Story By: JOE GRABIANOWSKI / DIRTCAR – OSWEGO, NY – When the lights go down, the stars come out. That was certainly the case on Friday night during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway as the superstars of DIRTcar Racing shined brightest in Heat Race action to help shape the fields for the main events.
Super DIRTcar Series Billy Whittaker Cars 200 Heat Races
Larry Wight, Stewart Friesen, and Max McLaughlin each the checkers in their respective $4,000-to-win Heat Races.
The Triple 25s set the lineup in exciting fashion for Sunday’s Billy Whittaker Cars 200 by filling positions seven to 30 after the top six spots were claimed during Thursday’s time trials. The field for the sport’s most prestigious event will be completed on Saturday following Last Chance Showdowns.
Wight struck first in his Gypsum Express #99L. He powered to the lead over Billy Whittaker Cars 200 pole-sitter Peter Britten. Wight crossed the finish line with fellow podium drivers Mat Williamson, the defending Super DIRTcar Series champion, and young gun Tyler Dippel, who had an impressive showing at Bristol Motor Speedway in April. Stewart Friesen picked up the $1,000 win in Tripe 25 two over the Baldwinvsille Bandit Jimmy Phelps who failed to steal the win on the final restart. Max McLaughlin drove away from the competition in Triple 25 three, including the second-place finisher and seven-time Super DIRTcar Series champion Matt Sheppard.
Peter Britten and Larry Wight brought the field to green to kick off the first Triple 25. Britten had difficulty holding off Wight from passing on the inside and lost the initial lead. Britten was saved, however, by a red flag involving Robbie Johnston, Jeff Taylor, and Brian Whittemore. Johnston and Whittemore were able to pull away but Taylor’s #11 had to go off the track on a hook.
When the field refired, Wight went to the top and cleared Britten, who fell back in the field. Britten, knowing he is locked into the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 on the merrit of his first SRI Performance Pole Award, pulled off to save the car. Meanwhile, Wight stretched out his Big Block’s legs and stayed out front for the win.
“I knew Britten was going to take the bottom on the next restart,” Wight said. “He left that top wide open, I set it in there and the car curled around beautifully and I just drove away.
“Luckily my car is good enough and I could hunt around the holes. The car is fast everywhere. This car is just phenomenal to drive. Brandon and Jake did an amazing job putting it together. Now our shock and coil programs are what made this car fast. Right now all together. As long as we don’t get too greedy with it and make some minor adjustments, we’ll let the 200 play out.”
Mat Williamson, from St. Catharines, ON, finished second and is now set to defend his 2019 NAPA Super DIRT Week Billy Whittaker Cars 200 win. Tyler Dippel moved up two spots to finish third after a stellar qualifying effort by the young driver. Anthony Perrego finished fourth and if this had been a 200-lap race, Wight and Williamson would have had company at the front.
Also transferring was Ryan Godown who picked up seven positions in the 25-lap race. Carey Terrance started sixth and finished six. But that’s not the whole story. Terrance was determined to mix it up with the leaders and made it up to second mid-race. Unfortunately, he lost ground on a restart and fell back to his starting position of sixth. Mike Gular, from Harleysville, PA, picked up eight positions to finish seventh for a transfer.
And finally, Brett The Jet Hearn, winner of 900+ dirt Modified races and six-time Billy Whittaker Cars 200 winner, finished eighth for the final transfer position.
Stewart Friesen and Jimmy Phelps have been battling against each other for almost 20 years. The two veteran wheelmen lined up side-by-side and brought the second 25-lap Heat to green. Phelps looked to be running away with the money in the early going by running the top side and gapping second-place Friesen. On Lap 10, Friesen found some bite on the bottom line and passed the HBR #98H out of Turn 4 and under Dave Farney’s flagstand.
“It’s a challenging race track,” Friesen said. “We’re using the whole thing out there. I was able to roll Jimmy [Phelps] on the bottom. Then we found a decent line sliding three and four. Then I moved up to the top in one and two and really got going.”
The race was decided by a late-race restart and Friesen was determined to get a clean start.
“I try not to play games on the restart,” he said. ”I don’t leave gaps. It just causes accidents at the back of the pack. I was just trying to get a clean restart on the top. I hit my line and it was good.”
Transfer driver and Series rookie Tim Sears Jr. finished third and was not letting the leaders out of his sight. The #83X proved he will be a force in the 200.
