Big Block Modifieds

Big Block Modifieds

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Week in Dirt; Bloomquist Opens Can of Whoop Ass; The Doctor Operates on Brockville; Schatz's Shots; Carl Short Finds Money in Sock

It's getting colder, football dominates on TV, and Ebola has half the country or more paranoid.  But there's still dirt racing going on, and it's our job here at TDN to give you something to read in the john on your lunch break, to help you catch up on what you may have missed while you were out busting your ass at work. 

Maybe your wife kept you busy putting the yard to bed for the winter. Or perhaps an old girlfriend came in from out of town and you couldn't pass up the opportunity to revisit memory lane in some cheap, sleazy, bedbug ridden hotel, using up the last of your credit card balance for one more night in the sack.

Don't worry, we've got you covered! Here's what you missed this week in DIRT!

Bloomquist Administers Beat Down in DTWC:

Late model legend and self professed "voodoo child" Mr. Scott Bloomquist once again dominated a 100 lap "crown jewel" race in the 34th annual Dirt Track World Championship at Portsmouth Raceway Park (OH) Sunday afternoon, arriving in victory lane to a chorus of 60% boos, 30% cheers and the other 10% of the fan base that had to leave early because they weren't allowed to be out so late on a Sunday evening.

Bloomquist started towards the front, took the lead with 39 laps to go, and never looked back to secure yet another big money win. Which happens to be a good thing.  Just several weeks ago, Mr. Bloomquist had been lamenting the financial struggle of late model touring drivers in an attempt to organize a telethon with the hopes of raising awareness and money towards the plight of the down trodden drivers who criss cross the country, losing money left and right to entertain fans.

Seriously, this is as good a season ending run as we've seen in quite some time. The field he put behind him today and at Eldora and would have at Knoxville had it not been for a last lap mechanical failure has surpassed Billy Moyer's 2010 season in terms elite wins. We've yet to hear if crotch chops were thrown in victory lane, but if they were, they were justified. 

In other Lucas Oil Late Model news, Don O'Neal won yet another tour championship on Sunday.

top 10:
1. Scott Bloomquist
2. Eddie Carrier Jr
3. Jimmy Owens
4. Don O'Neal
5. Jason Feger
6. Billy Moyer
7. Dennis Erb Jr
8. Dale McDowell
9. Steve Francis
10. Tim McCreadie

The Doctor Operates on Brockville; 

Dr. Danny Johnson performed surgery this past Friday and Saturday. The geriatric wonder was found missing from his retirement home complex early in the morning on Friday and found in Brockville, Ontario later on that evening winning a 358 DIRTcar modified tour race.

Johnson then took a tall drink of Metamucil and vowed to stay for Saturday night's festivities "It's carving time" Johnson said to the gathered media on Saturday evening, and then he went to work, keeping the stars of the Super DIRTcar big block modified series behind him for 100 laps to close up the surgical wounds left form two days of operations.

Seriously, it's great to see Johnson so relevant this late in the season. He's having a blast it shows in the results. Congrats Dr. Johnson!

For the full race recap and results click here

Schatz's Shots:

Donny Schatz put a stout field of local Ohio drivers and a few outlaws behind him in grand fashon in Fremont, OH Saturday night coming from deep in the field which prompted us to come up with a new drinking game in his honor.

To play, simply obtain a bottle of your favorite liquor and a shot glass, and then take a shot for every pass Donny Schatz makes in a feature event. If you're not such a good drinker, you may elect to only take a shot when Schatz makes an actual pass, and not for any driver ahead of him that pulls off the speedway. But, if you're a real party animal, try it in a race which Schatz comes from a Bmain aka the "Sucks To Be You Race) or (Lord Jesus, please let me transfer race) and hammer down to a shot on every single position he climbs regardless of how.  This Saturday, you'd have had 14 "Schatz's Shots" and would probably have awaken to the sounds of jackhammers in you head, but that's half the fun.

*Please drink responsibly and DO NOT DRIVE....ANYWHERE after playing this game!

To see exactly who Schatz passed on his way to his 26th feature win of the season, simply click here

Briefs: Short finds $50K in sock; Late Model Hall of Famers Named

Promoter Carl Short found $50,000 in his sock Saturday night at the Dirt Track World Championships and has vowed to double the purse of the 2015 main event. This makes the DTWC the second $100,000 to win late model race in the country though still not quite as prestigious as the World 100 at Eldora.  The IRS has been called to investigate Short's sock for interrogation.

The National Dirt Model Hall of Fame in Florence, KY has officially named the following drivers to be inducted next August at the North/South 100. Congrats to all of them for such outstanding careers:

Davey Johnson
Skip Arp
Leon "slick" Sells
Jim Butler
Wayne Kindness
Al Friedon
Curt Hansen
Red Droste

And that's it for this week. Stay out of trouble and Stay DIRTY!

Northeast Modified Rankings Volume 6; We have a tie

And when the dust settled since the last volume of our Northeast Modified Rankings,
we saw a tie.....

