Dale Blaney took a giant step toward his third O'Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions title Saturday at Fremont Speedway. The Hartford, Ohio driver took the lead on lap 44 and went on to score his 67th career All Star victory on Ohio CAT Night at "The Track That Action Built."
"George Fisher makes this thing so easy to drive...I'm just the lucky guy that gets to sit behind the wheel," said Blaney.
"Craig (Mintz) was good on the high side and I could get to him and show him my nose but I couldn't get by him. I had to search around the track the entire race before I finally found a groove late in the race and was able to slip under him. I thought Craig would move down...that's the advantage to running second, you can move around and the leader has to pretty much stay his groove," added Blaney on his ninth career Fremont Speedway victory.
Blaney came into Saturday's race with a slight point advantage over Lance Dewease for the $50,000 All Star title. Dewease qualified poorly while Blaney set quick time which put him in the dash for more of those valuable points. After an early race spin, Dewease came from the tail to finish eighth in the feature, setting up a dramatic end-of-the-year race for the championship at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
In the Fremont Federal Credit Union 305 sprints, Kevin Lee became the 14th different feature winner in 14 A-mains in 2008 at Fremont Speedway. His win tightens the championship race at Fremont for the 305 sprints.
Lee came in 14 points behind Helena resident and Gibsonburg High School graduate Stuart Brubaker who flipped in his heat, brought a back-up car out for the B and failed to transfer. However, Benny Bowman allowed Brubaker to drive his A-main qualified car in the feature where he came from the tail to finish ninth.
"Finally...we got a little luck and were there to take advantage of it," said Lee, who was running a distant second to leader Steve Rando when his left front wheel broke at the half-way mark of the feature.
"The car was just great tonight, especially on longer runs," continued Lee in the Engine Pro Victory Lane beside his JD Automotive, Papa Jimmy's Pizza, Humbert Trucking backed sprint car. "This really helps us in the championship hunt...we just need to stay consistent."
Tiffin's Art Ball matched his age with his 69th career feature - the most in the history of Fremont Speedway - in the Fremont Fence Dirt Trucks.
"I knew on the second lap when I took the lead I was not going to move off the bottom of the track. I have to give credit to Andy Maynard, he raced me hard and clean and made me work for it tonight," said Ball beside his Magers Lumber, Chaney Roofing backed truck.
After catching on fire in the dash and burning his foot, Mintz' crew replaced fuel lines and he jumped into the lead at the drop of the green in the 50-lap All Star feature. While Mintz pulled away, Lee Jacobs, Tim Shaffer, Rob Chaney and Byron Reed waged a torrid battle for second. Mintz hit lapped traffic by the 10th circuit allowing Jacobs to close. But Jacobs soon found his hands full with Reed who moved under him into the runner-up spot on lap 11.
Just as Mintz hit heavy lapped traffic on lap 16, the caution flew for a Dewease spin. The running order was Mintz, Reed, Jacobs, sixth-starting Blaney, Chaney and 12th starter Jody Keegan. Two laps later Jacobs would drive around Reed to regain second. Following a lap 21 caution for a Keegan spin, Mintz would again build his lead with a clean track ahead.
Another yellow on lap 26 for a Dean Jacobs spin continued to help and hurt Mintz at the same time. While giving him a clear track, it kept the rest of the pack on his bumper. Blaney moved under Jacobs and into second on the restart and began to close on Mintz. On lap 33, Blaney was racing side by side with Mintz while Jacobs stayed close. The car on the move was Randy Hannagan who started 11th but fell back early in the race after getting into another car and having his nose wing collapse, and had charged back to fourth.
Another caution on lap 36 would again keep Mintz in clean air, but with Blaney on his tail he could not relax. The next seven laps the pair would race side-by-side with Blaney attempting several slide jobs only to see Mintz drive back by. Blaney would finally take the lead on lap 44 with an inside pass exiting turn two. Mintz now had his hands full with Jacobs who found some speed late in the race.
The final caution would fly on lap 46 just after Jacobs took second and was beginning to put pressure on Blaney in lapped traffic. Blaney would hold off one last challenge from Jacobs for the win with Mintz — who lead the first 44 laps — coming home third, Hannagan fourth and Shaffer fifth.
"Second again...that's the third straight runner-up finish. I just can't be disappointed with that. I knew I'd have a good car late...that's what Andy Potter sets it up to do and no one does it better. I've said it before, but this is an incredible opportunity and I'm making the most of it," said Jacobs beside his Southern Crane and Tractor backed sprint car.
"We put a soft tire on...I was hoping to build a big lead with some lapped cars between us. Those cautions really hurt us. But hey, after catching on fire, to get a top three with the All Stars is great. I have to thank my mom and dad for all the sacrifices they have made for me to race and my crew for all the hard work tonight," said Mintz beside his Erie Shore Propane, Keller Chevrolet backed machine.
In the 25-lap 305 sprint feature, Steve Rando was the class of the field early, building a substantial lead untl a lap seven caution. He would pull away again on the restart with a tremendous battle behind him between Todd Heuerman, Kevin Lee and Bobby Clark.
Disaster struck for Rando on lap 13 when his left front wheel broke off, handing the point to Lee with Heuerman and now a closing Chad Wilson in tow. The car on the move was rookie D.J. Foos who moved from his 14th starting spot into fifth by lap 14.
It was now Lee's turn to check out as Heuerman, Wilson, Clark and Foos battled hard for second. With four laps to go, Lee held a nine car advantage over Heuerman who had pulled away from the rest of the pack. A great battle was going on for third between Wilson, Clark and Foos.
At the checkered it was Lee getting his second career Fremont Speedway win with Heuerman, Clark, Foos and Wilson rounding out the top five.
Loren Schwochow led the first lap of the dirt truck feature, but Ball would drive under him a lap later. Kent Brewer would apply the pressure first to Ball until Andy Maynard moved into second on lap 13. Maynard would then race side by side with Ball the remaining seven laps.
Ball would take the checkered by less than a truck length over Maynard, with Brewer, Bob Dible and Jim McGrath rounding out the top five. McGrath continues to hold a slim lead in the point standings over Cory Ward who finished sixth.