Wednesday, August 22 – Tonight the destination was New Egypt Speedway and from where I work in Pennington, NJ it is only a 35 minute drive. Therefore I did not drive home 1 hour in the opposite direction. Bruce drove down to the office and we left for the track from there. If you have never been to New Egypt, the track sits very close to the main road. Because of this you drive around turns one and two and the parking is behind the track unless you are there hours ahead of time and are lucky to get one of the few parking spots along turns one and two. We arrived at 6:30, one hour prior to race time and knew we would be way in the back lot. Problem is no one is showing people how to park and they were everywhere. Some three deep and other lanes so crooked that the lanes between them narrowed down to nothing. I am not a fan of the parking at this speedway.
Tonight the big block modifieds were running along with the 410 sprints. It is rare for the 410 sprints to run in New Jersey, but when they do the fans come out in high numbers to see them. The sprints are faster than the modifieds and the modified fans of New Jersey really appreciate the speeds they turn. In seeing the sprints nearly every weekend I guess I take for granted the speeds these guys run. Time trials started promptly at 7:30 as scheduled and 23 sprints took time. At 7:49 when all was complete Daryn Pittman set fast time and set a new track record with a time of 13.734 seconds. The modifieds were 30 strong and they ran three qualifying heats which were followed by three sprint heats. All heats in both divisions were good and competitive. I was worried when they announced there was going to be a brief 15 minute intermission. I always think it not wise to put a number of minutes on intermission because rarely is it adhered to, and there is always someone like me that actually times it. I thought it was not looking good when the equipment came out on the track but in 18 minutes the modifieds came out for their consolation race. Three minutes off the announced time. I will take it. By 9:10 the final six modifieds were qualified for their main event and the sprints were immediately called to the track.
The sprints ran 30 laps and the top spot paid $4,000. The first 17 laps went nonstop and they were good ones. The sprints fly around this track and take the second turn much more graceful then the modifieds. It looked like pole sitter Frank Cozze might be picking up his first win in a sprint car and it would have been sweet. Cozze, a modified driver turn sprint car driver a couple of years back, raced this track many times in a modified and is a past track champion. It would have been a Cinderella story if he could have picked up the win. However, Ryan Smith was also looking for his first win and managed to take the lead from Cozze. The second caution on lap 26 changed the complexion of the race. A car spun in turn four bringing out the caution and at the same time it was obvious to all that the #69 of Smith had some serious issues. On the restart Daryn Pittman passed Smith for the lead and the front runners were running in a close pack. Unfortunately Aaron Ott got into Greg Hodnett as he was on the outside of him in turn four and Hodnett went for a ride that saw the catch fence do its job when it kept the #39 of Hodnett from going into the pit grandstand. At the same time the engine let go on Smith’s car and the red was out. What originally looked like a first time winner turned out to be a win by the man who set fast time, Daryn Pittman. Logan Schuchart finished second with Frank Cozze hanging on for third. Mark Smith and Aaron Ott rounded out the top five.
After interviewing the top three in victory lane it was time for the modified feature. The modifieds were also running 30 laps and their event started at 10:05. This race had 4 cautions and was also a very good race. Jimmy Horton picked up the win followed by Ryan Godown, Sammy Martz, Sammy Piazza and Billy Pauch.
All racing was complete before 10:30. Both features were very good and competitive with the sprints being the better of the two. The stands were full, the program was run very efficiently, and no one went home disappointed about the show they saw. Racing was alive and well at New Egypt Speedway on this perfect weather summer evening. Now if they could only do something with that parking lot.
Friday, August 24 – We thought we were leaving in plenty of time to get to Williams Grove but 15 minutes into the ride we forgot something and had to go back for it. Now we knew we would not make it to the Grove for the scheduled 7:30 start and the Grove always starts on time. Tonight along with the 410 sprints was the URC/358 challenge. We anticipated a good field of cars and were happy to find that the track that almost always starts on time was running a little late. After breaking a few speed limits we pulled in at 7:30 and were in our seats by the time the first URC/358 heat took the green at 7:43. Thirty-eight sprints ran in four 8 lap qualifying heats with the top 5 making it through to the main event. The heats were competitive and were run off quickly. The 410 sprints ran three 10 lap heats for the 27 sprints in the pits and again run off quickly. Both divisions needed consolation races with the URC/358s running two events and the 410s one. In 1 hour and 25 minutes they ran off 10 events for a division that needs to be pushed to start. Things were going smoothly and it looked like it would be another early night at the Grove.