As many of you know, we use certain criteria for our rankings including number of starts attempted, level of competition at said races, finishes in big money events, and so on.

Since the home tracks are finished, we've only got the specials to go by. Also, remember that our rankings are completely open for Big Blocks and 358's on either Hoosiers or American Racers, SDS, RoC, STSS, it does not matter where they run. Basically, if it's a northeast modified chassis with anything but a crate engine, it can be ranked, sail panels or not.

In our mix this month, a couple of standard SDS events, Super DIRT Week (358's and Big Blocks), A Short Track Super Series event, and the Freedom 76er and Fulton 200.

So our look back this month will be from September 20th, to October 18th.

And here's how they stack up:

1. Stewart Friesen/Matt Sheppard (Tie):

Okay, so we have a tie. We're not homers here at TDN, they both had incredible months, won big money races, and were running against the best of the best. They both stepped on their (insert body part here) once or twice too.  The easiest way to explain this one, is to compare them.

Friesen: The Syracuse 200 Champion took 3 checkered flags in our look back including a $25,000 win in the Freedom 76er at Grandview, the "Friends of Mike", RoC event at Bridgeport and the aforementioned "200" at the Moody Mile. 

Outside of that, Friesen had a couple of not so memorable Fulton 200 and SDS Fonda performances. Still, $50,000 at Syracuse gives him a winnings edge vs Sheppard.

The way in which Friesen won at Syracuse
astounding, overcoming numerous mechanical
problems, and his turn three pass of Sheppard
was something to behold. But was he as consistent?

Sheppard: And now in the blue corner, the case for Sheppard is as follows. He took victories in the Outlaw 200, good for $20,000, a 358 tour event at Weedsport during SDW, and scored the victory at the "King of the Can" at Penn Can for another $5K+ at the pay window.

So his winnings weren't quite what Stew's were but here's where the factor for the tie comes in. Sheppard finished runner up to Friesen at the Cuse, and also at RoC/Bridgeport. Between the two, Sheppard's average finish in these high profile races was superior.

So there you have it. Had Sheppard been able to top Friesen just one more time, or if Friesen had taken care of business at Fonda, a place he normally dominates at, they'd be decisive #1's. As it is, we have a tie. Going down the final stretch, Friesen has the upper hand as he's a favorite at Orange County and has a World Finals win on his resume. Sheppard needs a win in one of the final three SDS races, or, if our second ranked driver sweeps all three.......

2. Brett Hearn:

The jet seemed primed to vault to the top this month, but experienced a shock problem in the 200 at Syracuse. Still, it was a great month for Hearn who found victory lane at Fonda in SDS tour action, and took home a pair of checkered flags in 358 tour action in the Hurricane 100 at Brewerton and 150 lap "Salute the Troops" race at the mile. He may have squandered a chance to put the SDS title to bed with his 200 performance and subsequent mid pack finish at Brockville on October 18th, but like Friesen, he can more than get it done at Orange County and Charlotte.

3. Danny Johnson:

The Doctor swept the 358 and SDS tour portions at Brockville this past weekend to cement his season. Just when you expect him to fade, he refuses to go gentle into that good night and may actually be a player at OFCS and Charlotte. Johnson also took 2nd at the Hurricane 100 and although his Syracuse performances weren't quite what he'd have liked them to be he's still as potent as he needs to be.

4. Erick Rudolph:

In the middle of summer, we started ranking the young pilot, not sure of how long he might stay in the rankings, but he sticks in the top 5 again this month, and has a season to remember.  For the month, he's cooled a little bit but still took the victory in 358 mod tour action at Brighton on September 20 and actually led a lap at Syracuse in the 200 before having to pit where he stalled and got far behind. His 2nd place finish in the 358 tour stop at Brockville helped him seal his second consecutive tour championship.  He also managed a fourth place finish in his first ever appearance in the Outlaw 200 at Fulton.

5. Jimmy Phelps:

Phelps finally got the special event win he'd been in contention for all season on September 19 at Yates County (formerly Dundee Speedway, NY), holding off teammate Matt Sheppard for the victory. He then proceeded to snag a 2nd place finish in the Outlaw 100 and was in contention at the mile in the 200. Going forward, he does have a career win at Charlotte and it's not out of the realm that he could get another in a few weeks.

6. BIlly Decker:

Syracuse started great for Decker who qualified well for both feature events, and it ended up with a disappointing 150 finish and an 8th in the 200. He's been fairly consistent in SDS events though with a 2nd place finish at Fonda and a decent run at Brockville. His Outlaw 200 was not up to par though especially at a place he's done well at over the years. Still, he could take home another SDS points title if he can find a way to stay ahead of Sheppard and Hearn over the last three rounds, which actually sounds incredibly difficult at this point.

