By Mike Leone
Allied News Motorsports Columnist
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
MOTHER NATURE hasn’t been kind throughout the month of March and has played havoc with regional racing.
As I type this on Monday afternoon, snow continues to come down with the openers at Sharon Speedway and Mercer Raceway Park looming this weekend.
Weather permitting, Sharon will host an open practice from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday followed by the “Springduro 150” Enduro paying $1,000 to-win at 2:30 p.m. Mercer meanwhile hopes to start the 62nd anniversary season Saturday at 7 p.m. with ULMS Super Late Models, UEMS E-Mods, Crate Late Models, and Mini Stocks.
Through it all, some racing has taken place. Since the last time I wrote, the third weekend of March was pretty much a write-off. One track that did get part of their weekend in was Selinsgrove (PA) Speedway. The Friday, March 15 show for the “358” Modifieds was won by Duane Howard over a 27-car field and finished up before the nasty weather hit that took out racing everywhere on Saturday and Sunday. A year ago, temperatures were around 80 degrees and races were held in front of packed grandstands!
This past weekend, I was able to sneak in four races in three days despite some of my first options being cancelled. Attica (OH) Raceway Park cancelled their scheduled Friday night opener early in the week due to wet grounds and a cold forecast. Williams Grove Speedway pulled the plug on Thursday for their Friday night opener due to the cold temperatures and high winds. Sharon Speedway had to postpone their practice and Enduro one week due to being unable to get on the speedway with the wet grounds.
On Friday I made the long trip to Potomac Speedway for their 40th season opener. Potomac is a small 3/8-mile high-banked dirt oval located about 40 miles south of Washington D.C. in Mechanicsville, MD. I left early to try to beat the Friday D.C. rush hour traffic, but it was still steady traffic the last two to two and half hours of the trip. This is one reason why Potomac doesn’t start racing until 8 p.m.
While temperatures didn’t get out of the 20s with snow showers here, the daytime temp hit 50 at Potomac and skies were sunny.
The temperature though dropped fast once the sun went down and was in the mid 30s when I left the track around 10 p.m. Car counts were disappointing with just 10 Super Late Models for $2,000 to-win and only 12 Limited Late Models.
I can see why they have cut the Super Late Models down to just 12 shows and will be running Crate Late Models on a bi-weekly basis in 2013. In fact, there were only 59 cars total in the five divisions.
Defending champion Kenny Moreland led all 35 laps of the Super Late Model feature for the $2,000 win.
Just nine cars took the green…that might have been the longest race I’ve seen in a long time for that number of cars. Two cautions slowed the event as the last 22 went green-to-checkered. J.T. Spence, Dale Hollidge, David Williams, and Deane Guy rounded out the top five. Other winners were Derrick Quade in the Limited Late Models, Mike Corbin in the Stocks, Matt Tarbox in the Hobby Stocks, and Kevin Pollard in the U-Cars. Potomac made for my 153rd lifetime speedway to see a race at. For more information, check out their website www.potomacspeedway.com. On Saturday morning I headed due north into Pennsylvania for the annual Trail-Way/Lincoln Speedway day/night doubleheader. Ten miles separate the tracks, which are basically located in the same town of Hanover with Trail-Way to the west of town and Lincoln to the north of town in Abbottstown.
While Sprint Cars rule on the big tracks in central Pa., the Micro Sprint division is where a lot of today’s Sprint Car racers have come from, and Trail-Way has been a proving ground for many years. Several divisions of Micros are always present at Trail-Way’s and this year’s event included 27 600cc Micros, 21 270cc Micros and 6 of their new class of stock 600cc Micros in addition to 21 Legend Cars.
The track is located on the Hostetter’s Farm, who also own the speedway and the wind just blows right across the fields uncontested. Picking up victories were Shawn Seifert (600s), Nik Gower (270s), Scott Gobrecht (Legends) and Kyle Brown (Stock 600s).
Trail-Way will be back in action again this Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. with a similar program before switching up to Friday nights when the “358” Sprint Cars headline the program. For more information, check out their website at www.trail-wayspeedway.com.