Intermission is usually short here. Almost always under 20 minutes and sometimes there is no intermission at all. Tonight however we had the bicycle races for the kids and there were a lot of kids. They were entertaining, especially since the one boy who sits in our area was out there racing in the 10 to 12 year old division. He finished second and we all cheered him on. Of course the kid who won started on the 2 count in the count down and it was still close at the finish. It was 9:45 and intermission lasted over ½ hour. For some tracks this might be the norm but for here that is long.
The 410 feature took the green at 9:47 and on lap 7 the red came out. I actually missed what happened. I looked over to turns one and two and saw the 747 of Davey Sammons lying on its side. Bruce quickly said he did not know who it was but when he looked over he saw the front end of a sprint going out over the wall. On the other side of that wall it goes down a high embankment and over the years I have seen several cars exit the track using that route. We learned during the red that it was Aaron Ott that left the ballpark and luckily he was only shaken up by the wild ride. Racing resumed and it was clear Brain Montieth was the class of the field with his high riding style and while he was charging to the front Danny Dietrich and Fred Rahmer were putting on a clinic back around the eighth position. In addition, these two have been know to connect on a few occasions so you did not know if you should watch their feud or Montieth. They swapped the lead numerous times for around 5 laps and many times there were numerous lead changes within the same lap. It was really good racing. Meanwhile Montieth took the lead from pole sitter Cory Haas on lap 17. Chad Layton, who was also in the mix brought out the caution on lap 21 with a flat left rear tire and this bunched the field one last time. Montieth went on to win with Adam Wilt getting by Haas for second. Hass was third with Brent Marks and Doug Esh rounding out the top 5. Dietrich wound up 8th with Rahmer 10th. It was only 10:12 at the checkered.
The URC/358 feature was also 25 laps. It started at 10:31 and did not end until 11:27 and in between it was just not good. There were 9 cautions and 6 of those cautions were on lap 17. Actually up to lap 17 the race was pretty good. Probably more competitive than the 410 race, but then it happened on lap 17. On lap 17 Amy Ott spun the #77 in turn 4. She was driving for her brother Aaron who decided not to race after his airborne ride in the 410 feature. Now URC has this rule where after halfway the restarts are double file. Yes, this is the opposite of almost all other tracks but that is what they do. Ryan Bohlke had a big lead when the caution waved and not only was that lead gone but he was now restarting double file on the inside row, which was not the optimal lane. Add to this what I thought was a jumped restart by Ed Aikin and you had one angry Bolhke. When he tried to retake the lead in turn three he found himself spinning. Then early leader Bryn Gohn stopped on the homestretch. Then Aikin stopped with a flat and the red came out for a fuel stop. At this time about half of the crowd that remained left the grandstands. But we did not hear the end of Bolhke. On the next restart on lap 17 Bolhke spun in turn two and on the next restart on lap 17 a frustrated Bolhke drove up over the front end of Amy Ott and it send him flipping on the homestretch. This was the end of Bolhke and ironically there were no more cautions. The final eight laps were then run nonstop with Pat Cannon, the 16th place starter taking the win. Eric Tomecek who drove a great race finished second only to be disqualified later for not making weight. This moved Ryan Wilson up to second and Davie Franek to third. The race was over at 11:27 and instead of telling people about how good the first 16 laps were all we could think about were the lap 17 restarts. When was the last time we were at Williams Grove until 11:30 without a rain delay?
Sunday, August 19 - This Sunday excersion started where many of them have lately, at the Park & Ride at William Penn Highway of Rt.33. Today the crew would consist of my brother, Bob, Pat and I leaving the Easton area at 11:15 AM. Destination was the Chemung Speedrome, a 3/8 mile semi-banked asphalt oval located right off Rt. 17 west of Binghamton, New York. We arrived around 2 PM after making the necessary stops for food and nature calling. We have not been back to Chemung since it opened and the facility is upkept very nicely and is top notch. A five division card was to be presented today highlighted by the appearance of the ROC modified tour which would run a 125 lap affair. Their 24 cars would be joined by the bandoleros (5), super stocks (7), legend cars (19) and four cylinders (4). Racing got underway a tad late at 2:45, 15 minutes off the scheduled starting time but was moved along well once underway.
One heat was run for the bandoleros, super stocks and four cylinders while three heats were needed for the legend cars and the ROC modifieds. No consies would be needed in any division so all preliminary qualifying was in the books by 3:34. A reasonable 30 minute intermission followed on a glorious mid August Sunday afternoon which I believe is my favorite day to witness racing during the day time. The 10 lap bandolero feature was first up at 4:11 and was red flagged when young Cody Jackson drifted down the banking after spinning and was clobbered by Nick Morich. Jackson was carefully removed from the wrecked car via backboard and reports were that no one was seriously injured in the scary accident. Once back underway Alex McCollum held sway until late in the event when David French passed him and went on to his sixth win of the year. The four cylinder feature was next and this was not too exciting as two of the four cars were from the dirt oval at Woodhall and were not that competitive on the asphalt. Gene Purvis won this one over Frank Morich.
