THE racing scene came to a crashing halt in late March as did just about everything else with the outbreak from the Coronavirus. The last I wrote, Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown had a huge opening day on February 22. Since then, Lincoln was back in action for week two on Sunday, March 1 due to cold temperatures the day before. The car count was up one to 31 “410” Sprint Cars.
Dylan Cisney has always been predominantly a Port Royal Speedway car; in fact, he literally lives two blocks down from the track. Cisney branched out a little more in 2019 running Williams Grove frequently, and has stated he’ll continue to race more in 2020 to try and become a better racer. Cisney has never had much luck at Lincoln, but that changed as he’d capture his first career win at the track.
Cisney started on the pole, but would lead only the first two laps as fifth starting Brian Montieth took over. Montieth looked to have the race in hand, but on lap 14 got hung up in lapped traffic and did a 360-spin in turn two and fell clear back to sixth. That gave Cisney the lead back and he would hold off sixth starting Danny Dietrich, who won opening day, and Montieth, who charged back to the front, for the popular $3,500 win. All Star regulars, Brock Zearfoss and Gerard McIntyre, Jr., were fourth and fifth.
On Saturday March 7, Lincoln was graced with another sunny, 50-degree day as week three took place with 31 “410” Sprint Cars once again in the pit area. For the second straight week there was an upset winner as Brandon Rahmer picked up the victory. The oldest son of legend Fred Rahmer, started third in the 25-lap feature and made the winning pass of Billy Dietrich on lap 19. Brandon would ironically hold off his younger brother Freddie, who started eighth, for the $3,500 win. It was Brandon’s third career win, which have all come at Lincoln. Billy Dietrich would hold off his younger brother Danny for third. Have to wonder if a pair of brothers have ever finished 1-2 and 3-4 in race!? Brock Zearfoss was fifth.
The following day, March 8, Port Royal (PA) Speedway held their 78 th annual opening day and saw the biggest crowd in opening day history turn out and one of the biggest crowds in speedway history! Along with the packed grandstands, was an unbelievable count of 46 “410” Sprint Cars and 27 Super Late Models.
Due to the excellent turnout, the track elected to start 26 cars for the Sprint Car feature and it was a #26 in victory lane for the first time ever as California’s Cory Eliason scored the 25-lap win. The All Star regular passed track regular, T.J. Stutts, on lap two and all that slowed him were three cautions including one with three laps to go. Eliason earned $5,000 in Kevin Rudeen’s car. Week two Lincoln winner, Dylan Cisney, was a strong second over defending and two-time champion Logan Wagner, who started ninth. Lance Dewease started 16 th and made his way to fourth to earn the $925 hard charger in Don Kreitz’s #69K. Anthony Macri, who went to Florida in February to race at Volusia with the All Stars and World of Outlaws, recorded his best finish of the season in fifth. Apollo’s A.J. Flick was 16 th .
In the Super Late Models, Trever Feathers led from green-to-checkered to earn the 25-lap feature win. The Winchester, Virginia driver earned $2,500 for car owner Larry Royston for his first career win at Port Royal win. Dan Stone was second over ninth starting Jason Covert, who made some late race moves to finish third. Andy Haus was fourth over Delaware racer Ross Robinson.
Allison Park’s Colton Flinner, who won an early season 2019 race at Port Royal, charged from 15 th to sixth running the outside in Johnny Johnson’s #48.
The following weekend I headed to Texas as the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars were set to resume their season after being off since early February in Florida at Volusia. The WoO were scheduled to be at Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, TX on March 13 and Lonestar Speedway in Kilgore, TX on March 14; however, on the morning on Cotton Bowl’s race, WoO officials decided to cancel the weekend along with races through much of April due to the growing concerns of the Coronavirus.
Initially I had researched back-up plans for the weekend in the case of rain.
Friday was pretty thin and while Saturday had numerous options most were around the Dallas area where the highest percentage of rain resided. I knew the two best options were Heart O’ Texas Speedway on Friday and 105 Speedway on Saturday; however, both were tracks I hit up when I was in Texas two years ago. Then I was made aware of another option as Buffalo Creek Speedway was in action on Friday night.
I looked at their Facebook and they indicated they were still racing. Next I looked at the radar and it appeared all of the rain was north and the forecast had greatly improved. So I decided to make the four-hour trip north rather than a repeat of going to Heart O’ Texas. Temps were in the low 80s with some sun almost my entire trip. Just before coming into the southern side of Canton, TX (last town before the track) it was 80-degrees, it dropped to 72 on the north side of town as I crossed I-20. In the next couple miles to the track it was 69 and overcast! The temperature swing on the map showed temps of 80+ south of Dallas and only in the 50s north!
