During the past four years Dale Planck had scored a total of five Super DIRTcar Series wins, but was shutout last season for the first time since making his maiden voyage to victory lane in 2006. Planck wasted little time jumping back on the tour bandwagon in 2010 as he staged a stellar performance to capture the headline ‘VP Racing Fuels Spring Fever 100’ held Saturday night at Fulton Speedway.
Workable track conditions and cool temperatures greeted 39 racers signed in for the Big-Block Modified opener in Central New York, and Planck regained his masterful form by racking up his 59th career Modified win at the storied Oswego County oval --- one worth $6,000 plus guaranteed starting berths in October’s Super DIRT Week 200 on the Syracuse Mile and All-Star 100 Weekend Exemption Dash at Cayuga County Fair Speedway in July.
“It’s a big load off my shoulders finally winning a series race here at Fulton,” remarked Planck, 39, who has now registered his six tour triumphs at the same number of tracks. “Really, to win anywhere nowadays is a big accomplishment, the competition is just so high. To get a win like this certainly makes the year.”
Trying to make 2010 their own year to remember were Planck’s biggest chasers after 100 laps, runner-up Billy Decker and third-place finisher Matt Sheppard, for the second straight series show crossing under the checkered flag in that order. Decker won the season-opener at Hagerstown Speedway in March with Sheppard on his bumper the final 35 laps.
Decker’s teammate Pat Ward placed fourth at the stripe ahead of third-generation Canadian chauffeur Stewart Friesen, while reigning overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Champion Brett Hearn, hard charger Willy Decker, third-place Hagerstown finisher Michael Storms, north country racer Billy Dunn and local favorite Jimmy Phelps rounded out the top-10.
“I was doing good, wasn’t even tired until halfway through when I see the #91 (Decker) alongside me,” said Planck, who grabbed his first lead from Phelps on lap 40 before a dramatic duel with Decker kept scorers reeling as the final laps clicked off in rapid fashion. Seven caution periods slowed the action, yet the last yellow flag flew on lap 60 with Planck and Decker swapping the lead four more times in the 42-minute main.
“As soon as (Decker) took the lead I thought no more relaxing here. I’ve always talked with Kevin (Lamphere, long-time engine builder) about what to do at the end of these races and nine out of 10 times its roll the middle. The car wasn’t all that good on the top and wasn’t all that good on the bottom, so I just kept working the middle and it finally came around. This is just tremendous to finally come away with a win,” Planck said.
Planck cut to the chase as soon as the initial green flag waved, blasting from sixth to third to pressure front row starters Larry Wight and pole-sitter Jeff Brownell Jr. with 99 laps still to go. Rookie tour traveler Lance Willix II looped his mount between turns three and four to cause the first slowdown on lap four with Wight continuing to set the early pace ahead of Brownell.
Phelps was on the move in the HBR Motorsports no. 98H Wave Energy Drink-Mohawk Northeast/Troyer machine, darting past Planck 10 laps in and overtaking Brownell the ensuing circuit before forging the first lead change with 12 laps complete. By lap 20 the ‘B’ville Bullet’ had opened up a comfortable advantage over Wight, Planck and Brownell as Hearn, Decker and his Gypsum teammate Ward bided their time among the top-10.
Once Phelps reached the back of the pack a quarter way through, non-stop traffic around the wide 3/8-miler allowed his nearest pursuers to quickly close the gap. When Tim Currier slowed between the first and second turns to require a third yellow on lap 34, Planck proceeded to mirror his opening lap surge and charged from third to first to emerge as the newest leader with 40 laps in the books.
The end was near for two-time and defending Fulton series race winner Alan Johnson as just three laps later a left-rear tire went soft and DIRTcar Northeast’s all-time winningest Big-Block Modified driver called it a night in his own no. 14J Raymond's Car Care-Pizza Logs Special to end up 28th on the final scoresheet.
Continuing to manhandle the RezX Racing no. 77X Twin Leaf Express/Bicknell entry at the halfway mark, the ‘Natural’ held a commanding lead over a charging Decker with Phelps, Wight, Ward, Hearn, Friesen, Brownell, Sheppard and Willy Decker running in order. Carburetor issues sidelined Brownell after running 58 laps while Dunn and Tom Sears Jr. checked up in turn four soonafter. The pair spun together with little room to maneuver to force on the caution lights for the seventh and final time as the lap counter clicked 60.
