The 358's were back in action at Williams Grove for Race 1 of the Nouse Signs and Graphics 358 Summer Series. Night #1 was greeted with a good car count and they did their best to produce some good action for the fans. Kevin Nouse worked his ass off to get the race teams some extra money to run for in this four race event series and I know the race teams were very thankful for it after speaking with some of them in the pits before the racing action got started. It was also nice to see a few Trail Way regulars make the trip up and run showing their support for the series. Brad McClelland, Seth Kearchner, and Jeff Halligan all made the trip with varying success in the evening as Kearchner did not qualify for the feature, Halligan looked strong the first half of the race before falling back at the end and McClelland would struggle in his heat race but only managed a 11th place finish in the feature. Race winner Chase Dietz had a good battle with Phil Walter before taking the lead and walking away with his second feature win of the season. I wish that the 5 team and Dietz would choose to run all 4 nights of the series as I think having the youngster in the field would bring a little more flair to the division as well as Dietz having a huge fan base, and lets be honest...the kid can flat out drive a sprint car; but, the driver is committed to running the 410 at Lincoln Speedway.
Saturday night at Port Royal, Lucas Wolfe picked up his third win of the season with a last lap, last turn pass on Steve Buckwalter. Speed Week winner, Steve Buckwalter has lost three races this season in similar fashion at various tracks and well he could have 5 or 6 wins in 2015 if it weren't for such luck. What worried me on Saturday night at Port Royal was the low car count as only 22 cars signed in to run a Group TT show. Hodnett and Davie Sammons both chose to race at Lincoln, while Doug Esh and Tyler Bear where both missing from the lineup. I do have to ask why you would run a heat race for 4 cars when all 4 cars would make the invert and the feature was being lined up by TT. That makes absolutely no sense to me what so ever, but hey I don't run a race track so what do I know.
As for Lincoln Speedway, the big news for me was 40 358's where pit side! So much for the division never seeing that many cars again..according to some folks. Pretty sure I heard the past few years the class was dead; but, hey what do I know about the 358 Sprints considering I just run the 358 point series right?
The 410s had a great car count as well with 34 410s packed into the pit area. Jim Siegel finally found victory lane after struggling much of 2015 and he picked up $5,000 for the win in 4th annual NATIONAL FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS NIGHT IN MEMORY OF BRANDON LITTLE. It was great to see all the men and woman who risk their life running into a building that we are taught to run out of, risking their lives to try and save us and they truly don't get as much recognition as they deserve. My brother was a volunteer fire fighter, and I have a lot of friends I grew up with who all have served as a firefighter since they where teenagers. We can never say thank you enough for everything you do to keep us safe. It was nice to see Lincoln Speedway honor them before the racing action got started.
As for the rest of the racing action.....there isn't really much to talk about. Danny Dietrich came through the field to finish second and Brian Montieth started 20th and finished 8th as there wasn't much passing this weekend in the 410 division. But hey, it is summer time so it is to be expected or should I say that it's something that I have come to expect.
The 358 division had one of those nights as well. Like I said 40 cars strong and what comes with the large car counts? Well, that would be caution filled races. Now, some drivers just had a bad night, it happens, but some drivers need to settle down and think a little bit. We saw a rookie cause two wrecks in 2 laps, flipping another driver before he was smart enough to park it for the rest of the heat race. It's not my style to use this or any other forum to bash a driver, and for the record I am friends with this youngster as well as I think he will be a good one in years to come with experience; but he needs to settle down on the starts. Remember, you can't win it in the first corner but you darn sure can lose it. Todd Shaffer told me one time that it's easier to teach a driver to slow down down then it is to teach him to go fast. When he learns to slow down a bit and get a little more car control he will be sitting in victory lane, better believe that.
It was great walking in the pits and finding out Davie Franek was running the 4r 358 car for the night. Davie has to be one of the funniest and just plain happiest dudes I have ever met in a pit area as he always welcomes you with a big smile and a firm handshake. Getting to hear the difference between our slick tracks and the tracks in New York he ran on last week in his 360 was an eye opener as well as learning how you can run on a dead slick from top to bottom track and have your tire look brand new after the feature says a lot about track prep up in New York. It was even better to see Davie make his return to victory lane for the first time in the 358 division in 4 years. Anyone remember what car he was driving the night he won at Williams Grove? Tweet me you answer as I want to see how much you pay attention and know your 358 history.
There is a need to give a big shout out to Wyatt Hinkle , Lucas Montgomery and Jordan Givler for their performances at Lincoln Speedway. Hinkle, the 2014 Central PA Rookie of the Year in the 358 division, posted his best finish at Lincoln with a second place finish, 2015 ROY contender Montgomery would finish third, Givler started deep 23rd (I think) after finishing 3rd in the consi only to race his butt off and finish 10th on a track that was very hard to pass on. Congrats to all 3 of these young drivers as they showed the future is bright in Central PA sprint car racing.
Congrats to Aaron Ott on winning the make up 360 race form 2014. Wasn't much of a race as the track was gone by then, and I was sort of upset about something that I think i will share with you all below in my open letter:
Dear 358 teams,
WHY did you all take a chance of ending your season to run the challenge race last night at Lincoln Speedway? I understood it was easy money to make by tagging the rear of the field, but a little bit of smarts goes a long way guys and gals. Next week is round two of the Nouse Signs and Graphics 358 Summer Series, a series that was put together with all of you in mind, a series that was created to give you all better paying races, more money to make in the form of a $3,000 point fund and not to mention all the extras you are getting from all the great sponsors. Why would you risk destroying a car or blowing a motor by racing a race you had no shot of winning? I just don't get it an I never have and never will.
Scott Fisher was the only smart one as he took the green, made 1 lap, then pulled in collecting his money and saving his stuff for races that really matter. I sat in the stands and watched Cole Young rip the front end out of his car running for what? 18th? How much sense does that make? Was it really worth $250 to start? Jeff Rohrbaugh, who is as low buck as they come, is down to only racing one night a week and ran the hell out of his car last night to finish in 7th place. What happens if he blows his motor? Then he sits a few weeks and can't support the races that are trying to give back to him. Just doesn't make any sense to me what so ever. I know racers race and that's what they do; but how much was it worth if your season ended tagging the rear of the field of a race that you have no real shot in? Just my opinion, coming from a guy who cares about the 358 division, but I want to see 40 cars again next Saturday to show the summer series and its sponsors that the drivers and teams of the 358 division is a great place to spend their money. Thank God nothing bad happened, and everyone will be back next weekend.
Well that's it for me this week.
Well that's it for me this week.
Next weekend, we will see Trail Way Speedway back in action with the 358 division, Williams Grove Speedway will have their Outlaw tune up (ugh TT's again) and 358 sprinters. Saturday night, Port Royal will honor the fire fighters of Juniata County with the 410's back in action, Selinsgrove Speedway will host the 360s in their driver and fan appreciation night, Lincoln Speedway will be having The Daryl Gohn/ Glenn Gohn Sr. Memorial for the 410's while the 358's will compete in round two of the Nouse Signs and Graphics 358 Summer Series.
©Bill McIntyre III and Central PA Racing Scene.com