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Sports

June 9, 2014

THE CHECKERED FLAG: Big wins for McClellan, Lynch, Dietrich

OPINION — LAST FRIDAY, I headed to Freedom Speedway in Delevan, New York for the first time in many years.  Freedom is located about 40 miles southwest of Buffalo and has reopened this year under new promoter Troy Shuknecht after being closed for the past two and half years.  The Shuknecht Family is working hard to get Freedom back on the radar after a rocky past decade. 

The RUSH Late Model Touring Series made their first ever appearance and it was Chad McClellan coming away with the win.  The Stoystown driver made the five-hour tow worthwhile as he passed Pittsburgh’s Josh Holtgraver with two laps to go for the $1,200 win.  McClellan won two of the final four Tour events he competed in in 2013 and is starting off with the intention of challenging for the 2014 championship.  Ed Carley, who lives up the road from the track, was third over Centerville’s Max Blair and Clinton’s Jason Rider. 

Freedom marked my 29th different track already of 2014.  For more info on Freedom, check out their website at www.freedomspeedway.com.  They run the RUSH Late Model class weekly along with Sportsman Modifieds, Super Stocks, Stocks, and Mini Stocks on Friday nights.  The RUSH Late Model Tour has a pair of events this weekend at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex on Saturday night and Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway on Sunday night for the first ever 100-lap event. 

At Lernerville Speedway last Friday night, it was familiar winners in victory lane.  Though it was Ed Lynch Jr’s first win of 2014, the Apollo star is no stranger to winning at Lernerville.  Lynch hasn’t been a regular at Lernerville for a few seasons now, but when he competes you know he’s going to be a factor.  Friday night he swept his heat race and the 25-lap feature for his 109th victory at the Sarver oval tying him with Lynn Geisler for third on the track’s all-time win list.  Greenville’s Eric Williams was second.  It was good to see a strong field of 22 Sprints in the pits after dipping to 14 the week before.

Rex King Jr., who already has a pair of wins at Sharon Speedway, won for the second time in the Big-Block Modifieds at Lernerville.  The King Family of Bristolville, Ohio now has five wins at Lernerville this season with his dad a big-block winner and his brother Russell winning twice in the Super Late Models.  Canadian Mat Williamson, who won his season’s first last Friday, was second.

Thirty-three year-old Alex Ferree continues to add to his win total in the Super Late Models.  The Saxonburg driver’s second win of the year was his 27th of his career at Lernerville.  King was second over invader Morgan Bagley of Texas, who was prepping for the Firecracker 100 coming up later this month.

Point leader Jim Fosnaught of Bairdford won again in the Stock Cars.

While familiar faces graced victory lane at Lernerville, it was the opposite on Saturday night at Mercer Raceway Park.  The Patriot “360” Sprint Cars were in town for a pair of events.  Friday night Chuck Hebing won at Raceway 7 in Conneaut, Ohio then on Saturday it was Jared Zimbardi in victory lane at Mercer.  Zimbardi won a “410” feature at Sportsman’s Speedways years ago in his “360” and earlier this season captured his first career win at Lernerville with a “410” in.  Zimbardi was back in the “360” and won his first ever at Mercer.  The Salamanca, New York native now calls Bradford home.  Jared and his father Tim used to come down and run Mercer on a pretty frequent basis with their “360s” against the “410s” back in the early and mid 2000s.

After crashing hard a few weeks ago, C.J. Jones was back and picked up his first win of 2014 in the Limited Sprints.  The Lake Milton, Ohio driver now has five career wins in the division at Mercer.  Chris Loghan captured his first career Mercer victory in the Mod Lites.  The only division that had a repeat winner was the “358” Modifieds, which ironically hadn’t had one up until last Saturday night.  Strattanville’s Kyle Fink did the honors for his sixth career win.

After miserable weather throughout the month of April and most of May, Sharon Speedway was blessed with the second straight warm and sunny Saturday and a great crowd was on hand.  For the second time in three events, Jim Weller, Jr. stopped the Kings from another victory in the Big-Block Modifieds.  The Hubbard, Ohio veteran stormed into the lead on the opening lap and was never challenged throughout the 20-lap event.  It marked the second straight week the feature went caution free, and the non-stop time was 5:59.713. 

After five events this season, there has yet to be anyone other than the Kings or Weller to record a feature win.  Weller’s 28th career win left him tied with runner-up Rex King, while the youngest King was third and is just one-point out of the top spot in third! 

Will Thomas III has been on a mission the past two weeks in the RUSH Late Models.  The week prior, Thomas charged back through his heat from the tail after a pit stop to make the invert then ran down Super Late veteran Mark Banal and drove off for a convincing win.  On Saturday night, Thomas started seventh, drove to the front, and left the pack for a second straight dominating win in the 20-lap feature.

The win was the Sharpsville driver’s 11th of his career, which is tops all-time in the division.  Hermitage’s Alan Dellinger gave car owner Bob Williams his second straight runner-up finish after Banal subbed for him last Saturday night.  New Wilmington’s Russ Byler was third and continues to be impressive in the Terry Hoover #00H with his fifth top seven finish in as many races.

