Tim Fuller, the 2004 Rite Aid 200 winner who has been concentrating on the World of Outlaw late model series for two seasons, proved he hasn’t forgotten how to wheel a modified by turning a fast time of 30.160 seconds, or just over 119 mph, in Thursday afternoon’s Super Dirt Week qualifying on the New York State Fairgrounds Mile.
“It’s never easy, but we really wanted to be in the top six,” said Fuller, who collected $2,500 for claiming the pole. “We watched the others time, and kept tightening the car up until it was time to go out. We’ve been here enough to know what to do.”
Matt Shepard (30.461) was second-fastest, with Brett Hearn (30.485), 2007 fast-timer Jimmy Phelps (30.547), Mitch Gibbs (30.668) and a surprising Keith Flach (30.736) completing the top six.
Two more Capital Region stars, Albany-Saratoga Speedway track champion Ken Tremont Jr. and Ronnie Johnson, were seventh and eighth, respectively, with Jack Johnson 13th in the car his son ran last year before moving into an experimental TEO Pro house car this week.
A new format saw teams allowed to enter just one car, eliminating the two or three tries that let top drivers make at least one run when track conditions were the most
favorable. This left many who usually qualify in the “locked in” top-six deep in the field for today’s Triple 20’s qualifying program.
Time trials were made more dramatic by keeping the top six on pit lane, sending each car knocked out off one by one, with the pole passing from Jimmy Horton to Chris Schultz, J.R. Heffner, Danny Johnson and Hearn before Fuller finally claimed it for good in the fourth of five groups. Seventh-five cars were entered, with all but eight taking time.
“Second is just fine with me,” said Sheppard. “I didn’t know what to expect because it was one of those years where the track changed so much, you didn’t know how it would be when you got out there.”
Hearn, on the other hand, felt “we left a lot out there, and should have done better. But it takes the anxiety away to lock in, so I guess I’m happy.”
Phelps and Gibbs offered similar opinions, but the happiest driver, by far, was Flach, who has won at Lebanon Valley and has been close at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, but is still relatively inexperienced on the Syracuse mile.
“My first lap was pretty good, and it made me more confident,” he said. “On the second lap, I held my foot down longer, and it stuck. The fact that I’m actually in the top six is really hard to grab a hold of.”
The magnitude of timing in sixth is shown by the fact that Syracuse master Billy Decker was 28th and defending Rite Aid champion Vic Coffey was 32nd.
Coffey was happier with his fast time in 358-modified qualifying, saying, “I was actually surprised. The first lap felt good, but I picked up a lot on the second lap. I drove it in as hard as I could, and it worked.”
Canadian Mario Clair was second-fastest, with Decker, Larry Lampman, Andy Bachetti and Hearn rounding out the top six.
Two area drivers did well in the Futures race for 358-modifieds as Jeremy Wilder ran second to Lampman in the 18-lap event, with Joe Williams a strong fourth.
Qualifying continues today with heats for both the big blocks and 358s, and time trials for the sportsman division.
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