SYRACUSE — On Saturday night, Billy Dunn was having nightmares following a fuel mileage disappointment that cost him the 358 Modified Super DIRTcar Series victory in that afternoon’s “Salute to the Troops” 150.
On Sunday night, however, Dunn surely went to bed with only sweet dreams in mind after rebounding to win the Modified Super DIRTcar Series Syracuse 200. Both races were part of NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLII at the New York State Fairgrounds.
In the Syracuse 200, Dunn, of Watertown, was chasing leader Stewart Friesen when Friesen ran out of fuel with two laps remaining. From there, Dunn completed the biggest victory of his career.
Friesen inherited the lead with nine laps remaining when leader Tim McCreadie pitted under caution due to a flat right rear tire. Once back to green, Friesen continued to lead until his fuel ran out.
After Sunday’s big victory, Dunn was asked how he felt about the disappointment of Saturday. Wearing a big smile, he said, “I just forgot about that 10 minutes ago.”
While enjoying the thrills of winning the Salute to the Troops 150 on Saturday, Brett Hearn could also feel the pain that Dunn was dealing with after that race.
Hearn took the lead for the first and only time on the final lap of the Salute to the Troops 150 when he passed race leader Dunn in the first turn as Dunn was running out of fuel. Hearn held on, while Dunn finished 24th.
A year ago here, Hearn was leading the Salute to the Troops 150 when his fuel tank ran dry with just two laps remaining, handing the victory to McCreadie.
“When that happened on the last lap today, I thought you know, I lost one like that last year and this is a complete reversal this year,” said Hearn, who has won the Salute to the Troops 150 five times in his career. “I knew that the gas mileage was going to be close because we had so many green flag laps. I ran pretty conservative most of the time and I thought that if anybody was going to make the mileage, I would.”
Also Saturday, drivers Erick Rudolph of Ransomville and Mat Williamson of St. Catharines, Ont., were having their own race within the race as they are vying for the 358 Modified Super DIRTcar Series 2013 points championship. Rudolph came to Syracuse leading the series points by 43 over Williamson.
Rudolph, who started the race in the 13th position, was able to lead several laps of the race but following his pit stop from the lead on lap 74 was only able to climb back up through the pack to an eventual 11th-place finish.
Meanwhile, Williamson started seventh but wound up finishing 13th.
Rudolph now enjoys a 51-point edge over Williamson with just one series race left, next weekend in Brockville, Ont.
While most of the lead group pitted on lap 24, Rudolph made his stop very late.
“It’s not so bad today,” said Rudolph, the 2013 New Humberstone Speedway Modified champion. “We didn’t realize that we were that bad on fuel mileage and we knew what it was, and we knew that we had to pit late or we would never had made it to the end if we had pitted on one of the first two cautions that everyone else pitted on. We still have the points lead over Mat, so points wise today was all right.”
Other Salute to the Troops 150 local finishers were: Chad Brachmann (Sanborn), 26th; Stewart Friesen (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.), 36th.
Also Saturday at Syracuse, Merrittville and New Humberstone Speedway DIRTcar Sportsman campaigner Brad Rouse of St. Catharines parlayed his 22nd starting spot to a victory in the Sportsman Championship 30 event. Rouse avoided accidents and other incidents in front of him and drove a clean race to win and in the process take over the DIRTcar Sportsman Super DIRT Series point lead.
Rouse passed Brett Wright (East Chatham) following a lap 20 restart and went the distance for his first Syracuse career checkered flag.
Rouse is married to the niece of Merrittville Speedway Race Director Bobby St. Amand Jr.
Rouse’s car sported the color scheme and No. 30 number that was campaigned several years ago by the late Bobby St. Amand Sr.
“It’s a great day,” said Rouse. “We had a fast hot rod all week. It really means a lot to have the St. Amands on board here. This one’s for papa.”
“It’s just amazing,” said St. Amand Jr. “I know dad’s looking down and smiling. I believe he’s with us here.”
Other local finishers in the Sportsman Championship 30 were: James Henry (Niagara Falls), sixth; Kevin Wills (Ransomville), 16th; Boyd MacTavish (Ransomville), 17th; Brett Martin (Burt), 19th; Cody McPherson (St. Catharines, Ont.), 26th; and Adam Hilton (Buffalo), 29th.
In other Super DIRT Week action, North Tonawanda’s Pete Stefanski endured a serious month-long illness, a race morning practice spin and strong competition to nearly win Sunday’s BACC-OFF DIRTcar Pro Stock Championship 25.
Stefanski, the outside pole sitter, took the lead from Castleton’s Rob Yetman on lap 10 but Yetman returned the favor on a lap 14 restart to take the victory with Stefanski second.
“I had an illness for the last month but I feel pretty good now,” Stefanski said. “As long as I felt good enough to come here and felt good after practice I knew I would be OK. You can’t miss Super DIRT Week.”