BEDFORD, Pa. — From the moment he reached the starting grid to receive good news until he reached victory lane for his career-richest payday, things went Max Blair's way Saturday at Bedford Speedway's fourth annual Keystone Cup.
"Sometimes the stars align," Blair said after his $25,000 triumph, "and they did today."
The 31-year-old Centerville, Pa., driver overtook polesitter and race-long leader Jeff Rine on the 22nd lap and cruised the rest of the nonstop 60-lap feature for unsanctioned Super Late Models to top his previous biggest paydays of $20,000 overall (in a 2012 Crate Late Model event in Beckley, W.Va.) and $10,000 in a Super Late Model (most recently at Stateline Speedway in Busti, N.Y., in 2019).
"We've had a good year racing with Shawn and Lisa (Martin) with Viper (Motorsports)," Blair said, "but it feels good to get him a big one."
Danville, Pa.'s Rine, a track favorite and winner of a Friday semifeature, finished a straightaway behind in second place while Matt Cosner of Ridgeley, W.Va., improved nine positions to round out the podium. Last year's Keystone Cup winner Gregg Satterlee of Indiana, Pa., rallied from 21st to fourth and Kyle Lee of Mercersburg, Pa., was fifth after starting 17th.
Rine was in control early in the race while Blair worked forward from his sixth starting spot, but he couldn't hold off Blair's pass for the lead eight laps before halfway.
"I got in that lapped traffic and I run really hard to try and get around 'em, and when I did I overheated the tires," Rine said. "(The car) got real squirmy. It's just one of them things. I was pushing hard trying to get around the lapped cars and he come by. I felt like the last 20 laps I was OK, but we were just kind of hanging and going in circles.
"(Blair) was definitely better. The tires definitely cooled off and the car got better, but we were off just a little bit. Second's better than third."
Blair went from fourth to second in one fell swoop in going past Andy Haus and Mason Zeigler, and figured he'd just "ride here for a little bit and make sure I've got some tires left at the end. While I was riding, I kind of ran Rine down pretty quick and we were rolling really good then."
On lap 22, Rine's car " just slipped up a little. He tried to catch the bottom, and when he did, he just slipped up just a little bit and left enough of a door open, I kind of just snuck through there," said Blair, who wasn't challenged the rest of the way.
"Every lap I was looking at my dad in the infield and he was telling me that I was (leading) comfortable, you know?" Blair added. "So I was trying to be as cautious as I could be, but every time somebody opened the door, I made sure I got up in front of 'em. I've lost races here before because I was too patient with lapped cars and I allowed that second-place car to charge harder at the end. I didn't want to do that again."
Blair caught a break before the main event when officials ruled that, despite him going to a backup car after engine problems in the dash, he was eligible to start outside the third row in the main event instead of the tail. Rine questioned the ruling, but Blair said he simply followed directions of the officials when he presented his car for the 60-lapper.
"I wasn't going to argue when they told me to start sixth," he said.
In victory lane, Blair said he was told by an official that he maintained his scheduled starting spot "because the dash was scheduled to be last night (before rain postponed a portion of the program), and because the dash was scheduled to be last night, he said the rules are written that you're allowed to change cars for the second day of a two-day show and maintain your position."
Rine didn't agree with the judgment.
"We're trying to figure it out and the rule says he should've went to the rear, but they see it a little different than we do. But a $16,000 difference, we should be checking into it," he said. "We're at Bedford Speedway and you just never know what you're going to get. It's black and white. It's in the rulebook."
Rine, however, held on for second despite a late charge from Cosner.
"We caught him right there at the end, but we were just out of time," Cosner said. "We just needed a caution, I think. I don't know how good Max was, because I never saw him, but I feel like there at the end I was a little better than Rine. But I just needed to get there. I messed around with Bernheisel too long trying to lap him, and that screwed me. Once I got by him there was only two laps to go, so I was kind of screwed then."
