By BILL FOLEY
Forty-one Super DIRTcar Series Modifieds put hundreds of miles on their haulers as they rolled through the Volusia County Raceway gates to kick off their first of four nights at the DIRTcar Nationals.
In Florida, track conditions are always the story and the drivers were greeted with a heavy, high speed track. Reading the track can sometimes be a major story of the night. On this night the format was changed as the Late Models did three 20-lap feature events after time trials.
Demetrios Drellos noted, “I don’t know if the weird format and the small features didn’t slick up the track as much as I thought it would.”
Stewart Friesen commented the water truck driver might have been a little over enthusiastic and Drellos agreed saying, “Especially when you have the race cars running it in, the grip stays in longer because it is so much smoother. I’d like to see it a little slicker.”
And that’s the way it is.
Max McLaughlin said, “I have a little gator farm back home” with the hardware he’s taken back from Volusia. He won his third race, after taking the “big gator” home with him two years ago. He had a late race problem as he noted, “I ran out of tearoffs and I couldn’t see where I was going.”
Second place Matt Sheppard really salvaged a night. He brought the first motor he ever bought from C.C. and after his heat they discovered an oil leak. Matt was climbing atop the motor as he searched for the source of the leak. They never really found it, but Matt said the “band aid” worked for the night and they’ll spend Thursday doing further research.
Friesen was third and it was a smooth run, but once he got to third he sort of simply locked down and stayed there. He didn’t have enough to get to the first two and was comfortably ahead of fourth and fifth. He’ll miss time trials tonight as he will be at the “big track” with his truck, but he’ll start in the back of his heat when he arrives.
Erick Rudolph and Max lined up on the front row and on the initial start he was by far the fastest, but on the first lap Michael Parent spun in two and coming in broadside was Louden Reimert. Reimert’s car showed the underbelly as it appeared he was ready to go over, but the car slammed down. The Big Diamond-New Egypt racer saw his car cradled off the track by two tow trucks.
Rudolph noted he spun his tires on the ensuing green and lost a few spots, but eventually settled for fourth.
Drellos hammered the inside wall in four bending a front axle, but was still able to get past fast timer Mat Williamson for fifth. Money Mat settled for sixth.
Jack Lehner, Danny Johnson, Marc Johnson and Larry Wight rounded out the top ten.
Not a lot of movement as Max started second, Matt seventh, Friesen sixth, Rudolph first and Drellos fifth.
The new draw system was in place as only the first and second place drivers from the heats drew. An announcement was made that this system would be used for this week. DIRTcar is testing it to see how it works.
Volusia rookie Alex Payne saw his run go up in smoke as a piston cracked, inflicting terminal damage to the power plant. He has a second car ready for night two.
Kyle Coffey pulled off in the main event due to overheating. He’s uncertain what the issue is and will seek better results on Thursday.
The only other driver pulling off was Ronnie Davis III.
Yan Bussiere had a tough night spinning out a trio of times. The first time, in heat action, he went around on the high side between one and two. Adam Pierson had nowhere to go, clipped Yan and went over. It was a hard ride and eventually the car was up righted. There was some concern that the car was allowed to remain upside down for several minutes.
Pierson had a ‘23 Bicknell under him and the brand spanking new car was in its very first race. The team only brought one car and a crew member noted that they would have it back together by Thursday night. It was a skeleton of a car as they went to work on it.
Steve Bernard had his motor skipping as the first heat wound down.
Heat winners were Friesen, Phelps, Williamson, and Rudolph
Consi action saw Britten and Coffey get the wins.
In the first one, Bussiere went around and got tagged by Will Thomas who had a rear quarter panel torn off. Thomas is a driver from Western Pennsylvania who appears to have run pro stocks and econo mods along with late models. He’s definitely a surprise.
Russell Morseman dropped out and noted, “lost a ring and pinion.” Asked about continuing the week the dejected driver said, “I have parts, but that is the only thing extra that I didn’t bring. I might look around tomorrow to see if I can find something.”
In the second consi all hell broke loose in turn two as cars went every which way. When the dust had settled Rich Scagliotta had been hit head on by Dany Gagne. There will be lots of work for both teams if they are to continue. The axle in Gagne’s car was like a compass pointer.
Tim McCreadie won one of the Late Model 20 lappers and was very classy remembering the help that the late Carl Meyer had given him.
Ryan Arbuthnot also made his debut at Volusia and earned a starting spot in his first attempt.
Surprisingly Canadian cars were here in what I think may be record numbers as Francois Bellemare, Steve Bernard, Yan Bussiere, Dany Gagne, Corbin Millar, Michael Parent, Jessica Power, Felix Roy, Dexter Stacy and Mat Williamson along with possible dual-citizenship of Stewart Friesen.
Perfect weather for Florida…no fog and no rain.
After the race the DTD team stops at an Applebee’s (not a sponsor) and a large amount of appetizers are consumed before heading back to write stories and post photos.
It may seem strange to some folks, but Applebee’s was different. The late BIll Shea was always with us smiling, laughing and shaking his head at some behavior at the table, but he was (and will always be) one of us. He loved his hot pretzels with dip. That was a must order for him.
Well, last night when the waitress put down the pretzels I flash backed immediately, had a moment and was a bit sad.
We miss you Bill! (and Kim)