By MIKE MALLETT – http://www.dirttrackdigest.com/
Erick Rudolph reached two career milestones on Saturday afternoon at the Brockville Ontario Speedway. The Ransomville, N.Y., native captured his first ever 358-Modified Super DIRTcar Series win while taking home his first ever 358 Modified DIRTcar Series championship.
“This feels real good,” said Rudolph after the event. “Honestly we haven’t ran super well in the series races, I don’t even think we had top three. Maybe we had some top fives, but to get the point championship and to win it all on the same night was really nice.”
Rudolph was aided by a miscue by Syracuse 200 winner Billy Dunn. Dunn led the way early on the rubbered up speedway before missing the groove in turns one and two which sent him over the banking. This allowed several cars to get by while putting Rudolph into the lead.
“Obviously I was going as fast as I could and I know he (Dunn) probably was to,” stated Rudolph. “It looked like he made a little bit of a mistake and we were able to capitalize, we were right there.”
Over the final 20 laps several drivers dropped out with tire issues, including several drivers in the top five causing some concerns for those out front. Rudolph did what he could to keep his tire underneath him in order to make it to the finish.
“I knew we had to be close,” said Rudolph. “I started driving a little straighter and made sure I wasn’t killing the tires. As it turns out, we were pretty close.”
Joining Rudolph in the championship celebration Saturday afternoon was Quebec driver Steve Poirier. Poirier captured the Patriot Sprint Tour Canadian championship on the back of a second place effort. It is his first Patriot title and it comes on the heels of his fourth Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint championship.
“I’ve never had a Patriot championship,” stated Poirier. “Luckily this year there was no conflict with ESS. We took advantage of that and it made out good for us.”
Poirier was running a race within in a race as he came in leading Jason Barney by three points needing to beat him in the finish. Barney started sixth, with Poirier eighth. On the first lap Barney spun after contact from behind from another car putting Poirier in front of him leading him to the championship.
Poirier nearly made a poor decision by electing to go with a soft tire in order to make an effort to pass Barney early. Fortunately he did not go with that option, choosing the harder tire, because every driver that elected to go with the softer compound would end up with a flat.
“We nearly made a really bad mistake by going to a soft tire,” said Poirier. “I was racing more against Jason (Barney) and I knew with the rubber here the top five would be the most I could get. My first idea was to put on a soft tire to get a couple spots on the start and then ride around and keep the car in rubber and keep the tire. When the 23 (Bilodeau Modified) came off with 20 laps to go the hard tire was destroyed. We decided there was nothing to gain putting the soft tire and not finishing. We put the hard tire and were pretty decent. I was a little tight but it is hard to have a perfect car with those conditions.”
Brockville Ontario Speedway Notes: 40 358-Modified entered into action on Saturday afternoon in the series finale and they were joined by 15 Patriot Tour Sprint Cars. Bryan Howland picked up the companion Sprint Car event.
As mentioned earlier, Dunn was leading the Modified race before going over the top of the speedway and falling back to eighth. He eventually drove back up into the top three to finish on the podium.
“I went to the corner like I had been the whole race and for some reason the top was really slippery,” stated Dunn. “I got over the bank and by the time I got back on the track I could see everyone else was running in the middle. I didn’t realize the rubber had moved down there.”
It was a depressing day for the racing O’Brien family on Sunday as all three got a flat tire, in consecutive order during the 100-lap feature.
Danny O’Brien got the first flat on lap 81 with Pat O’Brien having the same fate on lap 90. Then on lap 94, Tim O’Brien got a flat tire. Each time when the flat occurred they were driving inside the top ten in the event.
Mat Williamson came into the day needing some help as he trailed Rudolph by just over 50 points in the chase for the 58-Modified championship. Williamson ran third as Rudolph led, but unfortunately got a right rear flat with a lap remaining in the feature.