Friday, June 29 - Pat pulled into the garage just a few minutes after I arrived home for work and by 5 o’clock we were on the ride to Williams Grove. The plan was to stay Friday night in York after the races then catch a minor league baseball game in Lancaster and follow that up with a visit to Lincoln Speedway on Saturday night for the Pennsylvania Sprint Week opener. We pulled into the parking lot at Williams Grove a little after 7 and made our way up into our grandstand seats overlooking the homestretch. Twenty four 410 sprint cars were on hand including two Australian visitors, Darren Mollenoyux and Luke Bowey. It was championship night for the 358’s but the low water mark of the year at 18 was their car count.
Racing commenced at 7:33 with the first of two 358 sprint car heats followed by three heats for the 410’s and back to the second heat for the 358’s. The heats were nothing special but that is usually the case here as the track works into shape. It was 8:13 when the heats were completed and some track maintenance was in order before the 410 consie was run. Steve Buckwalter outran the field at 8:31 and another short delay was taken as the 410’s always run their feature first and the consie cars needed some turnaround time before racing again. By 8:53 the green was waving on the 25 lap feature event. Gerard McIntyre took the early lead with Brian Montieth racing from the 7th hole to pressure the youngster in the early stages. One failed slid move in turn two where Montieth caught the cushion with McIntyre racing back by was executed to perfection one lap later on lap 9 with Montieth taking the lead. McIntyre backed it into the second turn fence the next lap in his hot pursuit of Montieth and that was it for the night for him. Sheldon Haudenschild who started 12th and Alan Krimes who started 16th were mixing it up for fifth and sixth on lap 13 when they tangled in turn three both sliding sideways into the fence with Fred Rahmer being involved also. Three laps later the caution appeared again and at this time the red was thrown for the dreaded fuel stop. Action resumed after a few minutes and Montieth raced off again with the field in pursuit. The Edge flashed under the double checkered at 9:30 winning his second Williams Grove race in a row over Brent Marks, Danny Dietrich up from 10th, Greg Hodnett from 11th to 4th and Cory Haas turning in another strong performance racing from 14th to complete the top five. Positions six through ten were filled by Chad Layton, Lance Dewease, Don Kreitz Jr., Tyler Walker and Davey Sammons from 20th to 10th.
The 358 sprint car feature would be an extra 5 laps this evening for championship night and the action was underway at 9:40. This turned out to be the better of the two features with 8th starting Ryan Wilson sweeping to the lead off turn four heading to complete lap 11. Eric Tomecek brought out of the pack shortly thereafter and began to track down Wilson. He caught him on lap 15, briefly took the lead but Wilson battled back. In turn two on lap 16 Wilson and Tomecek brushed with Tomecek doing a complete 360 spin and continuing without losing a position. Tomecek got the break he needed two laps later as the caution appeared and Wilson’s big lead was wiped out. On the restart Tomecek swept to the high groove in turn two to take the lead but a spirited duel sparked between Wilson and Tomecek over the remaining five laps of the race as the lightning flashed and the sky lit up off of turns one and two. Tomecek was able to hold off the assault of Wilson to become the seventh different winner in seven events and also recording his fourth career win at the Grove over Wilson with Adrian Shaffer storming from 15th to take 3rd at the end with Kevin Nouse passing Brian Garland for fourth on the last lap after starting 11th. The final checker waved at 10:06 with Tomechek standing in victory lane shortly thereafter receiving his check for $1200 while Brian Montieth took home $3600 for the win plus he rolled the dice which every 410 winner does in victory lane with an extra $1000 appearing on the dice, $500 which was an added bonus for a fourth row starter this evening and another $160 in lap money for a grand total of $5260 to win a normal 25 lap feature!! Not bad money, eh?
Saturday, June 23 - We tossed around going to Lincoln or heading to Bridgeport and since we figured we would be at Lincoln next Saturday for the Pennsylvania Speedweek opener we opted for Bridgeport. The first thing we noticed was that the crowd had increased in number and that is a positive sign. It seems a combination of good word of mouth, positive remarks on South Jersey Dirt Racing website and the adult admission reduced to $15 has brought more people to the south Jersey speed plant. Our observation is that management should extend the $15 admission price through the rest of the year.
Racing started slightly after 7 with the first of two sportsman heats for the 19 cars on hand. We were given an indication that it might be an odd evening with the pole sitter for the first heat crashed on the backstretch before the start of the race!! The TSRS 305 sprints were on the card tonight brought out 18 of the sprinters. The big block modifieds brought a field of 24 cars so no consies would be needed on the evening. All heat qualifying was completed by 8:11 and it was now intermission. Promoter, Doug Hoffman, put the track crew to work as he was not happy with the track surface on this evening. A rather long 45 minutes later the 20 lap sportsman feature was ready to go. Only two cautions slowed this event and Travis Hill looked like he had been shot out of a cannon. He charged from ninth starting position to take the lead in turn 3 on lap 8 and that was all they wrote for any lead changes. Hill turned this one into a cakewalk blasting to his fifth win of the year over Ryan Wozunk, Ricky DiEva, a heat winner, Brett Kressley and Matt Budd who took the fifth spot on the last circuit. This was a good feature and we looked forward to the remaining two feature races.
