By MIKE MALLETT
The jury is still out on whether or not the change to small-block powerplants is going to revive the Modified scene in Central New York. To this point, Mother Nature has ensured that there hasn’t been enough racing to make any concrete conclusions. The early signs of the move are encouraging as Fulton Speedway has seen steady car counts hovering around the low 20’s and growing to go along with plenty of drama and late race heroics. Utica-Rome Speedway has only raced once, a series race, but the car count was strong and the race was a barn burner.
This past Sunday night at the Weedsport Speedway one of the best reasons for the switch was on display. Two up and comers had a chance to mix it up with some of the best. The lower cost engine option allowed them to jump up to the Modified ranks after some success in the Sportsman division.
Tyler Trump and Ronnie Davis III fully utilized their small-blocks on the slick Weedsport surface to propel them each to a top five finish. Trump settled for fourth while Davis finished in fifth.
For Trump, his season has had his fair share of ups and downs as he gets adjusted to the Modified ranks. He needed a good run.
“This is really good,” said Trump after his fourth place finish. “We weren’t doing so well this weekend so to come here and finish fourth is pretty good. It’s definitely a confidence booster. I was just hoping I could stay up there the whole race. I didn’t go back too far. The car felt good.”
Trump failed to qualify for the Icebreaker 50 at Weedsport, but on the slicker surface presented after the All Star Circuit of Champions feature he was able to make his mark.
“We normally don’t do really well here,” stated Trump. “The last time we came here, the first race, we didn’t make the show because the track was so heavy. The Sprints slicked it off good. We ran good.”
Trump continues to learn what it takes to run up front consistently in the Modified ranks. Even though he’s had his struggles, he feels like the move was the right one for him to make.
“The hardest part for me is when you slide up and hit the brown when you are on the throttle,” commented Trump. “It wants to lift and pull up the track. The Sportsman never wanted to do that. That was hardest part getting the throttle down. Once I got that down it’s been good.”
He added, “It’s been a lot more fun than the Sportsman. There isn’t as many wrecks going on. In the Sportsman you were wrecking all the time. It is so much more fun racing against the good guys. They don’t hit you. The car goes in the trailer in one piece.”
Davis was one of the elite Sportsman drivers to make the jump. Like Trump, he wasn’t sure if he should show up on Sunday night or not but the team took a chance that the track would be slick. That gamble paid off with a top five.
“We were trying to decide if we should come here or not,” said Davis. “We came here a few weeks ago and the track was really heavy. We really didn’t have a chance. We figured with the dry weather we’d give it a shot. It’s only 15 minutes away from the house. We came here and had a really good night.”
Davis has already found Victory Lane once this season at Fulton Speedway. At Weedsport he was battling with the very same drivers he battles with on Saturday night’s at Fulton, other than eventual winner Matt Sheppard.
“The whole top five were home track guys except for Sheppard,” cited Davis. “It’s fun to come here and race at Weedsport. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I was trying to give Sheppard and those guys a run for their money, but we still got some learning to do.”
There is still plenty of racing ahead, but Trump and Davis are proving that the switch to small-blocks has already made an impact. Another generation of driver is now getting their opportunity to move toward the top of the Modified ranks. Trump and Davis are just two positive signs of even better things to come as we see more and more of the next generation of talent make the jump.