Jeremiah Shingledecker charged from the 12th starting spot and made a thrilling last lap pass of Rex King to capture the 30-lap BRP Modified Tour “Smackdown” Big-Block/Small-Block Challenge. The 30-lap victory was the second straight for Shingledecker in BRP Tour competition at Mercer and was worth $1,300. A record field of 45 cars filled the pit area including 25 big blocks and 20 358 small blocks.
“This is a big one,” acknowledged the Polk, Pa. driver, who cut his teeth in the Sportsman Modified division at Mercer nearly 15 years ago at The Park. “I’ll tell ya what. I thought that was over early for me. I almost hit the wall coming off turn two. I got in the loose stuff and went backwards fast at the beginning. This car worked awesome. I thought he (King) might give me the top (on the last restart). The caution before the last worked well for me allowing me to restart on the inside. He was running the bottom the last couple laps so I thought the outside was worth a try.”
With lightning in the distance, the ground-pounding Modifieds created their own thunder as Rob Kristyak and Del Rougeux, Jr. led the 26-car field to green. Rougeux grabbed the early lead with Dave Murdick getting past Kristyak for third. Murdick caught Rougeux on lap three and drove to the inside of the leader on lap four. The duo raced side-by-side on laps five and six with Rougeux holding on until the first caution was displayed for a spin by Gary Smoker with seven laps completed.
On the ensuing restart, Rougeux came up lame when he broke a flywheel as Tommy Kristyak blasted by into the lead with Murdick, Rob Kristyak, and ninth starting Rex King up to fourth. King drove under Rob Kristyak for third on lap nine and did the same to Murdick two laps later for second. King then caught Tommy Kristyak and made the pass for the lead driving under the veteran in turn four on lap 12.
King caught the back of the pack on lap 17 and fought traffic until the red was displayed when Carl Murdick’s car caught fire bringing a halt to action after 13 straight green flag laps. King’s half-straightaway lead was erased. When racing resumed, 20th starting Brad Rapp was on the move. Rapp used the outside to his liking going around Rob Kristyak then Jeremy Paup for fourth on lap 22.
It was now a three-car race for second with Tommy Kristyak trying to hold off Murdick and Rapp. Shingledecker meanwhile finally cracked the top five with just five laps to go getting by Paup. King began to pull away, while the battle for second now included four cars with Shingledecker joining the mix on lap 27.
Shingledecker’s key move came on lap 28 when he made a thrilling pass of both Rapp and Murdick racing off turn two down the backstretch before the caution was displayed for a spin by Mike Turner. Restarting on the inside of row two, Shingledecker got past Tommy Kristyak for second before the event’s final stoppage came when Turner and Kyle Fink got collected with 29 laps completed.
The caution set up a one-lap shootout to the finish. King chose the bottom and when green replaced yellow, Shingledecker rode the rim and right around King to power by to the popular win in his Village Auto/Hard’s Welding/Steve’s Teez Bicknell #37MD. Last year’s BRP Tour win by Shingledecker was his first ever big-block win at Mercer and he now has two straight and four career wins overall at Mercer.