Max Blair had never seen Delaware Int'l Speedway previous to the Sweeney Rush Late Model Tour presented by Pancho's Racing Products invading Charlie Cathell's half-mile dirt oval on Wednesday.
After a few hours at the Delmar, DE circuit, he cruised to a dominating triumph en route to earning a $2,000 reward and controlling the momentum entering the second round for the 'Battle of the Bay' Speedweek, a four-race points series hosted this week underneath the Rush Late Model Tour Series direction.
“This is is big,” a grinning Blair said in the winners circle. “Actually, this was our first race of the season. So, it definitely gives us some confidence. It also helps make the trip down here a little better, that's for sure.”
Hailing from Centerville, Pa., about seven hours from the Delaware stops on the schedule, the win marked Blair's first checkered flag in The First State and his 19th in Rush Late Model Tour competition.
“This was a great night of racing,” Blair explained. “I've never been here before tonight. Now I wish this place was a little closer because that was fun racing.”
Riding the momentum from an eight place finish in last weekend's Ultimate Super Late Model Series showdown at Virginia Motor Speedway, Delaware native Austin Hubbard rallied from an 11th place starting spot to finish runner-up at his home-track.
Reigning Delmar Super Late Model track champion Ross Robinson, who will compete in the entire four-race Speedweek, rallied during the beginning stages of the 30-lap feature to record a third place finish.
“We had a great car to be able to drive from sixth into contention,” Robinson expressed. “I am extremely happy with how tonight went. You're always gonna replay what could've happened in a race, but I felt like we did all we could.”
After a heat race win and setting fast time during the hot lap session, hot-shoe Amanda Whaley ended up with a fourth place finish at her hometrack. Behind her, the defending Sweeney Rush Late Model Weekly Series champion Logan Roberson closed out the top five positions.
Swinging gates open at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, Delaware and Rush Late Model Series officials welcomed 48 Crate Models for the opening race to the inaugural 'Battle of the Bay' Speedweek.
In time trials, Charlie Sandercock, who was commuting to the circuit from Ontario, Canada, flexed his muscle as he earned the 'FK Rod Ends Shock the Clock Qualifying fast time award with a 19.999 second lap time.
During heat race action, Blair, Whaley, John Waters, Matt Hill and Jason Genco picked up wins in their respective eight lap qualifiers, leaving them to do battle in the K&N Filters Dash (a four-lap race between all the heat race winners to decide the starting lineup).
Waters, in dominating fashion, won the dash to earn the first starting position for the feature.
During the opening stages of the main event, Blair made swift moves to improve from his fourth starting spot to the lead over Waters. From there, aside from two cautions, Blair never looked back and rocketed to the checkers.
Holding the current 'Battle of the Bay' Speedweek points lead after the opening round, Blair is also now prepared to defend his championship advantage in tomorrow's Rush Late Model Series event at Georgetown Speedway, which is located less then 40 minutes from Delmar.
“Ive never been to Georgetown and I'd never been here [to Delaware Int'l Speedway] before either,” Blair added. “So, hopefully we get [the same result] tomorrow.”
Hubbard and Robinson, who were also on the podium tonight, will also be competing tomorrow at Georgetown, which is a track both have had ample success at on in previous seasons.
“I think we have about as good as shot as anyone else tomorrow,” Robinson said. “Clean air will be vital at Georgetown. Basically, we just reset and tomorrow we start over.”
In addition to tomorrow in Georgetown, Del., the Speedweek continues on Friday, April 20th at Potomac Speedway (Budds Creek, Md.) with a 'Battle of the Bay' champion being crowned on Saturday, April 21st at Winchester Speedway (Winchester, Va.)
Each event is $2,000 to win with a $3,000 point fund ($1,000 to the champion) available after the four-race series.
While some drivers and teams from the Northeast spent the night in hotels and in motor homes outside both Delaware complexes, other local Crate Model drivers are prepared for work tomorrow before putting on the helmet at night.
“I actually have work tomorrow, but we'll be ready to do battle,” Millsboro, Del. hotshoe Robinson laughed.
Action from Georgetown is slated to start with pit opening at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Both the Rush Late Model Tour and Big-Block Modifieds, who are bolstering a $6,000-to-win event, will be in action.
Story By: Marshall Gabel - Twitter: @MarshallGabel
Photo Credit: Max Blair Racing