CONCORD, NC — The largest Big-Block Modified race of the year is upon us with the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at the 46th annual NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week. For the last several decades, drivers in the Big-Block Modified ranks have one goal in mind, etch their name on the crowned-jewel event of Big-Block Modified racing and take home the $50,000-pay check. Here are the names you should know before Sunday, Oct. 8 and the start of the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
Drivers from all across United States and Canada will converge on the City of Oswego come the first of October when the 46th annual NAPA Super DIRT Week kicks off.
Last year when Super DIRT Week had a new venue, there was a lot of unknown; this year, drivers will have a notebook to work off of. We will get you up to speed of the players and drivers to look out for when the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 rolls off Sunday, Oct. 8 at Oswego Speedway.
Stewart Friesen: The driver on the top of everyone’s list is most certainly the Sparkers, N.Y. native. Friesen enters the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 as the three-time defending winner and five-time overall winner of the biggest Big-Block Modified event. Although the 34-year-old driver has been dipping his toes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ranks this season, Friesen has still been keeping up with his Modified efforts. Through 22 Super DIRTcar Series events, Friesen has picked up two Series wins, with the first one coming at Utica-Rome Speedway on July 2 and his second win coming at Weedsport Speedway just over a week later. A threat week in and week out no matter where he races, Friesen is the favorite going into Oswego for the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
Matt Sheppard: The Waterloo, N.Y.-driver has been on a mission during the 2017 season. Since serving a two-race suspension early in July for an incident that took place at Utica-Rome Speedway Sheppard has ripped off eight wins out of 12 races. Entering Fonda in Sept. the 35-year-old has 10 Series wins and worked his way up to second place in the championship point standings behind leader, Billy Decker. A one-time winner during the main event at Super DIRT Week, Sheppard has been close to sealing the deal several other times. Looking to overcome a strong run last year at Oswego Speedway, Sheppard looks to continue his stellar run through the 2017 season and add another Super DIRT Week crown to the resume.
Brett Hearn: Mr. 900, The Sussex, N.J.-driver picked up his 900th victory at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on August 4. The veteran driver is the first Northeastern driver to reach the 900-win plateau. Hearn continued his momentum by taking a trip down Victory Lane for the first time since 2015 in the Super DIRTcar Series with a victory at Lebanon Valley Speedway at the Mr. DIRT Track USA event. Hearn has six Super DIRT Week victories to his name, with the first coming in 1985. While most drivers may be thinking of retirement at Hearn’s age, this veteran will look to add to his win total come Oct. 8th at Oswego Speedway.
Tim Fuller: The 2004 winner of the Big-Block Modifieds Super DIRT Week event, Fuller, will compete for his second title with a new team. Starting the 2017 season out with a new team of Graham Racing, a well-known name in the Supermodified ranks at Oswego Speedway, it was announced in August that Fuller separated from the team due to logistics, leaving him to team up with fellow Super DIRTcar Series competitor Mike Marseca. Mike Marseca Sr. would purchase the Graham Racing assets to have Fuller join the team full-time moving forward. During the 22 starts to date, Fuller has one, four top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. Last year at Oswego Speedway, Fuller led the 358-Modified portion of Super DIRT Week wire-to-wire and finished 25th in the Big-Block Modified portion. Fuller will look to rebound and make the most of his new partnership with Maresca.
Peter Britten: Britten started the 2017 season out with his own small single-car team after not being renewed to drive for Heinke-Baldwin Racing (HBR). The small that team that has a lot of determination scored one for the underdogs when the Australian driver picked up a Super DIRTcar Series victory at Sharon Speedway. Since the Series win, Britten has carried the momentum with him to other weekly tracks, picking up back-to-back wins at Albany-Saratoga Speedway then again at Sharon Speedway. His success on the track at Albany-Saratoga Speedway has earned him his first track championship. On the flip side of the Fuller/Graham separation, it was announced that Peter Britten would be teaming up with car-owner Ray Graham for an assault on Super DIRT Week. Graham and the team plans to build a brand-new Troyer racecar – next evolution of the famous Mudd Buss.
