By MIKE MALLETT
Tonight begins a two day battle for the Super DIRTcar Series big-block Modifieds as they invade the Eldora Speedway for the fifth time in the history of the series. It will mark the final invasion, at least in the near future as part of the Aspen Dental Dirt Derby, for the Northeast stars. The UMP Modifieds are slated to be the under card in 2018 at The World’s Greatest Dirt Track.
Only four drivers have visited Victory Lane at the Eldora Speedway in Modified competition. Those winners include Brett Hearn, Danny Johnson, Matt Sheppard and Tim Fuller. Fuller’s been able to do it twice. Hearn, Sheppard and Fuller are expected to be in action on Tuesday and Wednesday with Johnson the lone question mark as he hasn’t seen regular action on the Super DIRTcar Series trail this season.
2002 – Brett Hearn
2003 – Danny Johnson
2006 – Tim Fuller
2016 – Tim Fuller, Matt Sheppard (invitational)
Others to Watch:
Some other drivers you may want to keep your eye on if they make to tow to the Buckeye State again in 2017. Bobby Varin was impressive in last year’s event battling for the lead before blowing a tire. Jimmy Horton had a pair of top five finishes. He finished third in the 100-lap event and fifth in the invitational. Larry Wight battled with Fuller for the win before having issues of his own. He finished third in the invitational. Stewart Friesen has won two of the last three SDS events and has this one on the calendar. The focus is obviously with the truck series but he will be a factor in the Modifieds. Billy Decker was fifth last season in the main-event, you can never count out the veteran driver. Frank Cozze had a pair of top ten finishes last year with an eighth and a sixth respectively. Lastly, don’t count out Pat Ward. He’s been pretty consistent as of late and maybe Eldora is where he breaks into the series win column.
Based on early indications the field will be stout and car counts should hover around 40. Last season 58 cars made the trek. I don’t foresee the count getting to that number this year. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see counts a bit higher as Eldora is a historic facility that many drivers want to turn laps at, but I’m sticking with the 40 number. The most interesting factor could be the amount of locals that show up including the likes of Rex King Jr., Jeremiah Shingledecker and others. There is a strong contingent of cars in the western part of Pennsylvania and the eastern portion of Ohio. A strong showing by this group could push the number higher.
The Picks (for entertainment purposes only):
Making predictions is always difficult and going by my prior history in doing this, I’ll more than likely be completely out to lunch and to be honest, my picks aren’t really going out on too much of a limb so I may be okay.
My odds on favorite has to be Sheppard to win Tuesday night’s main-event. Yes, I know shocking. He’s missed the last two series races, but while he was out he racked up several wins including Sunday night at Utica-Rome. He’ll be on a mission to get back to Victory Lane with the series as he’s got a 169 point deficit to make up.
As far as the invitational is concerned, I’ll take Larry Wight in this one. Wight was strong in last year’s race and I expect more of the same this year. Like guys named Sheppard and Friesen, he’s had a fantastic season. He was my second choice for the win behind Sheppard on Tuesday night so I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up reversed with them battling against one another for the win. The racing gods have a funny way of having things work out that way at times.
And just for kicks, I’ll take Bobby Pierce in the truck race. I think he’s due. I’m not going to lie though, I wouldn’t mind if Christopher Bell got it done either after his impressive performance in the Sprint Car on Saturday night.
75 lap feature – $6,000 to win
20 lap feature – $2,000 to win – Top 15 in tour points are locked in plus the next five highest finishers from Tuesday’s main-event that are not in the points. Heat races with an inversion draw based on finishes to set line-up for feature.
6:00 PM – Big-Block Qualifying
8:15 PM – Big-Block Heat Races
10:15 PM – Big-Block Feature
4:45 PM – Big-Block Practice
6:30 PM – Big-Block Heat Races
8:25 PM – Big-Block Feature
Stay tuned to DirtTrackDigest.com as we’ll be on the scene both Tuesday and Wednesday as the Camping World Truck Series runs along with the Modifieds. Be sure to check back often as photos will be posted throughout the day. We’ll also be providing exclusive content with coverage continuing on Thursday night at the Sharon Speedway.