MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Once the post-race festivities subsided, Jason Covert just wanted to stand alone on the front stretch with his black and yellow No. 72 Super Late Model and savor this rare moment.
The 47-year-old has over 100 trips to Victory Lane in his long racing career, but opportunities to win at Williams Grove are sparse. There are just two SLM features at the historic Grove this year, adding extra significance and unique value to pull through at one of the most storied dirt circuits in the world.
On Friday night, all of the dominos fell Covert’s way, as the veteran racer from York Haven, Pa. — just a short, 10-minute drive from the speedway — led the final 15 laps to capture the second of three SLM Tri-Track Challenge features and, more importantly, win his sixth career race at the track.
“You don’t get to win at Williams Grove often,” said Covert, who also pocketed $3,000 and his second win of the season. “It means a lot. As a kid going to sprint races, Williams Grove is a special place for me. When you win here, you do something. Doesn’t matter who is here. Just very cool.”
It was also Covert’s fifth top five and seventh top 10 in 10 A-mains in the Mid-Atlantic region this season. His night didn’t appear headed toward prominence, though. Covert qualified third of seventh in his group and lost by two seconds to Jeff Rine in his heat race. He also had to lend a battery from fellow competitor Rick Eckert, as recent struggles with the car carried over.
Two weekends ago at Port Royal Speedway, Covert failed to finish the race and placed 23rd of 24 drivers after breaking an engine, suffering $6,000 worth of damage. He and his crew used last weekend to repair the car and follow with a resounding performance.
Eckert, who started on the pole, led the first 14 laps, and like he did two weekends ago at Port Royal, all signs directed at another runaway. But that wasn’t the case. Before the Lap 2 caution, Eckert accidentally ran over a piece of debris in Turn 2 and that began to slowly seep air out of his left rear tire.
Covert methodically reeled in Eckert and completed the charge with a front-stretch pass on Lap 15. By Lap 16, Eckert’s left rear went completely flat. He ended up finishing 13th of 22 entrants.
From there, Covert did his all to make sure he relished another victory at the famed speedway. He staved off two restarts and challenges from Coleby Frye on Laps 16 and 21 and eventually won by 2.5 seconds.
“I wasn’t concerned with [those two restarts],” Covert said. “When I’m out front I don’t worry about anybody behind me. I worry about what I’m doing. Beat the racetrack and we’ll be fine.
“I started rolling pretty good there. We were starting to truck pretty good.”
Frye finished second and Tyler Bare managed third. Dylan Yoder and Matt Cosner rounded out the top five. Tyler Horst, Bryan Bernheisel, Danny Snyder, Dave Stamm, and Larry Baer complete the top 10.
Of the 22 drivers, only 11 of them crossed the finish line unscathed. Before the race was three turns old, a Talladega-like melee gobbled up half the field in a 12-car pileup in Turn 3. Covert, Bare and Jeff Rine were jockeying three-wide coming off Turn 2 on Lap 1 when Bare pushed up the track, made contact with Covert on the high-side, before clipping Rine into the inside wall heading into Turn 3.
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Rine, who started fifth and leads the Mid-Atlantic area with five wins, went head-on into the inside wall and then slid up the racing surface, which collected the likes of Mike Lupfer, Gary Stuhler, Jamie Lathroum, Reese Masiello, Dave Brouse, among others. All drivers walked away with no reported injuries.
Covert himself came grimacingly close to the massive wreckage, as he maintained traction through the contact.
“I wheeled left, I wheeled right and gathered her up,” Covert said. “I was lucky.”
In the end, Covert was the luckiest of the 22 racers in Mechanicsburg. And, if it wasn’t for thousands of dollars of damage two weekends ago, he’d follow through with his plans of competing in the mega $100,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway this weekend. So be it, Covert would say. He’s a winner again at Williams Grove.
“As I get closer to the end on what I’m doing, I’m just tickled,” Covert said. “The team needed this. We’ve been struggling. The issue with our motor, it probably cost us three or four good runs. It was good to get back out racing.”
Super Late Models, 30 laps: 1. Jason Covert, 2. Coleby Frye, 3. Tyler Bare, 4. Dylan Yoder, 5. Matt Cosner, 6. Tyler Horst, 7. Bryan Bernheisel, 8. Danny Snyder, 9. Dave Stamm, 10. Larry Baer, 11. Gene Knaub, 12. Chris Casner, 13. Rick Eckert, 14. Jeff Rine, 15. Gary Stuhler, 16. Billy Wampler, 17. Reese Masiello, 18. Mike Lupfer, 19. Jerry Bard, 20. Jamie Lathroum, 21. Matt Nailor, 22. Dave Brouse Jr.