Story By: MANDEE PAUCH / HBR – WEEDSPORT, NY – The 2019 season concluded last weekend in North Carolina for Jimmy Phelps and the Heinke-Baldwin race team at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Despite closing out the season on top during a prestigious weekend, it was quite the grueling season for the no.98h team leading up to it.
Friday nights saw Phelps and the team at their home track, Brewerton Speedway, where they finished fifth in the points standings.
“We felt like we were decent at the start of the year,” he said. “We needed some fine tuning though. Then it seemed as we kept tuning, the track kept changing. It felt like we could never keep up with the track. We had a lot of decent nights, but never really felt like we had a grasp on the place like we’ve had in the past. It was a little frustrating for sure.”
Phelps collected one victory early on in the season at the banked clay oval.
“If Brewerton becomes home again, we’re going to have to go about it a little different and kind of regain that comfort zone we used to have there.”
Phelps once again competed with the Super DIRTcar Series as they traveled all across the northeast at various dirt tracks in both the Unites States and Canada.
“The series was a tough year,” noted Phelps. “We started out the year getting tore up on the opener while running in the top-five, which resulted in a DNF, but after that we were able to gather up some decent finishes.”
Even though they were able to make some ground after the season opener mishap, Phelps felt like they were still missing something.
“Just like any year, you have your ups and your downs,” he said. “This year we seemed to have more downs than ups. We never could really get comfortable.”
The teams lack of comfort led them to digging a little deeper into their program.
“When you’re having more downs than ups it puts you in the hunt to play around with different suspension stuff,” he added. “We didn’t find anything we could really work with, so our consistency really dropped off.”
Heading into the final stretch of the season and into Super DIRT Week, the team knew where they needed to be.
“As Super DIRT Week went on, things were finally starting to look up,” he said. “It started creeping back up a bit for us. But of course, before you knew it, the week was over.”
A lot of things may have been going on throughout the season, but the team showed their strength after finishing fifth in the 200 at Oswego Speedway.
“We’ve been learning the coils which is new to me,” noted Phelps. “There were a lot of new things going on this year; different equipment, a different approach, and really was just a big learning curve.”
The final race weekend of the season at The Dirt Track was just what Phelps and the team needed.
“Charlotte was a huge pick-me-up after a very challenging season,” he said. “I’d say it brought a little confidence back to the program.”
The team unloaded the car and it was quick right off the gate.
“We won the heat and drew seventh for Friday nights race,” he said. “Then it kind of went our way from there. We got into the top three and were able to miss the damage that occurred during lapped traffic to drive away with the win.”
Phelps pulled away from the field Friday night in the 40-lap main event to pick up his first Super DIRTcar Series win of the season.
“It was nice to go down there and validate that we’re on the right track,” he said. “It was quite a blessing.”
Phelps and the team were able to close out the season with a solid sixth-place finish overall in the Super DIRTcar Series point standings.
“It wasn’t an ideal season, but to be able to come into Charlotte and validate that all the changes and hard work we’ve been putting in worked, then we’re in the right direction for 2020. It’s a great way to leave us feeling good for the off season.”