PIT STOP: The View from Central New York

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. 

Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway, 2018 – Chris Owens photo

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

The Legends

Wayne Reutimann charges down the backstretch of The Moody Mile, 1973 – Courtesy of the NAPA Super DIRT Week Program

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.

Chuck Ciprich all smiles at NAPA Super DIRT Week – Courtesy of the NAPA Super DIRT Week Program

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. 

Kenny Brightbill in Victory Lane at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, 1979 – Courtesy of the NAPA Super DIRT Week Program

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.

Brett Hearn and Billy Pauch talk shop, 1986 – Courtesy of the NAPA Super DIRT Week Program

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.

Danny Johnson, 2019 – Pete MacDonald photo

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.

Billy Decker triumphant, 2001 – Courtesy of the NAPA Super DIRT Week Program

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.

Alan Johnson in chase-mode in the Last Chance Showdown at NAPA Super DIRT Week before going on to win the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 from last, 1989 – Courtesy of the NAPA Super DIRT Week Program

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.

Matt Sheppard, 2019 – Pete MacDonald photo

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.

Mat Williamson, DIRTcar Nationals, 2020 – Joe Grabianowski photo

Others who will help maintain the high caliber of racing on the Series include Larry Wight and Erick Rudolph.

Erick Rudolph, DIRTcar Nationals, 2020 – Terry Page photo

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. 

Peter Britten, Airborne Speedway, 2019 – Joe Grabianowski photo

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.

Jimmy Phelps on the gas at Autodrome Drummond, 2019 – Joe Grabianowski photo

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.

Demetrios Drellos, Autodrome Granby, 2019 – Joe Grabianowski photo

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.

Jack Lehner, Weedsport Speedway, 2019 – Joe Grabianowski photo

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.

Chris Hile, Eldora Speedway, 2019 – Mike Mallet Photo

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.

Corey Wheeler and Todd Root race door-to-door at Oswego Speedway, 2019 – George Smith

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.

Jack Lehner Poised to Break Through in Super DIRTcar Series Rookie Season

18 1211 LehnerGraph

Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship Rookie of the Year to Race Full Super DIRTcar Series Schedule in 2019

CONCORD, NC – December 11, 2018 – Jack Lehner’s meteoric rise through the DIRTcar Northeast ladder system shows no signs of slowing down in 2019. After rising from go-karts to Big-Block Modifieds, the twenty-year old is ready for the biggest challenge of his career: Lehner and his crew chief Ryan Stites are taking on the full Super DIRTcar Series schedule in 2019. Last season the No. 2L made six appearances with The Series, finishing with one top-ten, which he captured at Plattsburgh Airborne Speedway.

Read moreJack Lehner Poised to Break Through in Super DIRTcar Series Rookie Season

Field Set for NAPA Super DIRT Week

18 SDS SDW BWC

OSWEGO, NY – October 6, 2018 – It took two Last Chance Showdowns, won by Jack Lehner and Ryan Watt, to set the final positions for the NAPA Super DIRT Week XLVII Billy Whittaker Cars 200. Jimmy Horton, Nick Webb, Rich Scagliotta, and Alan Johnson earned the rest of the available starting positions.

Jack Lehner rolls off from position thirty on Sunday, October 7. The no. 2 car looked strong as he outran veteran Jimmy Horton for the win. Ryan Watt had a strong showing as well, driving up from position 13 for the win in the second Last Chance Showdown and starts thirty-first in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.

Jimmy Horton is a past NAPA Super DIRT Week Champion after taking the win in 1994. With experience, speed, and Halmar Racing equipment, he will be one to watch in the back of the pack. Nick Webb proved he has what it takes to run with the top drivers with a third-place finish that put him in thirty-fourth for Sunday’s finale.

Super DIRTcar Series regular Rich Scagliotta lead early in the second Last Chance Showdown, but he could not hold off Ryan Watt. Scagliotta starts thirty-third in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.

Fan-favorite Alan Johnson scooped up the third and final transfer position in the second Last Chance Showdown.

Due to the postponed Pittsburgher 100, Tim McCredie will not be able to start the Billy Whittaker Cars 200. His absence results in a bump in position for those behind him on the starting field and Billy VanInwegen making the grid in thirty-ninth.

Meanwhile, during the evening race at Fulton Speedway, Mike Maresca won the Dirt Track Digest Win in Your In, putting him in forty-first position for the 200.

The Billy Whittaker Cars 200 rolls onto the Oswego Speedway tomorrow, Sunday, October 7.

SEE LAST CHANCE SHOWDOWN RESULTS

SEE TRIPLE 30 RESULTS

SEE TIME TRIAL RESULTS

BILLY WHITTAKER CARS 200 STARTING LINEUP

1 98h Jimmy Phelps 2 43 Keith Flach
3 28z Gary Lindberg 4 21a Peter Britten
5 83x Tim Sears Jr. 6 44F Stewart Friesen
7 21J Danny Johnson 8 25r Erick Rudolph
9 6m Mat Williamson 10 3x Billy Dunn
11 84 Gary Tomkins 12 19 Tim Fuller
13 6h Max McLaughlin 14 3 Justin Haers
15 9s Matt Sheppard 16 111 Demetrios Drellos
17 99L Larry Wight 18 91 Billy Decker
19 62s Tom Sears Jr. 20 66x Carey Terrance
21 5H Chris Hile 22 5 Ryan Godown
23 93 Danny Varin 24 109 Billy Whittaker
25 115 Kenny TremontJr. 26 76 Bobby Varin
27 42p Pat Ward 28 3J Marc Johnson
29 11r Rob Bellinger 30    2L Jack Lehner
31    14w Ryan Watt 32    43h Jimmy Horton
33    8 Rich Scagliotta 34    27w Nick Webb
35    14J Alan Johnson 36    20 Brett Hearn
37    63 Adam Roberts 38    48T Dave Rauscher
39    4v Billy VanInwegen 40    88m Mike Mahaney
41    7m Mike Maresca