The ability to look back and learn from the past is important and necessary. As the dirt racing season in New York was winding down there were many storylines heading into Super Dirt Week 2017. In this article, I begin by making a prediction in the weeks leading up to “Dirt Racing’s Biggest Party” and recap the actual event weeks after as to see what the ramifications are heading into next year.
Dirt Racing is on the rise in New York, and a name to keep an eye on at Super Dirt Week 2017 is Tim Fuller from Edwards, New York. While he may not be known to the casual fan, enthusiasts have known his name for years. Coming into the Super DIRTcar Series race at Mohawk Raceway on September 16 Fuller had zero wins on the season, but left the track with all the momentum in the world. He not only won, but did so in convincing fashion.
Starting inside the top ten meant he inevitably had a fast car, but when the sun went down he was hands down the fastest car on the track. There was a four-car battle for the lead that lasted roughly 25-30 laps and after this Tim Fuller never relinquished the lead. He lapped into the top ten and did so by being the first car to successfully navigate the bottom lane of the track. It is that kind of versatility that will suit Fuller well at Oswego .
Racing on dirt makes passing difficult at times, so being able to run multiple lanes is often necessary in order to win. Last year, Stewart Friesen was victorious at Oswego (Super DIRT Week 2016) because he was able to pass Tim McCreadie in the middle lane of the track after chasing him around the top lane for many laps. Often the first person to successfully change lanes and show speed is the person to beat, and Tim Fuller is showing that he has that ability heading into Super Dirt Week 2017.
Tim Fuller has only won Super Dirt Week one time and that was back in 2004, on a different track (but that doesn’t matter). Momentum is an incredibly powerful thing, and he now has it. Oswego is still an unknown commodity for most dirt racers because it is only the second time Super Dirt Week is being held there, and the track is being covered with dirt rather than already being a dirt track; meaning the drivers will not have much of a history to turn to when preparing for the race. With a level playing field, it is possible that the deciding factor could be the driver with the most confidence to make a bold move in order to win. Right now that driver is Tim Fuller, and he can no longer be considered a longshot at Super Dirt Week thanks to his win at Mowhawk.
Now that Napa Auto Parts Super DIRT Week has come and passed, the dirt racing world should take a moment to reflect on the brilliance displayed this season. My prior prediction of Tim Fuller pulling an upset win proved incorrect because Matt Sheppard was able to execute a last lap pass to secure the victory over Peter Britten. Fuller had an average day, often running in or around the top ten, but the fastest car for the majority of the race was Matt Shepard’s number 9s.
Matt started on the pole and jumped out to an early lead. The race started out as a one groove track with little passing in the early portion of the race. The saying goes “cautions breed cautions” and that was exactly what happened. One caution led to another and when drivers began coming down pit road to get fresh tires the racing improved drastically. Suddenly there were two-to-three fast grooves to choose between and Peter Britten rocketed to the lead. For the middle portion of the race, no one could keep up with Britten, not even Matt Sheppard. It appeared to be Britten’s race to lose until a late race caution set up a short dash to the finish.
The race winning move for Matt Shepard ended up being his decision to come back down pit road with less than 50 laps remaining. He restarted 20th and worked his way into position to take the lead on the last lap. All in all, it was a great weekend of racing at Oswego, and a great way to end the dirt racing season in New York. Matt Shepard has had a remarkable year, and with his win in Oswego reclaimed first place in the point standings over Billy Decker. Having missed 2 races this year due to suspension, finishing the season in first seemed impossible to many. Much like his last lap charge at Oswego, his season ended on top and left competitors wondering what it will take to beat him. Matt Sheppard has now established himself as the alpha dog in the Super DIRTcar series heading into next year.