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Monday, July 30 - Tonight was the final night of the Keystone Cup, a mini version of the Pennsylvania Sprintweek contested in late June and early July. Upon canavasing the pit area I found only 15 sprint cars on hand for this race. That is pathetic!! I don’t get the Pennsylvania primadonnas. Here is a race paying $5000 to win and only 15 sprinters show up!! What a joke! Thank goodness for the ARDC midgets being on the card also as they carried the show. Time trials got underway at 7:33 and were over by 7:50. Fred Rahmer toured the 1/3 mile dirt oval in a time of 13.679 seconds. That allowed him to start up front in his heat and if he finished in the top two in the heat racing then he would not start any further back than fourth in the feature. I am not picking on Fred Rahmer here but rather the joke of a lineup system that the Keystone Cup officials came up with for this year’s running. They better scrap this system quickly as I am not the only one who thought the system was highly flawed. There wasn’t one person in over two dozen that I spoke to who had anything good to murmur about the lineup procedures. In the entire night of racing Rahmer did not have to pass anyone whatsoever to collect the top check on the evening. And basically the same thing occured at Lincoln and Selinsgrove also. The Pennsylvania people want to see inversions of at least six and even to the number of twelve. They want to see side by side racing and lots of passing not the lame shows they suffered through this week. The paying customer is not going to fork out $20 of his or her hard earned money and not see a pass for the lead all night long. Scrap it officials and go back to inversion and send the whinners packing if they don’t want to try to pass some cars along the way to the front for the fan’s pleasure.
Anyhow back to the racing as the ARDC midgets ran three entertaining heats after the time trials for the 410 sprints for their 22 car field. Two heats were staged for the sprinters and all qualifying was completed by 8:44. A much too long 35 minute intermission was taken on a work night for track maintenance before the sprint cars took the green flag at 9:28 for their 30 lapper. Rahmer shot off the front row like a soaked cat and was never headed with Daryn Pittman coming out of the fifth hole to finish second with Aaron Ott third, Stevie Smith fourth and Chad Layton rounding out the top five. The only good thing about the feature was that it didn’t take long. One other gripe I have to share is when tracks have open cockpit racers that need to be pushed off why don’t they make sure they have plenty of push trucks to do the duty. At Big Diamond there were only four and that is surely not enough.
The 25 lap midget feature got off to a rocky start when a five car pileup occured in turn 1 on the start. After that was cleaned up they went the rest of the distance with only two other cautions. In between there was some great side by side racing and at the end Ryan Smith, who has been struggling so far, used his third starting spot to his advantage and build up a big enough lead to hold off the advances of 14th starting Steve Buckwalter for the popular win. Billy Pauch Jr. had made a big charge from 15th to battle with Buckwalter in the middle stages of the race but mechanical woes sidelined him too soon. Another impressive performance was turned in by Tim Buckwalter who started 18th and ended up 3rd at the end. Young Steve Bull ran hard and nailed down a top five spot finishing fourth with Dusty Heistand also running hard to round out the top five. All racing activity was in the record books by 10:20 as the crowd began to file out.
The midgets salvaged the night while the 410 sprinters should have snuck off into the night after that pathetic night of racing.
Tuesday, May 31 - The Eastern Storm, the invasion of the USAC wingless sprint cars, were in town tonight for their second night of Pennsylvania action appearing the evening before at the Lernerville Speedway in Western Pennsylvania where Jon Stanbrough prevailed. Tonight would find 30 wingless warriors in action along with 24 ARDC midgets running for the second straight evening. Time trials for the sprinters got started late at 7:41 and came to a grinding halt as the first time trialer, Steve Storrie, a 358 sprint driver from PA catapulated in turn one after the green flag. Storrie was OK but done for the evening. Coleman Gulick, a young talent from the Binghamton, New York area who has moved to Indiana to persue his driving career set fast time with a new track record of 13.767 seconds.
