Sarver, PA (April 19, 2014) There’s nothing quite like Opening Night at Lernerville Speedway; seeing familiar faces, smelling the fumes that evoke childhood memories of “the good old days” and most importantly, being back at our second home. For drivers, winning on Opening Night is extra special because it starts the season on a high note that tends to carry on throughout the season. None of tonight’s feature winners were new to Sheetz Victory Lane, but getting the first win of the season sure feels like winning for the first time all over again!
Each division ran a pair of heat races with Jack Sodeman Jr. and Logan Wagner in the Peoples TWP DIRTcar Sprints, Chuck Sarver and Alex Ferree in the Precise Racing Products DIRTcar Late Models, Mat Williamson and Brad Rapp in the Diehl Auto Group DIRTcar Modifieds, and Pat Hanley and Jim Fosnaught in the Millerstown Pic-A-Part DIRTcar Sportsman scoring heat race wins.Cory Good and Scott Priester brought the Peoples TWP Sprint field to green and Good jumped out to a quick lead. Carl Bowser made quick work of Priester and set his sights on Good. Bowser took the lead on lap six, but led only four circuits before All Star Danny Holtgraver snuck under him entering turn three in lapped traffic. Holtgraver officially took the lead at the flagstand on lap 12 and never looked back on the way to his eighth career feature win at the Action Track.
Opening Night sees Holtgraver, King, Swartzlander and Young in Sheetz Victory Lane
Carl Bowser chased him the whole way to the checkered flag for a second place finish. Bedford’s Logan Wagner made a surprise visit to Lernerville in the Bob Salathe #RG3 Sprint Car. Salathe was a longtime Late Model driver, but has provided a stout sprint car to the second generation driver and we look forward to seeing more of this team in 2014 after a podium finish in the first outing. Cory Good has a fresh new look on his #40X sprinter and scored a strong fourth place finish ahead of Brandon Matus in fifth. Jared Zimbardi, Mike Lutz, Sheldon Haudenschild, Jack Sodeman Jr. and Brent Matus completed the top ten. Punxsy’s Jim Shuster took a wild ride off turn three mid-race, but walked back to his hauler under his own power. 410 Sprint Rookie AJ Flick also got upside, (in his heat race), but was uninjured.Russ King – winner of last summer’s Uncle Sam 30 during Firecracker 100 weekend – took the lead at the green flag from front row mate Tommy Beck. King was relatively unchallenged for much of the race, but did have to fend off Mike Pegher Jr. mid-race. Doug Eck and Todd Bachman both spun to a stop on the front straightaway after contact and Pegher briefly took the lead on the restart. However, King took Pegher to the wall in turn four on lap 17 that resulted in contact despite Pegher trying to check up. King and Miley both snuck by as Pegher regrouped. Recent history suggested that Miley might track down King and steal away the win, but King was strong and would not be denied the feature win.
Pegher rallied late and snookered Jared Miley low through turns three & four to pick up second. Miley was relegated to third ahead of Defending Track Champion Alex Ferree and John Garvin Jr. Michael Norris was sixth, Ken Schaltenbrand overcame an ill-handling car to finish seventh, Tommy Beck was eighth, Brian Swartzlander was ninth and Gary Lyle rounded out the Precise Top Ten in his return to the Action Track.No man has won more Modified races at Lernerville Speedway than Brian Swartzlander, but they seldom come easy. Swartzlander passed Rex King Sr. early in the race, but had a rearview mirror full of Defending Track Champion Mat Williamson for most of the rest of the 25-lap Diehl Auto Group DIRTcar Northeast Modified A-Main. Recall that Swartzlander beat Williamson to the checkers on Opening Night last season; only to be disqualified for being light at the scales. Williamson reeled in Swartzlander late, (who appeared to be tight in the closing laps), but could never mount a serious challenge for the lead. Swartzlander rolled the MEI #83 into Sheetz Victory Lane for the 83rd time in his (eventual) Hall of Fame career.
Williamson settled for second place, but heads back to Canada with the Budweiser Points Lead by one point over Swartzlander. Ransomville, NY’s Eric Rudolph looked strong in his Lernerville debut; finishing second in his heat and third in the feature. Early leader Rex King Sr. held on to finish in the top five along with Dave Murdick. Spots six through then went to Brad Rapp, Rex King Jr., Jeremiah Shingledecker, Mike Turner and Steve Feder.Opening Night 2013 Feature Winner Bob Egley and Brett McDonald brought the final feature of the night to the green flag with McDonald taking the lead early in the “Meat Machine” sponsored by Thoma Meat Market. McDonald would lead the first six circuits of the Millerstown Pic-A-Part DIRTCar Sportsman feature before giving way to an upstart Terry Young. A slew of cautions slowed the race, but Young repeatedly held off a hard charging Corey McPherson to score the Opening Night feature win; his fifth career win at the Action Track.
Photos Courtesy of John Stivason/Stivason Photos