The most exciting special award of DIRTcar OktoberFAST presented by DIRTVision was the classic Hard Charger Award. Five exceptional partners added an additional $250 bonus for the driver who advanced the most positions during the course of the Feature: The Hard Charger Award.
To receive the Hard Charger Award, a driver usually suffers a difficult start to the race night. Sometimes the team misses the setup for Time Trials when the track is heavy or slicker than expected. A poor Time Trial lap results in a poor starting position in the Heat Race. In other instances, a driver might run into mechanical or incidental trouble while in a transfer position causing them to drop out despite wielding a fast race car.
Even seven-time Super DIRTcar Series champions have off days. Matt Sheppard struggled to get his No. 9S to handle throughout the first half of the week including Albany’s OktoberFAST kick off where he was forced to qualify through the Last Chance Showdown.
Sheppard then started in the twenty-first position for the 60-lap Feature. From there it was hammer down for the Waterloo, NY Big Block driver. Sheppard motored up twelve positions to capture the Bart Contracting Hard Charger Award at Albany.
Tim Sears Jr., from Clay, NY, knows his way around Fulton Speedway. Sears failed to qualify out of his Heat Race but he made it into the top three of his Last Chance Showdown after starting ninth. He proved his Fulton skills on Penske Racing Shocks night by advancing twelve positions from twenty-fifth to thirteenth.
Demetrios Drellos was forced to use a Super DIRTcar Series provisional in order to start the 60-lap Feature at Can-Am Speedway. Drellos struggled all night until the Feature when “Double D” turned on the afterburners to pick up nine spots in the Feature for the St. Lawrence Radiology Hard Charger Award.
Erick Rudolph, from Ransomville, NY, calls Land of Legends Raceway home on Saturday nights for the Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship. Unfortunately, that home track advantage did not aid the pilot of the No. 25R until Feature time. He barely made the field out of the Heat Race, finishing fifth, which put him back in the nineteenth starting position.
Finally, when the 60-lap Feature took the green, Rudolph was set up. He powered through fifteen rivals on his way to a fourth-place finish for the SuperGen Products/Champion Power Equipment $250 Hard Charger bonus.
The most dramatic Hard Charger award came at the DIRTcar OktoberFAST finale at Weedsport Speedway sponsored by Stirling Lubricants. Mike Mahaney, from King Ferry, NY, had a stellar week of racing during OktoberFAST picking up podiums at all four races going into Weedsport.
It looked like that would continue as he qualified for the redraw out of the Heat Race. Unfortunately, Mahaney was disqualified from the Heat Race results due to a shock infringement. After that, the No. 35 started scratch in the Last Chance Showdown where he drove up through the field and nearly made the show.
Mahaney took a Series provisional to start the Feature and he was a man on a mission. He made precise moves and gambled when necessary to advance all the way to tenth place at the conclusion of the 75-lap Feature.
DIRTcar OktoberFAST Hard Charger Awards
Albany-Saratoga Speedway – Bart Contracting Hard Charger – Matt Sheppard +12
Fulton Speedway – Penske Racing Shocks Hard Charger Tim Sears +12
Can-Am Speedway – St. Lawrence Radiology –Demetrios Drellos +9
Land of Legends Raceway – SuperGen Products/Champion Power Equipment – Erick Rudolph +15
Weedsport Speedway – Stirling Lubricants – Mike Mahaney +17