Story By: JOE GRABIANOWSKI / DIRTCAR – OSWEGO, NY – The Super DIRTcar Series did not disappoint in its return to NAPA Super DIRT Week on a picture-perfect Thursday by running an exciting Billy Whittaker Cars 200 qualifying session worthy of the stature of this historic event.
Australian superstar Peter Britten, who made his way around the 5/8-mile Oswego Speedway in 20.471 seconds, besting 70 other Big Block Modifieds.
It was a nail-biter in the final stage of Time Trials as Britten and the team watched the leader board, hoping it would remain frozen in time.
The fastest six Super DIRTcar Series drivers locked themselves into the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 with their Time Trial results. Britten led the way and grabbed the SRI Performance Pole Award worth $1,000. Jimmy Phelps took the Low-E Insulation Outside Pole award along with an extra $750 for his effort. Meanwhile, former HBR teammate Max McLaughlin was quick enough for third overall. Larry Wight, Stewart Friesen, and Pat Ward rounded out the top-six.
Britten has been having a renaissance year, picking up his first Super DIRTcar Series win since 2017 by taking the checkers at Land of Legends Raceway in the first Twin 60 in August. Britten currently has his #21A second in championship points and is trying to run down points leader Matt Sheppard.
Britten is 147 points back from Sheppard, but starting on the pole for the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 is an excellent way to start the final push. Although he is pleased being the point man for the start, Britten is focused on the 200.
“In reality, it [pole position] doesn’t mean a lot,” Britten said. “A 200-lap race has a lot of strategy. It’s gotta develop a certain way. Don’t get me wrong it’s great to be locked in up here. You gotta stay out of trouble and stay clean. What we know right now is that we have a fast car. It’s potential. Now we have to take that potential and somehow get to that checkered flag first on Sunday.”
The track started very fast in the initial practice sessions. During DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Salute to the Troops 150 Time Trials, Tim Fuller ran a sub-20 second lap, which was faster than Britten’s pole time of 20.471. Britten had to stay on top of the ever-changing racing surface to make sure he had the right line on track.
“I think going out earlier was better as there wasn’t a lot of degradation yet,” Britten noted. “The car is just really fast. I feel the car is really comfortable. I run a Big Block all the time so for me it’s easier than the 358. I think we can be just as good in the 358 race too.”
“I guess I was the fastest guy after all,” an ecstatic Britten said.
Phelps and his HBR team are coming to life at just the right time of the season. With a podium on Tuesday in the Demon 100, Phelps is motivated by the recent results.
Unfortunately, Phelps lost a 358 motor and missed Salute to the Troops 150 Time Trials as a result.
But his Big Block is singing strong.
“I am really happy with the car right now,” said Phelps. “We had a great finish at the Demon 100 and this is just keeping the ball rolling. I am really proud of the team coming together this week and the results have been solid.”
An enthusiastic McLaughlin parked third in line in the top-six with a time of 20.783. Setup was everything going into the Time Trial session. His team made wholesale changes on the #32X Carl Meyers Big Block after practice. He’s amped up to go racing again Friday night.
Qualifying speed is lightyears away from what you need to win a 25-lap or a 200-lap race.
“There was bite on the bottom for sure and I didn’t go to the top at all,” McLaughlin said. “When you qualify you run the bottom. In the race tomorrow, the line starts moving up and people start dusting off the top. I won a Triple 30 a few years ago passing through the middle. I think it’ll go that way tomorrow if it cleans off enough. The sun goes down and it may bring up some moisture tomorrow night.”
Wight came across the Oswego Speedway finish line with a 20.802-second lap. Wight won the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 in 2018 over Stewart Friesen and Britten. The #99L Gypsum Express Big Block will roll off from the fourth starting position in Sunday’s 200.
Five-time NAPA Super DIRT Week champion and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star Friesen is locked into a fifth-place starting position for the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
Friesen said after missing last year because of the pandemic it felt like getting right back on the horse, but not without its challenges.
“This place is definitely unique,” Friesen said. “Max mentioned it earlier to (announcer) Mike Warren. The line is very similar to the asphalt line. I ran the Race of Champions 200 here for Ricky Kluth a few years ago and the track just has a flow. It’s unique and it’s a once-a-year deal which makes it special. When it’s right it races really good.
“Solid qualifying day for us.”
A second Gypsum Racing machine found its way into the top-six. Ward timed sixth quick for the final lock-in spot.
“We only took one quick Hot Lap session and the car felt good so we parked it after that,” Ward said. “We were going down low where the bite was. The car turned in good and had a lot of drive off. Pretty happy with it. We’re going to be right there. You never know.”
Peter Britten – 20.471
Jimmy Phelps – 20.656
Max McLaughlin – 20.783
Larry Wight – 20.802
Stewart Friesen – 20.863
Pat Ward – 20.912