The TSRS sprints did the sportsman one better only bringing out one caution in their 20 lap feature. Mike Haggenbottom, former URC pilot, checked out early but Kyle Purks found the right groove late and closed significally on Haggenbottom at the end. Former micro sprint driver, Rick Stief, brought his mount home in the show position. Rounding out the top five were impressive female driver, Steph Palmai, with Bob DeVault taking fifth. Now it was time for the 30 lap big block modified feature and anticipation was high but the high was quickly erased when the second starter decided to turn left on the first starter entering turn one turning him across the track with a 13 car pileup resulting. That took much of the air out of the balloon as six cars were unable to continue. A good call by management had the offending driver sent to the rear of the field. The cleanup of the accident scene took 28 minutes to complete and adding in five additional cautions this one turned into a stinker. Don’t get me wrong there were some good moments such as the marches of Rick Laubach and Jimmy Horton from the rear after pitting from the big one. Also Laubach’s amazing move to advance from fifth to second on a lap 14 restart was good racing. But the combination of the big wreck and five other cautions brought this one down. Laubach eventually took the lead at the line to complete lap 18 passing Richie Pratt Jr. and taking almost a half track lead on his way to his 4th win of 2012 at Bridgeport over Pratt, Eric Kormann who held off Horton for third with Scott Irwin rounding out the top five. There were many crumpled body panels on the modifieds and the fact that it took 55 minutes to complete the feature at 11:06 you can see why this race was a disappointment especially after the fine racing we had seen the last time we visited earlier in the year.
Special thanks to Tim and Margo Frost, the new publishers of the National Speedway Directory, for our copies of this fine publication which should be in the cars of any race fan who likes to visit different tracks. This book provides speedway information for every track in the United States and Canada providing the night of racing, divisions on the card, directions and contact phone numbers. If you want a copy visit your favorite track’s souvenir stand for $10 or send $15 to Tim Frost at National Speedway Directory. The address is 909 Seneca Road, Wilmette, IL 60091. Tell him that you read about it here.
Friday, June 22 – The weather was iffy and storms were going to happen. The question was where were they going to happen. At 4:15 I received a message from RainedOut.com that Bridgeport cancelled. As I left work at 4:30 in Pennington, New Jersey it was pouring yet 5 miles up the road the sun was shining. I spoke with Bruce and at home in Easton, PA it was also raining. After reviewing the radar on weather.com we decided Williams Grove had the best shot at getting in the races and at 5:30 we started the drive westward. The further west we drove the better the skies looked until we came within about 15 miles of the track. The black clouds returned and I was not feeling good about the prospects of the night of races.
We arrived at 7:25 and just made it inside by the time the first 358 sprint heat took the green. There were only 21 358 sprints and they ran three 8 lap heats of 7 cars each, not very exciting. There were 26 410 sprints and three qualifying heats were run. Just as I thought the storms had passed us by drops started to fall at the beginning of heat three. I was preparing to flee to the car as I was sure it was going to pour. But, the drops stopped and the storms passed us by. After a brief break the sprint consolation was run. Six cars came out and six cars qualified so the distance was cut from 10 laps to 5 laps with all qualifying complete by 9:00
Normally you do not get dirty at the Grove but the day was very dry with low humidity and the wind was blowing non-stop right in our face. Tonight we got dirty. There was a 20 minute intermission and at 9:20 the 410 feature was underway. The green was not out long as Chad Layton came to a halt in turn two on the first lap. When racing resumed one of the cars on the move was Danny Dietrich. He moved up to 6th when the #48 came to a halt on the backstretch on lap 10 ending his bid for the win. Three laps later the red came out as Gerald McIntyre hit the wall in turn three and four. This came on the same lap that Gerald lost the lead in turn two to Brian Montieth. Montieth lead the remainder of the 12 circuits but it was not easy. In the closing laps Ryan Smith in the Donnie Kreitz #69 was running the low side like only a Kreitz can, and several times stuck his front wing inside the high flying Montieth. A late lap caution caused the momentum to change and Montieth went on to pick up the win with Smith, Lance Dewease, Cory Haas and Fred Rahmer following him across the line.
The 358 sprints run a 20 lap feature and it produced a first time winner. Matt Mountz lead all 20 laps with the only caution coming out when Mountz got into the back of a lapped car will trying to pass him on the homestretch. With four laps to go Dale Hammaker would be right behind Mountz and I thought it would be the end of his bid for his first win. I was wrong. Mountz hung on for his first win followed by Hammaker and Kevin Nouse. Racing was complete by 10:15 and aside from the few drops that fell at the beginning of heat three it never rained.
Sunday, June 17 - Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!! It was the last day of our short vacation to Indiana and also the last night of the USAC Indiana Midget Week and what better place to wrap it up than at Kokomo. This 3/8 mile semi-banked dirt oval is located just outside of town with a large farm building located behind turns three and four with the pits located off turns one and two. The seating is a large wooden grandstand that extends the entire length of the homestretch and there are also pit bleachers in between turns one and two. The consession stands are located underneath the grandstand and are set up well with bins well stocked with delicious food and the best of it being the pork tenderloin sandwiches which are very thick and worth the $5 price tag. We arrived a little late after having lunch with our realtor in Crawfordsville, visiting Home Depot to check on some prices for items and traveling unfamilar roads it was 6:05 when we pulled into the parking lot. Thank goodness we had the seat saving specialist, Rich Rauser, placing a blanket down for us so we had good seats arriving at the later hour.
