ALTAMAHAW, N.C. – Brian Gerster may not have had a dog in the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series presented by Engine Pro points race, but he still wanted to fire one final shot in the season finale.
Gerster did just that on Saturday evening, roaring from third to the lead in three corners and going wire-to-wire to win the second half of the Must See Racing Championship at Ace Speedway.
A qualifying effort of sixth combined with an eight-car invert put Gerster on the inside of the second row for the 40-lap feature, and Gerster capitalized on that position from the moment the green flag waved.
While front-row combatants Adam Biltz and Johnny Petrozelle raced side-by-side for the first half of the opening lap, Gerster laid in wait just behind before pitching his Dick Myers Racing No. 50m to the apron in turn three and sweeping around both Biltz and Petrozelle in one move off the fourth corner.
From there, the lead – and the win – was decided, though it didn’t come without a fight from all-time series wins leader Jimmy McCune.
McCune, who qualified second and started seventh in the main, raced his way to the runner-up spot by the fifth rotation and gave chase to Gerster’s red-and-yellow mount from then on. He cut a lead of more than three seconds down to just a few car lengths in traffic, but couldn’t mount a charge in the end.
That left Gerster to drive home to his 23rd career Must See Racing victory, second only to McCune, as well as his second of the season following a late-August triumph at Michigan’s Owosso Speedway.
It was also a reversal of the top-two spots from Friday night’s feature at Ace.
“That may have looked easy, but I can promise you that whole 40 laps was tense,” noted Gerster. “The 88 car (McCune) is the guy to beat right now, and he had track position on his side last night to where we couldn’t do anything with him. Fortunately things worked out in our favor tonight.
“I’ve got to think Dick Myers for a great race car; it’s a lot of fun to wrap up the season and win a race. We won one earlier in the year. We didn’t run the winged car a lot, but hopefully we’ll change that a bit and see everyone out here again next year.”
Though it wasn’t mathematically assured entering the day, McCune still needed a solid performance to wrap up his fifth consecutive series championship. Following qualifying, all the Toledo, Ohio native needed to do was start the feature to clinch the crown, which he did with ease in his familiar No. 88.
That wasn’t enough for McCune, though. He wanted to win – and came up just short of that goal.
“It’s cool to be here celebrating another title, but I wanted to be over there where he (Gerster) is,” noted McCune. “I just wish we could have raced him heads-up from the back instead of him starting third. I think our cars were pretty even and it would have been fun. Traffic was just ugly at the end.
“Oh well, it is what it is. We’ll take a win, a second and the title and come back for more next year.”
Canadian Ryan Litt completed the podium and finished second in the final standings to McCune in his first full-fledged effort at the Must See Racing title in several years.
Litt said that one of his few disappointments on the year was not closing a feature victory, but that he’s motivated to try and get one step higher – both in races and in points – next season.
“We were close, but just could never seal the deal. Jimmy and those guys were really good all season long,” said Litt. “This is motivation though, for sure, and we’ll look to be back full time to try again.”
Joe Liguori and Charlie Schultz completed the top five. Only five cars finished on the lead lap Saturday.
Of note, Johnny Petrozelle concluded car owner Mike Blake’s 50th season in sprint car racing with a sixth-place result in Blake’s iconic orange No. 81, which donned gold-leaf numbers for the whole year.
It was Blake’s best finish by any driver all season long, a strong note to end on.
McCune and the rest of the top contenders will be honored for their achievements during the 2019 Must See Racing championship banquet, scheduled for Jan. 18, 2020 in Coldwater, Mich.
Engine Pro Feature (40 laps): 1. #50m – Brian Gerster (3), 2. #88 – Jimmy McCune (7), 3. #07 – Ryan Litt (8), 4. #13 – Joe Liguori (6), 5. #9s – Charlie Schultz (5), 6. #81 – Johnny Petrozelle III (2), 7. #75c – Jerry Caryer (10), 8. #26 – Jeff Bloom (4), 9. #72s – Joe Speakman (9), 10. #85 – Rick Holley (12), 11. #51 – Joshua Sexton (11), 12. #32 – Todd McQuillen (16), 13. #4 – Anthony Linkenhoker (13), 14. #15 – Tim Henthorne (14), 15. #74 – Ivan Shaver (15), 16. #8a – Adam Biltz (1).
Lap Leader(s): Brian Gerster 1-40.
Hard Charger: #88 – Jimmy McCune (+5)