Four very competitive sprint car heats were spun off followed by three good heats for the midgets. All were completed by 9:19. Only the sprints needed a B main and fast timer, Coleman Guick, won that one. The midgets would get first honors to run their feature and it turned out to be another good one. The one for the highlight films would be the one when Steve Buckwalter running third on lap 10 drove hard and high into turns three and four running behind Nick Wean and Tim Buckwalter. He diamonded off the high side and dove in the hole left between the two and took the lead at the flag stand. That one had the fans buzzing. Steve Buckwalter went on to victory over Nick Wean with Alex Bright making a nifty move on Bruce Buckwalter Jr. to snatch third at the wire with Brett Arndt rounding out the top five.
It was now the USAC boys turn and could they one up their smaller cousins. To state it short and sweet, YES. Levi Jones started first and many felt this one was a shoe in. Well, it was not to be so as they caught and passed Jones in the second half of the 40 lap event as the bottom became the perferred groove and Jones tried to remain up top. There was so much dicing and dueling throughout the field you didn’t know what to watch. Bobby East hooked up in the second half and grabbed the lead on lap 24. He would go on to score his first career USAC sprint car win on dirt fending off the hard charging Chris Windom from 12th, with Robert Ballou who is normally a cushion pounder used the low groove effectively marching from 16th to 3rd with Casey Shuman, son of the great Ron Shuman, showing some of his dad’s quick moves blistering from 19th to 4th and Dave Darland rounding out the top five. The top local was New Jersey’s Mark Bitner who came home 8th and really shows some prowess in the wingless cars.
It was a great night of racing and the wingless sprinters once again show that they are capable of more passing and side by side racing than their winged counterparts.
Thursday, June 2 - I teamed up with friend, Russ Frei, meeting at Art’s Radiator Shop in Flemington, New Jersey, to make the tow to the New Egypt Speedway for the fourth night of the Eastern Storm tour. The field of 25 USAC sprints would be joined by the New Egypt modified class with a field of 34 strong. Blake Fitzpatrick toured the black dirt oval in 17.282 seconds to set fast time. The modifieds ran their first of three heats before the sprints followed with their three heats. Then it was back to complete the other two modified heats. The sprint heats were the better of the two and then both classes needed a B main or a consie which is the same thing. All qualifying was done by 9:20 and then they went to intermission which consisted of the top 12 in the heats drawing pills to determine their starting positions and track maintenance. There did not seem to be a sense of urgency on this week night as the sprint feature did not go green until 10:11. Five cautions and 41 minutes after the sprint car feature was finished did a sense of urgency finally appear. But I have gotten ahead of the story at hand so back to the sprint car feature. Jon Stanbrough had things in hand for 39 of the 40 laps but not the most important one, the last one. I felt he might have run low on fuel on the backstretch and tried to shake his sprinter to find some precious fuel when he tagged the wall, recovered and then did a wheelie and lost control and banged the third turn wall backwards. A friend spoke with him afterwards and he made no excuses and said that he just screwed up. That is a sign of a good racer, not blaming everyone else when he was the one who was responsibile for the problem. Hunter Schuerenberg inherited the lead and had to fight off Robert Ballou (17th starter) to grab the win. Levi Jones claimed third with Tracy Hines fourth and Travis Rilat up from 15th to notch fifth. It was great to see Rilat back in action after suffering serious burns over much of his body last year.
Now that it was now 10:52 management figured they had to now hurry or they wouldn’t get in the modifieds. Well, they can be happy that the modifieds cooperated as the 30 lap feature went non-stop in 10 minutes to bring the final curtain down at 11:07. Billy Pauch won his second modified race in a row at New Egypt beating Jeff Strunk, Craig VonDohren who passed Danny Johnson on the last corner for third and
Dom Buffalino claiming the fifth position at the end. There was not a lot of passing in this one but there was still some good moments of hard racing side by side.
An OK show but could have been much better if the track surface would have held up better.
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