Column By: CAN-AM SPEEDWAY – LAFARGEVILLE, NY – The 2021 season featured some of the most competitive racing to be had anywhere in the DIRTcar division at Can-Am Speedway. Early on in the season, two figures emerged as the front runners for the track championship and they battled throughout the year, right down to the final night of points racing.
Billy Dunn and Tim Fuller, both from Watertown, New York, have decades of combined racing experience. Fuller started racing back in the 90s, while Dunn has raced just about everything at Can-Am – from BMX bikes to karts to 358s.
Fans were treated to a back and forth almost every week. If Dunn wasn’t in the Bob Johnson Auto Group Victory Lane, it was Fuller, and vice versa. That’s not to say the rest of the field was just there as window dressing. Drivers like Ryan Bartlett, Lance Willix, Preston Forbes, Jordan McCreadie and Tyler Meeks were all competitive, challenging Fuller and Dunn each and every week. But the two leaders seemed to always have that extra something to get them into victory lane.
As the season began to wind down, the question kept coming up “What are your thoughts on the points race?”
Each driver had almost identical sentiments.
“The points will take care of themselves,” Fuller said one week.
“I’m not going to worry about points until the last week,” Dunn said another time.
They were both right. On Friday night the points race was literally a dead heat; a perfect tie. It all came down to the final week of racing.
Through qualifying heat races, both Dunn and Fuller looked good. They looked ready to put on a show. When the starting positions were finalized, it was only appropriate that the two started side-by-side in the field, Dunn in 13th position, Fuller in 14th.
Earlier in the season Fuller said something that would prove prescient, “It’s always a race to the front at the beginning. Once the race gets going, it’s harder and harder to pass.”
This proved to be an insight that would spell the difference on Friday night.
As the green flag dropped and drivers shifted for position, some going four-wide on the Nasty Track of the North at Can-Am Speedway, it was Fuller who slipped to the middle and found a wide-open avenue past multiple cars. He was able to scoot from 14th to 4th within just three laps before a caution came out. Dunn attempted the same feat but was flummoxed by drivers that pulled out and blocked the wide open lane to the front of the field. Dunn would be faced with battling very good drivers for each and every position he gained throughout the duration of the race, while Fuller had only to contend with a handful of drivers at the front. This would spell the difference in the finish.
For the most part, it was wide open racing after that initial caution. The track calmed down, safe for a few moguls that developed in treacherous turn three, and the drivers fell into line as they worked through the 25-lap feature.
Ryan Bartlett was driving like an absolute champion – something he could have been a contender for this season were it not for several did-not-finishes early on in the season. Those early snake-bites cost Bartlett a chance at competing for the track championship alongside Dunn and Fuller.
Bartlett made all the right moves throughout the night and captured the victory. Meanwhile, Fuller was Mr. Perfect right behind him, sliding through the field and bettering his position seemingly every time he completed a lap.
Dunn wasn’t so fortunate on Friday night. He had missed the express train to the front of the pack on the early laps and was stuck fighting for everything he gained.
At the end of the night, as the checkered flag unfurled, signaling an end of the race and the season itself, Ryan Bartlett was the winner heading to the Bob Johnson Auto Group Victory Lane and Tim Fuller found himself track champion. Billy Dunn, after an epic run on the 2021 season, finished 7th behind a stout lineup of Jackson Gill, Tyler Meeks, Preston Forbs and Andrew Howard,– all drivers who are competing at the highest level. Dunn finished second in points for the season.
“I came in here tonight the same way I came in the first night,” the ever articulate Tim Fuller said from victory lane. “I’m going to try to win. Don’t get me wrong, I do this for the money, but I would have done it if there was zero money on the line. I don’t know, it’s something messed up in my brain. I’m very fortunate. Had my dad here, had my motor builder here…he never comes. My very first year here [at Cam-Am Speedway] was 1992 and I ran here for three or for years. I’ll tell you what, those were dogfights back then. I think the best I’d ever done here was third. I hadn’t tried for a championship since last year. That was the first time in, what, fifteen years. I’ve run here off and on pretty much my whole life. Hard to believe we won it [the track championship] this year. Our hearts go out to Joanie Fink who lost Harvey. He was one of the great promoters during my time. He did it right.”
It was a hard-fought victory that had ups and downs throughout the year. Consistently good racing, and solid work ethic put Tim Fuller and his St. Lawrence Radiology number 19 in victory lane enough times to score the 2021 Track Championship at Can-Am Speedway. It was a well-earned victory, one he is sure to savor for years to come.
For the fans, they witnessed a spectacle that may only be appreciated in hindsight. Each week was competitive on the track. Each week solid competition rolled onto the oval at Can-Am. The Speedway has risen to be a real jewel in upstate and northern New York, as Tyler Bartlett has pulled out all the stops to put together a great, family-friendly venue that attracts top-notch talent. To say 2021 was a success is an understatement. In the more than capable hands of the Bartlett family Can-Am will continue to thrive in the coming years.
Racing returns to Can-Am Speedway with the September Showdown, September 10th and 11th – two nights of exciting racing to finish off a spectacular season of racing at the Nasty Track of the North.