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Saturday, March 17 - It has been almost a month since we ventured to our last race in Florida. I have recovered from my illness while in Florida and this is not the reason we have not been attending any races. The real reason is that the boy’s high school basketball team we follow all winter, The Easton Area High School Red Rovers, made a surge to the final eight in the Pennsylvania state playoffs and we followed them all along the way. The journey ended on Saturday afternoon in Reading, Pa where they were beaten by the #2 ranked team in Class AAAA, the Lower Merion Aces, by a score of 66 to 54 but Easton was within 3 points with four minutes to play. They were not able to get over the hump and lost to a highly talented and athletic squad. Easton had a very good year and even though their shooting was not the greatest they more than made up for it with tough defense and blue collar work ethic. We were pround of their run and they should hold their heads high as they achieved much more than anyone would have imagined.
After the game ended at 2:40 we scurried out to the car and headed up Rt. 183 to connect onto Rt. 78 West to Rt. 81 South until making our way onto Rt. 15 toward Selinsgrove. Yes, we were back in the racing mode and with the company of my oldest brother, Bob, we were going to the Selinsgrove Speedway for the 5th Annual Icebreaker 40 which is an ROC modified tour race. We always look forward to this event and today was no exception. We knew we would not make it by the 4 PM starting time but we were determinded to be there. Two phone calls along the way from race buddies, Joe Perotto and Jeff Ahlum, informed us that the starting time had been pushed back a half hour to try to give the racers a better surface to race on. The day was sunny with temperatures in the middle 70’s with windy conditions so you can see why they tried the later start. It didn’t help as the track surface quickly turned dry and became quite dusty which produced little passing in the heats and the main event. It was a shame as the field was quite good at 50 strong with drivers from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware in attendence. Several drivers from the western side of Pennsylvania also made the long haul and if you look at their traveling distance that could almost be counted as another state as Pennsylvania is huge and takes over 5 hours to transverse from east to west or vice versa.
Racing got underway at 5:10 with six heats for the 50 car field which in our group’s opinion could have been cut to five heats with 10 starters which is not much for the big half mile that they would be running on. Heat winners showed the diversity of the field with Larry Wight, Kevin Hirthler, Jeff Strunk, Billy Pauch Sr., Duane Howard and Jimmy Phelps scoring wins with three drivers advancing into the Icebreaker 40. All heat racing was completed by 5:52 with a cash dash the next event with Pennsylvania’s Kevin Hirthler prevailing. That was followed by three consies for the modifieds with Sammy Piazza, Wade Hendrickson and Pat Ward scoring the wins. All qualifying was in the books by 6:44. A non-qualifiers race was run next so some of the guys could earn a little extra cash for their efforts and support. Grandview regular, Tommy Sheetz Jr. was the winner in this one.
The 40 lap modified feature was green flagged by 7:40 with the front row of Duane Howard and Billy Pauch Sr. pacing the 28 car starting field. Pauch took the lead on the outside in turn two on the opening lap and for all intents and purposes this one was over. Pauch was very strong and extended his lead in the early going. Howard continued to run second but on lap 17 his night came to a premature end when the power plant on the #4 expired. Three laps later Matt Shepard dropped into the infield after advancing to 14th after starting 22nd. The first of only three cautions appeared on lap 22 when Sammy Piazza slowed on the backstretch and dove into the pits. Jimmy Phelps stayed close to Pauch on the restart and for several laps thereafter but the driver from Frenchtown, New Jersey was not to be caught on this evening. Tim Fuller who also had run a good, steady race came to a stop on the homestretch on lap 38 while running third. Pauch maintained the lead on the final restart and flashed under the checkered flag at 8:06 with Phelps second, Jeff Strunk third, Jimmy Horton fourth and Danny Johnson making his way up to 5th after starting 15th. Rounding out the top ten were Larry Wight, Kevin Hirthler, Pat Ward, Stewart Friesen and Jackie Brown Jr.
It was a well run program ending in slightly under three hours after the late start but the lack of a good track surface made for a rather ho hum day and night of racing. But come March of next year I am sure we will be back for another round of the Icebreaker 40.
This weekend has Williams Grove penciled in for Friday night with a debate on the Saturday race deciding between Lincoln and New Egypt but the weather could be the deciding factor here also as rain is predicted for Saturday.
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