This is Julian from @WhoaNellyRacing on Twitter bringing you a #FantasyDirt primer for the STSS Elite Series opener at OCFS! Josh is a Minnesota guy, so he loves the WISSOTA and USRA style modifieds. While I’m still learning about those, I grew up watching Big Blocks rip around Western Pennsylvania tracks like Lernerville, Mercer, Sharon, and Tri-City, and I’m excited to present my first primer for DirtInfo!
Let’s start off by taking a look back at 2022 for the STSS, which is quite the simple story. “Super” Matt Sheppard absolutely dominated, winning the STSS Elite, North, and South titles. As this is an Elite/North combo event, we’ll eschew the Southern region for now. Mat Williamson, Matt Sheppard, Anthony Perrego, and Stewart Friesen picked up STSS North victories last year, with only Sheppard and Perrego winning more than once. On the Elite side of things Sheppard grabbed three victories, while Williamson, Friesen, and Ryan Godown each won once.
What about OCFS? Matt Sheppard and Anthony Perrego have absolutely dominated OCFS over the past handful of seasons. Since 2017, the duo have combined for 9 titles (big block & small block). In fact, the last driver to score a title at OCFS other than Sheppard and Perrego was the legendary Brett Hearn in 2019. In 2022, Sheppard grabbed his second victory of the season at the Hard Clay Open, with Perrego winning the Hard Clay Finale. Sheppard also closed the OCFS season with his second consecutive Eastern States 200 on the same weekend.
Series:Short Track Super Series Elite/North
Event: Hard Clay Open
Track: Orange County Fair Speedway; Middletown, NY
5/8th mile, semi-banked oval
Broadcast: FloRacing @ 6:30 PM EST
Body Rules: Sail panels
Format: Pill draw
- Up to 45 cars, 3 Qualifiers, 7 transfer, 4 redraw, 1 B-Main, 5 transfer
- Up to 60 cars, 4 Qualifiers, 5 transfer, 3 redraw, 2 B-Mains, 3 transfer
Two from 2022 STSS Elite points
Two from 2022 STSS North points
STSS Elite Points Top 15 2022:
Ryan Godown (probably not attending)
Stewart Friesen (not attending)
Rocky Warner (probably not attending)
STSS North Points Top 15 2022:
Bobby Hackel IV
Stewart Friesen (not attending)
Daniel Morgiewicz Jr
Mat Williamson - Mat Williamson comes in as the high salary man at $22,000 after winning the Big Gator at Volusia, with two wins and a 6th. Williamson is almost guaranteed to grab you a top 5 finish in this event, as he’s won the Eastern States 200 and numerous other races at OCFS in the past. My only concern is the price tag. If you can fit Williamson into your roster, more power to you, but make sure that you have quality throughout.
Matt Sheppard - Sheppard comes in at $21,900, $100 behind Mat Williamson, but let’s be honest here; he’s the top dog. He’s off to a better start than he was last season (if you can believe it) and he’s coming off of a big $8500 payday at Delaware International Speedway (unsanctioned/STSS rules) last Friday, where he denied Mike Gular victory with a final corner pass.
Max McLaughlin - “Mad” Max is one of the brightest young stars in modified racing, and the son of “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin is proficient on both dirt and asphalt. After recording a 1st, 5th, and 4th at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals, McLaughlin picked up a 3rd place finish last weekend at Richmond Raceway with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He will be placed at the $21,800 salary slot, which is #3, but if you’re going to grab a high-end salary for this weekend, McLaughlin might be the most reasonable. In 2022, he picked up a weekly victory at OCFS, while recording a 2nd in the Hard Clay Open, a 6th in the Hard Clay Finale, and an 8th in the Eastern States 200. Coupled with a Super DIRTcar Series victory at Land of Legends Raceway and a 3rd in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego, McLaughlin is certainly a part of the elite of Northeast Modified drivers and he’s only 23.
