Saturday, May 26 – We found ourselves in the Hoosier state of Indiana over Memorial Day Weekend and no we were not in town to see the Indianapolis 500. We actually were here looking at houses. With mortgage rates lower than ever and retirement in the not too distant future it is not too soon to start looking. The object is to buy a house now while prices are low and hopefully in the next couple of years the market turns around some and the value of our home here in Pennsylvania will go up. Why Indiana you might ask. We can answer that in two words, wingless sprints. Not to mention USAC Midgets and some of the best dirt tracks in the country and I also hear they run a big race here in May.
We left home Friday at noon and drove straight through until we arrived at our hotel in Crawfordsville, IN at 11:30 at night. Then on Saturday, a day with temperatures in the mid-90s, after looking at 10 homes, we ventured on over to IRP or should I say Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Na, it will always be IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park) to me. On tap at IRP was the 67th Annual Night Before the 500 featuring the USAC Midgets and the Star Mazda Series and the USF2000.
We arrived at the track at 6:10 for the 6:00 start and by the time we were in our seats we missed the first two midget heat races. Two more followed with 7 cars in each. This was followed by a midget semi-feature and just before 7:00 all qualifying was complete. They handed out information along with a schedule of events and I must say they were pretty much on the money all night.
The first main event was for the USF2000 race. It was 75 laps or 30 minutes whichever came first. The drivers were from around the world and for many it was their first try at maneuvering an oval. The race took the green at 7:42 and on lap 2 the inexperience of driving ovals reared its head. On lap two there was an eight car crash in turn two that took 17 cautions lap to clear and cut the field down to 13 cars. By the time the race restarted there were only 10 minutes left of the 30 minute allotment. Point leader Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham, second in points, raced side by side for 8 laps before minor contact on the backstretch put Pigot in the lead for good. The checkered waved at 8:12, exactly 30 minutes and short of the 75 laps. Pigot won followed by Brabham, Roman Lagudi, Scott Anderson and Trent Hindman.
The Star Mazda race was 100 laps or 45 minutes and this one would go the distance. There were three minor cautions and overall the competition was better in this race. Connor DePhillippi picked up the win followed by Sage Karam from nearby Nazareth, PA, Zach Veach, Martin Scuncio and Petri Suvanto.
Finally, what we came to see, the USAC midgets came to the track for their 50 lap event, no time limit. The days’ festivities started with time trials at 2:00 in the afternoon. After all was complete they were only 15 minutes off on the schedule when the midget feature started at 9:45. The caution waved three times in the first half of the race, a crash on lap 1, a blown engine on lap 17 that collected 5 cars in the oil and a spin on lap 21. The second half was all green and just when you thought it might get boring Tracy Hines decided he wanted to win the event. First he had to track down second place runner, Darren Hagen. Hagen led for the first 17 laps until Kyle Larson took over the top spot. As Hines pressed Hagen for second they both closed in on Larson. The large crowd was starting to feel the excitement in the closing laps. By the time the starter showed 2 to go the crowd was on their feet. Tracy Hines took the two to go sign in third position. When the white flag waved Hines moved into second in pursuit of Larson. It looked like there was no way he would catch him, let alone pass him. Coming out of four for the checkered flag, all Larson saw in front of him was the flagman waving the black and white checks. That was right up until he saw Hines come up alongside of him and beat him to the finish by a mere few feet. The crowd went wild as they applauded the efforts of Hines. In victory lane it was Hines with the win, Larson second, Hagen third with Caleb Armstrong and Kody Swanson rounding out the top five. All was complete by 10:25 and we headed back to the hotel. Sunday was going to be another day of seeing houses and then an evening at our favorite Indiana track.
Saturday, May 19 - We decided to venture somewhere different so we decided to head to the Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway, a 1/8 mile high banked clay oval, near Newmanstown, Pennsylvania. Tonight was fan appreciation night with the $8 admission price waved as free admission was granted tonight. A good size crowd of 1700 fans took advantage of the bargain and packed the place. Many other short tracks would kill for a crowd of this size! Along for the activities this evening was Pat’s dad, Junior, who use to be a regular attendee here. We arrived at 5 PM for the 6 PM start and secured seats about two thirds of the way up in the grandstand toward turn one. The facility is very nice with nice bathrooms and concession stands with the pits located outside of turns three and four. The Lanco Micro Sprint Racing Club founded 54 years ago has grown to 200 cars now registered to race here. The race track was named Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway to honor the track’s first flagman. The racing program consists of five divisions of open wheel micro sprints with the classes being 270 two strokes (33), 600’s (30), sportsman (19), 125’s (21) and 250 four strokes (14).
