Saturday, September 22 - It’s been a while since we have been to Lincoln Speedway and we missed it. Tonight was the running of the Kenny Weld/Hilly Rife Memorials with $5000 on the line to win the 410 sprint feature. Kenny Weld was a legendary sprint car driver and car builder who after retiring ran afoul of the law involving drugs. Weld is fourth on the all-time win list at Lincoln with 73 with his last scored in July of 1977. He also was a three time track champion at Lincoln in 1968, 1971 and 1972. This race tonight would be the 16th year of running the race in Weld’s honor. Hilly Rife who died two years ago was a promoter. He promoted races at Lincoln, Bedford, Dorsey and Susquehanna but he was best known as a real character. He survived three airplane crashes, three serious racecar accidents and a mugging at gunpoint and many considered he was born with nine lives. Finally cancer claimed him in 2010. Rife built Lincoln Speedway and promoted it for many years.
On the card tonight were the 410 sprints and thundercars. The sprints would run group time trials with four at a time except for a time trial period with two youngsters, Cody Fletcher and Jordan Mackinson making their 410 debuts running their own time trial period. We thought this was a good idea so that they might not get in the way of the more experienced drivers. Time trials started at 7:05 and were in the books by 7:25 with Brian Leppo setting fast time in the #14 at 13.402 seconds. Next up were the 410 sprint heats and I must admit they were not that exciting so I hoped that the feature would be better. Four heats were run for the 31 cars in attendence with Jim Seigel, Brad McClelland, Lance Dewease and Daryn Pittman scoring heat victories. Two heats were run for the 18 car thundercar field on hand and by 8:20 all heat racing was completed. The sprints would run a consie with Maryland’s Robbie Kendall winning this one with all qualifying over by 8:30.
Close to 45 minutes passed by as the track was manicured and drivers were introduced before climbing into their machines. The green flag dropped at 9:13 and some serious side by side racing occured. It was fast and furious with one exchange between Gerard McIntyre Jr. and Cory Haas after a lap 23 restart that had the two racers exchanging slide jobs and crossovers with the lead being exchanged four times in two laps. WOW!! That was some exciting racing!! Danny Dietrich, who started 8th, and is the 2012 Lincoln Speedway point champion bided his time as McIntyre and Haas raced up front. He first disposed of Haas on lap 30 and two laps later on lap 32 he charged into the lead off turn four and never looked back. Dietrich’s fine 2012 season at Lincoln continued with him scoring his 9th win of the year here and his career number 16 and in victory lane says he hopes to break double figures with two more shots to do so. It was a fantastic feature with Dietrich winning over Haas and McIntyre Jr. Brian Monteith also garnered much attention as he used the Montieth groove, scapping the outside walls in the corners, marching from 19th to grab 4th on the last lap and if the race would have been 50 laps instead of 40 who knows what the outcome would have been. Alan Krimes took 5th at the finish. The checkered waved at 9:33 and we decided to call it a night and headed for the turn one and two parking lot to make the 2 1/2 hour tow back to eastern Pennsylvania.
Sunday, September 23 - The traveling crew today would consist of my oldest brother, Bob, and Bridgeport Speedway announcer, Jeff Alhum, making the almost four hour tow north to the Fonda Speedway. Pat decided to forgo the trip and stay at home to work on making some of her delicious vegetable soup. It was the McDonald’s Weekend of racing at the Track of Champions and upon arriving around 12:10 we found out that all the features from Saturday’s portion of the weekend would be run first today. This was going to make for another long day of racing but unlike Dunn Tire they did not run the 112 lap modified main last. The day was nice and sunny but very windy and you know what the combination of sun and wind does to a day time dirt surface. Feature racing from Saturday’s program got underway at 2:21 with the 20 lap street stock main with 21 cars making the starting call. With this much racing action to complete I was disappointed that they started 21 minutes off the rescheduled starting time of 2 PM. It was not a very good race with four cautions and over a half hour to run with Reuben Kennedy Jr. prevailing. Next up was a four lap ESS sprint dash won by modified driver, Danny Varin, before the 40 lap modified feature took the green at 3:10. As they entered turn one and two they disappeared from view in a giant dust cloud. The track quickly took rubber and locked down causing the dust to cease. Everyone was skating pretty good around the track and the definitive moment of the race occured on lap 32 when leader Danny Johnson opened the bottom groove entering turn one and Stewart Friesen pounced on the opportunity. Just as quickly Johnson slammed the door shut as he turned left and drilled Friesen into the inside wall and both slid but retained control. Johnson still led and Friesen could have had a bent suspension in the front causing him to slip to fourth. Matt Sheppard took up the chase but could not find a way around Johnson and at 3:26 Danny Boy flashed under the checkered flag winning over Sheppard, Brett Hearn, Friesen and Alan Johnson. Johnson was greeted in victory lane with a chorus of boos with some cheers mixed in as he climbed from his car. The ESS sprints were the next feature ready to go their 25 lap distance at 3:42. Chuck Hebing, the 2012 ESS sprint champion, started first but surprisingly dropped backward as the race unfolded. Lance Younge took the lead from Jessica Zemken on lap four and would hold sway even though Justin Barger was all over him for the second half of the race. A lap 24 caution bunched the field for the double file restart with Hebing moving from sixth to third but another caution negated his impressive move. On the next restart Yonge took off with Barger in tow. At 3:58 Younge flashed under the checkered for the third time this year and 39th in his sprint career with Barger second with Zemken third, Shawn Donath moving from 11th to an impressive fourth and Paul Kinney rounding out the top five. The last feature from Saturday’s program would be a 25 lap event for the 602 sportsman. This one was an entertaining one with Mark Mortensen completing the first half of the afternoon at 4:28.