By 6:39 midget time trials were underway for the 33 midgets on hand with Tracy Hines spinning off a quick lap of 13.506 seconds to become the fast timer. The wingless sprint cars, one of the normal Sunday night classes at Kokomo were also on the card along with the street stocks. Twenty three sprint cars ran three heats with Bryan Clauson, Casey Shuman and Kyle Larson scoring wins on the multi grooved surface with cars running on the inside, the middle and the outside. Four heats were run for the midgets with Pennsylvania’s Steve Buckwalter, California’s dwarf or little person, Rico Abreu, looking good in the second heat. Jerry Coons Jr. out of Arizona and Indiana’s Indy 500 starter, Bryan Clauson bagging the other two heats. There were only 16 street stocks so just two heats were needed here and they were a good filler class on the evening. All heat qualifying was completed by 8:30 and a B main was needed for both the sprint cars and midgets with Nick Drake, the son of Jay Drake, winning the sprints and Mario Clouser winning the midgets. Next on the agenda was intermission with the track crew totally reworking the track in twenty five minutes.
The sprints would run their feature first and while I understand that they are the premiere division on a regular Sunday night it was to me a special night and it was Indiana Midget Week so the midgets should have been given top bill and the chance to race on the best surface possible. But it was not to be so the green flag waved at 9:33 to start the 25 lap sprint feature. Kyle Larson and Chris Windom ocuppied the first row and battled for the early lead until “Stomp and Steer” Scotty Weir swept around the outside to take the lead on lap 6 to the crowd’s delight. Just three laps later Weir caught the cushion wrong between turns one and two and slammed the wall almost flipping in the process. Windom assumed the lead for one lap until young Kyle Larson took the lead on the homestretch to complete lap 10. Though there was good racing throughout the pack Larson would not be passed though Bryan Clauson pressured him over the last several laps looking for a way by but Larson flashed under the checkered flag first with Clauson second, Thomas Meseraull third, Levi Jones coming from the fourth row to finish fourth with Coleman Gulick using the high side to advance from 15th to round out the top five.
Now it was time for the 30 lap midget feature and we were off and running at 10:17. They stayed green until lap 12 when Alex Bright tangled with Thomas Meseraull in turn one with Bright rolling to a stop. Michael Pickens, who in an earlier blog I had living in Australia but knew better that he is a Kiwi from New Zealand instead, was looking good running high and leading the race. Pickens looked strong and was threatening to repeat his win in this event from last year and trying to become the third driver in speed week to do so. Darren Hagen (Gas City) and Bryan Clauson (Lincoln Park)were the previous repeat winners in the speed week. It was not meant to be though as Pickens bobbled in turn one on lap 17 and Kyle Larson sideswiped him and Pickens was done. Larson would inherit the lead and again at the end Bryan Clauson made a serious challenge to unseat the youngster but Larson held on and became only the second driver in Kokomo Speedway history to win both the sprint and midget features in the same evening joining Chad Boat in the record books. Tracy Hines finished third with Chris Windom taking fourth and Brad Kuhn salvaging a terrible week grabbing fifth at the end. Three of the ARDC contingent, Steve Buckwalter, Alex Bright and Trevor Kobylarz made the main event but none of them finished in the top ten. Buckwalter’s 12th was the high mark for ARDC on the evening.
We decided to skip the street stock feature and visit the pit area to chat with the Buckwalters and others before heading south to Indianapolis. We left the Indianapolis Airport around 1 PM Monday and were back in Philadelphia by 3:45 and eating dinner in Quakertown by 5. It was a good week of racing overall with three good programs and two disappointing ones.
We would like to thank new National Speedway Directory owner, Tim Frost, for our two copies of the 2012 book and urge everyone that take some road trips to purchase a copy of this very useful book packed with information of every track in the United States and Canada along with dragstrips. It is well worth the investment of $10 to have this useful tool at hand when you are buzzing down the road to visit your next track.
Saturday, June 16 – Today was a hot one with temperatures in the 90’s. We decided to take a day off from the USAC midget week and skip the event at Lawrenceburg to visit a track we had never been to before. During the day we decided to take in some of the countryside and choose to visit a town named Connersville, IN. There is an old train there and we thought we just might go for a ride. Little did we know that Thomas the Train was in town and it was a big festival for children as Thomas was connected to the train and children got to ride with Thomas. There was another train that ventured out a bit farther from town and on this ride you got to see Thomas pass you by. Well we were there and even though we did not have any children with us we took the train ride the saw Thomas pass by. We rode in a 1930’s rail car and learned a lot of train history from the volunteer on board. The entire event turned out to be quite interesting.
Afterwards we headed west over to Rushville, yes this is the home of Tony Stewart. As a matter of fact we saw what could have been the home of Tony’s parents as there were many haulers parked in back including the one for the #20 sprint car. But we did not come here to find out where Tony Stewart was from we came to go to the Rush County Fairgrounds. We pulled onto the fairgrounds at 6:10 and found out warm-ups started at 7:00. There was almost no one there so we decided to scoot out to the local Dairy Queen and get a bite to eat. We were back before 7:00 and were also happy to see our good friend Roger Ferrell, who came down from his home near Huntington, IN. We all sat atop the aluminum grandstands and were in our seats prior to the first green dropping on the first set of warm-ups.