Planck out-gunned Decker on the last restart as Ward, Willy Decker and Phelps fought hard to shorten the distance. Runs by Decker and Ward proved successful yet Willy Decker and Phelps faded just as fast in the closing stages, opening the door for some late race theatrics by ‘Super Matt’ Sheppard in the potent JB Motorsports no. 9s Xtreme Lubricants/Bicknell ride.
Locked into a dramatic duel over the final 30 times around, Decker finally ducked under Planck for his first lead on lap 79. Weaving in and out of traffic, Planck returned to the points three laps later only to lose it the very next circuit as lapped cars cleared a path for Decker to regain the top spot. Failing to retreat against Decker, Planck made his final move to the front pay off on lap 86 just as new fifth-place runner Danny Johnson suddenly veered pitside under a cloud of smoke after suffering a blown motor in Mike Payne’s no. 7z Honeoye Auto Parts-Rochester Americans/Bicknell Big-Block.
No yellow was needed on this occasion and the top-three of Planck, Decker and Sheppard showed no signs of slowing up with just 10 laps remaining in round two of the Super DIRTcar Series. Although Sheppard had momentarily stole the second slot from Decker on lap 89, the ‘Franklin Flyer’ grabbed it back the next time around but could only creep to within three car-lengths of Planck when the final checkered flag flew.
“This Bicknell car worked just awesome, I can’t thank Carey (Terrance, owner) enough,” beamed Planck, who won his first series race at Cornwall Motor Speedway in 2006, followed up at Brewerton Speedway in ’07, before collected three more trophies at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park, Cayuga County Fair Speedway and Autodrome Drummond in 2008. “I wasn’t sure what to do for decisions before the feature, not knowing what the track was going to do. It just ended up being super racy.”
“(Billy) laid in there pretty good in that one (turn) and I had to check up. Then a couple laps later the same thing happened by vice versa …I don’t know how that happened. Billy’s always awesome to race with, he’ll never hit you enough to take you out. He just kind of let me know he was there and its time to pick up the pace about 10 notches,” figured the second-generation pilot from Cortland, N.Y., who was battling a swollen left foot throughout the show after rolling his ankle exiting the trailer early in the afternoon,”
On the brink of claiming his second straight tour triumph at his car owner’s track where he garnered the 2009 season points championship, Decker settled for second through no choice of his own.
“It’s very important to win any tour race, you’ll see us dueling to the death out there,” stated Decker, 45, who posted five feature wins last year at Fulton including the season-ending 200-lapper worth a whopping $20,000. “I got into Dale down there, we were just racing our tails off I can tell you that.”
“We were trying to pinch one another behind a lapped car … actually just trying to get somebody hung up for a second. Dale seemed to be a little better than me for 4 or 5 laps and get away, then I put 2 good laps together and closed a little ground. We weren’t good enough to win but definitely a 2nd or 3rd-place car tonight.”
Still the second-place finish was good enough to give the Unadilla, N.Y. veteran the slimmest of leads over Sheppard by a count of 201-200 after two of 22 series stops.
“Its hard to complain about your worst finish being a second, we’re pretty happy right now,” added Decker, the overall Hoosier-VP Mr. DIRTcar titlist in both 1998 and 2008. “It takes consistency, we’re going to have to be right in there night in and night out. Nobody’s going to roll over, this is just a tough field of cars wherever you go. Its fun to be back here at Fulton, this place always puts on a good show. I’d like to thank all the fans here tonight for joining us, I know I had a good time.”
Starting 13th in the 31-car field on Saturday, bettering his finish by two more positions is the only thing that could’ve made Sheppard happier at the same track he was crowned 2001 points champion in the DIRTcar 358-Modified division.
“We’re happy to come home 3rd from where we started,” said Sheppard, the 2009 Canandaigua and Brewerton speedways points king, who hinted at moving his Saturday night home to Fulton to kick off the new decade of speed at John and Laura Wight’s spacious speedplant along the Oswego River. “If I could’ve got the car to turn a little better in the center I think we probably would’ve had something for them.”