Notes: Max Blair’s victory was his first-ever at Bedford and his 20th overall triumph of the 2021 season. … Rick Eckert, who won the 2019 Keystone Cup, was never a factor before opting to pull off the track with 15 laps remaining while running at the back end of the top 10. … Mason Zeigler started from the outside pole and held second for the race’s first 10 circuits before an incorrect tire choice — he went too soft on his car’s left-rear corner — created blistering problems that prompted him to retire on lap 37 after fading through the top 10. … Hall of Famer Scott Bloomquist started third but terminal motor trouble forced him to the pits after a single lap. … Andy Haus was running third on lap 20 when motor woes ended his hopes. … Ross Robinson started the feature in his backup car after his primary machine developed engine problems as he crossed the finish line third in the first consolation. He was the feature’s second retiree. … Teenager Drake Troutman finished 23rd after retiring early in the race, but he came back later in the program to win the open-wheel modified feature. … The Keystone Cup headliner was checkered at 7:48 p.m. … Light to moderate rain stuck around the Bedford area until the early afternoon, but track officials had the racing surface ready for hot laps just slightly behind the scheduled 5 p.m. start time.
Row 1: Jeff Rine, Mason Zeigler
Row 2: Scott Bloomquist, Andy Haus
Row 3: Jason Covert, Max Blair
Row 4: Jared Miley, Rick Eckert
Row 5: Ryan Montgomery, Colten Burdette
Row 6: Alex Ferree, Matt Cosner
Row 7: Trever Feathers, Colton Flinner
Row 8: Jason Miller, Jamie Lathroum
Row 9: Kyle Lee, Bryan Bernheisel
Row 10: Dan Stone, Drake Troutman
Row 11: Gregg Satterlee, Clinton Hersh
Row 12: Ross Robinson, Tim Smith Jr.
Row 13: Chuck Clise
(10 laps; top 3 transfer)
First consolation finish: Dan Stone, Gregg Satterlee, Ross Robinson, Eddie Carrier Jr., Jeff Miller, Gary Stuhler, Dave Stamm, Chuck Clise, Travis Stickley.
Second consolation finish: Drake Troutman, Clinton Hersh, Tim Smith Jr., Shaun Jones, Nathan LaSalle, John Weaver, Spike Moore, Wayne Johnson.
(6 laps; finish determines positions 1-6 in feature)
Finish: Jeff Rine, Mason Zeigler, Scott Blomquist, Andy Haus, Jason Covert, Max Blair.
Mason Zeigler of Chalk Hill, Pa., and Jeff Rine of Danville, Pa., scored flag-to-flag victories in Friday night’s twin 20-lap Keystone semi-features. Both drivers pocketed $2,500 for their triumphs.
The race winners were scheduled to compete in a 6-lap dash with the second- and third-place finishers in each semi-feature — Andy Haus and Jason Covert in the first race, Scott Bloomquist and Max Blair in the second — to determine the top-six starting spots in Saturday’s 60-lap, $25,000-to-win finale. But light-but-steady rain that began shortly after Rine took the checkered flag forced Bedford officials to push the dash to Saturday’s program, which is scheduled to begin with hot laps at 5 p.m.
Zeigler was never seriously challenged en route to his win, which came behind the wheel of his XR1 Rocket car that now carries the No. 9z that was used by his late older Freddie. The night’s overall fastest qualifier handled the race’s lone restart, on lap nine, to beat Haus by 1.762 seconds.
“I got a little snug (handling), which is what lost us the race last year,” Zeigler said, recalling how he ceded the lead to eventual winner Gregg Satterlee in the 2020 edition of the Keystone Cup. “I just got tight and started pushing the right-front off, so we just gotta figure out how to get that out of the car. We just made some changes, some small little changes, and I hope that they work. We’ll find out in the dash.”
Covert challenged Haus for second on the final lap but settled for third. Jared Miley finished fourth with 11th-starter Ryan Montgomery placing fifth. Rounding out the transfers were Alex Ferree, Trever Feathers, who repaired a broken j-bar, driveshaft and other damage his car sustained when he slapped the turn-one wall on his second qualifying lap, Jason Miller and Kyle Lee.
Rine controlled the second 20-lapper off the pole position, keeping Bloomquist at bay to defeat the Hall of Famer by 0.749 of a second after the race’s second and final caution flag flew on lap 17 for Mike Lupfer’s broken driveshaft.
Rine’s winning Elbin Racing Longhorn Chassis sported a new number — F-100, rather than his usual 92 — to honor his late car owner Bob Elbin Sr., who died last month at the age of 88. The F-100 was Elbin Sr.’s number when he drove his own car during the 1960s.
“The car was phenomenal,” said Rine, Bedford’s 2021 points champion and the 2018 Keystone Cup winner. “In time trials we were really good. Clean air is huge in any racing anymore and we were in it (for most of the semi-feature). We got in lapped traffic and I had a hard time getting through ‘em — the lapped cars are pretty fast anymore too — but I’m happy with it.”
