By CAMDEN PROUD
2019 has been pretty kind to Larry Wight thus far. The defending Super DIRT Week champion opened his effort back in February at the Volusia Speedway Park. He earned a win in Florida and also his very first Gator Championship with the Super DIRTcar Series.
Back in New York State, Wight’s Friday night home track of the Brewerton Speedway has rained out in each of its first two weeks, but lightning has already struck twice at the Fulton Speedway on Saturdays with Larry now earning back to back victories to open the season.
Wight really had to work for two in a row Saturday evening. He started very deep in the field from the sixteenth position, but upon catching the front pack, made things look relatively easy.
Fulton Speedway’s second race of the season saw an impressive field of thirty two 358 Modifieds brought to the green by Rob Bellinger and Glenn Forward on the front row, with Bellinger wrestling away the lead using the bottom portion of the speedway.
With Bellinger off to the races, the other early mover and shaker was Bobby Herrington, who shot from sixth to third on lap 2 and began giving chase to the race leaders.
On lap 7, Roy Shields found himself facing the wrong way in turn 2, bringing out the caution flag. Now, the field was strung together with Bellinger in the lead ahead of Forward, Herrington, Tim Sears, and that Wight guy? Yup, he passed eleven cars in seven laps and was already up to fifth.
After a quick clean up, Bellinger elected to restart from the bottom part of the speedway. He stood on the loud pedal again, pulling away from Forward for a moment, but he didn’t get too far. The caution lights came back on less than half a lap later for Pat Ward who found his way into a yuke tire. This ended the Genoa Giant’s day early.
The next restart began to change the overall complexion of the race, as that is when Forward shot to the high side of Bellinger and took the lead. The lead change set up a torrid side by side duel, but that battle was put on hold when the next caution came out for a slowing Tom Sears less than a lap later.
So far, it had seemed that in each of the three ‘back to back to back’ restarts, the top two cars would flip flop positions. On the ensuing green flag, it was Bellinger going back around Forward for the lead as the race approached its halfway point.
With 17 laps remaining, Bellinger now began to open up a bit of distance between himself and Forward. While all this battling was going on for the lead, Wight sat back in fourth behind Dale Planck. Both drivers were patiently waiting to pounce.
Four laps later, Wight decided he was done waiting. He worked past Planck and shortly thereafter, ripped the cushion around Forward to grab second. From there, he wasted little time getting to the lead. The Wight No. 99L reeled in the Bellinger No. 2 as if it were sitting still. Larry ducked down low on the inside off turn two and that was all she wrote – at least for a lap. The common theme on Saturday seemed to be that when the lead changed, the caution flag flew almost immediately and Larry Wight was no exception.
Just as Tim Sears found himself back into the mix, taking fifth away from a slightly fading Planck, the two made contact sending the No. 83X around. This brought out another yellow with ten laps to go. It also gave Bellinger another chance at the race lead, but pressure was coming from behind in a hurry.
While a lot of drivers had gone backwards in the 35-lap main event, one of the competitors going forward was 17-year old rookie Tyler Thompson. In only his third career Modified event at the Fulton Speedway, Thompson flawlessly slammed the cushion and found his way inside the top five in the closing laps. The restart with ten to go gave the teenager the chance he needed behind Wight, Bellinger, and Forward.
Putting his foot to the floorboard at the drop of the green, Wight then showed he was again the car to beat at Fulton. He walked away from Bellinger and Forward in short order, instead forcing them to hold off Thompson and company until one last yellow for a slowing Ron Davis III on the frontstretch.
With now only three short laps remaining, the battle was not for the lead, but instead for third through fifth. While Wight had the win in his hip pocket, the race was on for the third spot and that was when Ryan Arbuthnot joined the fray up front.
Arbuthnot, who had started back in thirteenth, slowly creeped his way up through all race long. He had now cracked the top five, and used the last restart to his advantage on the wild side, going around both Thompson and Forward to momentarily take third. It wasn’t over though. With two laps to go, Thompson made an impressive ‘thread the needle’ move back under Forward and then around Arbuthnot for a hard fought third place run.
Further up front, it was Wight’s night again in his brand new LJL Kevlar powered Bicknell over Bellinger second, Thompson in third, Arbuthnot fourth, Forward fifth, and Herrington sixth. Jeff McGinnis, Todd Root, Tim Sears, and Dave Marcuccilli completed the top ten.
“This new car has been real good out of the box,” Wight commented post race. “We haven’t really had to do much to it, just made a couple minor changes from last week and everything has responded well, so I think we’ve got a real good piece.”
To get to the front Wight had to drive through exactly half of the 32 car field on hand, a number be was very impressed by. This year’s early car count is already showing significant growth from that of last year’s weekly numbers at the Fulton Speedway.
“To have a weekly track and get 30 Modifieds is pretty impressive, especially with these 358’s,” added Wight. “We saw a lot of growth this winter with a lot of people moving up or even big block guys that just bought small blocks, so I’m really excited for the further growth of it and we’re just going to keep trying to grow the class the best we can.”
Wight is the defending track champion at Fulton. When he opened his season with a win one week ago, he said he was not sure if he would be at the Highbanks every week in 2019. You guessed it, that plan has changed. Larry now intends to be there every Saturday, with the exception of one event in August.
“My wife and baby like watching here and they are usually up in the booth with my Mom and Dad so we will probably be here every week at this point,” offered Wight. “We plan on taking the week of Orange County’s big race off so we can go down there and chase the $100,000, but other than that, we are going to be here every week and go for the title again.”
There is no doubt that Fulton’s 358 field is stout, but with Wight back weekly, everyone is going to have to step up their game. Its extremely early, but the 99L has yet to be beat thus far.
Fulton Speedway Tracey Road Equipment DIRTcar Modified Results (35-laps) – LARRY WIGHT, Rob Bellinger, Tyler Thompson, Ryan Arbuthnot, Glenn Forward, Bobby Herrington, Jeff McGinnis, Todd Root, Tim Sears Jr., Dave Marcuccilli, Chad Phelps, Greg Martin, Nick Krause, Jeremy Dygert, Dale Planck, Ben Bushaw, Kyle DeMetro, Jeff Sykes, Andy Noto, Randy Shantel, Mike Mandigo, Joe Shields, Jason Occhino, Collin DuBois, Ron Davis III, Tom Sears Jr., Pat Ward, Billy Whittaker, Nick Webb, Brent Cross, DNS – Tyler Meeks, Billy Shantel Jr.