Racing got underway at 6:10 with three 270 four stroke heats followed by three 600 heats, two sportsman heats, three 125 heats and two 250 four stroke heats. It takes a while for the next heat to come onto the speedway after the previous one ends which causes down time which is unnecessary. It took two hours to run all the heat racing without any major accidents or cleanups. The 270’s and 600’s were the only classes that needed consies and all qualifying was in the books by 8:36. Clyde Martin is only an 1/8 mile oval but the track is wide and banked so much side by side racing is possible. The heats were entertaining and everyone seemed to enjoy the action. Next was intermission and at Clyde Martin management opens up the pit area for the fans to visit and see the cars and drivers. Autographs and race cards are available and I’m sure it is a big hit with the youngsters. It was almost an hour until the first of five features all 25 laps in distance was brought to the post which was the 270 two stroke feature. Mike Rutherford came out of the 11th hole to grab the lead on a lap 11 restart and pull away from Jesse Maurer to score the victory. Female racer, Christi Sweigart, ran a strong race to claim third with Mike Skias fourth and Billy Logeman rounding out the top five. When they were racing in this one the action was good and close but with nine cautions slowing the proceedings this one could not be considered a gem by any standards.
The 25 lap 600 feature got off to a rough start when high school football player, Jeff Halligan, rolled his race car three times on the backstretch. After that things settled down and Jermain Godshall, a young black man built like an football lineman, looked like the guy to beat as he paced the field for the first seventeen laps. On a restart Mike Rutherford dove low exiting turn four to take the lead and never looked back to score his second win of the evening over Godshall with Mike Dicely advancing from 12th to 3rd with Tyler Esh fourth and Jeff Stelter finishing fifth. It was now 10:30 and with three features to go we decided we have seen enough witnessing the top two classes so it was exit stage right. It is an entertaining program but to us it seems too long. On the way back home we all discussed the evening of racing and agreed that you couldn’t beat the price!! Seriously it was a change of pace and a nice facility and the Lanco Micro Sprint Racing Club and its members should be proud of their setup.
Friday, May 18 - It takes us two hours to drive to Williams Grove on a Friday night and we arrived just before the starting time of 7:25. They were kind enough to give us enough time to park and trudge through the parking lot and up to our seats before the first green waved at 7:36. The 358 sprints would start off the program tonight with three run for the 24 car field on hand. This year the heats for the 410’s are lined up by draw allowing everyone an equal opportunity to start up front to qualify as in the beginning of the night the track is just rounding into shape and passing from the rear can be quite the task. Heat one had some early action as Logan Schuchart and Cory Haas tangled in turn four with Haas flipping over. In heat two Justin Henderson wrecked on the homestretch bouncing off the inside fence and tipping over on his side. The third heat ran clean and by 8:48 all heat qualifying was done. Only the 30 car 410 field needed a consie and that was spun off by 9:14.
As is the common practice at the Grove the 410 sprints run their feature first with the green flag flying at 9:39. Sheldon Haudenschild, the son of the legendary Jac “The Wild Child” Haudenschild, jumped off the front row and into the lead. The youngster was strong tonight in the Wintermyer #3W and commanded the field for the first 12 laps until Lance Dewease ducked to the low side entering turns one and two to take the lead with Sheldon returning the favor down the backstretch. Dewease regained the lead in turn three and would not relinquish the top spot after that. The racing was far from over with Fred Rahmer taking second from Haudenschild with five to go. Danny Dietrich was next up racing Haudenschild hard with the two touching several times. On the last lap Dietrich ran Haudenschild high in turn two with the kid charging right back into the fray. Dietrich got out of shape half way down the backstretch with Brian Montieth close on his tail and climbing the left rear tire of the #48 and rolling over as the red flag appeared. Dewease was declared the winner as he allegedly crossed the finish line before the red flew. It was Dewease’s 80th career win at Williams Grove with Fred Rahmer taking second and Sheldon Haudenschild claiming third at the finish. Fourth was 12th starting Greg Hodnett with Curt Michael grabbing a strong fifth.
