CONCORD, N.C. — Mike Mahaney made a clear statement during Thursday night’s preliminary activities for the Super DIRTcar Series big-block modifieds at The Dirt Track at Charlotte: he’s at the track to contend.
Mahaney posted top-three qualifying efforts for both the Friday and Saturday portions of the World of Outlaws World Finals presented by Can-Am, then went out and backed them up by winning both of his heat races at the four-tenths-mile dirt oval and locking in to the redraw for both features this weekend.
The 29-year-old driver from King Ferry, N.Y., is seeking his first Super DIRTcar Series win during the World Finals and feels he has a car that can contend if his early speed remains.
“When we came in for time trials, we were just a little bit disappointed, because last year we came in here and got quick time for both sessions,” noted Mahaney. “We were just a tick low on fuel pressure. We got that going and we were much better in the second session. Somebody’s wheel fell off and we didn’t get two laps in a row.
“The heat races went phenomenal. We nailed our restarts,” he added. “It’s just really a product of how hard these guys work on the Buzz Chew Racing team and the notes they take. This car is just as fast as last year when we qualified. If I can make the right adjustments, we’ll have a really good shot at this.”
Eight-time Super DIRTcar Series champion Brett Hearn kicked off the festivities for the Friday night program by turning the fastest overall lap in the first time trial session in group 4b of qualifying.
Hearn’s time of 15.674 seconds (91.872 mph) with the No. 20 held up over Mahaney, Jessy Mueller, Yan Bussiere and three-time series champion Billy Decker.
Saturday time trials saw Decker leap up to the top of the board with a time of 15.579 seconds (92.432 mph) in the Mike Payne Racing No. 91, ahead of Keith Flach, Mahaney, Tim Fuller and Tim McCreadie, who is doing double duty with both his late model and his modified this weekend.
Decker’s fast lap came in group 1a of qualifying for the Saturday program.
Friday heat one saw Matt Sheppard pass Decker on a lap two restart, with Sheppard going on to win over Decker, Josh Hohenforst, Mat Williamson and Steve Bernard, who all transferred into the A main.
The second Friday heat featured a wire-to-wire rout from the pole by Max McLaughlin, who beat out Pat Ward, Danny Johnson, Fuller and Flach.
Heat three was where Mahaney shined in both programs, powering to victory over Mueller, Peter Britten, Carey Terrence and title contender Erick Rudolph as far as the Friday split was concerned.
The fourth and final heat for Friday’s program was the only one in that quartet to go caution-free, seeing Hearn grab the win over Bussiere, Chris Hile, Tyler Siri and Jimmy Phelps.
Saturday’s heats kicked off with Decker getting revenge for his Friday heat that got away, going unchallenged in the first heat over Britten, Hearn, Justin Wright and Johnson.
The second Saturday heat featured a surprise winner in Demetrios Drellos, who beat out Sheppard for the heat-race victory. Justin Haers, Chad Jeseo, and Terrence completed the transfers.
Just as he did the first time out, Mahaney never trailed in heat three, leading Fuller, Jeremiah Shingledecker, Dave Rauscher and Williamson across the finish line.
And in the final heat race of the night, Flach picked up a victory over Mike Maresca, McCreadie, McLaughlin and Steve Bernard, who all moved into the finale feature.
Tim Kerr missed the transfer by one spot in both of his heat races and will have to race his way in through both of this weekend’s Last Chance Showdowns, while McCreadie is currently on the outside looking in for Friday night’s feature.
Meanwhile, Rudolph’s quest to wrestle the title away from point leader Sheppard took a drastic turn during Saturday’s heat races, as Rudolph coasted to a stop on lap two of the first heat race and did not return.
Rudolph will have to charge his way in through a Last Chance Showdown on Saturday, while Sheppard is in the Saturday redraw and will start among the first five rows for the season-ending 40-lap feature.
For full results, advance to the next page.