MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – After another night marred by mechanical fallout, Danny Dietrich lugged his hurting No. 48 back to the shop and began a determined slog through the night to restore his faith.
Dietrich had just finished 16th in night one of the Summer Nationals with the World of Outlaws at Williams Grove Speedway and night two would be here soon, so there was no time to sleep the problems away.
“We needed to go back to an ole faithful,” Dietrich said in a recent phone interview. “Everybody has a car that seems to think they’re an ole faithful.”
Dietrich stayed up until 4:30 that Saturday morning to repair “ole faithful” – the same car shelved after a short but productive stint in the midwest with the All Star Circuit of Champions throughout May and June. It didn’t produce immediate results but the efforts restored Dietrich’s winning nature this past weekend, as he powered to three wins in as many days at Williams Grove on Friday, Lincoln Speedway on Saturday and Trail-Way Speedway on Sunday.
“It’s obviously been a trying year for everybody,” said Dietrich, alluding to the burdens caused by COVID-19. “With a lot of outsiders in the area, it’s made it tough to get the wins. Not that we’re not good enough, it’s just we’ve had our moments of struggles. It felt good to get the monkey off the back and have some luck and turn things around.”
The win on Friday at Williams Grove snapped a 14-race spell of finishing off the podium for Dietrich, which spanned back to his last win on June 28 at Selinsgrove Speedway during Pennsylvania Speedweek. For perspective, Dietrich hadn’t gone more than seven races without a podium since he moved to the 410 full-time with Gary Kauffman in 2010.
As badly as Dietrich wanted to use his All Star car that put him third in the series standings before he decided to pull off the tour, the car was too ragged for another stretch. So, Dietrich assembled a new machine for Speedweek. It happened to suit high speeds at Selinsgrove, but it didn’t respond well to the tight corners at Williams Grove.
Dietrich dominated the night at Selinsgrove for his second win in two days and took the Speedweek points lead three nights into the nine-day series. Finishes of seventh, fifth, and sixth followed at Lincoln, Grandview Speedway and Port Royal Speedway, respectively, all of which coursed a similar ending but different circumstances.
At Lincoln, Dietrich started eighth and finished seventh on a juiced-up race track with too much on-throttle time to make passes. Dietrich followed that with a fifth at Grandview, “a bright spot and people don’t realize it,” as he described considering the third-mile track isn’t in his wheelhouse. At Port Royal, Dietrich settled for sixth on a track that was too slick for his liking.
The real problems began that Thursday at Hagerstown Speedway, when a generator in the motor went sour in the trickling laps that faded Dietrich from fourth to eighth. Dietrich thought he had the issues resolved heading into the Speedweek finale at Port Royal on July 4, but motor problems arose again and it started a string of five finishes outside the top 16 over the next nine races.
The turnaround for most of those races were brief and rushed, too, and usually the easiest way to move on from a distasteful finish is to simply race more. But Dietrich just wanted to pull back and evaluate the most frustrating month of his racing career in a 410.
“It was kind of hard to get back in rhythm or forget about the night before we were going racing once again,” Dietrich said. “By the time you have a bad night, you don’t have time to fix that bad night and you’re going racing again. You don’t have time to correct anything.”
That’s when, after his fifth finish of 16th or worse over the past nine races, Dietrich labored until 4:30 in the morning that Saturday to fix up “ole faithful.”
“When I say ‘ole faithful,’ you can do anything to it and it doesn’t screw it up,” Dietrich said.
The same car won on the second night back this past Friday at Williams Grove, a race that finally aligned Dietrich’s desires behind the wheel and fortune that was MIA in July. Dietrich ran third most of the night and spent most of the 25-lap feature trying to pass polesitter Tyler Ross for second as Anthony Macri raced out to a four-second lead with nine laps to go.
On lap eight, Dietrich finally passed Ross and a lap later, the caution came out to give Dietrich what he needed. On the ensuing restart, Dietrich landed a textbook slide job on Macri in the middle of turns three and four, and raced back to familiar victory form.
The following night, last-minute maintenance made the drive to Port Royal far-fetched, so Dietrich raced at Lincoln instead. Port Royal’s main event eventually rained out, while Lincoln got theirs in and Dietrich so happened to capitalize again in victory lane. Then, on Sunday at Trail-Way, Dietrich took his third checkered flag in as many days to cap off a weekend where everything seemingly fell his way.
Now, for the first time in nearly a month, Dietrich has a full week to decompress and gear up for this next swing of races.
“This week here is kind of nice,” Dietrich said. “We have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday off to kind of regroup and have some downtime.”
Dietrich even made his way to Action Track USA on Wednesday night to take in the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget race in Kutztown, Pa. Then, the preparation for next week’s One and Only event Knoxville Raceway begins.
“We’re so focused on this weekend and Knoxville I don’t even know where we’re going after that,” Dietrich said. “We just want to bring home some good finishes.”