At the conclusion of Wyoming County International Speedway's 2004 SST Sportsman season, Billy Ray Pruitt felt he had left something very important on the table -- the WCIS track championship.
After finishing second in points to fellow veteran Ron Williams in 2004, Pruitt finally cleaned that table, winning the WCIS SST Sportsman season points title.
With the regular season driving work done, Pruitt will turn the wheel of his potent No. 88 machine over to his wife Patti and will assist her in a quest for victory in this Saturday's season-ending Coca-Cola Fall Shoot Out at WCIS.
"It's been a long year with working on the road, traveling and racing," Billy Ray said. "I work out of town during the week, usually 14-16 hour days, and travel back home to race on the weekends. I'm a bit tired. I want to get Patti into my car and let her enjoy herself racing at Wyoming County this Saturday.
"She also races at Wyoming County every week in her own car so she is very comfortable and familiar with the track."
Billy Ray won eight times this season at WCIS. He matched his career high for victories set in the Sportsman class in 2001 at the Chemung Speedrome, on the way to that track's season championship.
"Wyoming County ran 15 or 16 races this year for our Sportsman class and I finished in the top three in 14 of those races," said Pruitt, a 45-year-old resident of Owego. "Last year I was leading the points at Wyoming County and in the late going we ended up having bad luck at the same time that Ronnie (Williams) had a stretch of good luck and he took the title away from me.
"I have a great deal of respect for Ronnie and because he did not race at Wyoming County this season, I missed running against him."
Williams chose to run in the Modified class at Lancaster Raceway Park this season.
This season Pruitt did the chasing in the WCIS point race, overhauling early season leader Richard Thomas at the one-quarter mark and holding the top spot from there.
The Pruitts brought the No. 88 machine to Lancaster last Saturday to participate in the US Open Weekend SST Sportsman 75. Patti drove the car in the heat race but failed to qualify. Billy Ray jumped behind the wheel for the last chance qualifying race and made the field by finishing fifth.
In the 75-lapper he came from the back of the pack and got up to about seventh. He eventually placed 12th.
"Both Patti and I have only raced Lancaster once before in our careers and it is a tricky track and Patti felt more comfortable turning the car over to me there. It went okay."
Billy Ray Pruitt runs an unsponsored car built by fellow racer Ricky Kluth of 2-Kwik Chassis.
Pruitt likes running the SST Sportsman-type car that is very similar to the slightly faster Modifieds. An SST car, due to rules, is much more economical than their Modified cousins.
SST cars typically use a 355 cubic-inch engine with a two-barrel carburetor. Tires are 10 inches in width compared to the 15-inch variety found on Modifieds. SST rules allow the purchase of aftermarket racing heads but no modifications or customizing is allowed. Pruitt says that SST engines cost $12,000 to $15,000 compared to the $40,000-$50,000 price tags paid by top Modified competitors.
"We had fun running this year at Wyoming County," Pruitt said. "The racing was good and due to my traveling during the week, Sundays were a perfect day for us to race there each week. Hopefully our team can get a win in the Fall Shoot Out this Saturday."
Racing Saturday at WCIS begins at noon. Highlights are the 4-Cylinder Wasp 20; Mini-Cup 20; Street Stock 40; Modified Mania 40 and SST Sportsman 75.
Lancaster sixth of 18
Team Lancaster, a group of drag racing competitors from Lancaster Raceway Park, traveled to Norwalk (Ohio) Raceway Park last weekend for the annual International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Division 3 Summit Team Finals.
Team Lancaster did well, finishing sixth out of 18 drag strips. It finished eighth a year ago. Drivers try to win race rounds in various classes and earn points toward their respective team totals. The team with the most overall points wins. Team Lancaster's Jim Sobczynski won the Top Race of Champions eliminations.
Norwalk won the team competition with 68 points. Lancaster tallied 43 and New York International Raceway Park (NYIRP) finished eighth with 35. Brad Perkins in Mod/Street and Pete Maduri in Junior Dragster lost for Team NYIRP in their respective finals.