AFTON, N.Y. – A quick Charlie Davis-owned No. 21 Troyer race car and some good fortune led Mike Mahaney to a huge payday on Wednesday night at I-88 Speedway.
Mahaney, a Friday regular at I-88 who also competes at Fonda and Utica-Rome speedways in New York each weekend, held off the late-race charges of touring series superstar Matt Sheppard to win the first-ever ‘Crazy 8s Special’ at the Afton, N.Y., facility.
The 24-year-old Mahaney took home $8,249 in cash plus a list of contingencies for the triumph in the hotly contested 48-lap main. The co-promotion involving track managers Ron Ford and Jamie Page together with Brett Deyo of BD Motorsports Media LLC drew a capacity crowd to the fairgrounds oval. More than $30,000 in cash and awards were distributed during the evening to Modified racers.
“This is huge,” said a smiling Mahaney, of King Ferry, N.Y., who led every lap of the main. “I’ve got to thank everyone that put this show together. The whole night was awesome.”
Mahaney had initially missed a redraw position during the night’s second heat race. However second-finishing Tim McCreadie suffered engine issues after the checkered and switched cars. That moved Mahaney into the feature draw. He picked the outside pole for the main event.
“We had some good luck tonight,” noted Mahaney, who was leading a major event, the Wade Decker Memorial, in 2012 at I-88 only to suffer a flat tire.
On the start, Mahaney powered off the outside to take the top spot from pole starter Danny Johnson, who was driving the Mike Petruska-owned No. 66. Mahaney opened up a comfortable lead in the early laps. He held a straightaway advantage when the race’s first caution flew on lap 13.
With Mahaney out front, 14th-starter Sheppard was on the move. He cracked the top five on lap 14 and by the 17th circuit, had driven to third. At lap 19, ‘Super Matt’ unseated Johnson for the runner-up spot and began to reel in the race leader.
Mahaney led at the halfway mark – taking home $888 from Olum’s as the leader of lap 24 – but Sheppard was closing.
Mired in lapped traffic, Sheppard’s Jeff Brownell Motorsports No. 9s pulled inside Mahaney on lap 37 when the caution flew for Donnie Lawson Jr., who had spun in turn two. The clear track worked into the hands of Mahaney, who thwarted Sheppard’s charges for the remaining 11 laps.
“I was looking for him,” Mahaney said of Sheppard. “I knew he had to be right there. I have to thank Matt. He raced me clean the whole way.”
Sheppard, 31, of Waterloo, N.Y., settled for second spot in a strong drive from the seventh row. He earned $3,388 plus bonuses for his efforts.
“We didn’t need that caution,” surmised Sheppard, who won a Race of Champions event at I-88 in June. “I thought we had him (Mahaney) there in traffic. We missed leading that lap (37) by a few inches. That would have made the difference.”
Track regular Shaun Walker of Masonville, N.Y., drove from 16th starting spot to finish third ($2,288). Johnson of Rochester, N.Y., placed fourth ($1,688) and Accord Speedway competitor Danny Creeden of Middletown, N.Y., drove from 19th to finish fifth with a late-race advance ($1,488).