Sunday, July 22 - It was a nice summer day with temperatures approaching 90 with a 30% chance of isolated thunderstorms for the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania but Jeff Ahlum and I decided to take the risk and venture north to the Penn Can Speedway for their Northeast Small Car Summer Nationals. The starting time bounced around between 5 and 6 during the course of the week and finally on Saturday the website read warmups at 4:30 and racing at 5:00. I met Jeff at the William Penn Highway Park and Ride and he drove us north to Penn Can. We arrived at 4:30 and heard some engines fired in the pit area. Eight dollars got you in the front gate and we sat one row from the top of the wooden plank grandstand in front of friends, Dwight, Bobby, Marshall and John. Jeff wandered off and the next thing we knew he was welcoming everyone to the Penn Can Speedway for an afternoon of racing. Jeff bumped into promoter, Reed Miller, and he asked Jeff if he wanted to announce the event. I was glad that some of our other racing friends were in attendence so I was not sitting alone.
Five divisions of small cars were on the card with the car counts in parenthesises as follows in order of heat races: slingshots (22), 270 micro sprints (22), 600 modifieds (19), 600 micro sprints (21) and Tobias Speedsters (11). Racing started late at 5:22 from the posted starting time but once underway the program was moved along very well. As one heat exited the track into the pit area entering turn one the next one was entering the track off the backstretch. The only gripe I have was the policy of bringing the aligned racecars around to take the white flag before starting them the following lap. It may not seem like much but at a minute per start or restart that can add up to over a half hour or more. This could have been alleviated by informing the drivers during the driver’s meeting that when the pace truck pulls into the infield on the backstretch we will be going as you exit turn four.
As I mentioned earlier the show was moved along well and slightly over an hour later 13 heat races had been recorded into the record book with some very competitive racing witnessed. Intermission was next and at 35 minutes was about 15 minutes too long on a Sunday evening. All feature events would be 20 laps in distance on the 3/8 mile semi banked dirt oval. The slingshots would run first and I must say this might have been the best slingshot feature I have ever witnessed. Usually passing is at a premium but on the bigger oval there was oodles of passing. It was a very enjoyable race with Tyler Dippel marching from 9th to take the lead from Simon Egan, the Atlantic City slingshot winner, who started alongside the winner. Seventh starter, Benn Whitaker ran a strong race to claim third with Shannon Smith coming home fourth and Wes Hearn rounding out the top five at 7:37.
The 270 micro sprint race was next and was another competitive feature event. Ninth starting Ryan Smith, who seems to drive anything with four wheels on it, took the lead on lap 5 and looked like a sure winner until he broke and pulled off the track on lap 13. Pat Bealer took command at this point and he didn’t waste his second chance holding off tenth starting Braydon Winters over the remaining seven circuits. Rob Pajauis ran a heady race to take third with Ken Hockenbroch improving four positions to fourth and Dane Tobias, son of Diane Tobias and grandson of the late Dick Tobias, putting on the driving display of the day slicing from 21st to nail down 5th at the finish. I must commend the fine officiating applied during this feature when one driver intentionaly spun another at the front of the field which could have caused some serious car damage or injuries. The offender was sent to the rear of the field and did not quite go back the full number of cars. During the next caution the starter made sure the offending driver was clear what he meant by the rear and placed him back the remaining three spots he failed to take before. I found out later from Jeff that the race director this evening was normally the flagger and the flagger tonight was his brother. Penn Can should seriously consider moving the flagger permanently into the race director position and his brother who also did a youman’s job as the new starter.
The third of five features was for the 600 modifieds and usually this guys have caution fever but if it wasn’t for one driver who spun three times this race would have gone non-stop. Butch Getz came out of the fourth hole to claim the lead on lap 13 from Ryan Higgs who finished second with tenth starting Nick Mady running third, 11th starter, Sean Weiss taking fourth and 8th starter, Chris Stockham, claiming fifth. The 600 micro sprint feature was waved off at 8:32 and Jeff and I agreed that this was the best feature race of the day. Tyler Walton started 12th and by lap 11 was on top of the heap passing ARDC midget regular, Tim Buckwalter, for the lead. Ryan Smith started and finished third with 11th starting Tyler Walker (not the sprint car driver) fourth and Tyler Ross starting ninth and finishing fifth. It was a Tyler dominated top five with some very good racing throughout the field. The last feature of the evening would be for the Tobias Speedsters with third starting Paul Lotier Jr., son of former sprint car driver of the same name, taking the lead from Brittany Wixon in the early going but Wixon stayed with and pressured Lotier the rest of the way and actually seemed faster but the track was slick at this point and it was difficult to pass. Wixon slipped up in the last two laps with Fred Rahmer Jr., yes the son of Sprint Car Hall of Fame driver Fred Rahmer, taking second from her. Richie Tobias, the creator of the Speedster made a late charge to finish fourth with sportsman and modified driver, Anthony Perrego taking down fifth. Fred Jr’s brother, Brandon, finished sixth.
All was completed by 9 PM and in a new world’s record announcer Jeff Alhum was ready to hit the road by 9:18 as I guess the last person to talk with had already left!! It was a very enjoyable evening of racing at the Can and the racing was much better than the bigger car events witnessed the past two Saturdays. This one maybe penciled in on the calendar for next year as a fine program was presented.