Peter Britten - The Australian comes in at $21,200, which could be a value, considering Britten’s upside. In 2022, he was victorious in the Eastern States 100 (small-block) and finished 4th in the Eastern States 200 the following day. 2023 has started off reasonably well for him, as he has not finished worse than 18th through six events. He recorded a 4th at All-Tech, 5th at Volusia, and 9th at the STSS Ice Breaker at Selinsgrove just last month. If you want a $21,000+ salary on a budget, but with real upside, I would heavily consider Britten.
Marc Johnson - At $20,900, you’re getting a top 5 car under $21,000. Johnson has contested five events this year between All-Tech and Volusia, where he recorded finishes of 9th, 13th, 9th, 12th, and 9th. If this trend continues in New York, he’s got a real shot at finishing 11th so we’re already off to a good start! Looking to 2022 for some answers shows that Johnson was stellar at OCFS. In July, he finished 7th in the SDS Battle of the Midway at OCFS, and then finishes of 3rd in the Hard Clay Finale, 2nd in the Eastern States 100 (small-block), and 10th in the Eastern States 200. These finishes came on the heels of a 5th at Oswego in the Super DIRT Week finale, where he led a significant portion of the race and was a contender for the win.
David Schilling - “The Thrilling” David Schilling picked up his first career STSS win at All-Tech earlier this year on night 2 after finishing 4th on night 1. He then posted a 10th at Selinsgrove and then a 21st at Delaware’s Jake Marine Memorial last weekend. I’ll be honest with you, I’m a David Schilling fan and I love watching him race weekly on Flo at Fonda and Utica-Rome. He grabbed a Twin 20 win at Fonda last season and finished the season well on the Cajun Swing, with a worst finish of 5th. Schilling is definitely capable of posting a good result, but I do not like him at this $20,800 salary position. If he was around the mid-to-low $20,000 range, I might have a go, but I’m not certain that he’s a guaranteed top finisher. With that being said, he finished 4th in 2021’s Hard Clay Finale, so what do I know?
Larry Wight - Next, we’re going to discuss “Lightning” Larry Wight, who slots in at $20,600, but I consider Wight’s value to be on par with the upper-echelon salaries. So far this season, Wight has contested five Florida events, where he posted finishes of 11th, 5th, 10th, 4th, and 23rd. In April of 2022, Wight clicked off three victories that were spread between OCFS, Albany-Saratoga, and Land of Legends, with a 12th place finish at the Hard Clay Open mixed in for good measure. Wight also posted a 5th at the SDS Battle of the Midway and a 7th at the non-series 103rd Anniversary Race at OCFS.
Jack Lehner - After his unbelievable run at Volusia, I expected to find the "Ginja Ninja" above $21,000, but he’s sitting at $20,500. The SDS Platinum Driver was quite inconsistent last season, but recorded finishes of 7th, 6th, and 2nd at Volusia in February, where he was denied victory on the final night by a Mat Williamson last corner pass. He has had solid results at Volusia in the past, but he has never been this consistent on consecutive nights. I’m still on the fence whether or not this level can be maintained moving forward, but the 24-year-old might be primed for a breakout season. I suggest monitoring hot laps and heat race lineups to see if Lehner is an option for your roster.
Anthony Perrego - During the first iteration of this article, I had Perrego pegged as a salary of around $21,000, but we’re going to get a thrift store bargain here at $20,300. The only caveat is that he has not actually raced this season. I mean, he technically ran one lap during a heat race at Delaware last weekend, but the engine expired heading into turn one. Perrego should absolutely be on any roster. I mean, if he blows up again and is forced to race a golf cart, he should probably still be on your roster.
Danny Creeden - The 2021 and 2022 Accord Speedway track champion (and OCFS regular) is coming off of a solid 5th place finish in STSS Elite Series points and a 5th place finish at the STSS South event at Selinsgrove Speedway last month. At $20,000, Creeden is an exceptionally good value, considering his background at OCFS, experience with running sail panels, and his position in the STSS North provisional pecking order.
