A thrilling week of racing culminated in Max McLaughlin’s first career Super DIRTcar Series win Sunday night, capping the OktoberFAST festivities that saw five of the six scheduled events completed.
Anthony Perrego won twice, Jimmy Phelps won twice in a night, and Matt Sheppard defended his home turf leading up to the $10,000 McLaughlin victory at Weedsport, underscoring a memorable week of racing that very likely will be a once-in-a-lifetime situation.
OktoberFAST was hosted at Albany-Saratoga, Fulton, Can-Am, Land of Legends and Weedsport Speedway; Utica-Rome was scheduled to hold a race but rained out. The week of racing replaced Super DIRT Week, a victim of COVID-19 guidelines. All the action was streamed online, and there were no fans in general admission seats.
In the event OktoberFAST is isolated to 2020, it left a mark.
The final night of racing saw Matt Sheppard dart from the pole and tour Weedsport with a comfortable edge. Matt Williamson stalked the leader, and took shifts at the point before Max McLaughlin roared into the picture.
On lap 53, McLaughlin moved to the lead. A lap 59 caution period bunched the field, but both McLaughlin and Sheppard moved ahead of the field on the restart. Jimmy Phelps moved to third on lap 65, and Stewart Friesen cracked the top five with five to go.
It was an emotional scene atop victory hill, with McLaughlin celebrating the win in the Coffey-owned No. 32; Matt Sheppard built the car that McLaughlin wheeled. For a time, McLaughlin lived at the Weedsport oval, driving for Al Heinke and amassing several runner-up finishes behind various DIRTcar stars, but never finding a win.
The final top five behind McLaughlin was Sheppard, Phelps, Friesen and Larry Wight.
Kevin Root won the $2,000 35-lap DIRTcar Sportsman finale over Matt Janczuk, his second win of the week. Root was chasing a fast Alan Fink, moving to a distant third amid a three-car battle on lap 20. He established himself in second two laps later, and Fink darted to the infield with a problem. Root assumed the lead as the white flag was flying, and held on to win over Janczuk, Zach Sobotka, Adam Pierson and Mike Fowler.
In the accompanying Pro Stock feature, Nick Stone led wire to wire for the $1,000 win. Luke Horning and Josh Coonradt followed in the top three. The win marked Stone’s second of the week and ninth of the year. Rich Crane and Jason Casey filled the top five.
LAND OF LEGENDSMatt Sheppard unveiled a new car out in the racing equivalent to a ‘Hail Mary Pass,’ and it paid off in $7,500 form at Land of Legends Raceway. Sheppard looked like the ‘Super Matt’ Land of Legends fans have come to know, shrugging off a persistent Mike Mahaney and then a charging Mat Williamson to win the 60-lap modified feature.
On the Sportsman side of things, Tyler Murray led a single lap in the 30-lap Sportsman main. Murray delivered a masterful slide job to take the lead and the checkers.
Zach Sobotka took the lead with a bold three-wide move at the start, and had as much as four seconds in hand over the field. A caution period negated that with nine to go, and Murray stayed in the shadow of the leader. Murray chipped away on the inside line, setting up his slide job and eventual victory.
CAN-AM SPEEDWAYFriday night, Anthony Perrego won his second Super DIRTcar Series feature in three starts.
Tim Fuller scored a win in the 358-Modified portion of the event. Fuller worked the outside groove, and kept closing on the leader. Perrego was third at the checkers ahead of Maresca and Billy Dunn filled the top five.
Kevin Root has been dominant at Can-Am, with eight of his 12 season victories coming at the LaFargeville, NY oval. He was once again unstoppable, setting fast time before taking a heat win by nearly four seconds before leading wire to wire in the 30-lap feature.
Thursday, Jimmy Phelps put together an unforgettable evening at Fulton, the lone race contested at the oval this year in lieu of the pandemic restrictions.
The event drew 235 cars with 32 scheduled races for the night, and a total of 380 laps contested. Phelps had some tall orders, drawing 63 for his qualifying group in both the Big Block and 358 modified divisions. Making the redraw in each qualifying heat, Phelps pulled the pole for each main event.
The Modified feature had a single slowdown on lap 8, and the balance of the 60 lap main went without interruption. Phelps took the win and Mahaney held second with Friesen, Mat Williamson and Larry Wight filling the top five.
About an hour prior to the modified romp, Phelps won the 358-Modified feature. He needed only six laps to establish command there, pulling ahead of Billy Decker.
Matt Janczuk avenged a Sportsman Shootout 50 miscue from a year ago in winning the Sportsman portion of the Fulton program. Janczuk was perfect, setting fast time and winning his heat by 3.75 seconds before going wire to wire for his ninth win of 2020. He now has 10 career wins at Fulton in Sportsman action, becoming the 13th driver to accomplish double-digit win totals in the division.
Andrew Buff won the battle for the scraps with AJ Miller, Jeffrey Prentice and Brian Calabrese rounding out the top five. In all, 105 sportsman cars signed up for competition.
ALBANY-SARATOGATuesday, Anthony Perrego kick started the OktoberFAST week with a last-lap win over Ronnie Johnson.
Johnson was well in command of the 60-lap main when Perrego started to close. With 20 laps on the board, Perrego poked a wheel under the leader. A series of caution periods muted the lead battle, but once things settled down, Johnson stayed dedicated to the high groove. As that line faded, Perrego made a decision to stay on the bottom, and let Johnson contend with slower traffic and possibly burn up his right rear in the process. It worked, with Perrego flashing to the checkers ahead of Mike Mahaney, who shuffled Johnson to third, Kenny Tremont and Larry Wight.
Tim Hartman took the DIRTcar Sportsman 30-lapper ahead of Andrew Buff and Travis Bruno. Garrison Krenz and Mike Fowler were next. Nick Stone won the Pro Stock main.
COSTA TAKES OUTLAW SPEEDWAY FALL SERIES WINFriday at Outlaw Speedway, Cory Costa scored the victory in the 30-lap Modified feature.
Costa held off Steve Paine and Nick Nye for the win, with Eldon Payne and Brady Fultz following in the top five.
Karl Comfort won his second American Racer Tire Sportsman feature of the season over Tommy Collins Jr. and Steve Davis. Billy Paine and Justice Mayo posted top five efforts. On the Hoosier Tire Sportsman side of things, Alex Payne took his fifth victory of the season. Dylan Cecce won the Street Stock main. Justin Eldredge registered a win in the IMCA Hobby Stock feature. Matt Roberts won the IMCA Modified feature over Eddie Sites, Rick Watt, Justin Chaddock and Ray McClure. Scott Lehman Jr. won his third four-cylinder main of 2020, topping a fast Ray Hyer and Jason Smart, with Rich Conte and Jack Ormsby following in the top five.
Racing at Outlaw for October 16 has already been cancelled. With the cold forecast and rain ahead, the track has pushed Fall Series Event No. 6 off to October 23. Opening up the October 16 Friday night will also allow weekly competitors the opportunity to prepare for the Short Track Super Series event at Port Royal.
Chris Marquart’s “Motorsports” appears each Tuesday during racing season. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (315) 789-3999.