It was a single division show featuring the Midwest TQ Racing League. They did not look like the TQ clubs we have here in the Northeast. They actually looked just like a regular midget. The track is a 1/6 mile slightly banked clay oval and the fairgrounds are situated directly behind the high school property. The crowd was small, several hundred and the cars totaled 25. They ran a 4 lap dash, three 10 lap qualifying heats and a B main before taking a 40 minute intermission. It is amazing how you do not mind a 40 minute intermission when you are busy talking and laughing. The time actually went by fast and before we knew it the cars were lining up on the homestretch for the main event.
At 9:44 the green dropped on the 25 lap feature. It did not take long for the 20 car field to incur the first red. On the first lap dash winner, Rick Robinson, took a nasty flip down the backstretch. Luckily Rick was uninjured but it would be 15 minutes before the race would restart. The caution would wave three more times for minor incidences but while the green was out the races were good. The top three positions battled furiously during the final circuits and nobody hit into each other, just good clean racing. Ronnie Combs managed to withstand the pressure and hold on for the win over Brett Hankins and Tate Martz. It was a really good little show and all was complete before 10:15. We hung out in the parking lot talking a bit more then headed back to our hotel in Indianapolis. We will have one more day of racing before we head home.
Friday, June 15 - It was another sunny day in the 90’s with low humidity so that would make another beautiful day for racing. We ate lunch at one of Pat’s favorite places, Steak ‘n Shake (great burgers, hot dogs and fries along with great milkshakes) before making our way south on country roads as we had time to take in the sights of the Indiana countryside before pulling into the parking lot of the Bloomington Speedway, a 1/4 mile red clay high banked oval with no walls and bleachers on the homestretch with plenty of space above on the natural hill to place your lawn chair if you choose to do so. According to a report given to us by Keith Barto he had spoke with the track prep guy who said he had been watering the track since Wednesday!! With no rain in the state in six weeks it was needed and it payed off. The track held up well on the evening which produced the kind of side by side back and forth racing we had come to see. It was interesting as turns one and two blackened up some but turns three and four looked the same as when we first arrived. It made for a challenge for the drivers to adjust to the different track conditions.
The time trial session got underway at 7:20 and was completed 23 minutes later with Chris Windom driving the famous Wilke Pak white #11 setting fast time of 12.088 seconds on the quarter mile bullring. Four exciting heat races for the 38 midgets would follow with wins going to Rico Abreu, a dwarf from the Golden state of California who can really wheel a race car around a track, Darren Hagen, the current USAC National Midget Series point leader and Indiana Midget Week point leader, Chase Barber, another young California driver and Chris Bell in from the state of Oklahoma who is holding his own. Next up were the regular wingless sprints at Bloomington which came in at 36 strong with Damion Gardner, Brady Short, Chad Boespflug and Josh Barton nailing down the wins. There was two B mains for the sprints won by Thomas Meseraull and Chase Briscoe and one midget semi starting 21 and won by Bobby East with Steve Buckwalter second but all eyes were on young Collegeville,PA’s Alex Bright who had engine problems in time trials and did not record a lap. Therefore he had to start last (21st) in the semi and came all the way up to 4th at the finish!
It was not until 10:41 that the 30 lap USAC midget main took the green flag. Levi Jones driving the Shane Hmiel #56 took the lead from the first starting spot and took off. He left the racing to everyone behind him and race they did. Jerry Coons Jr. advanced from 11th to make a late run at Jones but came up short. Shane “The Throttle” Cottle brought the Keith Kunz owned #71 home third with Darren Hagen taking fourth and fast timer, Chris Windom, rounding out the top five. Positions six through ten were filled by Brad Kuhn, Bobby East, Tracy Hines, Rico Abreu who started in the back after suffering a flat tire early and racing from 24th to garner 9th with Steve Buckwalter rounding out the top ten. Mario Clouser who entered the feature on a provisional came from 23rd to finish 11th and Alex Bright started 21st and claimed 12th after throwing it up on the high side and using the cushion until the high groove went away after the halfway mark. It was a good feature with plenty of action to keep your attention.
The wingless sprints still had their 25 lap feature to run and it was only interrupted once with a caution and completed in just eight minutes!! Jon Sciscoe came out of the sixth hole to take the lead early passing Damion Gardner and Brady Short to do so. Sciscoe used the low groove and pulled away from the field but once again the racing was in the pack from positions two to ten. Short who ran third early slipped off turn three and reentered the track in turn four losing numerous positions fading back to 9th but threw it back up on the outside and moved forward in quick manner. He made it back to second after a several lap battle with Gardner but did not have enough time to close enough on Sciscoe. Josh Barton ran a strong race coming from 7th to take 3rd with Rattlesnake Arizona’s own Casey Shuman advancing from 10th to 4th and Danny Holtsclaw, the local Indiana Farm Insurance agent, charging from 14th to nail down the 5th position at the finish at 11:31.
It was an exciting night of wingless racing in two premier classes and this was what we came to see and hope the next two nights provide more of the same.
Thursday, June 14 - After only 5 hours sleep each of the previous two nights, we had a long day ahead of us. We are in the process of purchasing a home in Indiana and had the house inspection scheduled for this morning at 9:00. This was a much longer process than anticipated and what we thought would take a couple of hours, took nearly 4 hours. The original plan was to return to the hotel and rest up but that was thrown out when we first finished lunch at close to 2:00. Since we were only 40 minutes away from our destination for the night we decided to check out the town we would call home in a few years and then head straight down Route 231 to Lincoln Park Speedway, one of our favorite tracks in Indiana.