“The car was good, just tough to get anywhere early. Seemed like you’d get bottled up in traffic and trapped. Finally we were able to get rolling near the end. Thought I was going to have something for them, pulled up, then I got real tight at the end.”
“We just have to keep finishing up front to have a chance. Doing things like setting fast time helps with 5 extra points for that. Tonight was tough, we drew a bad invert (4) after time trials then struggled in the heat. Just gotta keep plugging away and finish up front every night. Its going to take a lot of 2nds and 3rds to bring home a title,” said a calculating Sheppard, the defending Syracuse 200 Champion, who remains in search of his first overall Mr. DIRTcar title in the Big-Block Modified ranks.
Round three of the 2010 Super DIRTcar Series moves to the forefront during the first holiday of the race season with Cayuga County Fair Speedway bringing back the Hall of Fame Classic as part of the traveling tour on Sunday, May 30.
Super DIRTcar Series Race #2 – Fulton Speedway, April 10, 2010,
‘VP Racing Fuels Spring Fever 100' Big-Block Modified Event Summary
FIN STR CAR# DRIVER
1 6 77x Dale Planck/Cortland,NY ($6,000)
2 7 91 Billy Decker/Unadilla,NY
3 13 9s Matt Sheppard/Waterloo,NY
4 9 42p Pat Ward/Genoa,NY
5 18 1f Stewart Friesen/Niagara-o-t-Lake,ONT
6 5 20 Brett Hearn/Sussex,NJ
7 23 10x Willy Decker/Vernon,NY
8 11 4* Michael Storms/Wantage,NJ
9 25 49 Billy Dunn/Watertown,NY
10 4 98h Jimmy Phelps/Baldwinsville,NY
11 3 99 Ryan Phelps/Fulton,NY
12 10 3 Justin Haers/Phelps,NY
13 21 3t Gary Tomkins/Clifton Springs,NY
14 17 85 Dan Vauter/Forest City,PA
15 24 66x Carey Terrance/Akwesasne,NY
16 28 X Chad Phelps/Mexico,NY
17 27 8 Rich Scagliotta/Bound Brook,NJ
18 8 7x Steve Paine/Waterloo,NY
19 26 10 Tim Currier/Auburn,NY
20 22 48too Dave Rauscher/Waterloo,NY
21 20 56 Vince Vitale/Phoenix,NY
22 2 99L Larry Wight/Phoenix,NY
23 15 7z Danny Johnson/Rochester,NY
24 19 62s Tom Sears Jr./Clay,NY
25 30 33 Mike Mahaney/King Ferry,NY
26 1 29 Jeff Brownell Jr./Waterloo,NY
27 29 22c Mario Clair/St-Edmond,QUE
28 12 14j Alan Johnson/Middlesex,NY
29 31 16w Lance Willix II/Theresa,NY
30 14 32c Vic Coffey/Caledonia,NY
31 16 24 Jim Witko Jr./Clarks Summit,PA
GATER RACING NEWS LAP LEADERS: Wight (1-11), J.Phelps (12-39), Planck (40-78), B.Decker (79-81), Planck (82), B.Decker (83-85), Planck (86-100).
CAUTIONS: 7 for 30 laps.
HEAT WINNERS: Wight, Paine, A.Johnson, J.Phelps.
CONSI WINNERS: Tomkins, Rauscher.
BICKNELL RACING PRODUCTS WINNER AWARD: Dale Planck.
MSD IGNITION WINNER AWARD: Dale Planck.
SYRACUSE 200 QUALIFIER: Dale Planck.
HALFWAY LEADER: Dale Planck.
BERT/KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER AWARD: Willy Decker.
XTREME LUBRICANTS SLICK MOVE OF THE RACE AWARD: Dale Planck.
PENSKE POWER POSITION AWARD (11th): Ryan Phelps.
MSD IGNITION FINAL PLACEMENT AWARD: Jim Witko Jr.
BILSTEIN SHOCKS FAST TIME AWARD: Matt Sheppard (15.549sec/86.822mph) *NEW TRACK RECORD.
TOTAL PURSE: $27,750.
CARS ENTERED: 39.
NEXT EVENT: Cayuga County Fair Speedway "DIRTcar Hall of Fame 100"- May 30, 2010.
DID NOT QUALIFY(8)
37x-Tommy Scheetz Jr./Boyertown,PA