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Dunn Lives A Dream With Dramatic Victory In Syracuse 200 To End NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XVII

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By Kevin Kovac, DIRTcar Racing P.R.

SYRACUSE, NY – Oct. 13, 2013 – Billy Dunn experienced the highs and lows of the fabled New York State Fairgrounds in one amazing weekend.

Twenty-four hours after suffering a crushing last-lap defeat at the Moody Mile, Dunn combined cagey strategy with a healthy dose of good fortune to score a dramatic star-making victory in the 42nd annual Syracuse 200 big-block Modified classic that capped NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XVII.

Dunn, 29, of Watertown, N.Y., made his decision to pit late in the distance pay off to the tune of $50,000-plus in cash and a career-first Super DIRTcar Series big-block Modified triumph. With many of his rivals falling to the wayside in the caution-filled final laps because their cars didn’t carry enough fuel to finish a race that was extended by new rules mandating that the last 25 circuits run under green-flag conditions, Dunn kept gaining positions and finally assumed command for good on lap 197 when Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., ran out of gas.

The final laps seemingly flew by in an instant for Dunn, who cruised under the checkered flag 8.875 seconds – more than a straightaway – ahead of Phoenix, N.Y.’s Larry Wight. Ryan Godown of Ringoes, N.J., finished third, Tim Hindley of Monticello, N.Y., placed fourth and Duane Howard of Oley, Pa., was fifth after a wild shuffling took place at the front of the pack.

Dunn felt like he was living a Cinderella story when he emerged from his family-owned Bicknell car amid a swarm of well-wishers in Victory Lane.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and dreaming of this,” said Dunn, who was just three months old when his parents brought him to NAPA Super DIRT Week for the first time in 1984. “This is awesome. Every one of my heroes has won this race and now I’m on that list with them. It’s pretty special.

“This is definitely the greatest day in my racing career. I’ll never forget this.”

It was a complete turnaround in emotion for Dunn, who went to the post in the 200 following a sleepless night spent reliving his loss in Saturday’s ‘Salute to the Troops’ 358-Modified 150. He appeared headed to a $20,000 victory until his car ran out of fuel entering turn one on the final lap, handing the race to veteran Brett Hearn of Sussex, N.J.
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“This makes yesterday easier to get over,” said Dunn, whose best finish in seven previous Syracuse 200 starts was an eighth in 2008. “It was a heartbreak. You couldn’t ask for a better car than I had. It was a dream to drive – effortless.

“To lose that race really hurts, but this will take the sting away a little bit. I’ll give up (the 358-Mod event on) Saturday every year out to win on Sunday.”

Dunn didn’t exactly foresee a comeback triumph in the 200, however. But with the new rule stipulating all-green racing for the last 25 laps in place, he thought he might be able to put himself in position for a strong finish if a flurry of late caution flags provided some assistance.

“Last night was a heartbreaker and everybody told me you had to lose one to win one (at the Syracuse Mile),” said Dunn. “But I really didn’t think it would be today. We’ve struggled with this (big-block) car all week, but we made a gameplan up before the race that we thought might give us a chance at the end and it did.”

Dunn, who started 16th, pitted on lap 83 with virtually the entire field. But while many drivers – including Friesen, Hearn, Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., Jimmy Phelps of Baldwinsville, N.Y., and Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y. – committed to going the distance from there and hoping that late-race cautions wouldn’t push their fuel windows past their limits, Dunn opted for a more conservative approach.

When a caution flag flew on lap 163 – ending a long stretch of green-flag racing that had begun on lap 99 – Dunn decided to make another pit stop on lap 167 to fill up his car’s fuel tank. He was joined by nine other drivers, but only one running in the top five (fifth-place Andy Bachetti of Great Barrington, Mass.).

“Our strategy played out almost 100 percent – almost by the lap we wanted to pit both times,” said Dunn, who was running just outside the top 10 when he headed pitside for the second time. “We didn’t have good fuel mileage all week so we knew we had to do something different. To me, if you’re not in the top 10 and you’re trying to conserve, you’re wasting your time because you’re probably not gonna win anyway. You might as well pit and get gas so when the guys up front possibly run out, you got a chance to get up front.”

Dunn restarted from 18th place on lap 170, but he quickly realized he might still be alive. Free to let everything hang out while most of the drivers ahead of him were in full fuel conservation mode, he began making up spots.

“Once we went back out there and I passed two cars on the first lap going into one, I’m like, ‘If I could just do that a couple times I can at least be back to where I was when I pitted,’” said Dunn. “Then I was hoping for every caution we could get – caution, caution, caution. I knew with the game we were playing that was just gonna play into my favor.”

The race broke right to Dunn’s liking. After just six caution flags for 27 flew during the race’s first 175 laps, there were three cautions and one red flag over the final 25 circuits.