Tim Fuller made up the most ground out of anyone finishing third from his 11th place starting spot. Fuller made a mega-move around the outside on a late-race restart to put himself up to fourth. Marc Johnson kept his consistent week going with a fifth-place finish to transfer.
Johns Hohenforst took a nasty barrel at Brewerton Speedway last Tuesday (Oct. 5). Not only did he miraculously rebuild the car but he made it fast. Hohenforst drove up from 13th to finish sixth for the transfer.
Jordan McCreadie’s luck turned around despite an early flat tire. The Flack’s Hi-Rise Concrete Restoration #28 team got him back on track and he was good enough to finish seventh to make the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 field. Tom Sears Jr. finished eighth knocking Jack Lehner out of a transfer spot in the late stages.
The Friday Night Lights were full power but Max McLaughlin, from Mooresville, NC, was simply lights out. He immediately built a considerable lead while Matt Sheppard chased. Then, McLaughlin did something most drivers don’t: He held “seven-time” off for the $4,000 payday.
“We were pretty good,” McLaughlin said of his winning Carl Meyers #32C. “The track is wild and a little rough. But we have a really fast race car so it just took me a little bit to figure out my line. If it wasn’t for caution flags we would have lapped up to the top-five.”
Sixth-place starter Chris Hile, from Syracuse, NY, drove his #5H to finish on the final podium step. Demetrios Drellos bounced back from a middling Time Trial by passing eight cars on his way to a fourth-place finish and a solid starting spot for the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
The Flying Squirrel, Rocky Warner fell two spots from his starting position but managed to hold onto fifth to transfer.
Micahel Maresca, in the #7MM, advanced fourth spots to finish sixth. Orange County Speedway star Billy VanInwegen finished seventh. Kevin Root started eighth and finished eighth, battling hard to make it into his first Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
SUPER DIRTcar SERIES BILLY WHITTAKER CARS 200 HEAT RACES
HEAT 1 — 1. 99L-Larry Wight; 2. 88W-Mat Williamson; 3. 1-Tyler Dippel; 4. 44P-Anthony Perrego; 5. 26-Ryan Godown; 6. 66X-Carey Terrance; 7. 2A-Mike Gular; 8. 20-Brett Hearn; 9. 91-Billy Decker; 10. 01C-Bob Henry Jr; 11. 8-Rich Scagliotta; 12. 34F-Andrew Ferguson; 13. 14M-CG Morey; 14. 33J-Robbie Johnston; 15. 22JZ-Jeffery Daugherty; 16. 21A-Peter Britten; 17. M1-David Marcuccilli; 18. 11-Alissa Cody; 19. 25-Erick Rudolph; 20. 115-Kenny Tremont Jr; 21. 28ZT-Gary Lindberg; 22. 12-Darren Smith; 23. 11T-Jeff Taylor; 24. 36-Brian Whittemore
HEAT 2 — 1. 44-Stewart Friesen; 2. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 3. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 4. 19-Tim Fuller; 5. 9-Marc Johnson; 6. 6H-Josh Hohenforst; 7. 28M-Jordan McCreadie; 8. 62S-Tom Sears Jr; 9. 2-Jack Lehner; 10. 3-Justin Haers; 11. 22-Brandon Walters; 12. 49-Billy Dunn; 13. 43-Keith Flach; 14. Z4-JJ Courcy; 15. 28-Michael Trautschold; 16. 0-Dan Humes; 17. 48TOO-Dave Rauscher; 18. 14-Brian Swarthout; 19. 35-Mike Mahaney; 20. 27W-Nick Webb; 21. 1NY-Gregory Atkins; 22. 16-Aaron Jacobs; 23. (DNS) 83-Chris Stevens; 24. (DNS) 160-Jackson Gill
HEAT 3 — 1. 32CM-Max McLaughlin; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 3. 5H-Chris Hile; 4. 111-Demetrios Drellos; 5. 98JS-Rocky Warner; 6. 7MM-Michael Maresca; 7. 4-Billy VanInwegen Jr; 8. 34-Kevin Root; 9. 23C-Kyle Coffey; 10. 02-Roy Bresnahan; 11. 43H-Jimmy Horton; 12. 27J-Daniel Johnson; 13. 24K-Nick Krause; 14. 32C-James Meehan; 15. 63-Adam Roberts; 16. 215-Adam Pierson; 17. 3B-Scott Boudinot; 18. 84-Gary Tomkins; 19. 234-Adam McAuliffe; 20. 42P-Pat Ward; 21. 17-Marcus Dinkins; 22. 29C-Matt Caprara; 23. (DNS) 88-Olden Dwyer