SYRACUSE, NY – Oct. 11, 2013 – Stewart Friesen, Brett Hearn and Larry Wight were triumphant in the Triple 20-lap DIRTcar big-block Modified heat races that capped the S-T-R Trailer Repair ‘Friday Night Lights’ qualifying program during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XVII at the New York State Fairgrounds.
Friesen and Hearn, who have combined to win the last three Syracuse 200s and will share the front row for the start of Sunday’s 42nd annual Super DIRTcar Series event, solidified their status as favorites to reach Victory Lane again after capturing Friday evening’s first two heats. Wight, meanwhile, broke through for one of the most high-profile wins of his burgeoning career with a dramatic late-race pass in the finale.
The 30-year-old Friesen, a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., who now resides in Sprakers, N.Y., dominated the first 20-lapper, bursting off the pole position to lead the entire distance without receiving a serious challenge. He easily handled three restarts to pocket a $4,000 prize for winning his first-ever big-block heat race at the ‘Moody Mile’ one day after he captured the Syracuse 200 pole for the first time.
Friesen steered his Jeff Dailey & Sons-backed Teo-Pro car across the finish line roughly a quarter-straightaway in front of Bridgeport, N.Y.’s Rob Bellinger, who recorded a career-best heat-race placing to make the Syracuse 200 field for the third straight year.
“The car is almost flawless right now,” pronounced Friesen, who won the Syracuse 200 in 2010 and ’11. “It’s just a little tight rolling in on entry, but I think we got a little bit of a brake problem that we’re gonna square away before Sunday. Other than, I’ve got no complaints.”
Matt Billings of Brockville, Ont., finished third in the first 20-lapper, putting him into the Syracuse 200 for the first time in his career. Dave Rauscher of Waterloo, N.Y., placed fourth to gain entry to Sunday’s classic for the fourth time in the last six years and 2004 Syracuse 200 winner Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., rounded out the top five.
Dale Planck of Homer, N.Y., slowed on lap 16 to bring out a caution flag but rallied to finish 12th, earning the final transfer spot to the 200.
Hearn, 55, of Sussex, N.J., controlled the second 20-lapper, rolling off the pole to lead from start-to-finish. He stayed several car lengths ahead of Waterloo, N.Y.’s Matt Sheppard throughout a race that ran without interruption following a caution flag on the original start.
After asserting that his Madsen Motorsports Teo-Pro felt “really good,” Hearn said his mind was focusing on repeating as Syracuse 200 champion throughout his march to the checkered flag.
“I’m racing myself right now,” said Hearn, who holds a record six career wins in the Syracuse 200. “I’m just worried about getting the feel that I want for Sunday’s race and what might or might not happen with the track.”
Hearn’s $4,000 triumph marked his record 15th career win in a big-block Modified Triple 20.
Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., finished third in the second 20-lapper, running smoothly several car lengths behind Sheppard throughout the distance. J.R. Heffner of Stephentown, N.Y., placed fourth and Billy VanInwegen of Sparrowbush, N.Y., was fifth to earn his first-ever Syracuse 200 start.
Rick Laubach of Quakertown, Pa., secured the final transfer spot to the 200 with a 12th-place finish.
Wight, 20, pulled off the move of the night in the program’s nightcap, slipping by race-long pacesetter Jimmy Phelps of Baldwinsville, N.Y., amid lapped traffic with two laps remaining to assume command and continue on to his first career big-block heat win at Syracuse.
“I just used that lapped car to my advantage,” said Wight, describing his winning pass. “I kind of just held back and waited for Jimmy to slid up trying to get around him and stayed in that bottom, which was the only place to run.”
Despite his young age, Wight will start the Syracuse 200 for the sixth consecutive year in his father John’s Gypsum Racing Bicknell car. His best finish is 21st, in 2010.
Phelps, who earned the third starting spot for the 200 through time trials on Thursday, was a disappointed runner-up. Tim Hindley of Monticello, N.Y., finished third to gain his sixth career starting berth in the 200, Carey Terrance of Hogansburg, N.Y., placed fourth one day after locking into the headliner for the first time through time trials and Billy Dunn of Watertown, N.Y., was fifth.
Wight’s teammate, Pat Ward of Genoa, N.Y., finished 12th to earn the last transfer spot to the 200.
Another member of Gypsum Racing, four-time Syracuse 200 winner Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y., failed to qualify after dropping out with terminal engine problems while running second midway through the first heat. A winner of 11 big-block heats at NAPA Super DIRT Week, Decker faces the rare challenge of racing his way into the 200 through Sunday’s Non-Qualifiers’ Race.
For more information on NAPA Super DIRT Week, visit www.SuperDIRTWeekOnline.com.
DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Heat No. 1 Finish (20 laps): 1. Stewart Friesen, 2. Rob Bellinger, 3. Matt Billings, 4. Dave Rauscher, 5. Tim Fuller, 6. Tom Sears Jr., 7. Jimmy Horton, 8. Duane Howard, 9. Alan Johnson, 10. Dominic Buffalino, 11. Jeff Rockefeller, 12. Dale Planck, 13. Willy Decker, 14. Dan Humes, 15. Henry Maier, 16. Bob McGannon, 17. Tim Currier, 18. Billy Decker, 19. Dave Allen, 20. Clement Therrien, 21. Peter Britten, 22. Vince Vitale (DNS) Brandon Sweet, Scott Flammer, Jimmy Blewett
DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Heat No. 2 Finish (20 laps): 1. Brett Hearn, 2. Matt Sheppard, 3. Tim McCreadie, 4. J.R. Heffner, 5. Billy VanInwegen, 6. Justin Haers, 7. Danny Johnson, 8. Gary Tomkins, 9. Ronnie Johnson, 10. Ryan Godown, 11. Chad Brachmann, 12. Rick Laubach, 13. Eddie Marshall, 14. Rich Scagliotta, 15. Eldon Payne, 16. Jasmin Leveillee, 17. Kevin Albert, 18. Brian Sage, 19. Mike Perrotte, 20. Aaron Jacobs, 21. Bob Sarkisian, 22. Gary Wagner, 23. Roy Bresnahan (DNS) Mat Williamson, Andrew Krause
DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Heat No. 3 Finish (20 laps): 1. Larry Wight, 2. Jimmy Phelps, 3. Tim Hindley, 4. Carey Terrance, 5. Billy Dunn, 6. Andy Bachetti, 7. Keith Flach, 8. Bobby Varin, 9. Donnie Corellis, 10. Kenny Tremont, 11. Vic Coffey, 12. Pat Ward, 13. David Hebert, 14. Brian Swarthout, 15. JaMike Sowle, 16. Darwin Greene, 17. Marcus Dinkins, 18. Yan Bussiere, 19. Mario Clair, 20. Rex King Jr. (DNS) Neal Williams, John McClelland, Wayne Jelley, John Lutes Jr.
The Super DIRTcar Series and DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast Region is brought to fans by several sponsors and partners including Hoosier Racing Tire, VP Racing Fuels, Chevy Performance Parts, NAPA Auto Parts, and Safety-Kleen. Contingency sponsors are ASI, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix, ButlerBuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, MSD Performance, Penske Shocks, Racing Electronics, Superflow and Wrisco Industries. Super DIRT Week sponsors include: Beyea Headers, Draco Springs, Fast Shafts, Fluidampr, FK Rod Ends, Fox Shocks, Pro Fabrication and Turbostart. Lighting for Super DIRT Week is brought to you by Musco Lighting.