Column By: ADAM CORNELL / SPECIAL TO RPW – LAFARGEVILLE, NY – In 2021 race fans were treated to an epic battle of mythical proportions on the Nasty Track of the North in La Fargeville, New York.
Can-Am Speedway was home to Billy Dunn in his number 49 and Tim Fuller in his number 19. Both battled it out week after week in the Whitesboro Plow Shop DIRTcar 358 Modified class.
No matter the starting position, Fuller and Dunn would pick their way through the field and either one or the other would end up vying for victory by the end of the race. In fact, only three other drivers made their way to victory lane during the 2021 campaign at Can-Am Speedway, namely, Jordan McCreadie, Jackson Gill and Ryan Bartlett.
At the end of 2021, Tim Fuller was crowned track champion at Can-Am, having edged out Billy Dunn in points, despite the fact that Dunn had accumulated more victories during the season.
In the off season, one of the most highly anticipated battles in all of 358 modified racing was the return of Fuller and Dunn to the track at Can-Am.
And yet, there were rumblings that fans would not get to see round two of the Battle of the 358 Titans. Whereas Billy Dunn was committed to return for the 2022 season, Tim Fuller was noncommittal about where he was going to race in 2022.
On Friday night, as teams began the trek through the gates off State Route 411, it was confirmed, fans would get to see at least one race between Fuller and Dunn in 2022.
After hot laps and the qualifying heat races were completed, the starting positions were set. Jordan McCreadie, one of the victors at Can-Am from 2021, started on the pole, with local favorite Taylor Caprara in second position. Just behind them started Tim Fuller. Back in the field, starting in eighth position was Billy Dunn.
A talent shared by both Dunn and Fuller is their ability to extract themselves from deep in the field and gain a position at the front very early in the race. The longer a race goes on without either of Fuller or Dunn getting into the top three positions, the more likely it is that another driver would take the victory at the track.
Fuller’s technique seems to be to bide his time hovering in second or third position until very late in the race, learning how the leader is hitting his marks around the track and then attacking for the lead when there is very little time left for any other driver to recover from the strike.
Dunn’s technique tends to be finding his way into the lead as early as possible and then driving away from the field so no one else even has an opportunity to make a play for the lead.
On Friday night, it looked as if fans would be robbed of the opportunity for a great race before it even began. In a caution-restarted lap one, driver Jeff Sykes came into turn three a little hot and clipped Dunn, knocking him into Shaun Shaw. Sykes went into the wall and ended his night, but Dunn managed to escape relatively unscathed.
Fuller seemed to be content riding in third position for a time as McCreadie and Caprara battled for first position. By lap nine of the twenty-five lap feature, Fuller captured the lead. Dunn moved up to second position just one lap later.
Fuller liked the low side around the track, finding the speed he needed. Dunn was able to run the high line for several laps, creeping ever closer to taking the lead away from Fuller.
By lap twelve Dunn saw his opportunity and passed the number 19 for the lead. Fuller didn’t attempt to take the lead back, employing his patient technique, waiting for his opportunity with only a few laps remaining.
With just five laps to go, Dunn and Fuller climbed up into lapped traffic. Lapped traffic can always prove to be the undoing of a great plan on the track. Without a caution to give Fuller an opportunity for a restart pass, Dunn was able to weave his way through the other, slower cars and capture the win.
A new 358 Titan may be rising to challenge the duel, as Jordan McCreadie finished in a close third after starting first in the race. With a deep racing pedigree, McCreadie could be the vanquisher of the Titans in 2022.
So far, it looks like fans of the 358 Modifieds are going to be treated to another great season at Can-Am with Dunn and Fuller duking it out for supremacy. Drivers like McCreadie, Lance Willix, Taylor Caprara and Ryan Bartlett continue to improve and will no doubt play a role in who lands in victory lane each and every week.