7. Rick Laubach:

The Quaker Shaker struck twice for wins in the last month with a win at Bridgeport on Oct 4 in the Poker Series and an impressive $5K+ win on October 18 at Delaware Int'l. He was in contention at Syracuse early in the going in the 200 as well. Probably could have climbed above Decker with a couple more starts or another win.

8. Larry Wight:

The young pilot kept the momentum rolling with a special event win at Fonda on Sep 20, and had an impressive podium finish in the Outlaw 200. He had a top 10 at Weedsport during SDW in a 358 and looks primed for a big 2015. Whatever happens the rest if the way, he can't be overlooked and will be competitive wherever he goes. It's been a breakout year for "Lightning Larry"

9. Duane Howard:

Howard didn't get a win in this past month, but was as close as you can get. He finished second to Friesen in the Freedom 76er and had a top 5 finish in the 200 at Syracuse.

10 Mike Mahaney:

Maheney scored a win at I-88 Speedway on Septmber 27th in the Fall 250, and also finished third in the "King of the Can" won by Matt Sheppard this past Friday. He also found the podium in the last round of the Short Track Super Series held at I-88 with a runner up finish on October 11. It was a great season for Mahaney with 72 starts and 8 wins and leads to questions about his plans for 2015 where he will be a threat wherever he races.

And that'll do it for this edition of our Northeast Modified Rankings. The fun doesn't end here though. We'll be back next month after the world finals for TDN's Northeast Modified Year in Review which you won't want to miss!

Until next time everyone...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Friesen Stands On Top of the World; Bloomquist and Abreu Continue to Impress

Driver of the Week:

Stewart Friesen:

Few can dispute the dominance the Stewart Friesen displays whether it be in a big block modified or the sprint car that he has piloted around as of late. This past weekend "Mr. Freeze" stuck to his roots with the big block groundpounder as he partook in the Syracuse 200 during the 43rd Annual Super Dirt Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY. Friesen started on the inside of the 11th row for the 200 Lapper at the mile-long speedway. His charge to the front was never completed, as he never gained the top spot, until he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 190 with a rare pass of then leader Matt Sheppard. Friesen's incredible day was highlighted as he went to the outside of Sheppard to gain the lead through turns 3 & 4, something that is not easy to do at the Fairgrounds. Also adding to the sweetness of the $50,000 triumph was the ability of Friesen's team to overcome a broken shock mount during the middle portion of the race.

The win for Friesen was his 3rd career Syracuse 200 victory

Link to the full story

Honorable Mentions:

Scott Bloomquist:
The VooDoo Child has been far-and-away the best dirt late model driver over the past couple months. Bloomquist showed no signs of slowing down this weekend as he steam-rolled the competition at Magnolia Motor Speedway's unsanctioned "Cotton Pickin' 100". Bloomquist took off from his 2nd place starting spot to grab the lead heading down the backstretch. Aside from a couple mid-race cautions, that was as close as anybody was going to get to the Mooresburg, TN native. The flag-to-flag victory for Bloomquist garnered a $20,000 payday.

In the past 6 weeks, "Black Sunshine" owns wins at Attica Raceway Park ($10,000), Eldora Speedway ($47,000), Brownstown Speedway ($20,000), Rome Speedway ($10,000) and Magnolia Motor Speedway ($20,000). You could also potentially thrown in Knoxville Raceway ($40,000) had he not broke on the final lap.

Link to the full story

Rico Abreu:
He may only stand at 4'4" tall but there is no question that he can race with the best of them. Abreu picked up a pair of feature wins this weekend behind the wheel of his Abreu Vineyards no. 24 sprint car. The first one came in Midwest Open Wheel Association (MOWA) action Friday night at the Lincoln Speedway in Lincoln, IL. That victory was his 3rd MOWA win of the year. Trying to one-up himself, Rico Abreu hauled over to the Big E to compete with the All Star Circuit of Champions in what was their final race of the season, where he would find victory lane again. The most impressive thing to note about his All Star win at Eldora was that he tracked down and eventually pulled away from the "King of the All Stars" Dale Blaney. Blaney has been almost unbeatable on the tour this season but Abreu managed to dethrone him on this particular night.

Link to the full story

This Week In DIRT- Syracuse and Beyond; Friesen Charges To Victory; Schatz Wins 25th; Abreu Keeps Rolling; Bloomquist is King Cotton

Racing's biggest party took place this week in the salt city. Syracuse, NY and surrounding areas played host to a plethora of races leading up to a Sunday afternoon climax at the NY State Fairground's famous "Moody Mile".  There were modifieds, USAC Silver Crown cars, World of Outlaw Sprints, and more modifieds. So, if you missed eating a garbage plate or some salt potatoes, or if you missed seeing what transpired, or you were kept away from enjoying anything that resembled a dirt race for any reason (Dog ate your laptop?) we're here to help catch you up on what you missed.

So sit back, relax, and grab a Shaefer beer if you can find one, Genny light would also make for good reading this week as well. Because it's time for This Week in DIRT.....

