The third running of the East Coast Indoor Dirt Nationals has once again brought a diverse field of competitors from across the map, and across multiple racing disciplines to face off in Trenton, New Jersey in 600cc Non-Winged Micro Sprints. But, Friday night qualifying was the time for local 600 drivers from both east and west of the Delaware River to shine.
With Trenton’s CURE Arena playing host to the Indoor Auto Racing Championship’s now-annual dirt track showdown, all four 20-lap qualifier races were won by drivers who live within 90 minutes from New Jersey’s capital city.
In the first qualifier, Pennsylvania young gun Alex Bright continued on what has been an already brilliant start to the 2020 racing season, winning his race in dominating fashion.
“The track got a little tricky near the end, but we were able to hold everyone off, and looking forward to tomorrow. We were just discussing if there was any way possible to get better, but the track could be entirely different tomorrow. But, this Hyper Lineman Evo is a great combo, with Rich Clouser on the wrenches, he gets this thing dialed in. I can’t thank Rob Hummer enough for everything he provides,” Bright told Speed51.
After taking home his first career Golden Driller in the Stock Non-Wing class at the Tulsa Shootout back in January, Bright’s focus is now on this tough race in his own backyard that has eluded him the past two seasons.
“I missed it by one spot two years ago and just cracked the top ten last year, so we really want to get this Indoor Dirt Nationals win. Only an hour and 15 minutes from home, but still haven’t been able to pull this one off, and this is one I really want to get.”
Along with Alex Bright, Eddie Strada, and Brendan Bright locked themselves into the 50-lap A-Main on Saturday with their Top 3 finishes respectively.
In the second qualifier, one of the Northeast’s jack-of-all-trades on dirt held off one of the toughest Dirt Modified racers around these days. Tim Buckwalter proved his mettle behind the wheel of a 600 on Friday, holding off Billy Pauch Jr. in a hotly contested 20 laps.
“Any time you got Billy Pauch Jr. starting next to you, my main thing was keeping my nerves down. I got flustered a little bit in the beginning and made mistakes. I just calmed down, the one time I got in, I looked back, and I knew that Billy wasn’t even close enough to do anything, so I just had to watch what I did on the restarts, and make sure I eliminated any mistakes. I felt like I could out race him, my car was better than his, I just wanted to avoid mistakes,” explained Buckwalter.
A veteran in 600’s, Dirt Modifieds, USAC Sprints, and more, Buckwalter knows how to get a job down. Now, all that’s left is to take his Barry Greth owned No. 71 to the A-Main.
“I came in here tonight just wanting to get in that Top 60 for the qualifiers and just make the Top 3 for the feature. Tomorrow is a whole new game, this is all luck indoors, but this makes it easier for us.”
Brian Carber rounded the podium in Qualifier 2, securing a spot in the A-Main along with Buckwalter and Pauch Jr.
The third qualifier brought about an impressive performance from one of New Jersey’s own, with Wayne Scott taking the checkers. The 2018 600 Micro champion at the Airport Speedway in Delaware managed to not only hang with defending Indoor Dirt Nationals champion Erick Rudolph in the early laps, he made the pass midway through, and kept the field at bay over multiple restarts.
“Yeah, it was pretty good. The car was hooked up pretty well, I was just being real patient, and easy on the throttle. It worked out well, I was able to get by Erick, and it was a good race. I feel confident for tomorrow, the car is hooking up well, and I think we can win it all tomorrow,” Said a confident Scott.
Doug Snyder finished runner-up, while Rudolph barely held on for third and the final transfer spot, fighting a lack of front grip off the bottom line.
The most controversial moment of Friday night came in the fourth and final qualifier when initial winner Billy Koch was disqualified post-race for being too light on the scales. After fighting at first for the second place finish, another 600 Micro New Jersey local from Bridgeport Speedway, Gary Bozowski was declared the winner.
While not the way he would have wanted it, Bozowski was adamant that on a weekend such as this, a win is a win.
“It definitely is, we’ve been racing with Billy for a long time, he’s a great competitor, it stinks to win it that way, but in the Indoor Dirt Nationals you got to take what you can get. But, we feel great going into tomorrow; my great crew back there has our BFR Motorsports ride hooked up for us. I can’t thank all of our guys enough, they bust their tails, and it’s great to get off to a good start.”
Brett Altemose inherited the second place finish, while Jesse Maurer went from having to race in from the B-Mains to being locked in after being promoted to third after the Koch DQ.
The 12 drivers locked into the A-Main will be joined by another 12, which will be determined by Chili Bowl style ‘Alphabet Soup’ on Saturday. Racing action begins with a pair of F-Mains at 6pm ET at CURE Arena on Saturday night.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51