After some track maintenance was performed the Sunday portion of the weekend hit the track at 4:56, only one hour off the original Sunday starting time. Not bad for all the racing completed beforehand. The pro stocks would lead it off with three heats for their 28 car field followed by three heats paying $1200 to win for the 32 modifieds on hand. We were a bit disappointed with only 32 modifieds showing up for this event with the good heat money and $12,000 to win the 112 lap feature with all the 12’s honoring the great Jack Johnson. During the modified heats we were surprised to hear the familar voice of Jeff Alhum announcing one of the heats. Jeff later returned to his seat beaming as he added another track to his resume of broadcasting and I am sure he was honored to announce at the historic Fonda Speedway. Four heats were spun off next for the 30 car 602 sportsman field and all heat qualifying was in the record books by 5:57. Two consies were run for the modifieds and one for the sportsman with all qualifying ended by 6:28. Another round of track maintenance was performed before the pro stocks took to the track for their 30 lap feature go. With the best track surface possible the pro stocks put on a whale of a feature and it seems that every time we come to Fonda they are among the best features witnessed. Multi-grooved racing prevailed with Pete Broderson winning the tightly contested race over Kenny Martin and Tommy Denton. We were surprised that they did not take time to rework the track again but they didn’t so it was onto the 112 lap modified feature which went green at 7:37. Jim Davis took the lead on lap 2 and pulled away in the early going. Davis continued to lead as Matt DeLorenzo took up the chase. He closed on Davis by lap 40 and looked for a way around in the next ten laps. The chance occured on lap 50 entering turn one, almost identical to the happening in modified race one with slightly different results. DeLorenzo dove low and Davis pinched him into the inside wall with both cars spinning and tagging the outside wall. Davis was done for the evening and DeLorenzo continued from the back. Young Mike Mahaney who drifted back from the pole reassumed command and it short time was pressured by Brett Hearn. The laps clicked off as Hearn tried everything in his bag of tricks to rattle the youngester but Mahaney would hear nothing of it. Ronnie Johnson started to close on the two leaders and made his presence known in short order. He was able to slip by Hearn in the 90 lap range and took up the chase of Mahaney. Johnson at one point pushed Mahaney down the backstretch but he did not ever try to spin him out of the lead. Mahaney was able to weather the storm and hold on for his biggest win in his short career and a very promising future winning over Johnson with Hearn third, A.J. Romano in a fine run for fourth and steady, calculating Billy Decker taking home fifth. A jubilent winner climbed on the roof of his winning machine jumping up and down waving the checkered flag with vigor. He proclamied disbelief in victory lane that he had truly won and couldn’t believe he had just won $12,000. The humble youngster impressed me the most as he shared with the crowd his conversation before the race with runnerup Ronnie Johnson who gave him good advice and encouragement. Mahaney called Johnson the nicest man he had ever met and showed his respect for the man unlike many of the younger racers of today. A hearty congratulations to Mike Mahaney and may this win be the first of many in his driving career. And I hope he continues to show his humble attitude and respect for his fellow racer in the future.
This race was over at 8:34 and we decided to skip the 602 sportsman feature to make the long trip home after making a quick stop at the McDonald’s in Fonda to give our support to the sponser of today’s events. The trip home went good with good conversation and also listening to a baseball series DVD of the great announcers of the game. The home ride being Harry Kalas of the Philadelphia Phillies and on the way up being the longtime voice of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bob Prince. It was an enjoyable though long day of racing at Fonda.
Friday, September 21 – It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-80s but by the time we pulled into Williams Grove at 7:05 the sun was growing low in the sky and you could feel the cool air moving in. It was the World of Outlaw tune-up and they would be running time trials and all the other usually extras the outlaws run. I am not a big fan of the World of Outlaw sprints and Bruce and I will not be here next week when they invade the Grove. But tonight we would see the tune-up. Paul McMahan set fast time in the former Fred Rahmer car. This was his first ride in the #51 and he set fast time. Rahmer now running the Ott #77 would not fare nowhere near as well.
