By CAMDEN PROUD
Tim McCreadie has had himself a Florida Speedweeks for the ages. Returning to the DIRTcar Nationals behind the wheel of a Big Block Modified for the first time in over ten years, he’s managed to grab two gators at the Volusia Speedway Park this past week, one with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series and another with the Super DIRTcar Series.
Heading into the final evening of action with finishes of second, first and fourth in the Modified, McCreadie was also the overall points leader for the Super DIRTcar Series and the obvious favorite to win the Gator Championship. To do so, he’d have to hold off ‘The Doctor’ Danny Johnson, another veteran who had been been strong all week long in the George Shakelton owned No. 27J.
Unfortunately for McCreadie, Saturday proved to be the most difficult night for the Sweetner’s team thus far, as ‘T-Mac’ failed to qualify for the 50-lap main event through both his heat race and last chance qualifier. The Watertown, N.Y. driver need to take a provisional starting spot just to get into the main event, but it was all worth it in the end.
After starting at the tail end of the longest line, McCreadie did the unthinkable, completely dismantling the field, charging twenty seven spots to the lead in a mere 45 laps to grab his second career Volusia Modified victory and first ever ‘big gator’ to go with his ‘Gator Championship.’ It was a pretty special moment for T-Mac and car owner Vic Coffey, who also won Brett Hearn’s Big Show at Albany-Saratoga Speedway together this past June.
“This is just amazing man,” said an ecstatic McCreadie in victory lane. “Like I was saying earlier this week when we won, I just haven’t had time to give Vic (Coffey) the proper feedback also running the Late Model. It’s so hard to run two divisions, but I love to do it. After this happened, we may forget about how hard it is and just run two classes again next year.”
It certainly was a challenging night to start with which left the Sweetner’s team completely stumped. Despite the hiccups and the lack of the feedback all week long, McCreadie’s crew had the No. 39 set up pretty much perfectly. It just so happened that Saturday would throw Coffey’s crew a curve ball.
“I kept telling Vic, I don’t know what’s going on,”McCreadie recalled. “We were laying on the right rear and had a lot of issues that we didn’t have for three nights, but he made the changes and I jumped in the car. I could just tell. We both had looks of desperation on our faces when I pulled away.”
Unbelievably, after sneaking from his starting spot in the last row all the way into the top fifteen by lap 10, the C&C Performance powered No. 39 still had plenty left in the tank as the race went on. By lap 15, McCreadie was in 12th. By lap 20, he cracked the top ten getting up to seventh. On the lap 20 restart, he blew by championship runner up Johnson to take 7th as he stalked the top five. A mere four laps later, T-Mac was in fifth.
“The thing just came alive,” cited McCreadie. “I mean it just came alive in the feature. The longer the race went on and the slower I got, the better the thing felt. We just tried to keep picking them off one by one, got a couple of cautions and restarts that set us up on the outside and we were right there at the end.”
McCreadie had a tough time battling with Billy Pauch for several laps as he ended up falling back outside the top five, only until a restart on lap 31 set the former World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model champion up perfectly. He cracked the top five again once again lap 31, but this was before the caution lights were out once more a mere lap later. This allowed McCreadie to pull in behind the top five of an otherwise dominant Stewart Friesen out front, Mike Mahaney in second, and defending series champion Matt Sheppard in third.
On the ensuing lap 32 restart, McCreadie blew by Sheppard on the top side to make his way to the podium and three laps later, Sheppard, Mahaney, and T-Mac all went three wide for the runner-up spot, with McCreadie able to capitalize on the bottom part of the speedway. He then stalked Friesen for the remaining fifteen circuits, biding his time in lapped traffic before taking the lead on the bottom of turns three and four with just five laps to go.
“It’s one of those things where when you’re running second, those lapped cars are really hard to pass,” McCreadie said. “I just tried to stay with the leader and with a few laps to go, I got really lucky and wound up not being in the one lane that he was at and we just made our move.”
Ironically, McCreadie went on to lap Johnson with three laps to go. He was so focused on getting the lead that he did not even realize who he was passing as the laps ticked away, but one thing’s for sure, the handling of the No. 39 machine was doing nothing but improving as the race continued on.
“I didn’t even notice who we were passing with a few laps to go,” McCreadie commented. “I will say this, it’s never a shameful thing to lose to Stewart Friesen. He beat me twice last year because he’s one of the best at this and thats why he’s making a name for himself down at the big track, but tonight I was able to get him. If the yellow it comes out, it might be different. On the long green run we just kept getting better and better.”
McCreadie was quick to credit his entire team that made two wins and a Gator Championship possible this week, and mentioned that he looks forward to a handful of more Super DIRTcar Series starts in 2018, noting, “I want to take the time to thank Ann and Carl Myers, they are both here tonight. This is an amazing team to drive for. It’s not always easy and we don’t do it perfect, but we try our best and I’m never going to let them down driving it. I will give my 110% every time on the track and I look forward to doing it again some more this year.”
Grabbing the victory for longtime friend and fellow Sweetner’s driver Vic Coffey, a former Super DIRT Week Champion, was pretty special for T-Mac. Coffey is still out of the driver’s seat due to personal reasons, but the longtime campaigner of the Sweetner’s No. 32C perhaps never looked happier than he did Saturday night at Volusia.
“This is so awesome to do this for Vic,” McCreadie mentioned. “Him and I have been friends for a long time, about twelve years and my marriage is only six, so you can imagine how it gets sometimes but he wears his emotions on his sleeve and this isn’t easy to do at all. From the crew guys all the way down to the guys at the shop, to everybody, this whole program is not easy and I wish everybody could stand up here and enjoy it with me.”
There’s no doubt that McCreadie is a Super DIRTcar Series fan favorite, but if there were some folks who attended the DIRTcar Nationals this week that didn’t know who ‘T-Mac’ was, they certainly do now. McCreadie described his cool down lap and the fan reaction by going on to say, “That was really cool. The cool down lap was amazing, the fans were amazing, and I just want to thank you all. Thanks to Sweetner’s Plus, Integra Shocks, Bicknell Chassis, C&C Power as well. This car is very, very comfortable to drive and it just lets me do what I want to do. This reaction and moment is why we do it.”
McCreadie’s wins this week were his 22nd and 23rd with the Super DIRTcar Series. His father, the legendary ‘Barefoot Bob,’ sits sixth on the all-time list…fittingly…with 39 wins.
UNOFFICIAL Super DIRTcar Series Results – Volusia Speedway Park – February 17, 2018:
Feature (50-laps): 1. 39 Tim McCreadie, 2. 44 Stewart Friesen, 3. 88 Mike Mahaney, 4. 1 Billy Pauch, 5. 5 Ryan Godown, 6. 9S Matt Sheppard, 7. 19 Tim Fuller, 8. 21 Yan Bussiere, 9. 91 Billy Decker, 10. 9 Ryan Watt, 11. 6h Max McLaughlin, 12. 32 Jim Rasey, 13. 42P Pat Ward, 14. 25R Erick Rudolph, 15. 27J Danny Johnson, 16. 4 Billy VanInwegen, 17. 20 Brett Hearn, 18. 85 HJ Bunting, 19. 30M JoJo Watson, 20. 109 Billy Whittaker, 21. 74 JR Heffner, 22. 19K Brett Kressley, 23. 3 Justin Haers, 24. 5s Tyler Siri, 25. 96 JF Corriveau, 26. 98H Jimmy Phelps, 27. 43 Jimmy Horton, 28. 99L Larry Wight, 29. 118 Jim Britt, 30. cb3 Chad Brachmann