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2015 Super DirtCar Series Season Preview

And so it came to be in April, at a high banked speedway in central New York, that the north east beasts that play in the clay came to life……..and it was good!

The Super DIRTCar Series big block modifieds kick off this Saturday at Fulton Speedway and we’ve put together a little series teaser/preview for you here at TDN with lots of useful information. 

There’s some new tracks on board in 2015 and a couple of new drivers (plus an old friend that will make things very interesting) that will make an attempt at a series title in the coming year. 


2014:

In 2014, Billy Decker returned to the series as a tour regular for the first time in couple of years, and proved to be a model of consistency.  The wily veteran entered the final night of competition at the World Finals down 19 points to Matt Sheppard and skillfully missed a spinning car in the middle of the race to avoid disaster and take home the title.

Sheppard came up a handful of points short and from a statistics standpoint was probably the most consistent high end finisher on the tour. Meanwhile, behind them both, Dr Danny Johnson managed to take five tour wins in a semi comeback season for him. Johnson would have actually finished fifth for the season, if he’d only had a home track. 

Brett Hearn started cooler than normal in 2014, and it cost him at the end as the seven time SDS tour champion wasn’t able to reach victory lane until August at Lebanon Valley. Hearn took home $17,500 for the effort and pulled himself back into contention, but mechanical difficulties took their toll on him during the final portion of the year. He managed to snag the final spot on the podium in 2014. 


About the Tour:

It’s the smallest in the WRG stable of tours in terms of shows, and it’s by design given the compact geography of the tour. The SDS offers a hybrid approach when it comes to concept. Drivers must compete at at least one “home track” sanctioned by DIRTcar week in and week out on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. This gives them anywhere from 900 to 1000 points depending on season standing finish.  

But during the weeknights throughout the season, the SDS comes to life more or less as the majority of the events take place Monday through Thursday.  The first two-thirds of the season feature 100 point races (the greatest number of points the winner takes home), and then in September the “playoffs” begin with 150 point races. 

Speaking of home tracks, if you’re not familiar with who runs weekly where, Canandaigua is a good place to start as many tour regulars call it home for a weekly track. Fulton, Fonda, and Utica- Rome also see their fair share of competitors as well as Lebanon Valley and Albany-Saratoga.  We’ll be doing a “TDN Guide to the North East Modifieds” very soon, be on the lookout as most of the tracks and drivers will be listed! 

Most races are anywhere from 70 to 100 laps in distance, and caution laps count toward total laps run. The winner’s share of the purse varies, but most standard shows are $6,000 to win. It may seem low and that is a point we could debate for weeks, but the travel is also less than the Outlaw Sprints or Late Models for the most part. 




Schedule:

25 dates appear on this year’s tour (a number that’s been increasing lately) at 17 different tracks.  There are 14 American dates, and 11 Canadian in the 2015 mix. And the range is impressive. Anywhere from the racy 1/4 miles (Cornwall)  to the Moody Mile can be found as well as the big 1/2’s (Lebanon Valley).

Either returning to the series for the first time in a good bit or debuting as facilities featured in 2015 are Oshweken Speedway,  Five Mile Point, Brewerton and Grandview Speedway.  Weedsport, Charlotte,  Canandaigua and Brockville, Ontario all have two dates scheduled.  While the Eastern States 200 at Orange County Fairgrounds Speedway is not a tour event in 2015 as it had been in some previous years. 

You can have a look at the entire 2015 schedule here: 2015 SDS Tour Schedule

By the way, keep in mind that the Volusia dates that took place in Florida are not officially part of the tour, and have their own separate point fund..aka  “The Gator”. 


History:


What we now call the Super DIRTCar Series was actually started in the early 1970’s by Glenn Donnelly,  who purchased a lease to the Syracuse Fairgrounds for a modified race that featured one of the largest purses around. Eventually, Super Dirt Week emerged around what we now call the (Enter Sponsor Name Here) 200.  