The 358 sprints were running their heats first and all was going fine until the second heat. All of a sudden I see a sprint hit into the inside guardrail on the homestretch and the wires above the tracks are moving in all directions. I was looking for a sprint that may have flipped but I did not see anything. The field was coming out of turn four, the flagger was waving the red yet the cars were not stopping. Turns out the wheel came off the sprint that was sitting against the inside guardrail. The wheel and tire tore down the wires that controlled the caution, red and green lights around the track. This was not one wire but several. Action stopped at 8:25 and it would be until 10:06 before racing resumed. Last week we were on our way home from the Grove before 10:00. In reality the track electrician did a great job. It was not like he could just plug the wires back in. He did it all by himself and had to reconnect at least three wires.
When the heat race was restarted action was moved along quickly. There were no more breaks in the action and the remaining 358 heats, three 410 heats, consolations for both divisions, excuse me I forgot this was the tune-up for the outlaws so the consolation for the 410’s was a B main, and a 410 dash to determine the A main line-up were all complete by 11:15. Not bad. Unfortunately by this time I was getting cold and hoping that the action in the features would keep me warm.
After winning the dash Daryn Pittman started on the pole and he was a hard one to bet against. This race was a good one. There was plenty of action during the race even though the top cars started up front. By lap 7 they got into lapped traffic. By lap 17 Greg Hodnett pasted Pittman for the win and by lap 18 Danny Dietrich moved past Pittman for second. It looked like it was going to be a nonstop race and in the final stages Dietrich was approaching Hodnett to make his move for the lead when the only caution came out on lap 23. Unfortunately the last lap pass did not materialize and Hodnett went on to pick up the win. Dietrich finished second with Pittman third, Alan Krimes fourth and Paul McMahon rounded out the top five. Fred Rahmer in his first ride in the #77 was lapped and then dropped out. It was 11:39 when the feature was over and they decided to delay the victory lane interview until after the 358 feature.
The 358 sprint feature was equally good. Unfortunately over half the crowd left due to the late hour. TJ Stutts started fourth and won the event. Stutts and Glenndon Forsythe swapped the lead several times during the event before Forsythe dropped back. Mark Smith who started tenth finished second and Pat Cannon finished third from the ninth starting position. All was complete at 12:07. It was a long ride home.
Saturday, September 15 - After spending a good but short night at the Comfort Inn in New Columbia we headed north on Rt. 15 into the Empire State of New York. Our destination was the Dunn Tire Speedway near Buffalo in Lancaster. On tap today was the 24th running of the US Open with a jammed pack eight division feature lineup for Saturday. Upon our arrival we found out the bad news that the Friday portion of the two day weekend show had been rained out and the qualifying for the leser divisions would have to be run today along with the normal Saturday program. There is nothing you can do about bad weather but a better game plan for the next day would be my top priority. With qualifying and features races for eight divisions you would think they might have started two hours earlier than the scheduled starting time for Saturday of 2 PM. Instead the Friday portion of the weekend was cranked up at 1:15 PM. The qualifying was moved along in good order with the next heat being lined up off of turn four on the drag strip which incorporates the homestetch as part of its distance and as one heat ended the next rolled out and was shortly underway. Im fact five of the eight divisons qualified with three heats for the 22 four cylinders, two heats for the 19 super stocks, two heats for the 14 street stocks, four heats for the good sized 36 car field for the sportsman and two heats for the late models in the good time of 1 1/2 hours. Up to this point things were looking up and I thought we might still be able to watch all eight division’s features and hit the road by 8 PM. We had not planned on spending an extra night in a hotel and especially in New York where the rates seem to be some of the highest in all of the country.
The legend car heats were first out for the Saturday scheduled heat racing and were the second of three classes that ran on the inner oval at Dunn Tire along with the TQ midgets and the beforementioned four cylinder cars. The only part of the big track that the inner oval uses is the homestretch before diving back into the infield in turn one. Two heats were run for the low 15 car field in this division while three heats were needed for the 25 TQ midgets on hand. The mighty modifieds ran three heats for their 23 car field and all heat qualifying was completed by 3:47. Only two consies were needed for the sportsman with all prelims recorded in the books by 4 pm. Several of the divisions had entertaining heat racing with the four cylinders, sportsman and late models putting on the best action. A break was taken to recharge the batteries of the official’s radios and for them to make some pit stops of their own before we would move into the feature events. There was a total of 385 feature laps among the eight divisions to contest so we hoped that things would be moved along quickly as the cloudy day was going to turn into a cold night soon enough. What made the long day more bearable was the conversation we had with the two gentleman sitting in front of us. Joe Brenner, Eriez’s first track announcer from 2001-3 and currently the announcer at Sportsman Speedway in Knox,PA and his friend, Paul Richard, who’s son Randall run a modified at Mountain Speedway in PA. They were a delight to converse with and made the day brighter.
