Saturday, October 27 - We were making our way to the Mahoning Valley Speedway in Lehighton, Pa when the phone rang in the car. It was my brother, Bob, who relayed to us that the parking was filling up fast but that they had seats for us in the grandstand. We arrived at 2:30 and the regular parking lot was full so they sent us up alongside the Farmer’s Market building and that is where we parked. We trudged our way over to the main gate and paid the $25 admission for today’s racing which would consist of a 130 lap modified feature, a 100 lap street stock feature and a 75 lap late model feature under the billing of Octoberfast Fright Night in the Valley. We proceeded to our seats next to my brother,Bob, and his buddy, Joe Cryan. Also sitting behind us were friends, Mike Wenner and Denny Haycock. Racing action got underway one minute early at 2:59 with the four modified heats for the 34 car field which was sprinkled with invaders such as Tony Hirschman, Jimmy Zacharias, Ryan Preece, Chuck Hossfeld, Matt Hirschman and Eric Beers. The heat racing was good in the modifieds with Tony Hirschman, Donnie Wagner, Eric Beers and Kevin Rex Jr. scoring victories. The street stocks were next and they ran four heats also for their 32 car field. Their heats were decent though uneventful. The late models ran three heats for their slim 19 car field and all heat qualifying was finished by 4:10. Two consies were needed for the modifieds with Zane Zeiner and John Bennett prevailing and two consies for the street stocks also. All qualifying was done by 5:08. Then the messing around began. Track announcer, Dino Oberto, excessively interviewed each of the 12 drivers in the redraws in each division and he has a tendency to babble too much. By the time all this was done over an hour had passed and that is too long when you have 305 laps of feature action to run yet.
The features would run in the same order that the heats were run so fortunately we would see the modifieds first. This was a good decision by management as this gives fans options that if they want to leave after the main class they can or they can stay and watch whatever else they decide to. It is better than when some tracks run the main class last and keep people hostage until the bitter end. The $5000 to win, 130 lap feature took the green at 6:17 with Earl Paules and Chuck Hossfeld bring the 24 car field down. The first lap car was not lapped until lap 31 and the first caution did not wave until lap 34. On the cautions you could duck into the pit area and change tires and other things while the field rode under caution without the laps counting. When the last car was serviced the field was given the one to go and the green waved the next time around. Sort of like a Cup race!! There was some good racingat the front of the field with the lead exchanged about a half dozen times. After the halfway mark Matt Hirschman, the master of tire and car conservation, took charge. Hirschman was not seriously challenged the second half of the race with Mahoning rookie, Roger Coss, coming the closest working his way back from the back to claim second with Eric Beers making a late charge to nail down the third position. Zane Zeiner was another who showed some signs of power moving to fourth at the end with Earl Paules hanging on to finish fifth. The 130 lap affair was spun off in 1 hour and 5 minutes with only seven cautions slowing the action. A pretty decent run by the modifieds in this one.
Next up was a 25 lap non-qualifiers race with ten cars scheduled but only six making the call for the $1000 to win. Jimmy Pritchard from Roxbury, New Jersey took off at the wave of the green and was never headed in the non-stop 25 lapper completing the run in four minutes around the 1/4 mile circle.
The street stocks would be next for their 100 lap feature with 2012 Mahoning Valley point champion, T.J. Gusrky, taking the point when the green flag waved. Gusrky led the entire distance with the battle raging behind him but never pressuring him. B.J. Wambold made a good run from 17th to 2nd but got shuffled out in the closing laps ending up fifth. Joe Steigerwalt ended up second with Todd Ahner third. Randy Ahner Jr. came from the back of the 24 car field not once but twice to finally finish fourth with Wambold fifth. This feature was no where as good as the previous one taking 53 minutes to spin off with twelve cautions slowing things. It was now 8:41 as we approached the sixth hour of the program and four of us, Bob, Joe, Pat and I, decided we had seen enough and decided to call it a day. We traveled up the road to the Beacon 443 Diner and had dinner before heading back to the Easton area. There was not a big line of cars as we exited the diner after 10 so I would say that the late model was not over by that time. A decent show but indeed too long of a show especially for that late in the season.