Debuting a new motor, Carl McKinney was fast out of the box on Saturday night and was rewarded with his first win at Sharon since September 14, 2012.  McKinney passed Mike Kinney on lap eight and held off a hungry pack of E-Mod racers for the 20-lap victory.  It was the Mars driver’s eighth career win and came over defending champion Mike Kinney.

After a head-up start from the heat race finish, New York’s Greg Martin led from start-to-finish in the 15-lap RUSH Sportsman Modified feature for his first ever Sharon Speedway victory.  The appearance was the second by the new division and marked the third winner in four events in the debut of the Series.  The Sportsman Modifieds were scheduled for their first appearance on Friday night at Raceway 7.

Brandon Blackshear became the fourth different winner in as many Econo Mod races this year holding off Jamie Scharba in the 15-lap feature.  It was Brookfield, Ohio driver’s all-time division leading 12th career victory.  Jamie Scharba of Masury was second for his best finish since teaming with Brookfield’s Bootie Petsko last year.

Defending champion Travis Creech continued his dominance of the Mini Stocks.  Creech charged from sixth to win his fourth feature in five starts this season in the 12-lap feature.  The 25-year-old Niles, Ohio driver now has 10 career wins in just his second season of racing and is looking to repeat last year’s championship.

Coming up on Saturday, June 14 is FREE general admission and autograph night at Sharon Speedway.  Last year, Sharon tried this night and over 3,000 fans came into the grandstands free of charge.  A full six-division program is scheduled.   

The region’s biggest event last weekend took place at Roaring Knob for the “Dirt Classic” presented by Kasey Kahne qualifier.  The $20,000 to-win event will take place on Saturday, September 27 at Lincoln Speedway. 

For the third time in as many Sprint Car races at the Knob, the feature came down to the final laps.  Last year, Lance Dewease made a last lap pass of Tim Shaffer; two weeks ago Sprint Car greats Dave Blaney and Jac Haudenschild dueled with Blaney getting back by in the final laps for the win; on Sunday night, Danny Dietrich made the PA Posse proud stealing the $5,000 win away from western Pa. favorite and All Star Circuit of Champions racer Danny Holtgraver on the final lap.  It was the Gettysburg driver’s first ever western Pa. win and came in the 30-lap feature that went non-stop in just over eight minutes and thirty seconds.  

An invert four put Haudenschild and Cole Duncan on the front row of the feature.  Duncan used the highline to power past Haudenschild, while Holtgraver slipped under the “Wild Child” for second on the opening lap.  Dietrich started fifth and battled with Greg Hodnett the first two laps before making the pass for fourth.

Duncan, who won a $5,000 to-win Sprint show at Path Valley Speedway in 2012 and last year won his first ever in central Pa. at Lincoln Speedway, looked strong early on as he opened up a near straightaway lead by lap five.  Duncan’s comfortable lead though was short-lived as Holtgraver began to close the margin on lap seven as traffic loomed ahead for the leader.

Duncan caught the back-markers on the eighth circuit and Holtgraver was right on the leader on lap nine as Haudenschild and Dietrich closed in making it a four-car race for the lead by lap 10.  Dietrich went to the bottom in turns three and four on lap 12 and made the slider stick to grab third from Haudenschild.

With Duncan trying to maneuver his way through traffic, Holtgraver eyed his opportunity and snuck around Duncan on the extreme topside of turn four on lap 13 to take command of the event.  One lap later, Dietrich put the pressure on Duncan with Haudenschild looming behind.  With the battle intensify for third; Holtgraver began to open up his lead on lap 17.  Dietrich went to the bottom of turns one and two and performed a slider on Duncan to take second on lap 18.

Holtgraver had his hands full trying to get around Carl Bowser and Mike Lutz on laps 18 and 19 and this allowed Dietrich, Duncan, and Haudenschild to close back in and it was once again a four-car race for the lead with 10 laps to go.  As the laps ticked off caution-free, the running order up front stayed the same.  Dietrich began looking for opportunities to get past Holtgraver as he tried various lines around the racey 3/8-mile oval.

On lap 28, Dietrich dropped to the bottom of turns one and two and was able to pull even with Holtgraver, but Holtgraver had the momentum around the topside to maintain his lead.  Dietrich stayed right with Holtgraver then with the white flag waving, Dietrich shot hard to the bottom again in turns one and two.  This time he found enough bite and slid up in front of Holtgraver.  As the two raced down the backstretch, Dietrich got an excellent run into turn three not allowing Holtgraver the ability to go under him.

Holtgraver tried to get underneath Dietrich in turn four and for a moment it looked like it might stick, but Dietrich was able to out-drag him down the frontstretch to win by a margin of just 0.307 of a second.  Holtgraver earned $2,000 for his runner-up finish.  Duncan was a solid third and received $1,500 for the show position.  Haudenschild, who dropped to third at the last Roaring Knob show, was fourth over Hodnett in fifth.  Western Pa’s top locals were Jack Sodeman Jr. and Brandon Matus in seventh and eighth. 

Mike Leone is motorsports columnist for The Allied News. Follow his latest updates on Twitter @mikevleone.

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