WEEDSPORT, NY (Oct. 3, 2023) – Starting 12th on the grid at any track can be a tall task. But those challenges don’t bother Erick Rudolph.
Rudolph, the former Super DIRT Week Sportsman Modified champion from Ransomville, NY, surged from his starting spot all the way on the outside of Row 6 to the lead in under 60 laps Tuesday night, running away from the field after a late restart to score the win in the Cavalcade Cup makeup Feature at Weedsport Speedway.
The 75-lap main event, held-over from a weather-related postponement in September, featured a stacked roster of talent for Rudolph to compete against – all of which he drove around with ease to collect the $5,000 grand prize.
“I always think I have a shot at winning it, but [starting] 12th is tough,” Rudolph said. “You walk around the pit area and see who’s here – tons of good competitors. Tons of wins starting ahead of me.”
The majority of Rudolph’s passes were made after the halfway point. Through the first 30 laps, he had only advanced positions twice. That’s when he knew it was time to get going.
“First third of the race, we weren’t really doing much of anything, but we started hooking up, started gluing on the bottom, started to roll the middle really nice,” Rudolph said. “It seemed like [the car] just kept getting better and better in comparison to the other competitors.”
By the race’s second caution period 43 laps in, Rudolph sat fifth in line. Restarting behind Tim Fuller, Jordan McCreadie, Ronnie Davis III and leader Tim Sears Jr, Rudolph found the bottom lane and worked his magic around the 3/8-mile.
“They were running a different line than I was running, so I was able to get some clean air on the nosepiece,” Rudolph said. “We were able to get by [Sears Jr.] in a few laps, but [Davis III] –he was really good.”
Davis, 27, of Syracuse, NY, kept it up front after starting on the outside pole, got a run to the outside of Sears after the restart and took the lead away on Lap 47.
“I saw Sears roll us on the outside, so I figured I had to make something happen,” Davis said. “I figured once he got out there, it was gonna be tough to pass him. I ended up using the middle to the outside to get by him. Catching some of the moisture on the outside of Turn 2 really gave me a shot out of 2 to get by him.”
By this time, Rudolph was already making a beeline for the leaders. Having already moved by Fuller and McCreadie with great speed on the bottom, Rudolph zoomed by Sears with a blast off Turn 2 and gunned it for Davis out front.
By Lap 58, he had reached the bumper of the #32R. By Lap 59, Rudolph had taken the lead with a move to Davis’ inside.
“He just kinda popped in there coming out of Turn 4,” Davis said. “I think we were just as good; he was just a touch better and was able to keep putting a small length between the two of us.”
Ten laps left and an expanding gap in traffic, and the caution flag waved one final time. Rudolph knew his car was fast and skillset sharp, and handled the restart no-sweat to bag his first 358 Modified Series Feature win of the season.
“I was relieved that I didn’t have any lapped traffic to deal with, but then that bunches the field back up,” Rudolph said. “You’ve got everybody behind you that wants to win. I just concentrated on having a clean start and remembered what I was doing before the caution came out.”
Davis held on for second in his first 358 Series start of the season, despite concocting a master plan to take the lead back after the final restart.
“I thought about surging around [Rudolph] on the outside to see if it stuck,” Davis said. “But Fuller was behind me and I know that he likes to run bottom or shoot the middle, so I felt like I had to protect that.”
Fuller crossed the line in third after starting 10th, Sears Jr. held on for fourth and McCreadie completed the top-five.
The DIRTcar 358 Modified Series heads to Brewerton Speedway in Brewerton, NY, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, for the annual Hurricane Harvey 75, alongside the DIRTcar Sportsman Modifieds.
DIRTcar 358 Series (75 Laps): 1. 25R-Erick Rudolph; 2. 32R-Ronnie Davis III; 3. 19-Tim Fuller; 4. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 5. 28-Jordan McCreadie; 6. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 7. 99L-Larry Wight; 8. 35-Mike Mahaney; 9. 7Z-Zachary Payne; 10. 49-Billy Dunn; 11. 91-Felix Roy; 12. M1-David Marcuccilli; 13. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 14. 01-Chris Raabe; 15. 5H-Amy Holland; 16. 12-Darren Smith; 17. 60-Jackson Gill; 18. 6M-Mat Williamson; 19. 9-Brian Calabrese; 20. 31-Lance Willix; 21. 3-Chris Mackey; 22. 39-Ryan Bartlett; 23. 7S-Shaun Shaw; 24. 38J-Jarrett Herbison; 25. 21R-RJ Tresidder; 26. 117-CJ Castelletti; 27. J82-Will Shields; 28. 38-Jason Parkhurst; 29. 2-Robert Bublak; 30. 9M-Tyler Meeks
INSTANT CLASSIC: Photo Finish Decides Sportsman Classic at Weedsport
Richard Murtaugh picked off Emmett Waldron on the final lap to win the DIRTcar Sportsman Classic 75 at Weedsport Speedway
After a series of thrilling lead changes, Richard Murtaugh, from Fulton, NY, claimed Weedsport Speedway’s $2,500-to-win Sportsman Classic 75 with a last-lap, photo finish pass.
