Weedsport, NY — February 7, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director
*Alex Bruce/Jay Fish Photos
Troyer Race Cars has been building dirt-style Modifieds since the first radically-designed Mud Buss was unveiled to the motorsports mainstream in 1981. Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series contender Jimmy Phelps was six years old when Alan Johnson sent the DIRTcar Racing world reeling more than a quarter-century ago, instilling a dream that may soon become reality once the 2008 season gets underway.
When the 37th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals kicks off the Big-Block Modified portion of its schedule next week at Volusia Speedway Park, no less than 10 racers will be sporting the latest Troyer creations. Phelps is now the headline ‘house’ driver at age 32 as he looks toward capturing his first career Mr. DIRTcar Modified Championship.
“We’re finally at the point where we’re knocking at the door, only a little off now so we can just work on the finer details,” said Phelps, who will be back aboard the H&H Motorsports no. 98H Mohawk Northeast-New England Race Fuels/Troyer entry for a fourth straight season. The Baldwinsville, N.Y. chauffeur has improved every year, moving from ninth in the 2005 overall Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block standings to fourth last season with three tour triumphs tallied along the way.
“The (Mr. DIRTcar) Championship is definitely our goal, but we had to take a lot of baby steps to get in this position. Winning the title is the biggest feat at this level and it would certainly be the highlight of my career. We’re not missing by much anymore. When it comes to putting in the time and being totally dedicated, everybody on the team is just as deserving,” Phelps added.
The Advance Auto Parts Modified mini-series in Florida includes three 30-lap main events with a 50-lap finale closing out the ’08 trip, February 13-16. An optional practice is reserved for Tue., Feb. 12. H&H Motorsports mainstay John Holland plans to be in attendance banking on his driver improving from ninth-place in the final Alltel DIRTcar Nationals Modified points standings two years ago.
“Jimmy was probably the first driver we ever had to go a full year with us, that’s pretty special right there,” figured Holland, who teamed with co-owner Al Heinke to field their first Big-Block Modified entry as the new millennium arrived. Persistence paid off as the dynamic duo shared the first-ever Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence — for demonstrating great determination and perseverance in the development of their racing program as well as a high level of pride and professionalism— at the DIRTcar NorthEast Banquet in 2006.
“Probably 10 other teams are in the title hunt like us. But I feel we’ve paid our dues and everybody in our program has really matured, especially Jimmy, who’s been able to grow right along with us. We’ve always been stronger later in the summer so this year we want to be a lot better right out of the box. That’s the best reason for going back to Volusia, so we can really find out where we stand heading into the first points show,” Holland added.
Phelps is already on solid ground, coming off his best season ever with Empire State track titles at Cayuga County Fair and Fulton speedways, along with 10 DIRTcar Big-Block feature wins; a total that more than tripled his best previous output (3 in ’06) and elevated his career total to 19 checkered flags. Expectations run even higher in his 12th season of Big-Block competition, with veteran crew chief Randy Kisacky continuing to turn the wrenches at every Advance Series stop in 2008.
“Its been a good winter weather-wise which has put us way ahead of schedule, so I’m pretty excited to get going,” Phelps noted. “Hopefully, we can go to Volusia and have a solid run. Our first trip down in ’06 was mostly experimental, this time we’ll be taking more of a baseline approach. As of late we’ve been trying to stay with a basic set-up. We found the further we strayed from the standard, the worse we got. We’re not trying anything off the wall with our motor program, so don’t expect any surprises.”
“Teaming up with the guys at Troyer has not only made me a better driver, its helped my own team become more successful. Being able to run four or five times a week … you just can’t buy that kind of experience. Sure, there were some rough times along the way but I found out first-hand the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If you want to improve and get to the top you can’t play the blame game, just work harder and hopefully the results will come,” said Phelps, who has been a loyal supporter of the Troyer chassis since 1998.
When Phelps made his debut with the H&H Motorsports/Troyer tandem in June of 2005 at Lernerville (Pa.) Speedway, the end result was fourth quick time before rain pushed the Advance Auto Parts Series show into August. He went on to set two more fast times, win some qualifying heats and lead some feature race laps yet still had to wait until the next summer to claim his first career tour triumph closer to home at Brewerton (NY) Speedway in August of ‘06.
Stated Troyer Race Cars President Billy Colton, “Poor (Advance Series) qualifying runs have been the biggest set backs for Jimmy so being fast when that first green flag falls is going to be a big priority this year. You just can’t keep digging yourself a hole and expect to get back to the front race after race. Coming out with a good run under the clocks and following up strong in the heats will be the biggest sign of improvement we’re looking for from day one.”
Joining Phelps in the all-star cast of 40 chauffeurs scheduled to make the haul south are all-time Alltel Nationals Big-Block feature winner Brett Hearn, defending Florida Tour Champion Danny Johnson, New York veterans Alan Johnson and Billy Decker, along with New Jersey star Jimmy Horton and Delaware driver Jamie Mills.
Volusia Speedway Park (386/985-4402) is located 15 miles west of Daytona Beach on State Road 40 in Barberville, Fla. For additional information, contact the DIRTcar NorthEast Office during normal business hours or log into www.superdirtcarseries.com.
Reserved seat tickets for each night of the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals can be purchased by going online at www.VolusiaSpeedwayPark.com. For those unable to attend any of the shows in person, all the action can be seen on the DIRTVision Cybercast. For just $29.99 fans can purchase the ‘Alltel DIRTcar Nationals Racepass’ and watch live streaming video of the remaining nine nights of racing from Feb. 8-16. Please log on to www.dirtvision.com for more information.
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts is the second-largest retailer of automotive aftermarket parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, based on store count and sales. As of October 6, 2007, the company operated 3,228 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The company serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets.
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.