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AREA MOTORSPORTS: A super week in DIRT racing

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Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 10:16 am

The gates at the New York State Fairgrounds will open tomorrow, officially starting Super DIRT Week in Syracuse.

One of the most historic events in dirt racing, NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, received the National Speedway Directory Award for Outstanding Annual Short Track Event in 2011.

It’s where Buzzie Reutimann claimed the first two Syracuse titles in the early ’70s, where Gary Balough and the Batmobile sparked debate and domination, where Kenny Brightbill took advantage of a late-race mistake by two-time winner Jimmy Horton in 1988, where Alan Johnson won from the last starting position after a late-race crash involving the top-two in 1989. It’s where Kenny Tremont ran out of gas twice on the final lap while leading, where Vic Coffey pulled off the biggest upset of them all in 2002, and where Billy Decker, Frank Cozze and Stewart Friesen have exceeded the limits of gas mileage on their quests to victory.

In its 41st incarnation, Saturday will be highlighted by the DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series Championship and the Gander Mountain 150 DIRTcar 358-Modified Championship. Sunday’s card includes the Bacc-Off DIRTcar Pro Stock Championship and the headline Super DIRTcar Series VP Small Engine Fuels 200.

“Syracuse is a much different race and is a much different animal than anything we ever run,” said Brett Hearn, a seven-time Super DIRTcar Series champion and a five-time winner of the VP Small Engine Fuels 200.

Winning Sunday’s Super DIRTcar Series VP Small Engine Fuels 200 is a crowning achievement for any racer, including those who have already conquered the event like Hearn and two-time defending series champion and current points leader Matt Sheppard.

“There are so many different variables,” Sheppard said of the VP Small Engine Fuels 200, the longest race in the Super DIRTcar Series and the only series feature with mandatory pit stops. “To win the race, first you’ve got to finish the race, which is tough to do. It’s a long, grueling race.

“Then you have to have a fast car, you’ve got to have the right strategy, you’ve got to have the right pit stops, you’ve got to have the right fuel mileage, and you’ve got to have luck. Those are a lot of different things to put together on one Sunday afternoon so you can be able to win that race.”

Satellite DIRT-car sanctioned events are scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. The World of Outlaws Late Models and World of Outlaws Sprint Cars invade Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge, the former running Thursday and the latter running Saturday. On Wednesday night Cayuga County Fair Speedway in Weedsport opens for the first and only time this season for the NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week Kickoff presented by FX Caprara featuring DIRTcar 358-Modifieds and DIRTcar Sportsman Modifieds.

Advance tickets are still available for purchase online at or by calling the ticket hotline at (877) 395-8606 for events at the New York State Fairgrounds and Rolling Wheels Raceway Park. The fairgrounds Gate 6 ticket building is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday for in-person advance ticket sales, and again 8 a.m. Wednesday and remain open through late Saturday night. Admission for Wednesday’s races at Cayuga County Fair Speedway can only be purchased at the gate the night of the event.


At Fulton, Pat Ward won Saturday’s Outlaw 200, taking the lead on lap 148 after a huge controversy erupted when Stewart Friesen pulled a slide job on leader Jimmy Phelps, Phelps went over the cushion. Phelps retaliated on Friesen a couple of times under yellow and then was shown the black flag ending his night.

Once in the lead, Ward held off all challengers as he outran 2010 winner Brett Hearn by 0.809 of a second at the checkers.

After accepting the Halfway Leader Award, Jimmy Phelps said his car was so good he told his crew not to change a thing except for tires.

When the green came back out Phelps bolted out to a half a straightaway lead over Ward and the rest of the field. Just like the first segment the tight battles weren’t just up front, but all through the pack keeping everyone entertained.

With 120 laps showing on the scoring tower, Phelps was setting a quick pace out front with Ward only a couple car lengths behind. Hearn, Decker and Friesen rounded out the top-five at that point.