Donnelly found associations with various area tracks and eventually hosted qualifiers, actual full programs where whomever won that night, was a guaranteed starter in the big race at Syracuse.  Once the rules were all on the same page, (See Drivers Independent Race Tracks aka..DIRT) the qualifiers eventually went from a selection of shows, to a full fledged tour with a point fund which we see today. 

Past Champions:

2014: Billy Decker
2013: Brett Hearn
2012: Matt Sheppard
2011: Matt Sheppard
2010: Matt Sheppard
2009: Brett Hearn
2008: Billy Decker
2007: Brett Hearn
2006: Alan Johnson
2005: Tim Fuller
2004: Gary Tomkins
2003: Alan Johnson
2002: Alan Johnson
2001: Brett Hearn
2000: Steve Paine
1999: Danny Johnson
1998: Billy Decker
1997: Danny Johnson
1996: Brett Hearn
1995: Bob McCreadie
1994: Bob McCreadie
1993: Brett Hearn
1992: Danny Johnson
1991: Doug Hoffman
1990: Brett Hearn
1989: Danny Johnson
1988: Jack Johnson
1987: Jack Johnson
1986: Charlie Rudolph
1985: Jack Johnson
1984: Jack Johnson
1983: Alan Johnson
1982: Jack Johnson
1981: Alan Johnson
1980: Jack Johnson
1979: Will Cagle
1978: Will Cagle
1977: Dave Lape
1976: Will Cagle


Ways To Follow: 

The voice of the Super DIRTCar Series is Shane Andrews, a legendary announcer who also works at Brewerton, Canandaigua and Utica-Rome Speedways during the weekly season, as well as doing voice over for various dirt racing television productions. 

Shane can be heard on Dirtvision.com audio on every SDS race night with live audio from the track. 

We got a chance to talk with Shane this offseason at TDN, so for a glimpse behind the man that’s behind the mic, click here. Shane Andrews Feature Story


For race updates, the famous “Selfie with Shane” photos, and other insightful tidbits, you should follow Shane  @nyvoice13
Other good follows on twitter:


Super DIRTCar Series official twitter: @SuperDIRTcar
Mike Mallet, Dirt Track Digest.com Chief and TDN Hall of famer: @DTDMike

And for the official series website click here: Official Super DIRTCar Series Website

2015:

So, now that we’ve got all that stuff out of the way, it’s time to give a glimpse into all that might be for the SDS drivers this season. We shook our magic 8 ball as hard as we could on each individual driver and it rested on “It is decidedly so” every single time!

After we threw the ball in the trash, we decided to use other formulas. 

As far as who will follow the whole tour and who won’t, we can’t make any promises. Folks, this works just like the Outlaw sprints and late models, lots of drivers start, and after a bad finish they sometimes drop it. There’s only 25 races so a DNF in the first two or three races can really kill the notion of following it all the way through once other summertime mid week specials in other series start coming up. 

So we’re left with our best guess in the end. The following drivers have either indicated their intentions to follow, or history tells us they’ll plan to be at all or most of them. 

Now let’s see where they just might end up come November!




Contenders: “They’ll be there in the end and any one of them could win it!”

Stewart Friesen: He was the most dominant modified driver in the land in 2014 in terms of money won and number of large scale wins. He finished 8th last year, and didn’t even participate in four tour races! The off season story, was that he planned on doing the whole tour in 2015. Whether or not that’s the case we’re not 100% sure and time will tell. But should he commit fully to it, he’s a prohibitive favorite and that’s unquestionable.  The only negative and foreseeable factor impacting his final finish would be if he were to succumb to a inconsistent stretch. Can he find a way to reach the top 5 or 10 consistently when things aren’t going his way? 3 or 4 years ago, the answer would be no. Now yes….most definitely yes!

Likely Home Track: Fonda

Tim Fuller:  In 2015 we welcome back Mr. Tim Fuller from his Super Late Model touring days. The WoO LM loss is the SDS mods gain in this instance. Fuller will be a handful this year driving in the Dave Rauscher backed  #19 car. He’ll have something to prove and will probably feel completely comfortable from the get go. To win the championship, he’ll have to have some things go his way, but one thing’s for sure. He’ll have good stuff, it’ll be dependable and as long as it holds true on both counts, the 2005 champion may be a great dark horse bet to win his second SDS title.