During the break I ran into a friend of ours who is also an ROC race official. I asked him if they were going to run the modifieds maybe midshow (around the fourth or fifth feature) and was surprised to find out that the owner of Dunn Tire Speedway insisted that the modifieds would run last!! To us that is an insult to the fans who have come to support your track and the majority of whom came to watch the modifieds run and they had to wait until the bitter end to see them!! That is not right!! And he also added that he didn’t expect us to be out of there until midnight!! That did not make either one of us very happy!! After returning to my seat I informed Pat of my findings and she said lets see how it plays out. The first feature was for the legend cars and took the green flag at 4:32. It wasn’t a great race with four cautions but was a good run by Jeremy Haudricourt in his nice looking #36 winning over Carl Vilardo and Zach Truesdall with the checker waving at 4:52. The 25 lap TQ midget feature was next and got off to a shaky start with two flips in turn one and two to start the race. In total there were five yellows or reds and with that many you couldn’t consider this a good race but I will tell you when they were racing it was good, tight competitive dicing. Jonathan Reid brought the famous Harry Macy # 9 home first and it was neat to see Harry rolling down the homestretch in his wheelchair carrying a checkered flag high above his head and Reid hugging him in victory lane. Andy Nye came home second with Cam Barber taking the show position at 5:32. The last of the inner oval features rolled out next with the four cylinders running 25 laps. These guys and gals only brought out the caution three times and raced hard. Triple J, John Julicher Jr., came home the winner in this one prevailing over Tom LaLomia Jr. and Bobby Woch with LaLomia applying heavy pressure over the second half of the race but was not able to sneak by Julicher. This one was over by 6:01.
Now the sportsman division would contest their 75 lap main event with the green waving at 6:15. The first 23 laps ran non-stop and then the bottom fell out. There was a multi-car tangle in turn four which brought out the red to clean up spilled antifreeze and this red lasted 20 minutes. The old saying cautions breed cautions reared its ugly head as the yellow flag appeared eight more times over the remaining 52 laps. All in all it was a decent run with George Skora III looking strong and challenging long time leader, Andy Jankowiak, after passing 23 time feature winner, Jimmy Zacharias, in the march to the front from his sixth starting position. The engine turned sour in the last ten laps and with a caution appearing in that timeframe Skora’s #65 failed to refire and was pushed pitside. The checkered flag on this one waved at 7:42 with Jankowiak winning over Zacharias with Bobby Holmes, the track champion, garnering third with Rusty Smith fourth and Tony Hanbury rounding out the top five. Management decided to take another recharging break at this point so we had to make a decision. Do we try to get a hotel somewhere or do we leave and take the 5 1/2 hour drive back home. After some discussion we decided to pack it in for the day after watching 6 1/2 hours of racing and with still four more features and 240 laps of racing to go.
We e-mailed our friend the next day to find out how the rest of the evening went and he informed us that the last checkered of the day flew on the modified feature at 12:16 AM!! He also relayed that the street stock and super stock features were ho hum taking nearly an hour each to finish while the late models ran their 50 laps caution free in just 13 minutes. The modifieds struggled at the beginning of their race due to cold, damp weather and hard tires but once running their feature was good. Matt Hirschman took the lead with 17 laps to go in the 100 lap affair taking the lead as the meat in the sandwich of a three wide race for the lead. We still don’t understand why the promotor felt he had to hold everyone hostage that wanted to see the modified feature until 12:16 AM when it finished. Did he want to make sure he sold all his concessions or what?? That’s doesn’t seem to me to be the formula to put fannies in the seats the next time you run this event. I wonder how many of the others in the good sized crowd had similar feelings as we did about this situation? Even if I was camping on the grounds 11 hours of racing is much too much to endure. The promotor needs to realize that not everyone is from the local area and some people need to travel home after the races are completed and have other things to do on Sunday and don’t want to incur another night expense in a hotel. Run the modifieds in the middle of the program and give people options on whether they want to stay to watch the remainder of the program or leave, don’t hold people hostage at $40 a pop!! Give them what they came to see!!
Friday, September 14 – It was only the second Friday of September but you could already feel the hint of autumn in the air. By 7:30 the sun was nearly down and you knew you would be wearing a sweatshirt before the end of the evening. There was no chance of rain and we were ready for a good show of the 410 sprints and the ARDC midgets. Another sign of fall is the car counts. Teams chose to run only one night a weekend or run out of money completely. There were twenty-six 410 sprints and twenty-two midgets.
Racing started at 7:35 with 3 sprint heats and heat 1 saw three of the eight starters drop by the wayside during the event. Because of this there was no need to run a consolation race as all sprints that could run only numbered 24. ARDC has had fields this year that numbered in the thirties, but tonight only 22 graced the pits off the backstretch. Sometimes the big half mile at Williams Grove keeps some of the midgets away and again it is September. The midgets ran two heats with all cars advancing to the 20 lap main event. Things moved so quickly that at 8:18 all that was left to run were the two feature events. Williams Grove rarely takes a long intermission and tonight even though the night was early the break between the last heat and the first feature taking the green was only 25 minutes.
