By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director
For the past three years Pete Stefanski has maintained a stronghold on the Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Championship Series event at Fulton Speedway. Friday night was no different for Stefanski other than the fact that rain shortened an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory to 22 laps as the Schneider Bros. 200 Weekend kicked off for the 23rd successive season at the popular Route 57 raceway.
“To be honest, I never even thought about rain when the race started, didn’t want to put myself in a panic mode” remarked Stefanski, after posting his tour-high fifth series triumph in nine races with only Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds and Eastern States Weekend at Orange County Fair Speedway standing between him and a record third Mr. DIRTcar points crown. No driver has claimed three straight Championships in any division since DIRTcar was established in 1976.
“But once the rain started hitting my (helmet) shield I thought I was in trouble. The first five laps I could barely see yet after things cleared up the track came in great. I just love this place, you got as much room as you want to get the job done. Wish I could come back here every week and race,” added Stefanski, who needs just to start the final two tour shows in Syracuse and Middletown to wrap up the coveted title.
Following in Stefanski’s tire tracks when the race was finally called due to rain were Dion Oakes, Don Carlson, pole-sitter Jocelyn Roy and Allen Peters. Despite falling eight circuits shy of the advertised 30-lap feature race distance, Stefanski still pocketed the $1,200 top prize for his division-high 11th UMP Pro Stock victory of the season, his 10th career triumph at Fulton.
Stefanski opened the show with an apparent checkered flag in the first of two qualifying heats yet an early race incident with P.J. Peters sent him to the back on the scoresheet and the Wheatfield, New York pilot was forced to fill in 17th on the 19-car starting grid come feature time
“It was just the first turn of the first lap and I actually swerved to miss Joey (Ladouceur) and ended up running into my own teammate,” noted Stefanski, who wasn’t penalized until the conclusion as the preliminary event went caution-free. “I couldn’t do much about it and being put to the rear for the feature was pretty severe. I guess that gave me a little more drive because I knew I had to get to the front as quick as I could.”
With the top-six qualifiers from each heat re-drawing, Roy assumed the point alongside Scott Gribben while race winners Ladouceur (11th) and Ricky Thompson (9th) were not as fortunate. Roy jumped out early and held off Gribben until turn four contact sent Thompson spinning to force out the first yellow flag. Gribben’s night came to end following a turn three-four skirmish on the ensuing lap eight restart.
Ladouceur vaulted into fourth back under green, then inched ahead of Travis Back across the line the following circuit. Roch Aubin and Bret Belden tangled in turn four to incur another caution period on lap 11, and at the same time, Ladouceur looped his mount and collected Back and Stephane Labrun in the turn one mishap.
With the green lights back out, Roy was back out front yet after sliding out of the groove in turn four Oakes gained his first lead on lap 13 with Carlson dropping Roy back another position the following circuit. The sprinkles that began to moisten the high-banked 3/8-miler on lap 11 momentarily subsided at the halfway mark with Oakes, Carlson, Roy, Denis Gauvreau and P.J. Peters securing front-five spots.
The third and final yellow flag unfurled on lap 19 for a spinning Morgan David machine in turn four and with the field ready to return under green it was Stefanski suddenly charging into fourth. He stormed into the runner-up slot on lap 20 and the next time around disposed of Oakes on the high side exiting turn four for what would be the final exchange up front.
With rain returning harder than before, a red flag was thrown and the field was brought into the pits as the clock struck 10 p.m. The intermittent rain allowed Pro Stockers to give it one more try at 10:25, yet soonafter were called back off the track. Packer vehicles attempted to save the racing surface but officials had no choice but to pull the plug when the track was deemed unsafe at 11:20.
Stefanski’s fifth tour wins extends his series-high count to 19, all in the new millennium. Dave Schulz still holds the marks for most wins in a season (8) and consecutive victories in one year (4), with both standards established in 2002.
The 2008 Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Series makes its lone stop of the year at the New York State Fairgrounds when the Northeast’s top traveling teams converge on the Syracuse Mile for Super DIRT Week XXXVII and the BNC Motorsports 25 on Sunday, October 12.
Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Championship Series Race #9 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Fulton Speedway, October 3, 2008 Event Summary
FIN ST CAR# DRIVER / HOMETOWN
1 17 2 Pete Stefanski/Wheatfield,NY($1,200)
2 5 48 Dion Oakes/Akwesasne,NY
3 10 26 Don Carlson/Ridgefield,CT
4 1 05 Jocelyn Roy/St-Helene,QUE
5 8 88 Allen Peters/Massena,NY
6 15 73 P.J. Peters/Akwesasne,QUE
7 11 92 Joey Ladouceur/Alexandria,ONT
8 4 4 Roch Aubin/Alexandria,ONT
9 13 33 Bruno Cyr/Carignan,QUE
10 6 81 Bret Belden/West Edmeston,NY
11 3 98t Jack Terrell/Jamesville,NY
12 7 6x Travis Back/Akwesasne,NY
13 16 93 Dick Parkhurst/Fulton,NY
14 9 37w Ricky Thompson/Hogansburg,NY
15 18 xXx Morgan David/Akwesasne,NY
16 12 72 Denis Gauvreau/Gatineau,QUE
17 14 6 Stephane Lebrun/Gatineau,QUE
18 2 71 Scott Gribben/Royalton,NY
19 19 *ba98 Steve Johnston/Ingelside,ONT
*Started in rear driving #10 Todd Raabe Street Stock entry.
LAP LEADERS: Roy (1-12), Oakes (13-20), Stefanski (21-22).
CAUTIONS: 3 (lap 8 lap 11, lap 19); 1 RED FLAG (lap 23).
HEAT WINNERS: Ladouceur, Thompson.
SYRACUSE BNC MOTORSPORTS QUALIFIER: Dion Oakes.
HOLLEY HARD LUCK: Denis Gauvreau.
CARS ENTERED: 19.
NEXT EVENT: New York State Fairgrounds “BNC Motorsports 25” – October 12, 2008.
Heat Races (8 laps, top 6 went to re-draw)
#1: Ladouceur, Gauvreau, Aubin, Back, Roy, Terrell, Cyr, PJ Peters, Stefanski, David.
#2: Thompson, Belden, Carlson, Gribben, Oakes, A.Peters, Lebrun, Parkhurst, Johnston.