When it came to Late Model style racing Friday at Little Valley Speedway, simply put, there was Max Blair and then everyone else. Blair, one of the most dominant drivers in recent local auto racing history, cruised to victories in both the Super Late Model and Crate Late Model features at the speedway on the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds.
Blair, of Centerville, Pa., started eighth in the 13-car, 25-lap Super Late Model field but it mattered little. By Lap Nine, Blair drove by Dutch Davies to gain second position and then two laps later sailed by Bump Hedman to get the lead, which he did not relinquish over the remaining distance. Blair won by nearly a full straightway over Davies and Hedman.
Earlier Friday, for the most part, the task of winning was even easier for Blair in the Crate Late Model Duclon Memorial 25. Blair took off from his outside pole starting assignment and gained the lead off of Turn Two from pole-sitter Wyatt Scott and basically the race was over. Blair built a half-straightway advantage over Scott on Little Valley's large one-half mile dirt oval by lap four and managed the situation from there gaining the triumph by that same half-straightaway margin over eventual podium finishers Brad Mesler and Jeremy Wonderling. The third-place finish by Wonderling was notable considering he was plagued by mechanical issues in his heat race earlier in the event.
Blair enjoyed his Friday double dip into Little Valley's Winner's Circle. He noted that Little Valley is one of his favorites tracks to drive on and perhaps that gave him extra motivation.
Also to Blair advantage is his superb natural driving talent, a good pit crew, well maintained race equipment and the advice of Blair's father, Super Late Model veteran winning driver Rob Blair. It's understandable, then, why Max often wins everywhere he races.
"We set up and race here in a similar way to everywhere else we go," Blair said. "But I love racing at Little Valley and I think that has a lot to do with it. I got a lot of people here that support me and I think that's the main thing. When I come here I want to win more than anywhere else. I will always be here to support this place as long as they keep giving us the opportunity to race."
Blair explained how he was able to get the lead from Hedman in Friday's Super Late Model headliner event.
"When I caught Bump for the lead I got to him and I decided that I was going to go back to the top like I did when I got by Dutch," Blair said. "When I got to Bump I decided that I was going to go to the top so we got to Turn One and there wasn't as much room up there as I was anticipating. I ended up getting way above the cushion and I thought that was going to hurt me. It launched me through the center of that corner and I had such a run and I think I got pretty lucky there."
Earlier in the evening as Blair was happily celebrating his victory in the Crate Late Model attraction, he gave much credit to his father for his overall career success.
"It's certainly helps to have my father Rob Blair in my corner because he's one of the smartest people in the sport and that's where it's at right there," Max said.
The most dramatic and closest race of the night Friday occurred in the Randy Bradley E-Mod Memorial 25. David Scott and Joel Watson engaged in a close, fan-pleasing battle for the lead that saw Scott prevail over Watson by just a few car lengths. After Watson won his heat race and Scott seemingly struggled in his heat race effort all appeared to be favoring Watson for the Bradley race. It did not turn out that way.
Watson grabbed the lead on Lap one when Dan Davies spun in Turn Four. Scott immediately moved into second. As the race rolled along, Scott made a few challenges for the top spot but Watson was able to hold him at bay. Then on Lap Nine, Scott powered by Watson exiting Turn Four to gain the top spot for the first time. On Lap 15, Scott's car suddenly slowed for a few seconds in Turn Two, allowing Watson to temporarily regain the lead, but Scott quickly remounted a charge and retook the lead for the final time a lap later.
Scott knows Little Valley well having authored nine consecutive Super Late Model feature race victories there several years ago, and he used his experience and did not panic when he had the poor heat race result or when his car temporarily faltered in the Bradley Memorial.
"The carburetor, when I'd get in those ripples the thing would stall and it just wouldn't run," Scott said of his lap 15 bobble. "It would take 60, 70 feet for it to start running again. I thought that I had a pretty good lead and I tried to do a couple things different because it would run then spend a couple laps with it not running right. Joel drove back by me and I'm like I can't let this happen."
After his heat race, Scott left the car alone for the Bradley Memorial.
"For the feature we didn't change anything," Scott said. "The track had a lot of crumbs on it in the heat race and I didn't know if I was tight or loose. I figured that I've driven around this place enough I figured out a way to get around here pretty good."