Saturday, October 20 – It was the perfect fall day for an auto race. It was clear and cool with a temperature of 62 degrees when we arrived at the track at 6:30 for the 7:30 start. William Grove Speedway with an unusual sprint car race on a Saturday night was where we decided to spend the evening. It was their final show of the year and they were running features for all their divisions; both Friday and Saturday nights shows. There was a 20 lap feature for the Super Sportsman, 358 Sprints and 358 Late Models, with a 25 lap feature for the 410 sprints. In addition to being the final event of the year it was the awards night. Williams Grove is not having an awards banquet this year and all awards were being handed out on the track after the final race. In addition, everyone that had a pit pass or press credentials received a ticket for a free pulled pork sandwich located in the pits off the backstretch. You know Bruce and I were not going to turn down a pulled pork sandwich and since we were there early we made the trip through the infield and across the backstretch bridge. It is really neat standing on that bridge and looking up and down the backstretch. It is a totally different perspective. We got our sandwiches, which were great, and headed back for the homestretch stands.
The first feature on the card was for the Saturday night regulars, the super sportsman. They ran 20 laps and the green actually dropped 2 minutes early at 7:28. It was not a bad race but I could not classify it as a good race either. There was only 1 caution for a blown engine on lap 9 and the entire event took only 12 minutes to run. Eric Walker started on the pole and led all 20 laps to win the event. Scott Dellinger was second with Mike Enders third. The super sportsman used to be the Saturday night regular show at the now defunct Silver Spring Speedway. There was no such thing as a bad or mediocre race at Silver Spring. They were either good, better or great. I am glad that they found a home at Williams Grove when Silver Spring closed but I really feel they should be at Susquehanna where they always put on a really good show.
Following the super sportsman event were warm-ups for the 410 sprints and late models and then it was feature time for the 358 sprints. This event saw more passing then the previous and the result was eighth place starter Pat Cannon picking up the win. This was Pat’s 28th win in the 358 division. Many fans think it is time for Cannon to move up to the 410 sprints. Rumor has it there is as much money in his 358 motor as a 410 motor anyway. Cannon took the lead from Mark Smith on lap 10 only to have a caution negate the pass. After the restart it only took two laps for Cannon to regain the top spot. Following Cannon across the line was Mark Smith and Eric Tomecek.
The third of four features was for the premier division, the 410 sprints. This was the only event that was 25 laps. Unfortunately the field was only 20 strong and some of the back cars were more like jam cars. As a matter of fact the red came out before the entire field past the initial green flag. Last place starter Mark Zimmer flipped the # 55 in turn four. How does the last place car flip on the initial start? After minor cautions on lap 5 and 7 the race went green until lap 24 when Adam Wilt blew the engine. There was some really good racing to this point. Brian Montieth blasted into the lead in turns three and four on lap 8 when he passed Logan Schuchart on the high side at the same time Rick Lafferty passed Schuchart on the low side to move into second. Montieth had nearly a half track lead when Wilt blew the engine with only one lap to go. The restart proved to be exciting when apparently Montieth ran out of gas handing the win over to Lafferty. It was Lafferty picking up his third win on the season followed by Brent Marks, Cory Hass, Logan Schuhart and Lance Dewease. I guess this is why they run all 25 laps. This is not the first time I have seen Montieth run out of gas while leading. This race had bursts of excitement and was complete by 9:20.
The 358 late models were last and I was surprised to see approximately two thirds of the crowd remain. By now it was quite chilly as I had a blanket over my legs. Sixteen cars took the green at 9:38 and the next thing you knew a car was rolling in turn three. Steve Claybaugh rolled about three times before coming to rest on his wheels. When racing resumed the race went nonstop. There was minimal passing but it was still a decent race. Grant Adams won the event with Charlie Schaffer and Travis Mease in tow.
All was complete before 10:00 and as we were leaving the awards and trophies were being handed out on the homestretch. Another year at the Grove has come to an end. We saw some really good racing this year and for the most part it is our Friday night home. I am already looking forward to next April when we can start all over again.
Saturday, October 20 - The evening of racing was not over yet (at least for me as Pat opted to stay in the warm car) as we made our way to Linda’s Speedway, which is on the way home. I knew they were running their National Open event with bad weather on Friday causing them to run everything on Saturday. They started early at 11 AM and even though it was after 11 PM when we arrived they were still running. We have never seen as large a crowd at Linda’s then tonight with many cars parked along the access road leading into the speedway. The parking lot was wet and muddy but I found a parking spot about half way up the parking lot. They were running the 600 cc micros when I walked into the place and had seven laps left of the 40 lapper for these cars. The last seven laps were interesting with Shane Lewis applying the pressure on Ryan Smith for the top spot but Smith held on and took the checker at 11:19 trailed by Lewis with Mike Rutherford rounding out the podium finish. Smith announced to the crowd that this was likely his last ride in a micro as he furthers his career in the sprint cars. Could a ride in the Heffner #27 vacated by Daryn Pittman be in his future??
