Column By: ADAM CORNELL / RPW – LAFARGEVILLE, NY – Tim Fuller found himself in victory lane once again on Friday night at Can-Am Speedway.
It was a hard-fought battle to get to the front and get across the finish line first.
It came with the added icing on the cake for Fuller as he moved up the list for the all-time most wins ever at the Nasty Track of the North.
Tim Fuller spent last season battling week-in and week-out with fellow Watertownian, Billy Dunn. The two were like prized fighters swapping rounds each week, until it came right down to the final week of points competition when Fuller captured the track title for 2021.
This year, Dunn started the year with success, and an early season victory, but had some engine issues and then had to battle against a Covid illness and deal with the subsequent recovery, so it looked like Fuller would be clear sailing. Not so fast.
Along the way drivers like Derek Webb, Ryan Bartlett, Jordan McCreadie, and Jordan Kelly were all able to stand tall and take a victory. Despite the heated competition, Tim Fuller has still been able to rise above the rest of the field and take four victories on the season, including the win on Friday night; the only driver in the 358 Modified class to have more than a single victory in 2022.
Friday night’s race was a gem to behold for Fuller fans. Tyler Meeks of Evans Mills, NY and RJ Tresidder of Edwards, NY started the Whitesboro Plow Shop DIRTcar 358 Modified feature on the front row, in positions one and two, respectively. Tim Fuller started 12th, with previous feature winners Ryan Bartlett, Billy Dunn, Jordan McCreadie and Derek Webb all starting in front of him. To get to victory lane, Fuller would have the fight of the season on his hands.
At the drop of the green flag, Fuller jumped up a few positions, having said in the past that to have any chance at all at Can-Am you have to get to the front quickly before the field stretches out. Billy Dunn, who started in 6th position, looked to be back in his old form, charging to the front and challenging for the lead almost immediately. By lap 8, Dunn owned the lead, with Tyler Meeks behind him. But right behind Meeks was Fuller. He’d managed to drive from 12th to 3rd in 8 laps. A lap later and suddenly Fuller was behind Dunn, vying for the lead. Only a few more laps clicked by and a caution came out over the track as last week’s winner, Jordan Kelly powered down with an issue with his car, eliciting the yellow flag.
Dunn and Fuller would resume green-flag racing side by side, duking it out like it was ’21. On the restart, it looked like Fuller had the advantage right away, but an immediate caution forced a redo. The first time wasn’t a fluke. Fuller had the hot foot and was able to storm away from Dunn and the rest of the field upon the waving of the green flag.
Fuller ran ahead of the pack, clicking off the laps and hoping to not have to face another caution restart. Behind him, Ryan Bartlett moved into second place and looked to have a fast line around the track all figured out. But only two laps remained. Fuller navigated through lapped traffic and never gave Bartlett an opportunity to challenge for the lead.
The fourth victory of the season put Fuller 52 points ahead of second place Ryan Bartlett for the track championship. With but a handful of races left, it will be an uphill battle for Bartlett to make up ground. For Fuller, the likelihood of a repeat is starting to become more and more a reality.
Fuller isn’t focused on the points. He’s in the moment, taking on each race individually. Even as his all-time win total continues to climb, he’s reticent about indulging in the glory and accolades.
Race announcer, Tim Baltz, regularly tries to pry out an excitable soundbite from Fuller in victory lane, but gets a reserved, professional reply. Every time.
Friday night, rather than focusing on his win totals, Fuller chose to talk about the track conditions that led to his victory.
“It was a very versatile racetrack tonight,” Fuller said. “You could run the top or the bottom. I like two-lane racing, it was better than last week.” Fuller didn’t win last week. But he did this week. So, it was better. ‘Nuff said.
For his second time in as many victory lane visits, he was asked about his win total. And for the second time in as many victory lane visits, he decorously deflected and said, “It just means I’ve been around for a while.”
It’s more than just being around for a while that has brought Fuller to the pinnacle of racing success at Can-Am. It’s his skill and knowledge. His ability to get to the front on a regular basis and keep his car on the track, using wisdom to know when to stick a nose in and risk a move and when to accept a top three or top five finish instead and survive to race again the following week. Keeping the car in one piece so you only need to make minor adjustments week-in and week-out are a pathway for success. It’s a pathway that Fuller has found and continues to travel late into the 2022 season.
Fuller will look to cement his 2022 Can-Am Speedway championship campaign next week as racing returns to Can-Am on August 5th. Only four nights of championship points racing remain at Can-Am, weather permitting. It’s not over yet. The fat-lady hasn’t sung, to borrow a colloquialism, so, the opera ain’t over just yet. But she’s warming up.