Column By: ADAM CORNELL / RPW – LAFARGEVILLE, NY – Before lap one was even completed, a wreck stopped the race in the Whitesboro Plow Shop DIRTcar 358 Modified feature, on Friday, June 17th at Can-Am Speedway in La Fargeville, New York.
Lance Willix, of Theresa, NY and Dan Beachard, of Russell, NY got into each other, spinning out in turn three.
The wreck collected Billy Dunn, of Watertown, NY, as well when Beachard’s car ended up point the wrong direction and was hung up on the left shock tower of Dunn’s car. Dunn was visibly irate in his car as he feared the worst from the wreck. The crew at the track did an admirable job of carefully removing Beachard’s number 36B from atop Dunn’s number 49.
Dunn was able to drive back to the pits, give the car a quick once-over and return to the race at the tail of the field remaining on the lead lap.
Willix and Beachard looked like they might have been able to continue racing, but hot tempers got the best of the drivers as they decided to exchange a few extra bumps to inform the other driver of their disfavor.
The altercation culminated in the two chasing eachother down the back stretch past the slow-moving cars aligned for a caution restart. The extra-curricular activity earned both drivers’ removal from the race.
The fireworks were not done for the night, not by a long shot. On the restart, coming out of turn four, just as the field got on the accelerator, mayhem ensued. Jack Meeks, of Evans Mills, NY was on the outside front row with Shaun Shaw of Philadelphia, NY was right behind him. Shaw got on the gas a bit quicker than Meeks and drove into his rear bumper, spinning Meeks out in front of the field.
It happened so quickly there was zero time to react. Cameron Black, of La Fargeville, NY was the first victim. He drove up over Meeks’ front left tire, launching up into the air, decimating the front suspension and linkage. Tyler Meeks, also from Evans Mills, NY, who was in the same row as Shaw, was sent sideways right in front of Scott Webb, of Brownville, NY. Webb also launched up into the air over Tyler Meeks’ front tire, but he was able to drive away.
Jordan McCreadie, Jordan Kelly, Jarrett Herbison, George Sanford, and Preston Forbes were all involved as well.
Where was Ryan Bartlett in all of this? He watched Jack Meeks get spun out right in front of him and took evasive action, swerving to miss the rear of Meeks’ vehicle, sneaking past and into the clear. The wreck was mere inches from gobbling up Bartlett as well.
“I was really lucky to escape those wrecks early on,” Bartlett said after the race.
It wasn’t luck that got Bartlett across the finish line in first place after that, it was pure racing skill.
After the pause in racing to clean up the wrecked vehicles and remove the debris from the track, Bartlett found himself in an optimal situation to challenge for the lead. He battled with Shaun Shaw and RJ Tressider of Edwards, NY, in a three-way melee for first place. Bartlett emerged the victor of that fray and began to pull away from the rest of the field immediately.
Bartlett’s familiarity with the track paid off as he was able to hit his marks around the track, running almost perfect parabolas through the corners, taking the low line through the corners, making it nearly impossible to pass.
Scott Webb pressured Bartlett early, and by the mid-point of the race had to contend with Tim Fuller of Watertown, NY. It took just a few more laps before Fuller was in second place, hounding Bartlett for the lead. Fuller has been a top-finisher week in and week out for 2022 as he chases the track championship, but Bartlett was able to masterfully handle his machine through the balance of the race, taking the checkered flag and his first trip to victory lane for the 2022 season.
Tim Fuller finished second, Taylor Caprara of Watertown, NY took third, with a resurgent Billy Dunn finishing fourth and Shaun Shaw completing the top five for the night.
Bartlett was very much aware of Fuller tight on his six through the last half of the race, and knew he had to have a practically perfect run to get the win.
“Any time you can beat Tim [Fuller] right now, you’re doing good,” Bartlett said after the race. In regards to the track itself and how it changed from beginning to end, he had this to say, “You could drive hard going into the turns, but you had to drive like your foot was on an egg coming out – it was slick and pretty technical tonight.”
Bartlett had two top five finishes before Friday night’s victory, keeping him in contention in the points chase. With the win, Bartlett pulled into second place behind Fuller for the track championship at Can-Am Speedway, a track owned by Bartlett’s brother, Tyler.
With so many wrecked vehicles in the Friday night feature, most drivers are thankful for a week off as Can-Am pauses racing to allow for graduation weekend in the North Country of New York. Racing will return to Can-Am for the Pabst Shootout on Wednesday, June 29th.
The special midweek night of racing will include a return of the Whitesboro Plow Shop DIRTcar 358 Modifieds as well as the Empire Super Sprints and the Bob Johnson Auto Group DIRTcar Sportsman Modifieds.