At Linda’s the 270 cc’s are still considered the main class and they still had their 40 lap main event to run yet. It would be the 23rd Annual National Open for the 270’s and 86 cars started out the long day attempting to qualify. They pared it down to 31 to start the big race. The green waved at 11:59 and the National Open for the 270’s was underway. In the first 18 laps six cautions waved to slow the action. There was going to be a fuel stop at the halfway mark but when the caution waved on lap 18 they decided to take the fuel stop then. When the green waved for the last 22 laps all eyes again went back to the #88 of Nick Skias who started back in 19th and was weaving his way to the front. Mike Rutherford started first and was the class of the 270 field leading every lap but Skias was the show. Skias was fifth by lap 21 and took fourth on a lap 24 restart. The going got tougher at this point and Skias bogged down. Pete Skias, the defending National Open champion, tailed Rutherford but never made a serious challenge. Ken Andreas started 8th and ran a strong race to finish third with Greg Miller getting back by Nick Skias for fourth to finish there with Nick Skias rounding out the top five. The first three finishers across the line drove three different makes of micros that being Hyper, Viper and RTS. The final checkered waved at 12:38 and soon I was fumbling my way out through the wet parking lot until I found the car and jumped in and headed for the exit before most of the rest of the crowd was able to do so. It was a long day of racing for the Linda’s faithful but they stuck it out and got the entire race in.
Friday, October 12 – The weekend plan was to leave Thursday evening, stay in St. Clairsville, Ohio and the next morning arise early and make our way across Ohio and most of Indiana to our new home purchase in Crawfordsville. The plan worked to perfection until we arrived at our house. The contractor we were meeting at the house at 2 PM was delayed by traffic coming out of Chicago and would not arrive until 3:45. After meeting with him we had to scoot on down the road southwest to Terre Haute for our night of racing and what better thing to do on your 27th wedding anniversary than go to the races! We arrived at the Action Track at Terre Haute at 6:20 and upon exiting the car found the evening to be clear, cold and chilly. The racing action would get underway at 6:56 with time trials for the 22 car USAC National Sprint Car Series event with the UMP modifieds on the undercard. The surprise of the evening came in time trials when 16 year old West Terre Haute native, Braylon Fitzpatrick, not only set fast time but did so with a new track record of 19.280 seconds around the fast ½ mile clay oval. Braylon is the younger brother of Blake who has been racing in USAC for several years now with Pat and I witnessing him winning an indoor USAC midget race in Ohio a few years back.
UMP modified warmups were next and by 7:28 it was time for the three USAC sprint car heats. Well, Hunter Schuerenberg kept the new track record theme going by setting a new 8 lap track record in the first heat of the evening in a time of 2:39.40. Robert Ballou and Chase Stockton looked strong in their respective heats by winning them. The three heat races only took 17 minutes and the UMP modifieds did not want to be outdone as they spun off their three six lap heats in non-stop fashion in just 22 minutes. All qualifying was in the books by 8:07 and now it was time for a vintage car exhibition. There was a fine collection of old time midgets, sprints and Silver Crown machines along with several modifieds that paraded their beauties around the oval.
The 30 lap wingless sprint car feature would be up first and took the green at 8:52 for the Jim Hurtubise Classic. Chase Stockton who has been on a tear lately winning the last two sprint car events he has entered, winning on the high banks at Lawrenceburg two weeks ago for his first career USAC sprint victory and winning last week at the bullring of Haubstadt in an MSCS sanctioned event. He would start second tonight and at the wave of the green flag he was gone.