The race changed during a lap 145 caution. When the green came back out in turn three, third-place running Friesen pulled a slide job and then-leader Phelps moved over the cushion in turn four. Phelps, under yellow, showed his displeasure with Friesen more than once and was warned by officials to back off. When Phelps didn’t, he was shown the black flag and sent to the pits.

When calm was restored and the green came back out Ward held a half-straightaway lead with 40 to go.

With 10 laps to go Ward was on rails as he ran quick on the bottom in one and two and high in three and four as he could almost see victory in a race he has come close to winning so many times in the past. Ronnie Johnson, Hearn, Sheppard who came from the back of the field after an early race incident and Ryan Phelps chased Ward.

The pace slowed again with six to go when Ronnie Johnson fell out, setting up a green-white-checkers finish. Ward held on over Hearn, Sheppard, Rich Scagliotta and Ryan Phelps. Billy Decker followed; Chad Homan placed 10th. Hearn won the Circle of Champions Clash over Friesen and Jimmy Phelps.

On Friday, Jordan Bennett topped Tom Juhl and Jim Spano to win the Sportsman Championship. Larry Wight won the Late Model feature. Kevan Cook scored the win in the IMCA Modified championship. Jeff Isabell Jr. won the Doug Cooper Memorial (Mod Lites).

At Spencer, the final night of racing included 80 cars that filled the pit area for the first annual Fall Open. The 2012 Spencer track champion, Rusty Smith, continued his dominance at the speedway earning his fourth feature win of the season in the 75-lap Sunoco Modified finale.

North Country driver Tommy Markham won the 50-lap Super Stock race, the lone Ford in the starting field. Rookie driver Shawn Frarey took top honors in the 15-lap Four Cylinder feature; it is his first win in that division. In the Super Six 20-lap feature, 2012 Spencer track champion Brian Hallett won; it was his eighth feature win of the year. Camden Barber dominated the action taking the 20-lap Casey’s Midgets feature.

The Spencer Speedway annual awards banquet will be held Nov. 9 at the Palmyra VFW on Route 31. Banquet tickets are $30 each and will be available through Oct. 20 by calling the speedway at 315-589-3018. Look for more information on the Spencer Speedway website.

Last week at Fonda, Lance Yonge scored the feature win, and narrowly missed claiming the Empire Super Sprints season championship; Chuck Hebing led the standings following the season-ender, and earned the tour title.

Passing of Bob Newton

Hoosier Racing Tire founder Bob Newton passed away last Wednesday afternoon.

Newton, 84, and his wife, Joyce, started Hoosier Racing Tire in 1957 and built it into the largest manufacturer of racing tires in the world. Hoosier is the primary manufacturer of tires for DIRTcar Racing competition.

“When Bob Memmer was creating UMP Racing 20 years ago, Bob Newton was the one guy willing take to the gamble with him,” said Sam Driggers, Director of DIRTcar UMP Racing. “The two of them really got it off the ground, and to see how far it has grown, and continues to grow, would not have been possible without Newton’s foresight way back when.”

NASCAR & WGI issue ‘Save the Dates’

The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series return to Watkins Glen International, Aug. 8-11 in 2013. The NASCAR Nationwide Series will take to the legendary road course on Saturday, Aug. 10 with the Zippo 200.

In other WGI News, the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series return to Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen weekend June 28-30, 2013.

Once again, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen will be a part of GRAND-AM’s North American Endurance Championship.

The 32nd running of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race will be held on Sunday, June 30. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series Continental Tire 150 at The Glen will take place on Saturday, June 29. Start times will be announced at a later date.

Kids and teens 18 and under are FREE with an adult and tickets for the weekend start at just $50.

GRAND-AM Road Racing and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) recently announced the sports car racing entities will combine in 2014.

Renewal customers have the best opportunity to save and will receive their forms in October. General tickets sales begin Dec. 3. Keep up with The Glen this off-season by visiting the official website,, liking The Glen on Facebook.

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