It was the best of times; it was the worst of times . . .
Sodeman, Hess, Williamson and Egley score Opening Night wins
Bowser, Ellenberger, Pegher, Swartzlander and Fosnaught struggle
Sarver, PA (April 26, 2013) Opening Night 2013 was a mixed bag of results as four drivers celebrated the new campaign in Sheetz Victory Lane, while others left in anger and frustration! For Jack Sodeman Jr. in the Peoples TWP Sprints, Dave Hess Jr. in the Precise Late Models, Mat Williamson in the Diehl Mods and Bob Egley in the Pic-A-Part Sportsman, Opening Night wins were the perfect way to kick start a run at the Budweiser Track Championships. For guys like Carl Bowser and Mike Pegher, (whose engines failed them before they logged a single lap in competition), or guys like Brian Ellenberger, Brian Swartzlander or Jim Fosnaught, (who watched helplessly as the opportunity to stand in Sheetz Victory Lane was yanked out from under them), Opening Night ended far differently than their hopes and intentions.
Feature action started with the debut of the newly renamed Peoples TWP DIRTcar Sprints with Brian Ellenberger and Eric “Turkey” Williams leading the 21 car field (three drivers scratched from the B-Main, so the remaining six transferred automatically) to the first green flag of 2013. Ellenberger jumped out to the early lead and pulled away as the battle for second through fifth was heated between Williams, Jack Sodeman Jr., Brandon Matus and Brandon Spithaler. The young Brandons got together at the end of the front straightaway on lap eight, resulting in Matus having to ride a tow truck back to the pits. Back under green flag conditions, Ellenberger had to take evasive action on lap 14 to miss a spinning Bill Kiley in the apex of turns three & four. Ellenberger jumped the cushion, got sideways and bicycled, but never came to a stop and thus retained his lead. However, coming to the flag stand to complete the first lap after the restart, sparks flew from under the rearend of the Classic Ink #20E and the car slowed dramatically. Williams inherited the lead, but it was short-lived as he jumped the cushion on the restart in turns one & two and watched Jack Sodeman Jr. zoom into the lead down the back straightaway. Once at the point, Sodeman would not be denied another patented tail tank climb to wave the checkered flag over the wing of his Glassmere Fuel Service #94; he got to keep said checkered flag courtesy of Approved Toilet Rentals. His feature win coupled with an earlier heat race win, cements Sodeman atop the Budweiser Points with a perfect 40 points for the night!
Eric Williams chased Sodeman home to finish second ahead of Brandon Spithaler in third. Dan Shetler made an impressive return to the Action Track after a few years away with a solid fourth place run. Dan Kuriger started his 2013 campaign with a solid fifth place finish ahead of Brent Matus, Dennis Wagner, Skip Daugherty, Chris Best and Todd Hoddick. Scott Priester joined the aforementioned Matus and Ellenberger in the DNF category along with Central PA traveler Daryl Stimeling. Peoples TWP Sprint heats were checkered by Central PA’s Jim Shuster, Jack Sodeman Jr. and Brandon Matus.
2010/2011 Track Champion Dave Hess Jr. started the 2013 season the same way he did his two championship seasons; in Sheetz Victory Lane. The nature of regional Late Model racing these days doesn’t guarantee any driver to stay at any track on a weekly basis, but with a track provisional for the Firecracker 100 going to the Budweiser Points leader at the time of the event, there’s a good chance Hess could rack up a few more wins in May and June! Hess started alongside Brian Swartzlander – once again pulling frequent double duty by driving the Detman #111 Late Model – and took the lead early in the race, while some stout Late Models were making their way to the front behind him. The battle behind him, however, pretty much prevented him from having any serious contention until a last lap furious charge by Defending Track Champion Jared Miley. Hess’s win ties him with Gregg Satterlee for 13th on the All Time Late Model wins list with 14; two behind Miley’s 16 career feature wins.