The night was not over as the 358 sprints had 20 laps to run and they did it without the aid of any cautions. The track was going away and that is what Rodney Westhafer did at the start taking off from his second starting position. He was clearly the class of the field until encountering lap traffic late in the event and struggling to pass them. Eric Tomecek closed on the leader using the extreme high groove and at several points looked as if he would steal the win but Westhafer passed one of the lap cars to give himself some breathing room and hold unto the lead. Tomecek especially had trouble with one lap car and coming to the wire female racer, Brie Hershey, caught and passed Tomecek for the runnerup spot. Tomecek showed his displeasure with the offending driver slowing and cutting off the driver on the backstretch after the finish. Jacob Allen came home fourth with another female racer, Amy Ott, nailing down the fifth spot at the end. All racing was completed by 10:36, just an example of another good night of racing at Williams Grove which seems to be the norm and not the exception.
Saturday, May 12 - We would venture over to our second closest track to our house, the Grandview Speedway near Bechtelsville, which would be hosting two 358 modified features along with the sportsman and late models. Racing got underway at 7:39 with the rained out 30 lap 358 modified feature from May 5th. This would be the best feature of the night on the best possible racing surface. Brad Missimer took the lead in the early going and looked like a strong contender. He led until the 21st lap when Doug Manmiller finally caught and passed him on the backstretch. The cream was rising to the top as Manmiller started 13th and soon enough he had 16th starting Duane Howard and 15th starting Jeff Strunk trying to track him down. Manmiller was able to hold off all challengers to take the win with Howard finishing second, Strunk third with 14th starting Craig VonDohren wrestling fourth away from long time leader Missimer at the end. Terry Meitzler advanced from 20th to 6th in another fine run from the back and Chad Brachman claiming 10th.
The late models were first up for their heats but were waved to the infield so the track crew could rework the racing surface for the regularly scheduled program. Twenty minutes later the late models were underway with two heats for their 22 car field. The sportsman were 25 strong and ran three heats and the 358 modifieds ran four heats for their fine 42 car field. All heat racing was in the books by 9:30 and it was time for the second feature event on the card. It was not a masterpiece but Lou Egrie didn’t care as he scored his first late model win at Grandview since May 14th of 2004. It is always great to see a loyal runner win one after such a long dry spell. Two 358 modifieds consies followed and it was now 10:18 and time for another track manicuring session which doubled as intermission. It was promised to be short and 15 minutes fit that description. The second 30 lap 358 modified feature was waved off at 10:41 and it was a race to the inside groove, a phenomenon called running to the huggy pole. Passing would be at a great premium in this one as Addison Meitzler, son of Terry Meitzler, took advantage of his second starting position and was looking to be on his way to his second career win at the track on the hill. Misfortune found Meitzler on the backstetch when his right rear tire could not take the abrasive surface any longer and blew costing him the win. Meme DeSantis was handed the lead and the 10th starter did not refuse it as he raced to victory on the green, white and checkered sequence winning over Jarrad Miller, Kevin Hirthler, Mike Gular and 1st starting Cliff Quinn. The best run of the second feature was New York’s Chad Brachman moving from 26th to notch his second straight 10th place run. This one was in the books by 11:04 with the 20 lap sportsman feature still to go. Since there was no track left and it was getting late we decided to bag the sportsman for the second straight night and make the 45 minute drive back to Williams Township to wrap up the racing weekend.
Friday, May 11 – We had made the decision earlier in the week that it was going to be a 358 modified weekend, attending the races at Big Diamond on Friday and Grandview on Saturday. The World of Outlaws were at Williams Grove and we have not been to an Outlaw show at the Grove in years. Friday turned out to be a beautiful day after a week of rainy weather. But by the time we arrived at Big Diamond at 7:45 the temperature dropped to 62 and the air sure felt cool up on top on the mountain.
Tonight they were running two make up features for the sportsman and the roadrunners. They were make-up features from back on April 1. The show however started out with two heat races for the roadrunners followed by the first 20 lap feature for the sportsman. Many times the sportsman put on a poor performance but tonight they ran a good race. There were only four cautions in the 20 lap event with Tim Fitzpatrick coming home the winner followed by Mike Liskowski and Doug Hendricks third, Mike Lyons fourth and Jim Houseworth, our neighbor from nearby Reigelsville placing fifth. The race took less than 20 minutes to run and the modified heats followed.
The car count for the modifieds was low with only 26 cars participating in the three heats. There was no need for a consolation as all cars qualified for the main event. This was followed by the 15 lap roadrunner feature and the caution waved 7 times. The racing at the front was good but the cars in the rear just kept spinning. Marc Berzowski won the event. It was 9:30 when the two sportsman heats ran and ay 9:50 it was intermission.