Friesen Charges to Victory in Syracuse 200

Stewart Friesen started in the middle of the pack for the Sunday afternoon Super Bowl for the northeastern modifieds.  He'd been having fuel intake problems all weekend and although he can never be counted out of contention anywhere he goes, he was no overwhelming favorite as the day began.

But after a caution filled first 2/3 of the race, Friesen put his car up top on the narrow fairgrounds speedway with authority, eventually passing Matt Sheppard for the win as the laps wound down to collect his third "200" title. 

The win was extraordinary in the way that Friesen was able to run down top competitors over the final 60 laps with a car that seemed to get better while everyone else began to fade.  It didn't come down to fuel mileage this year, Friesen was the best car/driver combination in the field and there was no doubt about it. 

The win was especially sweet for the Canadian wheelman, in 2011 when he won his second title, the mood was dimmed with the revelation in post race tech that his fuel cell was illegal and Friesen was docked $25,000 from his winnings and allowed to keep the win. This year, his car came through clean as a whistle. Well done Mr. Freeze!

You can check the full field rundown and other news and notes from Syracuse
here at super dirt week online.

Schatz Wins 25th:

Donny Schatz bested a 30 car field at Rolling Wheels Raceway Saturday night during Super Dirt Week festivities. It was a win made more special with the fact that it was his 25th WoO Sprint victory in 2014, and also because there were salt potatoes left for him in the hauler.

Last weeks reluctant winner, David Gravel garnered a second place finish, while Daryn Pittman completed the podium. Schatz has now virtually won the World of Outlaw points championship and possibly earned a few points in 2015 if he keeps going at his current pace.

For the WRG press release just click here

Abreu Keeps Rolling; Takes Eldora Sprintacular:

So, who can trade slidejobs at Eldora with Dale Blaney for laps on end, in an All Star Sprint race and emerge victorious? Rico Abreu can.

The California driver came from deep in the field to win his first career winged sprint race at the famed Ohio speedway, and we're pretty sure it'll be the first of many to come. Abreu made the final pass for the lead on lap 18 and never looked back, taking the final checkered flag of the UNOH All Star Sprint season. The win was Abreu's 23 in his 2014 campaign and he's certainly garnering votes for our TDN Driver of the Year award.

In other action at Eldora, Randy Hanagan took home the victory in the NRA 360 Sprint portion, while Thomas Meseraull found victory lane in the B.O.S.S Wingless Sprint feature.

In other news, sprint car pilot Lee Jacobs had to be transported to a local hospital following a very bad accident in the All Star Sprint portion of the festivities. Jacobs is said to have sustained some injuries, but is stable at the current time. We here at TDN wish him a speedy recovery!

You can find the full field rundown and press release from Eldora here

And we have the highlights for you below:

Bloomquist is King Cotton:

And in the land of the late models, and cotton this week, Scott Bloomquist added to his novelty check collection with a $20,000 fake check.  Bloomquist handed a fairly stacked field of cars, a fairly good tail whipping at Magnolia Speedway in Columbus, MS this Saturday in the annual "Cotton Pickin 100".

We're not sure if there's room at the shop for all these he's collected in 2014, he may have to construct more storage space for them, and his growing collection of lexan and lexan free window nets as well

In all seriousness, Bloomquist's second half of 2014 has been as dominant as there has been in any division in dirt in recent memory. Perhaps not as impressive as Schatz's win total, but he's won far more special events. 

Top 10:

1. Scott Bloomquist
2. Chris Simpson
3. Mike Marlar
4. Randy Weaver
5. Morgan Bagley
6. Jimmy Owens
7. Billy Moyer Jr
8. Steve Francis
9. Dennis Erb Jr
10. Rick Eckert

You can check out the overview from our friends at dirt on here!

Alright everyone, have a great week and stay DIRTY!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TDN Roundtable Volume 5

We're back with another edition of TDN Roundtable where we expound on relevant topics such as "What the hell are we going to do after racing season?" or "How to get the fat guy in front of you to sit down and watch without causing a ruckus?" or even "Why won't they let you bring (insert unreasonable item) into the pits?"

Actually, we'll only touch on one of those aforementioned questions, the rest of the time, we're talking dirt, all divisions, local and regional. We've got some points to ponder and we're going to share them with you, even if you'd like us to keep them to ourselves.

So put your brains to work, and see what you'd add to our roundtable discussion!

Mike Ruefer Photo


Brian Birkhofer said goodbye for now to the dirt track this past weekend in grand fashion with his Knoxville Nationals win. We've seen drivers attempt to "retire" before, and the door doesn't always stay closed for long.

But what was interesting to see, was the likes of Billy Moyer and Scott Bloomquist making public statements at the press opportunities in Knoxville, that indicated that the costs involved in tour racing or even true outlaw racing, are so out of control and the corporate support has dwindled to the point that even the best of the best can barely manage a decent living.