Miley’s second place finish puts him just one marker behind Hess in the Bud Points, as Miley bested him in heat race competition earlier in the night. Despite finishing third, the guy that put on the best show in the Precise Racing Products DIRTcar Super Late Models was 1990 Track Champion Ron Davies whom had to make his way into the A-Main by way of winning the B-Main and thus starting deep in a talented field of Late Model hot shoes. Junkyard Dogs John Garvin Jr. (aka “The Recycler”) and Michael Norris (aka “The Crusher”) rounded out the Precise Top Five. Davey Johnson, Alex Ferree, Bryan Force, Mike Blose and Dan Angelicchio all scored solid top ten finishes. Boom Briggs, Michael Norris and Jared Miley scored heat race wins; but Briggs was a scratch for the A-Main after blowing the motor coming under the checkers.
All Time Division Wins leader and Defending Track Champion Brian Swartzlander traded the lead multiple times with Canadian youngster Mat Williamson on the track, but took the checkered flag for the 78th time in his Lernerville career. But history will have to wait at least another week to be rewritten as the MEI #83 came up 25 pounds light at the scales; the victim of the ever fine line of putting enough fuel in the cell to finish the race, but not so much to carry unnecessary weight that cuts into lap times. Williamson, mature beyond his years, stopped Swartzlander to shake his hand before heading to Sheetz Victory Lane for his first career Lernerville feature win in the Diehl Auto Group DIRTcar Northeast Modifieds. Williamson anticipates being a frequent, if not weekly, competitor in the Diehl Mods and certainly will be a force to be reckoned with as he joins Sodeman in the Bud Points with a perfect score of 40.
Dave Murdick picked up second place, while “The Bandit” Rex King Sr. looks to be back on his game after neck surgery and scored his second podium finish in as many races at the Action Track this season; having also finished third at the Steel City Stampede finale two weekends ago. Former Track Champions Jeremiah Shingledecker and Jim Weller Jr. rounded out the Diehl Top Five ahead of Rex King Jr., Eric Gabany, Brad Rapp, Steve Feder and J.R. McGinley. Heat race victors were Weller, Swartzlander and Williamson. Swartzlander’s weight disqualification resulted in him being scored 20th.
More heartbreak ensued in the Millerstown Pic-A-Part DIRTcar Sportsman feature as Jim Fosnaught dominated the race and appeared destined for his second career feature win. Unfortunately for Fosnaught, a lapped car spun and collected him on the final lap, handing over the lead to 2011 Track Champion Mike Miller. Miller then let victory slip away as he got slideways in turn four and Defending Track Champion had nowhere to go. McPherson couldn’t brake quick enough to avoid the contact that spun Miller the rest of the way out and bring about another caution. Bob Egley inherited the lead for a second Green-White-Checkered restart and had to absorb his own contact as Paul Schreckengost launched off the bottom of turn two and they banged doors and tires most of the way down the back stretch, allowing McPherson to take the lead in turns three & four by rim-riding the cushion to the lead. But Egley was determined to put his Hard Luck Award-winning 2012 campaign in his rearview mirror and fought back on the low side to regain the lead and score the Opening Night feature win. The win is the 12th of Egley’s career; good for 14th all time in the division.
Corey McPherson’s second place run coupled with his heat race win puts him one point ahead of Egley in the Budweiser Point Standings. Paul Schreckengost finished third and sits one point behind Egley for third in points. AJ Flick and Joe Kelley scored top five finishes ahead of polesitter and early leader Brett McDonald, Mark Sanders, Joe Anthony, Terry Young and Wayne Carbo. Jim Fosnaught and Mike Miller were scored as DNFs in 20th and 16th places respectively. Heat races were captured by AJ Flick, Joey Zambotti and “Super Joe” Kelley. Zambotti looks to be an early front-runner for Walt Wimer’s prestigious Western PA Rookie of the Year as he follows in the footsteps of fellow former motocross rider turned Sportsman Track Champion Corey McPherson.
The Chase for the 2013 Budweiser Track Championships continues next Friday, May 3 on Ladies Night/Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Ladies will be admitted for just $7 before 7:00PM and $5 donations will be accepted on behalf of Komen for the Cure in exchange for $5 coupons for Friday, May 17’s Fab Four Racing event. Between the next two Fast Fridays of Fab Four Racing is the first official big show of the 2013 season as Former Track Champions Tim Shaffer, Dale Blaney and Danny Holtgraver return to their hometrack as headliners for the UNOH All Star Circuit of Champions Sprints. May 10 will also mark the Lernerville debut of the RUSH Dirt Late Model Series and our Pic-A-Part Sportsman will also be on the card for a Budweiser Points race.