Alan Johnson: One of the newest members of the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame, “AJ Slideways”has certainly had a remarkable career. Johnson’s career began in 1974 at the age of 16, and each year since he has won at least one feature event per year. The Middlesex, N.J.-driver is a five-time Super DIRTcar Series champion, 57-time winner with the Series, a four-time Mr. DIRT Modified titleholder has won nine titles at both Weedsport Speedway and Rolling Wheels Speedway. The fan favorite Alan Johnson has three Super DIRT Week titles to his credit with the first coming in 1983, others in 1989 and 2003 respectfully. Johnson certainly knows how to get it done at Super DIRT Week.
Max McLaughlin: One of the new school drivers on the Super DIRTcar Series, Max McLaughlin comes from a famous racing family with a lot of success. Son of “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin, the 17-year-old driver cut his teeth in the racing world at Millbridge Speedway in North Carolina. Returning to his family roots, McLaughlin chose his racing path in Big-Block Modifieds. Last year, “Mad Max” turned some heads when he picked up a win at Oswego Speedway during the Big-Block Modifieds futures race. With more experience under his belt and some strong guidance from his father, Max picked up a win at Fulton Speedway during a weekly show this summer. The rising star looks to continue to learn and be a factor in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway.
Erick Ruldolph: Another driver that isn’t scared to drive any type of racecar. With over 100-races on his personal race schedule, across several different divisions, Ruldolph is a true racers racer. The driver from Ransomville, N.Y. found himself running inside the top-10 just after the halfway point of the 2016 version of the finale at Super DIRT Week. Having worked his way up to third place with 25-laps to go, Ruldolph got passed by the eventual winner of Friesen, before breaking a drive shaft late in the race. Ruldolph took to the Oswego Speedway for the 358-Modifieds race and was looking like he had a car to contend with Tim Fuller until the 25-year-old lost a tire going for the lead, surrounding him to a 17th-place finish. The third generation driver heads back to Oswego looking for redemption.
Tim McCreadie: Coming from the stance of, if it has wheels and a motor, he’ll race it, Watertown, N.Y.’s McCreadie has raced everything and anything and probably has won in it too. Son of “Barefoot” Bob McCreadie, it’s no real surprise that the 43-year-old driver has had a Hall of Fame type career to date. Having won numerous prestigious events in his career, including the 2006 World of Outlaws Late Model Championship, 2006 Chili Bowl, there is one race that McCreadie would like to add to his resume, a Super DIRT Week win. McCreadie came close in 2009 when he finished second to Matt Sheppard. Last year, it was looking like it was McCreadie’s year after leading late in the 200-lap event, however, losing control with six laps remaining brought out the yellow flag, relinquishing McCreadie to a fifth-place finish. A threat no matter what he straps into, don’t expect anything different when the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 takes the green flag.
Rick Laubach: The Hellertown, PA-driver had a tough weekend at Oswego. While Laubach made Sunday’s Super DIRT Week Big-Block Finale, the 45-year-old came home with a DNF in 32nd. Looking to regroup, Laubach started the 2017 with the Super DIRTcar Series making the trek south to Volusia Speedway Park at DIRTcar Nationals. Through 50-events entered in 2017, the PA-driver has tallied five wins, 19 top-fives and 30 top-10s. Look for Laubach to redeem himself after a bad 2016 NAPA Super DIRT Week and be a factor in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
Mike Mahaney: After starting the season struggling to find their groove, the Kings Ferry, N.Y.-driver and the Buzz Chew Racing team seemed to have hit on something as of late. The team recently made the switch to a new Bicknell Racing Chassis which may have been the cure the team was looking for. On August 2, the team captured their first victory together at Fonda Speedway; just their second night with the new chassis. The team has a Series top-five at Lebanon Valley and a seventh at Ransomville. Looking to hit their stride at the right time of the year, this team could surprise a lot of people with a solid finish at Oswego Speedway.
