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Whoa, Nelly! The Big Boys are Back to do Battle in Middletown! #FantasyDirt Primer for SDS from OCFS

Whoa, Nelly! The Big Boys are Back to do Battle in Middletown! #FantasyDirt Primer for SDS from OCFS
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The second stop on the 2023 Super DIRTcar Series tour brings the big dogs of Big Blocks to Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY. Matt Sheppard won here with the SDS in 2022 and Stewart Friesen grabbed the crown in 2021. In OCFS’ Hard Clay Open-er with the Short Track Super Series, Matt Sheppard won for the second year in-a-row, while he also won last year’s Eastern States 200 for the second year in-a-row. Mat Williamson comes into tonight’s event as the SDS points leader, and he’s looking to cap off a weekend that has already seen him win two events in two countries.

Series: Super DIRTcar Series
Event: Battle for the Fairgrounds
Track: Orange County Fair Speedway
Laps: 75 & $7500-to-win
Format: Time trials, 8-lap heat races, and 10-lap Last Chance Showdown
Qualifying: 32-47 cars - A/B qualifying groups, 4 heats, and 5 transfer
47+ cars - A/B/C qualifying groups, 6 heats, and 3 transfer

4 based on 2022 Platinum points
Matt Sheppard
Mat Williamson
Jimmy Phelps
Max McLaughlin
Peter Britten
Anthony Perrego (RoY)
Marc Johnson
Billy Decker
Adam Pierson
Jack Lehner
Tim Sears Jr.
Darren Smith
Kevin Root
Marcus Dinkins
Paul St. Sauveur (Retired)
CG Morey

Matt Sheppard - $21,500 (1): In every primer, I have been screaming, “Pick Sheppard!” with a foam finger and flag in hand. Sheppard finished 7th at the opening SDS round at Bridgeport, but that’s after he blew a tire early on while leading. He was the second highest salary behind Mat Williamson, but now he’s ahead of him. He smoked everyone at Utica-Rome last weekend for another $6800 and he has a really, really good chance at dominating this event. If you want some statistics, check out the previous primers, but Sheppard will almost guarantee you a top 2 finish here. He even picked up another 2nd at Land of Legends last night behind Peter Britten.

Mat Williamson - $21,300 (3): Williamson has 5 wins in 8 starts to kick off 2023, including two wins this weekend at Lernerville and Merrittville. He finished 3rd here in the Hard Clay Open behind Sheppard and Wight, and has 4 victories overall at OCFS. He’s the hottest driver on the scene right now and he’s the third highest salary…

Anthony Perrego - $21,200 (4): I have been telling everyone that Perrego is really good and he has just struggled with mechanical issues. Both are true, but Perrego has also just been flat out struggling. He finished 15th at Bridgeport, which wasn’t exactly great, but the track resembled an AMA Supercross track more than a dirt oval. He’s really good at OCFS, so I think he’s worth a go, but just be wary of his struggles this season. Right now, Perrego is that NBA fantasy waiver wire pickup that might hit a bunch of 3’s, but could also end the game with 2 pts.

Larry Wight - $20,900 (7): Wight featured in my Hard Clay Open primer, and at the $20,600 salary slot, he delivered a 2nd place finish. Since then, he has had rough goes of it at Albany-Saratoga’s Season Opener and almost flew into the trees at Utica-Rome last week while battling Billy Decker for the lead. Wight runs well at OCFS and is an elite-tier driver, so I would take have him on my roster at any salary.

Mike Mahaney - $20,600 (11): Mahaney has started off his 2023 campaign pretty well, picking up a win at Albany-Saratoga and driving from 19th to 5th at Fonda’s Montgomery County Open. He finished a mid-pack 16th at the Hard Clay Open, where he only advanced one position. However, in his 50 career starts at OCFS, he has finished inside the top 10 in well over half of those events. As I’ve said before, Mahaney has SDS victories on his resume, so he definitely has a lot of upside, while he features a solid floor to stand on. There’s no provisional here, but Mahaney is good enough to justify a roster spot.

Peter Britten - $20,500 (12): I like this salary. I like it a lot. Britten went 21st to 9th here at the Hard Clay Open and even won the Eastern States 100 Small Block event here last year. He picked up Albany-Saratoga’s opener in mid-April and bested Matt Sheppard at Land of Legends last night, so “Batman” is looking pretty sporty this season. I view him as the best value in this general salary area, because his floor is high and he has an outside chance of grabbing his 3rd SDS victory.

