By BILL FOLEY
The Central New York racing scene will be interesting to say the least this year with changes running rampant.
What are some of the big-block Modified guys doing? Who is running small-blocks and where will they run?
Well, I’m certain that this is the first of a few of this type of columns regarding Mods and small-blocks.
Home track points disappearing will make some big-block drivers disappear from weekly shows, but the hope is more drivers will follow or at least hit many of the Super DIRTcar Series shows.
Brewerton pits should change a bit as Mike Mahaney, Jeremy Smith and Billy Decker are just some not coming back on a regular basis. Apparently the 358’s will be allowed to run at the Demon along with the big-blocks.
Mahaney had a good Florida trip and will be active in the Buzz Chew 88 for Super DIRTcar Series and other specials, the Doug Emery Sprint for the Empire Super Sprints, the Olum’s No. 33 for other specials, the Breintenstein No. 14 for Grandview and a SpeedSTR for Action Track USA. There doesn’t appear to be anything weekly.
Jeremy Smith, a regular at Brewerton last year, will field cars for Billy Decker and himself on Brett Deyo’s Short Track Super Series and will be running regularly at Afton and Thunder Mountain.
Decker won’t run weekly at Brewerton, but will be in Mike Payne’s 91 for SDS shows.
Fulton will have 358’s and Can-Am is going to Friday night with 358’s and Utica-Rome on Sunday has the small-blocks. I would think many drivers will compete possibly two nights at least and there are indications some non-expected drivers might be hauling up to run UR. Personally, I think there will be decent fields.
So who’s racing where?
Well, there are no definite lists yet, but Fulton did a release about the Sportsman drivers moving on up including Ron Davis III, Glenn Forward, Todd Root and Tyler Trump.
It was thought Tyler Thompson would be making a move, but his dad Jason Simmons told me that they would run Brewerton and Fulton full time in Sportsman, the Northeast Sportsmen Series, mix in some kart races and other Sportsman events and then run a small-block super for Oswego Classic. Then a 358 at the end of the season if Tyler is ready for it.
Late last season the Bellingers, Beth and Robbie, purchased small-blocks. Beth told me last year that she purchased one from Erik Rudolph and Robbie bought one from Bill Shea that Willy Decker ran Syracuse with.
Andy Noto indicated he hoped that he and Chad Phelps would run with a BB at Brewerton and small-block at Fulton. Chad told me a couple days ago he will run weekly at Brewerton, the small-block at Fulton is questionable, will do all Weedsport shows and some traveling for some bigger shows either SDS or Deyo’s STSS. The STSS is different for him but he said, “they have a good payout”.
Roy Bresnahan has had a small and big-block in his two cars.
Pat Ward said he would be at Brewerton, Fulton and UR, but not follow the SDS Tour.
Larry Wight will run Brewerton, part time at Fulton and wants to hit some 360 as well as 410 Sprint shows.
Canandaigua will be the beneficiary of Fulton dropping big-blocks as Jimmy Phelps, Max McLaughlin, Chris and Katelyn Hile along with others could be bound for that Saturday night stop.
McLaughlin and Phelps will also call Brewerton home on Friday nights.
There are other guys with big-block, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Mike Maresca was doing a ton of Lucas Oil and World of Outlaw Late Model racing in Florida. Rumors were rampant he was following the WoO tour. He told me when asked about sticking with Late Models or running Mods, “Not sure yet, but probably do both.”
Matt Sheppard will do Outlaw, Canandaigua and depending who you listen to and on what day he might have a small-block available for Utica-Rome, but it wouldn’t be his own.
Billy Whittaker noted in Florida that Brewerton and Fulton would be standard on his schedule. It also appears he is SDS Tour bound for the second consecutive year.
Gary Tomkins noted, “I have a new BRP chassis and body and running Brewerton and some specials with the Coar/Clark team.”
Andrew Ferguson noted, “I’ll run big-blocks at Brewerton and Weedsport and all the close SDS races. I’m going to try some new tracks this season and take advantage of the one night a week at our local tracks.”
Tim Kerr said, “I’m thinking Brewerton for sure, and from there I’m not entirely sure, maybe Land of Legends. We’ll see how things are. We are still waiting on our new frame. April will be a big push to see if we are ready for one of the nights anywhere.”
Mike Bowman reached out to me letting me know that he will be running full-time at the Fulton Speedway with stops at Utica-Rome. His wife Erica is going to race novice sportsman at Fulton and some at Utica. She has never raced before.
Ray Graham told me recently, in regards to his two car team for Peter Britten and son Kody Graham, “Peter will run the entire SDS series and some races at Canandaigua and Weedsport. Kody is planning on running all the series races in New York along with Brewerton on Friday. As of now the only small-block plans are for DIRT Week.”
Adam Roberts indicated to me earlier this week that he hasn’t made a decision at this time.
Heard some scuttlebutt that Joe August Jr. wasn’t going to be racing this year.
No word on Jim Witko, Tim or Tommy Sears or Matt Hulsizer.
Should be plenty of other news popping up soon and will try to stay on top of it for fans as I know folks are thinking, “Where should I go this year?”
Florida Wrap Up
Well, the spectacular Florida shows are history and now there is a bit of limbo between now and the start of Central New York racing in April.
Last year my wife dragged me kicking and screaming to Florida for three months. She has allowed me to pursue my hockey announcing and all the racing stuff for the rest of the year. I owed it to her.
So, for the first time I got to experience the DIRTcar Nationals and to make it even better I got to write for Dirt Track Digest. Last year was strange as I covered all five All Star and Outlaw Sprint shows and never saw one Modified race. There were two rainouts, another night I was off covering Stewart Friesen for the day at the big track and then I was so sick on Saturday that I couldn’t even get out of bed to the final Mod night.
This year was different. DTD owner Mike Mallett told me to pace myself. I did and managed three Outlaw Sprint shows and all the Mod events (was supposed to announce the first two, but got rained out once).
I will tell you put this Florida event on you bucket list, but save your money as it’s a costly trip. A couple of years ago the DTD team convinced me to go to Charlotte for the World Finals and I will keep going back to that as well.
The crowds were sensational every night and I can see that through the Volusia DIRTcar Nationals, Super DIRT Week and Charlotte World Finals that this is what finances the entire year for the organization. Of course there are license fees from the teams, including all the support classes, but money flows when the weather is good down here.
One thing bad about the DIRTcar Nationals is that when they are over racing is basically over down here in the Sunshine State.
The weekly shows resume on March 17 at Volusia and March 25 at New Smyrna. And those shows are nothing like the racing experience of February. Sure there will be all sorts of motorcycle events coming up with Bike Week, but oval track for wheel racing (except for ATV’s) forget it.
Many thanks to all the folks who made the DIRTcar Nationals memorable for me including Colby, Cristina, Mallett, GT, George, the Shea’s, and others. Many thanks to Rick Eshelman and Johnny Gibson for making certain I sounded okay. It was fun working with Rick as Johnny was done after the Sprinters.
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