Outlaw 200 at Fulton Speedway never disappoints

Published Oct 7, 2018 at 9:00am

The 33rd annual Outlaw 200 at Fulton Speedway on Sept. 30 lived up to the hype, albeit with a couple snags. 

It was the tale of two completely different 100-lap segments. 

Forty-four modifieds started the race on the .375-mile long high-banked track. Six 10-lap qualifying heats were run off promptly with Billy Decker flipping his car for the second week in a row.

The weekend prior at Fonda Speedway, Decker destroyed a brand new modified on the first lap of hotlaps. This time the car wasn’t destroyed and they actually got the car back together to start the main event with Decker being awarded a most recent past champion provisional.

Heat races were won by Tim Sears, Peter Britten, Ryan Arbutnot, Jimmy Phelps, Tim Fuller and Robbie Bellinger. Three 12-lap last chance to qualify races were won by Billy Whittaker, Roy Bresnahan and Todd Root.

Biggest surprise to me was how much difficulty Stewart Friesen was having getting his car to stick to the glassy clay surface. Friesen, of course, has become a star in the NASCAR Camping World truck series. Friesen barely made the show finishing third in a last chance to qualify race.

The first segment of the Outlaw 200 was notable for two things. One, the track was so brutally slick and glassy that it was a one groove, follow the leader race that veteran Danny Johnson got out in front of and finished the segment as the leader. The other notable aspect was that Bresnahan lost his mind after a wreck in turn three with Mario Clair. Clair finally got out of his car and was OK. Bresnahan, apparently, might not be coming back to the track for a while.

Halftime of the race became much longer than the traditional 15 minutes for drivers to change tires, fill-up with high octane VP Fuel and make key adjustments to their modifieds. Track management decided to dig up the track and make it so there wasn’t just one groove.

I’m happy to report that it was a brilliant move. I’m sure it was a difficult decision to take the time to rework the track but it was totally worth the extra time. Fans were treated to a great race to the finish.

Danny Johnson set a torrid pace for 21 laps but after tagging the wall he had to retire from the race. On the restart, after Johnson went to the pits, Phelps, the “Baldwinsville Bandit,” quickly assumed the lead, never looked back and scored the Outlaw 200 win and pocketed $20,000.

Rounding out the top 10 were Erick Rudolph, Brett Hearn, Friesen, Sears, Max McLaughlin, Bellinger, Tom Sears, Root and Mike Mahaney.

I think I’ve talked before about having a good racing thought to get me through the long winter months. Something I can think about from the season of racing that will warm my soul in the dead of winter. For a long time the image was Dale Planck slicing and dicing through traffic during a 358 series race at Utica-Rome Speedway. Then it was Tony Stewart, again at Utica-Rome, in a 410 sprint car blasting off turn four launching him by other cars just inches off the front stretch wall.

There is a new image — actually two new images — that I can take into this winter. First is Phelps dealing with lapped traffic. As he approached the cars of Glenn Forward and Willy Decker in turn three it appeared he might have to hit the brakes and bide his time. Nope, Phelps instead swooped in low and then drifted up between Forward and Decker and then brought the throttle back to propel him off turn four. Absolutley fascinating. As much as he looked out of control Phelps was in complete command. It wasn’t exactly the move of the race but it will stay with me for a long time.

The other image I have was the racing line of Friesen in turns three and four. To me Friesen was having a hard time getting his car around but after the track was reworked at halftime his car came to life.

In fact, Friesen won the “Hard Charger” award (drum of VP Racing Fuel). In turn three, Friesen would enter low, drift, drift, drift from bottom to top and then point the car down the high bank track right at the only bit of clay with lots of bite at the extreme bottom of turn four. I swear I thought the car was going to take flight all the way down the front stretch. 

Those are my two racing images for this winter. 

Not much racing left for me this season, but I am hopeful that I’ve stowed away enough great racing memories to get me through to next season.