Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – OSWEGO, NY – Sometimes, you just have to take a chance…take a leap of faith and go for it.
That’s what the 2019 DIRTcar Nationals are for Oswego, NY car owner Jason Simmons, who will take young, up-and-coming star Tyler Thompson to Florida next week so the pair can compete with DIRTcar Big Block Modified’s best.
For Simmons, this is something he’s always wanted to do, and with the vast inventory of different cars he has in his shop at his disposal, he figured this was as good of a time as any.
“To be honest, I’ve had the car for two years, race ready sitting in the shop,” Simmons said. “We rebuilt it completely after Otto Sitterly wrecked my first big block at Oswego during the first Super DIRT Week they had there. I had planned to bring it out last year with Tyler, but we had the asphalt Supermodified deal with Ray (Graham). Our original plan was to run the Sportsman at North Florida this weekend but it’s always been on my bucket list to go to Volusia with a car so I said, heck, better now than never.”
Over the past few seasons, the Simmons / Thompson pairing has run just about anything with wheels. From Sportsman on dirt to Supermodifieds on asphalt to TQ Midgets and Karts indoors, if it can be run, this team has raced it. For 2019, the main focus will be back on the asphalt at Oswego where Thompson took home Supermodified Rookie of the Year honors at the ‘Steel Palace,’ but has eyes to the future.
“Our main focus is asphalt this year with the Supermodified,” he said. “That is my car but we are going to run some 358 and Big Block races on occasion, and maybe some Sportsman, when we don’t have asphalt races and hopefully we can make a full-time return to dirt in 2020.”
Does the team have a schedule laid out yet for when they will run the dirt cars?
“We will have three dirt cars still in the shop and race as much as we can or until May when things start for asphalt,” he said. We’ll also run more after September. I own two Supers and we’ll have a Big Block, 358 and Sportsman ready to run select races.”
The 17-year-old Thompson is excited for the opportunity to run a Big Block at Volusia and can’t wait to get going.
“I am super pumped to get this chance.” Thompson said. “I can’t believe that get to race against the best of the best and can’t thank my crew, Jason and my sponsors for giving me this opportunity.”
Does the Simmons-owned team have any goals they hope to achieve while down racing in Florida for five nights starting this Tuesday? Yea, just one, while keeping things realistic.
“We are going with low expectations.” Simmons said. “This is new to the whole team as well as Tyler. If we can make a race or two would be a big accomplishment for us. Those guys on the Super DIRTcar Series are the real deal so we’re in for a challenge.”
The car they are bringing, as was stated before, is one that Otto Sitterly ran during the first Super DIRT Week when it moved from the Syracuse Mile to the Oswego Speedway. It hasn’t seen the track since.
“This car is a 2016 Troyer that was the last car Heinke-Baldwin Racing ordered before they went Teo,” he said. “It was never put together by them. We got it and built it from the frame up and it’s got a new Morrison Big Block that Pat did for me. I’m excited to check this off my list.”
Sheldon & Thomson Heading To Florida For Some Fun
It’s hard to think of Lebanon Valley Modified racer Kyle Sheldon as a veteran because he’s still very young, but he’s now been behind the wheel of a Big Block Modified for over 15 seasons. In 2019, he and his Alex Thomson-owned team will make the trek back to the West Lebanon, NY oval to race, but the duo will start their campaign in the Sunshine State this week.
“Parking my work truck for a week to go racing in Florida sounds like a good idea,” Sheldon said with a laugh. “We’re taking our Valley car down to try a few things to hopefully make our program stronger for this year.”
The team, which runs PMC Race Cars with engines built in-house, had a strong 2018 season at Lebanon where they placed eighth in points on the back of several top five runs.
“We want to get our car running better, but we’re also just hoping to have fun,” he said. “We’re not doing anything crazy with the car. We are going with our normal program with some different shocks and we may try some new set-up things to see if we hit on something. However, we’re going to have fun.”
The team is set to leave for Volusia Sunday afternoon.
New Johnson / Hamlin Pairing Getting Feet Wet At DIRTcar Nationals
This off-season, it was announced that former Albany-Saratoga Modified champion Marc Johnson would replace Chad Jeseo in the Scott Hamlin-owned PMC car at Lebanon Valley. Well, to try and get a head start on the season, the team will make the trip to Volusia for a five-night test session, so to speak.
The car, which will carry the #33 for the new season, is ready to go and will be SHR’s primary piece this coming week. They are also bringing Marc’s Friday night car, his Troyer #3J, as a back-up.
“We’re very excited to get things going and hopefully have some success down there,” Hamlin said of the trip.
The team will run their one-year old PMC that only has a handful of races on it during the DIRTcar Nationals. Their new 2019 PMC is still in the shop being put together for action come April on the Valley high banks.
Peter Britten’s Ready To Race In The Sunshine
Peter Britten made news this off-season when he announced his split with the Ray Graham-owned team and would be an owner / driver for 2019. Well, it’s been a busy time at Britten Racing as he worked to get his team up and running.
Everyone knows you need to hit the ground running on all cylinders to be successful in Dirt Modified racing. For Britten, who will call Albany-Saratoga home weekly and plans to run on the Super DIRTcar Series this season, he wants to come out of the box strong, so he’s using the five events at Volusia as a way to knock the rust off while getting his car and team ready to go.
While he’s working to secure the proper funding to keep his team going this year, Britten has decided to display one of his, and Troyer Race Cars, loyal partners, FK Rod Ends, on the quarter panels of his Modified for the DIRTcar Nationals.
“I love seeing how much they do to support Troyer and the motorsports community in such a big way,” Britten said. “The relationship between FK Rod Ends and Troyer has been a long and successful one. For many years, every car coming out of the Troyer factory sports FK Rod End hardware ready for battle. The fact that we didn’t have a major sponsor to display for the DIRTcar Nationals, I felt this was a perfect opportunity to give them some recognition for all the support they’ve given us.”
Britten will use his 2017 Troyer in Florida while his new car is currently in the shop set to be assembled.