By BOBBY SWEENEY
With his win at Fulton, Mike Maresca punched his golden ticket to the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego. Maresca’s journey to the Super Dirt Week starting grid has been unique, with the Potsdam, NY driver claiming the final spot in Sunday’s starting grid.
Like Tim McCreadie, Maresca had plans to run a Late Model down at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway this weekend. Had everything went to plan, Maresca would have qualified at Oswego Friday, ran Pittsburgh Saturday, then came back to Oswego Sunday. However, Maresca failed to qualify through his heat and had to decide whether to go run a Late Model or stick with the Modified.
“The weather was the key in the decision to stay here and not go to Pittsburgh,” noted Maresca. “We were already here, spent all that money to get in the pits, get all the cars done, through tech, the tires, and all that stuff. It made sense to stay up here.”
However, Maresca didn’t completely stay in place. With Oswego running behind schedule because of rain, the Oswego Big-Block Last Chance Qualifiers were running at the same exact time as Fulton. That meant Maresca needed to pick between Oswego or Fulton at his last shot at the big show.
“We had a big crash the first lap of my Big-Block heat, and we were scheduled for like 17th or 19th in the consi,” Maresca said. “I knew there was probably a zero to 0.01% chance of getting in starting from there. It’s pretty tough to avoid wrecks and all that stuff starting in the back, can’t get lucky every time. So, we decided to come here since I like this track anyways, one of my favorites to race at. I knew I had a fair shot at the win here, it was all super spur-of-the-moment.”
The car Maresca ran at Fulton is the same he will run at Oswego on Sunday. With Oswego being a big, slick, flat track and Fulton being much the opposite, how much did the car need to be changed?
“Coming from Oswego, we put in a different gear that we thought was right, but it was wrong,” stated Maresca. “We started off hot laps pretty much the same from Oswego, just because of time reasons, and we weren’t terrible, third or fourth fastest. We missed the gear, we were only turning 6000rpm when we usually turn 7400 to 7600. For the heat, we freed up a little, stiffening up the right side, and freed up even more for the feature once we got messing around with the left rear. We definitely got around to changing everything a little bit.”
Many times, especially at Syracuse, the Saturday night winner would start-and-park the Super Dirt Week finale, collecting a nice payday in the process. However, Maresca doesn’t plan on doing that.
“I’m gonna race the thing,” said Maresca. “We’re gonna try to charge the first couple laps, try and miss a couple early wrecks, and stay on the lead lap. We’ll be starting deep, but I think we’ll be pretty good. I think we learned a lot in the Small-Block race as to what works and what doesn’t.”
This season, Maresca has focused his driving on the Late Model division. While Maresca thinks experimenting with other forms of dirt racing has helped him become better behind the wheel, he does recognize some negatives.
“The big thing that’s hurt is I haven’t ran on tracks like Oswego all year, that flat, super slippery stuff,” Maresca notes. “Where I was racing with the Late Model stuff, there wasn’t much of that. The super slippery definitely took some getting used to again. For me, Oswego has been the big challenge so far this year, I haven’t struggled anywhere this year as much as I have there. I feel like we’re finally getting a little better.”
Maresca also mentioned how the changing technology in Modified racing has made it difficult to step back in and be fast, but with Maresca’s Rez-X team at his side, the transition to and from has been softened.
“There’s a lot going on in Modifieds right now,” Maresca stated. “You got people running coil overs, left side panhard bars, J-bars, and other special stuff. Being out of the central hub of Big-Block racing has made it tough to come in and compete.”
200 laps of Big-Block Modified action await Maresca on Sunday, as the black and orange #7mm will be rolling off 43rd. Being the last car in, there’s only one way to go.