EPPING, N.H. (WWLP) – Jon McKennedy saved the best for last and won the SBM 125 for the second time at Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire on Saturday.
McKennedy, from Chelmsford, Mass., went to victory lane in the first SBM 125 in 2011.
The event was decided after an exciting late race battle involving McKennedy, Rowan Pennink, and Les Hinckley. Pennink looked strong for much of the 125 lap race but was passed by Hinckley’s #06 with seven laps to go. A lap later, McKennedy’s #73 drove past Hinckley on a restart and was not pressured over the last five laps. In a post race interview, McKennedy thanked his crew for working on the car throughout the night to make it better after their driver had complained about it earlier. He said to the crowd, “I told my spotter Russ Hersey about 20 laps in, I said, ‘we got a race car here!’ It wasn’t easy. Those last 30 laps were probably some of the hardest I drove in a long time.” Hinckley took second after starting 19th with Richard Savary third, Steve Masse fourth, Anthony Nocella fifth, and Rowan Pennink sixth.
This is the fourth year that the SBM 125 was run at Star Speedway on the New Hampshire Seacoast. It was been considered by some to be modified racing’s unofficial all-star race, drawing front-running teams from different tours and tracks.
The winner has enjoyed a good pay day, and this year was no different. McKennedy received $6,175 for finishing first. Early race leader Matt Hirschman eventually finished 13th, but took home $4,141 in his envelope, thanks in part to money that individual lap sponsors put up.
Teams and drivers are often loyal to different tracks or racing series, thanks in part to the point funds that are offered. The point funds can award lucrative end-of-season checks based on the standings, making it more worthwhile to compete at that facility or in that series. But the SBM 125 is a throwback to the days of open shows, where drivers would “barnstorm”, following the money with plenty of competitive cars and drivers doing the same. But is there less pressure and more fun on a night when a driver isn’t chasing points at a home track? Matt Hirschman told 22News, “These races are a lot more fun. I enjoy them a lot more. No points, I don’t feel the pressure and I have a lot of confidence here so I think it makes it more fun. But this year though I do feel trying to go for three (wins in a row) I know it’s just going to be tough.”
According to Todd Szegedy, “I think it’s all the same. I think it doesn’t matter. Some say it’s a little less stressful. But when you get down to it, I think the drivers want to win. We come here to win. So no matter what I think, it doesn’t matter if we’re going for a $20,000 to win race or a $1,000 to win race, we want to do the same thing and that’s win.”
Chris Pasteryak told 22News, “It does take a little bit of the pressure off. But that’s only if you really let the points deal get to you. I’ve been there, done that. Now I just kind of go and race everywhere. It frees you up to maybe try something different that you wouldn’t normally try in a points-paying event.”
Few teams or fans expected to see Les Hinckley race on Saturday, even though he finished second last year. His eight year old son Allen has been sick with an Arachnoid Cyst on his brain. Hinckley told 22News, “He’s doing a lot better since he had his fourth surgery in Boston two and a half weeks ago. He’s made a lot of improvement. He still has some symptoms, but it’s all stuff that we expected and it’s part of the healing process. So he’s doing well. We didn’t really think we were coming, and we certainly wouldn’t be here if Allen wasn’t doing well. That being said, he helped me load the car last night in the garage. He was mad that he couldn’t come. He’s looking forward to maybe going to Seekonk if things go well for us here.”
The SBM 125 is the second race in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series. Matt Hirschman won the series opener, the Bullring Bash 100 at the Lee USA Speedway, also on New Hampshire’s seacoast. The series concludes with Modified Madness at the Seekonk Speedway on Wednesday, July 23.