(East Smethport, PA)…The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Series powered by Pace Performance participated in the 12th annual “Fall Classic” at McKean County Raceway. Thursday’s $1,000 to-win Sweeney Weekly Series “Ron Baker Memorial” event went to John Waters, while rain on Friday condensed the Sweeney Tour portion of the event to a one-day program on Saturday. The “Jason Dunham Memorial” Sweeney Tour race #13 on Saturday attracted 27 drivers from all over Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Making just his third Sweeney Tour start of 2017, Max Blair, the 2015 Series Champion, took the lead from Brad Mesler on lap two and held off defending Series Champion, John Waters, through lapped traffic for his second win of the season. For Blair, the $1,500 victory came in the 25-lap “Jason Dunham” Memorial feature event.
“It’s very special- I think this is the third time to win this race,” acknowledged the 27-year-old Centerville, Pa. victor. When the national anthem was played here I didn’t see anyone kneeling so that’s the main thing. With five to go it felt like the driveshaft broke getting into (turn) one and I picked the throttle up and it started to run again. Then down the backstretch all my gauges were out so the battery must have went bad or some electrical issue. I shut my helmet fan off the last five laps. It was only half running down the frontstretch so I didn’t know if I was even going to finish let alone win the race so that’s pretty awesome. I figured if I could just run beside the 66 (Darin Horton) and keep the race track blocked I’d be okay. I didn’t see Waters, but I knew he was there and couldn’t mess up too bad. He’s so good especially up here- he’s awesome.”
Blair earned the pole position following his K&N Dash win, but it was track champion, Brad Mesler, using the outside to power into the lead. Mesler’s lead though would only last one lap as Blair found traction on the inside to lead lap two, while Eric Wilson passed Dennis Lunger, Jr. for fourth. Waters started fourth and began to challenge Mesler for runner-up on lap four. Waters was able to get under Mesler to take the second spot on lap five as Wilson followed behind in third.
Blair had opened up a half-straightaway lead when he caught traffic on lap six; however five cautions plagued action between laps 7-13. The final caution was when the fourth place car of Mesler got too low in turn four and caught the piled up infield mud that had been scraped off the track from Friday’s rain. That caused damage and had the field scattering. Point leader Bryce Davis and Tour regular Jason Knowles made contact and got caught up in the fray ending the night for all three drivers. Mesler was awarded the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”.
When racing resumed for the final time, Blair had just enough to maintain the lead from Waters, while Paul Grigsby cracked the top five moving past Lunger. Some late race drama occurred when Blair caught lapped traffic beginning on lap 21. On lap 23, Blair struggled to lap Darin Horton, who was making his first ever Tour start. This allowed Waters to close and actually pulled alongside for a brief time before Blair made the right moves on the final two laps. Blair’s all-time leading 18th career Sweeney Tour victory came in his Murphy’s Logging/C&J Dairy/Previty’s Auto Wrecking/Specialty Products/Sons of American Legion-sponsored #111.
Waters’ runner-up finish allowed him to unofficially tie Davis for the point lead with just two events remaining. Wilson’s third place finish was his best Tour performance since a runner-up at the 2015 “Fall Classic” event at McKean. For that, Wilson was selected as the Maxima Racing Oils “Maximum Performance” award winner. Mike Pegher, Jr. was fourth for his ninth top four finish in 10 Tour starts this season! After coming up light at the scales during qualifying that put him in the hole for the night, Grigsby bounced back to finish fifth after starting 12th in the feature for his career best Tour finish.
Lunger, who was the 2017 Sweeney RUSH Pro Mod Weekly Series Champion and was doing triple duty on Saturday, finished sixth for his best Tour finish since May 22, 2016 at Humberstone Speedway. Tour regulars Brian Knowles and 14th starting Brian Swank were seventh and eighth. Steve LeBarron went 15th to ninth. Mike Wonderling, Jr. completed the top 10 after starting 17th.
Erin Peters made just his second career Tour start and received the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card after improving eight positions to 12th at the finish. Dennis Cummings made his first ever Tour start and was the first feature non-qualifier as he received an ARbodies nose kit valued at over $250.
Pegher set fast time in FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” qualifying with a lap of 15.651 to earn $100. Waters, Blair, and Mesler added $25 for winning FK Rod Ends heat races. Andy Michael won the last chance B main. Blair became the ninth different K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash winner of the season and received a $100 K&N certificate. Mesler was second for a $50 K&N certificate, while Lunger and Waters earned $25 cash for finishing third and fourth.
