(By Mike Leone)
(East Smethport, PA)...The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series powered by Pace Performance made its first of two visits of the 2016 season to McKean County Raceway on Thursday night. The event was part of the 111th annual McKean County Fair.
Jeremy Wonderling entered the night a winner of five Sweeney Weekly Series events at four different tracks including McKean this season. Though he's been fast and in contention at Sweeney Tour events over the years, Wonderling had never finished better than third, which came nearly two years ago at Woodhull Raceway. On Thursday night, Wonderling dominated the 25-lap feature event for his first career Sweeney Tour win, and became the season's eighth different winner. The victory was worth $1,500 along with being named the Maxima Racing Oil "Maximum Performance" award winner.
"This feels pretty good," expressed the 26-year-old Wellsville, New York driver, who became the fifth different McKean County Fair winner in as many races. "It feels good anytime you win, but to win with the quality of cars that come with the RUSH Touring Series means a lot, and everything Vicki (Emig) does- this is a lot of fun."
"The car worked really good tonight," continued Wonderling. "It was so-so in the heat race. We changed some stuff for the feature, and I was pretty confident in the car. The track was a little rough and once in awhile it screwed me up a little bit, but other than that it was pretty good. The car worked good everywhere. I probably could have drove harder in (turns) one and two, but the track was a little slick down there. I didn't hear, see or feel anyone. I thought I was ahead of them by a little ways, and I had a little bit left to race with. I have to thank all of my sponsors and family. My brother Mike let me borrow his motor for over the half of the year."
Paul Grigsby used the outside to take the lead from pole-sitter John Waters at the start as Wonderling and Randy Hall moved into second and third past Waters. Grigsby and Wonderling resumed their heat race battle as they raced side-by-side for the lead on laps three and four with Wonderling making the inside work taking the lead off turn two on lap four.
Ninth starting Mike Pegher, Jr. was on the move as he passed Waters for fourth on lap five. By lap eight, Wonderling began to distance himself from the field, while the battle was on for second as Hall and Grigsby raced side-by-side with Grigsby holding on until a caution with eight laps scored. When racing resumed, Waters made an aggressive move to retake fourth from Pegher, who then dove hard into turn four making contact with Waters. Waters kept going, but the night ended for Pegher along with Jason Knowles and Mike Laughard, who also got collected.
Back under green, Wonderling continued to set the pace as Grigsby and Hall resumed their side-by-side battle. Waters even made it three-wide at one point, but Grigsby maintained runner-up. Eighth starting Bryce Davis and 10th starting Brady Wonderling were able to work their way by Waters for fourth and fifth on laps 13 and 17 respectively before a caution for debris, which slowed the event for the final time with 17 laps scored.
When racing resumed on lap 18, Hall overtook Grigsby for second. Davis got too high on the following lap sliding off turn three allowing Brady Wonderling and Waters to take fourth and fifth as Davis lost numerous spots before regaining his speed. Grigsby would get by Hall for the final time on lap 23, but wouldn't have anything for Jeremy Wonderling, who captured his sixth RUSH-sanctioned victory of 2016 in his Otis Eastern/Prince Contracting/Close Racing Supply-sponsored #3J.
Grigsby's runner-up was his first career Sweeney Tour top five finish. "This was a pretty good night," acknowledged the 44-year-old Springville, New York resident. "We were chasing the car and it started coming to us at the end of the night. It takes a lap or two and then once we get going we're good, but by then they're already gone. I was pushing a little water so hopefully that didn't hurt anything. I have to thank my crew for their tireless effort. This was a brand new car that we thought was going to be a lot better than it was out of the box, but we're zeroing in on it right now. They work on it every night. I'm on the phone with Ed Carley more than he probably wants me to be, but we're dialing it in."
Hall was third. Brady Wonderling's fourth was his best career Sweeney Tour finish. Waters' fifth place finish allowed him to close to within six points of leader Bryce Davis. Completing the top 10 were Bidwell, Davis, Jon Rivers, John Haggerty, and R.J. Pistner. Eight of the top nine finishers were from New York!
Rivers improved 11 spots from his 19th starting spot and earned an $100 Precise Racing Products gift card for the "Pedal Down" hard charger honors. Garrett Mott was the final car on the lead lap in 11th and received a $25 gift certificate from CrateInsider.com. After battling for a feature redraw spot in his heat race, suspension problems forced Mike Wonderling, Jr. to scratch for the feature. He was awarded the TBM Brakes "Tough Brake of the Night".
Pegher, Grigsby, and Knowles won the heat races. Brady Wonderling became the eighth different K&N "Cold Air Induction" Dash winner in 11 events this season and won a $100 K&N certificate. Eric Wilson received a $50 K&N certificate for his runner-up finish, while Steve Beatty and Mike Laughard earned an extra $25 cash.
The Sweeney Tour will resume on Sunday, September 11 with a $2,000 to-win "Marquee" event at Tri-City Raceway Park in Franklin, Pa. for the rescheduled "Manufacturers Night" presented by MSD Performance, which will award over $45,000 in cash and contingencies. Race time is 4 p.m.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series Race #11 (25 laps, $1,500 to-win): 1. JEREMY WONDERLING (3J) 2. Paul Grigsby (24) 3. Randy Hall (Suppa 4s) 4. Brady Wonderling (z1) 5. John Waters (LeBarron 11) 6. Damian Bidwell (7Teen) 7. Bryce Davis (94) 8. Jon Rivers (85) 9. John Haggerty (49H) 10. R.J. Pistner (73) 11. Garrett Mott (43x) 12. Jason Tingue (62) 13. Eric Wilson (27W) 14. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Haseleu RJ1) 15. Mike Laughard (38L) 16. Jason Knowles (4) 17. Dave Lyon (14L) 18. Steve Beatty (B4) 19. Brad Mesler (24B) 20. Josh Ayers (73) 21. Mike Wonderling, Jr. (18)-DNS 22. Matt Ford (34)-DSQ (seals).
Car Count: 22
Feature Lap Leaders: Paul Grigsby (1-3), Jeremy Wonderling (4-25)
Precise Racing Products "Pedal Down Hard Charger": Jon Rivers (+11)
Maxima Oil "Maximum Performance": Jeremy Wonderling
TBM Brakes "Tough Brake of the Night": Mike Wonderling, Jr.
CrateInsider.com "Last Car on Lead Lap": Garrett Mott
Heat 1 (8 laps):1. Pegher 2. Bidwell 3. Waters 4. B. Wonderling 5. Beatty 6. Pistner 7. Lyon 8. Ford-DSQ.
Heat 2 (8 laps): 1. Grigsby 2. J. Wonderling 3. Hall 4. Wilson 5. Mesler 6. Mott 7. Rivers.
Heat 3 (8 laps):1. Knowles 2. Davis 3. Tingue 4. Laughard 5. Haggerty 6. M. Wonderling 7. Ayers.
K&N "Cold Air Induction" Dash (4 laps, $100 K&N certificate to win): 1. B. Wonderling 2. Wilson 3. Beatty 4. Laughard.
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, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, FK Rod Ends, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Rocket Chassis, Bobby Lake Motorsports High Gear Speed Shop, CrateInsider.com, B.R.A.K.E.S., RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.