Friday, May 8 - It was going to be one of those iffy nights weather wise. You all know them, 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms. Pat had been in Atlantic City since Tuesday and today was the first day I would see her in three days. I missed her and was glad to see her when she pulled into the garage this evening. As we drove west it did not look good for a while but then the skies broke up a bit and hope was higher. We arrived at Williams
Grove at 7:40 and the time trials for the invasion of the All Star sprints were already underway. At 8 PM just as I settled into our seats with a whole pizza in hand the time trials were over. For the second straight time when time trials have been run to determine the starting lineup Kevin Nouse driving the Jim Nace #6 was quickest.
Now it was time to go heat racing with the first 358 sprint car heat, the other division on the dance card for this evening, ready to go by 8:07. There would be four heats for the 358’s which totaled 35 cars and four heats for the 410’s which brought 37 drivers to the pit area. The sad part was only 7 of them were All Stars. The All Stars to me have become a shell of their former self and charging people extra at the front gate to see 7 invaders with only 5 of them somewhat competitive is not right. Well, by looking around the grandstand area most of the regulars must have agreed as the crowd was down from previous weeks. Another factor is that the World of Outlaws are coming to town next Thursday and Friday and we are sure some people are saving their money to attend these high cost events. The heats were not anything to write home about except for a couple of things. Amy Ott, sister of 358 and 410 driver Aaron Ott, won the fourth heat for the 358’s and looked good at doing it. In the 410 heats two separate accidents produced three flipping sprinters. In the first one which occured in the second heat on the start, Sean Michael run up and over the right rear tire of Todd Shaffer and launched himself skyward at the end of the homestretch before entering turn one. It was a nasty end over end caroussel with Michael going over quite a few times. It was a relief to see him climb so quickly from the mangled mess that was once a sprint car. The second accident occured in heat four when Bob Bennett began flipping in turn one and Brian Leppo was swept into the fray dumping his sprinter also but not as seriously as Bennett. Both drivers were OK in this one also and later Leppo returned to qualify for the main event through the B main.
All qualifying was completed by 10 and we were ready to go feature racing. The 30 lap All Star feature was the first one called to the post with the green waving at 10:17. Luckily for all in attendence the features were much better than the heat racing. In fact it was a dilly of a battle for the lead between Todd Shaffer and Lance DeWease throughout the first half of the race. But there was some other good battles going on in the pack with Stevie Smith and Brian Montieth swapping fourth and fifth for many laps and Keith Kauffman, the 58 year old veteran and 24 time All Star winner, dueling with Fred Rahmer, who won his 500th career race last Saturday at Lincoln, for the seventh and eighth spots. Shaffer blasted from 4th to take the lead from 1st starter DeWease coming around for lap two with a bold inside move off turns three and four and they went at it tooth and nail over the next 21 laps. The second and last caution on lap 22 set the stage for the battle to resume but Shaffer had other ideas. He took off and pulled to a several car length lead and would never be challenged the remainder of the way. In five races run at Williams Grove this year there has only been two winners with Todd Shaffer scoring his third of the year tonight with the other two won by Lance DeWease who ended up second tonight. Greg Hodnett came from 8th to finish 3rd in the strongest outing of the year at the Grove for him with Brian Montieth winning the battle with Smith to place fourth and Chad Layton holding off Stevie Smith for fifth. The highest finishing All Star was Tim Shaffer in 12th with current All Star point leader, Daryn Pittman, charging from 24th to 13th at the end. The checker waved at 10:33 and the victory lane celebration and interviews stretched for the next 20 minutes. I must say that the Williams Grove speaker system needs a revamp as the on track interviews are a waste of time as for the most part they cannot be understood. That’s a real shame and should be corrected immediately.
Some of the crowd headed for the exits but it seems more and more people are staying for the 358 feature. The word must be getting around that the racing is good in this division also and we were not disappointed tonight. Amy Ott, started second, was off and running taking the early lead and holding everyone else at bay. Would history be made tonight with the first female winner ever at Williams Grove?? Well history was made sort of but it did not produce the first female winner. Instead Kyle Moody took the lead from Amy on lap five and raced to his first career win at the Grove winning over Amy’s brother, Aaron, with Amy settling for third with Scott Geesey flying from 16th to finish 4th and Elvin Diller III rounding out the top five. Hats off to Cory Haas who started 23rd and advanced to 6th at the finish. Haas was a man on a mission as he was black flagged from his qualifying spot in his heat race when his car started smoking badly but it deceased quickly but the decision had been made. With the help of a late caution in the consie he drove his tail off to finish third with four to qualify. It was quite a performance to witness and he deserves the credit for running a fine race. The final checker waved at 11:12, a tad late for us but a satisfying night of racing with no rain.