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Larry Ott’s WNY Auto Racing: Blair capitalizes on Hess’ bad luck

For those who wonder about the fickle nature of motorsports luck, just consult with Dave Hess Jr. Over 72 hours last week, Hess enjoyed both good luck that saw him experience the thrill of victory twice and also a single bad turn of fortunes that spelled defeat.

Only a lapped car problem at Freedom Motorsports Park on Friday denied Hess a three-race win week streak.

On Thursday, Hess, while occupying the second position, became the recipient of great luck when he took advantage of a mechanical failure of another competitor who was leading the United Late Model Series Jason Dunham Memorial at McKean County Raceway. That opened the door for Hess to go on to score a victory on his 32nd birthday.

On Friday at Freedom, Hess, while leading, appeared to have the ULMS 30-lapper well under control until he caught a bad break when a late race encounter with a lapped car allowed Max Blair to scoot past Hess and race on to victory at the Delevan-based dirt track.

Upon leaving Freedom, Hess sought to mount his steed and rebound. He did exactly that, winning the weekly Super Late Model feature Saturday at Stateline Speedway.

At Freedom, Hess had a straightaway lead over Blair when his advantage was erased by a caution flag on lap 17. When the race resumed, Hess continued to lead Blair by two car lengths. With two laps to go, a lapped car suddenly veered in front of Hess, forcing Hess to take evasive action to avoid causing an accident. With Hess’ momentum broken, Blair was able to slip by and grab the checkered flag.

After the race, Hess sat in his car dejectedly for several minutes, thinking about the victory that had just fallen from his grasp. Upon exiting his car he was consoled by his crew and friends in the pits.

“Yeah, that was about it,” Hess said about the lapped car dilemma. “There was nothing I could do. Last night I had a little luck on my side and tonight it went the other way. Congrats to Max. We’ll get him next time.

“I had a second place car there last night and won but I had the winning car tonight and lost it.”

Hess spoke about the rather large disparity in the speed of the 16-car ULMS field Friday at Freedom, from the fastest front-runners to the slowest lapped cars.

“The speeds aren’t as huge as if the guys could just hold a line,” Hess said of lapped traffic. “He (lapped car) was on the bottom so I went to the high side and he just pushed straight up. There was nothing I could do.”

Blair acknowledged that the lapped car scenario was the deciding factor in the race.

“I just knew that the top was so dominant that Hess was not going to give me the top through lapped traffic,” said Blair. “I committed myself to the bottom and made my bet and it worked out. I was there but I was never going to be able to pass him without something breaking his momentum. The top was just too fast.”

The ULMS brought a good field of cars to Freedom and track owner-promoter Bob Reis was rewarded with a near capacity crowd.

Super DIRT to Oswego officials confirmed Thursday what was speculated for the last several weeks, that the new home for October’s Super DIRT Week XLV will be the Oswego Speedway.

Several inches of clay will be laid over Oswego’s half-mile asphalt surface for the Oct. 5-9 event. Super DIRT Week, which boasts the richest and most prestigious annual big-block Modified race, was held for the first 44 years on the huge one-mile dirt track at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

The track and grandstand at the State Fairgrounds were demolished a few months ago to allow for other renovations not involving racing. Originally the new home for Super DIRT Week was set for the yet to be built Central New York Raceway Park in Hastings.

CNYRP management led by Glenn Donnelly has suffered several funding mishaps and as of now the very limited construction has been halted for the most part. Thus officials were forced to look elsewhere and forged the deal with Oswego.

For months, the racing fraternity has questioned whether a revamped Super DIRT Week, wherever it is held, will come close to the grand tradition and spectacle that the event enjoyed as sort of a dirt track fan’s version of Woodstock when it was at the State Fairgrounds on the large one-mile track.

Brad Rouse races each Friday at Freedom, where he currently leads the Sportsman points. He also is the point leader on the Sportsman Championship Trail as well as the Race of Champions Sportsman Series and is also on top of the points at Humberstone Speedway.

Rouse was the Sportsman Championship Trail Super DIRT Week winner at Syracuse in 2013, the same year he captured that series’ championship. He enjoyed the prestige of a Super DIRT Week win on the “Moody Mile” at Syracuse and now is hopeful he can do well during Super DIRT Week XLV action at Oswego.

“We thought about racing at Oswego and we kind of like it because you don’t have to go there with a brand new body,” Rouse said. “It’s going to be a lot cheaper than it has other years for a lot of the racers. It would be something kind of cool to go to Oswego and see if we can win that. We won at Syracuse and it would be nice to be the first one to win at Oswego because there will be a lot of tough competition there.

“Syracuse provided me with my most famous career win and I’ll never forget that. I’ve got mixed emotions about all of this right now.”

Rouse won at Merrittville Speedway on Saturday.

Paton sets speed mark

A big local racing historical moment occurred Friday at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway. Todd Paton of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., reset the track’s eighth-mile Top Fuel Nitro Dragster speed record, hitting a run of 3.349 seconds at 233 MPH, which easily eclipsed Shirley Muldowney’s 1996 mark of 215.31 mph.


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