CONCORD, N.C. – Max Blair had just destroyed the field at Bedford Fairgrounds Speedway on a brisk October night in Pennsylvania and some fans weren’t sold on the result.
Shawn Martin, Blair’s fierce supporter and car owner at Viper Motorsports, plopped the Keystone Cup trophy on the hood of his backup car that won from the sixth-starting position.
He had no doubt who earned superiority at the five-eighths-mile clay oval on Oct. 23.
“The best car won tonight, I don’t know what else to say,” Martin told some disgruntled fans who attempted to diminish the result.
Blair throttled a 43-car entry list that featured Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame members Rick Eckert and Scott Bloomquist, topping Bedford champion Jeff Rine by eight seconds for the $25,000 payday.
It’s further recognition that the fairly new pairing are locked and loaded for next year’s run at the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model championship, and Martin doesn’t need to be told otherwise.
“Max Blair is an A-plus player,” Martin said. “Max Blair was the absolute guy to hire.”
Earlier this year, Martin’s late model program hung in the balance yet again when it parted with Darrell Lanigan.
The duo won just one World of Outlaws feature in their lone full season together and Martin knows he fields equipment that can win in bunches. It was nothing against Lanigan, whose pending Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame membership at the time spoke for his credentials.
Martin had already reached dead-ends with Southeast frontrunner Ross Bailes in 2019 and Virginia wheelman Kyle Hardy in between.
The Carlise, Pa., car owner knew Blair was a consistent winner in Pennsylvania thanks to the never-ending circulation of news on social media.
After Martin moved from the Barry Wright Chassis house car to Rocket Chassis in 2021, the manufacturer Blair had succeeded with on the Pennsylvania scene for a decade, his program cornerstone became evident. With the help from Mark Richards, the deal between Martin, a car owner since 2012, and the late model stalwart solidified.
“I kind of knew five minutes before I was going to hire Max Blair I was going to hire Max Blair,” Martin said. “Max Blair was the absolute guy to hire. I guess the rest is history.”
Blair has 20 wins this year and ran away with all three United Late Model Series championships on the national, north and south levels.
Racing with the series that raced frequently in Pennsylvania made the most sense for Martin and his hired gun.
They could have started their national-touring journey from the outset in April, but Blair’s wife, Brandy, delivered the couple’s second child in May and Blair wanted to be there for his family.
Blair’s call-up to the big leagues, in essence, comes at The Dirt Track at Charlotte this weekend during the World of Outlaws World Finals.
He’ll end the season at four arenas he’ll familiarize himself with as a national-touring driver: Nov. 4-6 at the four-tenths-mile clay oval in Concord, N.C., Nov. 12-13 at Senioa (Ga.) Raceway, Nov. 19-20, Southern Raceway in Milton, Fla., and Nov. 21 at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C.
“It’s been a good year,” Blair said. “Hopefully [the Keystone Cup win] is the first of many. We aren’t done yet. We still have another three weekends of racing left. Hopefully we can have some momentum here and get some good finishes to finish her off.
Blair isn’t necessarily looking to make a statement versus the fields he’ll race against next year, but to build a notebook.
“We would like to just go down there and be competitive, man,” Blair said. “There’s going to be 80 cars for $12,000 to win. That’s a tough deal.”
Besides, Blair doesn’t need much of an introduction. He has three World of Outlaws wins in racing his family equipment the previous seven years.
“Max Blair is a guy that’s been worthy of a World of Outlaws opportunity for a lot of years,” Martin said. “It just could never line up for him with his program.
“His family, this is their whole life here, the racing stuff,” Martin said. “When you go all-in with this commitment with them, they’re all-in with you. It makes it very enjoyable.
“My wife and I can’t say enough with how great people they are, and how much a pleasure it is to work with Max Blair,” Martin added. “Our good nights and our bad nights, it’s been a tremendous ride.
“He absolutely deserved an opportunity and my wife and I are thrilled to give it to him,” Martin said. “He’s been ready for this for a long time.”