The 20 lap super stock feature was next up and was a decent race. John Lane led the majority of the race being pressured by lady driver, Brittany Jack, from lap 6 until lap 15 when Jack made the winning pass and took home her first win of 2012 at Chemung over Lane and Terry Potrzebowski. The legend cars would go 30 laps as this one was a qualifier for the big show later in the year at Atlanta paying some big bucks to win. Mike Alcaro and Matt Pappa, a runner all over the east coast running for the national title battled it out in the early going. Pappa powered to the front on lap 10 and would hold the lead the remainder of the distance. Alcaro came home second with Todd McCollum third, Brandon DeBrakeleer fourth and Raven Schrantz turning in a good run rounding out the top five.
Now it was time for the ROC modified 125 lap main event. Matt Hirschman drew the pole and took off into the lead. He held sway until a lap 19 restart when Chuck Hossfeld best him for the top spot. Hirschman regained the lead on lap 21 and Hossfeld returned the favor off of turn four on lap 31. A lap 56 caution for the disabled machine of big winner on the Southern Tier, Jimmy Zacharias, saw many runners dive to the pit area for new tires but Hirschman remained on the track and in the lead. A long green flag period followed as Hossfeld, Kyle Ebersole and Erick Rudolph worked their way back to the front after pitting for new tires. These three caught back up to Hirschman but never made a challenge for the lead. At 6:31 Matt Hirschman flashed under the checkered flag winning his fourth straight ROC tour race over Ebersole, Hossfeld, Rudolph and Brian DeFebo claiming fifth.
All in all it was a good day of racing on a beautiful Sunday afternoon doing something that brings enjoyment and pleasure to our crew. Next week a Central Pennsylvania run looks to be in the making with four races in three days with a variety of race cars in the mix. Stayed tuned and in the meantime get out there and enjoy some good short track racing at a track near you or take it on the road for a new memory.
Saturday, August 18 - Saturday morning we were still uncertain of where we were heading for the night’s racing event. Friday night was an early rainout night and we knew by 4:30 the races at both Williams Grove and Big Diamond were rained out. By 1:00 in the afternoon we were still indecisive as we ate lunch at the local family restaurant. When the decision was made it turned out to be Port Royal Speedway to see the 410 sprints and the late models. The game plan was to leave home at 4:00 and arrive at the Port by 6:30. It was successful as we pulled on to the fairgrounds lot at exactly 6:30. The weather was perfect and it was the first time in a long time rain was not part of the equation when making a decision where to go. There actually was a chill in the air which was kind of nice after the hot weather we had experienced as of late.
We strolled through the pits prior to the start of warm-ups then watched warmups from our seats in the grandstands. Port Royal usually starts on time but tonight they were doing something special for the kids. They had a candy toss for three different age categories and the initial green did not fall until 8:08, 38 minutes after the 7:30 starting time.
First up were the late models, running three heats for the 27 car field. A first lap homestretch crash took out several cars and it was announced that it would not be necessary to run a consolation and all cars qualified. The sprints also ran three heats and it was the second heat that had the fans holding their breath for a few seconds. Trenton Schaeffer made a hard left hand turn right into the guardrail on the backstretch and the sprint came to a sudden abrupt stop. This kind of hit can be a lot worse than when one sees a car tumbling down the track. Two other cars were involved, with one of them getting upside down. However, it was the car stuck in the backstretch guardrail that everyone focused on. A loud round of applause rang out when it was announced that all drivers were okay. The guardrail was not and after further investigation it was concluded it could not be fixed. Fans in the infield had to move away from the area before races could resume. Two pro-stock heats were next and qualifying was complete at 9:25.
During intermission they gave race car rides to the kids and the line formed quickly and it was long. There had to be close to 100 kids in line and there were only two pro-stocks that came out to give the slow one lap trip around the track. The pace truck was going to take kids for a ride but the kids declined. They wanted to be in the race car and I can’t say that I blame them. It looked like it was going to take forever when several more cars came out to participate in the activity.
