In any form of auto racing many competitors consider it a blessing to be part of a single quality team to race for on their respective circuit. Justin Wright therefore has been doubly blessed, driving for two different successful ownership groups for most of his years driving in DIRT.car Sportsman competition.
Wright has won many races in the Sportsman class since his rookie campaign in 2007, first driving a car owned by his father, Alan, and grandparents, Charlie and Ruth. Since 2008 Justin also has driven the Sweeting Enterprises machine for owners Rob and Jim Sweeting. Justin has taken both teams to victory lane. Now as he moves up in 2012 to the headlining Modified class this season, the 25-year-old Piffard-based driver will continue to drive for both teams again -- the Sweeting entry in the 358 Modifieds and his Wright family owned machine in the big-block Modified class.
Wright will compete in Friday's season-opening card at Ransomville Speedway where he will start 10th in the 358 Modified feature race. Wright, as was the case with his Sportsman cars, during the season will be in the family owned 19w and then jump into the 11J entry when racing for the Sweetings.
"Most of the races I ran in the Sportsman class were with the family car," he said. "Rob [Sweeting] is so busy with his business ventures that he was able to only field a car about once a week. Yet he came to almost all my races whether his car was there or not. To still have these two great teams to drive for is great."
Wright began his Sportsman career driving the family entry. He captured a pair of wins at Black Rock (Dundee and single wins at Ransomville and Genesee (now Raceway 5). He claimed rookie of the year honors at Black Rock and Genesee. Soon after the Sweeting family entered the picture.
"When we were running the family car at Batavia (Genesee) I got to know Rob a little bit. He was fielding a car for Don Spatorico. After the 2007 season, Rob and I worked out a deal and he then fielded cars for both Don and me."
Spatorico is a multi-time race winner and champion in the sport. He had a big influence on Wright's career. "I learned quite a bit from Don," said Wright. "He is a veteran. I sometimes kid Don that I was born in 1986, the same year he started racing."
In 2008, Wright took two wins, one in each car. In 2009 in claimed five checkered flags in the family car and none for Sweetings. In 2010 he amassed eight triumphs at four different tracks in the family car and had a win for Sweeting at Canandaigua. Last season, Wright scored five victories in the Wright car and another in the Sweeting entry.
Wright leaves the Sportsman ranks with no championships but three second-place finishes in point battles, in 2007 at Black Rock and last year at Ransomville and Cayuga County Fair Speedway in Weedsport. Wright will campaign for Sweeting in the 358 Modified ranks at Ransomville and go big-block Modified racing for his family at Canandaigua and other tracks.
"Between competing in both the Sweeting and the family car, these last few seasons, racing usually three nights a week, I got plenty of seat time and experience," said Wright, who is sponsored by Sweeting Enterprises in his 358 Modified and Original Pizza Logs in the big-block effort. "I don't expect too much trouble jumping back and forth between the 358 and the big-block car."
Alan Wright, Billy Hull and James Sweeting turn the wrenches on both cars. Wright's grandparents travel up each week from Pennsylvania to support their grandson. The younger Wright, who is a junior at Geneseo State, will be taking summer classes in the months ahead in anticipation of an eventual degree in elementary education.
When the 358 Modifieds take the green flag for their opening feature of the season Friday at Ransomville, Erick Rudolph will start from the pole after turning a blistering 16.95-second lap in time trials last Friday.
"It's all up to me because when the race starts I won't have any cars to pass at the start," said Rudolph. "I just hit it right last Friday on the time trial lap. This season I plan on racing weekly at both Ransomville and Merrittville and then run some asphalt with the NASCAR Whelen and ROC Modified tours."
Rudolph took his 358 Modified to a sixth-place run last Saturday at Merrittville. That race was won by Pete Bicknell, who will be inducted into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame in Weedsport later this month.
"This is a good start to the year," said Bicknell. "It's great to go into the DIRT Hall of Fame because it's a hall of my peers."
Chad Brachmann has warmed up for his title defense of the 358 Modified crown at Ransomville by winning a big-block Modified race two weeks ago at Lernerville (Pa.) Speedway and placed a solid third last Saturday in 358 Modified racing at Merrittville.
"We got to defend that Ransomville title for all my sponsors," said Brachmann, who will start fourth Friday at Ransomville. "We got the same car, the same motor, the same everything and same driver so we're ready."
Team Sahlen, which has Elma's Joe Sahlen as part of its driver line-up for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT class, was featured in this month's issue of Grassroots Motorsports Magazine. Alan Cesar worked behind the scenes for the team in January during the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway and penned an article about his experience.
Perhaps the most anticipated race event locally this season is the appearance of the very prestigious World of Outlaws Late Model Series which will roll into Little Valley Speedway on Aug. 29. The speedway soon will announce when presale tickets go on sale.
Drag racing winners during Dunn Tire Raceway Park's IHRA season opener last Saturday were: Andy Gregoire, Quick 16; Tim Moore, Top ET; Bill Leber, Mod ET; Louie San George, Street; Rob Brandel, Sleds/Bikes.