Story By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – CENTER LISLE, NY- Billy Dunn is coming off 2021 as the defending DIRTcar 358 Series champion, a goal that has been in his thoughts for years.
With a pass of race long leader Darren Smith on lap 56 of the 60 lap feature event at the Thunder Mountain Speedway, Dunn found himself in familiar territory as not only the race winner but now atop the 358 Series points once again.
Dunn who has been a semi-regular at picturesque oval, he used the experience to claim the $4,000 to prize in which was also the first ever Series event at the track. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to get him (Smith), I kept running higher and me and was keeping his momentum up,” Dunn went on, “I was just trying to stay close to him and hope for a mistake. I’m not sure if it was a mistake but he gave me some room and I had to go for it.”
Dunn and Smith started in the front row by virtue of the redraw, with Smith getting the advantage right at the start. “This track is so tough to get a hold of and you really need to keep your momentum up,” noted the eventual winner, “Even with all the restarts, he still got and few lengths on me. I just need that break and I don’t know if it was that lap car or not, but I got lucky to get under him.”
That lap car Dunn referred to was running a good pace but was also close to the groove that the leading duo were racing. What looked like a break in Smith’s momentum was what the doctor ordered for Dunn to make pass four laps before the waving of Dave Farney’s checkered flag.
While Smith did show a smile immediately after, you can tell he was looking at a win that got away. “I wasn’t sure if the slower car really did anything to me or if it was more me missing my mark in turn two,” Smith was analyzing, “I tried to stay running the same line lap after lap, I heard he (Dunn) was there but really never saw him. But, he got under me and got the win.”
“This is home for me, I have a lot of friends here and to win such a big event would have been pretty cool, we were close, but just came up short,” Smith summed up, “We will be back and look to get back in victory lane.”
DIRTcar 358 veteran Dave Marcuccilli just had a plan to stay conservative, low on the track and for him, it was a plan that worked picking up the final podium spot. “I wasn’t really comfortable out there so I just stayed to the inside and held my lane,” he went on, “It turned out that it really worked for me. I stayed out of trouble, I had some good restarts and here I am in third place.”
Marcuccilli who not sites second in Series points has his sights on the overall championship. “Yes, it something we will try for, we did last year as well but I think we are ready to give it a run,” said the many-time DIRTcar Sportsman champion, “It’s only the second race but we are sitting in a good spot.”
Behind the podium finishers were Lance Willix, who currently sits second in Thunder Mountain points with Erick Rudolph rounding out the top five. The next five was made up of Jeff Taylor, Tyler Meeks, 2021 track champion Colton Wilson, Derek Webb and Ryan Bartlett.
A solid field of 31 cars were pitside making for the largest DIRTcar 358 field since the track joined the DIRTcar fold in 2019. Winning the Hoosier Tire was Garrett Rushlow.
DIRTcar 358 Series at Thunder Mountain – Billy Dunn ($4,000), Darren Smith, Dave Marcuccilli, Lance Willix, Erick Rudolph, Jeff Taylor, Tyler Meeks, Colton Wilson, Derek Webb, Ryan Bertlett, Justin Stone, Brock Pinkerous, Steve Lewis, Corey Barker, Shayne Spoonhower, Matt Woodruff, Darryl Mitchell, Ronnie Davis III, Marshall Hurd, Jackson Gill, Justin Crisafulli, Tommy Collins, Jordan McCreadie, Todd Root, Rusty Smith, Billy VanInwegen, RJ Tresidder, Doug Smith, Garrett Rushlow, Adam Pierson, Connor Sellars.