By: Alex Nieten
BURLINGTON, WA – From the beginning of the week, it was clear Tyler Courtney was going to be a threat to win the 50th Annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup in his debut in the event.
Making his first laps at Skagit Speedway on Monday, “Sunshine” won the Dirt Cup Tune Up. On his two prelims, Courtney passed a combined 25 cars in the main events to slot himself atop the standings heading into the finale by a wide 19 point margin. And then on Saturday night, he punctuated the week by claiming the 50-lap, $50,000 to win Feature aboard the Works Limited No. 57. Including lap money, Courtney pocketed $76,000, the richest payday in NARC history.
While it was technically Courtney’s second career NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Car win, it was his first with a wing on the car after he scored the wingless portion of the Anthony Simone Classic last year.
The night also marked crew chief, Paul Silva’s, first career Dirt Cup championship. Kevin Kozlowski’s No. 57 machine has now won three of the last five NARC races this season.
“I’m excited. That was badass,” Courtney said in victory lane. “What can I say? This is my first time to Skagit and got two wins out of four races… This is cool. Hopefully this event gets back to where it needs to be with Kevin (Rudeen) and Peter (Murphy) and everybody here at Skagit making it bigger and better.”
The green flag dropped with Courtney on the pole with the defending Dirt Cup champion, Dominic Scelzi, to his outside. Scelzi got the initial jump to lead the opening circuit.
About 10 laps into the main event Courtney found his first chance at the lead when Scelzi slid himself in turn one amid traffic. Courtney had a run on the top and looked to Scelzi’s outside, and the two nearly collided as Scelzi slid to the cushion before powering ahead off the corner.
A caution on lap 13 nearly brought disaster to Scelzi. Tyler Thompson slowed in turn four with an issue. The yellow flew, but Thompson’s issue forced his car to the left, almost into the path of the No. 41, but Scelzi managed to avoid him.
“Man, Dominic set a really fast pace there at the beginning,” Courtney said of the race’s early stages. “That’s what I wanted to do, but he just got the jump out of (turn) two there, and I got to following him there for a bit. I felt like we were better as the race went on.”
A few more cautions following the restart slowed the early pace of the race, but after a restart with 32 laps to go, the racing got wild.
Courtney looked low as the green initially flew but couldn’t make it work. It didn’t take long for him to rally, though, as the reigning All-Star champion closed back in on Scelzi in just a few laps. Finally, on lap 25, Courtney found the run and opening he needed, throwing a slider on Scelzi in turn one and leaving Scelzi no chance to crossover.
“We got him there in traffic, and then we got to kind of set our own pace,” Courtney said.
After completing the pass, Courtney wasted no time in speeding away at first. However, traffic soon impeded Courtney and allowed Scelzi to reel him back in. With just 15 laps to go, Scelzi tried a turn three slider but couldn’t get by, and the two nearly touched as they drove through turn four. Just as that happened, the yellow came out as Zeb Wise slowed. This caution period would become the open red for fuel and tires.
After the restart another small flurry of yellows slowed the race until the laps remaining count dwindled to just nine to go.
The restart with nine laps remaining saw Kerry Madsen and Scelzi begin to duke it out for second as Courtney capitalized by driving away. Madsen eventually came out ahead of Scelzi, but by that point Courtney was well ahead.
Courtney faced some traffic with just a few laps remaining, but none of it was enough to matter as Sunshine cruised to a three second win over Madsen and Scelzi.
“I want to thank Kevin Kozlowski for letting me come out and drive the car,” Courtney said. “And thanks to Paul, Hayden, Doug, and Tommy, everyone that worked on this thing all weekend made my life easy.”
Coming home second was Roth Motorsports driver, Kerry Madsen. The Mad Man owns a World of Outlaws victory at Skagit but was, like Courtney, making his Dirt Cup debut.
“I just wanted to drive my ass off and try to win $50,000 but came up one spot short in second,” Madsen said. “I probably needed another restart to throw a Hail Mary, but who knows? I really just want to thank Roth Motorsports for working so hard lately.”
Completing the podium after leading the first 24 laps was Dominic Scelzi in the Red Rose Transportation/Whipple Superchargers No. 41. “The Dominator’s” efforts earned him a payday of $42,000.
“He (Courtney) could get off of (turn) four really good. He could get off on turn (turn) two really good,” Scelzi said. “They were just a little bit better in the drivers seat and the race car, but it’s by far my biggest payday for a one night race, so that’s pretty cool.”
FUJITSU GENERAL USA FEATURE EVENT (50-laps): 1. Tyler Courtney 57 2. Kerry Madsen 83 3. Dominic Scelzi 41 4. Shane Golobic 57 5. Jason Solwold 18 6. Corey Day 14 7. Trey Starks 55 8. Tim Kaeding 42X 9. Willie Croft 29 10. Justin Sanders 2X 11. Tanner Holmes 18T 12. Joel Myers Jr. 46JR 13. Tanner Carrick 83T 14. Jonathan Allard 0 15. Jesse Schlotfeldt 21 16. Greg Hamilton 96 17. Zeb Wise 26R 18. Bud Kaeding 69 19. Cory Eliason 26C 20. Blake Carrick 38B 21. DJ Netto 88N 22. Logan Forler 2L 23. Mitchell Faccinto 21T 24. Max Mittry 2XM 25. Tony Gomes 8R 26. Tyler Thompson 7.
METTEC TITANIUM LAP LEADERS: Scelzi 1-24, Courtney 25-50
SWIFT METAL FINISHING HARDCHARGER: Joel Myers Jr. – 21st to 12th
STARR PROPERTY MANAGEMENT B-MAIN (20-laps): Mittry, T. Carrick, Myers, Hamilton, Allard, Forler, Kaeding, Nick Parker, Tony Gomes, Billy Aton, Luke Didiuk, Chase Goetz, Colton Heath, Justin Youngquist, Brett McGhie, Corbin Fauver, Ashleigh Johnson, T.J. Richman, Travis Jacobsen, Garen Linder, Andy Caruana, Dana Glenn.