Dirt Modified teams and fans are always faced with some of the most rigorous seasons in all of short track racing, with 2017 shaping up to be more of the same. Whether it’s the Big-Block thunder of the Northeast or Open-Wheel lightning of the Midwest and Southeast, we take a look at how the upcoming season is shaping up for the nation’s Dirt Modified faithful.
AIRBORNE GOING FROM ASPHALT TO DIRT
Starting way up north in New York State on the western shore of Lake Champlain, the dirt fraternity welcomes back a house who is laying down the dirt after 26 years with hard asphalt floors. Plattsburgh’s Airborne Speedway is no stranger to Northeast Dirt Modifieds with 358 and most recently Crate Sportsman pounding the pavement as the track’s leading division.
With dirt racing reasserting its dominance in the region, track promoter John Walker announced the change back to dirt for the first time since 1990 and that the track will fall under the sanction of DIRTcar Racing with the popular 358 Small-Block Modifieds returning as the track’s leading division.
To cap it off, the Big-Block Modifieds of the Super DIRTcar Series will head to Airborne for a night of racing on Thursday, July 6.
UTICA-ROME SWITCHES FROM NASCAR TO DIRTCAR
Another facility entering the fold of DIRTcar sanctioning in 2017 will be Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon, NY. After spending the past three seasons under NASCAR sanctioning, Utica-Rome returns to DIRTcar for the first time since the 2004 season. Like the racers at Airborne, drivers in U-R’s Sunday night divisions will get a chance to compete for home track points in the DIRTcar season championship.
The track will also welcome the Super DIRTcar Series for their usual Independence Day weekend visit on Sunday, July 2.
One of the biggest boosts for DIRTcar in 2017 comes from down south as the Southeast Dirt Modified will join forces with DIRTcar for the year ahead. After completing its inaugural season of competition in 2016, the Open Wheel UMP-type Modifieds will be eligible for regional points in DIRTcar’s Southern region with drivers also becoming eligible for UMP national points once achieving the minimum races in a season. The series will also refer directly to the UMP rulebook, which will allow for UMP racers from outside the region to run with no changes for rules.
NEW NAME, NEW LEADERSHIP FOR NEW YORK TRACK
Back in New York State, a track familiar to many fans in Central NY will get a new name under new leadership for 2017, with I-88 Speedway becoming Afton Motorsports Park. The half-mile track in Afton, NY will be led by new promoters Ronnie Ford and Leon Andrus, both having served as officials in the Short Track Super Series. The duo looks to continue a string of improvements that the track has embarked on the past few seasons.
While the full schedule is still being worked on, the track is set to return for Friday night weekly racing with five weekly divisions led by the Modifieds. The Short Track Super Series will be back for two visits in 2017, with a Wednesday show on June 21 and with the 10th Short Track Super Nationals on October 7.
FULLER TO PLAY ROLE OF DRIVER & COACH IN 2017
The biggest silly season news to emerge in the Northeast dirt circle has been that of the future of Tim Fuller, who departed Dave Rauscher’s No. 19 operation to embark on a new venture with Supermodified veteran Ray Graham. The Graham family is making a big introduction to the Super DIRTcar Series with two cars slated for the year ahead, one in the control of Fuller and the second under Ray’s son Kody Graham, who Fuller will also be coaching in 2017.
WIGHT HEADING TO THE CHILI BOWL
With the Chili Bowl Nationals fast approaching January 10-14, Northeast Dirt Modified fans will once again have Larry Wight to cheer on in this season’s edition of the race. Wight will be making his second outing in the “Mecca of Midget Racing.” Wight will be back with Heffner Racing Enterprises who will partner with Wight’s Gypsum Motorsports team for another assault at the Golden Driller.
FLORIDA SPEEDWEEKS SET TO KICKOFF THE SEASON
For those who can’t wait for racing to return to their neck of the woods, many teams and fans will make their annual trek down south to the Sunshine State and Volusia Raceway Park for the 46th DIRTcar Nationals. The 12-night event from February 14-25 is set to once again feature Modified racing every night, starting with eight straight nights of UMP Modified racing and ending with four nights of the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Blocks. If you can’t make it down, be sure to follow Speed51.com for the latest throughout Florida Speedweeks.
SUPER DIRTCAR SERIES RELEASES 2017 SCHEDULE
Following the rigors of Speedweeks the Super DIRTcar Series will go points racing for the first of 27 points events at 23 tracks, beginning with Fulton Speedway (NY) on April 29. After making the first of three visits to Weedsport Speedway (NY) on May 22, the series begins the long summer schedule at Five Mile Point Speedway (NY) on June 11.
While New York is once again the feature state, the Big-Blocks will head to Ohio for three nights of racing July 18-20 with the first two at Eldora Speedway and wrapping at Sharon Speedway.
The series also goes north of the border a total of eight times throughout 2017 in both Ontario and Quebec.
As usual the series will wrap up year with the World of Outlaws World Finals at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Dirt Track November 3-5.
SUPER DIRT WEEK RETURNING TO OSWEGO
The highly anticipated 46th running of Super DIRT Week is set to return to Oswego Speedway for the second straight season. The track has moved the prestigious Race of Champions weekend for asphalt Modifieds to July for even more time to prepare the dirt surface for the weekend of October 5-8.
SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES SCHEDULE RELEASED
Northeast Dirt Modified fans will also be in for a full slate of racing from the Brett Deyo’s Short Track Super Series, which is set to run a combined 16 events between its North and South regions in 2017.
The South region focused on Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania will have eight points events with the season beginning and ending at Georgetown Speedway March 11 and October 28 for two of its three races. Another twist to the schedule features the two events at Bridgeport Speedway on two different track configurations with South Jersey Shootout April 23 on the five-eighths layout and the Dirty Jersey September 30 on the new three-eighths course.
The North region centered mainly in New York also starts and ends in the same place with Orange County Fair Speedway leading off the season on April 8 and wrapping it on October 19, with the finale also kicking off OCFS Eastern States Weekend. Both the North and South fields will meet for a combined event at Big Diamond Speedway (PA) for the Anthracite Assault on June 6.
UMP MODIFIEDS GEARING UP FOR 2017
Midwest UMP faithful are also very excited for the 2017 season, including the grueling DIRTcar Modified Nationals which is set to run 28 races from June 15 to July 29 across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.
USMTS READY FOR BIGGEST SEASON YET
The USMTS is also gearing up for its biggest season yet across the Midwest and Deep South with 76 nights of racing at a tour record 44 tracks across 12 states. The USMTS will also have a busy February with races in both Texas and Mississippi leading off the season.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos