SARVER, Pa. — Conservative was a little harder than Craig Dollansky anticipated on a humid Tuesday evening at Lernerville Speedway.
Dollansky climbed from his sprint car in victory lane, visibly exhausted after a pair of 30-lap, $10,000-to-win features at the 21st annual Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup Presented by GottaRace.com.
After he and NASCAR star Tony Stewart split the main event victories, Dollansky was declared the overall champion because he had a higher average finish than Stewart.
“With all the stuff that went on in the first one, I really just wanted to try to run a conservative race but get us a decent finish out of it to win the overall title,” Dollansky said after earning the $5,000 bonus.
“That wasn’t easily done. There was a lot going on back there. You definitely had to go into survival mode a little bit.”
Dollansky dominated his heat, the dash and the first feature when he had to survive 10 cautions en route to his first career World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series win at Lernerville Speedway. However, all of the drivers who finished in the top 20 were on the lead lap, which determined the inversion for the second feature — the largest in the history of the twin feature format.
That started Dollansky on the outside of the 10th row, while Stewart started on the outside of the front row after being involved in the 10th-and-final caution with two laps remaining in the first main event.
“We got caught in a crash with like three (laps) to go or whatever and that put us to the back,” said Stewart, who finished 19th. “That actually ended up being a blessing in disguise.”
Polesitter Greg Hodnett took the early lead with Stewart in tow for the first half of the race. As the duo began to encounter traffic, Stewart capitalized on the outside lane and rode the cushion to the lead on the backstretch of lap 17.
He then pulled away until Donny Schatz, who drives for Stewart, found grip on the bottom and quickly disposed of Hodnett for the runner-up position on lap 23. Schatz reeled in Stewart and the two competed nearly side by side before the final caution with five laps remaining after Tim Shaffer hit the frontstretch wall and flipped while running seventh.
Stewart executed a near-perfect restart and Jason Sides maneuvered from fourth to second in turns one and two. Schatz later passed Sides entering turn three on the final lap to secure the runner-up spot.
“I felt like we were good once we could get to clean air,” Stewart said. “It was going to be won in the first lap of the restart for sure.
“It’s hard to win these races. When you come up to Pennsylvania you’ve got the best of both worlds. You’ve got the best touring guys and the best guys from the Posse that run, so it’s a pretty big honor to win one of these things.”
Meanwhile, Dollansky was mired in his own battle in the middle of the pack. He restarted 15th with five laps remaining and had to avoid several sliding cars in the closing laps to hang on to a 16th-place finish. His average finish was 8.5, while Stewart’s was 10th.
“Very special,” Dollansky said. “This is one of the crown jewels of our sport. We’ve been close here a few times, but to finally get it done here tonight, it’s a great accomplishment for our entire team.
“It was a long first race and it didn’t seem any shorter in the second one, although there was a lot less restarts.”
Local favorite Danny Holtgraver earned the KSE Hard Charger Award after working his way from 19th to second in the first feature. Holtgraver drove from 19th to 10th in the second main event.
Chad Kemenah, Stevie Smith and Kerry Madsen were the only other drivers who recorded a top-10 finish in each feature.
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