shows. “And when Dale is on, he’s just as good as Billy this year.”
“You’re never satisfied unless you win but we’ve taken some great steps in our progress and we’re happy to be headed in the right direction. We might be racing for second right now but I think we’re in solid contention to get closer. There’s a lot of big point races left and the possibility of taking a big swing in either direction is the same for every team. Our first goal is still to finish every race, then finish well after that. But I don’t want to progress because of anyone else’s misfortune,” Phelps said.
With valuable points and $6,000 at stake, Phelps remains focused on nailing down his first career Advance Series victory at Cayuga County on Sunday with hopes that a tour triumph on home turf will help carry the momentum he needs to make the stretch run.
“I’m fortunate because all the guys I have around me really excel, they’re equipped for the big races and have the experience to know what to do this time of year,” added Phelps, who is enjoying his fourth straight season behind the wheel of the potent H&H Motorsports no. 98H Mohawk Northeast-New England Race Fuels/Troyer entry. “(Co-owners John Holland and Al Heinke) have the equipment too win and they keep it fresh, something I hope will give us an advantage down the road.”
“Our biggest concern this year was coming out strong at the start of the night, having a good run in time trials and staying up front in the heats. We’ve improved in both areas(1 fast time, 6 preliminary wins to date) yet it took us a little too long to get into form. Since the trip to Canada we’ve picked up the pace. We know we’re a top-five car every time out now if we do what we need to do,” Phelps said.
Along with Decker and Planck, Phelps will have too fend off the challenges of reigning overall Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar Champion Brett Hearn, Gary Tomkins who is currently riding a two-race win streak, Matt Sheppard, Steve Paine, Frankie Caprara, Danny Johnson and Ryan Phelps, each among the top-10 in points. Justin Haers, Billy Dunn, Alan Johnson and last Sunday’s Weedsport winner Larry Wight pose outside threats and have two tries on Sunday to get the job done.
Centrally situated, Cayuga County Fair Speedway is located at the fairgrounds on the east end of the village of Weedsport just one mile off exit 40 of the New York State Thruway. Adult general admission grandstand tickets on Sunday are $20 each, Senior Citizens (65 yrs + over) $18, Students (10-14 yrs) $5 and Children (9 yrs. + under) Free.
Warm-ups for all divisions are scheduled to begin at approximately 5:45 p.m. followed by Integra Shocks Modified Time Trials at 6:15 p.m. Qualifying heats start at 7 o’clock with pit gates unlocking at 3 p.m. and the main grandstands opening at 5 o’clock. A special ‘Fan Foto’ autograph session on the frontstretch pre-empts the first leg of the Big-Block twins.
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. More track material can found by logging into www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com 24/7.
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.