We've heard this sort of rhetoric before, but are they really telling us that we're closer to the ceiling than many people realize and it's time for major change...or else?  Is it time to race less, control engine and tire costs, or to encourage business to take more chances on greater amounts of support?

I'm not sure which direction racing is going to head in the future. While I can definitely admit that there is a problem, I can't come up with a viable solution to the problem. Pay more through the field? I know first hand that tracks are struggling to cover each night as it is. Just fill the grandstands so you can pay more out? Unfortunately in this day and age, there is just so much going on that we'll never see the crowds that were apparent just a decade or two ago. - Tyler Beichner

Listen to that press conference and especially what Moyer had to say and that will tell the story of what has gone wrong in racing. When top guys in late model racing are struggling to keep up with costs everyone is in trouble. Its time that sanctions start listening to their drivers before they aren't there anymore. Anyway you can cut costs in this economy is a huge plus for racing. That goes for Sprints too. Where would the World of Outlaws be without Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart? I feel it would be struggling mightily. - Jerin Steele

I don't see the top 20 dirt late model drivers going without top quality rides each year. A bigger $ sponsor may up move from a 2nd level team to the top guys like Bloomquist and Moyer where they know their investment is seen more on tv or in victory lane. - Brian "Dobie" Compton

I think guys like Bloomquist and Moyer crying about costs is laughable. I'm not impressed when millionaires whine about how they're becoming thousandaires. They're the reason costs are so out of control. It's the technological advances they have made that have required everybody else to go out and spend huge dollars to keep up. I mean, think about it. If Bloomer was so worried about saving racers money, his Team Zero chassis would have been affordable, right? Thing is, they weren't. They were far more expensive than anything else out there. The "new" Sweet/Bloomquist cars are a little cheaper than Team Zero was... but not by much. Moyer, well, he's in the chassis business himself, too. The Moyer Victory Circle cars were more expensive than everybody but Team Zero. Now he's dealing in Longhorns. Go price one of them. They might be more expensive than Bloomer these days. - Josh Bayko

I'm agreed with Josh on the Bloomquist/Moyer crying about cost bit. It is laughable. And, I don't think that the sky is falling either. At the same time, the time for a purse bump on a certain level for the touring guys seems about right. But, only if the sport can support it. That means maybe racing 35 times for a little nicer purse, instead of 45 dates with most of them being standard $10K to win affairs.  Less travel costs for teams, make the events more special since there's less of them so a better purse can be reasonable with a greater crowd and probably a greater car count on hand.  That's a small part of it, until we can find new and interesting ways to re-energize corporate support for teams and tracks. - Gary Heeman

Gonna throw three names out there in late models currently. Among them, which one's season success was most surprising, and which one will make even more noise in 2015? Your three drivers: Bobby Pierce, Kent Robinson, and Mason Zeigler.....Go!

Mike Ruefer Photo

Mason Zeigler...hands down. I'll start with my thoughts on the other two. Bobby Pierce splashed onto the scene last year, so this year wasn't as much of a surprise (albeit still impressive as hell). Kent Robinson's brief stint with the WoO gave every indication that he'd be a tough competitor, not to mention his experimental season in a Club 29 car has him receiving all the tips and tricks. On the other hand, Zeigler hadn't so much as left his mark on the regional scene yet and what is exactly does he do? Makes a name for himself at the prestigious Prairie Dirt Classic and follows it up at the World 100. My question to you guys is, can he build on this or will Mason take a step back in 2015? - Tyler Beichner

I don't know if anyone of them was a real surprise. They all have run good in previous years (Ziegler in Florida 2013, Robinson at the Pittsburgher last year, Pierce several times last year). I think they will all continue their success, but I'll say Pierce will win a crown jewel first. - Jerin Steele

I was glad to see a local wheelman (Zeigler) make a huge jump and win a few $10,000 races on the hell tour as well as run his butt off last year and at this years world 100 before having incidents. With Robinson running a tour series before and Pierce's family pedigree they were not the "wow" factor that Mason Zeigler's results yielded in my eyes.  - Brian "Dobie" Compton

I've been incredibly impressed with Mason Zeigler this season. From the times I've watched him locally he's dramatically improved. To go out on the road and run competitively with the Lucas Oil Series, and to win races on the UMP Hell Tour says a lot. I expect a guy like Bobby Pierce to run competitively, especially with the knowledge he has at his disposal.- Pat Miller

I think Mason Zeigler is going to be more even impressive in 2015. He's got all the tools, and some of the very best equipment. All he needs is a little patience. Once he get that, look out. It'll be cool to see. I remember when he was pretty much a local runner and he was awful. I think Kent Robinson will have a year much like he had this season. He's a good young driver for sure. I think Bobby Pierce will regress some, though. He hasn't made any friends at all this season, and he's going to find it hard to win races when his competitors don't show him any respect anymore. - Josh Bayko

