WEEDSPORT — The best Big-Block Modified racers in the world congregate every October during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway to celebrate the sport and its fans.
This year is no exception with the 48th Annual Super DIRTcar Series Billy Whittaker Cars 200 set to cap off the thrilling event on Sunday, Oct. 13.
Thanks to several events on the Super DIRTcar Series tour, seven drivers have locked in their qualification for the 200-lap finale, with two more guaranteed starts still up for grabs in 2019. All Super DIRTcar Series races that paid $10,000 or more to the winner come with a guaranteed starting spot at Super DIRT Week.
Eight-time Super DIRTcar Series Champion Matt Sheppard wasted no time in obtaining his guarantee. Sheppard opened the season at Can-Am Speedway with a win in La Fargeville, ahead of Mat Williamson and Billy Dunn. Sheppard, the only driver to win Sportsman, 358 Modified and Big-Block features during Super DIRT Week, is seeking his third Billy Whittaker Cars 200 crown.
Next up was Stewart Friesen, who took the checkered flag in The Big Show XI at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Friesen crossed the finish line first in dramatic fashion, as he nipped six-time Super DIRT Week champion Brett Hearn in the final laps. Friesen is attempting to tie Hearn’s mark of six victories in the sport’s most prestigious event.
Larry Wight qualified at Plattsburgh Airborne Speedway, where he rode the rim to Victory Lane. Wight returns to Oswego Speedway as the defending Super DIRT Week champion. Since the event shifted to Oswego in 2016, there has yet to be a repeat winner.
Weedsport Speedway’s Hall of Fame 100 saw series rivals Sheppard and Ransomville Speedway track champion Erick Rudolph go head-to-head for the win. Sheppard bested Rudolph, but since Sheppard already had a guaranteed start, Rudolph became the recipient.
The next qualifier took place at Eldora Speedway in Ohio. The series put on a show in front of a tremendous crowd with Rudolph driving to the win. Billy Decker was on Rudolph’s tail across the finish line and gladly accepted the guaranteed start.
At the Orange County Fair Speedway, 69 drivers entered the Battle on the Midway 100 to kick off the speedway’s centennial celebration. Sheppard took his No. 9S car to the front once again, but Ryan Godown had a career-best runner-up finish and secured his berth in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
Kenny Tremont Jr. was crowned Lebanon Valley Speedway’s track champion for the 14th time in his career. He capped off the season with a $25,500 check and his sixth Mr. DIRT Track USA title. Tremont is looking to ride that wave of momentum into Oswego.
Fulton and Brewerton Speedway regular Jason Occhino and his red No. 33 car have the distinction of being the first driver to enter Super DIRT Week in the Big-Block Modified division. He’s a dark horse in the big race, but he is well worth keeping an eye on.
Alan Johnson, a dirt track racer in the Northeast, will once again make an attempt to take home the $50,000 grand prize in Oswego. Johnson calls Land of Legends Raceway his home and finished third in track points, behind two of the best going right now in Sheppard and Rudolph. Johnson is a three-time winner in Super DIRT Week’s premier race, but he hasn’t won it since 2003.
Former NAPA Super DIRT Week champion Billy Dunn is poised for another win. This time he’ll go for gold in the Graham Racing No. 49 Teo Pro Car. Dunn thrilled the crowd in Syracuse (2013) for his lone Super DIRT Week 200-lap victory.
Hearn, a 900-plus winner, has six Super DIRT Week wins that remains untouched. Hearn took the Orange County Fair Speedway Championship this year. He looks to add another Super DIRT Week championship to the record books.
Billy Whittaker Cars 200 guaranteed starters (as of Sept. 10): Matt Sheppard, Stewart Friesen, Larry Wight, Erick Rudolph, Billy Decker, Ryan Godown, Kenny Tremont Jr.