Syracuse, NY – October 8, 2009 – By Kevin Kovac, DIRTcar Racing PR
Teenagers Mat Williamson of St. Catharines, Ont., and Neal Williams of Pittsgrove, N.J., joined 35-year-old open-wheel upstart James Henry of Niagara Falls, N.Y., as winners in the ‘Futures’ feature events that were part of Thursday’s Super DIRT Week XXXVIII action at the Syracuse Mile.
Williamson took top honors in the 15-lap DIRTcar 358-Modified ‘Futures’ race, while Williams and Henry scored victories in the twin 15-lap DIRTcar Sportsman affairs that were necessitated by the division’s huge field of 40 aspiring racers.
The third annual ‘Futures’ series – short sprints for drivers making first-ever Syracuse starts in their respective divisions – closed out Thursday’s activities at the storied one-mile oval on the New York State Fairgrounds.
Williamson, 19, dominated the DIRTcar 358-Modified headliner, leading from flag-to-flag in his ERD-powered Bicknell car. The son of Bicknell Racing Products Vice President Randy Williamson was never threatened after blasting off his front-row starting position to grab the top spot at the initial green flag.
Erick Rudolph, a 17-year-old from Ransomville, N.Y., moving up to make his 358-Modified debut at Syracuse after winning the DIRTcar Sportsman Championship event during last year’s Super DIRT Week, finished 3.033 seconds behind Williamson in second place.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s historic,” an awed Williamson said when asked to describe the excitement of triumphing at the ‘Moody Mile.’ “Winning any race here is a thrill.”
A regular at Merrittville Speedway in his hometown of St. Catharines, Williamson put a wonderful $600 cap on a day that didn’t seem to be going well for his team.
“It seemed like everything was going wrong,” said Williamson, who won one DIRT 358-Modified feature this season at Merrittville. “First we had a fire start in the front of our trailer while we were filling a fuel can. Then our (two-way) radios wouldn’t work, and we had to get a push (start) because our starter didn’t work.”
But things went well on the track for Williamson, who also timed 10th-fastest in qualifying for the Syracuse 358-Modified 150 to earn a fifth-place starting spot in one of the twin 20-lap heat races scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Michel Chicoine of Ste-Cecile deMilton, Que., finished third in the DIRTcar 358-Modified event, which boasted a 12-car field. Brian Swarthout of Beaver Dams, N.Y., and Tony Steiner of Jamesville, N.Y., completed the top five.
Williams, meanwhile, bagged another checkered flag for the younger generation, leading all the way in the first DIRTcar Sportsman 15-lapper. The 19-year-old was behind the wheel of a South Jersey Overhead Doors Teo-Pro car owned by Sal DeBruno, the Garden Stater who fielded the big-block Modified that Delaware’s Ricky Elliott drove to victory in a Triple 20 heat race during Super DIRT Week in 1992.
A sophomore business management major at Newman College in Aston, Pa., Williams controlled the event after starting from the pole position. He beat Matt Hitchcock of Stony Point, N.Y., to the finish line by a commanding margin of 4.059 seconds.
“This is my first time ever here,” said Williams, a regular at Bridgeport (N.J.) Speedway who had never even seen the Syracuse Mile until arriving for inspection. “I figured I could be O.K. here because I run at a big track like Bridgeport, but once I got out there today I realized this place is nothing like Bridgeport.
“I just held the pedal on the ground and turned the wheel, and fortunately everything turned out O.K. Now we’re gonna go in there (qualifying for the Sportsman Championship event) with some confidence.”
Eric Kormann of Vineland, N.J., who also races regularly at Bridgeport, finished third in the first Sportsman ‘Futures’ feature. Matt Billings of Brockville, Ont., took fourth and Erik Holmgren of Middletown, N.Y., was fifth.
Henry – the elder statesman of the ‘Futures’ winners – overtook Tim Sears Jr. of Central Square, N.Y., for the lead on a mid-race restart and marched on to pocket $400 for capturing the second 15-lap DIRTcar Sportsman race.
“I had a little more gear for the restart than (Sears) did so I was able to beat him into (turn) one,” said Henry, who races weekly at Genesee Speedway in Batavia, N.Y. “The car stuck and I was able to get ahead of him.”
Henry, who beat Sears to the finish line by 0.715 of a second, was riding high after emerging victorious at a track that he had only run once before. He entered the DIRTcar Pro Stock event in 2004, but his Super DIRT Week experience that year was memorable for reasons other than his performance on the track – he met his future wife, Diana, at the Infield Restaurant during the racing spectacular.
Diana Henry was among the happy team members that greeted Henry in Victory Lane. Her brother, John Panattoni of Niagara Falls, N.Y., also enjoyed the post-race celebrations; he is listed as the owner of Henry’s No. 67, a Teo-Pro car that happens to be the same machine that DIRTcar big-block Modified legend Jack Johnson steered to a win in one of last year’s Triple 20s at the Syracuse Mile.
Neil Stratton of Bennington, Vt., finished third in the Sportsman finale, followed by Derrek Smith of Ransomville, N.Y., and Jeremiah Munson of St. Johnsville, N.Y.
The ‘Futures’ series continues during Friday’s Super DIRT Week program, with events for budding Big-Block Modified and Pro Stock racers on the agenda.
358-Modified ‘Futures’ Feature Finish (15 laps): MAT WILLIAMSON, Erick Rudolph, Michel Chicoine, Brian Swarthout, Tony Steiner, Marc Johnson, J.C. Flach, Matt Pupello, Scott Duell, Ryan Forte, Scott Duso, Brett Graham.
SUPER DIRT WEEK XXXVIII ‘FUTURES’ 358-MODIFIED TIME TRIALS @ NYS Fairgrounds, Oct. 8
*Determined feature race starting positions.
TIME MPH CAR# DRIVER
1 32.701 110.088 542 Guy Germano/Richlandtown,PA
2 32.737 109.967 6 Mat Williamson/St.Catharines,ONT
3 33.190 108.466 08 Mark D’Ilario/Smithville,ONT
4 33.380 107.849 98h Erick Rudolph/Ransomville,NY
5 33.620 107.079 42 Matt Pupello/East Greenbush,NY
6 33.627 107.057 97 Michel Chicoine/Ste-Cecile de Milton,QUE
7 33.734 106.717 13 Tony Steiner/Jamesville,NY
8 33.900 106.195 14x Brian Swarthout/Beaver Dams,NY
9 33.905 106.179 3j Marc Johnson/Guilderland,NY
10 34.019 105.823 77j John Flach Jr./Ravena,NY
11 34.054 105.714 14s Scott Duell/Ballston Spa,NY
12 34.120 105.510 r40 Ryan Forte/Blue Anchor,NJ
13 35.092 102.587 99 Bryon Chew/Southampton,NY
14 1:10.555 —– 122 Scott Duso/Nassau,NY
15 -NT- —– 5h Rob Hile/Syracuse,NY
16 -NT- —– 36p Peter Gardner/Milford,PA
17 -NT- —– 711 John Sowle/Fultonville,NY
Sportsman ‘Futures’ Feature No. 1 Finish (15 laps): NEAL WILLIAMS, Matt Hitchcock, Eric Kormann, Matt Billings, Erik Holmgren, Curtis Friesen, B.J. Willard, Kale Groff, Robert Humphreys, Jim LaRock, Justin Boehler, Adam Turner, Ally Amell, Shane Cassidy, Chris Stockham, Josh VanBrocklin, Christine Martin, Steve Davis, Jason Occhino, Daryl Hilkert.
Sportsman ‘Futures’ Feature No. 2 Finish (15 laps): JAMES HENRY, Tim Sears Jr., Neil Stratton, Derek Smith, Jeremiah Munson, Steve Nadeau, Jeff Leslie, Earl Rudy, Jesse Cotriss, Chuck Buchman, Dean Patterson, Kevin Knapp, Henry Maier, Allan Wills, Dave Marcuccilli, Nate Reynolds, Mark Chiddy, Jack Gentile.
SUPER DIRT WEEK XXXVIII ‘FUTURES’ SPORTSMAN TIME TRIALS @ NYS Fairgrounds, Oct. 8
*Determined feature race starting positions.
TIME MPH CAR# DRIVER
1 34.432 104.554 0 Neal Williams/Pittsgrove,NJ
2 34.876 103.223 83x Tim Sears Jr./Central Square,NY
3 34.880 103.211 68 Curtis Friesen/St.Catharines,ONT
4 34.987 102.895 67 James Henry/Niagara Falls,NY
5 35.000 102.857 33 Matt Hitchcock/Stony Point,NY
6 35.008 102.834 87 Neil Stratton/Bennington,VT
7 35.120 102.506 3e Erik Holmgren/Middletown,NY
8 35.173 102.351 22 Robert Buchman/Maple Shade,NJ
9 35.199 102.276 74 Matt Billings/Brockville,ONT
10 35.243 102.148 16 Earl Rudy/Phoenix,NY
11 35.343 101.859 16s Eric Kormann/Vineland,NJ
12 35.543 101.286 111 Allan Wills/Ransomville,NY
13 35.633 101.030 2 Kale Groff/Wynantskill,NY
14 35.656 100.965 13s Derek Smith/Ransomville,NY
15 35.720 100.784 10 Josh VanBrocklin/Watertown,NY
16 35.776 100.626 351 Jeremiah Munson/St.Johnsville,NY
17 35.817 100.511 77jr. B.J. Willard/St.Catharines,ONT
18 35.959 100.114 2k Rob Knapp/Niagara Falls,ONT
19 36.011 99.969 81 Shawn Cassidy/Bethel,VT
20 36.041 99.886 11 Dean Patterson/Philadelphia,NY
21 36.068 99.811 81m Christine Martin/Wellesley Island,NY
22 36.150 99.585 244 Jeff Leslie/Fly Creek,NY
23 36.338 99.070 50j Justin Boehler/Amsterdam,NY
24 36.454 98.755 6r Nate Reynolds/Newfane,NY
25 36.467 98.719 85h Rob Humphreys/Elbridge,NY
26 36.500 98.630 94 Steve Nadeau/St-Robert,QUE
27 36.517 98.584 58L Jim Larock/Seneca Falls,NY
28 36.582 98.409 20 Jack Gentile/Ballston Lake,NY
29 36.653 98.218 84 Steve Davis/Manville,NJ
30 36.674 98.162 54 Mark Chiddy/Boston,NY
31 37.289 96.543 92a Adam Turner/Picton,ONT
32 37.453 96.120 55c Jesse Cotriss/Akron,NY
33 37.806 95.223 35 Jason Occhino/Fulton,NY
34 37.833 95.155 m1 David Marcuccilli/Cayuga,NY
35 37.889 95.014 2xx Ally Amell/Watertown,NY
36 -NT- —– 2x Kevin Knapp/St.Catharines,ONT
37 -NT- —– 28w Sandy Pembleton/Lewiston,NY
38 -NT- —– 88 Phil LaVare/Clifton Springs,NY
39 -NT- —– 4 Daryl Hilkert/Potter,NY
40 -NT- —– 92 John Behron/Central Square,NY
41 -NT- —– 3m Henry Maier/Spencerport,NY