Like an old, broken record in 2010 at Mercer Raceway Park, after a sunny and dry start on Saturday, the clouds and showers rolled in during the evening and though they persisted on and off all night long, the majority of the season ending “Fall Brawl” was able to be completed.
Max Blair had dreamed about racing with his father Robbie since he was kid. On Saturday night, Max passed Robbie with three laps to go to inch one step closer to the $30,000 FASTRAK Late Model Grand National Championship.
Saturday’s win was worth $1,500 in the 30-lap feature. Max was the 2008 winner of this event and will now enter Night 2 this coming Saturday night at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex tied with other FASTRAK Regional Night 1 winners for the point lead. The championship will be decided on Oct. 23 at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia.
“Since I was five years old sitting in the stands at Raceway 7, I dreamed about racing with dad,” expressed the 20-year-old Centerville driver. “I always thought someday coming out of turn 4 we’d be racing for the win. I don’t know if it could come any closer than that - especially in a big race like this! That was a lot of fun. We devote every day, every single second to this and this makes it really worthwhile. Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, I’m extremely happy with how this year went - it’s the best one I’ve ever had. I’m going to take one race at a time and see what happens.”
Last year’s Night 1 winner, Mike Pegher Jr. drew the pole position and raced to the early lead. Josh Holtgraver passed Shane Bambarger for second on the opening lap. Robbie started sixth and Max fourth and the duo were in fifth and sixth respectively after the first lap. Robbie and Max passed Butch Lambert for fourth and fifth on lap 2 then both got around Bambarger on lap 4 for third and fourth.
On lap 5, it was a four-car race for the lead with Pegher trying to hold off Holtgraver and the Blair duo. The caution was displayed with six laps completed when Gary Knollinger spun. When racing resumed, ninth-starting Steve Dixon was on the move cracking the top five. The Blairs raced side-by-side for third on lap 11 with Max edging ahead; meanwhile Pegher opened up some ground by lap 12.
Pegher caught lapped traffic on lap 14. Holtgraver, Max, and Robbie closed in and were right on the leader on lap 16. One lap later, Pegher slipped high in turn 4 allowing Holtgraver to take over and Max to second. With 10 laps to go it was a five-car race for the lead as Dixon joined the battle. Max was all over Holtgraver trying to find a way by. The two ran side-by-side for the lead on lap 23, but Holtgraver maintained the advantage.
On lap 25, heartbreak struck for Holtgraver. The leader pushed high off turn four as something broke on his car, bringing out the third and final caution. Max took over the lead with Robbie now second, Dixon third and Pegher four. When green replaced yellow, Robbie used the outside to power by Max off turn 4 to lead lap 26. The father-son duo were side-by-side on lap 27, but Max was able to nose ahead to lead the lap.
Max would hold off his father for his seventh Mercer win of the season and leading 14th all-time in the division at the track. Robbie, who finished third in the All Star Super Late Model event back on July 10, made his first ever FASTRAK start at Mercer and finished second.
Dixon crossed the finish line in third, but his finish is in jeopardy as an issue arose with his carburetor in post- race tech. It be sent away for further review this week and a decision will be rendered on its legality. Pegher dropped to fourth at the finish. Bud Watson rebounded from qualifying 29th fastest to finish fifth after starting 13th. Sixth through tenth were Lambert, 21st starting Troy Shields, first time visitor Kyle Lukon, Jim Frank, and Mike Blose. Despite the 70 percent chance of rain, 32 drivers were represented from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, West Virginia and New Jersey.
With a steady light rain falling throughout much of the super late model feature, just 20 of the scheduled 25 laps were completed before the checkered flag was displayed when the intensity of the rain picked up. At that time, Matt Lux was declared the winner after leader John Flinner, Jr. tangled with the slowing John Garvin Jr. Lux’s first ever Late Model win at the track was worth $2,000.
“It’s good to be back at Mercer,” stated the Franklin racer. “I was kicking myself early on for not being on the outside on a restart as I was spinning my tires. I saw the J4 and I got out of the gas, it didn’t look like the 4T8 slowed - that’s a tough break, but it happens.”
Lux led the first 12 laps of the event with Flinner hounding him for the lead. Following a restart, Flinner powered by to lead lap 13. The twosome put on a great show throughout the event as Lux wouldn’t go away. With Garvin slowing on lap 20, Flinner wasn’t able to avoid him as he made contact and came to a rest. Lux inherited the lead and with the rain coming down harder the race was checkered. Lux’s victory was the 13th of his career at Mercer, but first since an E-Mod win on April 8, 2006, for the inaugural 2000 “Little Guy Nationals” stock car winner.
New York’s Greg Oakes moved up to second at the finish after starting 16th and earned $1,000. Eighth-starter Derek Frank had a great run taking third for his best finish. World of Outlaw racer Russell King was fourth with Dennis Lunger Jr. fifth. Completing the top 10 were Tom Bateman, Flinner, Garvin, Pete Alspaugh and Ben Porter.
After a rain delay, the United E-Mod Series were called to the track for their feature. Just 10 laps of the scheduled 30 were completed before the rain again picked up in intensity and UEMS officials decided to call it official with Dave Hess Jr. picking up the $2,000 victory for his first Mercer win of the season.
Shawn Shingledecker yielded the pole position to Brent Rhebergen after his gas cap came off prior to the start of the event. Rhebergen jumped out to the early lead with Hess, Russ Dunn, and Joel Watson all passing Joe Gabrielson for second through fourth. Watson passed Dunn for third on lap 2. It was a four-car race for the lead on lap 4. Hess was all over Rhebergen as the two raced side-by-side for the lead on lap 7 before the first caution for a tangle by Evan Taylor and Carl McKinney slowed action.
When racing resumed, just one more lap was completed before Shingledecker and Larry Kugel got together. It was an important lap, though, as Hess edged ahead of Rhebergen. On the ensuing restart, Dunn was able to get around both Watson and Rhebergen for runner-up. Just two more laps were completed when Taylor, Clayton Kennedy and Dustin Fraley brought out the final caution.
At this point with the rain falling even harder and no let up in sight on the radar, the race was checkered with Hess earning his third career Mercer E-Mod win, moving him within one of the division’s all-time winner, Alan Dellinger. Dunn was second over Rhebergen, Watson, and 10th starting Al Brewer. Sixth through tenth at the finish were Mike Kinney, Jack Young, Kari Gasser, Daryl Charlier, and Jonathan Taylor.
The lone mini stock heat race was won by Tim Callahan. It was the Grove City driver’s seventh heat race win of the season. With the 2010 season complete, it was decided to split the purse for the nine cars on hand evenly.