Liverpool’s Brian Sobus proved perseverance pays in the Pathfinder Bank Small Block Supermodified (SBS) division. Coming into Saturday night’s race, only he and championship points leader David Cliff had been able to score top-10 finishes in every feature event this season. However, Sobus had yet to crack the top five. Saturday night, Sobus not only landed his first top-five finish of the year, he did it in style, winning the Burkes Do-It Best Home Centers/Community Bank 30-lapper.
For Sobus, it was his second career feature win, his first win since 2006.
“All I can say is Ray Hedger,” Sobus said. “He took the car in and fixed, made it right, the way it should be. The thing was flawless. It was just a touch off. We’re so close I think we could pick up another win or two this year. It was a good shot in the arm.”
After moving into third place, Sobus powered by Guard Nearbin’s No.78 to move into the runner-up position before finally slipping underneath Steve Abt’s No. 85 on the sixth lap to take over the lead.
“Once I finally got up into second, those guys were tough,” he said. “They were running good. They were tough to get around. Once I got up into second, I started running the 85 down just a little bit at a time. I followed him around a for a couple of laps and just coming out of four, he got just a little bit loose and he washed up the track. I was ready for it and went right under him.”
Once up front, Sobus put five lengths on his closest chasers. His only challenge came from 2008 SBS Track Champion Kevin Knopp. Knopp was eventually able to run down the race leader and take a few cracks at the top spot. However, Sobus never allowed Knopp’s No. 04 to pull along side his No. 79.
“I never saw him at all, but I knew he was there,” Sobus said. “He gave me a couple of taps. When I looked up at the board and knew Kevin was behind me, I knew he wasn’t going to take me out for the win because he’s not like that. We have a mutual respect for each other. He’s a very clean driver with me and I’m very clean with him.”
Listen to – Brian Sobus on his feature win
Abt and Nearbin led the Pathfinder Bank SBS field to the green to start the 30-lap feature event. Nearbin earned the early lead, but by the third trip around, Abt had taken it away.
Coming from the sixth starting position, Sobus found himself running fourth after just one lap. He then took to the high side of Barry Kingsley’s No. 23 to move into third.
As the front three eased away, fourth-place running Kingsley led Jack Patrick, Knopp, Russ Brown, Andrew Schartner and Tim Barbeau.
Kingsley began to fade, allowing Patrick, Knopp and Brown to move into positions fourth through six. As Sobus was taking over the lead, Knopp maneuvered his way by Patrick, bringing Brown with him.
Knopp had just moved underneath Nearbin when the caution lights flashed for a wreck in turn No. 3. Battling for ninth place, Mike Bond, Tim Barbeau and Kingsley went three-abreast into the third turn. However, only Bond made it through as both Barbeau and Kingsley found themselves in foam.
Both Kingsley and Barbeau were visibly unhappy with their other three-abreast partner, who was sent to the rear of the field for his involvement in the accident.
With nine laps in the books, Sobus led Abt, Nearbin, Knopp and Brown. Patrick Schartner, Dave Gruel, Rob Pullen and David Cliff completed the top 10.
On the restart, Brown took look on the outside of Knopp. However, Knopp only went further to the inside, completing an inside pass on Nearbin’s No. 78. Brown cut low and once again, followed Knopp’s pass.
One lap later, Abt fell victim to the No. 04. And again, Brown mirrored Knopp’s pass to move into the third position.
Knopp faced a five-car length deficit to Sobus, once moving into second place. However, he and Brown were able to erase it by the 18th lap. Knopp took his first crack at the lead on the 19th lap, looking low on the Sobus No. 79.
Behind the leaders Gruel was able to move into fourth place, passing Abt’s No. 85 down low on the 21st lap. He would need a caution flag to make up the ground the front three had on the field, but no cautions would fall the rest of the way.
Lap No. 22, saw Knopp take another look under Sobus in turn No. 3. Again, Sobus held his ground. Brown could only look on as Knopp backed off the leader for a late-race run. However, though Knopp was able to move back in behind Sobus on the 29th lap, his last attempt at an inside pass down the backstretch fell short.
Sobus cruised across the line for the win. Knopp had to settle for second.
“The car was really, really good … finally,” Knopp said. “And the luck went our way tonight. That’s the biggest thing that’s been biting us the last couple of weeks. Racing luck, you know how it goes. I had a great time tonight. It was fun racing with Brian. I knew Brown was right there behind me. I knew the three of us were quick. I could tell by the feel of the car that we were turning good laps. Congratulations to Brian, it’s been two years for him. It’s got to feel good for him.”
Listen to – Kevin Knopp on his second-place finish
Brown brought the Pike Bros. No. 60 home for another third-place finish.
“I made one mistake in traffic and Kevin got in front of us and I knew I was in trouble,” Brown said. “We had a restart and I tried to pin him behind Guard, but he beat me to the spot. I had him and he drove right under Guard which is what he should’ve done. It is what it is. I thought we were getting closer. It was a decent car. Brian’s car was phenomenal tonight. He spent a lot of time on it this week. They did their homework. Good job to them.”
Listen to – Russ Brown on his fifth top-five finish
Gruel drove the Barbeau-owned No. 50 to a fourth-place finish.
“After that seventh-place finish a couple of weeks ago, we learned what was wrong that night and we fixed it and corrected it,” Gruel said. “We were able to pass cars. We were able to pass cars on the outside with out forcing anything. We weren’t driving dirty. We went from the back to close to the front. I’ll take a fourth-place finish tonight. We’re running for points and as long as we keep cracking off top fives every week, we’ll be good.”
Listen to – Points leader Dave Gruel on finishing fourth
After a few weeks of bad luck, Abt collected his first top-five finish, crossing the checkered stripe in fifth.
“It was a good run tonight,” Abt said. “It was nice to bring our car home in one piece. We’ve had a couple of bad weeks, had to do a lot of work. Dan Dennie and the boys really helped out a lot. I’ve got to say thanks to them. We’re struggling a little bit with our motor program, but probably next week we’ll be able to come out with a new one. We’ll probably be able to keep up with these guys. They’ve got a little something more than I have, but we’ll get there.”
In heat race action, Knopp took the lead away from Abt on the fourth lap, pulling away for the win in heat race No. 1. After taking the lead away from Nearbin early, Sobus held off Barbeau to win heat race No. 2. In the final preliminary, Gruel ducked under early race leader Pullen around the half-way mark en route to picking up his fourth qualifier win of 2009.
Burkes Do-It Best Home Centers/Community Bank 30
1. Brian Sobus (79), 2. Kevin Knopp (04), 3. Russ Brown (60), 4. Dave Gruel (50), 5. Steve Abt (85), 6. Andrew Schartner (18), 7. Rob Pullen (25), 8. David Cliff (06), 9. Mike Bond (26), 10. Guard Nearbin (78), 11. Dave Danzer (52), 12. Jack Patrick (9), 13. Jason Simmons (91), 14. Shawn Walker (68), 15. Chip Wood (2), 16. Brian Haynes (86), 17. Barry Kingsley (23), 18. Tim Barbeau (58), 19. Stan Gates (28)