When Dale Planck climbs back in to a 358 modified at Fulton Speedway this season he says he’ll have to “retrain my brain” to race since his last full year of racing in 2013.
If you weren’t excited about racing season yet I’m going to give you a reason to be happy right now. Two words: “The Natural.”
Planck will be running weekly again with all the 358 shoes at Fulton Speedway every Saturday night. Mike Mallett of Dirt Track Digest broke the good news a couple weeks ago.
Planck will be running a Eric Miller owned Bicknell chassis with a brand new Kevlar motor. Planck is putting the car together at his home shop in Cortland as we speak.
“Late last year Eric and I were talking and I said if I got a car and a motor I would consider racing once a week,” recalled the second generation driver. Miller bought the car and the motor and Planck said yes to driving it weekly.
Planck has been consulting/coaching Miller’s son, AJ Miller, driver of the no. 14J sportsman. Along with his prolific consulting that takes him across the border and all over the northeast, the three-time NASCAR regional modified champion and his son, Brandon, have been building their Dirt Northeast Modified performance products and service business.
“Brandon designs the products and I do the fabrication,” stated Planck. Their DIG brand is growing with modified drivers in the northeast using their line of shocks and the costumer service that goes along with them.
Planck is quick to remind us though, “(The) number one goal (at Fulton Speedway) on Saturday night is to help AJ and DIG be successful…and have some fun too.”
Fulton Speedway was Planck’s personal playground in the mid-90’s when he wheeled the famous 77x to three consecutive track championships in 1993, ’94 and ’95. Won the prestigious Victoria 200 (now the Outlaw 200) in 1994. In the process of some of the 61 feature wins he currently owns at Fulton and 42 feature wins at Utica-Rome Speedway — Planck also won the NASCAR regional championship three years in a row 1994, ’95 and ’96.
“The Natural” is use to winning.
So, exactly, how does a very successful race car driver return to a track full-time and be competitive in a sport where the technology and components are always evolving? Does Planck’s past knowledge of setups that were fast as recently as 2012 when he won the Super DIRTcar Series 358 championship- for the second time - translate to a winning night on the Fulton 3/8th mile high banks?
“Mostly I’m gearing up for a little of both (experience versus unknowns),” reasoned Planck. Yes, the 48 year old driver has done this all his life but “my mentality is to have a clear slate and I have got to figure out what works for me in 2019.”
Planck may have taken a couple of years off racing to pursue his vibrant consulting business and DIG but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been racing. Planck has been logging thousands of laps iRacing.
“It’s full VR (virtual reality) and you’re in the car and your mind has to accept an alternate reality,” states Planck.
If you’re thinking you might be able to see Planck race at other tracks on other nights you are probably out of luck. His Friday and Sundays are spoken for with nothing with his current business changing from the last few years.
In fact, both Planck’s, Dale and Brandon, will be going south for Speedweek in Daytona when the Northeast modifieds descend on Volusia Speedway Park for a week of racing to get their season kicked off. The Planck’s will be there for technical support for their products. In March- DIG will be moving into a new building in Cortland - a lot will be happening in 2019.
One thing that will not be changing is that fans won’t have to “retrain” their brains to root for “The Natural.” It’s going to be fun.
See you at the races soon…very soon.