Defeat at Fulton sets up thrilling first career Sportsman Series victory
Chris Mackey was staring down a single chance at redemption on a restart with seven laps to go. He knew he had to take it.
After leading 47 laps and ending up second last Saturday night at Fulton Speedway, Mackey sung a song of redemption atop Weedsport Speedway’s Victory Hill Wednesday night. The Rome, NY-driver made the final pass for the lead on Alan Fink with just five laps left to capture his first career DIRTcar Sportsman Modified Series Feature win as part of NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLIX.
“I knew the restart was an opportunity I didn’t have up to that point in the race,” Mackey said. “Luckily, it worked out for us. Sometimes it doesn’t. Last week, it didn’t seem to work for us with everyone else on our tail at Fulton. But we’re standing up here tonight.”
Nothing worth having ever comes easy, and this one certainly wasn’t for Mackey. He moved past polesitter Will Shields for the lead on Lap 6, but Fink was cracking the whip right behind him.
Fink, of Central Square, NY, began his charge to the front from outside Row 5 and worked his way to sixth before the first caution on Lap 6. On the restart, Fink made a stellar move to go from sixth to third in one lap, and then got by Shields for second one lap later.
Now with only one car in front of him, Fink closed in quickly and began hounding Mackey’s rear bumper. He looked to Mackey’s outside several times before getting enough top-side momentum to make the pass at the halfway mark.
Fink ran into lapped traffic ahead with Mackey trailing not far behind and was maneuvering through well when the caution flag flew with seven laps remaining. This restacked the field and put Mackey right on his bumper for the restart.
“Going on the restart, I thought we gained a little on [Fink], but I didn’t know,” Mackey said. “We’d go in lapped traffic, and I’d close a little bit, then he’d pull back out.”
However, Mackey had paid attention when Fink passed him on the top earlier. So, he decided to go where Fink wasn’t to attempt the pass back.
“Alan showed me where the top was, and I knew I had to get him on the restart,” Mackey said. “Both racing hard, and we race week-in and week-out with Alan. We always race each other hard.”
One lap after the green dropped, Mackey got a big bite down low and pulled even with Fink going down the backstretch. As they drag raced into Turn 3, Mackey pulled ahead slightly and made the pass with a quick slide job out of Turn 4 to reclaim the lead.
“I felt like we were pulling away a little bit, and on that restart… I don’t know, maybe I should have chose the bottom on the start and then went back to the outside,” Fink said.
Mackey had found the faster lane on the bottom and zipped around the 3/8-mile to the checkers in front of Brian Calabrese, who came to life in the final circuits after running fourth the entire race. He moved to third on Lap 25 and got around Fink for second just two laps later, sealing his runner up finish at the stripe.
“[Mackey and Fink] were battling hard and I put my left-rear in the brown on the bottom, and just kept front-braking it, and I knew I might have something,” Calabrese said. “I missed the brown coming to the white, and that was my opportunity to win the race, but this has always been a dream to get up here on this hill. This is awesome.”
Fink was able to hold on for third while Zach Sobotka and AJay Potrezebowski Jr. crossed behind him to complete the top-five. Sportsman Central Region champion Matt Janczuk made a nice recovery after starting 20th, advancing 13 positions in 30 laps to finish seventh.
The Sportsman Modifieds are back in action Thursday night at Brewerton Speedway for Round #3 of the DIRTcar Fall Championship. Catch all the action live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.
Feature (30 Laps) – 1. 3-Chris Mackey; 2. 21c-Brian Calabrese; 3. 8-Alan Fink; 4. 38-Zach Sobotka; 5. 72-AJay Potrezebowski Jr; 6. 82s-Will Shields; 7. 33x-Matt Janczuk; 8. 10g-Austin Germinio; 9. 111-Brett Senek; 10. 7-Michael Sabia; 11. 17J-Brent Joy; 12. 35T-Cameron Tuttle; 13. 69-Travis Green; 14. 31b-Ryan Dolbear; 15. 64-Tyler Corcoran; 16. 7z-Zach Payne; 17. 5-Tanner Siemons; 18. 29-Nick Heywood; 19. 6-Cody Manitta; 20. 12-Jon Miller; 21. 99m-Mike Phelps; 22. 54-Fred Proctor; 23. 29c-Matt Caprara; 24. 16-Earl Rudy; 25. 11-Ben Wheeler; 26. 70a-Alex Payne; 27. 92-Andrew Buff; 28. 30-Mike Root.