CONNEAUT, OH — official release — Jimmie Porter Photo — More than a decade ago, Chuck Hebing brought his Big Block Modified down to Raceway 7 and proclaimed once venturing in to sprint cars that he would never miss a sprint car race at the Ohio speed plant. Hebing’s affinity for the 7/16 mile was proven on Friday night.
Hebing, of Ontario, NY, scored his series-high 39th career win on Friday Night in Conneaut, OH, becoming the first repeat feature winner in PST competition in 2014. Despite leading the entire distance, the “Cobra” had to work hard in the final few laps to fend off Bryan Howland for the $2,000 payday.
“We hit the setup right on the money,” exclaimed Hebing in Victory Lane. “I knew with the new PST rule of lapped cars get taken and from seeing the scoreboard Bryan was on my bumper the whole night and we have the same motor so I knew his stuff runs well too.”
On a perfect spring night for racing, and with a packed crowd filling the grandstands, the heat races ran off without issue, with Hebing, along with Howland and Joe Trenca dominating their respective heats. With passing always difficult on the fast, paperclip-shaped oval, the redraw would be critical, and the result was Hebing inheriting the pole for the 25-lap feature.
Hebing jumped out to a stout advantage until the first caution on lap 8. He maintained his healthy lead pulling out to a full straightaway advantage by the time a lap 18 caution bunched the field together again. On the ensuing restart, Howland, who had struggled to stay in touch with Cobra after the initial set of corners, started to shadow the leader.
One final caution on lap 19 gave Howland a chance, to once again close in on the No. 45, and pull off a late-race shocker. The four-time series champion not only stayed with the leader, he began drafting off him and looking for his spot to execute a pass.
With three and two laps remaining, Howland effectively “bump-drafted” Hebing down the front stretch but could not get the run he needed. As the duo came to the white flag, Howland had pulled to the inside of Hebing, which, as it turned out, cut off his angle and also gave Hebing the information he needed to stay in front.
“The top started giving up a little bit and he must have been getting going on the bottom of the racetrack,” noted Hebing afterwards. “I happened to hear him a couple times so I made sure to get to the bottom on the last couple of laps and I saw what was there and realized I should have gotten there earlier.
As Hebing drove down to the inside of turn one, Howland pushed up the track, allowing the No. 45 to cruise to the win in an event made possible by Bonnell’s Collision Center.
Howland was pleased with his runner-up showing, but was disappointed that he showed his nose to Hebing coming to the white flag.
“I tried to almost slow up off of four to get back behind him,” reflected Howland. “When he saw me though I knew he was going to take the bottom away.”
Howland did not appear to be the lead challenger for the win for much of the race. Jared Zimbardi, the defending winner of the Raceway 7 event and current series point leader, had moved from his 7th starting position up to 3rd by lap nine and was hounding Howland’s No. 51 until lap 18’s restart, when Howland discovered the fast groove on the bottom. Zimbardi would have to settle for his third-straight third place finish.
Scott Kreutter crossed the line in fourth, running a clean race at the track that dashed his championship hopes last season. Paige Polyak won the Four Laps of Fame Dash and drove up from the ninth starting spot to round out the top five
Steve Collins was impressive all night and crossed in sixth, with Ohio’s CJ Jones driving back up to seventh after a lap 11 spin. Joe Trenca, Dave Just and Parker Evans rounded out the top 10.
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Bonnell’s A-Main (25 Laps)- 1. Chuck Hebing (45), 2. Bryan Howland (51), 3. Jared Zimbardi (35), 4. Scott Kreutter (10B), 5. Paige Polyak (19), 6. Steve Collins (67), 7. CJ Jones (10J), 8. Joe Trenca (98), 9. Dave Just (54J), 10. Parker Evans (61), 11. Scott Just (54JR), 12. Dane Lorenc (00), 13. Derek Jonathan (81), 14. Brad Knab (38), 15. Stan Zacnhin (94), 16. Tyler Graves (25G), 17. Dennis Wagner (38o), 18. Steve Glover (121), 19. Paul Habeck (25H).
Lap Leaders- Hebing 1-25.