We arrived on the grounds at 4:45 and secured what we thought was a good parking spot and excellent seats in the grandstand. Today was a hot one with the temperature climbing into the 90’s but the humidity was low so it was bearable. The track looked awesome as usual and we anticipated another great show. Last year this race was our race of the year and we were hoping for nothing less. Come to think of it I do not believe we ever saw a bad race here. The cushion here can sometimes build to almost a foot high. There is no running down the cushion like back home.
The USAC midgets started time trials at 6:53 and they were complete by 7:35. I was a bit concerned when the track was starting to take rubber this early in the evening. Bryan Clauson set fast time with a time of 12.961. As with all the shows the wingless sprints are also on the card and here at Lincoln Park the UMP Modifieds were also present. After the midget time trials there was a 25 minute break before the first midget heat took to the track. There were four heats for the 37 midgets and it was during these heats that we could see this was not going to be a typical Lincoln Park surface. It got blacker and blacker and dust started to billow. The 18 modifieds ran their two heats next followed by the water truck. This would be the first of many appearances by the infamous water truck.
There were 26 sprints and they also competed in three qualifying events. This was followed up with a midget B main for 21 cars qualifying only 4, a water truck event and the sprint consolation. The show was moving right along but the surface just got worse. Dave Ludwig, who was sitting with us and had never been to Lincoln Park before, looked at us in disbelief as he now will probably question everything he reads in the blog. He was excited to see this race after reading our blog telling how great this racing surface is. I would like to tell you they reworked the track and the surface we know to be Lincoln Park resurfaced but this did not happen.
At 10:30 the green dropped on the midget feature which turned out to be a huggy pole event. I never thought I would use that word to describe a race here. There was some passing but not the elbows up style more like the rout out of the groove style. The cautions were few with three. In the end it was Bryan Clauson standing in victory lane followed by Darren Hagen, Caleb Armstrong, Shane Cottle and Chris Windom. Nathan Smee from Australia was sixth. The ARDC boys did not do that well tonight with Buckwalter, Bright and Wean all finishing out of the top 10.
The modified feature followed with former sprint driver Brian Hayden picking up the win. By now it was almost 11:30 and I must confess I was starting to get tired. I had one chance left to be wowed and it was the 25 lap sprint feature.
I do not think I can use the word wowed, nor awesome, nor excited to describe the sprint feature. Maybe I should just say amazing. I once heard when you cannot find a good word to use to describe something you should say amazing. The green dropped at 11:30 on what was now a black, slick, dusty track. At one point I thought we were at the sprint car ice capades. However Bruce said it best when he said it was slide jobs gone wild. For 25 laps they slammed and banged each other. If you are a sprint fan you know when you see that slide job that you know just is not going to make it and contact is made. Well, this was happening in turns two and four on every lap multiple times. It was like they just threw it in the turn and hoped for the best. At one point the announcer said Thomas Meseraull just held his breath and threw it into the turn. This did result in one of the only two cautions during the race. When the dust settled, literally, Chad Boespflug (yes it is spelled correctly) was standing in victory lane followed by Casey Shuman, Jerry Coons Jr., Joe Liguori and Levi Jones.
It was 11:40 when all was complete and by the end it was very chilly. What we thought was a good parking spot turned out to be a 20 minute entrapment and all we wanted at this point was to make the 45 minute drive back to the hotel to go to sleep. If you are being kind the night of racing could be described in one word amazing. I must tell you that I hear a lot of unkind words describing the night from the fans. We were disappointed.
Wednesday, June 13 - We arrived in Indiana at the Indianapolis Airport around noontime and were greeted with sunny skies with temperatures in the 80’s. In other words, great weather!! We were in the Hoosier state for the annual USAC Midget Speed Week contested at five tracks over a five day period. Night one would find us traveling northeast of Indianapolis on I-69 to the town of Gas City where the I-69 Gas City Speedway is located. The 1/4 mile semi-banked black dirt oval has steep wooden grandstands that run the entire length of the homestretch. The track only has guard rail on the homestretch with the turns and backstretch wide open. The third and fourth turns have protection fencing well off the speedway in front of the pit area. As soon as we entered the track we ran into friend, Dave Ludwig from Fleetwood, Pennsylvania who had flown out on an earlier flight today. We would all sit together this evening along with our Indiana buddy, Roger Farrell, who showed up part way into the program.
Action got underway at 6:28 with time trials for the 40 car midget field on hand. They have went back to individual time trials after running the group time trials (which we feel were better) the last couple of years. Royersford, Pa’s Steve Buckwalter was first out for time trials and his time of 12.613 seconds stood up as the fastest of the time trial session which concluded at 7:08. Twenty minutes later the first of four heats for the midgets was trackside and produced some good racing with current USAC National midget point leader, Darren Hagen, winning the first heat with Davy Ray, Kyle Larson who can drive anything with wheels on it extremely well and Australian Michael Pickens looking strong winning heat four. The thundercars were also on the card as a filler running one heat for their eight car field. Wingless sprints would round out the program card bringing 21 cars to the dance. All heat qualifying was completed by 8:42. The midgets ran a 20 car semi main qualifying six with another Australian visitor, Nathan Smee winning this tussle.