Blair chased Bloomquist throughout the race and finished third, followed by 2019 Keystone Cup champion Rick Eckert and West Virginia invader Colten Burdette. The remaining transfer spots were claimed by Matt Cosner, Colton Flinner, Jame Lathroum and Bryan Bernheisel.
Among the drivers who must run B-mains on Saturday are defending Keystone Cup winner Gregg Satterlee, Dan Stone, teenager Drake Troutman and Eddie Carrier Jr., the West Virginia veteran who made his first Dirt Late Model start since August 2019 as a teammate to Cosner.
(20 laps; top 9 transfer to feature)
First semi-feature finish: Mason Zeigler ($2,500), Andy Haus, Jason Covert, Jared Miley, Ryan Montgomery, Alex Ferree, Trever Feathers, Jason Miller, Kyle Lee, Ross Robinson, Dan Stone, Gregg Satterlee, Travis Stickley, Jeff Miller, Gary Stuhler, Dylan Yoder, Eddie Carrier Jr., Jim Yoder, Dave Stamm, Chuck Clise, Justin Weaver.
Second semi-feature finish: Jeff Rine ($2,500), Scott Bloomquist, Max Blair, Rick Eckert, Colten Burdette, Matt Cosner, Colton Flinner, Jamie Lathroum, Bryan Bernheisel, Tim Smith Jr., Drake Troutman, Clinton Hersh, Shaun Jones, Spike Moore, Wayne Johnson, John Weaver, Nathan LaSalle, Tom Decker Jr., Tom Decker III, Mike Lupfer, Matt Murphy, Eric Hamilton Jr.
Mason Zeigler (9z), Chalk Hill, Pa., 19.075
Andy Haus (76), Hamburg, Pa., 19.093
Trever Feathers (20F), Winchester, Va., 19.114
Jason Covert (72), York Haven, Pa., 19.129
Jared Miley (10), Pittsburgh, Pa., 19.130
Gregg Satterlee (22), Indiana, Pa., 19.219
Kyle Lee (2T), Mercersburg, Pa., 19.315
Jason Miller (94), Winchester, Va., 19.336
Alex Ferree (4), Saxonburg, Pa., 19.348
Dan Stone (2d), Thompson, Pa., 19.367
Ryan Montgomery (12), Fairmont, W.Va., 19.445
Justin Weaver (5), Williamsport, Md., 19.448
Chuck Clise (5), Frostburg, Md., 19.603
Eddie Carrier Jr. (66Jr), Salt Rock, W.Va., 19.695
Travis Stickley (32), Keyser, W.Va., 19.786
Jim Yoder (27), Selinsgrove, Pa., 19.815
Jeff Miller (57), Huntington, Pa., 19.836
Ross Robinson (7R), Georgetown, Del., 19.914
Dylan Yoder (24), Selinsgrove, Pa., 19.939
Gary Stuhler (4s), Greencastle, Pa., 20.118
Dave Stamm (10s), Mifflinburg, Pa., 20.137
Jeff Rine (F100), Danville, Pa., 19.080
Max Blair (111), Centerville, Pa., 19.272
Scott Bloomquist (0), Mooresburg, Tenn., 19.330
Jamie Lathroum (6), Mechanicsville, Md., 19.350
Colten Burdette (44), Parkersburg, W.Va., 19.448
Rick Eckert (0E), York, Pa., 19.455
Bryan Bernheisel (119), Jonestown, Pa., 19.474
Colton Flinner (48), Allison Park, Pa., 19.503
Matt Cosner (66C), Ridgeley, W.Va., 19.584
Mike Lupfer (06), Shermans Dale, Pa., 19.656
Drake Troutman (7D), Hyndman, Pa., 19.679
Tim Smith Jr. (39T), Long Hollow, Pa., 19.744
Nathan LaSalle (68), Everett, Pa., 19.913
Clinton Hersh (16H), Somerset, Pa., 19.929
Shaun Jones (32J), Shermans Dale, Pa., 19.993
Matt Murphy (21M), Bel Air, Md., 20.472
John Weaver (w3), Commodore, Pa., 20.509
Spike Moore (48W), Defiance, Pa., 21.043
Wayne Johnson (17J), Hancock, Md., 21.220
Tom Decker Jr. (43), Bellwood, Pa., 21.371
Tom Decker III (43), Bellwood, Pa., 21.988
Eric Hamilton Jr. (23), Imperial, Pa., no time