The 25 lap sprint feature paying $3,600 to the winner took the green at 8:43. In addition to the top prize money if the winner comes from the 7th through 12th staring position they receive a $500 bonus and if the winner starts further back then 12th they will receive a $1,000 bonus. Well in the end of this race there would be no bonus as the winner started from the pole position but that does not mean the fans in attendance did not see a good race. The first 13 laps ran non-stop. One of the cars to watch during this time was Danny Dietrich who looked to be on the move. Unfortunately it was Dietrich that brought out the first caution on lap 13 when the 48 stopped on the backstretch. Racing resumed and now Doug Esh from eighth was making his move. Esh was coming off a win in the Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal and he was driving with confidence. Of course Cory Haas might have called it something else when Esh clipped his front end in a slide job, coming out of turn four that almost went real bad. Contact was made but both drivers kept their cars under control somehow with Esh taking over third. The red came out on lap 20 for a nasty flip on the backstretch by Brent Marks and the caution would wave for the last time with only 2 laps to go. All this time Jim Siegel was leading the event. Albeit Esh was looking to make his move for the top spot and after the move he made to get third, I had no doubt that he was going to take the win away from Siegel. The caution turned out to be a blessing for Siegel as on the restart Adam Wilt got by Esh for second and Siegel drove to his fourth career win at the Grove. Wilt was second, Esh third and Cory Haas and Ryan Smith rounded out the top 5. Brian Leppo raced the #51, formerly driven by Fred Rahmer, into sixth. Leppo got to pilot the #51 for one week before Paul McMahan takes over the ride. World of Outlaw drivers don’t retire they come to Central Pennsylvania to race. I just wish one of the young guns in Central PA would get the ride in the #51, not another driver leaving the World of Outlaws.
It was only 9:05 when the sprint feature was over and as usually there is always approximately a 20 minute break between features. At 9:25 the green dropped on the midgets. This race would have been the better of the two with closer racing and more passing but the caution waved 6 times. There was only one real accident; the other cautions were for either a stopped car or a spun car. When they were racing it was really good despite the fact that I prefer midgets on a smaller track. Eric Heydenreich past Ryan Greth on the 19th lap of the event and went on to take the checkered. Ryan Greth who was looking for his first win ever in ARDC had to settle for second. Nick Wean finished third from the eighth starting spot, Steve Buckwalter started thirteenth and finished fourth with Trevor Kobylarz fifth.
All racing was complete by 9:54 and we were on are way to our stop for the night. Saturday we headed into the Empire State and did not go to the Freedom 76 race at Grandview.
Saturday, September 1 - We had one more contractor to meet with at noon on Saturday and then we decided we were going to pull out of Indiana as the forecast looked bleak for Saturday and Sunday. It was a good call as racing at Terre Haute and Lincoln Park on Saturday was washed out and racing at Haubstadt and Kokomo fell to the wet stuff also as well as the US Nationals for the NHRA dragsters at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Later than anticipated we cleared Crawfordsville and headed east toward Columbus, Ohio where we hoped to catch a 7 PM start at the asphalt Columbus Speedway. As we approached Columbus we had been calling the track and they stated they were still running around 7 PM. Then we saw it. The it being a giant mushroom shaped cloud extending down to the ground which had to be three to four miles in length. It was scary looking and we were keeping a close eye on it to make sure it didn’t turn into a tornado. We reached the formation and the rain poured down so hard that I pulled off the first exit and sat this one out for a few minutes. Pat called the track and they told her that they had just experienced a torrential downpour and racing was cancelled for this evening. So we found our Fairfield Inn for the evening, purchased on Priceline earlier in the day for $50 which was a savings of 54% over the published price. If you are traveling and know where you are going to be you are crazy if you don’t use Priceline as you can get 2 1/2 to 3 star hotels for the price of a Motel 6, Super 8 or Days Inn. Then we went out to eat at Bob Evans, a chain eating establishment mainly in Ohio for an enjoyable dinner before retiring back to the hotel for a relaxing night of reading.