Danny Bouc - The Pennsylvanian went winless in 2022 until October, when he ripped off three consecutive victories; Legends of the Fall at New Egypt and the Camp Barnes Benefit (big-block) and Mid-Atlantic Championship (small-block) races at Georgetown just a week later. Bouc has contested five races so far in 2023, with finishes of 8th and 9th (All-Tech), 21st (Selinsgrove), 4th (Delaware) and 3rd (Georgetown) just last night. At $19,900, Bouc has a lot of upside, but lacks a provisional if things go sideways.
Dillon Steuer - Much like Max McLaughlin, Steuer is hot shoe in both dirt and asphalt modifieds. The 21 year old is a regular at OCFS and already holds three victories (two big block) at the circuit. While this is somewhat irrelevant, Steuer is no stranger to victory lane on the big stage, as he won the inaugural Islip 300 at Riverhead Raceway back in 2017 in a tour type asphalt modified. At $19,800, I believe Steuer to be an exceptional value. I mean, he finished 5th in the Eastern States 200 and 9th in the Hard Clay Finale last season. Like Bouc, he lacks a provisional, but I wouldn’t let that worry you, because he is a talented young driver that has top 5 upside.
Bobby Hackel IV - Bobby Hackel IV is an ideal lower-end salary, where he checks in at $19,400. I’ll be honest, I was expecting him to be a few hundred lower, but there is still good value here. On his day, Hackel can snag a top 10 or even top 5 finish at a big event. Looking back at his final stretch of last year, Hackel rattled off a 5th in the Modern Day Outlaw 50 at Utica-Rome, 2nd at the Short Track SuperNationals at Afton, 8th in the Hard Clay Finale at OCFS, 3rd in the Southern Tier 72 at Five Mile Point, and 9th at Accord’s Gobbler in November. He was able to ride the momentum into 2023, where he claimed a solid 11th at Delaware last weekend. Mixed in with his results is the fact that he finished 7th in STSS North points last season, which means that he has a solid chance of receiving a provisional if need be. The East Greenbrush, NY runner is a solid option in this price range
Andy Bachetti - Let’s let’s talk about Andy Bachetti, who is coming in at a tantalizing $19,200 salary spot. I had initially guessed that Bachetti would be a mid-$20,000 roster spot. Now, Bachetti has only raced once this season, where he finished a dismal 22nd at the STSS South event at Selinsgrove. The track was a bit on the rougher side and Bachetti was debuting a brand new DKM chassis, so I’m not going to worry about that result too much. Looking back to 2022, Bachetti finished a dismal 28th at Cherokee (sound familiar?), but followed it up with a 6th in the Hard Clay Open and a victory at Lebanon Valley’s opening night. Additionally, Bachetti won the Mr. DIRT Track USA SDS event at Lebanon Valley. Are you really going to say, “No!” to a low-salary driver that is still capable of winning major events?
Tanner VanDoren - TVD is only 15 years old, but is in his third season of modified competition. 2022 saw the OCFS regular branch out from weekly competition and 2023 could be a breakout season for the youngster. VanDoren recorded an 8th place finish at All-Tech and was running inside the top 5 at Delaware last weekend before mechanical gremlins set in. Couple that with a 14th (out of 45 starters) place finish at the Eastern States 200 last October and TVD might be a sneaky option for his $19,100 salary slot.
Craig Mitchell - I am usually hesitant on selecting sub-$19,000 salaries until I see heat race lineups, but the OCFS regular at $18,600 is my pick in this price range. In 2022, Mitchell made 37 starts, the majority being at OCFS, recording 8 top 5s and 21 top 10s. What’s not included is his great 12th place finish at the Eastern States 200. Mitchell probably won’t land you a top 10 finish in this race, but if you’re in monetary pinch, I think that he’s going to be your best option.