OSWEGO, N.Y. – Stewart Friesen was hoping to lock himself into the top-six during qualifying Thursday for the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway, but that’s not what happened.
Friesen, who has to be at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Saturday’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, qualified 19th at Oswego Thursday for the annual Super DIRT Week finale and will have to rely on a guaranteed starting spot earned at the mid-summer Albany-Saratoga Speedway Super DIRTcar Series event promoted by Brett Hearn.
When the 200 was run on the Syracuse mile, Alan Johnson won from dead last, so anything is possible, especially with Friesen at the wheel.
– Jimmy Phelps, who turned fast time in 358 modified qualifying, was seventh in the big block standings, missing locked in status for both races by a single position. Mat Williamson (fifth and third) and Tim Fuller (third and fourth) did make the top six in both divisions. Williamson, especially, has been on a roll this season and is a good bet in both events.
– Fourth in 358 qualifying went to Dave Marcuccilli, who graduated to the small blocks this year after many seasons dominating the Sportsman division at central New York tracks. His arch rival in the Sportsman division, Rocky Warner, has garnered more than a dozen modified wins and the Fonda track championship so far in 2019, showing what a valuable training ground the Sportsman division is.
With large fields of relatively equal crate motor cars, the division forces drivers to learn to be smooth and carry their momentum through the turns, in the process preparing those who excel for advancement.
– Some star drivers have a tough row to hoe in Friday night’s qualifiers, which take the first eight drivers who are not already qualified. Among them are Kenny Tremont Jr., starting 18th in his 358 qualifier and Ryan Watt and Rich Laubach, who go off 14th and 16th, respectively, in their big block qualifier.
– Rains in the last two weeks have made the pit and camping areas at Oswego a challenge, with some haulers and campers in mud up to the axle, though others are high and dry. Either way, enthusiasm is high, as those in wet places expect things to dry out by Sunday, when most will leave. If there is still a problem, a tractor is available to help them get out.
– We’ve seen a lot of things in our years at Super DIRT Week but it was notable that starter Dave Farney worked Thursday’s time trials clad in a T-shirt. Some years he has on long underwear and a heavy jacket.
– Longtime Oswego track manager/promoter Dick O’Brien felt right at home Thursday, as the track was so black that it looked like asphalt. To the credit of the track crew, it was nearly as smooth. Hot laps and time trials had the left rear on Billy Decker’s pole-winning No. 91 looking a bit tattered, making everyone wonder about longevity in the 200, but as Decker optimistically stated, “The track usually changes three times during the feature and it usually works out.”
– One of New York’s most talented drivers was seen in the backstretch stands watching his brother race. That would be late model star Tim McCreadie, who has nearly won the 200 on a number of occasions, observing younger brother Jordan’s performance in the 358’s. Neither Tim nor former winner Vic Coffey, longtime teammates in the Sweeteners Plus cars, were in action, though Vic’s son Kyle, an up and coming talent, carried on the team’s tradition of solid Super DIRT Week runs.
– How many other major events have the sponsor as a participant? Car dealer Billy Whittaker, sponsor of Sunday’s 200, goes off 17th in Friday night’s first big block qualifier.
– Kudos to DIRTcar for running the group time trials in an order based on times in Thursday morning’s practice sessions, starting with the slowest and moving to the big guns last. We can remember when drivers at Syracuse drew for time trial order, with a chosen few putting their hand in the bucket already holding a late number to give them the best surface to run on. Change is not always good, but in this case, it’s more than welcome.