Intermission followed with the track crew “farming” or reworking the track surface which he hoped would produce a good track for the midgets to run their feature on as the first several qualifying races became huggy pole which means that everyone dove low and hugged the inside groove with the outer groove being non-existant. What came next left everyone in amazement as management decided to run a 12 lap semi for the sprint cars with only six cars running and five qualifying. Why??? This was a total waste of time on a week night when many locals had to work the next morning. Anyhow this waste ended at 9:55 and by 10:11 we were ready to go with the 30 lap midget main event. The race started off fast and furious but though they were running quickly there was hardly any passing. The first caution waved at the halfway mark and from that point on it turned into a race to protect the inside lane. Darren Hagen led the entire distance fending off second place finisher, Jerry Coons Jr. banging him as he tried to dive under him in the later stages of the race causing Coons to slap one of the inner tires marking the inside of the track. For Hagen this was the second year in a row that he won the midget speed week opener and was good news for his point leading position. Kyle Larson advanced from seventh to finish third with Tracy Hines fourth after starting 12th and Steve Buckwalter rounding out the top five. It was a good night for the five car ARDC contingent on hand with four of them making the feature event with Buckwalter the highest finisher in fifth with Trevor Kobylarz coming in seventh and Alex Bright eighth. Nick Wean finished outside the top ten and 15 year old Austin Burke making his midget debut failed to qualify which was not a surprise as he was running against the best in the business. The youngster looked smooth and steady and did a good job.
Next up was the 15 lap thunder car feature which took just 6 minutes to run. Kaleb Nutter was the winner in a close contest. The sprint cars took the green at 11:08 and a hard flip in turn one brought this one to a quick stop. Once back underway conditions were smoother with first starting Jon Stanbrough taking command. There probably were not many in the house that would have bet against the veteran shoe being passed for the lead but nobody told Levi Jones about that. He pulled a nifty inside outside move through turn one and cleared Stanbrough to take the lead. Jones rode home the winner at 11:36 followed by Stanbrough with Coleman Gulick third (after suffering through a rough Eastern Storm tour flipping two machines during the week), Jonathan Hendrick fourth and Bill Puterbaugh Jr. rounding out the top five.
It was a disapointing opening night of one of our favorite weeks of racing with the midgets going huggy pole in the feature. Here’s hoping things get better as the week progresses. Stay tuned for night two at Lincoln Park.
Saturday, June 9 – It was a beautiful Saturday, sunny, 80’s and no chance of rain and it would be our first visit to Port Royal Speedway for 2012. The USAC sprints were finishing up their Eastern Storm tour at the ½ mile oval. There was a lot of sprint car racing in Central PA as the All Stars were running at Lincoln and we were sure Tony Stewart would be showing up as he did the previous night at Williams Grove. But since we were going to be heading west to Indiana for the USAC midgets we thought it would be good to start the wingless process today. Of course Bruce had already seen the USAC sprints at Grandview and Big Diamond earlier in the week but work commitments kept me from both events. Also the ride up Route 322 to Port Royal was beautiful as always.
We arrived early at 5:15 as the plan was to tour the pits to see how many sprints were on hand as well as the ARDC midgets. It was a total wingless night. We counted 23 sprints and 21 midgets before heading back to the grandstands. The crowd was great considering the other big event at Lincoln. I am sure they also had a great crowd. This just shows that sprint car racing is alive and well in Central Pennsylvania. Time trials for the sprints started at 7:25 and Bryan Clauson set fast time at 19.080. After a break in the action the first of two ARDC midget heats took the green at 8:22.
There were two ARDC midget heats, three USAC sprint heats and two pro stock heats. After this there was an exhibit of restored cars narrated by Lynn Paxton that was quite interesting. Leroy Felty at age 82 was out there in a restored car that he ran back in the day and he was getting around the track pretty good.
The 30 lap feature paying $6,000 to win for the USAC sprints took the green at 10:00 and it was a good race. There was a lot of competition and hard racing. It looked like the race was going to run non-stop. Darren Hagen appeared to be on his way to victory as the battles for position were all behind the leader. Unfortunately there was a caution and that caution was for Hagen as he hit the wall in turns three and four after jumping the cushion ending his quest for victory. Damion Gardner inherited the lead and the win. All eyes turned to Tracey Hines to see if he could pull off the pass for the lead but it was not to happen. Gardner took the win with Hines, Jon Stanbrough, Robert Ballou and Dave Darland rounding out the top five. This was the first time the USAC sprints ever ran at Port Royal. From the size of the crowd and the roar of the crowd I am sure it will not be the last.
But, the wingless show was not over. ARDC midgets still had their 20 lap feature to run and up to this point not a one car got upside down. This ended on lap 2 when Drew Heistand drove up over a wheel and flipped in turn two on lap two. He was OK after his scary ride. Back underway again Trevor Kobylarz came from fifth to first in one lap and took command. Alex Bright broke out of the pack and took up chase. He closed for a while but Kobylarz remained on top. Two cautions at lap 8 and 18 bunched the field but Kobylarz was up to the challenge and pulled away both times. At the checkered at 11:10 Trevor Kobylarz took home his second career win in ARDC, both this year, over Bright with Bruce Buckwalter Jr. claiming the show position.
It was a good solid night of racing not fabulous but entertaining run on a good surface.
