It was a battle between two “Pennsylvania Posse” favorites in the inaugural Dirt Classic presented by Kasey Kahne at Lincoln Speedway (PA) on September 27. In a race with a unique format and impressive payday, the evening started off deadlocked between veterans Stevie Smith and Lance Dewease.
A points system composed of time trials and two sets of heat races determined the top 20 starting order. Both drivers timed in identically in qualifying, but it was determined that Smith would receive the top spot points due to a faster second lap. Both drivers had no problem in their first set of heats and received maximum points for their wins. The difference in the front row starting positions would be in the second go round with the top eight starters in each heat inverted and the value of points doubled. Smith finished third and Dewease finished fourth in their respective races.
That would prove not to matter in the 40-lap feature, as Dewease would get the jump for the early lead. It would only take Smith, the May World of Outlaws winner at the track in the Pigeon Hills of Pennsylvania, three laps to regain the lead on the outside. From there, Smith would lead the rest of the way for the prestigious victory.
“I think that our race car was a little better,” Smith told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “He got the jump on the start, and I was just able to get back around him. I think that won the race for us.”
Second place finisher and fellow veteran of Sprint Car racing Dewease agreed.
“His car was just better,” said Dewease. “They’ve been a better race car all year than about anybody. I could have maybe held his speed up a little bit better, but 40 laps the best race car is going to win here. A second to them is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Although Smith led the rest of the way, by no means was it a cakewalk. In the closing laps Smith caught the Justin Henderson car at the tail end of the field. At that point, he had to make a decision whether to attempt to lap him or hold his position despite Dewease as well as Shane Stewart and Alan Krimes closing in behind him.
“I’ve lost plenty of races trying to roll around him there,” said Smith. You don’t have much time to decide.”
Dewease believed it was the right move as well, and made one last run at the lead coming out of the final corner on the final lap.
“The only thing he did, he kind of swerved way up off of four coming for the checkered,” said Dewease. “If he just slipped a little bit there where I could get underneath him then I might have had a shot, but he knows what to do.”
Two of the finest drivers in the business put on a show for the fans and both were satisfied to see it turn out that way.
“Lance was right there,” said Smith. “He’s a damn good race car driver. He was bound determined to win this race. We really had to work hard for it. They had a really good race car for me and that won me the race.”
Smith’s team is owned by Pennsylvania racing legend Fred Rahmer, who hung up the helmet at the end of 2013. Rahmer spoke very highly of Smith.
“Stevie’s done a great job every time he’s sat in my car,” complimented Rahmer. “It’s just crazy.”
Altogether, it was a popular format for an event with droves of fans filing their way into the facility to watch more than 50 410 Sprints in action.
“It’s a great event,” concluded Rahmer, who holds 11 titles at Lincoln Speedway including his final season in 2013. “It’s really cool to have such a great turnout. Nice to see all the people come out and hopefully they had a great time.”
The general consensus was that the event was a slightly different format from what they typically run weekly or in the World of Outlaws tour, but agreed that it was a fair format. What the drivers wanted to rave about was the work organizers including NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne put in to making it successful.
“The Kahne family and everybody involved in the whole deal did a great job promoting this thing all year long,” commented Dewease. “Hopefully they can build it into a big thing for next year and keep on moving it. I think they know what they are doing, they look forward to make it successful, and I look forward to it being a success.”
The winner and more certainly hope that the event, in which proceeds from the 50/50 went to the Kasey Kahne Foundation, returns to the same professionally run facility.
“I told Kasey earlier ‘you couldn’t have picked a better race track,’” noted Smith. “He knows. He’s been around. They put a good thing together.”
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com correspondent – Twitter @Aaron_Creed. Photo credit: Speed51.com