Sunday, September 2 - The plan today was to attend the rare Sunday night action scheduled at the Williams Grove Speedway. They have been running the Billy Kimmel Memorial on a Sunday evening ever since the low buck racer was fatally injured at the Williams Grove Speedway. The Kimmel family awards two college scholarships to two young adults to help with their higher education costs. This race is always an open wheel fan’s fantasy as they run their divisions of open wheel winged cars on this evening. The program would consist of 410 sprints (23), 358 sprints (22) and super sportsman (31). The starting time was advertised as 7 PM but racing on this Sunday evening didn’t begin until 7:31. Two heats were run for the 358 sprint drivers not in the top ten in points with all qualifying plus the top ten in points being locked in automatically for their 20 lap feature. The super sportsman would also run two heats with the top seven advancing to the main event to join the already locked in top ten in points. Only the 410 sprints would run three qualifying heats with everyone advancing to their 25 lap Billy Kimmel Memorial feature. All heat racing was wrapped up by 8:33 and next up was warmups for the two divisions with the top ten point chasers locked in. A fireworks display was next and by 9:16 the first of three features with the 410 sprints competing was green flagged. Davey Sammons and Frank Cozze, Saturday night’s winner at Port Royal for his first career 410 sprint win, battled early before Pennington, New Jersey’s favorite landscaper, Rick Lafferty, moved his black zero past Sammons to the top spot. The battle raged behind the high flying Lafferty and even with four cautions it was his night. All eyes were on Danny Dietrich, who started way back in 21st starting position, and was running in eighth on lap 22 when he did a complete 360 spin in turn two and continued. He decided to pull up lame in turn one of the next lap to have a chance to pass some cars in the remaining three laps as he is in the point chase at the Grove. Lafferty flashed under the double checkers at 9:45 winning over fifth starting Alan Krimes, who had won the previous night at Lincoln, and Davey Sammons who garnered third at the finish. The tough racing between Krimes and Sammons sure must have raised some blood pressures of the two participants. Lafferty became the 16th different driver to win a 410 race at the Grove this year. Rounding out the top five were 8th starting Brent Marks, one of three triple 20 winners last week , and ninth starting Doug Esh who raced hard the entire distance as only “The Hammer” can.
Next up was the 20 lap 358 sprint car feature which took the green at 10:08 after a lengthy victory lane celebration with Lafferty. Mark Smith was quick to move from the fourth hole to the lead on lap four in turn two and would have the pack chasing him the remainder of the distance. Pat Cannon make a late charge after breaking free of the pack after starting ninth but couldn’t chase down Smith at the end. Ryan Wilson, who won the URC feature last week at Port Royal came from 8th to finish 3rd with Eric Tomecek using the extreme high groove to advance from 12th to 4th with Ryan Garland nailing down 5th. The last feature of the evening would pit the super sportsman against each other and the only open wheel class that have self starters helps move their show along. This race was the best battle for the lead of the three with Paul Miller grabbing the early lead until Bobby Hockenberry passed him for the top spot on lap 7. Rick Barr was in the hunt also and made his move passing Hockenberry four laps later for the lead which he would not give up. In the closing stages Miller got back by Hockenberry for second and that is the way they finished at 11:02. Russ Mitten came from 10th to take 4th with Frankie Herr making some late moves from 12th to take 5th at the finish. A good night of open wheel action though a tad long for Williams Grove standards.
It was supposed to be an Indiana Labor Day weekend. We left on Thursday, August 30 at 1:00 in route to the house in Crawfordsville, Indiana. We had several contractors we were meeting with on Friday afternoon to get estimates on some improvements that needed to be made to the house. Of course since we were out there we would also be taking in some of the best sprint car racing in the country. We love wingless sprints and wingless is what you get in Indiana. After spending Thursday night in Dayton, OH we made the remainder of the trip to Crawfordsville on Friday morning.
Friday, August 31 – After spending the day with plumbers, electricians and insulators we were ready to go to the races. Originally we were thinking of going to Bloomington but after Bruce checked the website we learned they were not running. This made the decision easy. At 5:20 we left the house in route to Gas City to see the wingless sprints at Gas City Speedway. We drove through the back roads and small towns and arrived at Gas City at 7:10. The trip was around 100 miles. Just like driving to Williams Grove on a regular Friday night minus the crazy interstate travel.
As we walked into the main stands the skies were gray and the rain from Hurricane Isaac was approaching. It was humid and the temperature was in the low 80s. We quickly found good friend Roger Farrell and found a seat next to him. We had called Roger earlier and told him to look for us as our original plans were altered and we would be coming to Gas City. As usually there were clay pellets all over the bottom half of the grandstand. The black clay here is a beautiful sight to see. The scheduled starting time was 7:30 and the green dropped on heat one for the sprints at 7:33. They run a tight show here at Gas City and as one heat pulls off the next is pushed off. Tonight there were 4 heats for the sprints, 4 heats for the UMP modifieds, 2 heats for the street stocks and 2 heats for the thunder cars. In total 12 qualifying heats were run off in 1 hour and 5 minutes and still the clay pellets were flying. Only the sprints and modifieds required a B main. The sprints are the main division and their car count was the highest at 32. All of the heats were good but then I am sorry to say in the northeast we are not used to seeing clay pellets still flying at the end of qualifying. The surface here was awesome. Awesome is a word I feel is definitely used too loosely but in the case all the letters could be capitalized. It was AWESOME.
