SWEDESBORO, NJ – 28 premier Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified drivers charged into 100 laps of the unknown at the newly reconfigured high-banked, Bridgeport Motorsports Park at outset of the ‘King of the Big Blocks’ 100.
Every driver in the field rose to the occasion and fought hard for the win but only the 5-time NAPA Super DIRT Week champion, Stewart Friesen, would be crowned ‘King of the Big Blocks.’ In Victory Lane, an emotional Stewart Friesen dedicated his win to the late Danny Serrano who passed away after working all Winter to prepare the new Bridgeport Motorsports Park for race season.
Friesen won his Heat Race to make it to the Redraw and randomly selected 9th. With 100 laps to run, there was plenty of time for the Halmar International no. 44 to make up the necessary ground.
The Gypsum Racing cars of Larry Wight and Billy Decker led the field to the green flag. The no. 99L took off and jetted out to an early lead while Ryan Godown, Chris Hile, and Mike Mahaney duked it out for the rest of the top 5.
The next 20 laps stayed green and Decker began reeling in Wight. Slowly but surely Wight started to fade. On lap 20, Wight relinquished the lead to Decker. At the same time, Friesen began making serious inroads to the top 5 passing both Mike Mahaney and Chris Hile in one fell swoop for 4th.
Everything changed on lap 25.
Decker, while running in the lead, suffered a flat tire and brought out the caution. Incredibly, Decker was able to fight through the field all the way back to second place.
“I didn’t expect to be on the podium but when it blew, sometimes getting a new tire early can win you the race,” said Decker. “By the looks of Friesen’s tire [in Victory Lane], we weren’t far off.”
On the restart, Friesen jumped to 2nd and then the lead, but suddenly the caution came out for Matt Sheppard and Mike Mahaney. Both went behind the wall before starting their charge to the front once again.
Friesen then outdueled Wight for the lead and drove off. Wight later retired from the race due to a mechanical failure.
At the halfway point, Friesen was leading but Matt Sheppard worked his way back up into the top 5. Sheppard finally caught up with Friesen with 12 laps to go and made the pass. Almost immediately the no. 9S slowed and brought the caution flag out. His night was over although he did receive a free Hoosier Racing Tire for redrawing position 12.
Friesen noted the Sheppard pass: “I figured the tire was shot because we started skatin’ pretty good. The car was getting upset in the bumps off of turn 2 a little bit. I tried to guard the bottom but Matt [Sheppard] got me on the top,” said Friesen. “I don’t know what happened but Danny Serrano was looking out for me tonight.”
Then it was Billy Decker’s turn to try and take down Friesen. He threw everything he had at him. “You have to hit it just right to get a run,” said Decker. “I was close but didn’t want to lay iron on him. I was trying. I didn’t come here to finish second.”
3rd place finisher Jimmy Phelps was very happy with the result.
“The car was a lot better than me all night. We didn’t qualify well and I don’t think it had anything to do with the car, “said Phelps. “It just took me a while to get used to this place. What a great, racy place.”
The no. 98H never went away and the Baldwinsville Bandit never gave up.
“It took me 50-60 laps to get to the top of turns 1 and 2 and the car could drive all over in 3 and 4. But I am happy. I wasn’t sure about halfway we had climbed up to 10th and then went back to 15th. Fortunately, the attrition helped us make it back in there.”
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PHOTO: Quinten Young
King of the Big Blocks 100 Feature results:
1) STEWART FRIESEN 2) Billy Decker 3) Jimmy Phelps 4) Andy Bachetti 5) Michael Maresca 6) Peter Britten 7) Tim Fuller 8) Billy Dunn 9) Mike Mahaney 10) Mat Williamson 11) Demetrios Drellos 12) Jessey Mueller 13) Dave Marcuccilli 14) Chris Hile 15) Jack Lehner 16) Brandon Grosso 17) Ryan Watt 18) Tyler Dippel 19) Marcus Dinkins 20) Erick Rudolph 21) Billy Pauch Jr. 22) Matt Sheppard 23) Ryan Godown 24) Rick Labauch 25) Larry Wight 26) Neal Williams 27) Chad Phelps 28) Ryan Krachun
Contingency sponsorship awards:
Billy Whittaker Cars $100 – Stewart Friesen
VP Racing Fuels $50 – Billy Decker
Cometic Gasket $50 – Chris Hile
Comp Cams $50 – Demetrios Drellos
Fox Racing Shocks $50 – Marcus Dinkins
ARP $50 – Peter Britten
DART $50 – Demetrios Drellos
Drydene $50 – Peter Britten
ASi Racewear $50 – Tim Fuller
Bicknell Racing Products $100 certificate – Stewart Friesen
OSWEGO, NY – As we all wait impatiently for the start of this year’s edition of the Super DIRTcar Series, I look back to when it all started. I was just a junior in college at SUNY Oswego.