Jason Dunham was a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions while serving with 3rd Battalion 7th Marines during the Iraq War. While on a patrol in Husaybah, his unit was attacked and he deliberately covered an enemy grenade to save nearby Marines. When it exploded Dunham was gravely injured and died eight days later.
The Sweeney Tour resumes action this coming Friday and Saturday night (October 6-7) for the “Bill Hendren Memorial” as part of the “Pittsburgher 100” with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway in Imperial, Pa. Friday will feature $100 FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock Qualifying” and $25 FK Rod Ends heat races. Saturday will be the K&N Dash, last chance B main(s), 30-lap $2,500 to-win feature, and the $200 to-win Non-Qualifier. There will also be $3,000 in bonus monies with $100 per lap in the feature going to a random running car. Pits open at 2 p.m. with warm-ups both nights at 6 p.m.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series Race #13 “Jason Dunham Memorial” (25 laps, $1,500 to-win): 1. MAX BLAIR (111) 2. John Waters (LeBarron 11) 3. Eric Wilson (27W) 4. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Swank RJ1) 5. Paul Grigsby (24) 6. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Schwartz 71L) 7. Brian Knowles (7) 8. Brian Swank (12s) 9. Steve LeBarron (29) 10. Mike Wonderling, Jr. (18) 11. Jeff Hoffman (32) 12. Erin Peters (06) 13. Greg Beach (33x) 14. Kyle Murray (21) 15. Paul Norman (6) 16. Andy Michael (17x) 17. Darin Horton (66) 18. Tony White (27T) 19. Brad Mesler (24B) 20. Jason Knowles (4) 21. Bryce Davis (94) 22. Jason Harmon (521) 23. D.J. Krug (83) 24. Jeremy Wonderling (3J).
DNQ for the feature: Dennis Cummings (74D), Josh Ayres (73), Wyatt Scott (x3).
Car Count: 27
Feature Lap Leaders: Brad Mesler (1), Max Blair (2-25)
Maxima Racing Oils “Maximum Performance”: Eric Wilson
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Erin Peters (+8)
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Brad Mesler
CrateInsider.com “Last Car on Lead Lap”: Paul Norman
ARbodies “Nosed Out”: Dennis Cummings
FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock Qualifying” ($100 for fast time): 1. Mike Pegher, Jr. 15.651 2. Max Blair 15.771 3. Brad Mesler 15.776 4. John Waters 15.821 5. Brian Knowles 15.847 6. Steve LeBarron 15.984 7. Jeremy Wonderling 16.053 8. Dennis Lunger, Jr. 16.073 9. Eric Wilson 16.082 10. Greg Beach 16.094 11. Mike Wonderling 16.132 12. Jason Knowles 16.143 13. Jeff Hoffman 16.405 14. Brian Swank 16.426 15. Kyle Murray 16.481 16. Andy Michael 16.617 17. Paul Norman 16.668 18. Darin Horton 16.740 19. Dennis Cunningham 17.084 20. D.J. Krug 17.388 21. Tony White 17.391 22. Jason Harmon 17.777 23. Bryce Davis 17.853 24. Paul Grigsby DSQ (light) 25. Josh Ayres DSQ (light) 26. Erin Peters DSQ (light) 27. Wyatt Scott NT.
FK Rod Ends Heat 1 (8 laps, $25 to-win, top 6 transfer to A) 1. Waters 2. Pegher 3. J. Wonderling 4. Beach 5. Hoffman 6. Harmon 7. Cummings 8. Michael 9. Ayres.
FK Rod Ends Heat 2 (8 laps, $25 to-win, top 6 transfer to A): 1. Blair 2. Lunger 3. B. Knowles 4. Davis 5. Swank 6. M. Wonderling 7. Peters 8. Norman 9. Krug.
FK Rod Ends Heat 3 (8 laps, $25 to-win, top 6 transfer to A): 1. Mesler 2. Wilson 3. J. Knowles 4. Grigsby 5. LeBarron 6. Horton 7. Murray 8. White 9. Scott-DNS.
Last Chance B Main (8 laps, top 6 transfer to A): 1. Michael 2. Peters 3. Murray 4. Norman 5. Krug 6. White 7. Cummings 8. Ayres-DNS 9. Scott-DNS.
K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash (6 laps, $100 K&N certificate to-win): 1. Blair 2. Mesler 3. Lunger 4. Waters 5. Wilson 6. Pegher-DSQ (no scales).
RUSH Late Model marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Holley Performance Products, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, Quick Fuel Technology, FK Rod Ends, Maxima Racing Oil, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Rocket Chassis, Landrum Performance Spring, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.