I think with Robinson having run tours before, the results seemed less than what they were with him running a true outlaw season more recently. He's been learning his craft at a greater variety of tracks and I think it's been helping him other places too. I think he's primed for a big win or two in 2015. But Pierce is intriguing too, I need to see him run  against different competition at more different tracks to say he's definitely the guy to open even more eyes in 2015, it wouldn't surprise me though, he seems like pure natural talent that might have to take a step back before taking another giant one forward. And for me, Zeigler came out of nowhere. I'd seen him do alright regionally. But, to be within a slip of finishing 2nd at he world (he still would never have caught Bloomer after he passed him), was amazing. Gonna have to give it to Zeigler for biggest surprise and biggest expectations in 2015. - Gary Heeman

Hein Brothers Photo

PPMS (Pittsburgh Pennsylvania's Motor Speedway) debunked a bit of a myth this past weekend with their Renegade Sprint show. That myth, that most sprint drivers would stay away from the place when given a choice of places to race,  due to it's size, the speeds, and the cost of equipment, had been proven by car counts in the 10 car range for their normal, unsanctioned sprint specials.

But by all accounts, this past Saturday's event went fairly smoothly and fans appear to have enjoyed a real full field of 410's at the Monster half mile.  Does this bode well for sanctioned sprint shows in the future? Especially when coupled with the fact that management recently paid a sizeable sanction fee for the Lucas Oil Late models to make a 2015 appearance. 31 drivers had no problem making their way around the track.

If I were them I'd have sanctioned races only. It is pretty apparent that there are not enough local sprint car drivers that want to run that place when they have a non sanctioned event. That's not a knock on the drivers in this area either. Most of them probably can't afford the risk of ruining their stuff at that place when they are running weekly for a points title at Lernerville or Mercer. Add the extra money of a Renegade Show and not only do you get the drivers that run the series, but you coax the locals who may have reservations on running there too. - Jerin Steele

I hope the sanctioned shows work for them and their budget. Living on the wrong side of the tunnels downtown I have not made the commitment to fight traffic to PPMS this season but it will be hard to pass up a Lucas or Outlaws sprint or late model show there again. I am not a sprint chaser but one of the best races i ever saw was a sprint show on the big 1/2 mile at Metrolina Speedway in Charlotte, NC. reminds me a lot of PPMS with its size and how fast those sprints got around the place. - Brian "Dobie" Compton

Two or three Renegade, All-Star, etc. races would be better to have than the unsanctioned shows, not only for the drivers, but also for the fans. The local drivers that choose to run would be guaranteed a larger sum of money to show up. Lets face it, the monster half mile can be hard on equipment. A little extra dough can entice the smaller teams. The fans wouldn't worry about only 10 cars showing up.-Pat Miller

Given that the super lates are gone from PPMS on a weekly basis, I really hope the specials only segment of PPMS takes off and helps them not just to keep the doors open, but to be able to turn some of the revenue into reasonable upgrades to the physical plant there. I'm kind of tired of hearing the "great track, but a tough place to look at" comments. When you open it up to specials like they're going to do, you're inviting a segment that has never seen the place before and will be forming opinions. Some fresh paint, wall repair, and some ground work would really help make these opinions better and entice people to come back.  You don't need it to be a palace, but it does appear more could be done to enhance the place. - Gary Heeman

On to some big blocks. I don't need to tell anyone on staff here that the biggest party in dirt racing, Super Dirt Week, is almost upon us. This year Matt Sheppard will be the hunter, currently down 46 points to Brett Hearn and one place back of Billy Decker in the Super DIRTcar Series point standings.  Has Matt grown enough to be able to run down those two with just a handful of races left, or will the pressure be to much for him?

As a Sheppard fan, yes I believe he can get it done. Hearn and Decker are two class acts and certainly Matt can't rely on those two to falter, but I think the pressure is at a minimum at this point. When you think about it, how remarkable is it that Matt Sheppard has ran as well as he has all year in his first year with the new team? - Tyler Beichner

I agree, i am pulling for Sheppard as well. For the first time I will actually be following this mod battle to the last points race. They pulled me in this year and i am glad because the racing is always close. - Brian "Dobie" Compton

I don't think Matt catches them. It's not that the pressure gets to him or anything, because Matt is as cool a customer as I've ever met. It's just that it's Brett's year, and he's due for a good run at the mile and we all know he's excellent at Middletown for Eastern States. Brett is usually good at Charlotte too. I think Billy has a good runs at both Syracuse and Middletown, but pulling double duty at Charlotte hampers his modified effort a bit. I think Brett wins the title and retires at the banquet. - Josh Bayko

I think Syracuse will tip the scales either way. The problem for Matt, is he's chasing guys that are great at Syracuse, so he'll be in need of some luck. If that happens, and Hearn or Decker have issues, he HAS to make the opportunity count, because OFCS hasn't been a great track for him, and although he's a top 5 guy at Charlotte, McCreadie and Fuller will be in the mix making it harder to make up any ground in the last two races plus Hearn is nearly unbeatable there. Going to be interesting to see.  -Gary Heeman

The Dr, Danny Johnson could very well have been in the top 5 mix this season, if only he'd had a home track ride other than at Ransomville which doesn't offer big block points. Sucks for the Dr, but whether you're a fan or not it does beg the question, is it time to take another look at the home track model and keep the SDS tour a separate entity?

