By CLAYTON JOHNS
OSWEGO, NY – Tim Fuller dominated the DIRTcar 358 Modified Series all week and continued his reign Sunday night at Oswego Speedway to win the Riccelli-Northern Salute the Troops 100 at the 45th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week.
Fuller started on the pole after setting fast time in Thursday’s time trial session and won the first twin 25-lap heat on Friday night before leading every lap of Sunday’s main event to complete the weekend sweep.
“Randy and Bob Slack, they brought a great car. We unloaded fast and finished up fast. It was a pleasure to drive. We’re two-for-two in that car,” said Fuller, who also won in the Slack-owned No.3rs 358 Modified earlier this season at Mohawk International Raceway.
Fuller quickly jumped to the lead in the outside lane, while Brett Hearn and Matt Sheppard battled for third behind Billy Dunn. Hearn took the spot from Sheppard and then moved past Dunn for second on lap five.
The first caution of the race came on lap seven for debris in turn one. Fuller maintained the lead while Hearn kept pace and then caught the leader on lap 14. The second caution of the race came on the same lap to bring the battle to a halt when Billy Decker, who won Thursday’s Hurricane 100 at Brewerton Speedway, slowed with a flat left-rear tire.
Shortly after lap 20, Hearn pulled his No.20 to the pit area while running second with what was later described as an engine issue. Stewart Friesen assumed the second spot during the 23-lap green flag that lasted until Ryan Darcy met the outside wall in turn four on lap 37.
Dunn surrendered a top-five spot under the yellow as he pulled his car behind the wall after he said he felt an oncoming rear-end failure.
The lap-43 restart set up a battle for second between Friesen and Erick Rudolph while Mike Maresca broke into the top-five for the first time behind Matt Sheppard. At the halfway point, Fuller caught lapped traffic but maintained pace ahead of Friesen. The restarts were the most challenging part of the race for Fuller.
“It all came down to restarts, and I hated every restart because somebody could have got up inside me and slid me a little bit,” Fuller explained. “That was my only concern. I knew once I got out front I could stretch it out. I just had to survive the restarts.”
The fourth yellow flag of the race came on lap 57 when David Allen spun and made contact with the turn one wall. Fuller brought the field back to green on lap 62, and the top-five held their positions before another debris caution on lap 65.
Fuller raced away from Friesen again on the restart until the only red flag of the race occurred on lap 71, when Mike Butler flipped upside down in turn three. He was uninjured. The lap-75 restart didn’t appear to bother Fuller as he continued to pull away from Friesen and Rudolph.
Fuller continued in the outside lane while Rudolph and Friesen wrestled for second. Rudolph drove to second on lap 90, but hit the outside wall in turn four one lap later to bring out another yellow and end his bid for a win.
Friesen dove to the inside of Fuller on the restart, but the momentum up top allowed Fuller to hold the lead and open a 1.3-second advantage with five laps to go. It was erased, however, when Michael Parent fell off the pace in his No.25 to cause the final yellow on the same lap.
The final green flag run saw both Friesen and Matt Sheppard dive to the inside of Fuller in turns one and two, but neither could take the lead away. On the final lap, Fuller had the victory sewn up while Friesen claimed second just hours after winning the Big-Block Modified Bud Light 200.
“It was an exciting race. Keeping these Small Blocks wound up is tough. [Fuller] and Slack, they have a good combination with that No.3 car. I was happy to run second to them. They’re a top notch team,” Friesen said.
Marc Johnson raced into third after Sheppard fell off the pace on the final lap.
“That was a tough race. It was a crazy track. I’m just happy to get a top-three out of it,” Johnson said. “It’s been a long week. The guys deserve this finish. I’m just glad I could get it for them.”
A pair of rookie drivers complete the top-five as Gary Lindberg and Mike Maresca finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Lindberg, who crashed out of Friday’s Futures Race, was happy with Sunday’s rebound effort.
“We’re happy with that. The crew worked hard on the car all week – it was just me, my dad and my brother. They did all the work and got us here,” Lindberg said. “We can’t complain. I would have been happy with a top-10 tonight. A top-four, we can’t beat that.”
Maresca only raced a part-time schedule in 2016, but pulled double duty in a Big-Block and Small-Block Modified during NAPA Super DIRT Week. He was ecstatic to earn a top-five finish at Oswego, where he earned his first career win in a Legends car on the asphalt.
“I’ve been itching to come back. I had a really good time on the track. I thought it raced really well, and I thought it was really fun,” Maresca said. “There was passing, and it was an action filled race. I don’t think anyone expected a perfect track.”
Fuller was also content with the racetrack.
“If your car was good you could still pass. It was rough, but we’ve all been on rough race tracks before. You’ve got what you’ve got and everybody’s racing on it, so make the best out of it,” Fuller said.
Fuller’s victory was historic not only as the first 358 Modified winner on dirt at Oswego, but because of its dominant fashion.
Riccelli-Northern Salute the Troops 100 Results: 1. 3RS, Tim Fuller ; 2. 66, Stewart Friesen ; 3. 3J, Marc Johnson ; 4. 28, Gary Lindberg ; 5. 7M, Mike Maresca ; 6. R2J, Ronnie Johnson ; 7. 14J, Alan Johnson ; 8. 27J, Danny Johnson ; 9. ONE, David Hebert ; 10. 55, Brett Haas ; 11. 37S, Tommy Flannigan ; 12. 47S, Corey Wheeler ; 13. 25P, Michael Parent ; 14. 19N, Chad Phelps ; 15. 01, Chris Raabe ; 16. 19M, Jessie Mueller ; 17. 62, Erick Rudolph ; 18. 14, Matt Sheppard ; 19. 22C, Mario Clair ; 20. 23, Joey Ladouceur ; 21. 16W, Lance Willix ; 22. 02, Roy Bresnahan ; 23. 04, Mike Butler ; 24. 15, Kenny Tremont Jr ; 25. 27W, Nicholas Webb ; 26. 66X, Carey Terrance ; 27. 111, Demetrios Drellos ; 28. 88, David Allen ; 29. 96, JF Corriveau ; 30. 26, Rich Richner ; 31. 9, Billy Dunn ; 32. 55W, Matt Woodruff ; 33. 21D, Ryan Darcy ; 34. 46, Billy Decker ; 35. 20, Brett Hearn ; 36. 39T, Ryan Bartlett ; 37. 99L, Larry Wight ; 38. 42P, Pat Ward , 39. 8, Rich Scagliotta ; 40. 21, Yan Bussiere ; 41. 34, George Foley ; 42. 24, Patrick Dupree ; 43. 49, Donnie Elliott .