Column: McLaughlin Close; Sears Hangs On & Rudolph Charges; Notes From Super DIRTcar Series At Weedsport

Column By: JOE GRABIANOWSKI / DIRTCAR – WEEDSPORT, NY – Sunday night in the Super DIRTcar Series event at Weedsport Speedway, outside pole sitter Max McLaughlin took the lead early before relinquishing it to eventual winner Stewart Friesen just before halfway.

The Mooresville, NC hotshoe mounted a successful counter-attack, powering his #32C Big Block around Friesen on a restart but a caution flag nullified the pass.

McLaughlin was fast right out of the trailer. He ran the fastest lap in Hot Laps and then went on to win his Heat Race which put him in the redraw where he pulled the outside pole.

McLaughlin took the lead on the initial start but began to struggle with a loose race car as the Feature progressed.

“The first 20-25 laps I felt really good,” said McLaughlin. “I was riding and taking care of my stuff. But it really started getting free off the corner. I am pretty happy with second after thinking of what could have happened starting around lap 35.”

Like Friesen, McLaughlin races in a wide variety of short-track racing disciplines.

“Stew [Friesen] is one of the best drivers in the world,” noted McLaughlin. “It’s a lot of fun racing with him and learning from him. He’s got a great race team and great cars. We just keep trying to get better and better every week and hope to be back on Victory Hill and some other tracks here soon.”

McLaughlin was able to pass Friesen on a restart, but Matt Sheppard’s flat tire brought the scoring back to the last lap. The #32C was not able to close in on the #44 to that degree again and McLaughlin had to settle for second.

However, since Friesen already has a guaranteed start in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 from winning at Bristol Motor Speedway, Max McLaughlin is awarded the guaranteed start for NAPA Super DIRT Week XLIX.

Rookie standout Tim Sears Jr. picked up his third career Super DIRTcar Series podium. The #83X’s previous two podiums came at his home track of Brewerton Speedway, which has a similar D-shape to Weedsport.

The third place is Sears Jr.’s best Series finish so far in 2021, but he was also thankful to hang on for the podium finish. He drew the pole position but the celebration was short-lived as McLaughlin road around the outside of him for the lead. Sears Jr. had some handling issues to overcome.

“We started rim riding at the end,” said Sears Jr. “We had a push that never went away all night. This track really racy. We could race all over it. Hats off to the track crew. It was a fun race.”

The yellow #83X has quickly made his presence known with the Series in a short amount of time. He’s been winning in DIRTcar Big Block Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship racing as well including a 35-lap win at Weedsport earlier this month.

“I want to thank LJL, John Wight, Troyer Dirt Cars, and everyone who has helped us get here this year,” he said after his third-place finish.

The rookie of the year chase is looking good for Tim Sears Jr.

Erick Rudolph proved once again why he is an elite talent in the Super DIRTcar Series. Weedsport Speedway gave the drivers a much different look than it had in recent races but the Ransomville, NY native and his team made the right adjustments to take his #25R Big Block from the back to the front in 100 laps.

Rudolph picked up 20 positions and finished fourth.

Seven-time champion Matt Sheppard started 11th and by lap 34 was amidst a raging battle in the top three. While McLaughlin and Friesen battled side-by-side for the lead Sheppard began reeling the pair in.

Unfortunately, his left front tire went down, the #9S slowed, and the caution flag came out.

After making the quick tire change in the pit area, Sheppard was able to claw his way back up to finish 12th to salvage valuable championship points.

The “Hile Driver” Chris Hile in the #5H laid down quick-time in Time Trials which awarded him the Billy Whittaker Cars Fast-Time Award.

Next up, living legend Brett “The Jet” Hearn joins the Super DIRTcar Series at his home track Orange County Fair Speedway for the $10,000-to-win Battle on the Midway 100 on Thursday, July 29.