Likely Home Track: Canandaigua

mattsheppard.com


Matt Sheppard: The former three time champion did everything he could to win the 2014 title, and still fell short. Sheppard suffered one bad qualifying night at the World Finals and it cost him the championship more or less.  He’s back in the HBR racing Troyer entry, a chassis switch which he made look completely seamless in 2014.  Sheppard has to be considered one of the two top favorites for the 2015 title. His skills and history say as much, the car is as good as they come and he’s already developed a mindset with consistency that wins championships. Having two races at a home track where he’s almost unstoppable helps factor in this year too. 

Likely Home Track: Canandaigua

Billy Decker: Mr. Decker returned to the SDS in 2014 in 18 races, he came home with 3 wins, 10 top fives and 15 top 10’s to cap off a championship season. We have to wonder if the same fate awaits Tim Fuller in 2015.  But we digress. Decker will have the experience, car, team and skill to repeat. But it’ll be much more difficult to go back to back for him with more competition in the top five. He gets another title if the luck goes his way, and it’ll have to go his way for more than just three wins in 2015 for him to stand with the trophy in Charlotte in November.  You can never count him out, but this repeat job will be one of his toughest challenges in recent memory.

Likely Home Track: Fulton



Brett Hearn: The corporate jet fell just 14 points shy of yet another title in 2014 which could have an impact on 2015 going one of two ways.  Will it make him hungrier, or is this the season that we see some fade from him. We’ll go with the hungry aspect as we don’t believe that Hearn is anywhere close to the fade. Hearn needs a good start, if he gets that, he can overcome some places he’s traditionally not in the podium mix at later on in the summer. So the first two races at Fulton and Canandaigua respectively, will be extremely important for him. And then once August rolls around, we can see him stacking wins on top of wins if all goes his way. If it does, he’ll be on the podium with a championship chance. If not, we may see him 4th or 5th come November.  It would help if he can find a way to win at tracks where he hasn’t in a very long time. 


Likely Home Track: Lebanon Valley


erickrudolph.com



Erick Rudolph: Okay, this looks completely out of place to a good many modified fans. Erick Rudolph with a chance at a title in only his second full time season!  The two time DIRTcar 358 champion was enlisted by the Page trucking team out of central NY. And once he got tapped, he went straight to work with an impressive rookie season with the SDS. He got a win at Autodrome Drummond and finished 6th in the final standings. 

Okay, so why is he a contender? Because he’s a natural wheel man, has a very good car, and he’s very engaged in learning new tracks. A lot would have to go right for him, and the top contenders would all have to suffer multiple heartbreaks during the season, but Rudolph’s a contender too for sure. He could finish fifth this year, and still have a much better campaign than his brilliant rookie season. 


Likely Home Track: Canandaigua


Wild Card: Yeah, this guy gets his own section of our SDS Preview”

Dr. Danny Johnson: You heard it here first. If Danny Johnson runs a home track and follows the tour in 2015, he will finish in the top five and might even be your champion.  If not, then he’ll finish 13th and have at least 4 wins.  The doctor had a wonderful 2014, and we’d love to see him in the mix for a title in 2015, except we’ve heard conflicting stories this offseason on his potential plans on where he’d like to call home. Ransomville’s a good bet, but it doesn’t help you in the SDS standings.  

Either way, he’ll be a factor in the races, if not the standings, and if we’re honest, modified racing is better when he’s in the mix.

If he does run, he’ll need to be un-doctorlike in how easy he is on his equipment to win a title. But his cars seemed to hold up well in 2014. 



One Will Emerge: These guys need some breaks, but one will stand out!”

Jimmy Phelps: If winning droughts are destined to end, they usually do so with an outpouring of success. If this is true, and Phelp’s win drought comes to an end, then god help the top contenders because Phelps could be in the title mix. As it is, he consistently gets top 10’s and stays out of trouble. He’s just got to find a way to make victory lane.  We’ll say the streak ends at Utica-Rome and from that point on, who knows. 

