Fuller Deals a Royal Flush in the DIRT Modified Event, While in ESS Sprints, Howland Catches One on the River
May 6, 2006
FULTON, NY- The drivers of the Nativepoker.com Empire Super Sprint Series swarmed to the high banks of the Fulton Speedway on Saturday night for their first appearance at the riverside oval since 2002. A record number of 44 sprint cars were on hand to vie for a $2,000 cash purse, plus contingencies and bonuses.
With so many cars in the pits it would be an evening that would include 4 heats, 2 B Mains, & a Dash to produce the field of winged combatants for the A-Main. Coming through with wins in these ultra-tough heat race contests were Blake Breen, in heat race number one. Breen would need to hold off John Smith III & eventual feature race runner-up, Justin Barger to grapple this victory away. In heat race two, it was 5 time ESS feature winner Doug Emery, picking up the win. Heat 3 saw John Karklin Jr., Shawn Donath, Luke Eriksen, & Billy White earning transfer spots. The final heat race of the night punched the ticket to the dance for 28 time ESS feature winner Dan Kaszubinski, Bryan Howland, veteran of the dirt wars Chuck Hebing, & Rookie ESS Competitor, Jason Barney. Winning the B-Mains, getting in through the last chance races were Tommy Wickham & Curt Michael .
In their preliminary events the mighty dirt modified’s were not about to be out done. The likes of Jimmy Phelps, Tim Fuller, Billy Decker, Alan Johnson, Pat Ward, and all of the professional driving stars of the weekly wars in this area, produce a distinct brand of dirt track auto racing and intensity that you will have to look long, and hard, to find anything of it’s like, anywhere else in the country. Many of these competitors will compete, no let me rephrase that, do battle, three times a week at different area tracks, as well as squaring off on the immense stage of the Advanced Auto Parts Super DIRT Series events. The battles that emerged on this night in the modified heats would shake down like this. Heat race number one went to Steve Hulsizer in the 88, this was a heat race that would see, last weeks feature winner, Jimmy Phelps, in the J& B Installations, Granby Discount Carpet #99J relegated, in inauspicious style, to the consolation event by way of a fifth place showing in a super fast, ultra competitive heat race #1. But as they say, winners already know how to win, but they learn more from their set backs and defeats. More on Phelps’ evening in just a moment. The second qualifying event was dominated by a pair of Gypsum Express sponsored cars, driven by Billy Decker in the #91, and in the 42, Genoa, New York’s Pat Ward. Heat race three transferred Dan Williams, Brett Tonkin, Ryan Phelps, & the 14J, Alan Johnson. The final square off for the modified division yielded the fastest lap of the entire event, a blurring 16.339 second lap. That screamer turned in by Tim Fuller, in his pristine nativepoker.com #19. Fuller, by the way, posted that fast & furious lap in lap # 8 as he took the checkered flag, leading Tim Sears and Dale Planck to the line by more than two seconds.
Now, back to Jimmy Phelps for a moment. The Baldwinsville driver, running his family owned 99J Troyer, was a winner one week ago at the Fulton Speedway and a perennial contender for the track championship at the 3/8 mile clay oval. Before warm ups, a very cautious Phelp’s commented to luvracin.com, “…were just looking to finish consistently at this point in the year, if anything I think we’ve got a strong car. With a little luck and some consistency we can contend for the title, but it’s definitely along way from that point, were just going to do the best we can and usually that stuff takes care of itself. “ Extremely well put and perhaps very foreboding. DIRT Rules do not provide for any freebies, and as Phelps finished one spot back from the final transfer spot in heat race #1 he would have to plead his own case through modified consolation race #1. Phelps went out and took care of business, solidifying his place in the field for the feature. Consistency, every competitor know that when the chips are down, and when you need to face adversity, you pull down extra hard on those belts and go racing for your life, just to get a shot in that main. Like wise, modified legend, “Barefoot” Bob McCreadie would have to find his way to the show via a second place spot in the second semi of the night, coming home across the line behind the 1* car of Tony Buffa, Jr.