Brandon Mattox brought out the red on lap four when he dumped his sprinter in turn two. He was OK. Jon Stanbrough who was running in the top five came to a stop on the homestretch on lap 16 to bring out another caution. On lap 21 second place runner, Coleman Gulick, came up lame and stopped on the track to bring out the caution. Robert Ballou who started 14th was beginning to close the gap between him and the leader when two laps later Damion Gardner stopped on the homestretch out of fuel and at that point when the caution waved USAC officials determined that the 50 minute time limit for a fuel stop was at hand so the race was red flagged. This did not help Gardner though as he would have to start at the rear for bringing out the yellow. Then things resumed Stockton jumped back out front and pulled away by 2.530 seconds by the time the checkered flag waved. Ballou was the show in this one advancing from 14th but came up one spot short at the finish. Jerry Coons Jr. started sixth and finished third with Tracy Hines starting and finishing fourth while USAC sprint point leader, Dave Darland started 11th and grabbed 5th at the finish. Stockton was a very excited young man in victory lane standing on his roll cage and waving the checkered flag. He is from nearby Sullivan and related the story of how he attended Terre Haute as a kid and played in the infield and he never thought he would win at Terre Haute and much less the Jim Hurtubise Classic. Nice to see!
The 27 car UMP modified field would take the green flag at 9:59 with some good racing after some early cautions. Nationally known Ken Schrader was in town with a two car team tonight and he took the point in the feature on lap 11 and led the remaining four laps of the race which ended at 10:35. Schrader stated in victory lane that the car was not handling that good but he found a groove in the middle of the track that helped his car go to the front. It was a cold evening but being in the covered wooden grandstand helped some with the cold. Even with that I still have three sweatshirts and a heavy coat on during the evening and was glad to get back to the car to take some of the layers off.
Saturday, October 13 – The game plan was to have breakfast with our realtor, Mary Barnett and her husband John, have a tour of their new home purchase then visit an antique store in Crawfordsville before leaving for our Saturday night destination. Everything went according to the plan until we prepared to leave our house around 2 PM. It started to sprinkle and by the time we reached the northern edge of town it was raining good. It sure is amazing that for a state who suffered a drought all during the summer everytime we have come out to the house it has rained!! We decided to give our Saturday night destination, Montpelier Speedway, a call before going much further. The lady on the other end stated that it had not rained all day “yet”. The yet part got Pat worried and she asked me to pull over while she logged onto the laptop to take a better look at the forecast for Montpelier. Going to the weather web site it showed a big green glob moving from the west going over the entire northern part of Indiana with the dividing line at Indianapolis. Upon checking the hourly forecast for Montpelier who found a two hour period where the rain forecast was 95%. We were upset about this as Montpelier would be a new track for us both but it is better to reload then to enter into the cave of a bear. We had two southern Indiana possibilities of Brownstown and Terre Haute. Brownstown had a Funfest weekend with ten divisions scheduled for tonight with a six o’clock starting time. The other option was Terre Haute which was running a two division program of USAC Silver Crown cars and UMP modifieds. Which one do you think we chose? If you said Terre Haute you are correct! The two factors were the amount of divisions and the time factor as we had to drive across Indiana to the eastern border where we had our hotel for the evening in Richmond. So it was off to Terre Haute for the second night in a row. When we left Crawfordsville it was 62 degrees and very windy with the wind chill factor causing it to feel at best in the high 50’s and raining. We were only about three miles south of Crawfordsville when we encountered dry roads and they remained so for the rest of the evening. Also by the time we reached I-70 it was 65 degrees on the temperature gauge in the car. We drove 35 miles west and pulled into the parking lot of the Bob Evan’s where we would dine before heading over to the track. When we exited the car the temperature was 75 degrees, sunny and no wind. What a difference a distance of 70 miles makes!
We parked the car and sat for a while until 6:30 when hot laps were scheduled. As we entered the covered wooden grandstand the warmups were halted as Steve Adams had flipped his big car in turn two. Later in warmups Tanner Swanson would launch his car up and over the turn two wall without flipping and would return for time trials and racing. The gentlemen behind us mentioned that with the Adam’s flip that we were down to 14 cars. Oh, my!! We both thought at this point that we had made a mistake. Silver Crown qualifying got underway at 7:10 and when it was finished Bryan Clauson had set fast time at 20.467 seconds on the big half mile. Only two heats were needed for the UMP modifieds as only 17, down from 27 the night before, were pitside. All qualifying was over by 7:48 and it was time for the vintage cars to strut their stuff. These cars seemed to sparkle and glisten even more this evening as they paraded around the dirt oval.
By 8:15 it was feature time as the UMP modifieds would contest their 15 lap affair first and it was a decent race. Another youngster, Rodney Smith, who grew up nearby won this one and he relayed his story in victory lane which was very similar to Stockton’s the night before about coming to the track and playing in the infield. He was also a happy young man to be in victory lane at Terre Haute, The Action Track.
