NORTHEAST: Smith Does Pennsylvania Posse Proud; Wins $10,000 Cole Cup

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Mark Smith celebrates in victory lane following his Sunday night victory in the $10,000-to-win Cole Cup. (Utica-Rome Speedway photo)

Mark Smith celebrates in victory lane following his Sunday night victory in the $10,000-to-win Cole Cup. (Utica-Rome Speedway photo)

VERNON, N.Y. – It was a battle right down to the end, but Mark Smith made the Pennsylvania Posse proud by capturing Sunday night’s Gates-Cole Insurance/A-Verdi Storage Containers Cole Cup at the Utica-Rome Speedway.

It was Smith’s first win at the half-mile facility and one of the biggest of his career, as he took home a $10,000 payday.

For Smith it was his third Empire State victory of the season.  He’s taken a knack to running the slicker tracks in New York, including the tricky surface at Utica-Rome

“Everyone talks about how slick these tracks are,” said Smith. “I like it like this. I think the guys did a hell of a job with this racetrack. It is really fun. Our tracks down home are really big and fast. You get strung out. I like these tracks. They are wide, slick and racey.”

Smith was joined by Danny Varin on the front row of the 30-lap nightcap. He quickly jumped to the lead using the bottom groove. Varin chased him, also working down along the bottom of the speedway. The two paced the field while Chuck Hebing sat third during the opening stages.

It was only lap eight when Smith found the back of the field. The traffic eased the pace for Smith while Varin and Hebing exchanged the second spot multiple times. Hebing eventually got the better of him on lap 15. He then focused on Smith who was hung up in traffic.

With Smith boxed in, Hebing was given an opening on lap 17.  Hebing went to the extreme outside.  Smith slid through the middle of the corners while Hebing rocketed around the top of the race track to take the lead away.

“I was kind of on cruise control there and following the lappers on the bottom,” said Smith.  “I wasn’t sure where to run.  That’s the problem with starting up front.  You never know where everyone is going.  Then I saw Chuck (Hebing) go by so I knew there was a top there.  I didn’t get excited.  I started moving around a little bit and was able to get my speed back up.”

The duo couldn’t shake one another as they duked it out for the top spot.  Hebing worked high while Smith continued to work through the middle.  They continued the fight in traffic with Hebing able to keep Smith at bay.

Smith regained the upper hand once they emerged from traffic.  Smith took full advantage of the clean air to immediately pull back alongside Hebing.  He then worked him over before regaining the top spot in turns one and two as he slid up tight to him before exiting to the backstretch with the lead.

“I don’t think I ever got an official slide job in,” joked Smith. “I got up to the side of him and had to leave him a lane there on the outside a couple times.  I could drive off the center pretty good so I didn’t think I needed to go up there and wreck the pair of us.”

Once Smith found his preferred line, Hebing was forced to search the track for a better line.  He searched every inch of the track while trying to regain an edge on Smith.  Smith continued to pull away as Hebing had to deal with Varin once more.

Smith went on to take the checkers first with Varin making the pass of Hebing in the closing laps to earn the runner-up position.  It was an impressive week for Varin, one in which he picked up his first and second career 360 Sprint Car wins with the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints, including a week prior at Utica-Rome.

“We ran really well tonight,” commented Varin. “I just was a little too loose.  I was dogging him the first couple laps, but I just couldn’t get the job done.  Then Chuck got by us.  We were able to stick it out.  His (Smith) car was a little better tonight.  I don’t know what we could have done to our car to make it better.”

Hebing faded back to finish in third.  He was glad to see the checkered flag drop as he was hanging on at the end of the feature.  Hebing was also the Mid-Atlantic Series Champion based on his second place finish at Williams Grove Speedway back in July and his run on Sunday.  He took home the Mid-Atlantic Crown champions belt.

“I had a good run,” stated Hebing. “I thought I was actually going to win the race. My tires went away. I must have sealed the right rear running the top. Mark came right back by me, then Danny. I was lucky the race was only 30 laps. We had a great car all night. I think we just made the wrong choice on the tire.”

Matt Tanner finished the event fourth after starting in the eighth position.  Mike Mahaney was able to advance from the ninth position to complete the top five in the caution free event.


RESULTS: Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints; Cole Cup; Utica-Rome Speedway; Sept. 11, 2016

A-Main (30 laps): 1. Mark Smith, 2. Danny Varin, 3. Chuck Hebing, 4. Matt Tanner, 5. Mike Mahaney, 6. Davie Franek, 7. Steve Poirier, 8. Bryan Howland, 9. Jason Barney, 10. Tim Schaffer, 11. Aaron Ott, 12. Lucas Wolfe, 13. Larry Wight, 14. Cory Sparks, 15. Bobby Varin, 16. Paulie Colagiovanni, 17. Billy VanInwegan, 18. Matt Billings, 19. Jordan Thomas, 20. Dylan Westbrook, 21. Jason Schultz, 22. Sammy Reakes IV, 23. Sam Hafertepe Jr., 24. Dan Douville, 25. Kelly Hebing, 26. Paul Kinney.

CREDIT: Utica-Rome Speedway

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