- Grove City, Pennsylvania

July 3, 2013

THE CHECKERED FLAG: Area tracks battle Mother Nature

By Mike Leone
Allied News Motorsports Columnist

OPINION — BESIDES JOSH Richards’ dominance at Lernerville Speedway over the weekend, the one general constant theme was the wet weather.  It wasn’t just in one area for a couple days, but pretty much from Indiana to the East Coast.  Tracks seemingly cancelled early, were rained out during their program or were delayed at some point.   

After getting the first three events of Ohio Speedweek completed the weekend prior, local stops were on tap last Monday and Tuesday at Wayne County and Sharon Speedways.  The Orrville, Ohio oval was able to dodge the rain as packed house watched 45 All Star Sprints participate on Monday night. 

Though he doesn’t have a full-time ride, Shane Stewart is one of the world’s top Sprint Car racers literally winning all across the country plus in Australia and New Zealand during our winter months.  It doesn’t usually matter what he’s in or where he’s at, the Bixby, Oklahoma native pretty much makes anything go fast.  Stewart proved it again Monday night with a dominating performance leading wire-to-wire in the 30-lap feature and earned $5,000.

Aliquippa’s Tim Shaffer was a strong second over Pittsburgh’s Danny Holtgraver.  Greg Wilson was fourth ahead of track regular Andrew Palker.  California up and coming NASCAR racer Kyle Larson, who won last year’s event, put on a stellar performance racing from 21st to sixth with the aid of only one caution.  Western Pa. racers Jack Sodeman, Jr. and Brandon Spithaler failed to qualify for the feature. 

A nice field of 24 Super Late Models was the undercard for the All Star Sprints and their 25 lapper went to Doug Drown.  After dropping back to fourth, pole-sitter Drown came back to the lead on lap 12 passing race-long leader Charlie Duncan.  The Millersburg, Ohio driver went on for the $2,000 victory.  Devin Moran finished second over Duncan.  Bristolville, Ohio’s Russell King was the only local in the field and finished seventh.   

Tuesday’s fifth leg of Speedweek made its furthest eastern stop at Sharon.  Thunderstorms were all around the Hartford, Ohio from late afternoon on and finally hit just before 6 PM washing out the program.  Even though Wednesday was an off day for Speedweek, with an 80% chance of rain the event was not rescheduled.

Thursday I headed to Fremont Speedway where it was sunny the entire way out.  Just a 30% chance of rain was in the forecast, but a system dropped south from Michigan nailing Fremont with a 30-minute rain just as the first heat was being called to the line-up area.  Fremont had the track halfway run back in when another storm hit washing out the event.  Thirty-eight All Star Sprints were in the pits with Tim Shaffer setting fast time.  There were also 23 “305” sprints and 24 trucks.

On Friday most all tracks either rained out early or at speedway.  Limaland Motorsports Park just west of Lima, Ohio is a speedway I’ve yet to get to.  Limaland is notorious for its early cancellations so I didn’t opt to make the trip, but they were able to get their Speedweek program in after a rain delay as the “Wild Child” Jac Haudenschild won his second victory of Speedweek.  Limaland is a mini Eldora with high banks so it was no surprise Haudenschild backed up his Eldora win from the Saturday before.  The Wooster, Ohio great now has 25 career All Star wins despite never really being an All Star regular. 

The finale for Ohio Speedweek was on Saturday at Fremont where 43 cars filled the pits for the $10,000 to-win affair.  It was hard to believe, but Dale Blaney entered the Speedweek finale shutout of victory lane, but the Hartford, Ohio ace saved the best for last winning his biggest race of the season.  For Blaney it was his third All Star win of the year, but more importantly the 96th of his career as he now trails all-time leader Kenny Jacobs by just two victories!

While Blaney received the top honors, a call goes out to Kyle Larson and Shane Stewart, who worked their way from the 21st and 22nd starting spots to finish second and third respectively!  There’s little doubt these two racers are a very special talent behind the wheel.  Tim Shaffer finished fourth, which earned him the Speedweek Championship.  Sodeman qualified for the feature and finished 18th.

