Syracuse Notes: No Economy Run This Year

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Stewart Friesen is a two-time winner of the Syracuse 200, but he has a new challenge ahead of him in 2014. (DIRTcar photo)
Stewart Friesen was the big winner Sunday at the New York State Fairgrounds. (DIRTcar photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — When DIRTcar officials announced a mandatory pitstop between laps 150 and 175 for the SEF 200 in an attempt to eliminate the “Mobil Gas Economy Run” nature of recent races, most figured little would change.

But the move sparked some serious racing for most of the event as everyone tried to get in position for the final two stops, knowing one would be a work stop and the mandatory pit visit a formality. Everyone knew you’d have to be in and out first in both to win.

*It was learned Monday that Friesen was fined one half — $25,000 — of his winner’s check for having an illegal fuel system on his car.

*Rick Laubach and crew almost pulled off an upset with a green flag stop just before the “work” round of stops that would have put them first when the others pitted. He got out on the lead lap but was penalized for excessive pit speed, then eventually dropped out anyway. But it could have worked. And had a yellow not flown in the required window, everyone would have had to stop under green.

*As it was, a jumble brought about by pitting cars blocking the pit lane back to the track, too many cars leaving at once and everyone gassing it sent Kenny Tremont over the cones and cost him a few spots at the finish after a great drive from the consi, a trip also made by Tim Fuller, who won the Last Chance. Pit facilities were not part of the planning when the track was built in the 1800’s and it is a hard obstacle to overcome no matter how good the intentions of everyone involved.

*Race director Joe Skotnicki did something few officials have the intestinal fortitude to do, admitting he was wrong in Saturday’s Tim McCreadie “the pits were closed” dustup at the driver’s meeting before the 200. He made a valid point, that Syracuse is run under different rules than other races and everyone, officials and competitors alike, sometimes struggle to make it work correctly. He said he hated that someone had gotten an advantage, vowed that it wouldn’t happen again and it didn’t.

*A couple of drivers going slow down the frontstretch with flats looked like they were headed for a stop with the pits closed before remembering Skotnicki’s statement at the meeting that there were no conditions under which such a stop could be done without a penalty.

*The Syracuse racing surface was the widest in years Sunday and while a few got out in the marbles and tagged the unforgiving concrete, a substantial number stood on it when they got over the edge, threw a huge rooster tail of dust in the air and drove off the turn shaken but unscathed. The sweeping of the turns under yellow certainly contributed to the improved conditions.

*The racing surface got much more attention than usual, with grading, work with a sheep’s foot, watering and related work yielding a track that was still spongey after the race, not concrete-like as in the past. Considering that it was the driest week in memory, that is a great compliment to Roger Slack and crew.

*World Racing Group head Brian Carter tells NSSN that while Slack is indeed leaving their organization for employment at Eldora, he will be involved in track prep again next year, good news for all.

*Pennsylvania modified standout Jeff Strunk, who crewed all week for close friend Stewart Friesen, had a great response when we asked if they were worried about fuel at the end when others dropped out. “We weren’t worried about gas, we were too busy worrying about the guy chasing us!” Billy Decker does that to people.

*Herb Bartemy, who fielded a car for Teddy Christopher, tells us he will return in 2012 with an effort involving Gary Balough, who advised the asphalt star all weekend.

*A crash in the Pro Stock race left two cars backwards on the frontstretch, after which they drove onto pit road through the gate by the scales. One driver then gassed it and rammed the other, sending him sideways and almost into Danny Johnson’s modified, resting in its stall awaiting the feature. Crew members and officials immediately went into action, preventing any further action, and word came over the radio that fines would be in the mail.

*One thing never changes. Brett Hearn again got the most boos during driver introductions. He lost an engine in the race and it seems that sooner or later fans might appreciate his decade long streak of bad luck and give him a break. Or maybe not.

*Two fans were waving an Australian flag as Peter Britten was introduced, adding another country to the U.S. and Canadian contingents that battle each year at Syracuse.

*A truck mounted billboard proclaimed that the DIRTcar Nationals will run from Feb. 14-25 at Volusia County, a sure sign that while it was 80 degrees in Syracuse at the moment, unbelievable amounts of snow and cold will soon prevail in the area and racers will be heading south once again.