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Friday, May 7 - Pat was not able to arrive home before six so it was a late start for Williams Grove and their 7:30 start. But not to worry because they were having a World of Outlaws type program with time trials and a 30 lap feature instead of the normal 25. This extra 5 laps would play into the controversy later in the evening. We arrived in the parking area at 7:55 just as the last of the sprint cars was taking time. Chad Layton was fast timer. We had just enough time to visit the bathrooms and take our position in the aluminum grandstands with our friends before the first of three 358 sprint car heats came trackside at 8:10. Thirty 358 sprints signed into the pit area for tonight and they would run two of their three heats before the 28 car 410 sprint car field took to the track. The best race of the evening was in the third 358 sprint car heat in which four cars raced side by side for the lead. Bree Hershey, one of four female 358 drivers, won this one using the outside groove to her advantage.
The 410’s ran a B main with Connecticut’s David Gravel, an All-Star runner, winning this one. The 358’s ran a consie with Jason Shultz winning and all prelims completed by 9:22. As almost always the 410 sprint car feature event was first up and the 30 lap event went green at 9:43. Only three cautions slowed the action with young Derek Sell, an Arizona transplant learning the ropes and tutored by Keith Kauffman, causing two of them with spins. The racing was fast and furious with Stevie Smith gaining control of the lead just passed the half way mark. Later in the race the first controversal event happened as Greg Hodnett and Fred Rahmer collided on the homestretch. It looked like just a racing incident with Hodnett not being aware that Rahmer had stuck his nose on the outside of his right rear. Hodnett thinking he had Rahmer cleared came up and banged into Rahmer’s left front tire causing Rahmer to spin and bounce off the outside homestretch fence. This was the battle for sixth at the time and Rahmer was done for the night. Later going down the backstretch coming for the white flag Smith slowed and then regained speed only to slow again entering turns three and four. He was low on fuel and the cars scattered all around him to avoid crashing into him. Greg Hodnett stormed into the lead at this point as the yellow appeared after Hodnett had taken the lead as announcer, Bruce Ellis, commented that the yellow was for the slowing car. Quickly the red flew as Layton, Montieth and Ryan Bohlke slowed also starving for fuel. At this point controversy raised it’s ugly head as the restart lineup was posted. It had Hodnett in the lead, Smith in second and Layton in third. As far as we understand the rule book the person who brings out the yellow goes to the rear of the field. There was a chorus of boos when the restart lineup was announced so it was obvious that the crowd agreed with our assessment of the situation. Even when exiting the track we were approached by another of our friends who voiced his displeasure about Smith being placed second on the restart.
Well everyone refueled and were lined back up and the green waved once again. Hodnett shot back into the lead and was able to hold off Smith and Layton for the one remaining lap with Lance Dewease coming from 17th to finish 4th and Brian Montieth rebounding from 7th on the restart to place 5th. Good runs were turned in by 6th place finisher, Rick Lafferty, 7th place finisher, Ryan Bohlke and 8th place finisher, David Gravel. This one was in the books by 10:18 and most of the crowd remained to watch the 358 feature. Those that did witnessed history at the Grove with Nicole Bower becoming the first female racer to win a sprint car feature at Williams Grove. She started first in the non-stop 20 lap event and outran veteran Rich Eichelberger who started fourth. Cory Haas advanced from 10th to grab 3rd with a late run by point leader, Pat Cannon, coming from 12th to finish 4th and Glenndon Forsythe rounding out the top five. A happy Bower celebrated in victory lane at 10:43 and will probably remember this one for the rest of her life. Bower is scheduled to run seven 410 sprint races this year in the family run car.
An interesting and controversal evening at Williams Grove that should have the fans buzzing and discussing tonight’s action for weeks to come. Stay tuned for our next blog coming up shortly. Thanks for reading.
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