On an afternoon when the ideal groove on the Black Rock Speedway appeared to be the bottom, Steve Gray found a way to keep his DIRTcar Sportsman wound up on the top and going forward to score a decisive victory in the Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Championship Series opener.
Gray, of Rushville, charged up from his 11th-place starting position into the top-five early on in the event. The race was marred in the opening section of the race by six caution flags in the first 7 laps, allowing Gray to wind up his Fox’s Auto No. 29g on the high side on multiple restarts.
Gray jumped into second on lap 10 and then went after race leader Donnie Lawson, defending track champion. Lawson, who was committed to the bottom, got caught up in lapped traffic just before the halfway point, allowing Gray to rocket by coming to Starter Scott Hixson’s crossed flags.
Gray inherited the lead but cautions on lap 20 and 21 allowed Lawson to regroup. The Woodhull resident would get a few runs on Gray once they were up to speed but had nothing for the former Canandaigua champion on restarts.
When the caution waved on lap 26 for a spinning No. 34 of Trevor Sutherland, Lawson not only struggled to hang with Gray, but lost the second spot to two-time defending Mr. DIRTcar Series Champion Chris Raabe, as the Nappanee, Ont. teenager dove his No. 01 to the inside to collect a solid finish in defense of his title.
For Gray, the win was his third in a series race, his first since Rolling Wheels Raceway Park in October of 2008. He has always run well at Black Rock but breaking through in an event like this was still uncertain for him.
“I was just hoping the car would stay together,” declared Gray in Victory Lane. “I couldn’t even get the car to stay on the bottom. Every time I went to the bottom it would drive back up to the top so I had to run there.”
Lawson settled in behind Gray and Raabe, with ’09 Series runner-up Ryan Susice in fourth and Eric Giguere completing a stout top-five.
The Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Series returns to action next week when the top traveling teams venture to the north country for round two at Can-Am Motorsports Park on Saturday, April 17.
Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship Series Race #1 – Black Rock Speedway, April 10, 2010 ‘Rock Launcher’ Event Summary
Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Feature (30 Laps) - STEVE GRAY, Chris Raabe, Donnie Lawson, Ryan Susice, Eric Giguere, Brady Fultz, Mark Chiddy, Dan Wiesner, Loren Lincoln, Jesse Cotriss, Shane Pecore, Fran Hilton, Daryl Hilkert, Rob Richmond Jr., Mark Dixon, Trevor Sutherland, Christine Martin, Greg Donnelly, Justin Wright, Bryan Faulkner, Randy McCulloch, Ricky Newton, Greg Cool, A.J. Potzrebowski, Brent Ayers, Serenity Sutherland, Marcus Dinkins, Tim Sears Jr., Rob Humphreys, Billy VanPelt.
DNQ- Brett Buono.
Lap Leaders: Lawson (1-14), Gray (15-19), Lawson (20-21), Gray (22-30).
Heat Winners: Fultz, Susice, Lawson, Raabe.
Consolation Winner: Dinkins.
Syracuse SDW 30 Qualifier: Steve Gray.