Seventeen-year-old Emmett Waldron, from Savannah, NY, missed the win of his life by .011 seconds at the line while defending Sportsman Classic winner Cody McPherson hung on to a struggling race car to land in third after a hard-fought 75 laps.
Richard Murtaugh was in the zone. He was so far into the zone that he did not know what lap it was when the checkered flag fell despite winning one of the most exciting DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series races seen at Weedsport Speedway. On the fateful lap, Murtaugh caught Waldron, sidled along next to him, and edged forward by a bumper for the win.
“I thought we had one more lap to go,” said Murtaugh. “Then I saw him waving the checkered and I was going into turn one and saw that I got first. I just couldn’t believe it. It was a huge win.”
Murtaugh started 11th and initially failed to make up ground as the leaders diced it up ahead of him. However, the Brewerton Speedway ace kept working on his car throughout the first half of the Feature. Murtaugh threw the switch on Lap 25 and started moving aggressively towards the front.
“I really kept messing with the brakes more than anything,” noted Murtaugh. “That’s one of the adjustments we have in the cars that I can work with. We didn’t start out too good. I couldn’t really get it sucked to the bottom. I kept playing with the brakes more and more. We get it really good at the end. I was able to put it pretty much anywhere and have drivability. That’s the biggest thing. Brake bias and right front shut off were huge.”
Every photo finish has a disappointed half, but Emmett Waldron has a long future of successful racing ahead of him. Like Murtaugh, Waldron drove to the front after the Lap 25 restart which followed a red flag for an incident in Turn 1 involving Tony Finch II and Tyler Stevenson.
After the restart, everything changed for Waldron as he planted his race car on the top side of the race track and motored his way into the top three. Then he set his sights on leader Ryan Dolbear who also had a tremendous Lap 25 restart to take the lead. After dispatching him it was a battle until the bitter end with Richard Murtaugh.
On Lap 52, Murtaugh passed Waldron in lapped traffic. But on Lap 54, Waldron got a huge run, passed Murtaugh, and cleared two lapped cars for a cushion between them. With only five laps to go, lapped traffic went three-wide just ahead of the leaders. Murtaugh saw the hesitation and took the opportunity to stick his nose under Waldron to win at the line.
Waldron agonized over his decision on the final lap:
“When I was leading, I kept catching lapped cars and catching lapped cars. I might clear this car here. I thought I might be good. Then I caught that bottleneck of cars and I knew it wasn’t good. I thought to go in the middle of the last corner but that didn’t work out. Maybe I should have driven through the lapped car but that’s not how I race. We finished second tonight and we’ll move on.”
Forty-six DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series competitors took on the legendary 3/8-mile for a chance at one of the DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series crown jewels, including polesitter Mike Fowler who led until Lap 24. Cody McPherson made a decisive pass just as Fowler’s car had a mechanical issue forcing him to pull off. On the same lap, the red flag incident involving Tony Finch II and Tyler Stevenson occurred which changed the complexion of the race and began the thrilling revolving door of leaders.
For more DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series action, head to Brewerton Speedway on Wednesday, Oct. 4, where the Championship Series enters the next round. Plus, the DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Hurricane Harvey 75 takes center stage.
DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series (75 laps) 1. Richard Murtaugh 2. Emmett Waldron 3. Cody McPherson 4. Matt Janczuk 5. Andrew Buff 6. Ryan Dolbear 7. Kevin Chaffee 8. Cody Manitta 9. Zach Sobotka 10. Jessica Power 11. Nick Root. 12. Zach Buff 13. Brett Senek 14. Tyler Corcoran 15. Brett Sears 16. Nick Heywood 17. Kyle Devendorf 18. Daryl Nutting 19. Jason Bruno 20. Todd Buckwold 21. Kearra Backus 22. Taylor Doxtater 23. Travis Bruno 24. Riley Rogala 25. Tanner Siemons 26. Martin Kelly 27. Gavin Eisele 28. Mike Fowler 29. Tyler Stevenson 30. Tony Finch III
For more information, visit DIRTcar.com.
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