It was 10:14 when the 25 lap sprint feature began. Blane Heimbach started on the pole but Dylan Cisney jumped out to the early lead. He was pulling away from the field when he made contact with Keith Kauffman, running at the end of the pack after being involved in an earlier caution, coming out of turn two and looped the number 5 down the backstretch. This put an end to what looked like a sure win. Racing resumed and Heimbach was in the front and would never be challenged. Heimbach went on to pick up his second win of the year and third career win at Port Royal in the 410 sprints. Mike Erdley, who started 8th, finished second and stuck his front bumper under the 12 of Heimbach on a lap 13 restart but was not able to keep up with the number 12. Michael Ruttkamp was 3rd with Daryn Pittman coming home 4th after starting 18th. Rounding out the top five was Jimmy Seger. The sprint feature was over at 10:37.
Next up were the late models and they ran a 20 lap event. Twice during this race the red had to come out for accidents when debris littered the track. It was during these red flag delays that I realized how chilly it was. I had my hand inside my sweatshirt sleeves to keep them warm. What a difference a week makes. The race for the lead was much closer in the late models and Derek Byler managed to hold off Scott Haus for his first ever win in the division. Finishing three was Matt Parks who held off Mike Luper at the line.
It was now 11:30 and they still had the pro-stock feature and an enduro to run. However, we had plans for Sunday which had us getting up early and it is a 2 ½ hour ride home. We decided to throw in the towel and head home. The racing was good and the track surface held up very well tonight but the show ran too late.
Thursday, August 16 - The traveling crew today would consist of Mike Wenner, the driver, with passengers Bob Eckel, Jeff Ahlum and myself. The plan was for Mike, Jeff and I to meet at the Park & Ride off of Rt. 33 at William Penn Highway and then proceed from there to pick up my brother, Bob, at his house in Washington, New Jersey. The trip hit the road at 1:30 as we made our way north under sunny skies with puffy white clouds here and there with temperatures in the mid to high 70’s. We arrived at the Lebanon Valley Speedway at 5:30 and already a good sized crowd was on hand. Tonight they would be running the Mr. Dirt Track USA event paying a hefty $17,500 to win the 100 lap race. It has been a long time since I have visited Lebanon Valley, the last time being on September 10th, 1995 for the 200 lap event staged there with Bob McCreadie the winner of that event with Jimmy Horton the 358 modified winner and Steve Hall the sportsman victor. When Jeff mentioned that he was attending this race I signed on to the traveling crew. After a supper consisting of a meatball grinder and two orders of baked beans washed down by a lemonade it was time to return to my seat to get ready for the night’s action. Also before returning to my seat I had the pleasure to say hello and chat with one of the modified legends, Bill Wimble, who was making his summertime visit back north from his home in Florida. Bill looked well and his shirt was quite colorful too.
Time trials would be run for the 40 big block modifieds on hand but thank goodness they were of the group qualifying style and were completed in just 20 minutes. When all was said and done Brett Hearn held fastest time around the high banked 1/2 mile dirt oval with a time of 19.673 seconds. The budget sportsman were the supporting class and they brought out a good field of 44 cars and ran their four heats first. They were followed by the four modified heats with straight up starts according to time. This made for some bland heat racing with minimal passing and all heat qualifying was over by 7:58. The back news out of the heat racing was when first starting Brett Hearn dropped out of the heat race while running first and was forced to go to a backup car and qualify through the consie. Two consies were needed for each of the two classes and by 8:30 the fields were set with the exception of seven additional provisional starters which in my opinion is too many. With 33 starters why don’t we dispense with the heats and start the entire field of forty inverting the top 12?? Also while am on my soap box I will address the Lucky Dog award. This is a farce as why should we reward someone who has lost a lap or more and give them a free pass?? To give a good example of the ludicrously of this would be to refer to two instances in NASCAR Whelen Modified action one happening just last week involving the same driver, Donnie Lia, who experienced mechanical woes or was involved in a wreck during the running of tour races and found himself two laps down to the leaders. When the Lucky Dog award he was given back his two laps during the course of the event and went on to win both races!! Is that fair to the drivers who have used good strategy or stayed out of trouble to reward someone who had issues during the race to have a chance to beat them?? If you have troubles during a race that is what is called tough luck and that is the way things go sometimes. To use a stupid rule to reward someone with problems is not fair to everyone else out there racing!! Dump the asinine Lucky Dog award and go back to normal racing and if you have problems in a race that is the way it goes. Nuff said!!
Intermission was observed after the last consie and a reasonable 20 minutes later the 20 lap budget sportsman feature was ready to go. This one was a pretty decent affair with only two cautions during the event and it was spun off in just 17 minutes. Robby Knipe came out of the fourth hole to grab the lead and went on to victory over fifth starting Michael Sabia, Bobby Hackel IV, Scott Duel and Rocky Warner.