First there was a slowdown on lap 185 for debris in turn three. Then Bobby Varin of Sharon Springs, N.Y., brought out back-to-back cautions on lap 191, blowing a right-rear tire for the first and then stopping on the inside of turn four following the restart. Finally, on the second lap-191 restart, a multi-car crash in turn three involving Bachetti, Ronnie Johnson of Duanesburg, N.Y., Donnie Corellis of Averill Park, N.Y., and Australian Peter Britten put the race under red-flag conditions.

Just before the nine-lap stretch of green-flag racing that would end the race finally began, Dunn moved up to fifth place because McCreadie, who had led the race since lap 136, pitted to change a flat right-rear tire. Dunn passed Decker for fourth on the restart – moments before Decker ran out of fuel and pitted – and then proceeded to watch the three cars still ahead of him drop like so many flies.

On lap 193, second-place Hearn ran out of gas. Three circuits later new runner-up Phelps suffered the same fate, slowing on the backstretch.

And then, on lap 197, Friesen, who led laps 1-84 from the pole position, chased McCreadie for over 100 laps (nearly passing him for the lead several times despite racing with a left-front flat tire) and regained command when McCreadie pitted on lap 191, had his fuel cell run dry to end his bid for a third Syracuse 200 win in four years.

Left alone in front was Dunn, who had no trouble getting to the checkered flag.

“The end of the race was crazy,” said Dunn, who sits third in the Super DIRTcar Series points standings with four events remaining on the 2013 schedule. “I just had to keep going as hard as I could. I knew I had plenty of gas, a little bit softer tire and a race car that really wasn’t that good unless I was driving it as hard as I could. So the last 30 laps I just got up on the wheel and tried to get to the front as fast as I could and everything else worked out for us.”

The wild turn of events also benefitted the 20-year-old Wight, who sat 10th with his Gypsum Racing Troyer car when the race restarted on lap 191 but ended up with a career-best second-place finish after everything shook out. He had never finished better than 21st in his six previous Syracuse 200 starts.

“We had a bad pit stop (on lap 83) and actually it worked to our advantage,” said Wight, whose left-rear tire changer had a lugnut stick in his socket. “We had to come back in (two laps later), so then we were behind and pitted again later (after a lap-93 caution) to top off. That gave us more fuel than anybody else so we could make it to the end.”

Godown was one position behind Wight with his Troyer mount on the lap-191 restart and survived to finish third. It was the New Egypt (N.J.) Speedwayy regular’s career-best Syracuse 200 finish, topping his fifth-place run in 2009.

“We really didn’t know what was gonna go on those last 25 laps so we were just conserving in the back,” said Godown, who made it to the finish despite pitting on lap 83. “That’s all we could do at that point – hopefully other guys would run out, and that’s what happened.

“A third is like a win to me. I’m just ecstatic to be up here. When you’re a kid coming here watching, you grow up and are finally able to race it, and then you get to stand up here on the stage with the top three – it’s unbelievable.”

Hindley, meanwhile, toughed out a career-best fourth-place finish after pitting on lap 167. He ran much of the distance with his Teo-Pro car periodically popping out of gear, forcing him to hold the shifter in place.

Howard, who also pitted on lap 167, fell two spots short of matching his career-best 200 finish of third, in 2008. He drove a Troyer car from fellow Pennsy racer Kevin Albert’s stable that he was tapped to run in the days leading up to NAPA Super DIRT Week.

Finishing in positions 6-10 was Rick Laubach of Hellertown, Pa.; J.R. Heffner of Stephentown, N.Y.; Carey Terrance of Hogansburg, N.Y., who earned Rookie of the race honors; Danny Johnson of Phelps, N.Y.; and Varin, who recovered from his late troubles to salvage a top-10 finish.

Five different drivers led the race. Joining Friesen, McCreadie and Dunn were Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y., who paced laps 85-109 before his hopes were dashed when he ran out of fuel on lap 118, and Kenny Tremont of West Sand Lake, N.Y., who led laps 110-135 before pitting under green-flag conditions and losing a lap.

The six caution flags that came before lap 175 were caused by either stopped or slowed cars: Hindley (momentarily lost speed on lap 15 when his car popped out of gear); Eldon Payne of Hopewell, N.Y. (lap 41); Rick Scagliotta of Hillsborough, N.J. (lap 81); Dominic Buffalino of Sayerville, N.J. (lap 93); Vinnie Vitale of Cato, N.Y. (lap 164); and Jeff Rockefeller of Scotia, N.Y. (lap 170).

Eddie Marshall of Ridgefield, Conn., and Decker won Sunday’s pair of 15-lap Last Chance Qualifiers to gain entry to the 200. Both drivers earned $1,000 for the triumphs.

Sunday’s SEF 200 was taped for broadcast on the CBS Sports Network on Sun., Dec. 8, at 9 p.m. ET.

For the latest news and updates about NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week and DIRTcar Racing, visit www.SuperDirtWeekOnline.com, “like” the Super DIRT Week and DIRTcar Racing Facebook pages or follow the Twitter feeds @SuperDIRTWeek and @DIRTcarNE.

