The 2016 season has become a year for great racing and thrilling finishes in the Valenti Modified Racing Series, and Saturday’s Firecracker 100 at Monadnock Speedway (NH) produced another thrilling finish. Jon McKennedy scored the win on a last lap pass to beat out Russ Hersey by 0.077 seconds at the line with sparks flying the in the air.
Hersey dominated most of the race but late restarts brought McKennedy into contention after methodically working his way to the front from the seventh starting spot. McKennedy used a run from the high side off turn two to get on the inside of Hersey in a crossover move.
“I knew we had a good enough car to win. I had to make the timing just right, the crossover,” McKennedy explained to Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I had a real good run going into one up high, came all the way across the track and had a good angle coming off of turn two and had enough steam on the straight to do the big pass in three. Good hard clean pass, we were able to win it. The track’s pretty abrasive on tires, most of the race I rode around fifth to third. When it was time to go we still had a pretty good car. We were still tight in the center but had good drive up off which is real important here.”
Hersey seemed to be in a class of his own in the early laps, seemingly running anywhere he pleased on the track and pulling out a tremendous lead, despite battling lapped traffic. But he knew a late yellow might be his downfall.
“We were cruising out in front with ten (laps) to go,” said Hersey. “(We had) a straightaway on the whole field and I’m like, ‘Okay if this thing stays green nobody’s gonna catch us.’ We go through the first restart, pull out a couple of cars. Three laps later, another restart. Jon and I fired off a couple times. I got the lead, and he was better than I was up off the corner. I knew he was going to do the crossover, I tried to defend it and I just couldn’t going down. He got a great run off of two, good run into three and four, and just beat me back to the line.”
Despite being so close to an elusive MRS victory, the former Monadnock track champion was still more than happy to just be in the race.
“It was a great night. Out of anybody in New England, if I’m not going to win a race and loose a race to Jon McKennedy, he’s my favorite.”
McKennedy, a three-time MRS champion, extended his lead in the point standings with the win. Despite missing a race, his now three wins in the series keep him on top. Even with the lead, McKennedy’s plans are still uncertain for the rest of 2016. A season that has also seen him win twice down south in Southern Modified Racing Series competition.
“Great way to start the season, this is our fifth win out of nine races at five different tracks and two different series. It’s been an awesome year so far, hopefully we keep it up. We got Claremont next Friday, we’ll just go from there. We’re picking and choosing races this year, seeking some sponsorship. Hopefully we keep running like this we can get some attention from those (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) guys, maybe get a ride in those Tour races for a race or two.”
On-demand coverage of Saturday’s race at Monadnock can be found by visiting Speed51.com’s Speed Central coverage.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
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