Back here in western Pa. not much went on outside of Lernerville.  Mercer rained out early in the afternoon on Saturday.  Sharon was dry all day and went on with their program, but just like Tuesday night the rain finally got to them.  What started as sprinkles shortly after 6 p.m. turned to a steady light rain with the races being cancelled shortly after 6:30 PM.  Sharon had completed 12 straight races up until Tuesday’s rainout.  Saturday’s rainout was the first on a Saturday since April 13. 

Sportsman’s Speedway and Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway both suffered rainouts on Sunday as well.  PPMS was to feature the “410” Sprints for their first winged event of the season at the “Monster Half-Mile,” but the Imperial oval was deluged with afternoon thunderstorms.  PPMS has rescheduled the Sprints to Saturday, September 14- a night when Mercer isn’t running.

One of the region’s biggest events and certainly the biggest for Super Late Models is the “Firecracker” for the World of Outlaws at Lernerville Speedway.  The seventh annual event battled Mother Nature each day over the three-day affair and in the end was able to come out on top.  One driver that’s sure glad they did was Josh Richards.  The 25-year-old Shinnston, West Virginia star swept all three events pocketing over $43,000!

Richards started it off winning Thursday night’s program that started on time and was run off quickly despite all day rains.  It marked the third time in the past four years Richards has won the preliminary night.   On Friday, Lernerville was pounded with several rounds of storms and finally succumbed around 6:30 PM.  Friday’s program was run at noon on Saturday and even with the daytime slick conditions, Richards bagged another $6,150 payday. 

After Sharon’s cancellation, I headed down to Lernerville and arrived in good timing as the track crew was finishing up getting the track ready after rain hit after qualifying,  Racing got underway around 9:30 led by six heat races for the 60-car field, two last chance B mains, followed by the 100-lap feature, and the 30-lap non-qualifier. 

Richards won his heat race and redraw the second starting spot for the 100 lapper.  After chasing the great Scott Bloomquist for 15 laps, Richards made the winning pass on lap 16.  Richards survived a plethora of cautions, 12 all told, and challenges from several competitors, but would never relinquish the lead.  Richards’ $30,650 victory was the sixth of the season in WoO events this season for the son of the founder of Rocket Chassis. 

Versatile racer, Tim McCreadie- the son of legend “Barefoot” Bob McCreadie, was second and pocketed $15,650.  Darrell Lanigan, Gregg Satterlee, and Jared Landers completed the top five.  Satterlee of Rochester Mills put on quite a performance in front of his home crowd.  Satterlee started 20th and worked his way to fifth before having to pit under caution on lap 52 for a flat tire.  Satterlee restarted on the tail and worked his way to fourth at the finish to earn $6,550!

All of the rain made track conditions very fast with a huge cushion.  Many of the cautions were for flat tires.  Eric Wells jumped the cushion in turn four and flipped.  He was okay.  Just 10 cars finished the event.  On two occasions, drivers were allowed to swap helmets due to visibility concerns from all of the mud.  The cars running toward the back were totally caked with mud so mad you couldn’t even see some of their numbers.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a race quite like it before. 

After the victory lane celebration, the fog rolled in for the “Uncle Sam” non-qualifier.  Twenty-four cars took the green flag, but in the end just nine were around at the finish of the 30 lapper.  Russell King passed Rick “Boom” Briggs then held off his hard charges for the $3,000 victory. 

Lernerville and Sharon Speedways have teamed up this weekend for “Off with the Tops”!  The BOSS Sprints and RUSH Late Model Touring Series will be the featured attraction at both tracks on Friday (Lernerville) and Saturday (Sharon).  BOSS runs without wings and RUSH will go topless without the roofs to fit the theme. 

At Sharon on Saturday, one lucky RUSH racer will win a brand new GM 604 crate engine valued at over $5,500 thanks to Sweeney Chevrolet/Pace Performance.  This is the third straight year for the engine giveaway promotion, an unheard of racing.  Ben Black and Paul Jablonski are prior winners. 

Mercer Raceway Park has their rescheduled All Star Sprint Car event that was rained out in May.  The All Stars haven’t had any luck in the area as all three scheduled events have been rained out to date at Lernerville, Mercer, and Sharon. 

A lot of racing throughout the region is on tap this holiday week. 

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