Syracuse 200 Results
Finish
Start
Driver
Laps
Status
Earnings

1
16
Billy Dunn
200
Running
$50,000

2
7
Larry Wight
200
Running
$25,000

3
30
Ryan Godown
200
Running
$15,000

4
11
Tim Hindley
200
Running
$10,000

5
23
Duane Howard
200
Running
$6,000

6
35
Rick Laubach
200
Running
$4,000

7
13
J.R Heffner
200
Running
$3,600

8
6
Carey Terrance
200
Running
$3,400

9
21
Danny Johnson
200
Running
$3,200

10
25
Bobby Varin
200
Running
$3,000

11
20
Jimmy Horton
200
Running
$2,800

12
4
Jeff Rockefeller
200
Running
$2,600

13
10
Tim McCreadie
200
Running
$2,400

14
22
Keith Flach
200
Running
$2,200

15
2
Brett Hearn
199
Running
$2,000

16
8
Rob Bellinger
199
Running
$1,900

17
12
Dave Rauscher
199
Running
$1,800

18
31
Kenny Tremont Jr.
198
Running
$1,700

19
33
Vic Coffey
198
Running
$1,700

20
1
Stewart Friesen
197
Fuel
$1,700

21
29
Dominic Buffalino
197
Fuel
$1,600

22
3
Jimmy Phelps
196
Fuel
$1,600

23
14
Tim Fuller
196
Fuel
$1,600

24
9
Matt Billings
196
Fuel
$1,600

25
15
Billy VanInwegen
195
Fuel
$1,600

26
18
Justin Haers
194
Fuel
$1,600

27
34
Dale Planck
194
Mechanical
$1,600

28
38
Billy Decker
191
Fuel
$1,600

29
41
Peter Britten
191
Accident
$1,600

30
28
Donnie Corellis
191
Accident
$1,500

31
27
Ronnie Johnson
191
Accident
$1,500

32
19
Andy Bachetti
191
Accident
$1,500

33
45
Vince Vitale
177
Brakes
$1,500

34
32
Chad Brachmann
147
Suspension
$1,500

35
37
Eddie Marshall
134
Mechanical
$1,500

36
43
Tim Currier
122
Mechanical
$1,500

37
36
Pat Ward
115
Engine
$1,500

38
26
Alan Johnson
88
Mechanical
$1,500

39
42
Rich Scagliotta
78
Engine
$1,500

40
39
JaMike Sowle
45
Mechanical
$1,500

41
5
Matt Sheppard
42
Mechanical
$1,500

42
44
Eldon Payne
40
Rearend
$1,500

43
17
Tom Sears Jr.
21
Mechanical
$1,500

44
24
Gary Tomkins
19
Mechanical
$1,500

45
40
David Hebert
0
Mechanical
$1,500

Margin of Victory: 8.875 seconds

Time of Race: 2 hours, 42 mins., 58.960 secs

Lap Leaders: Friesen (1-84); Coffey (85-109); Tremont (110-135); McCreadie (136-191);
Friesen (192-197); Dunn (198-200)
Caution flags: 9 for 27 laps; 1 red flag (lap 191)

Provisional starters: Britten, Scagliotta, Currier, Payne, Vitale

Rookie of the Race: Carey Terrance ($100 gift card – JE Pistons)

Pole Award: Stewart Friesen ($1,000 – Pole Position Raceway)

Outside Pole Award: Brett Hearn ($1,000 – Page Trucking)

Teo-Pro Halfway Award: Vic Coffey (Chassis & Body)

Sharon’s Toy Hard Luck Award: David Hebert($1,000)

Sharon’s Toy Hard Charger: Kenny Tremont ($500)

Sharon’s Toy Fifth Place: Duane Howard ($500)

Sharon’s Toy 10th Place: Bobby Varin ($500)

Sharon’s Toy Lap 51 Leader: Stewart Friesen ($510)

Sharon’s Toy 3rd Place at Halfway: Tim McCreadie ($500)

Finall Running Sharon’s Toy Compound Driver: Brett Hearn ($500)

Highest Finishing NYSCCA Member: Larry Wight ($100)

Best Appearing Car & Crew: Tim Hindley (Gater Racing News Prize Package)

The Super DIRTcar Series and DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast Region is brought to fans by several sponsors and partners including Hoosier Racing Tire, VP Racing Fuels, Chevy Performance Parts, NAPA Auto Parts, and Safety-Kleen. Contingency sponsors are ASI, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix, ButlerBuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, MSD Performance, Penske Shocks, Racing Electronics, Superflow and Wrisco Industries. Super DIRT Week sponsors include: Beyea Headers, Draco Springs, Fast Shafts, Fluidampr, FK Rod Ends, Fox Shocks, Pro Fabrication and Turbostart. Lighting for Super DIRT Week is brought to you by Musco Lighting.