- Grove City, Pennsylvania


July 24, 2013

THE CHECKERED FLAG: Brachmann, Howard roll to wins

OPINION — SAME OLD song and dance with threatening weather all weekend, but I was able to get in the three events I attended.  On Friday, I headed to Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio for a show a little out of their norm. 

While the Sprint Cars and Stock Cars are on the track’s weekly scheduled, the Big-Block Modifieds, Mod Lites, and Trucks certainly aren’t. Not sure when the last time the Mod Lites ran there, but the Big-Block Modifieds were making their first appearance since 2003 when Jimmy Weller III picked up the win.

For the most part, Wayne County missed the storms just getting a brief mid-afternoon shower the first round, while the other storms stayed well south and north.  It turned out to be a breezy and clear night. A nice field of 24 Sprint Cars and 23 Big-Block Modifieds were on hand along with 15 Mod Lites, 20 Stocks, and 9 Trucks. 

The 23 Big-Block Modifieds included four New York racers with the rest coming from western Pa. and eastern Ohio. The event was under the BRP Tour sanction and Series point leader Chad Brachmann showed who was boss.  The North Tonawanda, NY driver got to the track late missing pill draw and barely made it out for warm-ups.  Brachmann started eighth in his heat, which he won. 

Brachmann rolled off 11th for the 30-lap feature and quickly moved forward. He passed Rex King. Sr. for fourth on lap nine and Mike Turner for third on lap 10 before a caution for debris. On the ensuing restart, Brachmann grabbed second from Tom Mattocks then made the winning move driving under Brad Rapp on lap 13. 

A trio of late race cautions were all that slowed Brachmann to the $1,500 win.  Rapp was second over Rex King Jr. and King Sr. with July 7 Eriez winner, Ricky Richner of Niagara Falls, NY, completing the top five.

The Sprint Car 25 lapper was dominated by Danny Mumaw.  The Wooster, Ohio driver shot under the front of Broc Martin and Mitch Harble in turns one and two on the opening lap and never looked back. It would have been interesting how many cars Mumaw would have ended up lapping had it not been for a caution at the halfway point that erased a near half-lap lead.

Mumaw’s win was his second of the season and came over 10th starting Andrew Palker, who passed last week’s winner Martin on lap 23. Martin dropped to third over Lee Jacobs and western Pa. racer Jack Sodeman, Jr., who was on hand due to Lernerville not running Sprints. The only other western Pa. racer that made the trip was Greenville’s Eric Williams, who qualified second fastest, but could only muster an 11th in the feature.

Zanesville, Ohio’s Tracy Fritter dominated the caution-filled Mod Lite feature over the Somerset son-father duo of Alan Knepper and Lynn Knepper. Warren, Ohio driver Kenny Meadows was fourth with former “360” Sprint Car champion, Doug Stanley, completing the top five. Brandon Gardner won the Stocks and Rolly Heyder captured the Trucks.

Lernerville had a special event on Friday night featuring the ULMS Super Late Models and UEMS E-Mods. The $2,500 to-win Late Model main went to Saxonburg’s Alex Ferree, who backed up his $3,000 ULMS win the Saturday prior at Pittsburgh. The $1,000 UEMS event went to Waterford’s Dave Hess, Jr., who seems to win every time the E-Mods race at Lernerville. Chicora’s Mike Miller nabbed the Stock Cars.

Mercer Raceway Park pulled the plug on their racing event on Saturday after heavy morning rains. The event was to include the second appearance by the ARDC Midget Cars.

Despite heavy morning rain and a rain delay before the start of the heat races, Sharon Speedway finally was able to defeat Mother Nature on Saturday night completing the first race event since June 22. Sharon had completed 12 straight race events then suffered three straight rainouts and was off last Saturday night. A season high 110 cars were on hand and a great crowd filled the grandstands.

The NDRL’s ULMS Super Late Models made their third of four appearances of 2013 and it was Bear Lake’s Boom Briggs becoming the third different winner. Briggs held off challenges most of the event from Brent Rhebergen and a last lap surge by Keith Barbara for the $3,000 payday and his first ULMS win in two seasons.

A caution with 28 laps scored set up a two-lap shootout. Barbara got a great restart as he passed both Hess and Rhebergen for second. Barbara went after Briggs on the final lap, but came up 0.521 of a second shy. Rhebergen edged out Russell King and Dave Hess, Jr. for third. Miley, Jim Rasey, Dupont, Greg Oakes, and Matt Urban completed the top 10.

Max Blair dominated the 30-lap RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series feature event joining Mike Pegher, Jr. as the Tour’s only repeat winners after 11 events. Four late race restarts with Pegher alongside were all that slowed Blair to victory. It was a big night for Blair as the victory was worth $2,000 plus an additional $1,000 for being crowned the “Cross the Borders” Speedweek Champion!

