Who would have thought going into the final night of the 31st Annual Ohio Sprint Speedweek Dale Blaney – a three time series and four time speedweek champion – wouldn’t have won a feature event during the six nights of racing?
But Blaney remained confident…he knew Speedweek was wrapping up at Frem ont Speedway, where the “Low Rider” scored a $10,000 All Star win last month.
Ohio Sprint Speedweek usually determines who will wear the University of Northwestern Ohio All Star Circuit of Champions’ crown at season’s end. This year, the 31st Annual Ohio Sprint Speedweek featured eight racing events over nine days at seven different race tracks in the Buckeye State.
|Top 3-Griffith, Andrews and Blaney|
It all kicked off June 21 as Kistler Engines Presents the Ohio Sprint Speedweek on TPC Food Services/Ohio Cat Night at Attica Raceway Park. That marked the 99th UNOH All Star show at Attica.
Blaney took the lead from Tim Shaffer at the half-way point of the 50-lap feature Saturday and held off a charging Kyle Larson to take home another $10,000 on Ludwig Propane Night. The win, the third UNOH All Star victory of the season for Blaney, is his 96th career with the series, just two shy of tying Kenny Jacobs for the all-time win lead. Blaney has more UNOH All Star wins at Fremont Speedway – 13 – than any other driver and now has 18 total wins at “The Track That Action Built.”
And while Blaney took home the big money, it was Larson and Shane Stewart who had the huge crowd on their feet. The pair started in row 11 – the 21st and 22nd starting spots and stormed to the front. Larson pressured Blaney the final seven laps as they raced through traffic. But “The Low Rider” held true to his name, not budging off the bottom groove to take the victory.
“On the red (on lap 32) I knew they (Stewart and Larson) were fourth and fifth and I knew there weren’t many lapped cars in there. To me those two guys are two of the best in the country no matter where you go. Shane’s been running so good this year and has been a threat every night. And Larson…I’ve watched him run a little bit…that guy is as talented a race car driver as I’ve ever seen in anything. It’s a good thing they didn’t start 10th and 11th,” said Blaney in the Engine Pro Victory Lane beside his Ti22 Performance/GF1 Chassis backed No. 2.
“It really wasn’t that demanding of a track. You just had to hit your marks. Every now and then the more conservative I got, especially down here (turns 1 and 2) I’d bounce through the holes and I knew they were coming and I was just trying to plug the holes,” added Blaney. “George (Fisher, crew chief) and all the guys are awesome. They make my job easy. I love Fremont…love the place, love the fans and to put on a great race like this is pretty cool.”
For Larson it was another runner-up finish for the month of June.
“We were really good. Once I got into second I was being too cautious. I could have tried to get to his inside once there in three but I figured I’d wait a little bit because I was getting off two better. But we got into heavier traffic and I wasn’t able to get that shot again,” said Larson beside his Abreu Vineyards/Butlerbuilt Seats/Stadelhoffer Construction backed No. 1k.
“To charge from 21st to second isn’t bad at all. Thanks to my crew, Dave Abreu, Rico Abreu, Jean and Brian Butler…everyone who helps on this 1k car. It’s always fun to come and race in Ohio. I love Ohio…I always do pretty well in Ohio. The fans are great. Maybe I’ll be able to run this race again next year. I was third last year and second this year…only one more way to go,” added Larson.
For Stewart, the charge to the front was fun, especially after flipping while leading the previous night at Limaland.
“I wouldn’t have bet a million dollars starting 22nd that I’d be standing up here. I felt like I had a good enough car to win the race last night and of course total driver error and destroyed the race car. My guys busted their butts all day long in the rain to put this other car back together. I can’t thank them enough. I was actually thinking after last night they would tell me they were going home. Kudos to Rich Farmer and the guys that work here at Fremont. They worked really hard. I saw the picture on Twitter at 6 a.m. and the sun was coming up and Rich was out here working. The rain Gods were on his side today and thank God Mother Nature stayed away. It’s been a heck of a week with the rain,” said Stewart beside his Tim Norman/Joe Gaerte owned machine.
“I had a lot of fun. This was a really good track and it’s good to see all the fans here and I’m happy would could put on a really good show for them,” added Stewart beside his Gaerte Engines/XYZ Machining/All Star Performance backed No. 3G. “I can’t thank all the people associated with the 3G enough for all the hard work they do for me.”
Meanwhile Shaffer’s fourth place finish would earn him the 2013 Ohio Sprint Speedweek Championship. The Aliquippa, Pennsylvania driver also captured the speedweek title in 2011.
Speedweek had five different winners over six nights of racing – Chris Andrews, Jac Haudenschild (2 wins), Brad Sweet, Shane Stewart and Blaney. Two shows were rained out.