The statement I am going to make next may sound crazy but I assure you that I am still sane. With 14 cars starting a 100 lap feature on a half mile oval you would think that this had the great potential to be a stinker. Well, guess what? It was not and instead this was a real barnburner with the exception of the victor, Bobby East, the 2012 Silver Crown Champion, who won by a half track. The action behind him for positions 2 through 10 was unbelievable! As East walked off the race for second among Bryan Clauson, Robert Ballou and Jerry Coons Jr. was a dogfight. Almost everyone was using the extreme high groove in the feature except for three men. The first to go to the low groove was 11th starter, Russ Gamester, and he started to reel in the three ahead of him. Bud Kaeding came to a stop early in the event and restarted at the tail and was working his way back to the front. Also Brian Tyler and Tracy Hines picked up on the low road and began to make their presence known. The last ten laps of this one was a war with Clauson and Ballou being shuffled out of the top five being replaced by Gamester, Kaeding and Hines. On the last lap Gamester almost passed Coons for second but came up a hair short. When the checkered flew at 9:42 it was East the winner with Coons second, Gamester third, Kaeding fourth and Tracy Hines rounding out the top five after recovering from an earlier spin. Heading up the second five was Clauson with Tyler seventh, Ballou eighth, Kody Swanson taking ninth and Tanner Swanson coming back from his earlier troubles to take tenth. The only other finisher was Annville, PA’s own Richie Tobias Jr. who was two laps off the pace in 11th. Also as East pulled into victory lane his right rear tire went very flat!! If that had happened a few laps earlier who knows who would or could have won this one. We are happy for the ending time and the fact that we had witnessed an awesome race to boot. Yes, it was indeed a good night and by midnight we were in bed in Richmond, Indiana ready to get a good night’s sleep for the long drive home.
Saturday, October 6 - We started out the day with the intention of heading to Selinsgrove for their big $5000 to win late model race. As we rode along west we discussed if we should go to Selinsgrove or head south in Harrisburg and go to the Lincoln Speedway. Selinsgrove only ended up having 26 late models but that is the same number that Lincoln had in their 410 division. We were a little disappointed in the slim field at Lincoln as no one else was running 410’s in the area and the WOO sprints were up north in New York at Rolling Wheels. The only two Central Pennsylvania cars that diverted to Rolling Wheels were Paul McMahon and Daryn Pittman. Well, we guess many of the local guys are parked for the remainder of the current season. Along with the 410’s tonight the 358’s would be running their championship race with $1500 going to the winner. That brought out a better field of 31 cars for their action and the points chase was close between Tim Wagaman and his uncle, Jeff Rohrbaugh who is the defending 358 champion at Lincoln. Time would tell who would finish on top of the points race.
The 410’s were running for $4000 to win in the Hank Gentzler Memorial Manufacturer’s Appreciation Night where each starting driver in the 30 lap main event would win a prize package valued around the $2000 mark. A very nice way for the manufacturers to thank the racers for purchasing products at their businesses. The 358 sprints would run individual time trials for their 31 car field while the 410 sprints would run group time trials for their 26 car field. In the 358 time trials Chris Eash came out with the fastest time of 14.061 seconds and was one of 13 cars to break the old 358 track record. In the 410 sprints Brian Montieth scored fastest time of the evening with is time of 13.181 which was very good for him considering that he is not usually a good time trialer. All time trials were completed by 6:48 after they started four minutes early to start the program.
At 7 PM it was time for the four 358 sprint heats with the top two qualifiers going into the redraw along with the four fastest time trialers that did not qualify in the heats. The 410 sprint heats were next up and all heat qualifying was in the books by 8:07. The top ten in points would run a six lap dash with an inversion with the finish determining the starting lineup for the feature. Billy Dietrich won this one and would start first in the 30 lap main with Gerald McIntyre Jr. alongside. Randy Baughman won the 410 B main while lady racer, Brie Hershey, won the 358 consie. All preliminary qualifying was over by 8:32 and it was now intermission time. We knew ahead of time that the intermission would be lengthy as each manufacturer’s package would be announced and the total value of each so that would take a while. It was over an hour before the 410 feature took the green flag at 9:41 but it was worth the wait.