Friday, June 8 - Pat was attending a retirement dinner so I met Russ Fryi at the Hellertown Park & Ride at 5:30 and off we headed to the Big Diamond Speedway to witness the third night of the USAC sprint car Eastern Storm. We arrived at 6:50 and I ran into Lee Greenawalt, fellow Gater blogger who submits some fine photos on his pictorial blog. It was a pleasure meeting him and look forward to staying in contact with him. From there I ventured over to the wooden grandstand on the side of the hill and found Dwight Bucks and friends who saved me a seat for tonight’s racing. I grabbed some dinner (cheeseburger and chili) and settled in to watch the USAC time trials. The 20 car field took just 15 minutes to complete their timed laps with Levi Jones in the Tony Stewart #20 setting fast time of 15.237 seconds which was a new track record.
The roadrunners were the filler field on the evening to give the fans something to watch while the wingless sprints and the 358 modifieds worked on their machines. Two heats for the 14 car roadrunner field were contested followed by three heats for both the USAC sprints and 358 modifieds with all heat qualifying over by 9:09. Management moved the program along smartly and the 20 lap roadrunner feature was taking the green at 9:11. The roadrunner division use to be an entertaining one with over 20 entrants but now the quanity and quality has declined. Five cautions slowed this one before Jimmy Kost prevailed for his second win of the year. Intermission was next up and the voice on the pit area speaker said the break would be for 20 minutes with the wingless sprints then pushing off for their main event. Sure enough exactly 20 minutes later the first sprint car was pushed off out of the turn two access area and soon we were ready to go with the 30 lap USAC sprint car feature. To say this one was a disappointment would be an understatement as it become so dusty that at times you could not see the sprinters in turns four and two. The best thing about this race was that it went non-stop and that might have been the worst thing also as no cautions did not allow the dust to settle for a while. Passing was at a premium with second starting Chris Windom taking the lead on the start and never being headed scoring his second career Big Diamond victory, the last being his first USAC National Sprint Car Series victory. Fellow front row starter, Tracy Hines, came home second with third starting Chase Stockton remaining there. Damien Gardner did the same as Stockton in fourth and Levi Jones moved up one spot to claim the fifth finishing position. The 30 lap distance was completed in only eight minutes!!
The 30 lap 358 modified feature went green at 10:20 and ended up with a high number of cautions (10) but the race featured much more passing and racing action after the dust have been blown off. Meme DeSantis took the early lead on a lap two restart from his fourth starting position and looked to be tough to beat. The other top guns were working their way to the front and on a lap 20 restart 10th starting Jeff Strunk wrestled the lead from DeSantis. Soon thereafter Duane Howard followed suit by DeSantis and took aim on the flying #357. Strunk was up to the task and held sway with Craig VonDohren joining the battle in the late stages. As the checkered waved at 10:53 it was Strunk crossing the line first with VonDohren edging Howard by inches after a spirited two lap shootout for second with Colt Harris turning in a strong performance to claim fourth and DeSantis fading to fifth at the end. The entire program was completed by 10:53 in a finely tuned presentation even though the track was very dusty which was a huge disappointment and ruined being able to properly watch the sprint car feature.
Tuesday, June 5 - Tonight’s racing action at Grandview would feature the USAC National Sprint Car Series making their Eastern Storm tour through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Along with the 23 wingless sprint cars in attendence the ARDC midgets were on the undercard and they brought a strong field of 32 cars. Murphy’s Law would prevail tonight and if you are not familar with Murphy’s Law it states that “whatever could go wrong will go wrong". The night started out with rain falling during the warmups with it increasing causing the warmups to be red flagged. The track was run back in and another set of warmups were spun off. Time trials began at 8:20 and concluded at 8:39 with second generation driver, Kevin Thomas Jr. setting quick time with a new track record of 13.360 seconds. In fact nine cars brought the previous track record.
Ten minutes later the ARDC midgets were being pushed off for the first of their three heats and took just 19 minutes to spin off their heat races with Alex Bright, Trevor Kobylarz and Mark Gilmore winning. Up next were three USAC sprint car heats also spun off quickly in 25 minutes with New Jersey driver, Mark Bitner, winning heat one, Indiana’s Tracy Hines scoring heat two and Pennsylvania’s Mark Smith bagging heat three. Things were looking up with the track in good condition and only the ARDC consie to run before feature time. Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Arizona driving the Burke #54 ARDC midget won this race and ot was only 9:48. What happened next?
The 40 lap Jesse Hockett Classic for the wingless USAC sprint cars was waved off at 10:18. In the early going Binghamton, New York’s Coleman Gulick lost control on the backstretch and tangled with Mark Bitner before careening into the outside wall and flipping out of the ballpark at the end of the backstretch taking out a billboard during the flipping. Behind the backstretch are trees and Gulick who was uninjured wedged his sprinter on end against one of the trees. It took the wrecker crews 25 minutes to remove the flipped sprinter and to make matters worse one of the tow trucks broke down during the removal!! Things got back underway with Jerry Coons Jr. jumping into the early lead. There was not much passing in the first half of the race and the next caution did not appear until lap 16. Two laps later Bryan Clauson powered to the outside with Kevin Thomas Jr. in tow and went to the front taking the lead on lap 17. Clauson would never be headed after that flashing under the checker at 11:07 followed by Levi Jones would passed Thomas late in the race with Thomas third, Chris Windom fourth and Jerry Coons Jr. dropping to fifth at the end. The second half of the race was much more competitive but I was disappointed in the overall feature. Probably because I have seen these sprinters race on much better dirt surfaces in Indiana and other spots in the midwest and when they come east the tracks are not prepared properly for their style of racing.
