By Mike Mallett
Mike Mahaney’s had a decent stretch in the last few weeks with the Super DIRTcar Series. Excluding Monday’s 26th-place finish at Brewerton Speedway, he’s picked up three top-ten finishes, including a win, a second, and a sixth-place finish. Even on Monday, he was battling in the top five when things went south.
It’s been a pretty good run for the driver originally from King Ferry, N.Y., after the team made some changes during his first swing through Quebec with the Short Track Super Series, and it’s paying dividends. Wednesday night, he was back on track, finishing second to Sheppard at the Land of Raceway in the SummerFAST finale.
“What we had in Quebec was solid, and I’m really happy with the finishes in the runs we’ve had since then,” said Mahaney. “We’ve also had some minor and major failures. We had a driveshaft issue and an engine issue with a rocker stand breaking off a cylinder head. It’s just kind of stupid stuff. You just take it and move on. I’m happy we got a good finish tonight.”
The team utilized yesterday to make repairs to the No. 35, which broke a U-bolt strap. It broke and came out, wrecking the torque arm and the transmission. The fixes were on point, as he was solid throughout the evening, battling for a victory while moving him to fourth in overall series points.
“We got a brand new Strange Oval driveshaft in there now, a new Bert Transmission, and a new torque arm,” said Mahaney. “This track was pretty different tonight. It had kind of a fast, tacky frontstretch and a slick rest of the track. Our DIG Shocks were really good. I was really happy with how we got through some of the bumps and stuff and then still handled the slick too. The car was very versatile.”
Lehner Heating Up: Things are clicking right now for Jack Lehner. The Saratoga Springs, N.Y., driver has scored three consecutive top-10 finishes, including two top fives this week. Lehner was fifth Monday at Brewerton Speedway before a strong third on Wednesday at Land of Legends.
Lehner started on the front row and led the first few laps before Mahaney slid by. Then he watched as Sheppard bolted by him and the Mahaney before winning the 60-lap feature. Sheppard checked out, but he stayed with Mahaney throughout the race.
“Starting on the front row and going backwards is never good, but I’m happy with tonight, and overall, I’m happy with fifth on Monday,” said Lehner. “I’m happy with the whole deal being able to come out here and run top five every night with the series. You know you’re doing something right.
“Mahaney was on the pole, and Sheppard got around both of us, and then we maintained. Sheppard was definitely a little bit better than us, mostly through four. It seemed like he could get stuck and get away through there a little bit better than both of us. All race long, I felt like I was about the same speed as Mahaney, and it just kind of came down to picking lanes through lapped traffic. I got really close to him at the end there and was hoping I’d be able to get him, but all in all, I can’t be upset with that.”
The recent consistency has moved him into eighth in points, as he’s just ahead of Max McLaughlin and Larry Wight while trying to chase down Peter Britten and Chris Hile, who are just in front of him. If he keeps rolling, he’ll keep moving up, and maybe the first series win of the season is just around the corner. He noted he’s been working a lot with Joe Matthews at Fox Shocks.
“It’s definitely encouraging that we’re making progress,” said the driver known as the Ginja Ninja. “One thing I’m really proud of is our consistency. It seems like when we start running up front, we run up front at a lot of different racetracks and keep that kind of thing going. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum rolling and keep working on it, and hopefully we can get a series win before the year is over.”
Williamson Fights Fifth: Mat Williamson wasn’t in position to make a last lap pass for the win on Wednesday, but he had a strong showing aboard the Buzz Chew Racing No. 88. Land of Legends isn’t typically one of his stronger tracks, so to come home fourth after starting 12th, that’s a good night.
“I would have given away my firstborn child to get a top five after the way we ran here last time,” joked Williamson. “So it’s better. It’s not winning and gaining points on Matt. Everything we gained at Brewerton we lost tonight, and then some, so big picture, it’s probably not good, but we were a lot better tonight than we had been here in the past, so that is something to look forward to.”
All is not lost as the series shifts to Ransomville Speedway, his home track next week before returning to Weedsport Speedway. The chances to gain points on Sheppard are there.
Wednesday, the St. Catharines, Ont., driver was extremely maneuverable in his Bicknell. There wasn’t a line on the track where he was afraid to run. Whether it was the top, middle, or bottom, his car was good enough to pass cars. That’s what helped him in the later stages of the race, as he battled not only for position, but with slower cars as well.
“I could really go anywhere; that was why I was really good in lapped traffic,” said Williamson. “I could maneuver and use the middle of the racetrack if I had to, so at the end, I tried to go around Marcus (Dinkins), and the thing got tight. I just had a dead push in turn four, but other than that, it was really good.”
Ride Swapping: Mechanical woes continued for Anthony Perrego on Wednesday. Perrego had problems after hot laps with his Vinny Salerno-owned ride. Enter Kevin Root. Root vacated his No. 34 and allowed Perrego to compete in the event. Perrego finished 14th after taking a provisional to start 27th.
Changing Places: Although there wasn’t a lot of change in the top three spots during the 60 lapper, there was plenty of passing going on in the middle of the field. Felix Roy passed 13 cars to finish ninth. Erick Rudolph passed 10 cars to get to 10th. On the flip side, Todd Root made the redraw and finished 17th after starting fifth, and Tim Sears Jr. struggled coming home in 20th after starting seventh.