FULTON, N.Y. — Story by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Jeremiah Fish photos — Two names really seem to come to mind when considering who is entering the next week and a half of racing with the most momentum.
Brett Hearn is one name as he overtook the points lead at Fonda, but the other name to consider is 2013 Outlaw 200 winner Jimmy Phelps.
Phelps, of Baldwinsville, N.Y., calls Fulton Speedway home. He finally conquered the October running of the 200 at Fulton last year in a thrilling battle with Matt Sheppard that saw the lead change twice in as many laps. The Andy Phelps Racing and Heinke-Baldwin Racing driver was visibly shaken in victory lane when the impact of the victory began to set in.
“I’ll be honest, I can’t explain how awesome this is,” said Phelps, who was doing his best to keep composure for the Thomas Video crew in Victory Lane. “I gotta thank Andy Phelps, my mom and my whole family. This is a really big win for our family.”
Several times before 2013, Phelps came oh so close but couldn’t break through into Victory Lane. He finished 5th in 2001, 4th in 2007 and a 2nd place finish in 2009. His lone victory in the 200 last year was a battle as he had to hold off the 9s of Matt Sheppard and the 1 of Stewart Friesen to score the win. 2014 wasn’t the best season Jimmy has had at Fulton; only scoring 7 Top-5’s and 13 Top-10’s in 14 starts to leave him 3rd in the final points standings.
What Jimmy Phelps does have on his side heading into the 2014 running of the Outlaw 200 and NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week is momentum. Phelps came home 2nd to teammate Matt Sheppard at the Mohawk International Raceway on the Super DIRTcar Series. The team followed that up by swapping 1-2 finishes at the Yates County Speedway in their $4,000-to-win Seneca Lake Shootout with Phelps besting Sheppard on that night. The momentum is something that Phelps’ HBR teammate Matt Sheppard doesn’t discount at this late stage in the season.
“This is the time of year where we want to finish 1-2 everywhere we go,” said Sheppard post-race at Yates County.
One more race Phelps would love to check off the bucket list is a Syracuse 200 victory. Phelps has also come so close on several occasions at ‘The Moody Mile’. It seems as though fuel mileage and Right Rear Hoosiers have been the nemesis for Phelps on the mile. 2009 saw Phelps leading Sheppard with 11 laps to go, when Phelps made contact with lap car Kenny Brightbill. The contact would flatten Phelps’ Right Rear tire just two laps later and end a great run.
In 2010 the HBR crew was convinced that Stewart Friesen was going to run out of fuel before the end of the race and their driver would cruise ahead to victory, after recovering from a flat tire around the halfway mark. It never came to fruition and Friesen collected his first of two Syracuse 200 wins.
Phelps would say post-race, “That was my only hope at the end, to push on Stewart and get him out of gas. I can’t believe he went as far as he did.”
2012 saw a rain-shortened event go to Brett Hearn who stayed out and had just enough gas to take the yellow flag and eventually the red flag to claim the win on lap 113. Phelps finished 3rd that day and still had to wonder what he had to do to win on the mile in Central New York.
“Naturally, we want to come here and win. We’ve been so close so many times,” said Phelps in the media center after Super DIRTcar Series officials were forced to call the race due to the rain.
Could 2014 finally be the year that Phelps is able to shake the Syracuse slump?
Stay tuned to RaceChaserOnline.com and our podcast affiliates at Turn 5 Live to keep up to speed as they provide ‘blowout the budget coverage’ all week long from ‘The Moody Mile.’