The track surface was good but the cautions kept the racing from developing into a really good race. For the next half hour we chatted with Dwight Bucks, who we sat with, and I gave the Phillies scores to some of the surrounding fans. At 10:17 the 25 lap modified feature took the green.
It almost seemed that this race was run in two segments. The first 7 laps were one big caution. Six cautions in seven laps. I think Dwight made a good point when it mentioned that when you have a low car count some of the lesser competitors make the field and they just keep spinning. Now I know 26 cars is not a low car count to some tracks but based on the fact that Big Diamond’s Saturday night sister track, Grandview had 42 modifieds the next night, it was low. Laps 8 through 25 were run nonstop and when you looked at the finish it was like a who’s who of small block modified racing. Duane Howard picked up the win followed by Jeff Strunk, MeMe DeSantis, Rick Laubach and Craig VonDohren. Unfortunately they were not dicing for positions. They were spread out around the track. It was 10:40 when the feature was over with a sportsman and roadrunner feature left to run. But after a hard week at work we decided to call it a night and head back to the Lehigh Valley.
Saturday, May 5 - We were looking at going to Mahoning Valley Speedway but a review of the weather showed a chance of showers in a two hour time frame between 7 and 9 so we opted to head south to the Bridgeport Speedway. It was my oldest brother’s birthday on Monday so we asked Bob if he wanted to be chauffeured to the races at Bridgeport as part of his birthday present. He accepted the offer and we all met at the Hellertown Park and Ride to begin the trek southward toward south Jersey.
We arrived at a little past 6 and upon exiting the car noticed that the weather in south Jersey was much more cloud filled and cooler than the partly sunny and 74 degree temperatures we had left from. As we entered the grandstand area we noticed that the crowd was “light". By the time the racing was ready to begin at 7 PM it was slightly better but no more than 300 to 325 fans in attendence. From some of the regulars, my brother included, said that the crowd was better than the past two races. The weather through the month of April and the beginning of May has been basically cool and wet so we hope the rest of the summer brings much better weather for Bridgeport and all the rest of the east coast tracks. The three division program would consist of big block modifieds (25), sportsman (16) and outlaw stocks (14). The fields were lean but the racing turned out to be very competitive. The three modified heats were spun off in 18 minutes and next up was the makeup 15 lap outlaw stock feature. These guys and gals turned in a credible performance with Terry Griffin flashing under the checkered flag first beating out Jeff Dirkes and Rick Broschard. A very good performance was turned in by Jim Hughes in his 4 cylinder machine racing against the engined outlaw stocks crossing the line in fourth.
The sportsman only needed two heats and all heat qualifying was completed by 7:50. There really was no need for a modified consie but they ran one the distance of four laps and by 7:57 it was intermission time. A half hour later the second outlaw stock feature rolled onto the track for their 15 lap feature. Terry Griffin won pulling away over Jeff Dirkes with Jeremy Doerr placing in the show position. The 20 lap sportsman feature would go next with the green waving at 8:54. Brett Kressley looked like he might pull this one off but Tommy Beamer used the outside groove and blasted by Kressley to take the lead late in the event. Kressley held on for second with Ryan Anderson coming back to finish third with Matt Budd taking fourth and last week’s winner, Ken Eckert Jr., rounding out the top five with the checker waving at 9:19. This was a good race and would have been labeled very good if it hadn’t been slowed five times because of cautions.
All that was left was the 30 lap big block modified feature which went green at 9:42. It was a bit dusty but the track was multi-grooved with much passing throughout the field. Ryan Watt was the first of the heavy hitters to make it to the front taking the lead from sixth starting spot and the defending track champion looked like the man to beat. Scott Ambruster who started fifth was running second until lap 21 when smoke began to bellow from his mount and the caution waved. On the restart Watt led with Jimmy Horton now sitting in second after starting 14th and 12th starting Eric Kormann on the inside of row two. Watt and Horton used the high groove while Kormann stuck it on the inside and executed a slid job exiting turn one that not only saw him pass Horton but also passing Watt to take the lead. Kormann would not be denied his first big block victory at Bridgeport and roared under the checkered flag at 10:08 to the delight of the small crowd. As Kormann exited his racer he climbed onto the roof and jumped up and down. His victory lane interview was great with even Kormann amazed that he pulled off the move passing Horton and Watt for the win. Pat and I agreed that it was the best feature racing we have seen at Bridgeport in quite some time. It was a shame that so few people witnessed a great feature race.
