I was watching the forecast all week long, as I always do. So far April has proved to be just as the song indicates, April showers. The races have either been rained out or there is a threat of rain or the show is partially rained out. Well this weekend is proving to be the first ideal weekend for 2009. Yesterday the temperature was a warm 69 degrees and all that was needed was a sweatshirt to keep warm at the races. Today the temperature is going to go up into the 70’s and this is the weekend in Pennsylvania race fans have been waiting for since last season. Yes, spring has arrived, but let’s back up to yesterday.
Friday, April 17 - Even though I work until 5:00 in Morristown, NJ I conveniently disappeared at 4:30 only to find myself in the parking lot heading home. No, make that heading to meet Bruce at the Hellertown, PA exit off Interstate 78 where my car will remain in the park and ride until late Saturday night. In order to make the early spring time start of 7:30 at Williams Grove Speedway I need to on the road by 4:30. Now Bruce is 1/2 hour closer to home and the track and only works until 4:00 so there is never an issue for him. I will tell you at the end of this blog how there will not be an issue for me after May 22.
We pulled into the parking lot at 7:30 exactly as the National Anthem was being sung. We knew we would miss at least one qualifying heat before settling into our seats and that is exactly what we missed. The Grove is very prompt with their starting times and there are sometimes, like tonight, when I wish they were just a little late. It was what I call a normal show, consisting of both the 358 sprints and the 410 sprints. The crowd on hand was very, very good. I guess a lot of fans were excited like me about the great weather. We missed the first of four 358 heats for the 34 car field and afterwards they ran three heats for the 29 410 sprints. From the cars in the pits and the fans in the stands the reccession did not have a bad effect on this evening. In a little over an hour all seven qualifying events were run and we headed straight into the three consolations that were on tap. The night was moving along very quickly with next to no cautions and no one got upside down. It was only 9:00 when all that was left to run were the two features.
A brief intermission took place giving us all time to catch up with the usual gang we sit with. Kristy, Bezz’s daughter, got engaged to be married and her diamond was beautiful as it glittered on her hand, Dave, Bruce and I bantered about last week’s show at Port Royal, Mark Tiderman’s son Casey was giving us updates on the both the Phillies and the Flyers and the guys right behind me that I talk to every week but do not know their names discussed the possibility of a non-stop race and who in the front two rows might win if that happen. The socializing came to end quickly as the 410 sprints were pushed off for the 25 lap main event. The green flag dropped at 9:26 and the checkered fell at 9:34. To be exact it was 8 minutes and 26 seconds later. Yes, we got that non-stop race we were talking about, but the winner was not from the front rows as we thought it would be. Lance Dewease, from seventh, took the lead from Dave Ely running through turn three and four on lap 9 and then proceeded into a different area code. Although the race for the lead after that point was non-existant there was plenty of position swapping back in the pack. If you were watching these battles you saw some good racing. The race was almost slowed early on lap 5 when Nikki Young, who was running in the top five, did a total 360 in turn 1 and kept the car moving. The yellow never came out and Young fared much better then if he were put to the rear after bringing out a caution. There were a lot of slide jobs during the event and some close calls but all stayed clean and green. It was Lance Dewease standing in victory lane for the 69th time when it was all over followed by Fred Rahmer, Brian Leppo, early leader Dave Ely and Mike Erdley. Greg Hodnett, after staring 18th, put on one of the best performances just missing the top 5 by finishing 6th.
The 358 feature was last on the agenda and what were the odds it would also go non-stop. Well, it did not go non-stop but he caution only waved once during the event. On Lap 4 Arron Ott banged wheels with another sprint and the Highland #3 turned around on the homestretch while running near the front and it could have been a disaster but somehow only one sprint grazed him. Racing resumed and it went straight through to the checkered. Chad Criswell picked up the win and it was much closer then the 410 finish. One minor mistake by Criswell would have been the opening second place Kevin Nouse needed to slip into the win. Following Criswell and Nouse across the line were Billy Johns, Cory Haas and Blaine Heimbach.
At 10:08 the racing was complete. Fans seemed to mingle around a bit talking in the stands and discussing their next race out in the parking lot. We stopped to talk a couple of times and were still in the car before 10:30. Yes it was a good night of racing, friends and weather.
We stayed out here in the Harrisburg area and as soon as I am done with this we plan on going to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Mexico, and then we will head down into the York area where later tonight we will head to Lincoln Speedway to see the 410 and 305 sprints. I am excited there is not a cloud in the sky with temperatures in the mid 70’s. Yes spring is here.
Lastly I mentioned earlier I would not need to worry about being late to the Grove come Memorial Day Weekend. The company I work for like many others are looking for ways to save money. They proposed for employees to take off extra days without pay and not too many jumped at the idea. Then they sweetened the pot to say if you took off days you would still get paid a percentage of the income and you did not need to take them all at the same time. Bottom line I have off every Friday starting with Memorial Day weekend May 22 and do not work another Friday until October 16. Twenty days off and I get paid for ten of them. A three day weekend for 21 weeks in a row. I think this is going to be a good summer.