West Haven, CT — The biggest names in dirt track Modified racing are headed to Devil’s Bowl Speedway on Sunday, August 9. The second annual “Battle at the Bowl” Big Block/Small Block Challenge has already garnered commitments from well over 50 drivers, with several more surprises expected to enter on race day.
The event’s unique format and large purse has drawn the interest of many of the region’s superstars. The Battle at the Bowl brings together two high-horsepower, open-wheel, ground-pounding divisions of dirt Modifieds, with 900-hp Big Block engines taking on 750-hp Small Blocks. Each package has its advantages and disadvantages, and drivers are permitted to enter multiple cars to maximize their chance for success. If a driver can win all three feature races offered – and at least 10 drivers are expected to try – there is more than $10,000 up for grabs.
Each division will begin the event separately, running qualifying heats to set the lineup for a pair of 25-lap feature races paying $1,500 to win and $150 to start. The Top 10 finishers in the Big Block and Small Block features will each then transfer to the 50-lap combined Big Block/Small Block Challenge finale, paying a cool $7,500 to win and $300 to start. The starting lineup will be set by the one-and-only “Pole Shuffle” and a consolation race.
Leading the stacked field of drivers expected on Sunday is defending Battle at the Bowl champion Matt Sheppard of Waterloo, N.Y. “Superman” won both the 25-lap Big Block feature and the 50-lap Challenge last year during a 36-win season. He has a dozen wins in 2020 and will be ready with his Hurlock Auto Supply No. 9S machine.
Not to be outdone, 2019 Battle at the Bowl runner-up Stewart Friesen is expected to chase three victories during the event, as he will have both a Big Block and a Small Block at his disposal from the No. 44 Halmar International stables. “Mr. Freeze” – a native Canadian now living in Sprakers, N.Y. – has 19 Modified wins to his credit in 2020, and he also ranks 14th in NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series point standings.
Defending Super DIRTcar Series champion Mat Williamson will make his first appearance in Vermont and will try to add another marquee win to his résumé. The Ontario driver earned his nickname “Money Mat” last year with victories worth $100,000 in the “Centennial” at Orange County Fair Speedway and $50,000 in the Super DIRT Week 200 at Oswego. Williamson will have a pair of Buzz Chew Chevrolet No. 88 cars at his disposal on Sunday.
The rest of the list continues to read like a “who’s who” of dirt Modified racing. Former Super DIRTcar Series champion Tim Fuller returns with momentum on his side following a Small Block special event win at Devil’s Bowl two weeks ago. Rocky Warner will try to back up his win in last year’s Vermont 200 Sportsman event; he also finished second to Fuller on July 25, and he put a fun show in last year’s “Pole Shuffle” during the Battle at the Bowl.
Defending DIRTcar Small Block 358 Modified champion Erick Rudolph, DIRTcar Nationals Speedweeks champion Larry Wight, and Devil’s Bowl weekly Sportsman stars Demetrios Drellos, Adam Pierson, and Bobby Hackel are each expected. Other big names include Andy Bachetti, Ronnie Johnson, Jimmy Phelps, Anthony Perrego, Bobby Varin, Mike Maresca, former Devil’s Bowl champion Todd Stone, the father-son team of Hector and Neil Stratton, and many more. More than 15 tracks will be represented by the list of known drivers expected to compete.
The first 16 positions in the starting lineup for the 50-lap Challenge will be set by the one-and-only “Pole Shuffle” bracket-style, match race tournament. The top 8 finishers from each of the 25-lap features will enter the Pole Shuffle, which has four rounds of elimination races. Round 1 will see the pool of 16 drivers split into four groups of four, each racing three laps, with the top two finishers moving to the next round. Round 2 will split the remaining eight drivers into a pair of three-lap races, whittling the field down to four.
The Pole Shuffle division finals will be decided in a pair of two-car, two-lap, green-white-checker races in Round 3, taking one Big Block driver and one Small Block driver. The Final Round will see the two division winners square off to determine the Pole Shuffle Champion and the driver who will start on the pole position for the 50-lap main event. The top 16 starters will be determined by the order of elimination in the Pole Shuffle, and the balance of the starting field will be set by a consolation race.
In addition to the Big Block/Small Block Challenge, Sunday’s event also marks the first race of the season for the King of Dirt Racing (KOD) Crate Modified Series. The KOD race – the “Leon Gonyo Memorial 40” – is expected to be well-attended by Devil’s Bowl Speedway’s Pepsi Sportsman Modified division, which has averaged more than 30 cars weekly.
Ten-time Devil’s Bowl champion Kenny Tremont Jr. won the event last year and has confirmed that he will be focusing solely on the KOD Crate Modified race on Sunday as he searches for his elusive first win of 2020. Pierson and Hackel will be pulling double-duty, and Drellos will be ultra-busy as he runs triple-duty in the Big Block, Small Block, and KOD classes. Others going after the KOD win include John St. Germain, Marty Kelly III, Justin Comes, Tanner Siemons, Frank Hoard III, Jimmy Ryan, Tim LaDuc, Vince Quenneville, and many more.
Spectators are welcome to attend while adhering to COVID-19 pandemic guidelines; facemasks are required in Vermont, and proper social distancing is mandated. Limited grandstand tickets and infield drive-in parking tickets are available for online pre-sale. Grandstand tickets are $30 (all ages) and infield tickets are $40; kids age 12 and under will be admitted free in the infield drive-in only. Online tickets are available until 3:00 p.m. Sunday at https://buytickets.at/devilsbowlspeedway (processing fees apply). Should any tickets remain, they will be made available at the speedway ticket window at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Racing begins at 7:00 p.m.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway is located on Route 22A in West Haven, Vt., four miles north of U.S. Route 4, Exit 2, and just 20 minutes from Rutland, Vt. For more information, visit www.DevilsBowlSpeedwayVT.com or call (802) 265-3112. Devil’s Bowl Speedway is on Facebook at facebook.com/DevilsBowlSpeedway, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @DevilsBowlSpeed; follow the action using the #DevilsBowl hashtag.
-Devil’s Bowl Speedway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Stewart Friesen Facebook