Column By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – WEEDSPORT, NY – Super DIRTcar Series fans are in for a treat this Memorial Day weekend as the Big Block Modifieds get ready for back-to-back events.
They’ll make their way to Weedsport Speedway for the Heroes Remembered 100 on Sunday, May 29, then immediately travel eastbound for one of the most anticipated events on the schedule, the King of the Spring 100 at Lebanon Valley Speedway on Monday, May 30.
The Weedsport race will award the winner of the 100-lap feature with a $7,500 pay day while the winner of the 100-lap Feature at Lebanon Valley will be awarded a $13,500 check along with a guaranteed starting spot at NAPA Super DIRT Week.
Here are the top storylines to follow…
LOOKING TO REPEAT:
Mat Williamson, of St. Catharines, ON, took the checkers last year at Weedsport Speedway and currently sits third in the point standings after a fifth-place finish at Can-Am Speedway on May 18. Williamson has shown himself to be a serious competitor this season with two top five finishes. Though the podium has eluded him thus far, there’s no doubt he will look to improve on his previous finishes and find his way into Victory Lane.
He and the Buzz Chew Racing team had a respectable second place finish at Lebanon Valley last year after a hard-fought race against Stewart Friesen and Matt Sheppard in challenging weather conditions.
Matt Sheppard, a two-time “Mr. DIRT Track USA” winner at the track, currently sits in seventh place in the point standings and is the defending winner of the King of Spring 100. Though he was hampered by a DNF at Bridgeport, Sheppard returned to his usual form with a dominating win at Can-Am Speedway last Wednesday.
Sheppard is quite familiar and comfortable at Weedsport, having posted a remarkable seven wins at the 3/8-mile oval from 2010-2019. He even doubled-up in 2019, winning on July 28 and September 2.
LEADING THE PACK:
Multi-time NAPA Super DIRT Week champion and NASCAR Truck Series star Stewart Friesen, of Sprakers, NY, currently sits in the top slot of the points race, 13 points ahead of second-place Max McLaughlin. Friesen carried the Mr. DIRT Track USA honors after winning the race in 2015 but finished a disappointing 18th in the spring Mr. DIRT Track race last year after leading the pack for 80 laps. Caution flags and precision driving through traffic by his competitors were the main contributing factors to Friesen not finding the podium, which he will look to rebound from this time around.
Friesen has captured the checkered flag three times in his Super DIRTcar Series career at Weedsport, winning last year’s edition of the Hall of Fame 100. Prior to that victory, Friesen finished third in the May race at the track after an impressive push during the last lap to pass Justin Haers who suffered a flat left-front tire.
The Heinke-Baldwin racing duo of Max McLaughlin and Jimmy Phelps are also looking to make their presence known this weekend. McLaughlin currently sits second in the point standings after a solid performance at Can-Am. Starting from 18th place, he persisted throughout the race’s entirety, finishing just outside of the podium in fourth. His jump in the standings indicates the endurance of his car which will come in handy for two 100-lap Features this weekend.
Beyond the statistics, Weedsport Speedway has special meaning to him as it was the site of his first ever Super DIRTcar Series career win back in October 2020, passing his childhood racing idol Matt Sheppard for a $10,000 check in the DIRTcar OktoberFAST finale.
Phelps currently sits in fourth in the points standings after finishing sixth at Can-Am. He had a fifth-place showing last year at his team’s home track in Weedsport and will be looking to improve on an 11th place finish at Lebanon Valley.
As a longtime DIRTcar-sanctioned track, Lebanon Valley is home to several Big Block Modified powerhouses that carve-up the half-mile paperclip on a weekly basis.
Andy Bachetti, the four-time and defending Big Block Modified track champion from Sheffield, MA, leads the charge for the local contenders against the Super DIRTcar Series regulars, with three Series wins at Lebanon and a winner in three of the last five weekly Features. He now holds a 52-point lead over second-place Kyle Armstrong and Eddie Marshall, and is 54 points ahead of a three-way tie for third between Brett Haas, LJ Lombardo and Kenny Tremont Jr.
Marshall and Marc Johnson also have Big Block Feature wins at the track in 2022. Tremont, the 14-time Big Block track champion from West Sand Lake, NY, has yet to see Lebanon Victory Lane this season, but is poised to be up front on Monday, having collected seven total Series wins there since his first in 1998.
The extended Feature race distance will undoubtedly highlight a need for drivers and their cars to perform with endurance. The races will be the first 100-lap Features contested this season, succeeding four-straight 30-lappers and the 50-lap finale at Volusia in February and the two most recent 75-lap events at Bridgeport and Can-Am. Hard charges and caution flags are always a possibility, meaning, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”