article and photo by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
Many drivers have said it: you have to get out of your comfort zone to become a better driver. That’s one of the reasons that he comes to Ohio for Speedweek with the Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions. For Dietrich, it paid off on opening night of Speedweek at Attica Raceway Park.
Dietrich put himself in an excellent position to succeed. He won his heat race, drew the pole of the dash, won the dash, which put him on the pole of the 35 lap feature. Dietrich and Parker Price-Miller led the field as the green flag flew, and it was the Gettysburg native taking a commanding early lead over Price-Miller, gapping Price-Miller by 1.345 seconds on the first lap. On the following lap, Cory Eliason made a move on Price-Miller for second, which allowed Dietrich’s lead to grow to 2.557 seconds by the fourth lap.
Dietrich’s lead would be short-lived, as the red flag came out for Skyler Gee, Tyler Courtney, and Hunter Schuerenberg. On the ensuing restart, Eliason was able to show Dietrich a nose, but that’s all it amounted to for Eliason as Dietrich pulled away down the backstretch. Eliason would get another chance at Dietrich on a lap seven restart after Parker Price-Miller spun in turns three and four, collecting Cole Macedo. This wouldn’t be the best restart for Eliason, though, as Bill Balog was able to collect the second spot.
By lap 10, Dietrich’s lead over Balog was 1.440 seconds, and it grew by a half-second by lap 12. Dietrich brought a 1.991 second lead into lapped traffic on lap 14, and Balog was able to cut that half-second back out on the next trip around the ⅓ mile oval. Dietrich had a huge moment with a lapped car going down the backstretch on lap 15. Dietrich ended up going off the backstretch and jumping back on the track before turn three, but Balog was able to cut the lead down to .799 seconds after that affair.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get back on the racetrack or not,” said Dietrich. “It gets so hard to see, and these guys don’t know you’re behind them and it is what it is. It’s a part of racing and luckily I was able to get back on the racetrack, and keep all four wheels on the ground.”
Dietrich didn’t miss a beat, though. He rebuilt his lead to 1.145 seconds by lap 19, but Balog seemed to be closer than that. Balog was able to cut into Dietrich’s lead in a considerable way the next few laps, getting the gap down to .645 seconds as they navigated traffic on lap 22. Dietrich would catch a break on that lap, as Cory Eliason went around in turns one and two battling with Justin Peck for third. This would put Balog on Dietrich’s tail, but also get Dietrich out of lapped traffic and back into clean air.
“It’s pretty nice whenever you can have clean air around the top of turns one and two and get that run down the backstretch. I wanted to make sure I didn’t drive off the racetrack on the restarts. You get so comfortable running and running and running, then you get a restart in clean air, and you feel like you’re a million bucks going into one and really you’re just trying to keep the best pace you can through there. The last thing you want to do is drive off the race track and give one away,” Dietrich said.
Balog had a whale of a restart and was able to get under Dietrich and keep it close down the backstretch, but the caution was also flying for Eliason once again. It was a bad break for Balog, as he had shown Dietrich his hand on that restart. The next restart, Dietrich rocketed away from the 10 time IRA Champion and boasted a 1.530 second lead on lap 26. With five laps remaining, Balog once again started to cut into that lead of Dietrich’s. Four laps to go and Balog was within a second of Dietrich as Dietrich approached traffic. Another timely caution would get Dietrich into that all-important clean air for the final restart.
Dietrich had no issues on the final restart and was able to run the last few laps free of any drama, taking the checkers by 2.083 seconds over Balog. For Dietrich, it was his second career Ohio Speedweek win, and his first career win at Attica Raceway Park.
“This is probably my fourth show here. Definitely better than we normally are here. Usually this isn’t my favorite place to come to, but tonight it was,” said Dietrich. “We come here to get out of our element, otherwise, at home, we get stuck in the same routine, same funk all the time. It’s nice to go somewhere different; it makes you want to race. It makes you want to go to the races because you can get tired of going to the same tracks every week. It broadens our setup book and gets you better at certain tracks in certain situations.”
“Hopefully we can keep it rolling, but in racing, that can change at any time. We’ll enjoy tonight, and tomorrow’s a whole nother day,” concluded Dietrich.