By Mike Mallett
It feels like with the simple snapping of fingers, it’s all over. Super DIRT Week has now come and gone. It hard to believe just one week ago we started this journey toward naming the 2019 Super DIRT Week champion on the Oswego Speedway and then, in a moment, it’s gone.
Just like years gone by, Super DIRT Week XLVIII had many twists and turns. First-time winners, surprises and all-around intrigue were a part of the biggest week in Northeast Modified racing. Now, after I’ve had a couple days to reflect and to actually sleep, here’s a look back at some of my thoughts and the conversations that were had during the week.
A record number of cars attempted to qualify for the events of Super DIRT Week. Over 300 cars were jam packed into the pit area at Oswego Speedway. That is a great problem to have. Officials did a masterful job of finding parking space for every driver that decided to take a shot at Super DIRT Week glory. Kudos to them for finding everyone a place to pit.
On the flip side of that was the disappointing car count situation at the satellite events. In years past 50 or 60 small-blocks was the norm at every satellite event. This year, that just wasn’t the case. Utica-Rome had a solid field nearing the 40 car threshold while Weedsport and Brewerton saw underwhelming car counts in the mid to high 20s. Hopefully this is not a new trend, but a one-year anomaly.
For the tracks, the events were still somewhat profitable, especially for the Brewerton Speedway who saw a standing room only crowd for Thursday night’s Hurricane 100.
While on the topic of satellite shows, is it time for satellite shows to go by the wayside and racing to focus on only being at Oswego? Satellite shows gave drivers that weren’t able to compete on the Syracuse Mile a chance to be a part of Super DIRT Week. Things have changed. Oswego allows everyone, including the weekly racer, to be competitive with a chance of making the show.
You go to the Knoxville Nationals, the World Finals or any other major event and racing happens in the late afternoon and evening. Would Super DIRT Week be improved by running each event at night starting on Wednesday and concluding on Saturday night? The racing on Saturday night in the Salute the Troops 150 was phenomenal as we saw plenty of lead changes and good racing. Mother Nature had a hand in that, but is this something to look at moving forward should the car counts at satellite shows continue to decline.
FIXING THE CAUTION PROBLEM
One of the most disappointing aspects of the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 was the amount of caution laps run during the race. Although it was limited to just four laps per period, the number of cautions is down right pathetic. There were 22 cautions for roughly 80 laps during the feature. Brett Hearn indicated that his team counted 279 total laps around Oswego during the feature. If that is an accurate count, that means 159 laps total were run under caution while 120 were green flag laps.
I’m not going to go on a rampage as some have saying the race needs to be moved and calling for the world to end. I just think this is something to look at and talk about. It’s supposed to be a 200-lap event. How can we get it there? I have two options. One is to only count green flag laps, since drivers pit anyway or it’s time to severely penalize those drivers that bring out intentional yellows when they stop on the track. The race was filled with drivers coming to a stop then suddenly driving away once the caution came out. It’s our most important race of the season and having it filled with cautions just doesn’t do it justice. I understand how important this event is to the drivers and how much they all want to win it, but they also need to remember that the thousands of fans that were in the stands are there for entertainment. If it’s not entertaining, they are going to stop showing up. Unlike Syracuse, the racing does matter at Oswego because we all know how good it can be. It’s been outstanding in the past and I want to see more of the same in the future.
FIRST TIME WINNERS ARE FUN
How much fun is it to have first time winners? Three of the four main-events were won by drivers that have never won at Super DIRT Week. Billy Decker was the only driver with past wins, but those all came at the Mile so technically, he was also a first-time winner in a way.
The Sportsman race was a dogfight between Kyle Inman, Matt Janczuk and Kevin Root. To use a word from good friend Bill Foley, it was sensational. To be fair, I’m probably a bit partial as Inman and Janczuk both compete weekly at the Utica-Rome Speedway where I work. It’s always a bonus when your home track drivers represent the way ours did on Sunday afternoon. Josh Coonradt, another Utica-Rome regular, scored the win in the DIRTcar Pro Stock event. He survived an onslaught of cautions and various competitors for his first win at Oswego.
Mat Williamson winning the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 came as no surprise. When a driver has a season like his, it’s almost a foregone conclusion. He’s on a magical run. Since winning at Middletown in August, Williamson has been in the mix for the win in nearly every race he’s run. He’s officially arrived. I think you could say that sooner than this year, but he’s put the exclamation point on it this year. Now the question is, can he win the Eastern States 200 in a few weeks to really it a dream season?
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a chance to thank all of the great staff that worked so tirelessly during Super DIRT Week. We have a large number of people that help bring Super DIRT Week to those that can’t make it. I have plenty of people come up to me and thank me for what I do for the sport. I appreciate that, but Dirt Track Digest isn’t about me, it’s about the great team of people we have. Our writers, photographers and videographers were spot on all week long. I was just lucky enough to be a part of the team while reading the stories and looking through the photo galleries with everyone else.
I also want to thank everyone at World Racing Group for their help during the week. Their assistance with our coverage is essential and it is a big help having them on board with what we want to do. The pre-race shows and post-race press conferences should only get better moving forward as we work to improve next year. We have some big ideas and hopefully we’ll be able to pull them off next year.
Don’t forget you can see our shows on our Facebook as well as on our YouTube channel.
One last thank you goes to the dedicated race fans that check out Dirt Track Digest every day. As a result of your great support we had our biggest numbers for a Saturday and Sunday of Super DIRT Week since it moved to Oswego Speedway. That is awesome! We strive to get bigger and better each year and this year you helped us hit a home run. For that I thank you.
And now that’s a wrap. The 2019 edition of Super DIRT Week was a memorable one. Now it’s time to start planning for 2020.