PORT ROYAL - Growing up at Port Royal Speedway watching legends like Keith Kauffman race, Jake Waters always dreamed that someday he would get to stand on that famous stage.
His dream came true on Saturday night as Waters took the lead back from Mike Wagner Jr. and would go on to win the Blue Collar Classic for 305 sprint cars.
After a podium finish in last year's race, Waters, of Mifflintown, started third and led almost every lap of the 25-lap main event to score his first career win.
Sentinel photo by TIM SHUMAKER
At age 79, Jim ‘Cowboy’ Kennedy, right, goes for a wild ride during the second annual Blue Collar Classic for 305 Sprint cars at Port Royal Saturday. Jiff Miller takes the high side to miss the flipping sprint car, but tagged the wall and flipped himself.
"Confidence was one thing, settling down was difficult for me," Waters said after losing the lead to Wagner. "I saw him with six to go and thought 'darn Wagners.' I sucked it up and went for it again. I started clicking them off ... finally.
"At the end of 2012, my dad and I figured out what we needed to do motor-wise. Whenever he got by me on the outside, I knew I had the straightaway speed to get him. He was beside me going in and I almost lost the whole deal. We calmed down and drove back by him."
It took three tries to get the feature started, but once it got going, it was Nathan Gramley grabbing the lead over third-starting Waters.
Following a lap-three restart, the racing was three-wide on the back stretch for the third spot. Eight laps were completed when the yellow flag flew again. Waters used the inside groove off turn two to drive into the lead. Wagner also would drive by and into second.
Waters commanded the bottom as all eyes turned toward teenager Jordan Thomas, who was moving forward from his 15th starting spot by pounding a narrow cushion.
He would take third from Gramley with 10 laps to go.
Thomas and Wagner both were running the top and were closing on the low-running Waters.
Wagner would take the lead momentarily, but Waters fought back and reclaimed the lead. Wagner and Thomas were at the fence as they raced off turn four with four laps left.
Wagner would finally slip too high and crash hard in the second turn bringing out the red flag with one lap to go.
It was not what Waters wanted to see.
"I can't say it out loud," Waters said, referring to his thoughts when he saw red instead of checkers. "I think every French word in the dictionary was being mentioned out of my helmet when I stopped. I wanted to know who it was and they said it was Michael. That sucked because I wanted to beat him back to the line. I know he was giving it all he had.
"He raced me clean. I can't even describe this ... it's awesome ... that's all I can say," he said.
Waters controlled the final lap and scored a big win by 1.901 seconds over Gramley, Ryan Stillwaggon, Tim Tanner and Rick Stief. He earned $750.
"I really want to thank everybody that helped me out all year long," Waters said. "We've been terrible this year. To say we had a monkey on our back would be an understatement. It was a damn gorilla on our back all year. My dad deserves this one and with Keith (Kauffman) retiring, I need to get him back up here one more time. This is amazing. I'm so glad to be here."
Ed Newhauser, Mike Esposito, Jon Haegele, Zach Newlin and Parker Evans completed the top 10.
Brian Carber, Jon Haegele, Stillwaggon, Geroge Riden, Jeff Vansteenburg and Gramley won the heat races for the 53-car field. Alex Schanz, Parker Evans and Eric Parker won the trio of B-mains.
Shawn Fitzpatrick won the 15-lap Founder's Cup non-qualifiers feature for 305 sprints passing Dave Brown Jr. back on the final lap. Lance Newlin, Jason Bergstresser and Ryan Lynn followed.
In the 20-lap super sportsman feature, it was Scott Geesey leading all 20 laps for his first career Port Royal win. Rick Barr, Rich Eichelberger, Russ Mitten and Chad Criswell completed the top five. Mike Enders won the 10-lap super sportsman cash dash and $1,000.
Jason Zook won the enduro dash over Rich Adair, Johnny Palm, Mike Goodwin and Pete Leister. Sam Stine won the demolition derby.
It was Port Royal's final event of the 2013 racing season; a 410 event slated for Oct. 19 was called off to avoid conflict with a tribute night for retiring driver Fred Rahmer at Lincoln.