It was another dominating weekend for Kyle Larson, who continues to tear up the dirt tracks.
The Californian won three of the four "410" sprint car races this past weekend in central Pennsylvania worth $32,000 upping his season win total to an astonishing 39. It started off Wednesday when Larson beat good friend Rico Abreu to win the rescheduled $6,900 Weldon Sterner Memorial at Lincoln Speedway.
On Thursday, I headed east to BAPS Motor Speedway (formerly Susquehanna) in my first visit of the season to the Newberrytown facility that just continues to improve each year. It was the annual "Kevin Gobrecht Classic," named for the late sprint car racer whose brother Scott owns the track. A quality field of 27 cars turned out on a cloudy and mild evening.
After qualifying and heat races, Larson drew the number two pill for the 30-lap feature. Larson raced to a lead that he wouldn't relinquish. He did have to fend off serious challenges from Gio Scelzi and Danny Dietrich during the second half of the race. Dietrich got by Scelzi for second on lap 25, but couldn't make the pass of Larson. Scelzi was second. Pole-sitter Lucas Wolfe dropped to fourth over 12th-starting Rico Abreu.
On Friday night I finally made it to Williams Grove Speedway for the first time in 2020 with the legendary Mechanicsburg half-mile hosting the All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint cars for the 40th time in series history. There were 33 "410" sprint cars and 44 "305" sprints filling in the pit area. After getting up to 75 degrees during the day, a cold front came in during the evening bringing windy and chilly conditions.
This would be the only night of the weekend without a Larson victory. Instead, two-time All Star Champion Aaron Reutzel curtailed his hot streak him. Reutzel started fourth in the 30-lap feature and passed Scelzi on lap 14 for the lead. Only one caution, on lap 28 for Zeb Wise, slowed the event.
The caution was a break for Reutzel, who had Scelzi putting the heat on him. The race was Reutzel's 10th All Star win of the season and 35th of his career. The win was worth $5,000 and was the third of the Texan's career at the Grove. Larson, who started fifth, passed Brian Brown for third on lap 29. Brown would suffer a flat tire on the last lap moving Paul McMahan and 11th starting Brent Marks into the top five.
Jaramie Hanson stood atop the "305" sprint cars list by leading all 20 laps of the feature. Ken Duke Jr. came from eighth to finish a close second. The "305" sprints always bring huge car counts of 40-50 to central Pa. tracks.
After an annual stop at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in York Springs on Saturday afternoon, which is a must for any race fan, it was down the road to Lincoln Speedway for the Dirt Classic VII, which was sanctioned by the All Stars for the second straight year. A huge field of 53 "410" sprint cars turned out, along with a great crowd.
The cloud-free day saw the temperature get to the mid-60s and drop to the low 40s by feature time. In addition to qualifying, the Dirt Classic format includes two rounds of heat races with points for all three to set the lineups for the A, B, and C mains.
To the surprise of no one, Larson accumulated the most points after qualifying fourth in his flight and was the only driver to win both sets of heat races. Larson charged from seventh to win round two, which easily gave him the most points. On Wednesday,Larson and Abreu finished one-two and that's exactly how they lined up for the 40-lap feature.
Larson went unchallenged over the course of the feature as three cautions were all that slowed his run to a $20,000 payday, and his second Lincoln win in four days. The victory upped Larson's win total to 14 this year with the All Stars despite competing in only half of the races. After his win Friday night, Reutzel's runner-up inches him closer to his third straight Series title. Brent Marks went 10th to third. Abreu dropped to fourth with Anthony Macri fifth.
On Sunday, I headed back to Tri-City Raceway Park in Franklin for the conclusion of its three-day "Apple Fest" and the final event of the first year track ownership of Volant's Merle Black.
On Friday, Tri-City held an open practice along with a non-winners race for the "358" modifieds that saw Slippery Rock's Rick Regalski Jr. pick up the win. Regalski normally competes in the big-block modified division, but he was aboard his #R13 car usually driven by his uncle Ralph McBride. Saturday was preliminary events for the seven divisions along with a make-up "410" Sprint Car feature. Sarver's Carl Bowser was able to capture his second Tri-City win of the season, worth $2,000, beating Brandon Spithaler to the finish.
Sunday's program included the seven feature events. Up first was the 30-lap "410" sprint car feature. Third starting Darin Gallagher pulled off a major upset victory. The Butler racer had a successful career in the mod lites and "305" sprint cars, but had never won a "410" feature. After Brandon Spithaler spun running second on lap 10, Gallagher inherited second and passed Jack Sodeman Jr. on lap 11 for the lead.