There had been various modified racing series over the years. There were Challenge Cups and there were attempts to have team races representing tracks from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Canada with three members to each team. A novel concept.
However, none had them staying power of what has become the Super DIRTcar Series. But who are the legends, the men to beat, and the future stars of the series? Let’s start with the all-time Super DIRTcar Series Feature winners list.
Top 10 All-Time Super DIRTcar Series Feature Winners List (Points and Non-Points)
140 Brett Hearn 89 Danny Johnson 78 Matt Sheppard 70 Billy Decker 57 Alan Johnson 39 Bob McCreadie 32 Stewart Friesen 31 Jack Johnson 31 Tim Fuller 28 Jimmy Horton
I remember when the Schaefer Circle of Champions raced the what would become the first series shows back in 1972 at tracks like Five Mile Point, Rolling Wheels, Fonda, Flemington, Twin Valley, Orange County, Nazareth, East Windsor, Lebanon Valley, Weedsport, Merrittville and The Mile.
Winners included the likes of Buzzie and Wayne Reutimann along with Will Cagle, Kenny Brightbill, Dick Hansen, Don Beagell, Chuck Ciprich, Stan Ploski, and Bobby Rossell. These names were always at the top of the results in the race papers.
The Super DIRTcar Series has been the lone series that brought together the elite of Northeast Modified racing on a regular basis. For fans, it is treated to have so many of the legends of the tour still with us today and competing on a regular basis.
The winningest driver is Brett Hearn and although he has taken up a management role at Orange County, he hasn’t totally walked away from possibly running a Super DIRTcar Series show from time to time.
Whoever would have thought that Danny Johnson, who won his first tour race in 1983, would be second in the all-time win list and still be racing when the resumption of action commences in 2020.
Youthful compared to the guys he is surrounded by in the all-time win list, Matt Sheppard is third and he’s managed to achieve that climb in just 15 years.
The other still competitive drivers in the top 10 list of all-time winners include Billy Decker, Alan Johnson, Tim Fuller, Stewart Friesen, and Jimmy Horton.
Alan Johnson still finds time to hit the tour while The Sensational One Jimmy Horton is usually on the roster for NAPA Super DIRT Week and when the tour hits Orange County.
Tim Fuller has been running the tour on and off for years successfully. His win total would be far more substantial it not for his years following the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model tour.
There is no doubt that within the next 10 years The Doctor, Billy, Alan, Tomkins, Fuller, and Tremont will find other things to do other than sit in the cockpit of a Modified.
Okay, so maybe The Doctor will never quit, but you never know.
The Men to Beat
Obviously, Matt Sheppard has set the bar and after four consecutive years of winning the title will continue to be the man to beat.
Mat Williamson had the season of his life a year ago in capturing the Super DIRTcar Series title and the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at NAPA Super Dirt Week and he too is going to be around for a long time to come.
Others who will help maintain the high caliber of racing on the Series include Larry Wight and Erick Rudolph.
Stewart Friesen also should find his way to his share of SDS shows as he too is one helps the tour maintain its luster.
I think Peter Britten and Mike Mahaney will continue to be mainstays on the tour fielding strong entries year after year.
Teams change goals and aspirations. For some, the thrill of running on the tour and the prestige that comes with it is a dream or their ultimate goal in racing. They try it, for maybe a year or two, and say, “Well, I did it.” However, others are in for the long haul.
Jimmy Phelps is a driver that can get hot any minute and be a real threat on the tour.
Betting on Futures
How does it feel predicting the future Super DIRTcar Series stars? Let me use just one word…Unpredictable.
Certainly, Demetrios Drellos made his presence known last year as a rookie and getting his first tour win as even when I talked to him in February still couldn’t believe his team actually won in the very first year.
Jack Lehner is still quite young and he has a program that might allow him to be in this thing for the long run. He’s still learning and getting his feet wet. Jack made strides last year and he is one of the Young Ones.
Chris Hile, a regular in Central New York, has proven to be competitive the series races he selects to run. He is doing the tour for the first time this year and if he can adapt to some tracks he’s never seen he could be a contender. There is no reason why he couldn’t finish in the top ten in the point standings.
If anyone has followed Tim Sears Jr. they know just by watching him for one single night that this kid has talent. The team has received some assistance from John Wight over the years when they are in need, but he would be a tremendous addition to the series. He is the future of Big Block Modified racing and needs to find a ride.
There are a bunch of DIRTcar 358 drivers with the talent to make that step up if sponsors and support can be found including Davie Marcuccilli, Corey Wheeler, Kyle Dingwall, Ryan Arbuthnot, and Jordan McCready.
However, my base of operation is in Central New York so those are the drivers that stand out to me. Series talent comes from all parts of the Northeast and Canada.