Via his K&N Dash victory, Blair quickly raced out to the lead as Pegher was able to pass Matt Latta for second. Latta was third after one lap, while defending track Will Thomas III got by Ryan Montgomery on the opening lap for fourth. Thomas continued moving forward taking third from Latta on lap two.

Blair began extending his lead on lap four as he pulled away from the pack, while Thomas began pressuring Pegher for second. Blair had a three-second lead built up when he caught lapped traffic on lap 10. The lapped cars didn’t slow Blair at all and in fact was able to increase his lead to four seconds over Pegher at the halfway point.

Pegher was able to break away from Thomas, while Thomas had his hands full in intense battle for third as Latta, Montgomery, and Jorden Peters were putting the heat on Thomas. After 23 non-stop laps, Jason Rider, who was making his second Tour start, spun to bring out the first caution. Two more laps were completed before another caution when Peters went up in smoke.

Latta and Montgomery were really going at it for fourth as Montgomery had taken the spot on lap 25 before the caution. When racing resumed, it appeared the two made contact on the restart and a 13-car pileup ensued in turn one. Most of the cars would resume including Montgomery, but it was a tough break for the West Virginia teen, who entered the night as the Speedweek point leader and would end up losing the title by just five points.

Three more laps were completed until the event’s final caution when Bobby Pifer III and Montgomery got tangled up. It was Pegher’s last shot at Blair, but Blair wasn’t to be denied as he held off Pegher in the final two laps by 0.734 of a second. The victory was Blair’s first win of the season at Sharon and sixth of his career.  Pegher’s second was worth $1,000 and came over Will Thomas III, Dan Angelicchio and 15th starting Eric Wilson.

Bobby Whitling finished 11th in the feature, but his night will be remembered for winning the GM 604 engine valued at over $5,500 compliments of Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC and Pace Performance. The 40-year-old Franklin driver couldn’t have been more thrilled as he was planning on putting a second car together and the new engine couldn’t have come at a better time! Whitling joins past winners Ben Black (2011) and Paul Jablonski (2012) as winners of the engine giveaway at Sharon.

After a pair of runner-up finishes last month, Steve Dixon finally captured his first career Sharon Speedway victory in stellar performance with Dave Hess, Jr. Dixon’s 25-lap win came in the $1,000 to-win UEMS Modified feature as he became the amazing 10th different winner of the season in the division!  Ironically Dixon, who finished second to Hess Friday at Lernerville, turned the tables.   Jeff Johnson, Brent Rhebergen and Joel Watson completed the top five.

After 10 years of trying, Jamie Duncan finally parked his ride in victory lane at Sharon Speedway. Duncan picked a good night to do it as the 20-lap Stock Car special paid $500 to-win plus he also won the $150 to-win Old 82 Auto Mart Dash!  The 47-year-old Brookfield, Ohio racer’s win came over point leader Mike Clark, Rod Laskey, Brian Carothers, and Paul Davis.

Making just his fourth start of the season, Pete Blazczak picked up the 12-lap $200 to-win Mini Stock special event, which went caution-free! The Gibsonia resident was on hand with the Mercer cancellation and beat defending Sharon Champion Jim Haefke, Jr. and Travis Creech, who entered the night with a two-race win streak.

On Sunday, I headed to America’s Motorsports Park in Clearfield for the “410” Sprint Car event in their first appearance since their only one back in 2004 when Kevin Schaeffer picked up the victory. The now 33-year-old Schaeffer isn’t competing this year so a new winner would emerge.  The event was originally scheduled for July 3, but was rained out and rescheduled.  A surprising high car count of 30 Sprints were on hand!

The oval set dark for many seasons, but former Sprint Car racer and Washington Redskin, Jeff Taylor, took over the speedway and has done a tremendous job with the place.  Taylor actually resides in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and the speedway is named after his wife, America.

The field was made up of a mix of western Pa. and central Pa. racers, but in the end it was central Pa. driver Bob Howard capturing the biggest win of his career.  Howard, who recently moved from Enola to State College, had “410” wins at Clinton County to the east in Lock Haven and Sportsman’s to the west in Knox, but none compared to Sunday’s big win.

Howard started third in the 25-lap feature and passed Lincoln Speedway regular Hunter Mackison on lap eight.  Howard pressured race-long leader Gale Ruth, Jr. lap after lap until finally making the pass diving low into turn three on lap 20.  Howard then pulled away for the $3,000 win.  Howard recently lost his father to cancer earlier this season after racing with him for 29 years and wasn’t even sure if he was going to continue racing.

Ruth held on for second over Mackison, Matt Boland, and Rod George. The only downside to the night was the amount of cautions and tore up race cars on the small track.

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

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