I've long said the home track point thing hampers modified racing more than it helps. It forces a team to spend way more money to keep a weekly operation going if they want to cash in at the end of the year. Now, I know, that's not really an issue for  most of the tour teams, but still, teams could see big savings if they didn't have to race every week. It also hampers the tour itself. The tour can't really expand or go road tripping that far because everybody is required to be at whatever weekly haunt every week. I mean, they can't really make a weekend swing down to, say, Tazewell and Bull's Gap or whatever because all the drivers have to be in New York somewhere. And don't say they could do swings like that during the week. Most of the modified crews have real jobs they work during the week. - Josh Bayko

The powers that be at SDS have maintained that the home track system is going nowhere. This pretty much means that the SDS will not be a complete "tour" but rather a "selection of special shows". I love to follow it, but have to lament what it could be sometimes. They have to turn away tracks who want shows.  What happens to the home tracks if the SDS were to become a longer tour? It's hard to say, I don't think places like Canandaigua or Fonda, or Lebanon Valley would fold up and close because 1 or 2 drivers were off at an SDS show on a Saturday night. I realize that several of the SDS drivers call Canandaigua home, but I digress.  Here's the rub. There's plenty of folks in upstate NY, Canada, NJ, and PA that hate the fact that the modifieds don't get more exposure, but don't want to sacrifice seeing them at the home track for $12-$15 a ticket every Saturday night. These folks can't have it both ways. They could expand the brand, but tragically won't. Until the current system fails to provide enough revenue.....-Gary Heeman

We're going to have to talk about the elephant in the infield here for a moment. The Stewart/Ward incident is starting to stir up discussion of drug testing in dirt racing.  Most of us likely feel that it could prove to be a financial disaster for the sport. But whether we feel that it could be the doom, it doesn't mean that we don't have to face it sooner or later as the future comes.  Can any of you see a time in the near future where insurance companies will start demanding them from the tracks to be insurable? And if that is the case, is there a way it can be done without tracks closing gates?

I've given this a lot of thought, and unfortunately I don't see and can't envision a way that drug testing at local and regional facilities can be done. Financial concerns top the list of reasons why. Following shortly behind is the feasibility of testing each person (test one, and you have to test all right?) within the time constraints of an event. And lastly, I foresee many drivers being unwilling to agree to a drug test. Let's cross our fingers that insurance companies don't get any crazy ideas, because I can only see it going bad... - Tyler Beichner

I don't see it happening on a local level unless they are forced to. Now guys who run professionally that is a different story. I could see a movement that forces guys who run the WoO, Lucas, etc to be forced to take random drug tests. -Jerin Steele

I do not see a track in our area (lernerville) included that would make that jump to allow testing. Tech and tire lab tests are far and few between without going to this costly step just to ensure safe racing. I dont think a track could foot the bill itself. My other worry is guys like Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace stop racing with the local drivers because of this on track incident. We need more guys like them and Smoke and it is a shame if the trend of older drivers coming back to their roots ends there. - Brian "Dobie" Compton

It's just going to come down to making it cost effective if it's implemented. Tracks aren't making a lot of money nowadays as is. I don't see how it's possible right now. Hopefully personal responsibility and common sense lead the way, but we know how that goes. We need to keep lawyers and insurance companies as far away from racetracks as possible.-Pat Miller

Racing does not need that can of worms opened.- Josh Bayko

Right now, I see no way it can be done. I can't think of a track that could afford the cost or a driver that would be willing to help pay or even submit. There's really nothing in place at a track to facilitate testing. Maybe a mobile lab "piss truck" could come by every week. Here's hoping that the insurance companies don't start requiring this.  - Gary Heeman

And lastly, what is the weirdest, strangest, thing you've ever smuggled into the pits successfully? And, blow up dolls don't count!

No great capers here other than some beer and my .40 cal  - Brian "Dobie" Compton

Peanuts. Dudes were pissed. - Josh Bayko

I know I said they don't count, but yeah, I brought in a blow up doll, seemed like the right thing to do. Seriously, I've brought my homemade root beer before, and got strange looks but nothing more. Kind of made me paranoid though, like they thought I was sneaking in homemade hooch in my unlabeled bottles. I thought of bribing Smoky once when he gave me a one eyed look at my bottles, but figured I could outrun him if he took exception to my root beer smuggling.

And that'll do it for this version of TDN Roundtable! Chew on it, think about it , give us a comment or two, and have fun at the track! Stay DIRTY folks!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Season in Review: AJ Flick

This is the first installment of our Season in Review series that will feature different personalities and drivers in the world of dirt racing.

