By Mike Leone
Allied News Motorsports Columnist
IT WAS a beautiful weekend in the region as sunshine and temps around 70 allowed for a successful racing weekend. On Friday I headed to Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio for the first time this season. Car counts were pretty good with 19 “410” Sprint Cars, 19 Super Late Models, 19 Stock Cars, 11 Mini Stocks, and 10 E-Mods.
The Sprint Car program nearly ran off caution-free. The first and only caution of the night didn’t come until lap 21 when Jimmy Pooler did a 360-spin, but actually never stopped. Danny Mumaw isn’t one that races a lot, but when he does he’s always fast. The Wooster, Ohio driver led the entire distance running a great race through lapped traffic to hold off veteran Danny Smith. Dean Jacobs was third in his new ride- the Jerry McClure #9. Andrew Palker and Caleb Helms completed the top five.
The Super Late Model 25 lapper was a wild one! West Virginian Corey Conley ended up leading from green-to-checkered, but had to withstand nine cautions. J.R. Gentry went to a back-up car and started last in the feature. He worked his way up to second and was attempting to drive by Conley on the outside of turn three, but caught the fence and nearly flipped. His car suffered heavy damage and ended a tough night for the veteran racer. Ryan Markham was second after starting sixth with George Lee II, B.A. Malcuit, and Rick Bond three through five.
Other winners were Brandon Gardner-Stocks, Larry Holbrook E-Mods, and Jason Shaw-Mini Stocks. I always enjoy going to Wayne County. It’s only an hour and a half maximum from the state-line. Racing begins at 7:45 on Friday nights. Check them out at www.waynecountyspeedway.com.
Bellevue, Ohio’s Cap Henry used an off weekend from the All Star Sprints to capture his first career win at Lernerville Speedway over a strong field of 28 cars. Henry won at Mercer for his only other career win back in 2011. Mat Williamson made it two in a row in the Big-Block Modifieds as his two trips down from Canada have paid off! Sharon’s all-time active Super Late Model winner Davey Johnson, who won a ULMS race back on April 20, added his second overall win of the season nailing down the Lernerville win. Defending champion, Corey McPherson, won his of the year in the Stocks.
Speaking of Mercer, Saturday night’s Sprint Cars were a reversal of Friday night as runner-up Danny Holtgraver beat Cap Henry on this night in their final tune-up before this weekend’s All Star event. Volant’s Lonny Riggs captured the “358” Modifieds. Howland, Ohio’s Jason Scoville won the Limited Sprint Cars. Just eight Stock Cars were present as Robinson Township’s Bob Schwartzmiller earned the win. Other winners were Tyler Frankenberg in the Mod Lites and Saxonburg’s Jerry Batcher.
Despite two track championships, sitting fourth on the division’s all-time win list and being a front-runner week in and week out, Jim Weller Jr. hadn’t won a feature at Sharon Speedway since the 2010 season. Fresh off a near win and runner-up finish the night before at Lernerville, Weller passed Dave Murdick and held off Jeremiah Shingledecker for the 20-lap DIRTcar Big-Block Modified victory.
The victory for the Hubbard, Ohio driver was the 24th of his career. What a run by Mercer’s Eric Gabany, who finished third in his “358” small-block! Ricky Richner was fifth for his third top six finish in as many starts. The Niagara Falls, New York racer had quite the experience coming down and just made it in time to draw a pill as a turkey came through their windshield!
After winning his first ever Sharon race in the 2012 season finale, Albion’s Dennis Lunger Jr. kept the momentum right through the offseason as he won for the second time in three races this season in the RUSH Late Models. Lunger, who also won the night before at Raceway 7, got past race-long leader Will Thomas III in the closing laps in the 20-lap feature as he extended his point lead as well.
Thomas appeared headed for his first win of the season, but a spin by Jamie Wrightsman with 18 laps scored slowed action. Things certainly got interesting from here on out. On the ensuing restart, Lunger was called for a jump. The second try was then called back as Thomas fired too early. Finally the third go-around was a clean restart, which Lunger timed perfectly. Lunger was strong down the frontstretch and had the advantage going into turn one. Lunger came out ahead coming off turn two and then was able to nose ahead entering turn three and kept the lead to the finish. Thomas was just 0.631 seconds behind in runner-up. Sixteen-year-old Eric Wilson edged out Josh Double for third.
Joel Watson came from seventh to become the season’s fourth different winner in as many races picking up the Modified victory in another great 15-lap feature. Following a restart on lap four for a three-car tangle, Watson took over second from Shawn Shingledecker. Watson went after Joe Gabrielson and didn’t waste any time driving under and past the leader racing off turn four on lap five. Watson powered on to his 12th career by a 1.243 second advantage over his good friend Mike Kinney and point leader Alan Dellinger.
Bryan Wagner led wire-to-wire to become the third different Stock Car winner in as many 15-lap feature events this season. The victory was the second of Wagner’s career at Sharon, but first since winning the 2010 “Apple Festival Nationals” in an “open” competition event. The 25-year-old New Wilmington native and current New Castle resident was never seriously challenged throughout the affair, but did have four cautions that set-up double file restarts. Wagner though was golden on every one as Charlie Jasinski could only follow the #56 home in a season-best runner-up.
