A combination of pit strategy and outwitting the competition was what it was going to take to win the 16th Annual John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout at Concord Speedway (NC) Saturday night. At the end of a long day at the tricky North Carolina tri-oval, Jon McKennedy found the perfect mixture to add a win in the prestigious Modified race to his resume.
“Awesome day, great race. It’s pretty neat to win this race,” McKennedy told Speed51.com. “I didn’t get a chance to really know John, but he was a hell of a wheelman and he’s up there looking down on us. His brother [Jimmy Blewett] even got a good finish, top-three, that’s awesome. Big thanks to my crew, Tommy Baldwin, Accell Construction and all who make this possible.”
A total of 27 Tour-type Modifieds made the trip to Concord, North Carolina with hopes of securing a big victory before the end of the racing season.
McKennedy set the pace early on Saturday by claiming the pole for the 125-lap feature with a lap time of 15.296. Brandon Ward, James Civali, Cameron Sontag and Chuck Hossfeld all were within three-tenths of McKennedy’s qualifying time and made up the top five in qualifying.
McKennedy and Ward led the field to green for the 125-lap feature. McKennedy got the jump on the start and left the rest of the field behind to duke it out for position. He looked to have no match in the early portion of the race until lapped traffic allowed Chuck Hossfeld to get to the bumper of the No. 7NY and challenge for the lead. McKennedy was able to hold off Hossfeld until the first round of pit stops.
After the leaders and several others made their way down pit road for tires and adjustments, a new front row of Ronnie Silk and Jimmy Blewett led the field back to green on the restart. However, the battle for the lead intensified. Silk took the lead but had Blewett, Fultz, Seuss and Measmer all knocking at the door and looking to take away that top spot.
As the leaders were battling for position in the front of the pack, McKennedy was quickly making his way back to the front after his pit stop. As Seuss made his pass for the lead, McKennedy had just broken into the top three and was hunting down the leaders.
Seuss was able to fend off the hard-charging McKennedy and Nocella until lapped traffic allowed the two to diminish the lead and open the door for a new leader once again.
After another round of pit stops and a lengthy red flag for a nine-car pileup on the front stretch, it was time for one more restart. McKennedy jumped to the lead over Seuss with 21 laps to go. Seuss began to fade, but it was a hard-charging Matt Hirschman with the late-race run to challenge McKennedy for the victory. McKennedy beat Hirschman by just a car-length for the win.
“It was a tough race for sure,” McKennedy told Speed51.com. “It looked like Seuss and a couple of the other guys and I were all pretty even. I told my guys on the radio that my best chance to get by Andy (Seuss) was on the restart and that’s exactly what happened and here we are.
“Everything worked out; we led probably half of the race, got the pole, won the race.”
Hirschman’s valiant effort ended with a runner-up finish, while Jimmy Blewett, John Smith and Andy Seuss completed the top five.
Race fans can find on-demand coverage of Saturday’s North-South Shootout by visiting Speed51.com’s Trackside Now.
Video highlights of the race will be available soon on the Speed51 Video Network.
-Story by Madison Mabry, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com