DIRT WEEK NOTES: Terrific Racing To Close The Week

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Larry Wight (99L) battles Jimmy Phelps at the front of the field during the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 on Sunday at Oswego Speedway. (Dave Dalesandro Photo)

OSWEGO, N.Y. – Super DIRT Week fans and participants saw a terrific race Sunday.

The weather was cold, damp and raw, but the number of passes for position was beyond belief.  Cars ran three – and sometimes four – wide around Oswego Speedway’s five-eighths-mile temporary dirt surface, with more passing seen in the first 10 laps then would have been seen in 200 laps at the former venue, the Syracuse mile.

It got better from there, with cars with new tires flying around the outside to get back towards the front, some after multiple stops, and those who chose not to pit for tires working the bottom.

Many thought Jimmy Phelp’s strategy of going non-stop was foolish, an opinion bolstered by his running out of gas with three to go while running in the top-three after leading most of the race. Others countered with the fact that that same strategy has brought a number of drivers a win in the Eastern States 200 at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

The difference? Orange County generally turns into a one-groove track, with those who venture outside headed for the rear, while Oswego’s surface allowed passing at will, with the groove inches off the steel wall the fastest way around for most. As for Phelps, he almost made it work and exhibited noteworthy patience, saving fuel and working lapped traffic carefully even while under attack.

– Participants and fans alike were thrilled with World Racing Group head Brian Carter’s announcement that WRG had signed another three-year contract to bring Super DIRT Week back to Oswego.

With help from the state of New York, WRG and Oswego management have upgraded the facility a great deal in the first three years, especially the huge backstretch grandstand that was on the verge of failure and now holds a huge crowd on race day.

The most notable improvement for this year’s DIRT Week was the addition of many truckloads of stone to the campground roads, eliminating a great deal of mud and inconvenience.

– Those who like fish fries and clam chowder were overjoyed that food concessions at the grandstands had been leased to a local eatery that puts out great food at reasonable prices.  A hit during the regular Oswego season, the offerings were even more popular Sunday after the temperature plunged from Saturday’s T-shirt conditions.

– Kudos to WRG’s excellent media relations staff. They do a great job at the pit area media tent, where a big screen monitor and ample electrical outlets were greatly appreciated. With weather pushing the completion of most events much later than expected, darkness in the tent was a problem for some, though this year we planned ahead and had ample lighting attachments to plug into our laptop to overcome the gloom.

– One had to feel good for 200 winner Larry Wight. Early in his career, the teenager was derided for both his aggressiveness and the fact that his father, a very successful businessman, could afford to keep replacing equipment if Larry trashed it.

Now he has matured and is himself a successful businessman with a family. Still the master of the high, outside groove, Wight now has the discipline to drop down and play it safe when needed and save the fireworks for when they’re necessary to get to the lead.

It’s a telling gesture when those he beat laud him for his strategy and patience, which both Stewart Friesen and Peter Britten did Sunday night.

– Larry Wight’s win in his father’s No. 99L gave his father, John, Super DIRT Week wins with both Billy Decker at Syracuse and Larry at Oswego. Crew chief Scott Jeffrey was behind all of the Super DIRT Week success.

– Long time insiders generally key on the 358 and big-block modified events with passing interest in the Pro Stock and Sportsman features. However, it should be noted that this year both of the supporting division features were excellent. While many drivers in both of those divisions did not belong on the Syracuse mile when DIRT Week was held there, Oswego is similar to the speedways where they race weekly, though different enough to present a bit of a challenge.

– From Pro Stocks to the big blocks, most teams brought their weekly cars or a new version of what they’d been running. Nobody misses the Syracuse only cars that rested in the back of the shop from year to year and the expensive one offs built for a shot at glory.