Over the last several seasons at Ransomville Speedway, no 358 Modified driver has been more successful than Todd Burley. Multiple wins and championships testify to the fact that this driver is destined for induction into the Friends of Auto Racing Fan Club Hall of Fame.
Burley has won four of the last five Ransomville 358 Modified season point championships, including last season's.
Yet, heading into Wednesday night's makeup date, Burley found himself in unfamiliar territory: outside the top two in points at Ransomville.
He finished second in Wednesday's 50-lap race to Robbie Krull, which should get him closer to the top; official standings will be announced today.
Burley's 2011 championship bid hit a major snag just two laps into the new season and he has been on the rebound ever since.
In the last few weeks his car has been very fast but the luck has not been there. It started with the first green flag of the season.
On May 13, as the 358 Modified field was soaring down the front stretch on the second lap, a sudden downpour struck, causing a devastating pileup in the Turn One area. Burley's Teo chassis built car was destroyed in the wreck.
"That was my favorite car and it had only seven races on it," Burley said. "It was lost and I had to go out and buy a whole new car, overnight. After the wreck, I called Teo and they had a new car ready for me by the next Wednesday. Ransomville rained out the next week so we got another week to get the new car ready.
"That was the good news but the bad was that when Ransomville raced again we didn't get a chance to have any practice with the new car and we had the new car blues. I finished sixth and eighth in the double features that night."
On June 10, Burley started deep in the pack, 24th, but was able to rally to a solid third-place finish. Bad luck struck again last Friday night.
"On the first lap of the feature, a couple of cars got together and I got pushed into the melee," said Burley, who owns his own Original Pizza Logs/Burley Motorsports car. "It was just a racing deal. I went to the pits and then when I came back out I had to restart 25th and it was tough because there was no more caution flags but I was able to get up and finish sixth."
Due to this strange season, Burley compares himself to a better known championship driver.
"I guess I have a Jimmie Johnson-type deal going on this season," said Burley of NASCAR's five-time Cup champion. "He has a string of championships but is somewhat struggling this year and so far it's been like that for me too.
"We have the car and the horsepower but we haven't had the luck. I've fallen off the horse but now I have to get back on."
There would be no better time for Burley to get back in the winning saddle than July 1. Ransomville showcases its $5,000-to-win Battle of The Border 75. The race will pit the Ransomville driving contingent against some of the northeast's top traveling stars.
"I know that we can do well in the Battle of the Border," Burley said. "A lot of good cars will be there including probably Stewart Friesen, Brett Hearn, Billy Decker and Danny Johnson. It will be like some of those old Super DIRT Series races."
Burley says he still enjoys racing but that the constant rules changes invoked by DIRT.car Northeast, the Weedsport based body that sanctions the racing at Ransomville, are wearing very thin with him.
"I'm still motivated to go out and race but not as much as I once did," Burley remarked. "I still enjoy racing but there's a lot of things I don't agree with, especially all the constant technical rules changes made by DIRT.car that are suppose to save us money but really don't.
"It's not the Friesen's fault [Ransomville promoters] because they have to do what DIRT.car tells them because of the sanction but I like the way the rules are much better at Utica-Rome Speedway where they haven't really changed the rules hardy at all in the last few years."
Burley is very satisfied with his career, which also includes a Lancaster Speedway asphalt Modified championship earned in 1998. Burley drives a different car at Utica-Rome.
"It's been a very good career for me and I have the championships to enjoy," said Burley. "I could have had a couple more championships at Ransomville but in 2008 I lost the title by one point to Pete [Bicknell] and I was in good shape to win it in 2005 but the car broke during a double point race late that season and it got away from me. Hopefully there's more to come."
The Street Stock winner Wednesday was Jake Stefanski; the Sportsman winner was Greg Panunte.
> From DIRT to asphalt
DIRT 358 Modified stars Bicknell, Johnson, Matt Sheppard and a host of other dirt track specialists will make the transition to asphalt when they battle Tuesday in the DIRT Legal 358 Modified on Asphalt special at 7 p.m. at Dunn Tire Raceway Park.
Chuck Hossfeld, an asphalt Modified driver who has a dirt-type car, is expected to challenge the dirt tracking invaders.