LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — California native Paul McMahan became just the fifth driver to post multiple victories in the COMP Cams Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires, winning Saturday night’s 40-lap finale at I-30 Speedway.
McMahan slipped around STN rookie sensation Christopher Bell on the 29th round and went on to collect the $15,000 winner’s share aboard the Cooper Motorsports No. 01 entry ten years after snaring his first Short Track Nationals crown in 2002 with the same car owner. Saturday’s triumph marked the third for Cooper as a car owner.
Seventeen-year-old Bell chased McMahan to the stripe to earn the Dixon Road U-Pull-It STN Rookie of the Year bonus, with four-time event champion Gary Wright claiming the show position in his final event appearance after leading the initial six circuits.
After winning the Pack Building & Materials Dash for Cash, Wright led the $81,675 championship feature event to the green flag with Friday prelim winner Jack Dover alongside.
McMahan shared the second row with initial prelim winner Jason Johnson, with STN rookie contenders Justin Henderson and Bell alongside in row three. Bell fell from contention in the Dash after a slider from Johnson while dicing for second resulted in a cut left-rear tire.
The initial start was waved off when Jeff Swindell turned over in turn four. Travis Rilat ducked to the pit area for quick wing repairs after getting tagged in the incident while J. Swindell was done.
While Dover had gained the advantage on the initial start, Wright turned the tables on the restart and paced the opening round in front of the Roush Yates Ford-powered Dover and Johnson. But it was Bell on the move early on, racing past McMahan, Johnson and Dover to take second by the third round with McMahan following along to take third by the fifth circuit.
Bell closed the gap on “The Texan” and immediately began pressuring for the point and took the lead away from Wright on the seventh lap with McMahan relegating
Into traffic by the 12th lap, Bell kept McMahan at bay until a caution finally flew after 21 laps when fourth-runner Johnson slipped off the turn two embankment and returned to the track with a cut right-rear tire. Greg Wilson and Henderson, both running among the top ten, made quick trips to the pit area with cut tires as well from apparent debris.
After reigning NASCAR Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., stopped three laps later with race-ending woes, Bell fought off serious challenges from McMahan over the next three laps before Dover’s powerplant detonated in turns one and two to bring out one final caution with 13 laps to go.
McMahan went right to work on the youngster on the restart and slid past for the lead in turns one and two on the 29th lap to take command for keeps. McMahan opened up an advantage of a half dozen car-lengths until traffic became a factor in the final three circuits.
Bell closed to McMahan’s tailtank as the white flag flew, but McMahan was flawless on the final lap to secure the victory with Bell falling just two car-lengths short at the stripe.
Wright held down the show position over the closing circuits, with 2011 STN champion Sammy Swindell advancing a handful of positions to claim fourth.
Tim Shaffer rounded out the top five
Danny Lasoski advanced from 14th to claim sixth, with Kevin Swindell in seventh. Randy Hannagan posted the best passing performance by racing from 19th to eighth, with Shane Stewart and Tim Crawley completing the top 10.
Paul McMahan, Christopher Bell, Gary Wright, Sammy Swindell, Tim Shaffer, Danny Lasoski, Kevin Swindell, Randy Hannagan, Shane Stewart, Tim Crawley, Marshall Skinner, Justin Henderson, Jason Johnson, Derek Hagar, Seth Bergman, Jack Dover, Greg Wilson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cody Gardner, Travis Rilat, Jeff Swindell.