With a lap count dwindling and an engine counting down to destruction, Justin Weaver kept his eyes on the prize at Hagerstown Speedway (MD) Saturday night in the season opener for the ULTIMATE Northeast Super Late Model Series. With smoke billowing from his No. 72, Weaver ran down race dominator Kyle Lee and captured the checkered flag just before his engine finally gave out.
Needing a push both to the scales and to victory lane, dripping oil everywhere he went, Weaver celebrated a major a career highlight. Not only was it his first ULTIMATE Northeast win, but his first in a Super Late Model.
Still fresh off his 2018 Mason Dixon Shootout Series championship for Limited Late Models, the Williamsport, Maryland driver celebrated his first SLM triumph on home clay with family and friends in attendance.
“I don’t even know what to say. I’ve won some pretty cool races, but this one is at the top of the list,” Weaver told Speed51.com. “I asked my girlfriend last night at dinner if we could pull one off first time out, and sure enough we’re here.”
After drawing sixth in the pre-race redraw, Weaver had a tough task ahead of him for the 30-lap feature. With Kyle Lee checking out in the opening laps, Weaver caught a break with a yellow flag just before halfway. Storming up to second on the restart, Weaver kept pace with Lee for the next 10 laps, closing the gap with five laps to go.
“We got a chance to cool our tires down there and I kept running down in the brown on the bottom of the race track kind of saving my tires for the end. It just kind of worked out the last couple of laps, my stuff kept going and Kyle kept dropping off a little bit. Just luck of the draw, we were there at the right time.”
It was around that time when smoke and oil began to seep from Weaver’s No. 72, but with a major victory within grasp, Weaver had no intention of backing down.
“I pulled up beside (Lee), I knew we were good, but I heard the motor going south and I smelled a little oil,” Weaver explained. “From Lap 28 I looked up to the scoreboard, to Lap 29 it got a little worse, and I thought it was about time to pull this in. But, when you’re passing for the lead it’s a little tough to pull in on the last lap. So, we just sent it and it all worked out.”
As Weaver celebrated, Lee mulled over what led to his downfall, concluding that he had not adjusted his racing line appropriately the final laps.
“I think the top started to get thinner and thinner, and I was committed to it,” Lee commented. “Didn’t really want to move down off the top, just screwed up, should’ve moved down those last five laps. It is what it is, I guess.”
Another local from just north of the Mason-Dixon Line in Mercersburg, PA, Lee was determined to race Weaver to the very end, sporting no ill will towards Weaver’s ailing engine the final laps.
“Nah, I don’t wish that on anybody,” Lee said. “That was a good race, he ran good, and I was just keeping my fingers crossed that the lapped cars would get in his way, which they didn’t. Just screwed up, should have gone to the bottom.”
In the end, Weaver was perfectly content trading an engine for a big race victory. Though he hopes in the future that won’t be the case.
“It’s tough. We got more motors, but when it comes to the scheme of things the cost of those motors doesn’t involve in what it costed to win this race.”
While not committed to running for a single title in 2019, Weaver has close to 60 races on the docket, running a number of big money events around the region.
ULTIMATE Northeast racers will have an opportunity to earn bonus points towards the season during the next two ULTIMATE Southeast races at Volunteer Speedway (TN) on April 4 and in the ‘King of the Commonwealth’ at Virginia Motor Speedway on April 20. The next points race will be the Earl Hill Memorial at Tyler County Speedway (WV) on May 4, a combo event with ULTIMATE Mid-Ohio Valley.
Race fans can watch a full video replay of Saturday’s ULTIMATE Northeast opener at Hagerstown by subscribing to the Speed51 Network today.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Duane Canfield