Column By: MICHELINA FRISS / DIRTCAR – WEST LEBANON, NY – The Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds will return to Lebanon Valley Speedway for the second time this season to crown a new Mr. DIRT Track USA champion on Saturday, Sept. 2.
The 100-lap matchup guarantees the winner – or next driver in the finishing order who hasn’t locked in – a starting spot at Super DIRT Week 51 and a massive $15,500 payout to the winner – the second highest payday of the championship season.
Here are the top storylines to follow…
GOING FOR 10: Nine-time and defending Series champion Matt Sheppard comes into the race as the front runner in the points battle with a 60-point lead over second place Mat Williamson.
He secured a guaranteed Super DIRT Week 51 starting spot with his Memorial Day win at Lebanon Valley. Since then, he’s scored two more Series wins, his second straight SummerFASTtitle and six runner-up finishes. He’ll look to keep the momentum going this weekend as a potential 10th Series title nears.
IN PURSUIT: Mat Williamson has been right on Matt Sheppard’s bumper the entire season, challenging him at every turn for points and wins.
The St. Catharines, ON driver sits second, 60 points behind Sheppard, coming into the Mr. DIRT Track USA showcase. Williamson finished fourth, 12th, then eighth during the last three visits. He’ll battle to score his first track victory and continue chipping away at Sheppard’s points lead.
EVERY POINT MATTERS: The competition for third through fifth position is tight as can be, separated by a mere 10 points coming into Lebanon Valley.
Jimmy Phelps: (Third place, 1847 points) Heinke-Baldwin Racing driver Jimmy Phelps has held steady in the top-five throughout the season with consistent finishes, including four top-five finishes and seven top-10 finishes.
The Baldwinsville, NY driver comes into Lebanon Valley one point in front of fourth place Mike Mahaney, increasing the stakes for each remaining race. He’ll be poised to improve upon his fifth-place run during the Memorial Day matchup at Lebanon Valley and try to claim his first Series win at the track.
MIKE MAHANEY: (Fourth place, 1846 points) Mike Mahaney has battled his way up the leaderboard this season and is positioned to continue that climb.
Even though he has limited experience at the 5/8-mile track, the King Ferry, NY native showed he can get the job done when he came in second during the Series’ first visit back on May 29. Additionally, he has not scored outside the top-10 since July 31, including his victory at Autodrome Drummond on Aug 1.
He’ll aim to keep his streak alive and battle for his first track win come Saturday.
TIM SEARS JR.: (Fifth place, 1837) Third-year full-time driver Tim Sears Jr. has had severalcareer highlights this season, with one of them a third-place finish at his home track Brewerton Speedway on Aug. 14 behind Series stars Mat Williamson and Matt Sheppard.
He comes into Lebanon Valley fifth in the points race, nine points behind fourth place Mike Mahaney, and 10 points behind third place Jimmy Phelps. He will have to have another career highlight this time around though, as Sears Jr. has yet to deliver a top-10 finish at the track. He finished 14th during the May 29 visit earlier this season.
LOCAL TALENT: One of the top local contenders the Series stars will face this Saturday is six-time Series winner at Lebanon Valley and defending Mr. DIRT Track USA winner Andy Bachetti.
On top of his Super DIRTcar Series success at the track, the Sheffield, MA driver has collected five Big Block Modified track championships and 61 career wins – he’ll lock up his fourth straight title at the track just by showing up on Saturday. He’s won the last two Mr. DIRT Track USA events and finished third with the Super DIRTcar Series at the track in May.
Local star Kenny Tremont will make his final Lebanon Valley start with the Super DIRTcarSeries on Saturday. The West Sand Lake, NY native, has become a master of the 1/2-mile speedway. He scored his 144th career win there last week and has collected 14 track championships. Tremont has nine Super DIRTcar Series wins at the track, his most recent coming in 2019.
Marc Johnson, of Guilderland, NY, took a step back from tour racing to focus on his weekly racing in 2023. This weekend, by showing up he’ll lock up a second-place finish in track points, as he also looks to score his first Super DIRTcar Series win. He earned a career best finish of second during the 2022 King of Spring event at Lebanon Valley in 2022 and finished fourth with the Series at the track in May.
LJ Lombardo, of Danbury, CT, earned his first career Super DIRTcar Series win at Lebanon Valley last year during the King of Spring. He had another strong run with the Series at the track in May, finishing sixth.