The Mr. Dirt Track USA 100 lap feature took the green at 9:40 and turned out to be a very good race. Jimmy Phelps jumped to the early lead from the first starting position and paced the field for many laps. My eyes and I’m sure many others were on Brett Hearn who started 23rd and was moving his way forward. In just 12 green flag laps he had advanced from 23rd to 12th! By lap 20 he cracked the top ten and twenty laps later he was fifth. Hearn moved into third on lap 49 but Stewart Friesen after a slow start began to make his presence known by taking fifth on lap 58 and fourth on lap 62. Meanwhile Phelps continued to lead the pack with Andy Bachetti attempting various slide jobs on restarts to try to move closer to the leader. Bachetti held second on lap 72 when he caught the cushion and bounced off the wall in turn four losing his momentum in the process. Hearn slipped by Bachetti at that point into the runnerup position and began to stalk the leader as they approached heavy lap traffic. I believe Phelp’s tire were going away and finally Hearn swept by the leader off of turn four on lap 84 and became the new leader. No one would challenge Hearn for the remainder of the distance and he flashed under the checkered flag at 10:30 and was $17,500 dollars richer for his efforts. Like him or not I must say that this was a very impressive display of driving prowess throughout the race as Hearn weaved his way to the front. Jimmy Phelps held on for second with Andy Bachetti taking third with Billy Decker fourth and Donnie Corellis rounding out the top five. Positions six through ten were filled by Stewart Friesen, Kenny Tremont Jr., J.R. Heffner, Matt Shepherd and Eddie Marshall. Also my hat goes off to Kolby Schroeder who drove from 21st to nail down 11th at the finish in the stout field.
It was a fine night of racing at the Valley of Speed and the track held up very well with minimal dust the entire evening. It probably won’t be 17 years before I visit Lebanon Valley again!! The ride home was long but the constant conversation was stimulating and made the time go faster. It was not until 3:30 that my head hit the pillow at 50 Riverview Drive in Easton, Pa. Until next time get out there and take in some good short track racing in your area and don’t sit in front of the boob tube and watch that NASCAR Sprint Cup crap!! See some real racing!
Saturday, August 11 - We woke up to a cloudy and dreary day. The track cancellations started coming in on Rained Out, a service that some track provide which sends out text messages to your cell phone with rainout information. First it was Delaware International aka US 13 followed by New Egypt and Bridgeport. The rain was a coastal storm moving up the eastern seaboard and when Bridgeport’s message came in we immediately called Jeff Ahlum, the track announcer at Bridgeport, to see where he wanted to venture to. Jeff likes to visit other tracks when his announcing duties allow him to and today was one of them. Since we had painted a dire forecast for Williams Grove on Friday and they snuck it in we felt obligated to drive him wherever he chose to go. The choice was the 1/2 mile at the Selinsgrove Speedway and off we went at 4:30 from Hellertown. We arrived around 6:30 and headed onto the grounds choosing a seat in the wooden bleachers toward turn one instead of our usual covered grandstand choice. It was a nice day in central Pennsylvania with temperatures in the mid 70’s with low humidity. By race time the sun was going down and the night was cool and comfortable.
On tap tonight at Selinsgrove was a four division program with two open wheel classes, the United Racing Club (URC) 360 sprints and the regular 358 sprints, along with the late models and the roadrunners. Thirty one URC sprints were in town with the regular 358 class only fielding 18 with 15 late models and 17 roadrunners. The first heat got underway about 15 minutes off the starting time but once underway there was no stoppage of action. The URC sprints spun off three competitive heats with the 1978 Selinsgrove Speedway champion and 25 time winner, 62 year old Kramer Williamson winning and Robbie Stillwagon and Davie Franek winning the other two heats completed in just 22 minutes as compared to the 51 minute debacle witnessed at Grandview on July 21st. The late models and the 358 sprints only needed two heats each and then the URC B main was run followed by two heats for the roadrunners. It was 9:04 when all qualifying was completed.
The URC sprints would run their 25 lapper first with the green flag flying at 9:23. Kramer Williamson took off from the first starting position and led until Mark Smith caught and passed him off turn four coming to complete lap 12 for the lead. Smith, a Selinsgrove regular and one of four doing double duty tonight, pulled away from the field after taking the lead and only one caution brought him back to the field. Smith had started 12th and on the restart took off again and was gone. Davie Franek, the 8th starter, made a late race charge to nip Kramer Williamson for second with Robbie Stillwagon fourth and Kevin Darling rounding out the top five when the checker waved at 9:36. Franek would retain the URC point lead and the former Selinsgrove regular might have made things more interesting if this race had gone maybe five lap longer. It was at this time that Pat mentioned that she had been following the going ons at Grandview for the $20,000 to win Forrest Rogers Memorial 50 at Grandview via southjerseydirtracing.com and they were in a rain delay after all heat qualifying was completed and four laps of the late model feature had been completed. It registered in my head that maybe just maybe we could make it back to Grandview in time to catch the Forrest Rogers Memorial, our original destination, until Jeff had picked Selinsgrove instead.
