Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BARBERSVILLE, FL – Larry Wight loves the high side of any race track. Sometimes he lives by it, and other times dies by it. Friday night, he used it to his advantage, taking the lead from teammate Pat Ward with 10 laps remaining and went on to claim his first career DIRTcar Nationals gator.
For Wight, it was sweet revenge against a speedway that has been throwing him curveballs for the previous two nights of action.
“Man, at the beginning of the night, we really didn’t know what we were going to have,” Wight said after his win. “We threw some stuff at it and Dave Reedy from Penske Shocks came to help tonight. We played around with the shocks and I think we might have finally found the happy medium for this thing.”
Wight started in the ninth position and worked his way forward, using the outside berm to his advantage. The Phoenix, NY driver bounced his right rear Hoosier off the cushion almost every lap and was able to work his way towards the front.
“There was enough of a cushion there where you could drive in really hard,” he said. “As long as the car would turn off the cushion so you could run the middle off of turn four, it seemed like I could make up a lot of ground. I saw Matt (Sheppard) try it a couple of times and he really shoved the nose bad, but I think we were a little freer than he was and were able to do it.”
The ability to get back to the gas when you’re running the cushion is key for making passes on the outside. Wight was able to make that happen all race long and was rewarded with the 30-lap Modified win.
“I was able to turn the car on throttle tonight,” he said. “Other than the first night here, we haven’t been able to get that push out of it so we could drive around the corner. Last night we were too loose and now we had to back it up and get it a little tighter.”
For second-place Matt Sheppard, it was all about handling on Friday. The defending Super DIRTcar Series Champion fought a tight condition almost the entire race but was able to adapt so he could advance his position and bring home a runner-up finish.
“We really needed to figure out a way to get this thing to turn,” Sheppard said. “We just got ungodly tight through the middle of the race and fell back to fourth or fifth. We finally found a groove where the car would steer around the corner and were able to get back by a couple guys and salvage a second tonight.”
Sheppard was on of many racers who had to work hard to find the right way to tackle the tricky surface, but when he figured it out he was able to move forward.
“I think the reason I was trying so many different lines is because I was following my car wherever the heck it was going,” he said with a laugh. “I certainly wasn’t driving it at that point.”
Third place finisher was Pat Ward who led a good portion of the feature and thought he had the perfect track to capitalize on and score a win. Unfortunately, he came up just a bit short.
“I love when a track is slower like this because it puts things back in the drivers hands a little bit more,” Ward said. “Hat’s off to Larry. If there’s a little bit on top, you don’t want to leave it open because he’s going to go by you.”
Once Wight got by him, the Genoa, NY driver pushed a bit too hard and it ended up costing him another position.
“I kind of over-drove trying to catch back up to Larry and Matt slid under men,” he said. “We’ll take third tonight. I have to thank John, Laura, Brooke and Larry (Wight) for the opportunity. I have to thank my crew too. They’ve been working their butts off all week and the car’s been pretty good and I can’t forget Kevlar Racing Engines and Bicknell.”
Peter Britten brought his FK Rod Ends #21a home fourth and Erick Rudolph rounded out the top five. Anthony Perrego, Billy Pauch, Brett Hearn, Rick Laubach and Mat Williamson were sixth through tenth respectively.
FEATURE (30 Laps)
1. 99l-Larry Wight ; 2. 9s-Matt Sheppard ; 3. 42p-Pat Ward ; 4. 21a-Peter Britten ; 5. 25-Erick Rudolph ; 6. 18-Anthony Perrego ; 7. 1-Billy Pauch ; 8. 20-Brett Hearn ; 9. 7-Rick Laubach ; 10. 88-Mat Williamson ; 11. 3-Justin Haers ; 12. 27j-Danny Johnson ; 13. 19m-Jessey Mueller ; 14. 9t-Will Thomas ; 15. 23-Kyle Coffey ; 16. 1g-Darwin Greene ; 17. 118-Jim Britt ; 18. 5-Ryan Godown ; 19. 111-Demetrios Drellos ; 20. 2L-Jack Lehner ; 21. 65-Scott Hitchen ; 22. 5st-Tyler Siri ; 23. 91-Billy Decker ; 24. 42-Kyle Sheldon ; 25. 21-Yan Bussiere ; 26. 19-Tim Fuller 
KSE Hard Charger Award: 25-Erick Rudolph[+11]
Brett Hearn – VP Fuels – $50 Cash
Peter Britten – Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux Fast-Time Award – $100 Cash
Danny Johnson – Comp Cams – $50 Cash
Larry Wight – MSD Ignition – $50 Cash
Kyle Sheldon – MSD Ignition – $25 Cash
Erick Rudolph – Fox Racing Shox – $50 Cash
Erick Rudolph – JE Pistons – $50 Cash
Billy Pauch – ASI Racewear – $50 Cash
Danny Johnson – Dart – $50 Cash
Danny Johnson – Cometic Gasket – $50 Cash
Danny Johnson – Drydene – $50 Cash
Larry Wight – Bicknell Racing Products – $100 Product
Larry Wight – Comp Cams – $50 Product
Jim Britt – JE Pistons – Product
Billy Decker – JE Pistons – Product
Erick Rudolph – KSE Racing Products, Inc. – $50 Product
Larry Wight – Wrisco – Product
Jim Britt – Drydene – $50 Product