Flick on the Track for Hot Laps during the Commonwealth Clash at Lernerville
(Pat Miller Photo) 

After a few successful seasons in the sportsman division including a runner up finish in the 2013 Lernerville points standings, AJ Flick and his race team set their sights on a new challenge this year.

Sprint car racing.

It may have seemed like an interesting choice for Flick to move up into sprints, with his dad Mark, the 1994 Lernerville track champion, being a former modified driver and his grandfather, Willard, "Pee Wee" Flick was a late model racer who won the 1973 Lernerville track title.

"The joke I always say is that sprints were the only thing left for family to do," Flick said. "But realistically from a monetary standpoint if you don't flip a sprint car there isn't much body work you have to fix. Also there are a lot of  sprint races that pay good money in Western Pennsylvania."

They went into this venture with out much experience in the sprint car world, but by the end of the season AJ contended several times for a win.

"We were excited for the challenge," Flick said. "Basically I had the weight of a (sportsman car) and doubled the horsepower. We had to rely on a lot of people. We talked to guys who my dad raced with in the modifieds and moved up into the sprints. We talked about anything that could help prepare me for that first night."

That first race came the same day as the practice day at Lernerville. The team felt good about the way practice went so they loaded up and went to Mercer to race later that evening

Mercer is a place that Flick found to be fun in a sprint car. He came close to getting his first win in a sprint there when he finished second to Andy McKisson on August 16th. He finished 8th in the point standings there this year.

"It's a really cool track in a sprint car," Flick said. "Turns one and two are sweeping and turns three and four are so tight. It is hard to figure out, because everything around the track is different."

Flick in the Staging Area at Lernerville on Opening Night.
(Pat Miller Photo)
Lernerville Speedway has been Flick's home track for several seasons in the Sportsman division, so it was natural that he'd be ready to rip the sprint car around the 3/8th mile clay oval. The first night at the Sarver track didn't go as planned as he went over the hill and flipped to avoid the spinning car of Brandon Spithaler in his first heat race at the track. It would be the only major mishap for him all season though.

As the season went on at Lernerville he got more comfortable with the nuances of driving a sprint car and the results came with it. He and his dad along with the rest of his crew worked together trying different things and improved along the way.

"My dad is the most versatile driver I know," Flick said. "He raced on both dirt and asphalt. Sometimes he did things to the car that didn't work and he also made changes to the car I didn't think would be good and turned out to be awesome. It's complicated, but we are definitely learning."

While his dad helps with the car AJ's mom is there to support him too. She shoots video of his races that you can find on his Facebook page.

"My mom is the biggest supporter I have," Flick said. "You can hear her screaming and cheering in the background of the videos she makes."

He also has help from family friend Rod Kacin, who helped his dad back when he raced modifieds. James Barber is also a big supporter of Flick, who AJ says is a good morale booster.

While he has support from his family he also has had a big boost from Dave Ferguson, who is his main sponsor with Ferguson Heating and Air Conditioning. Flick met Ferguson by being friends with his son while he was in high school and he's been helping him since his sportsman days.

"We talked to him about his opinion about moving up and he asked what we were thinking about doing," Flick said. "When we told him sprint cars he said heck ya let's do it. He's been at every race we've been to and he's excited to go to go to new places. He's one of the best things to happen to my racing career."

Flick during the ASCoC race at Lernerivlle
(Pat Miller Photo)
Flick picked a great season to start his sprint car career with it being the last full season for Steve Kinser. When the World of Outlaws rolled into town for the Silver Cup Flick got to race in the same heat as Kinser and even got by him at one point.

"It may have only been for a second or two, but I can say I passed Steve Kinser," Flick said.

After the Silver Cup the results really started to come to fruition for the 21 year old. On August 1st Flick took the lead from Cory Good on lap six and at one point led by seven seconds. A couple of late cautions fell and this year's track champion Carl Bowser got around him on a restart with three to go to steal the victory.

"On the restarts at the end I wasn't nervous in the car," Flick said. "On the second restart I made a misjudgment when Bowser pulled the slide job on me. On the lap before I did the same thing with Brandon Matus and though I had completed the pass back going into three, but it was later that I saw on my mother's video that he broke going into three. If I would've known he had broke I would've changed me restart tactics with Carl. It is a learning experience I'll know for next time."

Flick also led some laps in the season finale at Lernerville after a deluge delayed the racing for a while. He finished second to fellow 410 rookie Logan Wagner that night. At the end of the season Flick finished sixth in the Lernerville points championship. He also posted top five finishes at Pittsburgh.

 Flick plans on being at the Steel City Stampede at Lernerville in a couple of weeks.

"There's still one more race for us and maybe we can get that first sprint win that night," Flick said.

With the racing season winding down Flick is back at Penn State where he is a senior majoring in Petroleum and Gas Engineering. He is looking forward to the spring when he graduates and it also means a new season of racing will be upon us. If he doesn't find victory lane at the Stampede, he will be ready to get that checkered flag in 2015.