Story By: BILL FOLEY / DIRTCAR – OSWEGO, NY – Well over 100 DIRTcar Sportsman racers could be packed into the Oswego Speedway pits during NAPA Auto Parts Super Dirt Week.
This year a record number of cars have been in competition in the Northern, Central and Western Series.
Now they all come together to chase not only the Chevrolet Performance 75 crown, but the series title in a grueling and compact schedule that also includes races nightly at Utica-Rome, Weedsport and Brewerton in addition to Oswego.
It’s back-to-back-to-back-to-back races which turns into a physically and mentally draining stretch for the Sportsmen teams.
Though the regional champions, Shane Pecore (North), Kevin Root (Central) and Brad Rouse (Western) are well known and having outstanding seasons, there are numerous others who could be in the spotlight this week.
Pecore is having one of those dominant seasons where he just seems to win every week. With 14 wins and a record nine of those coming at Cornwall and five at Mohawk he is one of the favorites of SDW. He is the defending champion of the Chevrolet Performance 75.
“We had 14 wins, two track championships and three mini-series titles,” Pecore said. “It has been a sensational year. To win the title would be a nice paycheck, but it’s tough with the races during NAPA Super DIRT Week and we have just one car. It would mean everything to win the title as we are racing against the best the Sportsman has to offer.
“It’s a tough race to win as you have to be good all week, lock yourself in during time trials, and with 75 laps have a balanced car. It is an even playing field as the track is always different.”
Rouse was the ’13 champion and he too has had a solid year in winning three track championships and 17 features.
“We won three track championships, 17 features,” Rouse said. “To win the title would mean everything, especially to the guys who work on the car. … This Sportsman field is as tough of a field as you will find anywhere and there could be 40 cars capable of winning.”
Root captured three track titles as well as the Central title and is defending his Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman crown he earned in ’18.
“It has been a really good year with three track championships and winning the Central championship giving us a shot at the Mr. DIRTcar title, which we won last year,” Root said. “However, we are racing against the best in the business and I would like to win the race at Oswego more rather than the title. You really have to bring your A game and it’s tough. The schedule is grueling during Super DIRT Week, but we are all in the same boat. The most challenging part is running Brewerton and then being ready for Oswego the next morning.”
However, aside from the regional champs there are numerous other drivers to watch at Oswego.
A driver who has been on top of her game this year is Brianna Ladouceur. She has several runnerup finishes to Pecore and has wins at Mohawk and Cornwell. She is also the first woman to win a qualifier at NAPA Super DIRT Week in Oswego.
Moise Page has recently burst onto the scene with a brand-new ride and proved himself on the Quebec circuit winning a lot in a short time. With six wins on the year (three at Granby, two at Cornwell and one at RPM) he could be a sleeper.
Another young driver under the tutelage of 358 driver Steve Bernard, Even Racine has had an incredible year on the Quebec side. He won his first feature last year, but this past season he cemented himself as Quebec’s rising start with seven wins over Granby, Drummond and RPM where he also claimed his first Sportsman track title.
Alex Lejoie also had one of his best years as he won a career high six races across Granby and Drummond and picked up both track titles.
Robert Delormier also had a great season up North where he was a threat to win weekly at Mohawk and ran time to time at Cornwell. He won two times at each track.
Connor Cleveland is the 2019 Albany-Saratoga champion and has multiple victories at both Malta and Plattsburgh.
Robert Bublack is hottest at the best time of the year as he reeled off two of the last three wins at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
Travis Bruno has shown nothing but consistency throughout the season at Plattsburgh and has a DirtCar North Series victory.
Bucko Branham is a 20-year veteran who despite struggling at times this season is definitely a top three car when he was clicking.
Jamy Begor might not be a familiar name, but at Plattsburgh he managed three wins during the month of August.
Central New York really hasn’t had a dominant driver as there were so many standing in victory lane. At Fulton there were regularly nearly 60 Sportsman in the pits and twin features nightly were common.
The balance of Central New York competition was amazing. Nearly 120 drivers earned points at Fulton during the 2019 season where 22 different drivers captured feature events.
Jackson Gill, track champ at Fulton, captured the point title by two points, but in his 15 starts at Fulton he won two and finished in the top-five nine times and top-10 13 times to edge out Chris Mackey by just two points for the title. Mackey collected three, but had seven top fives and 14 top-10s in 15 races. He also won twice at Brewerton.
Kyle Inman ranks among the best from the Western Region, with seven wins as he vies regularly at and Utica-Rome (where he was second in points). This season he captured a 100-lap green-to-checker event at UR where at one time he was seven seconds behind leader Matt Janczuk.
James Michael Friesen usually more than holds his own during NAPA Super DIRT Week competition and finished 10th in the overall weekly Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship points.
Matt Janzcuk had five wins at Fulton and had the most wins of any driver there. He ran just 10 showed and was in the top five in each and every one. He also captured the crown at Utica-Rome with four feature wins and the former Open Sportsman driver was a contender whenever he competed.
Taylor Caprara edged out Gill for the Can-Am crown.
Alan Fink chalked up three wins at Brewerton where he finished five points behind Kevin Root for the title. He also added two wins at Fulton along with a win at UR.
Young Zach Sobotaka has become “The Traveler” as he has been to numerous tracks this season and runs consistently no matter where he competes. Though only one win at Brewerton he was top five in half of the 14 races he entered and had 10 top-fives at Fulton in 15 races.
Kane Bristol finished second in points at the Land of Legends behind Western Champion Root. He was consistently one of the fastest cars at the track and not once finished outside the top ten while picking up three checkered flags.
Andrew Smith shifted to Hoosiers this year and he finished top five at LOL while chalking up a win along with four top-fives and 10 top-10s in 13 starts
There are so many other drivers who could be celebrating either at Oswego or at the satellite shows, but no matter what the outcome the Sportsman field will be highly competitive with each Friday night qualifier appearing as a mini-feature.