It was not getting late with the 20 lap ARDC midgets taking the green flag at 11:23. Everyone thought this would be enough time to complete the 20 laps but remember Murphy’s Law was in effect and after a light double roll on the homestretch on the start with Dave Shirk and Steve Craig turning turtle. On the restart a 10 car pileup occured again on the backstretch with new father, Andrew Hannula, taking a nasty series of flips and rolls on the track and the fence. He and the other drivers were OK which was greeted with a sigh of relief. Once underway the action was fast and furious and all eyes were on Steve Buckwalter who advanced from 15th to 10th in five laps. Alex Bright started third and battled with Steve Drevicki finally take the lead on lap 7. Bright set the pace up front while in the meantime both Steve Buckwalter and Jerry Coons Jr. restarted in the back after the another caution and started to pick their way back to the front. In the closing laps the race up front was action packed with Buckwalter moving into third on lap 16 just as a scrum occured in turn four with Carey Becker taking a hard flip in turn four. At this point the clock struck 12 and announcer, Jeff Alhum quickly announced that the race was going to be checkered as curfew time had arrived. This was like watching a baseball game on TV with the bases loaded and two outs with the team’s slugger stepping to the plate and the cable goes out!! The last four laps would have been a war but we will never know. I think the way the end of the night’s racing was handled was poor and the fans who stayed for over 5 hours deserved better. And the manner the announcement was made could have been handled so much better. If you are familar with Grandview you realize that they cannot start a race after midnight but this should have been explained to the crowd on hand ahead of time so it wasn’t such a sudden shock when the premature ending happened. It left many people with a black eye and a sour taste in their mouths as they anticipated the battle for the remaining four laps. That was a shame and the fans deserved better. Alex Bright was awarded the win over modified driver, Ryan Watt, driving the backup Dave Shirk machine after starting 12th finished second with Nick Wean bringing it home third with Bruce Buckwalter Jr. taking fourth after starting 16th with Steve Buckwalter battling back to round out the top five. Jerry Coons Jr. brought the Burke Trucking #54 to the line to finish sixth after starting 19th.
So the Murphy’s Law night ended at midnight and from reading above you can see that whatever could have gone wrong went wrong.
Sunday, May 27 - After another full day of house hunting we would end the day watching some racing at one of the best tracks in the country. The 3/8 mile clay oval straight up Rt. 31 from Indianapolis is a gem of a race track with exciting racing every Sunday night. Tonight’s card would consist of the wingless sprint cars, the UMP modifieds, street stocks and thundercars. Things got underway an uncharacteristic half hour late on the sunny and hot day with the temperature topping 94 degrees. Tonight was the Kokomo Klassic for the sprint cars and 23 sprinters were on hand with many of the big boys racing in a KISS/MSCS combo race in the southwest corner of the state at Haubstadt. They would be joined by 26 UMP modifieds, 17 street stocks and 14 thundercars. The sprint cars started things off with group time trial qualifying and before the first heat race I had time to hit the concession stand below the steep wooden bleachers. I brought back two giant grilled pork chop sandwiches ($5 each) which were delicious. If you ever visit Kokomo don’t pass on the pork chop sandwich, you won’t be disappointed!!
Three sprint car heats were contested with Scotty Weir, Wes McIntyre and Brent Beauchamp winning the heats and looking like contenders for the Klassic. Three UMP modified heats followed then two heats each for the street stocks and thundercars. All heat qualifying was done by 8:41 with only the UMP modifieds needing a consie. That was completed just seven minutes later and it was now intermission time. Twenty minutes later it was feature time and the wingless warriors would be first up to contest their Kokomo Klassic for the distance of 25 laps. Scotty Weir took the early lead until young Wes McIntyre caught and passed him for the front spot. McIntyre would lead through lap 11 when the caution waved. On the restart Binghamton, New York’s own Coleman Gulick swept to the high side while running third and raced his way to the front after another full lap was completed taking the lead on the homestretch. Gulick is what we call a gasser mainly using the high side to sling his wingless sprinter around the track. The only problem with this style is you really have to work the cushion and make sure you don’t jump it. This happened to Gulick exiting turn four and his out of control racer bounced from the wall to the middle of the track where he met up with second place runner McIntyre and the result being McIntyre sliding sideways and barrel rolling twice coming to rest just past the flagger’s stand. McIntyre was upset but it was just a racing accident and after viewing the DVD he will fully realize what happened. On the restart Gulick took off again with Weir in tow. Chris Windom hooked up his racer in the later stages of the race passing Weir on the low side and sticking his nose alongside the high flying #14. Windom who had a banner year last year is still looking for his first win of 2012 and he would have to wait another week as Gulick was not to be headed. Coleman Gulick flashed under the checkered flag at 9:40 for his second career win at Kokomo winning over Gulick with Weir third, Tracy Hines registering fourth after his big win at IRP the night before and Andrew Elson who always runs strong when we see him rounded out the top five.
The UMP modifieds would go next with their 20 lap feature and it turned out to be a competitive run. Nick Allen came out of the fifth hole to take the lead around the halfway mark and didn’t look back with Phil Line second, Kevin DeYoung third, Zeke McKenzie fourth after starting 13th and Derek Losh, a heat winner rounding out the top five with the checker waving at 10:05. With two features to go and a 1 1/2 hour drive to the hotel we decided to call it a night.
It was not classic Kokomo action but a mediocre night at Kokomo is probably better than most good nights at the majority of the other tracks in the USA.