When the dust settled, and there was plenty of it, Mike Knight became an unlikely but very happy winner in the United Late Model Series Super Late Model 30, Friday at Little Valley Speedway.
Knight was not an unlikely winner because of a lack of talent or a slow car. Knight in fact, is a very good racer and his car was extremely fast in the late stages Friday. He also is the defending Series champion.
Knight's win seemed improbable because he appeared to be beaten. Bump Hedman was surely set to ride into Victory Lane. Hedman was just a few hundreds yards away from taking a triumphant checkered flag when a late race caution changed destiny completely and eventually spelled defeat for the once certain winner. Knight took advantage of the late restart to pass Hedman on the final lap and gain his victory.
The first 29 laps of the Super Late Model feature where caution free despite difficult dusty conditions on a dry track. Visibility was limited due to the heavy dust.
Hedman was leading the race with Knight a few yards behind. Jason Dupont was running third. As the leaders were coming down the front stretch out of Turn Four on the final circuit the caution flag waved for an incident elsewhere on the track.
Many times when a race leading driver is so close to the finish line on the final lap the yellow and checkered flag will be thrown together to safely end a race. On Friday, just the yellow was thrown which led to the restart.
When the field aligned for the restart in which the green and white flags were displayed simultaneously, Knight made his move on the inside of Turn One and wrested the top spot away from Hedman as the pair exited Turn 2.
Knight maintained the advantage the rest of the way around the half-mile layout for his first career Little Valley Super Late Model win. Dupont was able to overhaul Hedman for second. Hedman ended up third.
"It feels so good to win here," said Knight. "I haven't been this happy in a while to win a race."
Hedman could only think about what might have been.
"I like racing here," said Hedman. "It's just so frustrating. I don't understand why they didn't throw the yellow/checkered. You would have thought they would when I was coming out of three and four."
This season has been difficult for the Little Valley track preparation crew because of the dry spring weather. The opening show on May 27 was run on a very rutted surface.
John Charlesworth the president of the Cattaraugus County Fair Board, which promotes the racing at Little Valley, said Saturday that recent problems with the track surface are being addressed.
"This past week, in the last two-three days before the race, including race day, we put between 130,000 to 140,000 gallons of water on the track," said Charlesworth. "The problem was that on Friday, we had warm, dry weather, the sun on the track and drying winds all day long. That makes for tough track preparation conditions.
"We just couldn't put enough water down to battle those conditions. Dirt tracks in general are tricky. On opening day here we put plenty of water on the top surface of the track but then the dirt underneath was too dry and the surface separated. We since have taken care of that.
"The truth is we know that our track really needs new clay. I am going to do everything I can to have good race tracks in the upcoming races."
Elsewhere, Dunn Tire Raceway Park has rescheduled two rained out events, the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour 75 for June 23 and the Sportsman Summer Slam 100 for July 7.