It’s difficult to see what the future might hold especially in the crazy world we are currently surviving in. When the economy eventually bounces back, the sponsors and fans will be able to remain involved and the longest Big Block Modified series in the Northeast will continue to give fans their fill of the stars of racing.
There is no crystal ball, but in witnessing racing since the late 60’s I thoroughly understand that times change, drivers change, racing changes, but our sport and in this case the Super DIRTcar Series live on.
Billy Foley is a prolific writer for racing news website Dirt Track Digest and announcers weekly at Brewerton and Fulton Speedways.
BARBERVILLE, FL – February 14, 2020 – Lightning Larry Wight, from Phoenix, NY, joined elite company in the record books by winning his third DIRTcar Nationals presented by Bozard Ford Feature win in a row. Only Brett Hearn and Kenny Brightbill have won three or more consecutive races at Volusia Speedway Park in Super DIRTcar Series competition.
Wight’s first 2 wins this week came from the outside pole position but tonight the No. 99L started seventh with 6 very fast Big Block Modifieds in his way.
Wight’s teammate The Franklin Flyer Billy Decker started on pole-sitter Rick Laubach’s outside but slid to the bottom on the backstretch and outmuscled Laubach out of turn 4 on the initial start.
As the race progressed and Decker built a lead, most of the top runners were on the high side of the speedway. Wight made his way by 2 of the fastest cars on the property; Anthony Perrego and Matt Sheppard. Then it was time to reel in the leader.
For the win, Wight was forced to pass the one car on the track he didn’t want to: Gypsum Racing teammate Billy Decker.
“He got stuck behind those lapped cars. He didn’t move up in time and we were able to get that top. I thought after I messed up the first time going after it, Billy would have taken the top away from me but he left me just enough room to enter above the cushion and cut down. Luckily the car turned just enough for it,” Wight described.
Due to a rain shower before Hot Laps and superior track preparation, the surface was full throttle.
“The track crew did a phenomenal job getting that track turned around today in the short amount of time they had once the rain stopped,” Wight noted. “This car has been working no matter what the surface is. Luckily we haven’t changed the set up much. That goes to show you we got it working good.”
Larry Wight has won 4 out of the last 6 Super DIRTcar Series DIRTcar Nationals Features.
Billy Decker is a 3-time winner at The World’s Fastest Half-Mile. He was 4 laps away from his fourth.
“When you lose the lead it’s disappointing,” said Decker. “We lost to the right guy but we certainly wanted the win.”
Larry Wight has everyone in the Gator Pond scrambling for set up changes. The Gypsum Racing team put their heads together and worked on the No. 91 throughout the day.
“We made some changes but it wasn’t enough. He [Wight] is just too versatile,” conceded Decker.
In third was last night’s hard-luck candidate Mat Williamson from St. Catharines, ON. The Buzz Chew Racing team went hammer down to get the No. 88 back to the front.
“We gave it all we had. We were disappointed after last night’s mishap. Fortunately tonight we turned things around,” said Williamson. “We got here at 8 o’clock this morning and put in a day’s work and it really paid off for the guys.”
After starting ninth, Williamson needed a track he could make gains on.
“The track was challenging but it was racy. Given the weather we had today, you can’t complain. It’s a factor. Hopefully, it’s similar tomorrow.”
Join us tomorrow night at Volusia Speedway Park for the final race of the 2020 DIRTcar National presented by Bozark Ford. Don’t miss it as we will crown the 2020 DIRTcar Nationals presented by Bozard Ford Big Gator Champion!
If you can’t make it to the track, log in with DIRTvision and get a month-long Fast Pass to catch all the action live.
After the crimson Carolina clay settled back on The Dirt Track at Charlotte, Mat Williamson, from St. Catharines, ON, was crowned the first Canadian driver in history to win the Super DIRTcar Series Championship. Williamson’s second-place finish was enough to relegate seven-time Series Champion Matt Sheppard to second place in the points standings. Gypsum Racing’s Billy Decker won the race, bookending his Super DIRTcar Series season with trips to Victory Lane. The twenty-four-year-old Pierrepont, NY driver Michael Mareca made an impressive run up to the final step on the podium.
CONCORD, NC — The entire 2019 Super DIRTcar Series season came down to Saturday night’s Can-Am World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Seven-time champion Matt Sheppard was on the pole opposite the hottest driver on the tour, Mat Williamson, who was seeking his first crown.
Williamson had a slight 18-point advantage in the title bout, leaving him almost no room for error.
After letting Billy Decker power past both of them, Sheppard and Williamson battled side-by-side and when the crimson Carolina clay settled, Williamson was second behind Decker — two spots ahead of Sheppard — to become the first Canadian driver in history to win the Super DIRTcar Series Championship.
