After watching Erick Rudolph achieve asphalt racing supremacy this season at Dunn Tire Raceway Park, what could the teenage sensation do for an encore? How about winning on one of dirt track racing's most prestigious stages?
That's exactly what the Wilson High School 16-year-old did as he turned even more heads with a dominating victory in the Town Mechanical DIRTcar Sportsman 30 during the Saturday portion of Super DIRT Week XXXVII here at the New York State Fairgrounds.
Rudolph, of Ransomville, accomplished the special feat despite having only very limited experience in a DIRTcar Sportsman and never having been at the wheel of any race vehicle on the huge one-mile fairgrounds track. Earlier this year he became the first driver in history to win both the DTRP Modified and SST Sportsman season point championships.
Rudolph took the lead Saturday on lap four from his third starting position, passing Matt Hulsizer coming out of Turn Four, and the contest was over. Rudolph built nearly a half-track advantage but that was erased by a brief caution on lap 16. Once the race was restarted Rudolph easily led the remaining laps, building another half-track lead.
While Rudolph generally remains very quiet and calm following a victory, that was not the case Saturday. He exited his car in Victory Lane and climbed onto the roof and leaped up and down, pounding on the roof of the car.
"Usually after a long race I get pretty whipped but I'm full of energy as this one was only 30 laps," Rudolph said. "What a feeling. This is for my crew. They spent the last two weeks getting the car ready. We got here and were fast right off the bat. I just continued to hit my marks in the race. I just kept going faster and faster as I went and got into a better rhythm."
Rudolph quickly made an impression at Syracuse driving the Jipp Ortiz-owned entry. Rudolph emerged as the quickest in all practice sessions prior to the race.
Ortiz himself knows the glory of winning at Super DIRT Week as he posted two wins here himself in prior years when he drove Pro Stocks.
Ortiz, who usually is very talkative, was nearly speechless with excitement in Victory Lane.
"I've never had this much fun," said Ortiz. "This is a good time. The kid's incredible. It's all about him today. This isn't about me. I'm just here helping him. That's all I'm doing. To be honest with you I'm proud to be a little notch on a gun belt that's going to be awfully good for an awfully long time."
Rudolph's father, Charlie, had much success in both asphalt and dirt racing and had some joyful tears in his eyes after the race Saturday.
"I never won at Syracuse in my 20-year career here so for Erick to win in his very first shot at it, how can you beat that?" said Charlie.
In other Super DIRT Week competition, Frank Cozze was victorious Sunday in the Advance Auto Parts Modified Super DIRT Series Rite Aid 200 over Matt Sheppard, Duane Howard, Stewart Friesen and Tim Fuller.
On Saturday, Billy Decker won the 358 Modified Syracuse 150 ahead of Caledonia's Vic Coffey. Pat Ward, Mario Clare and Wayne Jelly were next. Other locals in the top 20 were Chad Brachmann (15th) and Larry Lampman Jr. (17th).
Also Sunday at Syracuse, Sean Corr won the BNC Motorsports Pro Stock Championship 25 over Eric Marin, Louie Jackson and North Tonawanda's Pete Stefanski. Stefanski is the 2008 DIRT Pro Stock Series champion as well as the Genesee Speedway champion.
>Delevan track to return
Freedom Raceway in Delevan, which was closed for the 2008 season, is set to reopen next year with a different promoter and name.
Businessman Carl Drum of Wayland has obtained the rights to run the speedway. Drum is the father of Fastrak Late Model driver Kyle Drum.
The track will run under the new name of Arcade International Raceway. The track had been run for the last 20 years prior to this season by Dan Hoffmann, who closed it at the end of 2007 for financial reasons. The track was originally called Tri County Speedway.
The track is expected to run next season on Fridays and feature the Fastrak Crate Late Models, E-Mods, Street Stocks and Four-Cylinder Stocks.
Special dates are also being planned. Former Little Valley Speedway promoter Tom Taber is an adviser. A informational meeting for all interested drivers, teams, investors and sponsors will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 1 at Belfast Valley Park.