Brett Hearn - $20,400 (13): Outside of an SDS victory at the World Finals back in 2021, the legendary Brett Hearn has not seen much success in this twilight era of his stellar career. Hearn will be running a brand new, one-of-a-kind Teo chassis in his first appearance of the season, so there is some intrigue here. Hearn is 64 years old, runs sparingly, and has not won a race at OCFS since 2019. I will not sit here and tell you that Hearn will pick up his 309th career victory at OCFS, but maybe there is still a bit of magic left in the tank. If Hearn wins, we might get a soccer-style track invasion, but maybe you should just sit back and enjoy the legend, because $20,400 is a steep price to pay.

Tim Sears Jr - $20,100 (18): I didn’t feature Sears for Bridgeport and he went out and finished 8th, which made me look kind of silly. He followed that up with a 7th place (Small Block) in an absolutely bonkers field at Can-Am last weekend, which featured drivers such as Lance Willix, Billy Dunn, Tim Fuller, Jordan McCreadie, Ryan Bartlett, Chris Raabe, Michael Parent, and many others. If you’re unaware, that’s the cream of the crop in Small Blocks. Last night, he barely lost out to Larry Wight at Fulton in the Small Block. In 5 career Big Block starts at OCFS, he has posted 1 top 5 and 3 top 10s. His 11th in 2022 SDS points should give him a provisional safety net, so I think Sears would be a solid choice for any roster.

Alex Yankowski - $20,000 (19): The Pennsylvania young gun has been looking really quick so far this season, but the results don’t exactly tell the whole story. At the Montgomery County Open at Fonda, Yankowski got stuck in an absolutely loaded heat race and missed out on a transfer position. However, he raced his way into the show and drove from 23rd to 7th. Last weekend at Utica-Rome’s rain-delayed Honoring Alex opener, he started 5th and finished 6th. Matt Sheppard, Stewart Friesen, and Michael Maresca all started behind him, so fading one position against that crowd isn’t bad at all. He was setting sail at Fonda last night before he was collected in a turn 1 pileup with 5 laps to go. More relevant was his performance at the Hard Clay Open, where he advanced from 27th to 14th. If he can time trial well under the SDS format, he might not have to pass so many cars to get a good result. I do not foresee him winning, but a top 10 is in the cards.

Danny Creeden - $19,900 (21): Creeden, an OCFS regular, picked up an 11th with the SDS here last season. He has not looked stellar to start the season, having driven to 17th from 8th at the Hard Clay Open, but he did finish 5th at Selinsgrove with the STSS in March, and he grabbed a runner-up finish at Penn Can’s “Can Opener” on Friday night. I expect Creeden to finish mid-pack, but there is a chance that he grabs a nice top 10 run, so take a look at him if he qualifies well.

Darren Smith - $19,800 (22): Smith set quick time at Bridgeport and proceeded to lead a good portion of the race before fading to 5th. That was a great result and I was honestly shocked, but I don’t see this as a part of a positive trend. He grabbed a 7th at All-Tech, but that was almost 3 months ago. Outside of a Bridgeport, he has been mid-pack at best. When I first wrote this, I was expecting Smith to be over $21,000, but he’s under $20,000, so he might actually be worth a shout. I would not expect much, but maybe he can time trial well again. He’s coming off of a 3rd at Thunder Mountain’s opener last night.

Chris Hile - $19,600 (25): Coming off of a strong 9th place finish at Bridgeport, the 2021 SDS Rookie of the Year is starting his campaign off on the right foot after stepping back to a weekly program in 2022, where he claimed the Brewerton Speedway track championship. During his 2021 campaign, Hile finished 2nd in the SDS Centennial 102 at OCFS behind Stewart Friesen, so we know that he can put together a solid performance at a track that he’s not a regular competitor at. Outside of that podium performance, he has also picked 2 top 10s at the circuit. I think Hile is a solid choice for a top 10 performance, and maybe he breaks through for that first career SDS victory.

Dillon Steuer - $19,200 (30): I said to pick him at OCFS’ Hard Clay Open and he produced a 4th place result. He followed that up with a 4th at Big Diamond’s Money in the Mountains before finishing 24th at Bridgeport. He also finished 23rd at Selinsgrove, but both events were held on motocross tracks, so there is a trend here. I highly encourage you to insert Steuer into your roster, because I think he will be running towards the front. At the time of writing, it is unclear if Steuer will be racing tonight

Billy VanInwegen - $19,000 (32): Billy V is a regular at OCFS, where he picked up two victories last season. At the Hard Clay Open, he went from 26th to 15th against much of the same competition he will face today. He will not have any sort of provisional, but he is worth a look if you’re strapped for cash.