Column By: ROBERT SYMONDS / RPW – CHARLOTTE, NC – When rain soaked the speedway the night before at The Dirt Track At Charlotte, the DIRTcar Officials revised the schedule for Friday. So starting the night was the Friday Night qualifying heats for the Super DIRTcar Series.
Claiming victories in the heat races was Jimmy Phelps, Billy Decker, Matt Sheppard, and Demetrios Drellos. With no time to run Last Chance Showdowns, DIRTcar decides to run all 38 cars for the Super DIRTcar Series 40 lap feature event.
Off the drop of the green, Decker and Dunn put down a shower of Big Block power into turn 1. Matt Sheppard with early race trouble nearly spinning in turn 1 coming down the track to save the car from spinning in front of the field. First time around it was the Franklin Flyer Billy Decker leading the way over Billy Dunn and Brian Swartzlander.
Max McLaughlin goes 3 wide on lap 2 with Pat Ward and Matt Sheppard for 10th, he will take that spot. The first yellow falls on lap 3 for Matt Sheppard with a right front flat. The point leader has trouble early putting him in a position where the 9s would have to work a bit harder. Sheppard locked into a tight points battle did not want to see something hurt his point chances but still has a lot of time to make up that many positions as we had 37 laps to go.
While the field roars back to green, the back half of the top 5 finds itself in a precarious situation as Pat Ward, Brian Swartzlander, Demetrios Drellos, and Anthony Perrego go 4 wide for 6th place on lap 4. Larry Wight in his FX Caprara 99L is able to take most of his advances on the restarts finding himself up to 5th on the restart after starting 12th.
Second place in the point standings, Mat Williamson finds himself marching forward. After starting 15th, he was up to 10th on lap 11 and then taking 9th on lap 12. Billy Decker, still setting a blistering pace, enters the back of the field on lap 14 while Billy Dunn takes advantage to close back in on the race leader.
The second yellow falls on lap 16 for Gary Lindberg off the pace with a RF flat as well. On the ensuing restart, the Baldwinsville Bandit Jimmy Phelps makes quick work, moving to the outside Phelps overtakes Billy Dunn and Gary Tomkins on lap 17 to take the second spot as they come around for lap 18. The yellow flag flies for Billy Dunn on lap 20 for significant rear end damage that ends his night for the Graham Racing 49.
As the field comes back to the green, Pat Ward in the LJL Gypsum Racing 42p makes his way up to 3rd around Gary Tomkins while Erick Rudolph marches past both Larry Wight and Mat Williamson for 5th. Yellow fell on lap 22 for, the 3rd Gypsum driver and the leader of the race, Billy Decker who had a left rear flat.
With the exit of Decker, Phelps inherits the race lead over Ward and Tomkins. During this yellow, Perrego also has a flat tire but this time it is the right rear for the Graham Racing 18. During the restart, Tomkins falls to 4th then Wight gets past Tomkins. So Tomkins falls to 5th very quickly as Rudolph and Wight make the charge. Mike Maresca in the St Lawrence Radiology 7mm is also on the move during the midpoint of the race, he grabs 6th on lap 24.
As the laps wound down for their 40 lap feature, Sheppard continued to recover from his early race mishap finding himself inside the top 20. As the yellow would fall on lap 28 for Billy Pauch Jr, Sheppard saw yet another opportunity to capitalize. Sheppard grabbed 2 more positions on the restart to find himself in the top 15. However back up front, Rudolph and Wight once again deliver a 1-2 punch. This time its to Wight’s teammate, Pat Ward, they move past the 42p to put themselves up to their race ending spots second and third respectively.
The final yellow on lap 33 for, Horseheads, NY native, Eric Williams would not deny Jimmy Phelps as he would head to victory lane for the first time in 2019 for the Super DIRTcar Series in a new Bicknell Racing Chassis. Erick Rudolph would settle for 2nd, Larry Wight 3rd, Pat Ward 4th, and Mat Williamson 5th.
“I knew we had a decent car, I just didn’t know what Erick had,” Phelps said elated in Victory Lane. “Tonight was a catch 22, we were good on long runs but restarts were the toughest. The crew worked hard to put this new ride together and glad we are here winning the first race with a new car.”
Erick Rudolph is used to being the bridesmaid as of late, he finished runner up again at World Finals Friday evening.
“Phelps was definitely the class of the field,” Rudolph mentioned to Blake Anderson. “For tomorrow though, time will tell. We will work with the crew and hopefully we can come back with a better run tomorrow.”
Larry Wight held a hard charge, following in Rudolphs tire tracks to finish out the top 3.
“We made wholesale changes after last night,” Wight said Friday night at The Dirt Track At Charlotte. “I think Pat Ward and I were the only one who had torsion bar cars out here so we switched to a coil car. We kept it a bit tighter tonight so we weren’t so loose out there and it felt better.”
After Friday nights race, the points lead has switched back to being in favor of Mat Williamson. Unofficially, Mat Williamson has an 18 point advantage over Super Matt Sheppard. Though keep in mind, tomorrow night is the night when the Champion will be crowned. One race to settle out the 2019 Super DIRTcar Series Championship. Stay tuned here to Race Pro Weekly for all World Finals action.
World Finals At Charlotte – Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds – November 8, 2019
Friday Night Feature (40 Laps)- Jimmy Phelps, Erick Rudolph, Larry Wight, Pat Ward, Mat Williamson, Mike Maresca, Tim Fuller, Danny Johnson, Ryan Godown, Matt Sheppard, Peter Britten, Tyler Thompson, Justin Haers, Demetrios Drellos, Brian Swartzlander, Mike Mahaney, brett Hearn, Gary Tomkins, Billy Decker, Jack Lehner, Gary Lindberg, Paul StSauveur, Justin Wright, Ronnie Johnson, Jeremiah Shingledecker, Yan Bussiere, Steve Bernard, Phil Vigneri, Anthony Perrego, Eric Williams, Chris Hile, Tyler Siri, Daniel Johnson, Billy Pauch Jr, Max McLaughlin, Billy Dunn, Carey Terrance, Marcus Dinkins
Heat Races – 8 Laps – Top 5 Qualify
Heat 1- Jimmy Phelps, Billy Dunn, Erick Rudolph, Tyler Siri, Tim Fuller, Billy Pauch Jr, Chris Hile, Gary Lindberg, Jeremiah Shingledecker, Daniel Johnson
Heat 2- Billy Decker, Anthony Perrego, Max McLaughlin, Pat Ward, Ryan Godown, Mike Maresca, Danny Johnson, Mike Mahaney, Yan Bussiere
Heat 3- Matt Sheppard, Gary Tomkins, Ronnie Johnson, Mat Williamson, Steve Bernard, Carey Terrance, Paul StSauveur, Tyler Thompson, Justin Haers, Brett Hearn
Heat 4- Demetrios Drellos, Brian Swartzlander, Larry Wight, Peter Britten, Jack Lehner, Justin Wright, Phil Vigneri, Eric Williams, Marcus Dinkins