The feature event, unlike the latest Tom Cruise movie, Mission Impossible III, was not all hype, and definitely lived up to all of the excitement and billing. This would be a 35 lap battle on the high banks, winner take all, no special effects, no stunt doubles. Just the fearless warriors of the weekly dirt wars, strapping themselves to 2,550 pounds of lit dynamite. The first 33 laps all went off under the green, Fuller would finally track down Steve Hulsizer on the races 14th circuit for the lead. Fuller would have to come all the way up from about mid pack, from the #12 starting spot, to grab the top spot. From laps 14 to 33, the race wasn’t just being debated up front, it was further back in the field. The 14J of Alan Johnson, going away in the #15 slot, was working his way through the field for his eventual show down with Tim Fuller. Jimmy Phelps, another guy who had to earn it in this one, found himself bringing up the rear in this one after fighting his way into the show through the consi. Phelps, who prefers the inside line customarily at Fulton, was working any angle he could to get to the front. Johnson and Phelps ran side by side for a number of circuits until Phelps tangled briefly with another car in between three and four. Phelps, kept his composure and came away with another consistent showing, bringing home an eighth for the Granby Discount Carpet, J&B Installations, 99J Team.
With five to go, Fuller had the race reasonably in hand. The 91 car of Decker, had sped into the second spot, followed by Husizer, and the Jeff Isabell owned 8J, driven by Tom Sears, Jr. What a difference less than 30 seconds can make. Less than two laps later, lap 33, the first, and only yellow of the race would fly. Up in turn one Dale Planck, Tim Sears and Vinnie Vitale had all gotten together to draw that first caution period. The restart would put three fierce rivals at the front, they would have a mere tow trips around the high banks to see who could impose their will and hit the jackpot. It was the typically, super smooth Billy Decker, in the 91, that showed his hand first, with the veteran, Johnson blasting his 14J by him to snag second place away. Johnson then locked in on his target, The 19,of the fearless Tim Fuller. Fuller & Johnson both drive cars that are sponsored by Nativepoker.com, but, all of you race fans know this to be the truth, racing definitely is not a team sport with a lap to go and all the money on the line. Fuller, held his line through one and two, commenting after the race that he could hear Johnson coming hard. They ran within a few inches of one another down the back straight, Johnson measuring the entire length of the back stretch. Heading into three, Johnson put all of his card on the table and went low. On this night, the man holding the royal flush, beating Johnson and the 14J to the line by .322 seconds, was Tim Fuller, snagging the $2,000 pot and valuable points toward that coveted Fulton Speedway Track Championship. What a race.
With the modified feature setting the table quite nicely for the Nativepoker.com, Eastern Super Sprint Series field, 26 sprint cars would take the green for what would take shape to be, in the end, a two car shootout, pitting Barger against Howland in a game of high stakes, sprint car hold em’. Barger would take the lead at the green, leading the first three circuits. Howland was having any of that though. Howland would see himself by Barger and grip that lead until lap 15. Taking that lead away, working the high side in the #32, you guessed it, Montrose, New York’s Justin Barger with only 10 laps remaining in the event. On paper, it looked like this one was over, But that’s why they run these races on red clay, in fast cars and not on paper race fans, because on lap 22 it was the blood, sweat and tears of the 19 year old rocket man, Bryan Howland, out of Auburn, New York, taking his car #51 to its final lead of the race. Howland would find room on the low groove to get by Barger in the late going as Barger ran into some lapped traffic. The win marked Howland’s first in an ESS Sprint car and unfortunately, when the next victory will come is uncertain. Howland’s brother is stricken with cancer, and the unselfish 19 year old, will let his brothers treatment dictate where his schedule goes, not the race tour. Our hats go off, and our hearts go out to a fine driver and great young man. Howland, standing in victory lane, for the first time as an ESS Sprint car driver, dedicated the win to his brother and simply wished that he could have been there to see it. No hootin’ or hollerin’. Just a sincere guy, giving respect to his family. That’s why I love racing.
Following Howland and Barger to the line were Dan Kaszubinski in the 20, Mike Stelter, Dave Ely, John Smith III, #45 Chuck Hebing, in his first ESS Race, Jason Barney, Shawn Donath, & grabbing the 10th spot, from Delaware, #99Curt Michael. The Nativepoker.com ESS tour return to the area on May 26th. This time they will take to the “D-Shaped Dirt Demon” Brewerton Speedway for what should be and another incredible show put on by the new ownership of both the Fulton and Brewerton Speedway’s. The new ownership group consist of Don Watros, Tina & Rick Wolff along with Promoters T.J. Fitzbibbons and Art Halliday. After an opening week like this, you can definitely see great things on the horizon for this new racing organization. For more information on any of the upcoming events at these sister tracks, you may visit www.brewertonspeedway.com or www.fultonspeedway.com.