For the fourth straight event, 12-year-old Jacob Eucker has led feature laps, but once again just couldn’t close the deal in the Econo Mods. This time Jeremy Double passed Eucker with two to go to capture the second win of the Bristolville, Ohio driver’s season.
It was a heartbreaker for one racer and a lucky break for another. Ray Gregory appeared headed for his first career Sharon Speedway victory in the Mini Stocks, but he missed a shift on a late race restart, which allowed Austintown, Ohio’s Ken Koby II to celebrate his first career win in the 12-lap feature.
History was made on Sunday evening when Sprint Cars invaded the scenic Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex for the first time ever in the 15-year history of the Markleysburg, Pa. oval. The inaugural “410 Showdown in the Laurel Highlands” drew a quality field of 22 race teams including some of the best of “PA Posse”, western Pa., and several of the All Star Circuit of Champions.
Two of Pennsylvania bests put on quite a show that had fans on the edge of their seats for the duration of the 30-lap feature. Lance Dewease and Tim Shaffer put on a driving clinic using every inch of the racy, 3/8-mile oval trading the lead back and forth. In the end, Dewease made a last lap move to steal the win away from the defending four-time All Star Champion to earn the $4,000 payday. The victory was the first of the season for the 47-year-old Fayetteville future hall of famer, who has gotten off to a slow start with his new team.
An invert six put Dewease and Shaffer on the front row. Dewease took charge with Shaffer in tow. Logan Schuchart found the outside to his liking taking third from Cole Duncan. With an open weekend for the All Stars, Cap Henry came into western Pa. and was fresh off a win Friday night at Lernerville Speedway and a runner-up Saturday at Mercer Raceway Park. Henry looked strong early on advancing from his seventh starting spot into the top five after three laps.
After caution-free preliminary events and the first feature four laps going green, four stoppages occurred between laps four and seven. A caution for a spin by Ohio racer Wes McGlumphy slowed action for the first time with four laps scored. When racing resumed, Shaffer showed his frontend racing alongside Dewease on laps five and six before a spin by up and coming central Pa. racer Ryan Smith, who is a teammate to the legend Don Kreitz Jr.
It was a rough night for opening night Mercer Raceway Park winner Brandon Spithaler. Following a solid run with the BOSS non-wing Sprints on Saturday night at Fremont Speedway, Spithaler spun in turn four to bring out the caution with seven laps scored. Then on the ensuing restart, Spithaler got high in turn two and flipped. He was okay, but done from the event.
The last 23 intense laps would go green-to-checkered. Back under green flag conditions, Shaffer again got alongside of Dewease and this time made the pass stick in turn four. Dewease then would lose runner-up to Schuchart in turn four on lap nine. Shaffer caught lapped traffic on lap 12 and Schuchart faced a half-straightaway deficit.
While Shaffer continued to lead and work lapped traffic, the battle for second intensified again on lap 14 with Schuchart trying to keep Dewease and Cole Duncan at bay. Dewease raced side-by-side with the grandson of the great Bobby Allen. Shaffer dealt with heavy lapped traffic on lap 16 allowing the trio to close.
It was now a four-car race for the lead with 10 laps to go. Dewease got a great run down the backstretch on lap 20 to drive by Schuchart for second. One lap later, Duncan dropped Schuchart back to fourth. Dewease sensed a chance at the victory as he closed in on Shaffer on lap 23. Then on lap 24 was right on the tail tank of the #83. Dewease tried every line to get by Shaffer then followed him in the closing laps. With the white flag waving, everyone expected Dewease to try to go around Shaffer on the top. Dewease though surprised everyone including Shaffer as he snuck under the leader in turns one and two then got a great bite off turn two powering by down the backstretch.
Dewease opened up some ground heading into turn three, but had traffic to deal with through the final turns. Shaffer wasn’t about to give up as he rode the cushion and nearly stole the win at the checkered flag, but came up one car-length back. Shaffer, who competed with the World of Outlaws on Friday and Saturday night at Eldora Speedway, earned $2,000 for his runner-up finish.
Duncan and Schuchart really went at it for third swapping the position back and forth several times in the closing laps with Schuchart getting the nod and $1,300 payday. Duncan, who won earlier this season at Lincoln and scored a big $5,000 win last year at Path Valley Speedway in central Pa., was fourth over Helms, who earned an additional $100 from Eddy Esposito Automotive Group for setting fast time. The STAR’s Mod Lite Series capped off the night at it was Jeff Teeters of Warren, Ohio making the three-hour plus tow pay off capturing the 20-lap $500 feature win over Mikey Hay, Alan Knepper, Greenville’s George Englert, and Lynn Knepper. Heat winners were Mikey Hay, Englert, and Lynn Knepper. The 20-car field was made up of racers from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Iowa.
Mike Leone is motorsports columnist for Allied News. Follow his updates on Twitter @mikevleone