Gypsum Racing’s Decker bookended his Super DIRTcar Series season with trips to Victory Lane in the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park and Saturday night’s win in the season finale. Michael Maresca, a 24-year-old Pierrepont, NY driver, made an impressive run to third.
Williamson, his family racing operation, and the Buzz Chew No. 88 combined to put together one of the greatest seasons of Big Block Modified racing ever. His season started out with strong runs and consistent finishes, but he ended it with a NAPA Super DIRT Week Billy Whittaker Cars 200 Championship and the overall Super DIRTcar Series Championship. That alone accounts for $90,000 of winnings.
Looking back, Williamson never let a cloud of doubt enter his vision.
“I had belief is these guys the whole time,” said Williamson, of St. Catharines, Ontario. “I just had to believe in myself and know that we could do it. The team is second to none. They deserve this and they’ve worked harder than anyone. We had our growing pains, but we worked harder and stuff got better.”
One of the turning points in the season came after a poor result at Weedsport Speedway, a track where Williamson has long struggled. The Buzz Chew team came back to it with resolve and made a podium run to prove they could succeed anywhere.
“We’ve always struggled at Weedsport,” he said. “Not just us but my own team with my own car. I kept working harder. There was a point when Buzz did not want to go back to Weedsport because we sucked there. We kept telling Buzz, ‘Stick with it. Stick with it. We’ll work on it and get better and better.’ We got beat at Merrittville, at home, and we knew we had to get better and we learned some stuff there. We brought that to Weedsport, and Brewerton and Mohawk.”
Williamson carried a freight train of momentum throughout the final third of the season and he needed every bit of it to defeat Sheppard.
He admitted to doing the math while racing for position. With Sheppard and Decker swapping the lead, Williamson became a huge Decker fan.
“When Matt got by Billy [Decker] there, I got a little nervous,” he said. “I’ve always liked Billy, but I was the biggest Billy Decker fan ever. It was nerve-wracking man. … From the moment I woke up I knew we were going to do good things today.”
Sheppard’s chance to add another Championship to his Hall of Fame résumé was handicapped before he even took the green flag. Unfortunately, Sheppard’s motor lost a cylinder during the pace laps.
“I dropped a cylinder,” Sheppard said. “I just kept the foot to the floor trying to keep it going the best I could, but I don’t think it would have mattered. If I would have won the race, Mat still came in third.”
No one knows what it takes to win Super DIRTcar Series Championships like Sheppard. He gave full credit to Williamson and his team.
“They deserve it, they had the most consistent year and that’s what this Championship is about,” Sheppard said. “This isn’t NASCAR with playoffs. We won the most races and had really good finishes but, in the end, we had more bad nights than they did. Hats off to them, the driver, the crew and the team. Everyone there did a great job. They did what they needed to do and that’s why they’re the Champions.”
If Sheppard could point to one moment in the season that changed the Championship outlook, it would have to be the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 where he broke an axle as a result of incidental contact with Michael Maresca.
“Oswego is the big one … the thirty-first really hurt,” he said.
However, Sheppard was content with the result and knows he and his team did everything they could do to be there at the end.
“I’ve been on both ends of it before,” Sheppard noted. “This isn’t the first Championship I’ve lost by a few points. Luckily for us we’ve been on the good end more than the bad end.”
Decker kicked off 2019 with a win on the first night of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park and capped it with a win at the Can-Am World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
“Charlotte’s been a pain in my side, but now I have a much higher opinion,” Decker said. “It got away from us (Friday) night. This win is a product of LJL Racing and the Gypsum Wholesaler team. The team is fun to be a part of. Losing yesterday had me down pretty hard and we came out swinging today. What a great race car. It feels good to get a win here at the Can-Am World Finals.”
Third-place runner Maresca was a rocket in the second half of the race.
“I found that top side, and it was kind of tricky racing Mat and Matt. I had to give them a lot of room. They were racing for a Championship, so I was just trying to be respectful of them,” Maresca said.
Maresca still feels guilt over the contact me made with Sheppard at NAPA Super DIRT Week despite Sheppard clearing him of full responsibility.
“I feel I messed that Championship up enough and I feel bad about it,” Maresca said of the contact with Sheppard at Oswego. “I just wanted to race clean and hopefully earn those guys respect.”
Larry Wight picked up 11 positions to finish 11th and that was good enough to be the KSE Hard Charge of the race.
Rookie of the Year contender Demetrios Drellos won his first Super DIRTcar Series race at Albany-Saratoga Speedway and it was a big one. Drellos battled back the best in the business in including Matt Sheppard, Larry Wight, Billy Decker, and Mat Williamson to pick up $10,000 and a guaranteed start in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at NAPA Super DIRT Week XLVIII. Billy Decker crossed the line in second and Mat Williamson had his two-race win streak broken with a third-place finish.