HARTFORD, Ohio — A huge crowd turned out on a beautiful Tuesday evening at Sharon Speedway to remember the legacy of Lou Blaney, who amassed more than 600 victories in his five-decade career of racing.
The fourth annual Lou Blaney Memorial Alzheimer’s Ass’n Benefit presented by Ollie’s Bargain Outlet saw Brad Sweet (410 Sprint Cars) and Kevin Bolland (DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds) win their first features in this prestigious event. Lou’s wife, Kate, gathered more than $10,000 in contingencies for the racers.
Though many fans came hoping to see Kasey Kahne pull of his first career Sharon Speedway win, it was instead one of his Kasey Kahne Racing drivers in Brad Sweet capturing the victory. Sweet set a blistering pace around the three-eighths-mile speedway and held off Lou’s youngest son, Dale Blaney, to become the fourth different sprint car winner in as many events. The 30-lap victory was worth $5,000.
“This is really cool,” expressed the 26-year-old Grass Valley, Calif., native.”This car was fast all night. We did struggle in qualifying, but made some changes and it really took off in the dash. The main event was treacherous. The track was rough on the high side, and the lapped cars made it difficult timing them. I’m just glad I was able to hold off Dale (Blaney) — he was charging, and I know he really wants to win this race bad”
An invert five from qualifying put Sweet on the pole of the dash, which he led all six laps to earn the feature pole position starting spot. Sweet took off in the lead, while Dale Blaney was trying to fend off Saturday’s Daytona NASCAR Sprint Cup winner Tony Stewart, brother Dave Blaney, and last year’s winner Sam Hafertepe, Jr.
Stewart was all over Dale Blaney looking for a way by. On lap three, Stewart drove hard to the bottom of turns one and two and pulled even down the backstretch with Blaney. The two made contact in the middle of the backstretch with Stewart flipping wildly and collecting Hafertepe. Though both drivers were okay, the accident took out the event’s first and third winners before three laps were even completed. It was another heartbreaking end for Stewart, who led the first 26 laps at last month’s Ohio Speedweek All Star event at Sharon before blowing a right rear tire.
Back under green flag conditions, Sweet opened up a half-straightaway lead by the time he caught lapped traffic on lap seven. Traffic was short-lived as Adam Anderson got high in turn three, catching the fence and flipping. Jack Sodeman Jr had nowhere to go slamming the fence as the track’s former champion and 10-time winner’s night came to a disappointing end. Both drivers were okay.
When racing resumed, Dave Blaney was trying to get around his brother Dale, but slipped high in turn four on lap 11 allowing sixth starting Kahne to move into third. Lapped traffic again came into play on lap 13 as Sweet has stretched his lead to a half-straightaway. Five laps later, Sweet had his hands full in heavy lapped traffic and on lap 20, Kahne and Dave Blaney were able to catch up making it a four-car race for the lead.
Sweet’s bobble slipping high in turn four on lap 25 allowed Dale Blaney to really close in; however, Sweet was back on the hammer and was never seriously challenged. Sweet’s margin of victory was 1.030 seconds in the Kasey Kahne Racing-owned, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet/Factory Kahne Shocks/Speedway Engines-sponsored No. 49 as he became the track’s 151st different sprint car winner.
“Hats off to my guys,” continued Sweet. “They gave me a great car and I was just along for the ride. It’s an awesome feeling as I haven’t raced a sprint car in about a month. To come out here in front of all of these awesome fans and to win the Lou Blaney Memorial is pretty special. It’s a different shape running these sprint cars. They’re pretty rough and wild. It’s always good to get back in these things, but it takes a few races to get back going. I have to thank all of my guys; Ollie’s, who has been with me for three years now; plus all of these great fans because without them we wouldn’t have this cool race.”
Blaney had to settle for second as he is still in search of his first victory in the event. Kahne’s third in his Farmer’s Insurance No. 5 was his best ever finish in the event. Dave Blaney beat out Carl Bowser, who fittingly had a strong run in his father Terry’s No. 10, as he was the top local finisher in fifth. After splitting the first four events at two a piece, Kevin Bolland and Rex King have been shutout of victory lane the last four races. On Tuesday night, it was King and Bolland battling for the 25-lap win with Bolland getting by in the closing stages of the Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar big-block modified event. Bolland’s third win of the season at Sharon was his biggest anywhere on the 2012 circuit, worth $2,000.
“I raced a lot of years with Lou (Blaney),” explained the 52-year-old New Brighton, Pa., veteran. “He was the guy I always looked at. I’d always sneak around his cars to see how to go fast. I finally got to a point in my career where I could compete with him. We miss Lou- he was a great racer.”
King barley held off Kevin Hoffman for runner-up honors. Chad Brachmann was fourth over Jim Weller.
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