RANSOMVILLE, NY – Erick Rudolph looked right at home Tuesday night at Ransomville Speedway as he cruised to his second Super DIRTcar Series victory of the season in front of his home fans.
To start, the Ransomville, NY native joined SRI/Stock Car Steel Performance pole winner Jimmy Phelps on the front row. As the green flag dropped, nine-time and defending Series champion Matt Sheppard shot up two positions to second from fourth, making an aggressive play for the lead.
Rudolph on the other hand played it safe to start off the 75-lap matchup, staying in third place for the first 24 laps.
With one third of the race completed, and Sheppard in the lead after passing Phelps on the inside on the first of many restarts, Rudolph gradually and incrementally began to make a move. He maneuvered passed Phelps, dropping the pole sitter back into third place. He stayed patient, not forcing his #25R machine into performing, and steadily follow the leader.
As the front runners passed the half-way point and approached the final third of the matchup, tire durability became a contributing factor in determining the end result. Sheppard began to lose steam and Rudolph was ready for the challenge, inching closer and closer to the #9s. Rudolph saw the opening and passed the Waterloo, NY driver on the inside around Turn 1 and 2, moving into the lead on Lap 50.
“The first bit we were kind of settled in for third,” Rudolph said. “I knew with the package we had; we might be getting stronger at the end. I got patient. His car seemed like it might have been fading a little bit or mine was coming on. Either way, we were able to close in on him and got by him in lapped traffic. After that we were just focused on trying to run a smooth race.”
Running a smooth race was exactly how he finished, driving through lapped traffic with no problem, seeing his lead increase as they neared the finish line. Rudolph crossed the finish line first, capturing his second Series victory in less than a month. His last victory came at Autodrome Drummond on July 31. His Ransomville win is his first with the Series at the track and 10th career Series victory.
“I was able to keep running my line (after passing Sheppard) and just picked off lapped cars,putting cars between me and him,” Rudolph said. “We’ve ran (Ransomville Speedway) a handful of times this year, so we had a familiarity with the track surface and how races are normally run here. I’m sure it played a factor.”
Sheppard held on to finish in second place, his sixth runner-up finish this season during his campaign for a historic 10th Series title. He attributed his loss of speed in the second half of the race to setup decisions.
“We went with a little bit of a softer tire than he did,” Sheppard said. “It got us the lead, but it just didn’t hold on. Erick (Rudolph) was very good. He drove by us and drove away at the end. It’s one of his home tracks and he’s won a lot of races here. Congrats to him.”
Defending Ransomville Speedway track champion and current track points leader Mat Williamson was also busy charging his way through the field after starting in eighth place. The St. Catharines, ON driver was the winner during last year’s Series visit and aimed to repeat again this time. But with a handful of mid-race cautions and mechanical issues, he settled for a third-place podium finish.
“We were really good on the original start,” Williamson said. “I drove down into Turn 3, got up to sixth from eighth, and then the bottom of the right-side frame railed out and I just started hopping up into the wall. I couldn’t really control anything. It was a good run, considering. We went with a harder tire. It just seemed like all the restarts in the middle of the race killed us. There’s things I probably would have done differently, but third isn’t bad and we’re not going to hang our heads about it.”
Adam Pierson finished in fourth place – his second top five of the year – and Tim Sears Jr. finished in fifth for his third top-five finish of the season. Nineteen-year-old Rookie of the Year frontrunner Felix Roy scored his second top-10 finish in a row.
UP NEXT: The Super DIRTcar Series Big Blocks travel to Lebanon Valley on Saturday, Sept. 2, for Mr. DIRT Track USA.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.
Summer Nationals 75 (75 Laps): 1. 25R-Erick Rudolph; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 3. 88-Mat Williamson; 4. 215-Adam Pierson; 5. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 6. 35-Mike Mahaney; 7. 37S-Gary Lindberg; 8. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 9. 91-Felix Roy; 10. 27J-Danny Johnson; 11. 42-Pete Bicknell; 12. 5H-Chris Hile; 13. 54-Steve Bernard; 14. 2-Jack Lehner; 15. 3RS-Dalton Slack; 16. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 17. 12-Darren Smith; 18. 14-CG Morey; 19. 99L-Larry Wight; 20. 18R-Brad Rouse; 21. 17-Marcus Dinkins; 22. 11N-Ricky Newton; 23. (DNF) 70A-Alex Payne; 24. (DNF) 22-Noah Walker; 25. (DNF) 3-Chad Brachmann; 26. (DNF) 1-Andrew Smith; 27. (DNF) 678-John Smith
Case No.1 Engine Oil Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 2-Jack Lehner; 2. 35-Mike Mahaney; 3. 3-Chad Brachmann; 4. 27J-Danny Johnson; 5. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 6. 70A-Alex Payne; 7. 5H-Chris Hile; 8. 14-CG Morey; 9. 37S-Gary Lindberg; 10. (DNF) 54-Steve Bernard
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 88-Mat Williamson; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 3. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 4. 12-Darren Smith; 5. 91-Felix Roy; 6. 99L-Larry Wight; 7. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 8. 18R-Brad Rouse; 9. 42-Pete Bicknell
Heat 3 (8 Laps): 1. 215-Adam Pierson; 2. 25R-Erick Rudolph; 3. 22-Noah Walker; 4. 3RS-Dalton Slack; 5. 17-Marcus Dinkins; 6. 1-Andrew Smith; 7. 11N-Ricky Newton; 8. 678-John Smith; 9. (DNS) 111-Allan Wills
Low E Insulation Qualifying A (2 Laps): 1. 2-Jack Lehner, 00:17.046; 2. 3-Chad Brachmann, 00:17.124; 3. 35-Mike Mahaney, 00:17.135; 4. 27J-Danny Johnson, 00:17.147; 5. 83X-Tim Sears Jr, 00:17.253; 6. 5H-Chris Hile, 00:17.270; 7. 37S-Gary Lindberg, 00:17.494; 8. 70A-Alex Payne, 00:17.496; 9. 54-Steve Bernard, 00:17.568; 10. 14-CG Morey, 00:17.631
Low E Insulation Qualifying B (2 Laps): 1. 88-Mat Williamson, 00:17.006; 2. 9S-Matt Sheppard, 00:17.125; 3. 98H-Jimmy Phelps, 00:17.135; 4. 91-Felix Roy, 00:17.141; 5. 12-Darren Smith, 00:17.179; 6. 99L-Larry Wight, 00:17.314; 7. 8H-Max McLaughlin, 00:17.552; 8. 18R-Brad Rouse, 00:17.885; 9. 42-Pete Bicknell, 00:17.893
Low E Insulation Qualifying C (2 Laps): 1. 215-Adam Pierson, 00:17.299; 2. 25R-Erick Rudolph, 00:17.321; 3. 3RS-Dalton Slack, 00:17.424; 4. 22-Noah Walker, 00:17.680; 5. 17-Marcus Dinkins, 00:17.806; 6. 1-Andrew Smith, 00:17.860; 7. 11N-Ricky Newton, 00:17.882; 8. 678-John Smith, 00:17.987; 9. (DNS) 111-Allan Wills, 00:17.987