Gallagher ironically has been a crew member for Sodeman for years and still helps to set up for Sodeman. The win wasn't easy as Gallagher lost the top spot to Dan Shetler on lap 25, but regained it two laps later and held on for the huge $5,000 payday. Gallagher did have two "305" wins at Tri-City in the past. Shetler was second over A.J. Flick and Bowser. Spithaler came back from his spin to finish fifth. Sodeman dropped to seventh at the finish, but still held on to win the track title over Spithaler.
Like he's done so many times over the years, Erick Rudolph came down from the Empire State and laid a whopping on the local Modifieds, not once, not twice, but three times this past weekend. After winning Friday's big-block modified feature at Lernerville, Rudolph swept the Big-Block and "358" Small-Block Modified feature events giving him more than $9,200 in winnings.
The Ransomville, NY star led the entire way in Sunday's Big-Block feature for the $4,000 payday beating fellow Empire State racer Chad Brachmann. Ellwood City's Garrett Krummert, Rex King, and Rex King Jr. all came from the tail after early issues to finish third through fifth respectively.
In the nightcap "358" race, Rudolph led all but the opening lap as he took over from Rex King Jr. to easily win the 25 lapper and another $4,000 payday. It was his third win of the year at Tri-City in as many tries. Stoneboro's Jeremiah Shingledecker came from eighth to finish second. NY's Ryan Susice was third after starting ninth. King, Jr. dropped to fourth in his first "358" start ahead of another New Yorker in Greg Martin.
The non-wing RUSH Sprint Cars made their third appearance of the season and had a different winner for the third time. Making his first appearance of the season, Zach Morrow led all 20 non-stop laps for his third overall RUSH win of the season. Morrow's first win ever at Tri-City was worth $1,000 for the Gibsonia driver. Franklin's Shawn Smith matched a career best finish in second as he's finished second in two of the three races at his home track. Stoneboro's Jeremy Weaver came from seventh to third over Steve Pedley and Gale Ruth, Jr., who debuted a new ride.
Chris Schneider has a knack for winning big stock car racer. On Sunday, the Lower Burrell driver passed Noah Brunell on lap 20 and held off Venango County racers Randy Wyant and Bobby Whitling for the $2,250 payday in the 50-lap affair. Jim Fosnaught and Jackson Humanic were fourth and fifth.
Fombell's Jeff Schaffer dominated all 20 laps of the sportsman modified feature beating his teammate Garrett Krummert to finish for the $800 payday, while Pat Hanlon II copped the $700 to-win mini stock feature.
On Friday night, Lernerville returned to "Fab Four" racing. Elida, Ohio's Max Stambaugh invaded and captured the "410" sprint car feature for his first ever win at the track. Stambaugh did the same earlier this season at Tri-City. Sharpsville's Will Thomas won his first career super late model feature. As already mentioned, Rudolph won the big-block modifieds for the second time this year at Lernerville, while Tarentum's Jason Fosnaught won the stocks for his first of 2020.
Eriez Speedway wrapped up the second year of ownership by the Alexander Family last weekend with the track's annual "September Sweep" weekend. Waterford's Dave Hess Jr. won Friday night's $4,000 super late model feature, while Bear Lake's Boom Briggs pocketed $6,000 on Saturday night taking advantage of a weekend off from traveling. It was a big night for Briggs, who also won his first career RUSH (Crate) Late Model feature to earn $2,000, giving him an $8,000 night!
• Lernerville will hold its second and final World of Outlaws sprint cars appearance of the year Saturday night. They'll be racing for $10,000 to-win along with the "305" sprint cars. The WoO will also be in the area Friday night at Wayne County Speedway. The event was rained out in August so this will be its first appearance at the Orrville oval since 1985. Promoter Jason Flory has been able to secure additional funding as the event will pay $15,000 to-win, $1000 to-start.
• Mercer Raceway Park returns to racing action Friday night with its regular divisions plus the "410" sprint cars racing for $2,000 to-win. Mercer had an Enduro and Demo Derby this past Saturday. The Enduro was won by Fredonia's Ryan Boyd.
• After being off this past weekend, Raceway 7 in Conneaut, Ohio, has added a regular program led by the RUSH Late Models Saturday night.
All four above shows are on nights that the tracks don't normally hold events.
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