By Mike Leone
Allied News Motorsports Columnist
ONE OF THE region’s biggest race weekends took place this past weekend at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway for the traditional “Pittsburgher”. This year’s event was run by John Kennedy, who leased the facility from the Miley Family. Kennedy has become a big name in auto racing in a short period of time.
Kennedy owns two Super Late Model teams, but after a year of being the presenting sponsor of the ULMS Super Late Model Series, Kennedy really stepped it up this season. The Scottsdale, Arizona resident is formerly from Frewsburg, New York and he took over the lease of McKean County Raceway in East Smethport operating the speedway on a weekly basis. Kennedy also took control over the ULMS and sister UEMS E-Mod Series in addition to starting a series of six events for the new NDRL (National Dirt Racing League).
Earlier this season, Billy Moyer won the only local event before this past weekend’s “Pittsburgher” earning $20,000 on Labor Day at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg. Moyer was back in town this weekend hoping to nail down the $20,000 championship. This weekend’s events included two complete shows for NDRL along with the RUSH Late Model Touring Series, and the UEMS E-Mod Series.
Friday’s weather was dreary with periodic sprinkles and drizzle, but a good crowd turned out along with 51 NDRL, 35 RUSH, and 30 UEMS. In his first ever appearance to the speedway, Bloomington, Illinois’ Jason Feger pocketed the $10,000 NDRL prize. Ryan Montgomery won by a half-lap in the biggest margin of the season in the RUSH Late Models, and Dan Davies topped the UEMS E-Mods. The wins were worth $1,500 for both Montgomery and Davies.
After a little early morning rain, the weather improved on Saturday and a big crowd turned out to watch 49 NDRL, 37 RUSH, and 27 UEMS. It hasn’t been a typical year for Scott Bloomquist, but on Saturday night he looked more like the Scott Bloomquist of old. The Tennessee great passed Moyer on lap 12 and was never challenged for the $25,000 victory. It was Bloomquist’s fourth “Pittsburgher 100” event win, but first since 1995! It was only Bloomquist’s seventh victory of 2013 in a year he described as “experiemental”.
Moyer came home second to earn $10,000 and more importantly the $20,000 inaugural championship! Kent Robinson was a surprising third in his first ever appearance over West Virginia’s Eddie Carrier, while York’s Rick Eckert was the first Pennsylvania driver across the line in fifth. Gregg Satterlee was the top local racer crossing the line in sixth to earn $2,750.
Ryan Montgomery has certainly figured something out to tame the "Monster Half-Mile" this season. Montgomery had the fastest car in the first two PPMS Tour events, but just missed out on victory lane with a pair of runner-up finishes. All season long, Montgomery has been chasing Mike Pegher, Jr. in the championship race. Pittsburgh has been a home track of Pegher's for many years, while the 16-year-old Montgomery has little experience.
The "Pittsburgher" turned into a very fruitful weekend for Montgomery, and probably one of the most disappointing for Pegher. After dominating the final 22 laps in Friday's $1,500 to-win feature, Montgomery picked up where he left off leading all 30 laps on Saturday night for the $3,000 win! The victory was the Tour leading fifth of the year for Montgomery, but more importantly took over the point lead with just two events remaining. Pegher could only muster a 10th on Friday and a 17th Saturday to see his point lead go from 18 to trailing by 17.
After qualifying just seventh fastest, Montgomery rebounded winning his heat race and the dash to earn the pole for the feature event. Montgomery took off into the lead at the start of the event, while it was a big shuffle behind Montgomery as Andrew Satterlee and Max Blair were both able to pass Holtgraver for second and third. Blair looked strong early on as he got under Satterlee and the two raced side-by-side on laps two and three.
The event's only caution came after three laps when Andrew Wylie did a 360-spin and Jason Rider slowed and exited the event. The caution wasn't what Blair needed as he'd back-pedal from here on out. Holtgraver and 13th starting Michael Lake were both able to pass Blair when racing resumed for the third and fourth positions respectively. By lap six, the top three of Montgomery, Satterlee and Holtgraver began to distance themselves from the field, while Rocky Kugel got under and past Blair for the fifth spot.
