Jason Gray has captured the Bear Ridge DIRTcar Sportsman Championship for the last three years consecutive. On Saturday night he added to his impressive resume by making a late race pass on Max Dolliver to take home a $1,056 top prize for winning the East Region opening event.
The East Thetford, Vermont driver won the first heat on the evening, redrew the fourth starting position and with the wave of Dave Farney’s green flag he went to work.
“They worked the top to try and bring it back during intermission. Even though I started on the outside row I really wasn’t sure if it was going to work,” said Gray on his race strategy. “I went low as soon as I could I really had the plan to stay there. It was real slick last week and even with what they did I thought it was going to do the same.”
While Gray had some work to do starting fourth, the redraw was kind to Dolliver drawing the number one spot. He also had a plan to stay on the low side of the track and immediately opened up distance on Matt Lashua and Gray.
“Max was strong. I wasn’t sure if I had speed to get him so I was hoping for lapped traffic,” noted Gray, “Luckily we had a long green flag run at the end. Max and I caught the slower cars and it changed the whole race.”
With less than ten laps to go, both front runners caught up to the lap car of Tim Martin. Martin was holding a steady line on the inside with Dolliver trying to get alongside and Gray staying right behind.
The drama last for several laps until Gray made his move. “I had to do something, I had to make a move and I did what I had to do,” Gray dead-panned. With five laps to go he nudged the back bumper of Martin which made his car drift into Dolliver’s lane. That was the move that won the race for Gray.
Dolliver, while disappointed not to take home what would be his career highlight, he knew it was racing and was still smiles afterwards. “Yea, I really wanted to win this race, but I also can’t blame Jason. He did what he needed to do; it was the smart move,” Dolliver continued, “The Series event is a big deal and we had a shot.”
Invader Nick Heywood was one of the few that took to the newly worked outside groove and for about 2/3rds of the event it worked as he went from his fifth starting spot to second. However, the lap 17 restart proved game changing with the sealing over of his right rear.
“I think I used my car up too early. I got heat in the tires and when the yellow came out I think they just sealed over. The car just wasn’t the same after that,” said the Sportsman star, “It was a bummer, I think I had something on the outside for them but I was more hanging on at the end.”
When Dave Farney waved the double checkered flag it was Gray a few car lengths ahead of Dolliver. Heywood just nipped DJ Robinson for third with Lashua coming home in fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Josh Sunn, Todd Buckwold, opening night winner at Bear Ridge in Richie Simmons, Jeff Huntington and Mike Ryan who also claimed the free Hoosier Racing Tire.
Heat wins of the 25 cars on hand were captured by Gray, Buckwold and Lashua.
DIRTcar Sportsman East Region Feature Finish – 40 Laps – 1. Jason Gray ($1,056), 2. Max Dolliver, 3. Nick Heywood, 4. DJ Robinson, 5. Matt Lashua, 6. Josh Sunn, 7. Todd Buckwold, 8. Richie Simmons, 9. Jeff Huntington, 10. Mike Ryan, 11. Derrick McGrew Jr., 12. James Fadden, 13. Robert Tucker, 14. Ryan Christian, 15. Tim Churchill, 16. Jason Bruno, 17. Jeremy Huntoon, 18. Melvin Pierson, 19. Kierra Backus, 20. Tim Martin, 21. CV Elms, 22. Chris Huntington, 23. Brian Chaffee, 24. Earl Maxham, 25. Jim Morgan.