In closing I would like to add some comments about Bridgeport. The program was for the most part run efficiently but two points that would tighten the show would be to skip the consie until the car count increases to the high 20’s and the second and more important one is the caution flag procedure. It seems to take a long time to restart the race when the caution appears for something minor and with the advent of in car radios management should be able to skip the one to go to green procedure. Just have the pace truck pull off on the backstretch and go. On a big 5/8 mile track every caution slows the action and at least 2 minutes is lost with the current restart procedure. Streamline this and you probably save yourself a half hour. Another thought is that the admission price of $20 is too high. You are not competing with New Egypt for fans you need to establish your own fan base in south Jersey and to bring out the new potential fan in the area. A good way would be to advertise heavily in the local south Jersey papers with ads offering discounts for area residents with coupons and family plan deals and lowering the admission price to $15. We figured with the admission price decreased to $15 it would only take another hundred people to make up the difference from the current $20 admission to the lowered $15. This might also entice some folks that live in Pennsylvania to venture down but you have to give them a good value as they can go to Big Diamond or Grandview for $15 with larger car counts plus many must pay tolls to arrive at Bridgeport from the Keystone State.
Bridgeport has a good product here and the reworking of the racing surface has produced better and closer racing but without establishing a solid fan base it will not work. We wish the Hoffman family good fortunes in their uphill battle and hope to one day soon report on a successful racing program at Bridgeport with an ample crowd to witness it.
Saturday, April 28 – I had decided that I was going to stay home the entire weekend and catch up on some outstanding items I had to do for my job. It is my crazy time of the year at work and I always seem to get way behind in what I have to do. On Friday I sent Bruce off to Williams Grove with our dear friend Russ Frei while I camped out on my work laptop. However I changed my mind when I realized I could add a new track to my list of tracks and I did not have to venture far from home. At the end of the last racing season Borgers Speedway announced they would be changing their dirt surface to asphalt and this would be the first race on the new surface. I got up early and took two self-study tests to get the required credits to renew my insurance license that was expiring on April 30 and that took 3 hours. Yes, I always wait until the last minute and then have to scramble. After a few more hours on the laptop Bruce and I ventured north to Borgers. The trip took only a little over 30 minutes and we were pulling into the parking lot.
Earlier in the day the go-karts and micro stocks ran and then there was a break before the next set of cars took to the new surface. Guy Smith sent a text message around 3:20 telling us that stage one was over and they were in the break. It was 3:45 when we arrived and took seats in the small wooden bleachers on the homestretch of the 1/7 mile now asphalt track. The new surface and the entire track looked great. The infield is also asphalt and it is one neat looking little track. When we arrived it was still sunny with the temperature at 60 degrees but the weather was changing with a forecast of rain in the not too distant future. They cancelled the second set up warm-ups and went right into racing to beat the rain. On the card were X-Cel 600 modifieds (6), 600 dirt micros (4), senior slingshots (6) and the TQ midgets (4). Unfortunately the car count was nowhere near what we hoped for we believe that will improve as the word of this fine little track gets around. They ran 1 qualifying heat for each division and then it was feature time. Each feature was 25 laps and of course with the car counts there was not a whole lot of passing or competitive racing but it was an enjoyable day and great to see a track reinvent itself rather than lie down and close. The winners were Aaron Bowes, Rob Vivona, Mike Tidaback and Matt Dealaman.
In addition to a racing event a social event also took place. As I mentioned above this would be a new track for those of us who continually try to add to our track counts. Also as I mentioned Guy Smith sent us a text message. Guy and Pam Smith were there along with Guy’s aunt, Ginny Schuler. Whenever I see her I think back to the time we were at New Smyrna Speedway years ago and she tried boiled peanuts. Will White was there with his mother. Rusty Curry from New Jersey was present. Paul Weisel and Bing Metz showed for a time. Jeff Sands stopped by before ending his Saturday night venture in Blairstown, New Jersey where he was going to hear the musical group Who’s Next. Actually it was one of the first times we saw Jeff stay through the entire racing program. Marshall was also on hand and I was glad to see he got in the show at Mahoning Valley where he was headed off to at the final checkered. Chris Tyrrel of Nazareth was also present. We all had a good time talking racing and other stuff.
Sometimes I have to ask myself what is it I really like about auto racing and sometimes my answer is the many friends and acquaintances it has given me literally throughout my life.