SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The “Finale at the Fairgrounds” is finally underway. Wednesday morning hundreds of campers rolled into the New York State Fairgrounds to kick off the 44th NAPA Super DIRT Week, then Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series drivers raced onto the Moody Mile for their first laps at the historic venue.
It was a bittersweet day for many of the racers. With every driver wanting desperately to be the final winner at the Mile on Sunday, Billy Decker topped the two-hour practice session with a lap around the Mile in 31.478 seconds.
“We need to be quick-time all week,” said Decker, a four-time Syracuse 200 winner. “It’s very similar to what we thought it would be, actually we went a little quicker than I thought you should go. Thursday is a new ball game, we’ll see what happens.”
On Thursday, drivers get their chance at being the final polesitter of NAPA Super DIRT Week during the qualifying time trials for the Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds and the DIRTcar 358-Modifieds.
While Decker says he doesn’t think this final event at the fairgrounds is “going to hit everybody for a while,” the young driver who was second quick on Wednesday, 22-year-old Larry Wight, would certainly like to close out this era of the event with his first Syracuse 200 victory.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 4 years old working on cars,” said Wight, the 2015 DIRTcar Nationals champion. “The last thing I want to think about is that we can’t come back. I always dreamed of being able to have my kids work on my car like I did for Pat (Ward) and everybody else. Hopefully it’s a good show for the fans.”
Wight looked strong on Wednesday afternoon, posting a lap around the Mile in 31.689 seconds that was second quickest.
“We’re excited about it, but you’re also nervous because you don’t want to be quick out of the gate and slow at the finish,” Wight said. “We were able to put it in the top two so that’s a good indication for us to try to get in the top six for time trials. The track was smooth all the way around. I was able to drive around the outside of guys who were slower than me so I think it’s going to race really well.”
Billy Dunn earned his first Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series victory in the 2013 Syracuse 200 during NAPA Super DIRT Week so there’s little doubt how special this venue and event are to him. Dunn drove the third quickest car in the Wednesday practice session with a lap in 31.774 seconds as he also would love to close out the Mile with a victory.
“Like any of us, we’ve all been here since we’ve been kids and we have a lot of memories of being here,” Dunn said. “You think about things you saw or do when you were a kid, or even the last five or 10 years racing. We do feel really lucky we were able to win one, that takes a little bit of the pressure off us, we can just go out and try to do our best.”
For many racers, no victory is more special than the first one. For Dunn, his first victory coming on the sport’s biggest stage makes it even more special, but a win on Sunday might just change that.
“You know, me and Tim Fuller were talking about that,” Dunn said. “This is the one Syracuse race that if you win, it will mean more than your first win here. It’s a pretty big race. At least we do have that one win under our belt, we’ve won a couple of Triple 20s, had some really strong runs here so we don’t expect anything less this week. About lap 160 on Sunday we’ll know where we sit.”
For every driver in the pits this week, they hope to their name becomes part of Syracuse lore by Sunday. Through Wednesday afternoon, below are the drivers set to compete this week:
Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Roster
DIRTcar 358-Modified Roster
DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Roster
DIRTcar Pro Stock Roster
USAC Silver Crown Roster Roster
-Super DIRTcar Series Press Release. Photo credit: DIRTcar