Their pit area is way behind the speedway basically in the middle of their motocross track. They ended up with only 39 cars including 19 Factory Stocks, 6 Texas Stocks, 6 (Ltd) Mods, 5 Mini Stocks & 3 Econo Mods. The heats were decent and I think had only one caution and were completed in about a half hour. After a 20 minute intermission, the features began. The first three features went non-stop, the Factory Stock feature had a couple cautions but was the best racing of the night. The Econo Mods didn’t run a heat, but their three-car feature had the most cautions of the night.
I woke up Saturday morning and some of the Dallas area tracks were already cancelling. The weather continued to look good to the east where Chatham (LA) Speedway was. The Weather Channel was showing under 15% until late at night while the National Weather Service was at 20% throughout the day and night. The radar was clear and the forecast models looked dry so I wasn’t concerned even though it was very overcast and humid as I headed east.
The backup plan would be Thunder Valley, which was two hours further to the south.
Some isolated cells started to develop to the south and eventually some lines of storms formed.
As I got within a half hour of the track, it started to rain and some heavy rain was around though it appeared like the heaviest missed the track.
There is really nothing after Shreveport until you get to the small town of Chatham, which is an hour and a half drive. After I stopped to get gas in town, it was very dark with rain all around.
As I got closer to the track it started to rain lightly but as I pulled in luckily they did miss the substantial rain. It was shortly after 3:30 p.m. and several cars were already in the pit area.
It rained lightly pretty steady for the next two hours but race cars continued to come in and the track seemed determined to get the show in from their announcements. The radar started looking better before 6 p.m. and cars were called to the track to run in the surface. Despite the rain, the heat races got underway at 7:25- not bad missing the start time by only 25 mins. There were 73 cars in the seven regular divisions plus there were four cars in the beginner class that featured an E-Mod, a topless E-Mod, a Stock, and a Mini Stock all racing together! Car counts were 17 Mini Stocks, 13 Factory Stocks, 13 (Ltd) Mods, 7 Crate Late Models, 12 B Mods, 8 Street Stocks, and 3 in the Southern Super Modified Series, which are Northeast-style Mods with open engine rules with weight restrictions.
The Factory Stocks ran their heats first and the first heat was run in a pretty good steady light rain with a lot of fog off turns one & two. After that shower passed, they were able to dodge the isolated pop up cells for the rest of the night. Just hard to believe the weather ended up like it did for at best a 20% chance. I stayed for the first four of eight features. Like Buffalo Creek, all of the features were lined up heads up from heat race finishes. The racing was pretty good all things considered as the track just had trouble drying out from the rain and humidity and just didn’t get quite wide enough. Brandon Hightower won the first ever Big-Block Modified feature for the new series over Caleb Dillard, brother of World of Outlaws racer Cade Dillard. They feel like the class will grow throughout the season and hope to be in double figures.
Chatham has a strange layout as where you enter the track for general admission is turn three. There’s a large set of bleachers there then you walk around turns three and four where smaller bleachers are along with a couple catwalks before you get to the frontstretch where the main set of bleachers are. There were also people in lawn chairs and even a car pulled in watching from turn 4. Chatham made for my first Louisiana track, and 25th state to see a race in.
I had about a seven-hour drive to Sunday’s destination so I drove half the way there after the races. Harris Hill Raceway in San Marcos, Texas was running day two of their ChampCar Endurance Series on their asphalt road course. Saturday was an eight-hour race, while Sunday was a seven-hour race. The event was restricted to 45 entries and I think 41 were in attendance with 31 taking the green on Sunday.
They had had quite a bit of rain in the morning as the event started at 9 a.m., but it was just overcast and in the low 60s while I was there. You could watch from their terraced hill, the clubhouse & balcony, the paddock area, and some other grassy areas but all only on the frontstretch area. Team AutoSpec Racing in their #116 was the winner completing 235 laps as just one other car was on the lead lap over 13 seconds behind. Harris Hill made for my 5th Texas track.
Back at home, the tracks in central Pennsylvania decided to go on with their racing programs. At Lincoln on March 14, Alan Krimes became the season’s fourth different “410” Sprint Car winner taking the $3,500 payday. Port Royal was also in action the same day as Lance Dewease won his first race of 2020 and the 113 th of his illustrious career at Port as he earned $4,000 for the Sprint Car win. Delaware’s Donnie Lingo, Jr. was the upset winner of the Super Late Models for his first ever win at the track. On Sunday the 15 th , Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg opened their gates as World of Outlaw racer, Carson Macedo, came the whole way after the Texas cancellation to score his first ever win at the track driving Kyle Larson’s #2.
And with the conclusion of mid-March, racing has been cancelled the last two weekends and is now on hold for the foreseeable future.
Mercer Raceway was supposed to be the first local track to open on March 28 and the “Chiller Thriller” was obviously cancelled.
Other than a couple shows in April, most local tracks now don’t open until May due to cold and wet early spring weather in years past.
MIKE LEONE is a motorsports columnist for The Allied News. For the latest updates, follow him on Twitter @mikevleone.