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Sports

June 14, 2014

THE CHECKERED FLAG: Auto Racers for Kids at Mercer

OPINION — ON FRIDAY I headed west to Attica (OH) Raceway Park for the third time this season.  The “410” Sprint Cars, “305” Sprint Cars, and Trucks were on the card one week after Dale Blaney picked up a popular $10,000 win with the World of Outlaw Sprints. 

Friday’s “410” main belonged to Craig Mintz.  The Gibsonburg, Ohio drew the pole position and led all 30 laps of the feature for his second win of the season.  Three cautions and lapped traffic were all that slowed Mintz from his 11th career win.  With the All Stars not in action, former Attica standout Chad Kemenah, who is in his first season of not chasing the World of Outlaws in several years, was on hand and had a solid second place run. 

Brian Lay, Caleb Helms, and Byron Reed were third through fifth.  Pittsburgh’s Danny Holtgraver just missed out on a top five in sixth, while Aliquippa’s Tim Shaffer struggled all night and was credited with a 19th after dropping out from the feature.  Holtgraver had a great Saturday as he won his first All Star feature of the year at Butler Motor Speedway in Quincy, Michigan!  Holtgraver’s seventh career All Star win was worth $5,000.

Teenager Jordan Ryan charged from the eighth starting spot to pass Jimmy Colvin on lap 16 of the “305” Sprint Car feature and held off Colvin for the duration of the 25-lap main.  Paul Weaver, Bobby Clark, and Mike Linder were third through fifth.

Former Sprint Car racer, Shawn Valenti, picked up another win in the Trucks as his domination of the division at Attica and Fremont continued. 

Lernerville Speedway ran off a quick four-division program that was spun off in less than two and half hours and was completed before 10 PM last Friday night!  Carl Bowser soared to his second Sprint Car win of the season.  Bowser passed early leader Mike Lutz and the hometown Sarver racer held off Brandon Matus, who recorded his season’s best finish, for the victory.

It hasn’t been a very good start of the season for Jeremiah Shingledecker, but on Friday night the Polk racer was back in victory lane for the first time this season on the circuit.  Shingledecker won for the 16th time in his career at Lernerville in the Big-Block Modifieds beating standout Brian Swartzlander and Rex King and his son Rex Jr. in the non-stop 25 lapper.

Jared Miley picked an excellent night to win his first feature of the year.  The South Park driver won the non-stop Super Late Model main and picked up an extra $600 for being the Eracers Go-Kart Park driver of the night.  Miley topped a star-studded field of 24 cars that included World of Outlaw racer Chub Frank, who finished second.

Tarentum’s Corey McPherson dominance of the Stock Cars in recent years continued as he beat out newcomer Tim Bish.

At Mercer Raceway Park on Saturday night, third generation racer Adam Kekich survived several accidents to capture his first win in the Sprint Cars.  The Hermitage racer became the sixth different winner in as many races after his third career win. 

Jimmy Holden joined last week’s winner Kyle Fink as the only repeat winners this season in the “358” Modifieds.  Holden is now up to 19 career wins at The Park.  Andy Feil picked up his second win of the season in the Limited Sprint Cars.  The former Mod Lite racer from New Castle now has three career wins in the division. 

Curt Bish won his second of the year in the Stock Cars and sixth of his career.  George Englert has been a longtime Mod Lite racer, but the Greenville racer had never been able to win a feature at Mercer.  That changed on Saturday night when he became the division’s fifth different winner in as many races. 

Trooper Tim Callahan of Grove City finally won his first of the year in the Mini Stocks for career win #7.  Max Blair returned to his stomping grounds to win the Crate Late Models in their second appearance of the season for his 15th career win. 

Mercer will hold the Auto Racers for Kids Charity event tonight (June 14) put on by former racer Scott Bonnell.  The Sprint Cars will race for $4,000 to-win, while the “358” Modifieds and Limited Sprint Cars will each race for $1,000.  The Stock Cars, Mod Lites, and Mini Stocks will also race for extra dollars.

For the third straight Saturday, Sharon Speedway was blessed with warm and sunny weather after battling Mother Nature with cold and damp conditions for much of April and May.  After winning on opening night, Rex King had to watch his son and defending champion Jim Weller Jr. share wins in each of the past four events. On Saturday night, the elder King and four-time champion of Bristolville, Ohio returned to victory lane holding off his son Rex King Jr. in a near photo finish in the 20-lap Big-Block Modified feature.  King is now up to 48 career wins!

Will Thomas III has certainly found his groove. Last Saturday in victory lane following his second straight win the Sharpsville driver said, “When I lost my dad, I worried if I’d ever win again without him, but I think we’ll probably win more now that he’s up there looking out after us.” And Thomas just might be right.

On Saturday night, Thomas won his third straight 20-lap RUSH Late Model feature following the passing of Bill Thomas.  Thomas came from the 10th starting position for his all-time division-leading 12th of his career.

Joel Watson has been fast and has come to the front no matter where he’s started this year.

On Saturday night, he’d lead every lap from the pole position of the 20-lap E-Mod feature. The only thing that slowed his run to the checkered flag was an uncharacteristic nine cautions in the event.

The Conneaut, Ohio driver’s fourth win of the season came by a margin of 1.104 seconds over for his 18th career win tied him for second with Jeff Johnson on the division’s all-time win list.

Each year since winning his first career feature in 2011, veteran Mike Clark has continued to improve in the Stock Cars. Last year, Clark won a career best four features and his first ever track championship. On Saturday night, Clark led all 15 laps for his third victory already this season in just five races. The Bristolville, Ohio driver’s 11th career win came by a margin of victory of 2.393 seconds over Bryan Wagner.

Steve Burns Jr. became the first repeat winner in the Econo Mods after five weeks of competition and just barely as he made a last lap pass of Casey Bowers for the Masury, Ohio driver’s seventh career win overall at the speedway.

Mini Stock all-time leading feature winner Bill Fuchs finally captured his season’s first win. Fuchs led all 12 laps of the non-stop feature for his first victory since September 14, 2013.  It was the Greenville driver’s 23rd career win.

Sharon will host FREE Fan Appreciation & Autograph Night Saturday.  Fans will be admitted free into the grandstands for general admission for the full six-division program that will also include an on-track autograph session at intermission.

Thunderstorms on Sunday washed out action everywhere including the 100-lap RUSH Late Model Tour event at Pittsburgh, the “Dirt Classic” qualifier for the “410” Sprints at Bedford, the USAC Sprint Car event at Susquehanna along with regular programs at Sportsman’s and Eriez.

Speaking of the RUSH Tour, the Late Model Series was at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg last Saturday night and it was former Seattle Seahawk Rick Singleton taking the win.  The Front Royal, Virginia driver’s win came in the “Bill Hendren Memorial” and was his first RUSH Tour win since the 2013 opener at Hagerstown (MD) Speedway.  The 29 drivers on hand shared in over $18,000 of contingencies that was given away.

Ohio Speedweek is coming up real soon for the All Star Sprint Cars. 

The nine straights of action gets underway Friday, June 20 at Attica followed by Eldora Speedway in Rossburg (Saturday), Waynesfield Raceway Park in Waynesfield (Sunday), Wayne County Speedway in Orrville (Monday), Sharon Speedway in Hartford (Tuesday), Atomic Speedway in Alma (Wednesday), Fremont Speedway in Fremont (Thursday), Lima Motorsports Park in Lima (Friday) and finally back to Fremont for the $10,000 to-win finale on Saturday, June 28. 

Mike Leone is motorsports columnist for The Allied News. For the latest updates, follow him on Twitter @mikevleone.

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