By MIKE MALLETT
By his own admission Norm Dunn is an emotional guy and that was evident Sunday afternoon as he sat in the press room watching his son Billy garner all the attention from the media after he captured his first ever win in the Syracuse 200 at New York State Fairgrounds as part of Super DIRT Week XLII. Norm sat holding his composure the best he could as his son dealt with all the post race hype earned by a hard fought victory on the Mile.
The pair learned a valuable lesson on Saturday afternoon after they went from a possible $20,000 payday to running out of fuel on the final lap of the Salute the Troops 150 for the 358-Modifieds. Something they made sure didn’t happen again on Sunday in the 200. They brought their Finger Lakes Machine Bicknell car down pit road with just over 30 laps remaining and drove by everyone else as they ran out of fuel to earn the victory and all the accolades that come with being a Syracuse champion.
“This is all we talk about for 364 days after we’ve been here,” said Norm. “It’s all we talk about as far as trying to get it right. We try to get the right people together, get the right motor package. You know I’ve done some things along the way I thought were a little crazy but today makes it all worth it and it feels good. I knew he wasn’t going to run out of gas and that was a relief, yesterday was a real heartbreaker.”
The younger Dunn felt the same way after the letdown of Saturday. He couldn’t sleep Saturday night prior to Sunday’s race thinking about what had happened.
“It makes yesterday easy to get over,” stated Billy. “Yesterday was a real heartbreaker. You couldn’t ask for a better car, it was a dream to drive. To lose that race really hurts. We had a fairly dominant car late in the race, but this takes the sting away a little bit. I’ll give up Saturday every year to win out on Sunday like this.”
Making the win special is that they are a family run team. Dad and son work together in various businesses, including Number One Speed, then head to the track together when possible. They aren’t a high dollar team funded by millionaires, but middle of the road folks trying to make it in the racing world.
“I look at us as a semi-professional race team,” said Norm. “We don’t run any other shows, we run all DIRT(car) shows. We can’t waste money buying other tires to go and do that. I’d love to if we could we would. We got two businesses that he, I and his uncle Tim run. That’s what it all shakes out to be.”
Having dad there watching him drive to the victory was important for Billy considering all the hard work that went into their effort to get them to that point.
“It means everything having him here,” stated Billy about having his father there to celebrate the win with him. “We lost mom seven years ago now. We’ve been coming here for a while now and have been really close. He (Norm) won crewing for Barefoot (Bob McCreadie) in ‘86 and to win it now it just means a lot on a lot of different levels for us.”
That hasn’t been the case all season as Norm has allowed Billy to go and do his own things some nights as he stays home and runs the family business with Billy at the track. Something that was difficult to do for the family team.
“I work that parts truck and I left him alone because he knew what he wanted to do and I just tried to give him the people that he wanted to do it with,” state Norm. “It was hard to do that, but we surrounded him with the right people. I got Jason Potter to come; I got Bobby Slack from Bicknell’s. You need good people around you and I’ve got guys that want to come, want to help and that all want to be part of something good. I’m tickled to death right now with our team.”
The main issue for Billy and the team all week long was they couldn’t get the fuel mileage out of the Big-Block necessary to go an extended period like Stewart Friesen or Brett Hearn. Those drivers every year seem to find what it takes to go over 100 laps on fuel. Billy knew that wasn’t the case, hence why the team decided to pit late and gamble on getting back up through with a softer tire on the right rear. Plus it assured them that there weren’t going to repeat the problems of Saturday afternoon.
“We were going to run out of gas,” stated Billy. “I knew that and we were sitting 14thor 15th. I ran behind (Tim) Fuller the whole race just keeping a pace. No one seemed too racey. We knew we had to get gas so we might as well pit. We tried the different tire (D400) this year to see for another year so we’ll know if it worked or not. It worked good this year.”
After the pit stop Billy steadily raced his way up through the field. All the while Norm kept his eyes on the progress. Patiently waiting to see what the ultimate outcome of the race was going to be. He was confident when he started seeing Billy run the top in turns one and two that things may be turning in their favor.
“I can’t say enough about DIRT putting that race track together,” said Norm. “That was undoubtedly the best race track I’ve seen here and that is what we need. We need to have another element. It can’t be fuel mileage and everyone runs out at the end. We got to have something like this.”
It was Billy’s first ever Super DIRTcar eries victory. He’s been close numerous times this season, but something always seemed to happen that cost him a shot at the win or someone ends up being a little better at the end of the race. That transpired on a couple of occasions at both Albany-Saratoga Speedway and Mohawk International Raceway this year. Now though that is all forgotten as he got the monkey off his back officially.
“I hope that this is a sign of good things to come,” said Billy. “Even if it’s not, my name will go down as a winner of the Syracuse 200 and no one can take that away from me.”
His father hopes Bob McCreadie is right in his beliefs.
“Now you worry about is that the only one you are going to win,” said Norm. “It’s like the Talladega curse, but we won at Syracuse. When we win at a short track I’ll feel better. My friend Bob McCreadie told me once he wins one, he is going to win a bunch, so I’m going to take that guy at his word.”
Billy will now go back to work preparing for next weekend’s effort at the Brockville Ontario Speedway as the Super DIRTcar series continues on with just two more races to go including the BOS event and Eastern States Weekend at the Orange County Fair Speedway.
His first order of business before that though was to “get some good sleep. I didn’t sleep at all last night so I’m sure I will tonight.”
And at the end of the day, his father said it best and these words can’t be more true, “It is true that good things happen to good people.”
That was definitely the case on Sunday afternoon.