“I just missed it a little bit tonight. I was a little too tight. It was standing up and the rougher it got the worse we were. This year just seems like one of those years where it’s hard to get a win. We’ll keep plugging away at it,” said Shaffer of his Aaron Call/Janet Holbrook owned No. 83.
“Hats off to my team. They did a great job all week and we had consistently good finishes. I just feel like I’m letting them down a little. We have been in position and just didn’t capitalize this week,” added Shaffer of his Kistler Engines/J&J Auto Racing/VRP Shocks backed machine.
Brandy Bacon and Shaffer would bring the field to the green for the 50-lap feature with Shaffer grabbing the point over Bacon, Justin Henderson, Danny Smith, Blaney, Byron Reed and Danny Holtgraver. A Travis Philo spin on lap three would halt the action with the running order Shaffer, Bacon, Henderson, Blaney and Smith.
When the green reappeared, Shaffer would pull away from Bacon as Henderson and Blaney were locked in a good battle for third. Shaffer would race into lapped traffic by the ninth circuit and Bacon would close. Just as the front two began to battle as they weaved through traffic, Brock Martin would bring out the caution.
Shaffer and Bacon would lead Blaney, Henderson, Reed and Holtgraver back to the green. Just seven laps later the leaders again raced into lapped traffic and Blaney began pressuring Bacon for second. Meanwhile Stewart and Larson had worked their way from 21st and 22nd starting spots to eighth and ninth. Blaney would grab second on lap 18 and used lapped cars to pull even with Shaffer on lap 22. Shaffer and Blaney battled over the next three laps before Blaney used a lapped car as a pick to pass Shaffer for the lead on lap 25.
At the halfway point the running order was Blaney, Shaffer, Bacon, Reed, Stewart and Larson. The caution would fly for a Jac Haudenschild 360 spin on lap 26 and on the restart both Stewart and Larson drove by Reed. Just as the leaders approached very heavy lapped traffic on lap 32, Holtgraver would stop exiting turn two. The field would then be stopped for refueling.
Blaney pulls away
On the restart Blaney would pull away from Shaffer who was battling with Bacon while Stewart and Larson were prepared to pounce. Larson would drive around Stewart on lap 34 and would take third from Bacon on lap 38. As Blaney and Shaffer raced into lapped traffic again with seven laps to go, Larson blasted around Shaffer into second. With five laps to go Larson had caught Blaney and attempted several passes but just couldn’t get under Blaney for the lead.
Larson would give it one last try on the final lap, but Blaney held his bottom groove and drove to the win. Larson, Stewart, Shaffer and Bacon would round out the top five.
Not to be outdone, the Fremont Federal Credit Union 305 Sprints also put on a fantastic show. Coming to the checkered flag, Dustin Dinan, who took the lead from Bobby Clark with only four laps to go, was held up by a lapped cars as Clark blasted to his outside with Jordan Ryan also in the fray. Dinan would move the lapped car out of his way and would storm to his second feature win of the season at Fremont.
“I’m sorry for doing that but I lost a race being too patient for a lapped car and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I didn’t really want to do that but I had to,” said Dinan in the Engine Pro Victory Lane beside his Tanks Meats/Johnson’s Hunting and Fishing/Quality Welding/Hillside Pawn Shop/Quaintance Farms/Schiets Tender Touch Car Wash backed No. 6.
“I have to thank Rich Farmer and Shelly Liskai and my crew Dave Foos, Jamie Adams, Richard Sebastian, Tom Losher, Aaron Fought, Bryce, Brock, Rachel and my baby girl…Sleeker…everybody,” added Dinan.
Jason Keckler and T.J. Michael would pace the field to the green for the 25-lap feature for the 305 sprints, with Michael gaining the advantage over fourth starter Clark, Keckler, Dinan and Nate Dussel. Clark would drive around Michael for the lead on lap two before the caution would fly for Jeremy Shambaugh who suffered suspension damage.
On the restart Clark would pull away as Dinan blasted into second with Michel, Keckler, Dussel, John Ivy, Ryan and Alvin Roepke in tow. As Clark raced into lapped traffic on lap 13, Dinan closed and raced under him over the next couple of laps before Jess Stiger would break, bringing out another caution on lap 14.
When the green reappeared, Clark and Dinan picked up their battle with Keckler locked in a tremendous race with Dussel and Ryan. As the leaders raced into traffic with five to go, Dinan was close. A lap later he would execute a slider in turn two to grab the lead from Clark with Ryan closing. With two to go it was now a three car battle for the lead between Dinan, Clark and Ryan.
As they entered turns three and four on the final lap, a back marker was on the bottom where Dinan was running. Clark would jump to the cushion with Ryan following. Dinan would nudge the lapped car out of the groove, sending him spinning as Dinan drove to the win over Clark, Ryan, Ivy and Michael.
Maverick Wright, 13, of Delta, Ohio, would storm from last starting spot to take the win in the Computer Man Sports Compacts. It was the second win of his career at Fremont.