Billy Dietrich jumped to the early lead but Gerald McIntyre Jr. was quick and took the lead after one lap. Jim Seigel and Brent Marks took up the chase while the field battled tooth and nail behind the front runners. Finally on lap 18 Marks worked his way by McIntyre and into the lead. In the meantime Brian Montieth was closing ground from his fifth starting position and began to track down Marks. Montieth made a major slide job going down the backstretch and squeezed Marks high grabbing the top spot on lap 23. He led the final two laps and notched his eighth win of 2012 and his thirty fourth career win at the Pigeon Hills oval over Marks and McIntyre. Danny Dietrich won had already clinched the Lincoln 410 title came from 10th to finish 4th with Lance Dewease coming from 8th to 5th. This checkered waved at 10 and the race was a good one as they usually are on the finely manicured clay oval. Positions six through ten were claimed by Brad McClelland who ran a good race advancing from 13th to 6th with Alan Krimes seventh with Brian Leppo 8th, Cory Haas 9th and Billy Dietrich slipping to 10th.
Now it was time for the 25 lap 358 sprint feature with Jeff Rohrbaugh starting in front of his nephew, Tim Wagaman, on the front row. But at the start it was Mark Smith jumping from second and taking off. No one would touch the high flying Smith as he raced away while the pack battled behind him. Rohrbaugh would not reliquish second either with Ryan Wilson coming from sixth to finish third. Tim Wagaman finished fourth and it was enough to claim the 2012 Lincoln 358 title to add to his track championship at nearby Trailway and became only the second person to win both track’s titles in the same year. Tim Berkheimer claimed fifth as there was not much passing as the track went away so this was not as exciting as the previous event. All told the final checker of the evening waved at 10:31, a good ending considering the hour spent acknowledging the products donated for the manufacturer’s night.
Friday, October 5 – The weather forecast for the 5th of October was deemed as the warmest day we would experience until next year. That meant either it was really going to be hot or we are going to be in for a long cold winter. Well since last year it never got really cold and the only snow storm we had was on Halloween I guess we cannot complain if this year coming up produces a real winter. The temperature did hit the low 80’s and I knew this was probably the final night, in the Northeast, that I would wear a sweatshirt only to keep warm. The temperatures may have been summer like but the dreaded early darkness was still there. With the sun setting by 6:30 by the time we arrived at William Grove it was dark. Driving in the dark is also worse during the rush hours and I am not sure why. However, we hit a traffic jam in Harrisburg and did not arrive on the grounds at Williams Grove until 7:35, missing the first 358 sprint heat.
Both the 358 and 410 sprints ran three qualifying heats each with the car counts at 28 and 26 respectively. At one point, Jeff Alhum, who rode out with us, looked at me and put his hand to his mouth as to yawn. He was right the heats were not all that exciting. But then at the Grove many times the heats are not that exciting but the feature makes up for it. Both divisions ran a consolation and all qualifying was complete by 8:53. Intermission is rare at Grove and tonight was no different. There is always a slight break giving the 410 sprints time to put in the final touches before pulling out for their main event. From the time the checkered fell on the final consolation until the green drops on the 410 twenty-five lap feature was 23 minutes.
Paul McMahon started in third and I am not a betting person but I would not have bet against him for the win. McMahon never lead a lap. Instead the pole sitter Ryan Taylor, who never won a 410 sprint race at the Grove, jumped into early the lead. An early caution on lap 3 slowed the event and then it went green until lap 14 when Dynamite Jim Shuster collided with Chad Layton in turn two with Shuster flipping. Layton was able to continue when racing resumed. I missed the entire incident as the action up front was fast and furious. Taylor and fourth place starter Rick Lafferty were swapping the lead and were in turn three and four when the accident occurred. On the restart Lafferty took the top spot for good but not before a few tense moments in turn three on lap 24. Taylor looked to be setting up Lafferty for one final attempt for the win when once again the red came out on the final lap. Layton lost his left rear tire and flipped the #7 directly in front of the leaders. Luckily they both got by but the last lap pass was not to happen. Lafferty lead the final lap easily and went on to win his second feature event of 2012. Lafferty is one of the low buck racers and it is always good to see him win. He commented in victory lane that he saw the #7 of Layton was running with no front wing and then he saw him flipping with no left rear. Taylor finished second with Jim Siegel third, Paul McMahon fourth and Brent Marks fifth. It was a really good race more than making up for the boring heats.