The 25 lap late model feature was next and went green at 9:44. The race would go non-stop and though it was not as good as the URC race it was a decent race none the less. Tony Adams who started first jumped off the pole and held sway the entire distance. Dylan Yoder passed Dave Zona on the last lap to garner second with Meade Hahn fourth and Jim Bernheisel rounding out the top five. The 25 lap 358 sprint featue was next and at 10:07 it was go time. Veteran Phil Walter charged from fourth into the lead early and looked like a winner even though ninth starting Pat Cannon had caught him and was applying the pressure from lap 20 on. The only caution waved on lap 22 and this was all that Cannon would need. On the restart Cannon ran right off the tail tank of Walter’s sprinter and coming to the flag on lap 23 he made his move and passed the long time leader. Cannon passed under the checkered flag at 10:20 for his fifth win of the year at Selinsgrove over Walter, eighth starting T.J. Stutts, tenth starting Mark Smith and seventeenth starting Jason Shultz. It was the best race of the evening. We decided to stay and watch the 12 lap roadrunner feature event which took the green at 10:27. Just two cautions slowed the action here and the first five or six laps was some good side by side racing. Bob Bussey powered to the front pass the halfway mark from his ninth starting position and went on to record his seventh win of 2012 with the final checker waving at 10:39. Once we reached the car Pat checked South Jersey dirt and nothing additional had been posted. A call to our buddy, Russ, who was in the Norm Hansell hospitality box informed us that Kenny Rogers, the grandson of the late Forrest Rogers, announced that they would try everything humanly possible to get the Forrest Rogers Memorial race in. We all talked about trying to make the unlikely double and drove on down the road discussing the fine night of racing we had just witnessed and Pat and I agreed that this was the best night of racing we had seen this year from start to finish. We motored down Rt. 15 to Rt. 322 and onto I-81 which connects with I-78 east toward Reading. As we approached Rt. 61 another call was placed to Russ who said that the 358 modifieds were coming trackside to hot lap and run the track in. This would be followed by three 358 modified consies and a sportsman consie before the Forrest Rogers Memorial would take place. We picked up Rt. 73 off of Rt. 61 and headed toward Boyertown which is below Grandview Speedway. Pat continued to check the South Jersey website and as we drew near Boyertown she announced that the three 358 modified consie was just completed. As we hit Rt. 100 north and climbed Passmore Road and pulled into the speedway grounds we heard announcer Ernie Saxton state that the sportsman consie was ready to go. We found a parking space in the crowded parking lot and gathered our blankets and writing pads and headed toward the front gate. As we approached the front gate we heard Ernie giving the starting lineup for the main event as we scattered toward the bathrooms before climbing into the homestretch grandstand where we found seats about two thirds of the way up. At 1:04 the Forrest Rogers Memorial 50 was off and running to the delight of the weary crowd on the same date way back in 1963 when the Grandview Speedway swung open their gates for the first time ever under the direction of Forrest Rogers.
Ron Seltman took the early lead and looked strong in the early going. On a restart on lap 7 sixth starting Kevin Hirthler looked like he jumped the start but it was not called back and he was the new leader. On a lap 29 restart Seltman tried to slide up in front of Hirthler for the lead but the two tangled with Seltman sideways and someone able to keep it straight but the field behind were bouncing off each other with Kyle Weiss getting the worse of the deal with his car done for the evening. Doug Manmiller moved from 12th to challenge Hirthler toward the end and actually looked like he would pull off the pass but came up short. Hirthler flashed under the double checkers at 1:54 winning his first Forrest Rogers Memorial and also his first win of 2012 with Manmiller second, 13th starting Duane Howard nailing down third, 11th starting Craig VonDohren taking fourth and Jeff Strunk who was involved in a lap one crash coming from 29th to finish fifth. Positions six through ten were filled by Mike Gular with Ryan Godown, the highest finishing invader coming home seventh, Ryan Grim 8th, Ray Swinehart, last week’s feature winner ninth and Jon Kellner Sr. rounding out the top ten. New York invader, Billy Decker, only salvaged 12th at the end. It was an unusual Saturday night double and indeed the only reason we were able to pull it off was the 2 1/2 hour rain delay at Grandview. Congratulations to the track crew at Grandview for whipping the surface back into shape and for the Rogers family for sticking with it and take a fine on the chin to present the Forrest Rogers Memorial in honor of the founder of the Grandview Speedway.