Likely Home Track: Fulton


Larry Wight: He’s one of the best young drivers in dirt racing period. And he’s going to grow in leaps and bounds in 2015 and that’s a scary fact! He looked great in Volusia earlier this year winning the Gator trophy, but it’s one track. Still, he’s not intimidated by other drivers and he’s aggressive, though not to a dangerous fault. Look for him to take a tour win this year,and gain more valuable experience. 

Likely Home Track: Fulton

Peter Britten: The Australian wonder from down under is still in search for his first tour win. And we’ll say he gets it at either Cornwall or Charlotte.  He’s been developing for three years and shows signs of brilliance every year but just hasn’t gotten over the hump. He could wind up a contender if he does get some luck to come his way (he’s been one of the unluckiest on tour in recent memory), and he can get just a little bit better on the bigger tracks.

Likely Home Track: Canandaigua

Justin Haers; T-bone got his first non Volusia victory at Brockville last year, and then was bitten by unfortunate circumstances in 2015. When he’s on, he’s a top five guy and had a solid finish to his 2014 campaign.  To repeat that level of success, he’ll need to find another gear with Fuller in the lineup plus Rudolph and Wight solidly in the mix.  Still though, he’s a threat to win at any track at any time. 

Likely Home Track: Canandaigua

Gary Tomkins: The venerable Mr. Tomkins is due for a better year in 2015. He finished outside the top 10 in the final points for the first time in recent memory which is probably testament to the deepening quality of the SDS field.  We could say “See Jimmy Phelps” for the momentum he could gain from a tour win which could propel his confidence and place in the standings. If wins don’t come, he’ll need to put up more top 5’s and less DNF’s to get back to the top 10. 

Likely Home Track: Canandaigua

Pat Ward: Ward completed all 18 races in the 2014 season, and looked a step behind. We’re going to credit that to knocking some rust off. He can’t be overlooked to make some noise in 2015 though. He’s simply got too much experience, too much skill, and has got a great car from the Gypsum Express stable. 



Likely Home Track: Fulton



We’ll Let Ya Know: “These guys are either on the fence about running or there are questions about where they may wind up…the unknown factor!” 



Billy Dunn: The 2013 Syracuse winner won some big 358 tour races in 2014 and fell off the SDS tour after the halfway point. His plans for 2015 are unknown to us. If he does participate, he’s a top 10 guy for sure.

Anthony Perrego: This young hot shoe from NY’s southern tier could really turn some heads in places that haven’t been graced with his presence. He’s had stout finishes with RoC and has won some mixed specials in the last two years. He’s a question mark as of right now, but could finish in the top 10 if all goes well.  

Keith Flach: Mr. Flach competed in all 18 tour dates in 2014 and currently has plans to start the SDS tour per his website this year.  He competes in the capital district and what you can learn driving there, can take you places on the SDS tour. 

Rich Scagliotta: He took part in 17 races in 2014 and can certainly wheel the car. He’s competitive and does well for himself at Albany Saratoga.  

Alan  Johnson: He’s rumored to be back on the tour in 2015, so we saved the most intriguing of the bunch for last. The legendary former SDS champion can still make noise and could wind up a factor. Nobody that pays attention doubts that. The questions are, will the driver still feel like doing it once the dog days start up, and how good is the equipment? If the answers are yes, and top shelf, he could be the comeback story of the year!




Bold Predictions:

  • If this is indeed the final run for the Moody Mile, expect Brett Hearn to win. He’ll be extra motivated to etch his name in the books one last time
  • Peter Britten wins first career SDS tour race
  • Anthony Perrego pulls out a podium finish at Five Mile Point
  • Gary Tomkins takes one of the Canandaigua shows
  • As the dust settles in November, Stew Friesen is your SDS tour champion should he commit to the whole series
  • If Friesen drops out or misses a race, Matt Sheppard takes his fourth title


So there you have it, a complete look at the 2015 Super DIRTcar Series season. It’s wide open, has some great young talent, and will be a hot ticket this summer. So get to one of them if you are able, you’ll be glad you did! 

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