By 8:53 it was intermission and in less than a half hour the sprints were taking the green for the first feature of the night. Now this is a ¼ mile oval with no inside walls and no walls on the backstretch or corners. What I like the most about wingless sprints is the close competition. It is more of the driver and less of the speed. Yes, they do not go as fast but they are wheel to wheel and a lot of times three wide. This leads to more contact and sometimes more cautions. Lap 6 saw the red come out for a double flip in turns three and four. I actually missed what happen as did Bruce and Roger but both Jerry Coons Jr. and Jamie Fredrickson were on their sides. I only caught the last few snap rolls of Fredrickson. Racing was fierce and it looked like Logan Jarrett was on his way to his first victory. Unfortunately an unnecessary caution came out with three laps remaining. A sprint did slow on the track but was pulling off the racing surface when the caution was thrown. This put Robert Ballou right behind Jarrett with three laps to go. The green dropped and it looked as if Jarrett would be pulling into victory lane. But as they went through turn four coming down for the white flag Ballou went to the low side and shot by Jarrett like he was standing still. Ballou won followed by Jarrett, Tyler Courtney, Hunter Schuerenberg, who started 17th, and AJ Hopkins. In victory lane Ballou admitted he never would have caught and passed Jarrett without the caution.
The UMP modified 25 lap feature was next and these guys really get around here quickly. There were only two cautions during the event and again the competition was good. Bradley Sterrett won the event with Derek Losh and Greg Amick finishing second and third. The street stock feature was next and the 15 circuits were caution free with Lee Hobbs the winner.
It was only 10:25 but we decided to start the drive back home and forgo the thunder car main event. It was a very enjoyable night of racing. The track is for sale and I truly hope if purchased it remains a race track. A surface this good would be a shame to lose. I am surely looking forward to making this one of my regular Friday night stops in 2014. We bid goodbye to Roger and arrived back in Crawfordsville before 12:30. It was a long day and I thought sleeping on an air mattress in a big old empty house would be eerie but I was asleep in no time. Unfortunately Saturday would not be as smooth.
Sunday, August 26 - Jeff Ahlum and I decided we were heading to the Selinsgrove Speedway on this cloudy Sunday to see the World Of Outlaw late models race at the half mile. Upon arrival I went inside to lay down a blanket to secure some seats in the wooden bleacher to the right of the covered granstand heading toward turn one. Upon entering the track I ran into Dwight Bucks who said he was sitting down in turn one. Upon exiting the track Bob Swartz and his wife were in their truck and yelled over to me. I chatted with them for a while and before venturing back to Jeff’s truck I warned them not to look behind them as the dark clouds were rolling in. Once in Jeff’s truck we listened as announcer, Steve Inch, made a statement that would come back to haunt him soon enough. He stated that Selinsgrove was on the fringe of the approaching storm and that management would make every effort possible to get the races in this evening. Shortly thereafter the rain began to fall as Jeff snoozed in the cab. It rained good for about 15 minutes and then it stopped and the skies looked promising. Shortly thereafter Inch made the announcement that the races were cancelled for the evening and everyone could line up at the ticket booths to get a refund. In my opinion Inch made a classic announcing mistake by painting himself into a corner and promising something that was not delivered. I ran into Dwight Bucks as I entered the track to retrieve my blanket (which I never found) and the first thing he said to me was “That was quite an effort they put in to try to run tonight!” I’m sure there were quite a few more fans who felt the same way.
Monday, August 27 - Tonight was the second night of the West End Fair in Gilbert, Pa. and they were scheduled to have a JM Production Double Figure 8 race in the main arena on the fairgrounds. We arrived early and paid our $5 admission into the fair itself. We walked over to the arena and found out that tickets would be on sale in 15 minutes. We waited and purchased them for $8 each and promptly ran into Will White and his mom and Rusty Currie. We chatted for a while and then Pat and I ventured around the fair checking out the animal exhibits and canning and pie entrants. Then we found a good stand where Pat had a delicious grilled chicken sandwich and I went with the sausage sandwich with peppers and onions and a bowl of baked and butter beans. Those items were delicious also. After eating we ventured back to the arena and entered the large covered grandstand with aluminum seats. We spotted Pam and Guy Smith in the top row of one of the sections and joined them for the evening’s events. Shortly thereafter Paul Weisel and Bing Metz arrived along with Mike Knappenberger. Will and his mom and Rusty came up from their assigned seats and joined the party near the top of the stands.
