Column By: STEPHEN DURHAM / RPW – MALTA, NY – It is the final race before the 50th running of the NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, and the final qualifying race for the biggest race of the season.
Sheppard is ready to add to his win list in the final weeks of the 2022 season. Williamson will look to gain ground on Sheppard in these next couple of weeks.
The points battle from 4th to 7th place has a differential of 8 points, so every point will count in the coming weeks.
Could it be an Albany-Saratoga regular who steals the win like Kenny Tremont Jr, Matt Delorenzo, or anther regular?
Could it be a sleeper like Tim Sear Jr or Adam Pierson? Or will it just be Mike Mahaney, defending his last two wins this past June and last October.
1: Matt Sheppard (Previous Rank: 1):
Sheppard continues to close in on his 9th Super DIRTcar Series championship, currently with 123 point lead over Mat Williamson as they head to Albany Saratoga this weekend. Two top 5s in the last 3 races, with a runner-up finish at Weedsport during Cavalcade Weekend. Sheppard said earlier this week his goal through the end of the season is just winning races. Sheppard finished 10th back in June at Malta, he will look to improve on that and crack the top 5. He finished 3rd last September during the Malta massive weekend.
2: Mat Williamson (Previous Rank: 2):
Since Williamson’s win at his hometrack of Ransomville, he has yet to crack the top 10, finishing 12th at both Lebanon Valley and Weedsport. This has allowed for the points lead to grow between himself and Sheppard. Williamson will need to have a strong run and beat Sheppard out the rest of the season to have a chance at his 2nd Super DIRTcar Series championship. Williamson finished 12th back in June and 6th last September.
3: Max McLaughlin(Previous Rank: 4):
It has been a quiet backend of the season for the young-gun “Mad-Max”, with his best finish over the last 3 races being at Lebanon Valley in 8th. McLaughlin came home 16th at Weedsport after starting 26th. The points battle is tight around the top 5 in the standings, with Max currently sitting 4th tied with Anthony Perrego. Four drivers are within 8 points of each other back to 7th place, between Perrego, McLaughlin, Marc Johnson, and Britten. McLaughlin struggled in June at Malta, coming home 19th, and 14th last September.
4: Stewart Friesen (Previous Rank: 3):
The dark cloud has been lingering around the Friesen car, with mechanical issues at recent races for the Halmar 44. Friesen will be trophy hunting this weekend at Albany Saratoga, he wasn’t around in June, as he was NASCAR truck series racing, but was the runner-up last September behind Mike Mahaney.
5: Peter Britten (Previous Rank: 6):
Britten has been holding a steady pace as of late, finishing 11th at Weedsport after starting 20th, with a runner-up at Ransomville, and 9th place finish at Lebanon Valley earlier this month. Britten is fighting for a top 5 finish in points, and goes to tracks where he is very familiar with. 3 wins in weekly competition at Albany Saratoga, and finished 2nd in the points behind Matt Delorenzo. Britten came home 8th in June and 5th last September.
6: Marc Johnson (Previous Rank: 5):
It continues to be a special season for Marc Johnson, as he is fighting for a top 5 finish in the championship standings in the homestretch of the season. Johnson won his 3rd heat race in 2022 and would come home 13th at Weedsport. Johnson will be hungry this weekend at Malta, after finishing 2nd behind Mahaney and leading 9 laps in June. If it’s not Mahaney out front this weekend, I’d be looking for the black 3J to be leading the field.
7: Jimmy Phelps (Previous Rank: 5):
It was another stout run for Phelps at his hometrack, starting 6th and coming home in 6th at the end of the night. Phelps currently sits 3rd in the Super DIRTcar standings, 41 points behind Williamson. With this weekend, Super DIRT Week, and World Finals remaining, he has time to reel in Williamson, and you never know, could reel in Sheppard. Phelps was at his daughter’s graduation in June, but it should be expected for him to have a strong showing this weekend in his return to “The Great Race Place.”
8: Billy Decker (Previous Rank: 9):
It was another top 10 for Decker, coming home 8th at Weedsport, following up a top 5 at Lebanon Valley. Decker, a seasoned veteran and three time Super DIRTcar Series champion, will be hungry to finish the season on a strong note. Decker finished 7th in June, and 9th last September.
9: Anthony Perrego (Previous Rank: 8):
It has been a tough slide for Perrego as of late, struggling to crack the top 10 since Brewerton back during SummerFAST. Perrego’s best finish over the last 3 races was at Ransomville back in August in 11th. Perrego though does find himself battling to be in the top 5 in points. Perrego had a strong run back in June, coming home 4th, and last September had a strong run going until he encountered mechanical issues.
10: Mike Mahaney (Previous Rank: UR):
Mahaney hasn’t been a regular on the tour this year, but when he shows up, he is showing his speed and is a contender to win, especially at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. He is the defending winner of the Massive Malta Weekend, and already won back in June. Mahaney will be hungry to make it three-in-row this weekend.
On the Radar:
– Adam Pierson: Another new guy to the tour continues to show consistency and growth on the 2022 campaign. Weedsport wasn’t all that kind to Pierson, starting 16th and finishing in 21st. Pierson did have a strong run back in June, coming home in 10th. Expect him to continue that success and work on cracking the top 5.
– Tim Sears Jr: If there were fantasy picks for the Super DIRTcar Series and you needed a sleeper, Tim Sears Jr is your guy it seems in 2022. In his 12 starts on the tour, Sears has two top 5s, five top 10s, and 2 heat race wins. One of those top 5s came at Albany Saratoga back in June.