By Mike Mallett
Erick Rudolph hasn’t competed weekly at Ransomville Speedway in 2023. He’s only made six starts, including Tuesday night’s Ron Martin Memorial Summer Nationals for the Super DIRTcar Series. It didn’t matter. Rudolph was back on his old stomping grounds.
Rudolph has enough laps around the Ransomville Speedway; I’d speculate he could nearly do a full lap at full speedway blindfolded. Home track knowledge was key to winning on Tuesday night, as he utilized a different tire compound than most everyone else in the field, excluding a handful of other Ransomville regulars. It was the right call.
“We haven’t been racing here on a weekly basis, but we’ve been here a handful of times,” said Rudolph. “So we kind of knew what to expect and how the race might play out, which I’m sure played a factor. We definitely picked the right tires to put on. We were firing all cylinders tonight.”
Rudolph traditionally hasn’t had the best of luck in Ransomville’s lone Super DIRTcar Series visit each season. Tuesday was different. He was strong from the get-go in the 75-lap feature. He went off from the front row and fell back to third before mounting a charge to the front to find himself in victory lane at the end.
“We’ll run okay, but we’ve never really been a contender to win this race in years past,” said Rudolph about the event. “Then, for whatever reason, tonight we got a good draw—a good redraw—that let us start up front. Early on in the race, I wasn’t great, but we were able to just kind of maintain our spot. Eventually, we just started getting better and better.”
His charge included passing former race winner Matt Sheppard with 24 laps to go. Sheppard was starting to drift off the corners, and Rudolph was able to pounce, driving by him off the bottom of turns one and two before finalizing the pass in turns three and four. He was gone from there.
“Early on, there were a bunch of cautions that were getting me nervous, especially when we had that red flag,” said Rudolph. “I was really getting nervous if the car would respond properly after we went back green there. Later on in the race, we got some longer green flag runs. I could tell Matt’s car was starting to come unglued from the track a little bit, and ours was really starting to hunker into the track. I’m just so happy that things worked out for us tonight.”
The win was his second with the series in 2023 and his 10th career.
Pierson Translates Albany Success to Series: It’s been a tough stretch on the Super DIRTcar Series for Vermont native Adam Pierson. SummerFAST didn’t go as planned, as Pierson used a provisional to make the starting field at Brewerton before failing to qualify at Land of Legends Raceway. All the while, things have been clicking for him at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, where he just picked up his third win of the season on Friday night.
Pierson decided to roll with his Albany-Saratoga ride on Tuesday night at Ransomville, and it worked out with a solid fourth-place finish.
“This is what we really needed,” said Pierson. “We’ve been really struggling all year in the series. This is our Albany car, and obviously there’s a problem with the other car. This one goes pretty good. We weren’t as fast as Rudolph, or maybe Sheppard. Maybe we should have had a 400 on, but we milked the 300. Cautions kind of helped. We were running good. I was content where I was in third to just ride it out and kind of got used up a little bit in turn three with two to go by Williamson. It’s racing. I guess he was faster than me, and he just wanted to move me to do it.”
Pierson made sure to thank his sole crewmate Nate for tagging along, Gage Racing, as well as everyone at home, including his wife Shawna, with whom he recently celebrated his five-year wedding anniversary.
Timmer Time: Tim Sears Jr. finally had something to smile about as the Hastings, N.Y., driver was able to score a fifth-place finish after starting 13th. He came into the event in a dogfight in the points as he was only 14 points behind Jimmy Phelps for third and eight behind Mike Mahaney for fourth. He picked up a few on Tuesday.
“We’re all really close, so to beat them guys definitely is good for points, so we’re happy,” said Sears. “We’re gonna take this one back home. We made some good changes, and hopefully we can translate them over to our own tracks a little bit more. It was a good run for Troyer Dirt Cars. All the guys are here, so we’ll definitely take the top five.”
It wasn’t without incident, as Sears slapped the wall hard while trying to fight off Williamson in the late stages of the race in turns one and two. At that point, he made the change to the middle of the track.
“I just came in way too fast because the lap before I came in pretty good, but I kept the car a little straighter,” said Sears. “I kept the tires under me and used the brakes to slow myself down, and that time I got the car out a little too far. Once you break the tires loose, it’s just a four-wheel slide. I just got the tire spinning again and tried to hit it as gently as you could with the back.”
Qualifying: The start of the racing program and qualifying were delayed by 30 minutes as a result of border issues. Several teams reported that the wait time to cross from Canada into the United States was nearly two hours. Mat Williamson set the overall fastest time with a lap of 17.006. Jack Lehner, Williamson, and Pierson won the heat races. The track elected to start 27 cars rather than run a Last Chance Showdown.
Bad Luck for Brachmann: Chad Brachmann didn’t get the end result he wanted, but he was in the mix until contact broke the left rear wheel. Brachmann was running third at the time of the contact with another driver, which he described as nothing more than a racing deal. He ended up 25th, but was still upbeat after hanging with the series regulars.