One of the biggest buzzes during the offseason in the Northeast surrounded the bold new initiative by the staff at Bridgeport Speedway in southern New Jersey, as they strived to complete an all-new dirt racing oval. The facility, famous for its expansive 5/8-mile oval, has been a staple of fast Big-Block Modified racing for many years, while also hosting racing for smaller divisions on the infield ¼-mile oval.
In a bid to provide a new theater for short track racing for Dirt Modifieds, as well as bringing back 410 Sprint Car racing to South Jersey, the 3/8-mile made its debut last weekend, with the Modifieds providing side-by-side racing right from the drop of the green flag.
Jeff Strunk celebrated the victory, while the rest of the field was left to sort out their impressions. The list of drivers competing last weekend included veteran Billy Pauch, Sr., who had problems in the 25-lap main, but was satisfied with the work overall.
“They need to get the positioning of the lights figured out a little better, it’s a little hard to see the edge of the track, but other than that, it seemed pretty racy. It’s different, definitely different. I like it,” Pauch told Speed51.com.
The Bridgeport 3/8-mile oval will host its first touring series event this Sunday, April 29 with the Short Track Super Series South Jersey Shootout. With the lighting issues set to be sorted, teams will be focused on how best to take on the track.
The biggest question of course will be the question of a favorite to win, more specifically, which engine will be favorite to win in the open format Short Track Super Series which hosts both Big-Block and Small-Block Modifieds in the Modified division. While Big-Block engines ruled the 5/8-mile oval, Pauch believes that Small-Block teams not only have a chance, but they might have the advantage with their weight break.
“It’s not a motor track,” he said confidently. “It’s a small track where you can get a handle on it. As far as motor wise, it’s almost better with a Small-Block than a Big-Block.”
While Pauch and a number of his fellow drivers who compete regularly in New Jersey have a number of laps from both the racing weekend and multiple test sessions, the Frenchtown, NJ native doesn’t believe it will be a major advantage against some of the stronger teams yet to turn a lap on the 3/8th oval.
“Not really, if you’re a racecar driver it doesn’t matter,” Pauch said. “It’s just a matter of getting around the track and getting a few breaks, plus starting in the right position and stuff. I think that will matter more than just an extra day of laps. It shouldn’t be a big advantage, other than trying to find the right gear. But once people figure that out, it becomes a common fact, people give it up.”
On the other end of the spectrum come the rest of the teams from throughout the region, including New York State driver Anthony Perrego.
Perrego, who is a former champion at the bullring Accord Speedway (NY), has gained a reputation on the Short Track Super Series as a specialist of the short ovals. Indeed, he’s ready for a crack at it.
“It’s going to be something different. I watched the highlights from last week and it seemed like pretty good racing. I’m looking forward to trying it myself,” Perrego said eagerly.
Contrary to Pauch’s beliefs, Perrego believes that those with laps already on the 3/8ths will have an advantage, but as for how much, he didn’t know. If they do have an edge, Perrego feels he and his No. 44 team have the know-how to adapt quickly.
“I think they could have an advantage with it being a new track. We’ve never seen it. They’ve been doing some practice down there and the race last week. We’ve only raced on the 5/8ths. But, we think we got a good idea of what we need from some other places we’ve been.”
Despite the unknowns, Perrego believes that this STSS South round at Bridgeport could help to give him some potential momentum, especially with the start of the STSS North schedule looming near on May 8.
“It’s definitely a help. We went to Five Mile last Sunday and got the win. We’re trying some stuff out with the setup on the car and it seems to be working. I think we’re heading in the right direction for Sunday’s race at Bridgeport.”
Race fans can watch all of Sunday’s South Jersey Shootout on the new Bridgeport Speedway 3/8-mile oval live on Speed51.com. The broadcast will be available for free to all Speed51 Network premium subscribers. Click here to subscribe today.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos