Weedsport, NY — December 31, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director
DIRTcar Racing is set to roll into another decade of speed already boasting 34 years of success around the Northeast circuit. Officially launched during the nation’s Bicentennial, 2009 marked the sixth straight season of operation under the World Racing Group umbrella with short-track stalwarts Brett Hearn, Dale Planck, Chris Raabe and Pete Stefanski capturing the coveted overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Championship crowns.
Since its establishment in 1976, DIRTcar Racing NE has sanctioned both open-wheel and full-fender classes at 82 tracks reaching into a dozen states and two Canadian provinces, as far north as Quebec, southward to Florida and out west to Texas. Charter members Canandaigua Speedway (1368) and Cayuga County Fair Speedway (1246) in New York’s Finger Lakes Region, along with Empire State ovals Lebanon Valley Speedway (1358) and Can-Am Motorsports Park (1020), and Ontario oval Merrittville Speedway (1057) are among the leaders in DIRTcar events run with 20,131 chronicled in seven divisions.
Registered in the DIRTcar NE record book, 746 main events — Big-Block Modified 154, 358-Modified 130, Sportsman 209, Pro Stock 101, Street Stock 105, Pro Late Model 47 — were staged at 32 speedways in ’09 with six Big-Block drivers, 12 Small-Blockers, 21 Sportsman pilots, 21 Pro Stock wheelmen and 11 Street Stock chauffeurs reaching victory lane for the first time; Pro LMs made their NE debut in ‘09. Over 2300 drivers have now cracked the winner’s circle beginning in 1976, with ‘Mr. Small-Block’ Pete Bicknell (294) —89 Big-Block, 203 Small-Block, 2 Sportsman— heading a group of 51 drivers that have won features in all three open-wheel divisions
The season-long Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds and companion traveling tours for 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock teams continue to lay the foundation for the four Hoosier-VP Mr. DIRTcar point chases, while weekly shows help maintain a steady flow of competition that is evident at every active track affiliate. Of those 700-plus features run in ‘09, 57 were extra-distance touring events held from April through October.
Overall Modified champ Hearn collected a lucrative $50,000 top prize at the ‘09 DIRTcar Northeast ‘Night of Champions’ for his record-setting 7th Big-Block title, with the ‘Jet’ improving his series standard to 103 victories after taking three checkered flags. The ‘Natural’ Planck pocketed a $13,000 prize package for his first-ever Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Championship while the ‘Teenage Tornado’ Raabe earned $5,000 after securing his 2nd consecutive Sportsman title. Adding to his growing list of career accomplishments, Stefanski made it four straight in full-fender Pro Stock tour competition and took home $2,000 in post-season awards.
Hearn closed out the decade with his third Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block title of the millennium, rising to the top of the points chart for the first time in 1990 while adding an overall Mr. DIRTcar Small-Block championship to his record-setting resume in 2006. He copped five feature wins during the season yet it was ‘Super Matt’ Sheppard dominating with a division-high 20 checkered flags although coming up just four points short in the overall points chase. Along with his unmatched success achieved in the Super DIRTcar Series, Hearn remains DIRTcar Racing NE’s all-time open-wheel winner with 523, standing behind only Canadian veteran Bicknell on DIRTcar Northeast’s 358-Modified all-time list despite being the career 358 Mr. DIRTcar Series race winner with 68 extra-distance triumphs. And it is only Alan Johnson (364) who owns more Big-Block feature wins than Hearn (350), although ‘A.J. Slideways’ holds the mark of at least one feature win scored every year of DIRTcar’s existence.
While Planck went winless en route to top Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified laurels in ’09, Raabe earned a Sportsman series-best five victories with 14 more first-place trophies taken home during the regular season. Planck is still listed among DIRTcar Northeast’s all-time Top-20 358-Modified feature winners with 49 checkered flags —including 4 in the Mr. DIRTcar Small-Block series— with 4 track point titles earned over the past 10 years. Raabe increased his DIRTcar count to 50 while collecting track point crowns at Can-Am Motorsports Park and Thunder Alley Speedpark, along with earning high-point honors in the DIRTcar ‘North’ Region final standings for a second straight year.
2009 marked the 15th season that DIRTcar Racing offered a Mr. DIRTcar Championship for the premier Pro Stockers and that just provided one more year for Stefanski to build on his full-fender legacy for a fourth successive campaign. He continues to be recognized as the all-time Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Series winner now with 23 tour triumphs, also reaching victory lane 10 times at a handful of tracks to retain his position as DIRTcar Northeast’s all-time career division leader with 88 wins.
Another impressive emergence of fresh faces around the entire DIRTcar Racing Northeast circuit in 2009 helped account for 71 first-time feature winners in one of the most competitive seasons ever. Headed by Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE Rookie of the Year award winners Rich Scagliotta (Big-Block Modified), Jeremy Wilder (358-Modified), Robert Humphreys (Sportsman) and Harvey Arquette Jr. (Pro Stock), some of those same drivers gained even more familiarity with solid showings in their respective home track point standings.
The 2010 race season is expected to bring further success as DIRTcar continues to raise the level of excitement in the world of short-track auto racing. It all begins this coming February when racers make their annual pilgrimage to Florida for the start of DIRTcar Racing Northeast’s 35th straight season. The 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park will be highlighted by the 22nd trip to the Sunshine State for the DIRTcar Big-Block contingent, with Florida Tour ‘10 featuring the mighty Super DIRTcar Series Modifieds during the week of February. 10-13.
A FREE Fan Pit Pass has been made available to every ticket buyer who comes through the main gates each night of the DIRTcar Nationals at VSP beginning on Feb. 2. All fans have to do once they arrive at the track is take their grandstand ticket and head toward the pits, where a table will be set up to sign-in for an up-close look at the cars and stars who will be racing that night. To purchase tickets call Volusia Speedway Park at 386/985-4402, for more information visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
In addition, every person that purchases a ticket for the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia before January 15 will be entered in the “Fan of February” contest currently being held. The winner will be announced on January 16 and will receive two tickets for each of the (4) Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified shows run at VSP In February, as well as a free hotel stay during that time. Winners will also be selected for the World of Outlaws Sprint Car and WoO Late Model Series portion of the 2010 DCN, as well as the UMP DIRTcar Modified segment. For more information visit www.fanoffebruary.com.
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds, home of DIRTcar All-Star Weekend in July. DIRTcar Northeast’s crown jewel event —Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse runs annually in October featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock divisions. Ticket and schedule information is available by contacting the Weedsport office (315/834-6606) during the day or logging into www.superdirtweekonline.com anytime.
The Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation www.riteaid.com, Dig Safely New York www.digsafelynewyork.com and the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks www.barsproducts.com, Bert Transmission www.berttransmission.com, Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, Brodix Cylinder Heads www.brodix.com, Ferris Industries www.ferrisindustries.com, Integra Shocks www.integrashocksandsprings.com, Intercomp www.intercomp-racing.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Rislone Oil Stabilizer www.barsproducts.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.