WEEDSPORT, N.Y. – May 3, 2013 -After winning an unprecedented three consecutive Super DIRTcar Series championships, Matt Sheppard clearly has established himself as the Big-Block Modified driver to beat. Sheppard, though, will have his hands full when the 2013 season opens with the Hall of Fame 60 on Wednesday, June 5, at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in Elbridge, N.Y.
The best in the business will be racing to unseat “Super Matt” from his championship throne. Drivers like Hearn, Friesen and Phelps will be have a target on Sheppard’s No. 9s FX Caprara Car Co./Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell.
Here are some of the superstars attempting to capture the 2013 Super DIRTcar Series crown:
Brett Hearn: Close Call
Brett Hearn, of Sussex, N.J., fell short of Sheppard by just 45 points last year, even after missing two tour races because of illness. The Madsen Motorsports/B.H. Racing Enterprises No. 20 driver claimed some of the most impressive victories, flying from a 23rd starting spot for the win at Lebanon Valley Speedway’s Mr. DIRT Track U.S.A., staying strong for the victory in Orange County Fair Speedway’s Eastern States 200, winning the coveted VP Small Engine Fuels 200 trophy during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, and wrapping it up with a victory during the World Finals in Charlotte.
Hearn started off the 2013 season strong, with a victory at the Super DIRTcar Series Florida Tour finale during UNOH DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment, giving him momentum going into the first points race of the seriesJune 5at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park.
Stewart Friesen: Bonus Points
Stewart Friesen, another strong title contender, demonstrated his skill numerous times on Syracuse’s “Moody Mile” at the New York State Fairgrounds, but his lack of home track points kept him from scoring a high rank in the series. This year, the native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, added Albany-Saratoga Speedway to his weekly schedule, qualifying him for those integral home track bonus points.
“Hopefully we seat ourselves well with the home track points at Albany-Saratoga and can put some stuff together to hit the whole (Super DIRTcar) Series,” said Friesen, who in 2010 became the first Canadian to win the NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week Big-Block Modified championship race.
In addition to adopting a DIRTcar sanctioned home track in 2013, Friesen is teaming up with Brett Deyo, of BD Motorsports Media, to promote a Super DIRTcar Series race. The Pioneer Pole Buildings Inc. “Dirty Jersey 60″ brings the Big-Block Modified tour to New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway on Wednesday, June 19.
“Brett Deyo is a great friend of mine and we talked a little at the end of the 2012 season about getting together and promoting a race. We were going to do it, and we both knew that New Egypt Speedway in New Jersey would be a great location,” Friesen said. “It’s a premier facility and we didn’t have to think twice about who we were going to bring for an event. We wanted to bring the premier modified organization, and that’s DIRTcar.”
Due to the event’s location, Friesen expects the “Dirty Jersey 60″ to match the best of the Northeast and Canada with some of the most talented drivers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and some of the other mid-Atlantic states.
“Billy Pauch, Jimmy Horton, Ryan Godown- a lot of the big names down there – don’t necessarily make it to all the series events, so it’s something that’s going to be kind of an all-star event,” Friesen said. “The SuperDIRTcarSeries brings a lot of the northern guys, a lot of Canandiagua guys, who have never been to New Egypt. It’s going to be the best race of the summer.”
Bobby Varin: Ready to Travel
Bobby Varin, winner at last year’s The Big Show 4 at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, may also have some tricks up his sleeve for the 2013 season. With more help preparing race cars, Varin said he will have more time to travel hopes to compete in most of the Super DIRTcar Series races.
“We’re going to try and hit those shows as often as we can,” said Varin, who plans on towing the No. 00 and the Atlas Paving 66 to Super DIRTcar Series shows. “We’ve always been fairly competitive when we show up to these events and we’ve got a number of Super DIRT Series wins, so I feel pretty confident that we can compete.”
Like Friesen, Varin did not have the opportunity to pick up home track bonus points in 2012. This year, however, his points from Orange County Fair Speedway stand to put him in contention for top spots. Add in Varin’s demonstrated strength in long-distance races, and both Sheppard and Hearn will have their work cut out staying ahead.
“I feel fairly confident that we’ll be in good shape for the extra-distance races,”Varin said. “It gives you a chance to get in the car, shake the car out, get a good feel for what’s going on, then adjust as a driver, and see what you can come up with at the end of the night.”
Pete Britten: Confident after Success “Down Under”
Australian Pete Britten barely took time off this winter, claiming two dirt modified wins in his home country. His confidence showed in February’s UNOH DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment when Britten finished third in the first Super DIRTcar Series feature race.
“I think we’re at the point where things are taking a bit of a turn. I honestly don’t see a reason why we can’t be challenging for wins every night of the week,” said Britten, who finished third in points last year but is still working toward his first Super DIRTcar Series win. “These guys better look out because I’m really confident as a driver, and I’m confident in my equipment, and when you put those two together you’ll be good.”
Jimmy Phelps: Clean Slate
Jimmy Phelps, who was within shouting distance of the championship up until the very end of the 2012 season, aims at improving some of his weak spots early this long before his November haul to North Carolina for World Finals in Charlotte.
“Any time you’ve got a clean slate and a fresh shot at trying to make a new season out of it, it’s exciting,” said Phelps, of Baldwinsville, N.Y., who finished third in points last year.”As usual, we’ve got the tools to get it done, we just have to make sure that we start running a little better at certain tracks and we’ve got our shot come Charlotte. We just have to get a little better and eliminate some of the mediocre finishes that really hurt us. You don’t really notice them until you get to the end of the year and you’re digging and clawing for 30 points that you left on the table further back. The next thing is to try and build some consistency and win some races and everything should fall into place.”
Justin Haers: Building Up for a Win
Justin Haers, of Phelps, N.Y., came close to a win at UNOH DIRTcar Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment, and said his program is strong enough going into the 2013 season to get even closer.
“Each year we just keep building on our program, and we keep getting better and better, and that’s all you can ask for,” said Haers, who finished fourth in points last year.
Matt Sheppard: Keeping It Together
With increasing competition in this year’s Super DIRTcar Series point battle, Sheppard said his team has what it takes for another successful season -“a lot of hard work, a good motor program, a great car.”
“You have to have your whole program together, and, basically, you really have to keep it together,”said Sheppard, of Waterloo, N.Y. “I think our program is a little better, but it’s too early to see.”
He’ll set his sights on a fourth consecutive championship on Wednesday, June 5, at Rolling Wheels.
Danny Johnson: The Doctor Is In
Danny Johnson, of Rochester, N.Y., finished fifth in points in 2012 and continues to run with Canandaigua Motorsports Park as his home track in 2013. Rich Scagliotta, eighth in points last year, continues to travel with Britten to Super DIRTcar Series events.
Rob Bellinger: Star on the Rise
Rob Bellinger, of Dexter, N.Y.,was ninth in points in 2012, and is especially looking forward to running the big shows, such as the Hall of Fame 60 at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park and the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week.