By Mike Leone
Allied News Motorsports Columnist
THE ONLY LOCAL event to take place this past weekend in western Pa. or eastern Ohio was on Friday night at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex as the Markleysburg oval held their season finale and the fifth appearance by the RUSH Late Model Touring Series.
After one of the worst weekends in recent memory for Mike Pegher Jr. at his home track Pittsburgh's PA Motor Speedway in which the Wexford driver went from a +18 point lead to a -17 deficit, he quickly bounced back on Friday night leading all 30 laps for the $2,000 to-win feature holding off Jacob Hawkins for his fifth win of the season. By virtue of his victory and Ryan Montgomery's sixth place, Pegher will trail Montgomery by just seven points heading into the finale this weekend at Lernerville Speedway.
Pegher earned the pole position for the feature event via his dash win and took the early lead. Third and fourth starting Chad McClellan and Hawkins got past Cody Dawson on the opening lap for second and third. After moving from the eighth starting spot to fifth after one lap, Michael Lake dropped out of the top five on lap two when John Over made the pass.
McClellan though got too high in turn four on lap four allowing Hawkins to make the pass for second. McClellan got too high again in the next two laps as Dawson and Over slipped by into third and fourth respectively. Lake then passed McClellan to get himself back into the top five.
Back up front, Pegher continued to set the pace, but Hawkins shadowed him every lap. Pegher caught lapped traffic on lap 12 as Hawkins closed in even more and on lap 13 was all over the leader in heavy traffic trying to find a way by; however, Pegher got a big break as debris was littered in turn four necessitating the first and only caution of the affair with 12 laps scored.
Back under green, Pegher out-dragged Hawkins into turn one following the double file restart. Lake was on the move as he passed both Over and Dawson to take over third on lap 13 with an inside move. Over and McClellan raced their way past Dawson for fourth and fifth respectively on lap 14.
As the laps ticked off, Pegher maintained a steady advantage. Pegher took the checkered flag by 0.795 of a second over Hawkins. It was Pegher's first Sweeney Tour win since August 15 at McKean County Raceway 10 races ago.
Ironically back on June 22 when Pegher won at Roaring Knob, he held off Jared Hawkins, who subbed for McClellan. This time it was his younger brother Jacob, who trailed Pegher home in his first start driving for Rick Strickler.
Lake's third place was his second straight top five Tour finish. McClellan passed Over to take the fourth spot for his fourth straight Sweeney Tour top five finish. Over was fifth in his first race back in seven weeks after breaking his wrist in accident at Roaring Knob on August 29. It also was his best Tour finish of the season. After electrical issues in both qualifying and his heat race, Ryan Montgomery had to start 21st in the feature, but made his way to sixth at the finish to maintain his point lead and earned the hard charger award.
What a night it was for Albion’s Dennis Lunger, Jr! The 2013 Sharon Speedway champion towed over 200 miles with only one crew member to Roaring Knob in his first ever appearance. Lunger blew a motor in warm-ups and was lent a motor by Bobby Lake. Lunger and Lake's team made the motor change just in time for the feature! Lunger then raced his way from the 22nd starting spot to a 10th with just one caution without ever being able to make any adjustments to the car from his brief warm-up session!
The third and final "Futures Cup" Trifecta race was contested and a new winner would be guaranteed as Pittsburgh winner Jorden Peters and Sharon winner Clay Ruffo were unable to make the trip. At his home track, Uniontown’s Michael Lake led all 12 laps for the $200 win, but it was the third place finisher of 16-year-old Eric Wilson of Cortland, Ohio capturing the $1,000 title. The 12-year-old Lake finished second in points coming up six points shy.
On Saturday, I headed east to Lincoln Speedway for their season finale and more importantly the “Last Call” Fred Rahmer Tribute. It showered most of the way, but it was relatively dry at the Abbottstown oval when I arrived.
If you’ve been following my columns in recent weeks, Rahmer captured the $50,000 Williams Grove “National Open” race for the first time in his career on October 5, and hinted that he may call it quits on the spot. The next week Rahmer said he’d be back to finish the point season at Williams Grove and the final two races at Lincoln.
The Salfordville driver already captured his 11th Lincoln crown this season, but first since 2007; and on Friday night won the $20,000 Williams Grove Championship by a mere five points over Greg Hodnett!
A great tribute was put on for Rahmer by his wife Debbie and the staff of Lincoln in which several of his car owners spoke about their successes together and his former Al Hamilton and Joe Harz rides were on display. The Hamilton #77 even paced the field for the feature. Also, recorded congratulation messages were played by greats Steve Kinser and Doug Wolfgang.
It would have been fitting if Rahmer could have gone out on top, but it wasn’t meant to be. He was the fastest car in warm-ups, set fast time in time trials, and went from fourth to second in his heat. An invert eight relegated Rahmer to the eighth starting spot for the feature and he didn’t look good early on falling back to 10th or 11th at one point, but he didn’t give up and charged by last week’s winner Brian Montieth on the final lap to finish fourth.
Up front, Logan Schuchart led all 25 laps for the $5,324 victory- the second of his career for the nearby Hanover racer at his home track. Ironically, Schuchart (grandson of the great Bobby Allen) also won the Keith Kauffman Tribute last month at Port Royal Speedway! Danny Dietrich came from 10th to finish a close second.
In other action at Lincoln, track champion Niki Young passed Cris Eash on lap seven to win the “358” Sprint feature. Eash, a long time “410” Sprint Car racer who even competed with the World of Outlaws, finished fifth in his final race as he’s calling it quits. Will Walls won the Thundercar feature.
Rahmer will end his immaculate career with 518 wins (419 in a Sprint Car and 99 in a Modified). The amazing thing is Rahmer didn’t start racing Sprint Cars until 1985 and only had nine wins entering the 1989 season. His best years were 1998 and 2004 when he won 33 and 34 races respectively. One of his most amazing accomplishments was in that 1998 season when he won 12 consecutive races at Lincoln including a win against the World of Outlaws! In regular events he was handicapped, meaning he started 12th every week.
The last local race of the season will be this weekend at Lernerville as nine divisions will be in action plus an Enduro!
The Sprint Cars, BRP Big-Block Modified Tour, Super Late Models, RUSH Late Model Tour, “305” Sprints, UEMS E-Mods, Stock Cars, Mod Lites, and Mini Stocks will practice on Thursday, run heats on Friday, followed by their B mains and features on Saturday. Racing begins at 7 p.m. on Friday night and 6 on Saturday night. The rain date is Sunday.
Mike Leone is a motorsports columnist for The Allied News. Follow his updates on Twitter @mikevleone.