The 358 feature took the green at 10:11 and these drivers also put on a very good race. Just as in the 410 event the early leader came from the front row. But unlike the 410, Glenndon Forsythe won the event making him the 11th different winner this year in the 358 division. The action was not for first but there was plenty of passing as Pat Cannon came from 9th to finish second, Nate Hammaker was third, eighth place starter TJ Stutts was fourth with Mark Smith coming from 10th to finish fifth. There were only two cautions in the event and all was complete by 10:25. The time on the drive home went by quickly as Bruce, Jeff and I discussed which of the two features we thought was the best. I believe in the end we thought they were both good. It was a typical show at the Grove. Well run, well raced and by 10:30 we were on our way home. It might be a crazy ride to get here on Friday night but it is worth it.
Saturday, September 29 - A phone call on Friday from my long time friend and workmate, Charlie Sylvester, found him back up north from his employment to attend one of his daughter’s weddings on Friday. That left Saturday open for him so he wanted to go racing and I suggested to him that Bridgeport had double features for the modifieds and sportsman all for $15 and he said he was in. We met Charlie and his other daughter’s boyfriend, Devin, at the Quakertown park and ride next to the Northeast extension of the PA Turnpike and it was off to Bridgeport in Charlie’s rental. We arrived at 5:30 and settled into our seats in front of my oldest brother, Bob, and his bench mate, Seth. Racing began just 5 minutes off the starting time of 6 PM with the completion of the second sportsman heat and two modified consies from the previous week. Then they decided to run the two outlaw stock heats for the 21 car field and to give the modifieds especially the consie cars the time to prepare for their first 30 lap feature. The 30 lap modified feature went green at 6:56 and went the entire 30 lap distance non-stop in 10 minutes. Stan Frankenfield Jr., took off from the first starting position and held a good size lead through the first half of the event. Then Richie Pratt Jr. broke loose from the pack from his 12th starting position and began to reel in Frankenfield. He caught up to him with eight to go and everyone including myself thought that was the end of a good time story for Frankenfield. Well, no one informed Frankenfield his five minutes of fame was over as we hit the five to go sign and he was pulling away from Pratt!! In the meantime 6th starter, Eric Kormann, who dropped back early stormed back through the pack and wiped out a half track lead by the top two and closed on Pratt’s rear bumper in the last few laps. When the checkered flag waved at 7:07 Stan Frankenfield Jr. flashed over the line first winning his first career win anywhere in 10 to 12 years of racing and also became the tenth different Bridgeport winner of 2012. Ryan Watt claimed fourth behind the front three with Mike Barone rounding out the top five. It is always a delight to see the emotion and jubilation from a first time winner and Frankenfield was so excited and thankful in victory lane to have finally won a feature event.
The 20 lap crate sportsman feature was next up with former Mahoning Valley racer, C.J. Jones, in the Sal DeBruno #01 taking the lead early and holding off the remainder of the pack with young Bradley Roberts taking second with Michael Cogdill third, Tommy Beamer fourth and 15 year old Ricky Dieva notching the fifth position. The track crew came to the track to work on the surface before continuing into the second half of the program. By 8:19 the modified heats were trackside and spun off in good order for the 33 car field. Two heats were run for the 25 sportsman on hand and then it was right into the 15 lap outlaw stock feature. The first seven laps of this race were painful with five cautions for crashes but after that they ran green for the remaining eight laps and the battle for the lead was a good one with three cars in contention. Finally Bill Liedtko prevailed for the win at 9:20. Quickly a modified and sportsman consie were run and by 9:37 all qualifying was finished. Another touch of track maintenance was performed as the modifieds prepared their machines for the second 30 lap modified feature. The green waved at 10:08 and once again Stan Frankenfield Jr. took the lead. For a long while we felt that it was going to be a career night for Frankenfield but once again Richie Pratt Jr. was closing in from 11th with Duane Howard next from 17th and Rick Laubach from 12th. A lap car returned from the backstretch pits pulling onto the track in front of the leaders with Pratt using the confusion to pass Frankenfield for the lead while the other three scrambled to get around the car running in the middle of the groove. It looked to us before this happened that Howard seemed to have the momentum and would take the lead but after the skirmish Laubach seemed to be the fastest. He quickly caught and passed Pratt for the lead and took off from there like a rocket. When the checker waved at 10:29 it was Rick Laubach winning his 7th race of the year at Bridgeport and at the same time winning the 2012 track championship all in one fair swoop. Finishing behind the track champ was Richie Pratt Jr. with Duane Howard taking third, Ryan Watt with another steady performance claiming fourth with Eric Kormann staking another top five with a fifth. Also in a good performance driving a strange car to him, Jimmy Horton, the Scott Irwin #92 after the Schmidt #5 had mechanical woes marched from 22nd to 6th at the finish. Rounding out the top ten were Matt Harrell, Jesse Hill, Rocco Infante and Rusty Smith running a strong race to finish tenth. Frankenfield after leading over half the race in the second one dropped like a rock to finish out of the top ten in 11th. After a busy day yesterday for Charlie and Devin and a busy day on Saturday for us we decided to forego the second sportsman race and head north across the Commodore Barry Bridge and back home. The second modified feature was the best we have seen all season with many strong runs and the chit chat up the Blue Route and the Northeast Extentsion was lively. It was great seeing my buddy, Charlie, again for the first time in four years though we talk every week on the phone. Nothing beats seeing someone in person.