The Double Figure 8 course was large in size with three sets of big truck tires set up for the cars to run around. I knew I was going to like this one as the figure 8 course was long and wide which would make for more of a racing course and not a normal county fair figure 8 which is compacted and all they do is push and shove each other. Twenty cars were on hand and the action got underway at 7:40. Three heats were run with the winner advancing to the main event. After that five last chance races were run taking the winner of each of these into the main event. There were some cars that ran in a heat race and all five last chance races. That aspect was quite odd but I’m sure it was done to entertain the nice sized crowd on hand. In addition local asphalt racer, Earl Paules and his wife, Danielle, both ran figure 8 cars for the first time and they both won last chance races to move into the feature. There were several Earl Paules’ T-shirts spotted beforehand and now it made sense why there were so many of his shirts being worn. All qualifying was completed by 8:57 and ten minutes later the 10 lap $1000 to win (not that is not a mistype, it was one thousand dollars to win) feature event was given the green flag. The Paules cars were knocked around and Earl’s wheel was bent and he pulled off. The race for the lead was very good with Steve and Kevin Jones swapping the top spot as they made their way around other cars and negotiated the crossover areas using strategy and not brute force in their battle for the lead. At 9:11, just four minutes after it started the 10 lap main event was in the books and Steve Jones prevailed over Kevin Jones for the grand to win. It was by far the best east coast fair figure 8 race I have ever witnessed and a return visit next year could be on the calendar. All the trackchasers bid each other farewell and disappeared into the fair area. Pat and I walked around the nice fair which is situated under many trees which are good to have on a hot, sunny day for shade purposes.
Next time we will report on our trip to Indiana to meet with various contractors to make improvements in our new house (new to us) there and the racing that we took in while on our trip.
Saturday, August 25 - Today was a chance to score a new track in Pennsylvania and also catch some good winged sprint car racing. First we were headed south of Hanover to the small town of Littlestown where the Kingsdale Fire Department would be hosting some junk car racing at their motorsport arena. We came across a real nice antique store in Littlestown and after shopping and purchasing several items for our house in Indiana we arrived 25 minutes after the scheduled starting time of 4. No problem as warmups were still underway on the 1/7 mile dirt oval carved between two small hillsides where spectators placed their lawn chairs and blankets. Finally almost an hour late the 7 car outlaw heat with various SUV type vehicles and big eight cylinder Detroit Iron cars took to the track. A land rush start saw all the cars charge onto the track in a clock wise fashion. The race would be ten minutes in duration and by the finish only three cars were still running with one of the entrants having an engine compartment fire which needed to be doused. A lawn mower race was run on the inner oval before the 4/6 cylinder entrants (9) took to the track. This was a much more competitive race with the checkered waving at 5:23. Since the same cars minus about 5 in the outlaw division would be running again in the features we figured we had seen enough and wanted to get to some good sprint car racing. The clear choice was Lincoln Speedway, less than thirty minutes away, but we played the weather percentages and with 40% chance of rain in Abbottstown and only 10 to 20% in Port Royal we made the nearly two hour tow north.
Saturday, August 25 - We pulled into the Juniata Fairgrounds at 7:30 and by the time we made it into the large aluminum grandstands on the homestretch we had missed the three URC sprint car heats. We found our friend, Jeff Ahlum, who had the night off after Bridgeport called their show in the early afternoon. Three fast 410 sprint car heats were next with Rick Lafferty, Mike Wagner and the ageless Keith Kauffman winning. Three heats were next run for the 305 sprints in an all open wheel racing program. Only the URC racers needed a consie and all qualifying was wrapped up by 8:35. Unlike last week when the program ran until 12:20 this show was moved right along including no intermission. By 8:55 the 410 sprints were ready to take the green for their 25 lap feature go. And green they went also going the entire 25 lap distance non-stop!! They have tried something different at Port Royal with the handicapping system with the top two in each heat drawing for position to start in the first six positions of the feature. I don’t particularly care for this format but I will give it to management to try something different and the drivers sure like it. Chad Layton sure had no complaints as he started first and wired the field. The racing throughout the race mainly in positions two through seven was great and it is a shame that was not the battle for the lead. Layton flashed under the checkered at 9:04 for his third win of the year at Port Royal winning over Mike Wagner, Lance Dewease, Mike Erdley and eight time winner Greg Hodnett who started ninth.
Next up were the URC sprints making their first appearance at Port Royal in 45 years, the last time being in June of 1967 when Earl Halaquist won without a roll cage on his sprinter. That is how long ago they raced here!! Ryan Wilson, a regular 358 sprint car runner in Central Pennsylvania, came out of the sixth hole to take the lead and held on through five cautions to score his first ever URC victory winning over Chad Trout, Bryn Gohn who led the first half of the race, Josh Weller fourth and Robbie Stillwagon putting on the show of the night advancing from 17th to garner fifth at the finish. The 305 sprints would race for 20 laps and this one was an entertaining race. Tyler Bear took advantage of his first starting position and took off just like Layton had earlier. The field came back to him three times for cautions before Bear was up to the task and drove away each time. Two good midpack charges were executed by 8th starting Logan Wagner, son of Mike Wagner in the 410’s, who finished second and 9th starting Mark Watkins who finished in the last podium position. Kody Lehman, another second generation racer, came home fourth and Nathan Gramley fifth with the final checkered waving at a very reasonable 10:29. A good night of racing with three open wheel sprint divisions and it doesn’t get much better than that!