Hot Rod tops Miller, Blair, earns $5,000 at Hartford
By Dustin JarrettDirtonDirt.com correspondent
HARTFORD, Mich. (May 29) — After a flat right rear tire forced leader Rob Blair of Titusville, Pa. to pit on lap 17, Rod Conley of Wheelersburg, Ohio, took command at Hartford Motor Speedway and never looked back, cashing a $5,000 paycheck in the first-ever race co-sanctioned by the O’Reilly All-Stars and Sunoco American Late Model Series. | Slideshow
“I knew my car was good on the bottom,” Conley said after winning the 40-lapper at the half-mile oval. “But I also knew Matt (Miller) was back there and running strong too. I felt like if I held my line, I would be OK.”
Miller of Waterville, Ohio finished second with Jared Miley of South Park, Pa. finishing third. Fast qualifier Frank Heckenast Jr. of Orland Park, Ill. was fourth as Blair rallied to round out the top five.
Jared Hawkins of Fairmont, W.Va. and Conley led the field to the green with Conley getting the early advantage. As Conley sped away from the competition, a multicar accident on lap three involving Hawkins and Clarklake, Mich., veteran Brian Ruhlman kept Conley within striking distance. Jeep Van Wormer of Pinconning, Mich. was also involved; he and Hawkins both retired.
After a lap-four caution, Blair grabbed the runner-up spot from Miller and set his sights on Conley. Blair wasted little time tracking down the race leader as he pulled alongside on the sixth lap and made the move a lap later, using the lapped car of Ruhlman as a pick.
Conley stayed within two lengths of Blair as the frontrunners began slicing their way through lapped traffic. Miller then joined the lead duo to make it a three-dog fight for the top spot just before a lap-17 caution for Boom Briggs slowed the pace. Under the yellow, Blair was forced pitside for the tire change, returning the lead to Conley.
On the restart, Conley led Miller and Miley back to the green as Blair re-entered the speedway with new rubber. A rash of cautions kept Conley from pulling away and aided Blair’s run back to the front.
Conley kept Miller at bay on the frequently restarts while Blair worked his way back into the top five. At the checkered flag, Conley was 10 lengths ahead of Miller.
Notes: Conley drives a Rocket Chassis with a Cornett powerplant and sponsorship from Conley Trucking and American Metal Supply Company. ... Seven cautions waved during the 40-lapper, mostly for flat tires. ... Frank Heckenast Jr. lowered the track record set by Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., on Aug. 13, 1996. ... Two-time and defending Sunoco ALMS champion Rusty Schlenk of Jackson, Mich. skipped the race. ... The series move to different destinations Saturday with ALMS competitors at Fremont (Ohio) Raceway and O'Reilly All Stars at Butler (Mich.) Speedway.
O’Reilly All-Stars-ALMS at Hartford: (1) Rod Conley, (2) Matt Miller, (3) Jared Miley, (4) Frank Heckenast Jr., (5) Rob Blair, (6) Casey Noonan, (7) Curt Spalding, (8) Mike Knight, (9) Alan Vochaska, (10) Dave Hess Jr., (11) Shawn Negangard, (12) Jon Henry, (13) Kerry Mathew, (14) Ryan Vanderveen, (15) Brian Ruhlman, (16) Don Mihelich, (17) Phil Ausra, (18) Boom Briggs, (19) Ky Harper, (20) J.R. Hotovy, (21) Jared Hawkins, (22) Jeep Van Wormer, (23) Coleby Frye, (24) Rusty Seaver. Fast qualifier (among 31 cars): Heckenast, 18.745 seconds. Heat race winners: Miller, Briggs, Hawkins. Consolation winner: Heckenast. Provisional starters: Henry, Seaver.