By JARRAD WAKEFIELD
It’s a very special feeling when attending a newly opened racetrack for the first time. It’s a rare occurrence for most of us in the Northeast, even more rare when it is on the site of a former racetrack. The Short Track Super Series made the trip to the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds on Wednesday night to mark the first Modified event in the facility’s history, on the old and new track alike. There is quite a bit to note as we head into the busiest stretch of modified racing.
An ongoing shortage of tires has threatened multiple racetracks across the Northeast, although to this point it has been a mild shortage. After all, we have still been racing despite press releases from American Racer and Hoosier warning of the potential fact that racing may have to be stopped in order to let their manufacturing plants catch up.
In the driver’s meeting, Brett Deyo was frank about the situation at hand. His message to the drivers in the meeting was short and to the point.
“We are just about out of tires,” said Deyo to the drivers.
Tires were available at Bloomsburg, but the tires were shipped back north after being brought down south for last year’s Cajun Swings for the series. The situation seems dire at this point, but Deyo reassured the drivers that they plan on racing as much as they can, with the fact that new 50’s and 48’s, which are hard rear-tire compounds produced by American Racer, are arriving over the next two weeks. It will be interesting to see how the shortage affects the Modified season in our area, especially considering that Hoosier tire has not experienced as severe a shortage as American Racers at the time of this writing.
The car count for the debut of Modifieds at Bloomsburg was impressive. Exactly one-hundred cars filled the pit area, with 45 Modifieds and 55 Sportsman. Parking spaces were quickly running out as haulers came in one by one, but the track and series crews managed to park everyone with plenty of room to spare. The pits featured paved pit lanes, and massive concrete pads lined the first row of the pits for the larger haulers.
The facility itself feels like a blast from the past with a modern accent. Fair-style concession trailers lined a small midway towards the turn four end of the stands. The massive, covered grandstand housed an impressive crowd that was able to make a lot of noise due to the echo off of the roof of the stands. I caught up with Matt Sheppard after the rains came about his thoughts on the facility.
“It’s a neat facility. The track is nice, the covered grandstands are cool, and the pits are great. It’s obvious that a lot went into building this track and facility. It’s still new, there’s some things to tweak and work out, but it’s just a cool place overall.”
Sheppard will look to take the experience from his fourth place run into the Super DIRTcar Series event at Bloomsburg scheduled for September 1st.
“We learned quite a lot tonight. The configuration of the track is unique compared to most other tracks we run at. The surface was more abrasive than we expected it to be in the feature. We didn’t have as much tire left as we expected to have about thirty-laps into the race. It’s good information for when we come back.”
The 45 car Modified count was filled with almost all of the stars and cars of the Pennsylvania Modified scene. However, two of their biggest names failed to make it into the feature event. Craig Von Dohren and Duane Howard were the most notable of the Pennsylvania Modified Posse to fail to qualify. Howard looked set to transfer from the second consolation race, but a few incidents early in the race collected Howard, who often found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time in an unfortunate stroke of bad luck. The consolation races also featured surprise appearances by Stewart Friesen and Mike Gular, but both seemed to find speed as they drove comfortably away to score the wins for the consolations.
The corner configuration of the Bloomsburg Speedway was tricky for many drivers to negotiate, but the New Egypt Speedway regulars seemed to take to the quirky layout quite well. Heat race number three was dominated by Billy Osmun, Ryan Krachun, and Billy Pauch Jr., composing a top three made of regulars of the track that is famous for its own unique layout. The success seemed to transfer to the feature as well. Krachun took home fifth place after starting ninth, Osmun took ninth from tenth, and Pauch Jr. took seventh from thirteenth. If the rain had stayed away, Krachun could have contended for a podium; he was hot on Sheppard’s heels as the yellow flag flew for rain, and the pair were both running down Mike Mahaney, who finished third.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Bloomsburg. There are still a few growing pains with logistics, but that is to be expected for such a brand-new racetrack. In the near future, Modifieds return to Bloomsburg with the Super DIRTcar Series going one-hundred laps at the facility on September 1st, accompanied by wingless Sportsman open wheel cars.
The Short Track Super Series visits Utica-Rome Speedway next Thursday for the Richie Evans 61.