After Trail-Way, I headed across town to Lincoln. While most other regional tracks such as Port Royal, Selinsgrove, and Winchester all cancelled due to the cold, Lincoln as usual went on with their program. The daytime high was in the mid 40s, but this was the first night show with racing starting at 6 p.m. This was already Lincoln’s fourth event of the year as 27 “410” Sprint Cars were present along with 24 “358” Late Models and 14 Thundercars for those divisions’ first race of the year. A very good crowd was again on hand.
With the Port Royal cancellation, Lincoln picked up Lance Dewease, Greg Hodnett, and Michael Ruttkamp, but none of those racers would play into the finish as it was invader Cole Duncan scoring the upset victory. Last July, the Lockbourne, Ohio racer shocked the PA Posse when he won the $5,000 prize at Path Valley in the return of Sprint Cars.
The son of veteran Ohio and All Star racer Rodney Duncan, Cole is now making a name for himself. The second generation racer has won events at Lernerville, Skyline, Wayne County, and Fremont Speedways, but his two wins in central Pa. have no doubt been his biggest!
In his heat race, Duncan raced from eighth to fourth to make the handicap inversion. Duncan was at Lincoln on week two, but dropped out of the feature and because he hadn’t competed anywhere else earned the pole position with his low money earning average.
Duncan shot into the lead at the start of the 25-lap feature. All eyes were on 10th starting Brian Montieth, who was clear up to fourth after one lap!
Montieth then passed Billy Pauch, Jr. for third on lap three and got past Hodnett for second on lap seven. Montieth tried everything over the final 18 laps and pulled even with Duncan a couple times, but wasn’t able to make the pass as Duncan held on for the $3,300 win. Duncan’s win came one day after his 21st birthday! Duncan actually got his start racing Sprints at 15 years of age in western Pa. after a very successful career in the Quarter Midgets.
Point leader Brent Marks turned in another solid effort in third after starting 12th. Fred Rahmer captured another top five in fourth to keep pace with Marks in the championship race. Hodnett dropped to fifth. In the companion action, Gene Knaub charged from the 11th starting spot to pass Jake Jones on lap 15 of the “358” Late Model main. Knaub went unchallenged for the win over Jones in the 20-lap feature. Duane Watson led from green-to-checkered to take the 20-lap $500 to-win Thundercar feature victory.
My original plan on Sunday was to go to Hagerstown (MD) Speedway for their twice postponed completion of the “Fall Brawl” from last October; however, for the second straight week Hagerstown pulled the plug on Friday afternoon due to the forecast.
No make-up date has been announced, but it’s looking like it might not happen now until fall!
With that said, I headed north to Big Diamond Speedway in Minersville for their season opener.
The racing during the “358” Modified feature was excellent, but the event was plagued with nine cautions that ruined a lot of the up-front battles.
Full-time racer, Craig VonDohren, picked up the $3,000 victory in a race that saw just 11 of the 28 starters finish the 35 lapper. VonDohren started fourth and took third from Keith Hoffman on lap 10. VonDohren was in the right spot at the right time when the first and second place cars of NY invader Bobby Varin and Duane Howard tangled in lapped traffic on lap 25.
VonDohren was given the lead as Varin stopped on the track and Howard was put to the tail for rough driving. VonDohren went on for the victory. Pole-sitter Kevin Albert, who led the first four laps before dropping out the top five, hung on to finish second. Jon Kellner was third after starting 13th. Varin and Howard worked their way back to fourth and fifth at the finish. Andy Burkhart took one of the nastiest barrel-roll Modified flips I’ve ever seen going over the embankment behind the backstretch. He was okay.
Jared Umbenhauer dominated the 20-lap Sportsman Modified feature leading the entire way, while Kyle Killian captured the Stock main event. Big Diamond will now return to their normal Friday night racing. Check them out at www.bigdiamondspeedway.net.
Mike Leone is motorsports columnist for Allied News. Follow his updates on Twitter @mikevleone.