Column By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – OSWEGO, NY – Ask any Big Block Modified driver about NAPA Super DIRT Week and they’ll tell you…
“It’s our Super Bowl,” said Super DIRTcar Series star Jimmy Phelps, echoing the sentiment of his competitors.
The event, which started in 1972 at the New York State Fairgrounds with Big Block Modifieds, quickly became Racing’s Biggest Party and a dream of many to win, attracting high-profile drivers like NASCAR’s Bobby Allison and World of Outlaws Sprint Car champion Sammy Swindell, drivers from across the world like Australia’s Peter Britten and legends of the Northeast motorsport realm.
Celebrating its historic 50th Running at Oswego Speedway in Oswego, NY (in 50 days, Oct. 3-9), drivers shared why it’s their most important race of the year.
“Back when I was younger and wasn’t racing, it was always amazing to roll into ‘The Mile’ (at the New York State Fairgrounds), and now Oswego,” said two-time and defending NAPA Super DIRT Week champion Mat Williamson. “It just brings a different atmosphere to a race and being a week-long event is also pretty cool. Throughout the night, there’s different campfires and bonfires and parties you can join, and you get to see all your friends from all over. So, it’s a pretty cool deal.”
Williamson, of St. Catharines, ON, is currently the only repeat Billy Whittaker Cars 200 winner (2019, 2021) in its current incarnation at Oswego Speedway, while fellow Canadian Stewart Friesen and eight-time Super DIRTcar Series champion Matt Sheppard are the only two Big Block drivers to have won at the “Moody Mile” and Oswego.
“I just get excited,” Sheppard said. “I think about the whole atmosphere, the whole week, and I just wanna get back there and try to be sittin’ in Victory Lane on Sunday (for the Billy Whittaker Cars 200). I mean, that’s a special feeling.”
Along with being a two-time Big Block Modified NAPA Super DIRT Week champion (2009, 2017), Sheppard is the sole driver to have won a Big Block, Small Block Modified (2003, 2017) and Sportsman Modified (2000) title at Super DIRT Week.
Winning the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 this year will again award a $50,000 payday, the ever-lasting title of being a Super DIRT Week champion and a new one-of-a-kind, one-year-only, 50th NAPA Super DIRT Week trophy. The 50-year history of the event is represented on the trophy with the bottom plate in the shape of the “Moody Mile” (1972-2015) and the top plate in the shape of Oswego Speedway (2016-current).
While “The Mile” is missed by many, drivers from nearby and far have embraced Oswego as the new house for Racing’s Biggest Party.
“It’s a very prestigious racetrack,” said Tim Sears Jr., of Central Square, NY. “The best has raced there over the years and it’s just a lot of fun. The track is racy and like I said, it’s just fun to be there.
“Oswego Speedway is one of the most prestigious tracks in Upstate New York and being local from right down the road, it’s very cool to be able to race there against all your idols. I mean we grew up right around the corner and it’s just nice to put dirt on it and do what we love there.”
Along with the on-track action, including the addition of the Past Champions Race (Thursday, Oct. 6), this year’s event is loaded with fan activities throughout the week. There will be a charity golf tournament benefiting Colorectal Cancer Research, multiple cornhole tournaments, a pancake breakfast benefiting the CHC Learning Center in Amherst, NY, fireworks, concerts and a DJ every night after racing is over.
“I don’t think they call Super DIRT Week ‘Racing’s Biggest Party’ for no reason,” Max McLaughlin said. “You know, it’s definitely the fans, and the atmosphere is wild and a lot of fun, but you know, the grind of racing your Small Block at night, getting up early in the morning and racing and practicing all day and racing… it’s unlike any other form of dirt racing that there is anywhere else for sure, and it kind of reminds me of the asphalt stuff getting up early and racing and working all day and it’s just a constant grind and it really show the teams that really prepare for it and work hard for it usually excel at the end of the week.”
For those who have never been, Sheppard said there’s only one way to describe it.
“It’s just one of those things that you can’t describe, you just gotta go and see it for yourself,” he said.