Friday, September 28 – The World of Outlaws were running at Williams Grove and we do not go to the Grove when the Outlaws are in town. The only other game in town was Linda’s Speedway. A track we drive by every week on our way to Williams Grove. It is not that we do not like Linda’s; it is just not our first choice. Actually it is the perfect track for the small cars that compete there every week. We arrived at 7:00 for the 7:30 start and I made the comment while walking through the parking lot that I wondered if we would see any more Williams Grove defectors. Well we did and promptly took a seat with Dwight Bucks and Marshall Kern. Marshall scolded me for not getting my blogs in on a timely fashion and he is right. I was hoping to get this one immediately but here it is three days later and my fingers are first hitting the keyboard.
There was a big full moon staring down at us and I thought we were going to be in for a long night but I was wrong. They also added a lap counter in turn four, which is great for the fans. Marshall had mentioned he never recognized that it was there before and was relieved when they announced this was the first night for the new lap counter. However he was not sure how to spell his last name when I asked him. I wanted to use it in the blog and surely did not want to spell it incorrectly.
The program consisted of only four divisions tonight; slingshots, 600cc micro sprints, 270cc micro sprints and the legend cars. The car counts were 14, 20, 28 and 22 respectively. Racing started at 7:40 and in less than an hour they spun off the 11 qualifying heats with the first caution coming out in the final heat of the 11. As I mentioned earlier this track is the perfect size, 1/5 mile, for this size of race car. The action was good and the surface was 100% dust free.
After an interview with retiring legend driver, Tim Henry, the first feature took the green at 9:05. There some really good racing in this slingshot event and at the end of the 15 laps it was a side by side finish. Brett Bieber edged out Justin Thompson for the first feature win of the night. After a brief victory lane interview the legends took the green in their 20 lap event. This race was awesome. The first 11 laps went nonstop and I believe the racing during these 11 laps was some of the best racing I have seen all year in any type of race car. If you enjoy racing you would have loved this. Good racing is good racing no matter what the type of car. It was wild in and out of traffic racing among the top runners. Unfortunately it came to an end on lap 11 when Jason Rochelle spun in turn 4. The caution slowed the event three more times and in the end Blaine Leppo won the event over the retiring Tim Henry. It would have been nice if Henry could have won his final event but he cannot say that he did not have fun trying. Tim Bauer finished third.
They ran the 270cc consolation next and the 600 cc feature followed. Of the four features both Bruce and I agreed this was the least competitive. The 600’s do not pass as readily as the 270’s. A red for a flip prior to reaching the green and three additional cautions also took away from the 25 lap main event. Shane Lewis won followed by Steve Whary and Heath Hehnly. The final race of the night was the 25 lap feature for the 270’s and it was run in a fast and furious fashion. These cars ran high, low and every which way. Mike Rutherford picked up the win followed by Josh Stoyer and Lyle Stroman.
In addition to the entire event for the four racing division, they ran warm-up laps for the 600cc modifieds and the chargers. They ran three different sets of hot laps throughout the night. But when the final checkered fell it was only 10:55. We were all in disbelief at the early conclusion. Most time when we pass Linda’s on our way home from Williams Grove, they are still running their features. The two tracks are close to 40 minutes apart. In the end we saw some grand racing on a dust free surface with some great racing friends. As always by the end of the show it was damp and chilly but that is just part of Linda’s. Maybe we will not wait until next September to make our return visit. Marshall again, sorry for the delay.