Jimmy McCune on his way to victory at Birch Run Speedway. (MSR photo)
BIRCH RUN, Mich. – Jimmy McCune admitted Friday night that his car wasn’t the best at Birch Run Speedway, but in the end he was still good enough to reach the checkered flag first.
McCune raced to his first Must See Racing Sprint Car Series presented by Engine Pro win of the season on the four-tenth mile paved oval during the first of two Friday Night Thunder programs at Birch Run this year.
He led the last 14 laps and held off a concerted attack from Charlie Schultz in the late race for top honors. However, it was McCune’s 20-year-old cousin – Jacob Dolinar – who almost stole the spotlight.
Dolinar took control of the 30-lap feature on Track 3 and looked well on his way to his first career as a Must See Racing sprint car. He sometimes led by more than two seconds in the first half and was in a straight line just after the halfway point when traffic disaster struck.
The young gunman’s car from Sylvania, Ohio, approached him and entered the first corner and Dolinar was unable to save him. He whirled in a puff of smoke in the second corner as fluid began to leak from under his machine.
It was then that Dolinar’s dream of a first win was shattered as his uncle took the lead and never relinquished it from then on.
“Honestly, that was a wild one,” McCune said after his 38th Must See Racing score. “I Couldn’t Even See” [out of my helmet]so i didn’t know [Schultz] was there on my outside after the reboot. We were blowing oil at the end and it got all over my visor. By the time I could look up and see… at least we were free.
“She was spitting out a lot of oil, but we made it to the victory lane, and I think that’s all that matters,” McCune added. “I was just driving” [behind Dolinar] because from the third lap I already felt like it was going to explode. It was just a matter of bidding my time and paying attention so we didn’t tear things up.”
After the event, a dejected Dolinar explained what he said went wrong in the moments leading up to the spin.
“It felt good until the last few moments going into the first corner,” Dolinar recalled. “I drove him too fast into the corner and spun out. The [engine] the temperature was a little high beforehand, and once I spun it, it shot up and threw all the water out. … It’s not how we wanted to end the night, but we will learn from this and come back stronger for the next. It just sucks to have such a good car and not win with it.”
Dolinar’s bad luck prompted a restart on lap 16 with Canadian Ryan Litt lining up next to McCune, but the new challenger to McCune’s lead was Schultz, who raced from third to second on the resumption and immediately went to work to take over McCune’s orange No. 88 to challenge the outside of the banking system.
For three straight laps, Schultz nearly kept pace with McCune, and every time the five-time Must See Racing National Champion held it in front of him, he served up front. Once McCune acquitted Schultz, it was pretty much over.
In the final two laps, Schultz collected another challenge, but he didn’t have enough, falling 0.281 seconds short of earning his third checkered flag of his career with Must See Racing.
“We were so close, so evenly matched at the end, that I could only do so much,” noted Schultz. “At the restart I was able to reach him somewhat, but once he realized I was there I had to pull back a bit and cool the tires. I got back to it at two o’clock and just ran out of time I guess.
“Twenty years ago I probably would have crashed both of us if I had been for the checkered [flag] on the outside, but I think as you get a little older, you get a little wiser.”
Litt rounded out the podium finishes, followed by reigning Must See Racing Driver of the Year Joe Liguori and recent Kalamazoo Speedway winner Jason Blonde.
Feature (30 laps): 1.88-Jimmy McCune 2. 9s Charlie Schultz 3. 07L-Ryan Litt 4. 13-Joe Liguori 5. 42 Jason Blonde 6. 85-Rick Holley 7. 8a-Adam Biltz 8. 36JR-YJ Henes 9. 7-Tom Jewell 10. 3K Joshua Sexton 11. 2K Todd McQuillen 12. 65-Junior Gould 13. 48-Jacob Dolinar 14. 26-Jeff Bloom 15. 15T-Tim Henthorne 16. 11G-Tom Geren (DNS).