Sunday, August 12 - It was a picture perfect Sunday as we left church and ventured west toward Topton, PA, the home of the Oreville Kart Track. This 1/5 mile road course was hosting the World Formula micro stocks on the day which is a countable class of cars for trackchasing purposes. We arrived at 1:02 with the posted starting time being 1 PM but warmups were still underway. We found a parking spot in the shade against the tree line of the facility off of the last turn of the road course before they turned onto the homestretch. Shortly thereafter New Jersey resident and trackchaser, Rusty Currie, came over to chat before the racing began. It is always enjoyable to converse with Rusty and today was no exception. Later on we spoted trackchasers, Paul Weisel and Bing Metz who also visited our primetime spot to discuss race happenings. There are no stands at Oreville but you are able to pull your car up against the chain link fence on the small hill that overlooks the road course with perfect viewing lines as the pits are located in a wooded area located off the backstretch. Racing did not get underway until almost 2 PM but once underway things were moved along nicely with the next two classes lined up on pit road ready to take the track when the previous class ended. There were ten classes of flat karts with the highest kart count being the vintage kart class at eight. These karts were the old time, bare bones type kart and they ran very good. The micro stocks were the last division to run their heats with two needed for the good 11 car field. A half hour intermission followed before the first of 11 feature events commenced at 3:30. The 20 lap micro stock feature took the green flag at 4:30 and was a good race with Bob Wagner Jr. coming from the rear of the field after an opening lap jingle where his rear bumper was pushed forward and was rubbing his rear tires. Wagner was able to use a long metal bar to pull the bumper back and allow him to continue. Wagner took the lead in the last few laps and won over Walt Mueller in another sharp looking 1940’s style coach or sedan bodied racer. The final checker waved at 4:47 and put the wraps on an enjoyable day spent at the races during a glorious sunny and near perfect Sunday afternoon.
Saturday, August 4 – Around 20 years ago Bruce and I were driving in South Carolina and we decided to turn off Interstate 95 to look at a defunct race track. It was in Dillon, South Carolina and it was a dirt track that had been closed for years. You could still see exactly where it was and we commented that it was a shame we never saw a race there, you should never say never. The Dillon Motor Speedway reopened a few years ago, albeit asphalt now and we got to see racing here on the final day of our Southern vacation. It was another very hot day and we did not have a whole lot to do in the area. We were not going to South of the Border and I do not care what Pedro says. We decided after running out of things to do that we would pull into the parking lot and try to find some shade and do some reading until it was race time. Race time was 7:30 but practice started at 4:00. I could never understand why when running dirt you have warm-ups and you have a few laps in which to dial in your car. On asphalt it is called practice and it takes multiple sessions to do the same thing. I realize you could not run that many laps on dirt or it would certainly take its toll on the surface. What I do not understand is why you need all the practice on asphalt. It seems you are spending a lot of money on fuel unnecessarily.
We ventured into the stands around 7:00 and the crowd was sparse. The top several rows of the grandstand, which was built on the side of the hill, had chair seats and the bottom rows were simple cement. There was a minor incident with some ants crawling all around the area we were sitting in and at 7:40 the first event was on the track. Time trials were run earlier and only features and a trophy dash were on the card. It started with a 5 lap trophy dash for the mini cup cars and it was won by female driver, Jessica Poland.
The first feature was for the 7 street stocks and they ran 25 laps with only 1 caution. AJ Hyatt took the win followed by Tommy Poole. Next feature was the mini cups and they had 9 cars participate in the 25 lap event. This was a competitive event with eventual winner Chris Conner passing Bill Willis on lap 19 to go on to win. Willis hung on for second. The chargers were 8 cars strong and this race was the most competitive of the night. For the majority of the non-stop race you could have thrown a table cloth over the front 4 runners. The lead changed hands several times during the final laps with Mike Watts coming home the victor over Brian Owens.
It was 8:45 and intermission time. They ran some Redneck Olympics games on the homestretch with the fans participating and by 9:00 the main event was on the track. At 9:05 the main division, late models, took the green on their 50 lap event and there were 10 cars in competition. Like many times the main division has the most cautions and there were 4 during the event. On lap 40 Justin Hicks, who was involved in a lap one incident, took the lead and held on for the win over Archie Adams Jr. and Jason Clark. There was one more event for the Ucars but we chose to hit the road. This event did have 6 cars and was won by Mark Dean.
