Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BALLSTON SPA, NY – The sport of auto racing was built on fun. Yea, sure, money has a lot to do with it, but in an era where regular 9-to-5 jobs can be extremely stressful, people are always looking for ways to escape those tribulations and just have fun.
For 2018, Sportsman campaigner Scott Duell will have that mentality. He is looking to have more fun in racing.
After a season where he drove for the two-car team owned by Rich and Donna Dodson, Duell will be going back on his own this coming season, with a new Teo Pro Car and a rejuvenated outlook on the sport he loves.
“Last year was a good year, for sure,” Duell said. “Rich and Donna are great people and it was a pleasure to drive for them, but 2018 means new beginnings in more ways than one. I feel like I’ve got a clearer head now and am super thankful to have an opportunity to do what I love.”
Duell took the Dodson Construction #14 to victory lane just once last season, but it was in the big 50-lap $3,000-to-win Sportsman feature at Albany-Saratoga on July 14th. The team finished 12th in the track’s final point standings and had some discussions over the off-season about possibly running together again in 2018.
“After the season ended, Rich told me they wanted to buy me a new car,” he said. “Anything I wanted. I’ve never had a new car in my life and he wanted every bolt to be brand new…new motor and all. I told him if I could keep the car at my house (Scott lives over an hour from the RDR team shop) then I’ll do it.”
That was a big point of contention for Dodson.
“He told me he didn’t want to do that,” Duell said. “I told him I would have to say no then. I mean Rich, Donna and that entire family are great people. At the time I had the opportunity to possibly run a sprint car for the new year and I told him I was going to pursue that, with no hard feelings.”
Unfortunately for Scott, the sprint car situation didn’t pan out which left him looking for something to drive, so he tracked down his former teammate.
“Brian (Pessolano) and I have kept in touch over the off-season and he brought up the idea that we should team up this season,” Duell said. “We’ll help each other out and be there for one another.”
One problem though.
“That meant I had to find a car,” Duell said. “I was lucky that I found a 2014 Teo that has never seen the track. I can’t be any more excited right now.”
The pairing of Pessolano and Duell is one that both are extremely happy about. They worked well together as teammates last season and that pairing has helped to develop a friendship.
“We’re just going to be there for each other and have a good time this season,” he said. Brian’s going to drive a Bicknell and I’m going to be in a Teo. We’re going to be at Albany-Saratoga weekly and have some fun again. That’s our biggest goal.”
In addition to weekly action at the Malta, NY oval, Scott has aspirations to follow the entire King of Dirt Sportsman Series as well, chasing that elusive championship.
“We’re going to chase after Hazer’s series again this year, and see if we can get that title,” Duell added. “He’s got a good program there and now you need home track points as part of the series. I’m not sure how this will all shake out but we’re going for it.”
As was reported in Race Pro Weekly by our own Ray Rogers on Tuesday, the Dodson team will be going Modified racing this coming season with veteran Willy Decker at the controls. In turn, the team will not be fielding any Sportsman entries. That is what left both Duell and Pessolano on the outside searching.
“While we had good equipment last year, it was tough at times,” Duell said. “It was frustrating too when things weren’t going right, and we just want to get back to enjoying racing.”
For the upcoming season, the two drivers will work together to help each other out as much as possible. Both will maintain their cars at their own shops, but when race nights roll around, they will be working as one team.
“To be able to take care of a car again, on my own, and to have the time to do it will be awesome,” he said. “Making the trip to Rich’s shop two to three times a week, staying until midnight, was killing me. When things were good it was tough, but when you were struggling like we were at times last year, that makes it worse.”
With the move back to his own shop, a lot of things have already begun to fall into place for Scott. Crew members are coming back to work in the shop during the week and several former sponsors are returning.
“We’re working on some things on the sponsor front right now, but I know that some of my former partners have agreed to come back,” he said. “Now that I’ve got control of my team again, most of my crew is excited to be back in the shop, whatever nights I’m there.”
Even with the change, Duell is very grateful for the year he spent driving for the Dodson’s.
“They did a lot for me and I appreciate that greatly,” he said. “Rich and Donna gave me a ride when I needed one and I had a lot of fun with them. We had a lot of good runs and were strong. We broke the track record at Devil’s Bowl and should have won that race, battling with Tremont and Rocky with five to go but a part failure took us out. It was a good year, but it just wasn’t ideal for what I’m trying to do and I wish them nothing but the best with Willy.”
No matter how you slice it, Scott Duell just loves this sport. He loves the competition. He loves the camaraderie. He loves the family atmosphere, and anyone that knows racing in Upstate New York knows of the Duell family.
Scott’s even got an extended family these days as he’s dating Jade Stratton, daughter of former Modified standout Hector Stratton and sister of current 358-Modified racer, Neil.
Whatever way you look at it, Scott Duell is ready to tackle the new season head-on. He’s working to put the right pieces in place to make 2018 a very successful year for him and his team. He’s got the will. He’s got the drive. He’s got the determination. With a little bit of luck, you’ll see him having more fun than he’s ever had before.
There’s that word again. Fun. Don’t we all want to enjoy what we do?