By: Bobby Sweeney
LAFARGEVILLE, NY – Erick Rudolph claimed the win in an action-packed John Burr Memorial for the DIRTcar 358-Modifieds, driving by Tim Sears Jr. late in the event for his second Can-Am Speedway checkered of the year.
Preston Forbes showed good speed at the start of the 30-lap small block Modified feature, trailed early by a trio of winners at Can-Am this season. By lap five, Sears, Billy Dunn, and Rudolph had worked into second, third, and fourth, with Forbes still holding strong out front. However, the top four grew closer together with every passing lap.
With Forbes high, Sears went low and grabbed the lead on lap ten. Rudolph nearly drove from fourth to second in the next set of turns, but settled behind Forbes and in front of Dunn. One circuit later, lap 12, Dunn came to a halt on the frontstretch, out of the race.
Rudolph restarted third, but made quick work of Forbes when racing resumed. Sears got a good initial launch, but Rudolph inched in with every corner. Both drivers opted for the top in turns three and four, with Sears also married to the top in turns one and two. With Sears committed, Rudolph spent turns one and two searching down low. By lap 20, Sears’ lead was under a second.
A straightaway back, Forbes was under fire from Modified rookie Jackson Gill and newly crowned track champion Mike Maresca, with Maresca starting 15th. A handful of seconds ahead of the battle for third, Rudolph had caught Sears and was mulling over his options to pass. Despite poking a nose low a couple of times, lapped traffic running low forced Rudolph off the bottom and behind Sears for the time being.
With five laps left, Rudolph grabbed good bite off the bottom of turn two, getting enough position to toss a slider on Sears entering turn three. The pass stuck, with Rudolph grabbing the lead on lap 25, just before the leaders hit heavy traffic. With the traffic now up top, this forced Sears to the bottom, a lane he had not ran since passing Forbes on lap 10. However, Rudolph was well versed on the bottom, and the traffic played right into his hands.
Rudolph continued running the lane that got him to the lead in the final laps, and with Sears struggling to maneuver through traffic, Rudolph pulled away. With the checkered waiving, it was Rudolph scoring his second win of the season, taking the 30-lap feature win to go along with his Pabst Shootout win in July. Sears crossed in second, followed by Maresca, Gill, and Tim Fuller.
“I’m glad to be here and always glad to race at Can-Am,” Rudolph said. “Once again we got a racy track to play on, and this car has always been super maneuverable. It did take me a few laps during the feature to figure out what it needed. We struggled some in the heat, but put our heads together, decided to be smart, and made the right choices. I’m not sure what the fall will bring, but I know we’ll be busy and be back here at least once more.”