All and all it was a very nice track that was kept very neat. Bruce indicated the men’s room was immaculate. We each had a fried bologna sandwich that was much thicker than Bowman Gray and cost $2 less. Unfortunately like many tracks in the south the car counts were low, although I did not hear any of the fans that were there complain about the number of cars in each division. Sometimes I think we are really spoiled here in the Northeast. The total car count for the five divisions was 40. That is less cars then competes in the small block modified division at Grandview Speedway every Saturday night. We do not consider it a full field unless there are 24 cars in competition in one division. Yes, sometimes we do not realize how lucky we are.
Thursday, August 2 - Tonight was a special Thursday night edition of racing at the 1/2 mile semi-banked asphalt oval at Myrtle Beach. We had witnessed racing here many years back on a NASCAR Cup trip to Darlington when the track was dirt but this would be the first time we attended this track as an asphalt track thereby making it countable by trackchasing rules as a new track under the change of surface rule.
We arrived about 6:50 for the 7:30 start and upon approaching the ticket booth we were asked by a gentleman from one of the local churches if we had tickets for tonight’s races. We told him we did not so he promptly handed us two passes from his church to attend the racing for free. Many thanks to this gentleman for saving us $24 in what has turned out to be an expensive 10 day vacation to North Carolina and the beaches of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It turns out that the track was hosting Worship Night At The Track and various churches were in attendence and something we have never seen before at the races occured. Upon entering we were treated to the sounds of a Christian rock band and then one of the local pastors did a small sermon on the Race Of Life using several passages from the book of Hebrews to make his point. The majority of people in attendence listened intently and he received a big hand from the crowd at the end of his sermon. Onto the track and the racing on the evening.
Myrtle Beach Speedway is a very nice facility located north of Myrtle Beach on Rt. 501. It is a half mile semi-banked asphalt oval with good lightning and concrete walls inside and out. The pits are located in the infield but the visibility is good from almost anywhere. Two large aluminum grandstands stretch the length of the homestretch with an additional grandstand located in turn one. It is wide and very nicely manicured. The racing started six minutes early at 7:24 with one heat for the 10 mini stocks in attendence. This was followed by one heat for the 8 chargers in town but before you say where are the cars let me tell you there were 28 strong in the late model division. The late models ran time trials for the 100 lap race they would be running later which was a qualifier for the big Myrtle Beach 400 later in the year. At this point the wind started to kick up and the skies lit up like a fireworks display on the fourth of July. It did not look good for racing at this point but everything continued as many checked their weather apps on their phones as the bad weather inched closer. The 20 lap mini stock feature was called to the post and by 8:15 the green flag waved. These guys went green to checker in eight minutes in the straight up start with the top three starting and finishing in the same spots. Veteran Dub Fulford held off the serious challenges from his son, Adam, with Michael McKinnon, the current point leader finishing in the show position. Victory lane was kept short and the next feature, the 25 lap charger feature went green at 8:28. Only one caution slowed things and in 13 minutes Lucas Willaims, the first starter, stood in victory lane for the fifth time this year winning over fourth starting Kevin Barnhill and Ed Ray.
At this point the lightning danced across the sky and lit up the sky tremendously. The wind blow the flags and banners straight out and the end of the racing evening looked forthcoming but management and most of the fans in attendence hung in there. It was time to start the 100 lap late model feature and at 8:47 they took the first green flag. The competitors ran smoothly for the most part and as the sky continued to look ominious and the lightning continued to flash the race preceeded forward. Jeremy McDowell went to the point from his third starting position and led the first 42 laps until fast timer, Sam Yarbrough, driving a car owned by former Nationwide and Sprint Cup driver, Chad McCumbee, slid past McDowell into the lead. Yarbrough’s car seemed to be the best handling one on the track and he opened some distance between himself and the rest of the field. Anthony Anders advanced from seventh to make things interesting in the late stages but Yarbrough was able to fend off the advances of the upstart. At the finish at 9:27 Yarbrough crossed the line first with Anders second, Michael Faulk won a late race duel with Jeremy McDowell to cross the line third with Randy Porter, a seasoned veteran of Southern asphalt late model racing, putting on the best passing performance coming from 16th to take fifth at the end. To be honest I never expected the race to go the distance but I did feel it would make it to lap 51 to produce an official race.
You can believe what you want but it being worship night at the track I believe that God looked down upon his people at Myrtle Beach Speedway and kept the nasty storm from striking the speedway and allowing the race to complete successfully so as to display the grace and glory of the mighty Lord.