By BILL FOLEY
The ‘Perfect Storm’ resulted in a track surface that absolutely no one wanted for the 200 lapper and when it was over it might have been the quickest departure of haulers in the history of the event.
Everyone just wanted to get it over and get out of the Oswego Speedway.
After the pomp and circumstance it was time to start the main-event and one concern was how bad the start would be. The big-block throw the dirt like none of the other classes. Well, the dirt filled the sky, reduced visibility to winter white out conditions and the yellow was out immediately. Jack Lehner headed for the pits with a spring off.
This haboob disappeared rather rapidly and the drivers simply had to face head shaking, holes, ruts and ridges for the rest of the day.
Before going much further let me say that drivers I talked to throughout the week were vey appreciative for the efforts of track prep guy Jeremie Corcoran. He was on the track hour after hour, day after day. If he had gotten on the track earlier and was able to create his magic everything might have been better, but the pile of clay sitting off the backstretch took two years of Mother Natures water, when spread it was wet, it needed to dry so instead it rained. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and there we had the first year conditions.
Funny how so many people seem to forget the other years were pretty damn good.
Oh well, so back to the race.
When the green came back out you knew that there were going to be start and park cas but you just didn’t know who. Watching former champ Billy Dunn, the all time most starts driver Jimmy Horton head to the pits was disappointing, but joining them were Kyle Coffey, Marc Johnson, Ryan Godown, Dave Rauscher, Billy VanInwegen, Erick Rudolph and Marcus Dinkins.
One thing that was going to dictate the rest of the day for many teams were shocks. This division isn’t meant to have pit crews who can change a shock in a pitstop, but many teams got really good at it.
Peter Britten had to be a sentimental favorite and from the pole he led, and led, and led.
Yellow came out on lap 15 for Josh Hohenforst who had a week from hell after flipping at Brewerton on Tuesday, repairing and fighting his way in. However, he came back and would finish all 200 laps of the race for a 17th place finish in his first DIRTcar race of the year.
Just 25 laps in Matt Sheppard and Billy Decker pitted. Later Matt said, “I knew we had to survive and I planned to pit as many times as I needed to get the car comfortable. I came in again, but never really got comfortable in it.”
The first of several yellows for Anthony Perrego came out on the 39th lap as smoke came off the right rear. In he went, but a quick shock repair brought him back out.
At 50 it was Britten, Jimmy Phelps, Larry Wight, Stewart Friesen, Michael Maresca, Carey Terrance, Max McLaughlin, Demetrios Drellos, Pat Ward, Rocky Warner and Tim Fuller leading the way.
Yellow hit again on 55 as Tim Sears Jr. rolled off two with a right rear shock gone. They fixed it and he too came back.
Pit stops were all over the place as there were only a few mass pittings. However, others decided to create their own unique strategy.
Yellow on 74 had Perrego break again, but back he came.
As expected the first 100 there was plenty of “riding around” as it just wasn’t time to make “THE” move yet.
Watching Terrance hit a hole in turn three on the 83rd lap attracted plenty of attention as his left rear was several feet in the air.
There was yellow for Chris Hile on 90 as he pitted with a left rear flat.
Perrego pitted with a right rear flat, but he kept coming back for the fight.
At 100 Britten was on cruise control while Phelps, Wight, Tyler Dippel (more on him later) and Friesen were top five followed by Mat Williamson, Billy Decker, Matt Sheppard, Mike Gular and Terrance.
The competition yellow came out on 100 and it was useless as no one pitted and seven laps were wasted. Oh well, it was an idea.
Heartbreak once again for Phelps on 113 as on a restart the left front tire decided it was the perfect time to go flat. He limped to the pits, but recovered only not as much as he had hoped.
Keith Flach brought the yellow out with a spin in turn four for the next slowdown.
On the restart it appeared Kenny Tremont and Chris Hile got together coming out of four sending the 115 broadside into the frontstretch wall exiting four and Hile out of action with 129 complete.
Stewart Friesen had something totally unexpected happen to him on the 135th lap restart. Running third he suddenly had the rear end want to be the front end and uncharacteristically spun between one and two. He went from third to 23rd. So he went pit side, the car got freshened up and the fans were ready for a show as you knew he was coming.
The next yellow was for a slowing Kevin Root on 144.
The “Misplay of the Day” came on 150.
Dippel must have decided it was “time to go” and he roared under Britten in four. We had heavy contact and Britten slammed into the Oswego boiler plate coming out of four. His hopes were dashed. He hadn’t pitted so it appeared he was going the distance. Dippel apparently didn’t take the chance. It probably proved to be the most unpopular move of the entire week.
Dippel was also damaged and headed to the pits along with Britten. Both came back and the one moved up while Britten simply could never regain the momentum he had going due to damage.
Suddenly out of the chaos the Buzz Chew NO. 88 with Williamson on board was in front.
Yellows down the stretch came out for Demetrios Drellos (155) and Maresca (165).
Dippel was flying and on the restart after Maresca he went from seventh to fifth passing Friesen and Terrance.
But Friesen rallied back as Tim Sears joined him battling with Dippel for fourth.
With 25 to go it was “Money Mat”, “The Franklin Flyer”, “Super Matt”, “Mr. Freeze” and “Timmer” filling the top five.
On 179 backstretch fans got an eye full of Terrance’s belly pan as he lifted off out of two.
He caught a hole and launched him up on his two rear wheels. The car headed for the outside wall with the driver going along for the ride. Milliseconds before it was about to hit it laid itself down and Terrance regained control.
Sears, who has had heartbreak, after heartbreak had recovered from an earlier problem and was headed for a possible sixth place finish, but on 194 he broke, pulled along the back stretch wall and knew it was over. He came back for the green-white-checker and went from 20th to 15th. Not the result the team wanted or deserved.
In the waning stages of the race Williamson had run away, but the second place Decker-Sheppard battle was fun to watch.
In the end Williamson had gone back-to-back.
Billy Decker in the last SDW ride with Gypsum came home second.
Matt Sheppard’s pit strategy paid off with third.
Stewart Friesen roared back after his difficulty for fourth.
Larry Wight, tenth at lap 180, finished fifth.
Coming down the frontstretch on the final lap off the final turn Terrance and Warner got past a slowing Dippel in what resulted in sixth, seventh and eighth.
Mike Gular was ninth and Phelps recovered for tenth.
Max McLaughlin, Tim Fuller, Mike Mahaney (using a guaranteed starting spot came from 28th to 13th), Kevin Root, Sears, Britten, Hohenforst, Pat Ward (in one of his last Gypsum rides), Tremont and Maresca completed the top 20.
Just about every driver overcame obstacles during the 200.
There were 19 cars in the lead lap at the end.
Well, the 50th Anniversary hopefully will be remembered for better reasons than what were provided this past weekend.
So time now for teams to prep for Port Royal and the big STSS show this weekend or Charlotte for the World Finals or just call it a year.