Larry Wight: Before 2016 NAPA Super DIRT Week got underway, there was no other driver that could say they have more laps around the dirt track of Oswego Speedway then Larry Wight. The Phoenix, N.Y. driver helped prepare the 5/8th-mile oval for Super DIRT Week by unloading truckloads of clay onto the asphalt surface. Early in 2017 the 24-year-old driver gained some national attention when the Central New York driver locked into the A-Main at the Chili Bowl by virtue of a two-place finish during his preliminary qualifying night. Wight would eventually finish a respectable 13th out of 375 entries. So far in the 2017 season, Wight picked up a win at Airborne Park Speedway and Autodrome Grandy and has 13 top-fives and 18 top-10s having sit in third in the championship point standings. Last year at Oswego, Wight made a move towards the front early, after starting 10th, advancing to the third position by lap 21. After running inside the top-10 most of the afternoon, Wight feel back for a 16th-place finish. Look out for the local driver from down the road to learn from 2016’s installment of Super DIRT Week and be a threat to take the checkers in Sunday’s finale.
Jimmy Phelps: The Heinke-Baldwin Racing (HBR)-driver started last year’s 200-lap event in the 16th-starting position and worked his way through the field at Oswego Speedway for a seventh-place finish. Phelps who runs with the Super DIRTcar Series full time also has duties as the promoter of Weedsport Speedway. Phelps has visited Victory Lane three times this season, twice at Fulton Speedway and once at Brewerton Speedway. Phelps currently sits sixth in the championship point standings as the Series enters Fonda. In 2010 Phelps came home with a runner-up finish; Phelps would like nothing more than to add his name to the likes of Reuitmann, McCreadie, Decker and the other great Modified drivers to have won the biggest Modified race in the country.
Billy Whittaker: Whittaker is a veteran of the sport that is coming off a big win at Eldora Speedway during the special All Star Invitational Big-Block Modified race. Although a non-points race, the victory was Whittaker’s first of any kind with the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds. The Central Square, N.Y.-driver followed up his Eldora Speedway with a weekly race win at Fulton Speedway this Summer. Whittaker comes back to Oswego looking for a better result from last year when he was caught up in a multi-car pile-up on the backstretch, virtually ending his day early.
Justin Haers: Haers ended the 2016 season on a high-note with a pair of podium finishes including a victory at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway during World Finals. Haers continued his success through the beginning of the 2017 season with a victory at DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. When it comes to Oswego Speedway and Super DIRT Week, the Phelps, N.Y. driver timed in with the third fastest time in qualifying and earned a victory during one of the triple-30’s during 2016’s Camping World Friday Night Lights. Haers’ promising week derailed when during the finale at Oswego Speedway, bringing home a disappointing 39th-place finish.
Pat Ward: Driver of the No. 42p in the Super DIRTcar Series currently sits sixth in the points as the Series heads into Granby. Although Ward doesn’t have any wins to his credit for the 2017 in the Super DIRTcar Series, he does have eight top-fives and 14 top-10 finishes. With no Super DIRT Week wins for the Genoa, N.Y.-driver, a victory in Big-Block Modified’s biggest race will solidify a solid career for the second-generation driver.
Billy Dunn: Billy Dunn is the last driver not named Friesen to have won the Big-Block Modified event at NAPA Super DIRT Week. It was 2013 when Dunn pulled into Victory Lane claiming his first and only Super DIRT Week victory. Dominating the 358-Modified divisions much of 2017, Dunn will hope to turn some of that success into some magic for another Super DIRT Week victory.
At the end of the 200-laps during the The Billy Whittaker Cars 200, only one driver will be able to claim that they won one of the most prestigious dirt races in the country. While there is over a dozen names listed, expect an entry list of over 60-plus cars all trying to stake their claim at the $50,000-to-win pay check.
The Billy Whittaker Cars 200 is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 8, with opening ceremonies at 1:30 p.m.
NAPA Super DIRT Week returns to Oswego Speedway for its second year. The “Steel Palace” is a 0.625-mile asphalt-oval that will be transformed into the “Clay Palace” by nearly 600 truckloads of clay. The week will kick off with early parking for campers on Sunday, October 1. Early Bird tech inspection for all classes and competitors starts on Tuesday, October 3. On-track activities will begin shortly after the procession of cars through the streets of Oswego on Wednesday, October 4 at roughly 12 p.m.
Tickets and camping spots for the 46th annual NAPA Super DIRT Week are available by calling 844-DIRT-TIX or by visiting SuperDIRTWeekOnline.com. Stay tuned to the DIRTcar Racing website as well as DIRTcar social media channel’s Facebook and Twitter for additional information regarding NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week.
-DIRTcar Racing Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos