For the first time ever, Big-Block Modifieds hit the dirt at Oswego Speedway (NY) Tuesday afternoon for a three-hour long practice session in preparation for Sunday’s 300-lap Super DIRT Week main event. Although all of the unknowns of racing 300 laps around the temporary racing surface weren’t solved, drivers and teams were able to get a good grasp of what’s to come this week.
“I think we had a good first day on it,” four-time Super DIRT Week winner Stewart Friesen told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “For a brand new surface and brand new everything, they did a heck of a job. We adjusted on our car a little bit and learned a couple things there. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”
To the surprise of nobody at “The Steel Palace” on Wednesday, Super DIRTcar Series points leader Matt Sheppard set the fastest time of the day in the first practice session. “Super Matt” was among the first 10 cars on the race track and set a blistering speed of 20.039 seconds around the 5/8-mile oval.
Throughout the day, lap times tapered off and Tim Fuller’s fast time in the second practice session was over two seconds slower than that of Sheppard’s.
While Friesen didn’t make a whole lot of noise on the speed chart, he was happy with the overall balance of his No. 44 Halmar Racing machine.
“He jumped out there in the first set and there was some bite, which is cool, but when it kind of leveled out everybody was pretty close in the 22.7 range,” Friesen stated. “I think we were good, just trying to stay balanced. Daytime racing is tough, so we were just trying to get a good balance on the car and I think we found it there at the end. Sheppard has been pretty fast and balanced no matter what, so we’re all trying to catch him no matter where it is and I don’t think this will be any different.”
While many drivers were able to take advantage of the three-plus hours of practice, rookie driver Max McLaughlin was sidelined for much of the day with a broken rear-end on his number-6 machine. After turning the sixth fastest time of the day in the first practice session, his Heinke-Baldwin Racing (HBR) team replaced the broken rear end just in time for the final practice run of the day.
“When we were on the track we were good, but the rear-end failure forced us to basically miss 95-percent of the practice session,” McLaughlin explained. “We got a total of probably ten laps today, but those laps we got put us sixth on the board out of everybody here. We’ve got a real fast car; I’ve just got to keep clicking laps and get out there.”
Both Friesen and McLaughlin acknowledged that there were a few rough spots on the new racing surface, but both believe it will be ready to go come Sunday afternoon.
“We just watch the track; that’s what we do. They had a little bit of a rut in turn four, a few choppy spots down the backstretch,” Friesen explained. “I know that now that we have some time on the track they can grade it, put a pack on it and get it ironed out.”
Although McLaughlin didn’t get to test the track as much as he would have liked on Wednesday, he did notice a big contrast in the track between the two sessions he participated in.
“The first session it was really good, the track was real smooth. They did a great job with the track, but it’s going to be a constant battle all weekend to keep this thing in one piece,” McLaughlin said. “We went out in the last session and it was pretty rough; I think we might be hitting the asphalt out of turn four. These guys will get it fixed overnight and I think we’ll have a decent track to race on tomorrow.”
An official count of Big-Block Modifieds was not made; however, officials believed that there were 62 cars in the pit area at the end of the day. All of those cars will hit the track again on Thursday afternoon when they time trial for the big show on Sunday.
Speed51.com will continue to have live coverage throughout the week, as well as unique videos on the Speed51 Network.
For an on-demand replay of Wednesday’s Trackside Now coverage, click here.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com