After an action-packed 50 laps at Outlaw Speedway, Cory Costa took home his first career Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco victory.
Costa becomes the 39th different winner in STSS history after a final-lap pass of Alex Payne to take home the win and a trip to Bicknell Racing Products Victory Lane. Despite leading a handful of laps in the epic battle of two underdogs, Costa left the Dave Machuga Memorial $5,278.78 richer at the conclusion of the 50-lap affair.
“It feels really good to come here to my home track with the STSS,” said an overjoyed Costa. “I don’t think this is gonna set in until tomorrow.”
Following a caution with two laps to go, it appeared as though Alex Payne was going to drive away with the victory. That was until Payne slipped over the turn-two embankment, allowing Costa to slide by and lead the final half-lap for the upset win.
“Alex (Payne) was really fast, hats off to him he ran a great race,” Costa said. “I don’t think we would’ve got him if he didn’t make that mistake but I’m just ecstatic right now.”
Payne started from the pole position following the Beyea Custom Headers Redraw with Ajay Potrzebowski II alongside.
After a yellow flag flew on the opening lap for a slowing Andy Bachetti, the field settled into a rhythm for the next 46 laps of action. Payne shook off Potrzebowski for the lead while Costa snatched the runner-up spot away. The pair paced the field before reaching lap traffic on lap eight.
While the lead duo was separating themselves from the pack in lap traffic, Mat Williamson and Matt Sheppard were racing their way into the top five after starting 10th and 12th, respectively. By the completion of lap 12, the pair ran fifth (Williamson) and sixth (Sheppard) as they continued to march forward.
As the race neared the halfway point, things began to heat up for the lead.
Costa, despite multiple challenges, was unable to seriously offer a challenge in lap traffic until the field reached lap 25.
Costa, on the bottom groove, was able to muscle the lead away and snatch the $200 Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader Bonus. Payne would wrestle the lead back for lap 26, and Costa returned the favor, leading laps 27 to 30. Costa’s stretch at the top of the heap ended momentarily on lap 31, however, as Payne raced back around Costa and took the lead back.
“When he got back by me, I really couldn’t believe it,” Costa said. “I had a lot of fun racing and liked all the green-flag racing.”
Payne settled into the lead, turning the attention to a five-car battle for the final podium spot. Alan Johnson had the third spot with Williamson and Sheppard continuing their assault on the field. The trio had snatched positions away from Potrzebowski II and had brought Danny Johnson with them to join the fray.
Sheppard cleared Williamson for fourth on lap 35, and then passed Alan Johnson at the completion of the 46th circuit.
The race’s second and final caution flag flew for Jimmy Zacharias — who was running inside the top 10 — getting into the turn-one wall and stopping with just three laps to go.
Under the caution, Sheppard’s right-rear tire went flat, forcing him to the pit area for a change allowing Alan Johnson to inherit the final podium position. When green replaced yellow, Payne and Costa flexed their muscle as the top two cars, racing away from the field by a couple of car lengths, just enough for them to settle the battle royale for the win amongst themselves.
It appeared Payne was home free when the Behrent’s Performance Warehouse “One to Go” white flag flew, leading Costa by three car-lengths.
Payne then slid wide in turn two, allowing Costa to drive by. Payne drove his race car deep into the third turn hoping for a miracle but came up short. Costa claimed his first career STSS victory at his home track.
A heartbroken Payne settled for the runner-up spot.
“It’s a tough one to lose. We worked really hard, but we’re just gonna keep digging and see what we can do,” said an emotional Payne.
Alan Johnson completed the top-three finishers.
“I was disappointed we couldn’t keep pace with the leaders, but we had a good car and we’re gaining on it,” Johnson said of Mark Spoor-owned No. 14J. “Maybe a few more changes and we’ll get there.”
Williamson snagged fourth aboard the Behrent’s Performance Warehouse No. 3 and Danny Johnson rounded out the top five from his 14th starting position in the Tim Gibson-fielded No. 27J.
It was the third round for the Short Track Super Series fueled by Sunoco River Valley Builders North Region.
Anthony Perrego earned the Hard Charger Award, after driving from 23rd to 12th.
Feature Results (50 Laps)
Cory Costa, Alex Payne, Alan Johnson, Mat Williamson, Danny Johnson, Erick Rudolph, Steve Bernier, Marc Johnson, Danny Creeden, Ajay Potrzebowski II, Matt Sheppard, Anthony Perrego, Brady Fultz, Will Shields, Michael Trautschold, J.R. Hurlburt, Bobby Hackel, Chris Curtis, Dillon Steuer, Tommy Paine, Jimmy Zacharias, Corey Cormier, Jim LaRock, Daniel Morgiewicz, Jeffery Daugherty, Tommy Collins, Andy Bachetti.