As the laps ticked off, the best battle on the speedway was for the fifth position. Blair was able to get back by Kugel for the spot on lap nine, but Joe Martin was on the move. Martin took some time off from racing as he'd missed the last six shows, but looked good in his return Saturday night. Martin started 14th and grabbed the sixth spot from Kugel on lap 10.
Back up front, Montgomery had opened up a straightaway lead on lap 10 and had that advantage when he caught lapped traffic on the 13th circuit. The race for fifth continued to be hot and heavy. Friday's third place finisher, Chad Ruhlman, started sixth but faded in the first half of the race, but got going again and joined the battle for fifth. Ruhlman passed Kugel and Martin then moved into the top five on lap 16 when he cleared Blair.
Holtgraver was slowly catching Satterlee every lap and caught up to his bumper on lap 16. Satterlee lost his momentum in turns three and four on lap 17 trying to lap Ron Hall as Holtgraver seized the opportunity driving under and by for runner-up. Holtgraver had a great car for the second straight night and certainly needed a late race caution, but didn't get it either night. Friday's race saw the last 22 go green to-checkered and Saturday featured the last 27 going non-stop.
The caution-free racing was perfect for Montgomery, who took the checkered flag by a margin of 7.702 seconds. After Pegher won three of the first six Tour races, Montgomery has now beaten Pegher in 12 of the last 16 races to take over the point lead! After recording a season best Tour finish of only sixth back on May 26 at Sharon, Holtgraver turned in back-to-back runner-up finishes worth over $2,300 for the weekend!
Satterlee rebounded from a disappointing 21st place finish on Friday night for a third- his best since a runner-up on June 21 at Hagerstown. Ruhlman really came on at the end and was turning some of the fastest laps as he passed Lake for fourth on lap 29. Ruhlman was closing on Satterlee, but ran out of time and settled for a fourth place one shy of Friday's third place. Twelve-year-old Michael Lake had a solid weekend in just his second and third ever starts at the "Monster Half-Mile". On Friday, Lake went from 13th to 8th and on Saturday earned the $100 Precise Racing Products Hard Charger certificate improving from 13th to 5th.
There wasn’t a whole lot of racing that took place around the region as things are beginning to wind down. One track that did get their show in, which is no surprise to anyone that knows how they operate, is Lincoln Speedway. The Abbottstown oval received nine inches of rain in a couple days, but track guru Fred Putney had the grounds and speedway in shape for the Kenny Weld Memorial on Saturday night.
Phoenixville’s Brian Montieth picked up milestone Lincoln win #40 of his career in the 40-lap Sprint Car affair that paid $5,000 to-win. Lance Dewease, who is finishing up his first and only season aboard the Michael Heffner #27, was runner-up.
Last week I talked about Fred Rahmer prematurely announcing his retirement in victory lane after his $50,000 win at the National Open at Williams Grove. Well Rahmer decided to come back and finish the year out as he’s leading the points at the Grove and had two races left at Lincoln including his tribute race this coming Saturday. Rahmer finished third on Saturday after the Grove rained out so Friday night he’ll try to hold off Greg Hodnett for the $20,000 championship.
Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio had a big night for Sprint Cars with 119 of them jamming the pits for the three-division program that included the All Stars, BOSS non-wing, and NRA 360 Sprints on Saturday. The “Wild Child” Jac Haudenschild of Wooster Ohio captured the season finale for the All Stars, while it was Hartford, Ohio’s Dale Blaney earning his fourth All Star Championship. Blaney also won the $20,000 Ohio Region Championship for the All Stars!
Brad Bacon topped a season high field of 52 BOSS Sprints for the victory, while invader Kevin Swindell of Tennessee won the NRA portion driving a Sprint Car for Indiana’s Bernie Stuebgen, who is formerly from Butler. Ironically, Oklahoma racer Shane Stewart won the 2012 finale at Eldora in Stuebgen’s car!
Mike Leone is a motorsports columnist for the Allied News. Follow his updates on Twitter @mikevleone.