Mercer, PA (April 18, 2015): Adam Kekich roared to a $4,000 victory in the 410 Sprints presented by 4 Your Car Connection and World of Wheels on opening night at Mercer Raceway Park. The third generation driver from nearby Hermitage proudly carried the colors of his new sponsor, Bonell’s Rod Shop, which also happened to be the benefactor for all divisions on this special night. Joining Kekick in celebration were Tommy Kristyak (Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds), Cody Bova (Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warriors), Curtis J. Bish (Precise Racing Products Stock Cars), Mark Marcucci (Rock Concrete Modified Lites, and Steve Longwell, Jr. (Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking/Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks).
Kekich was enjoying the thrill of the chase, as he closed in on an old rival, Brandon Spithaler. “It was pretty cool racing with Spithaler like that again, we started in Karts the same year, and it seemed like either he was winning, or I was winning.” Their contest ended when Spithaler’s mount lost the right rear wheel just eleven laps into the fray. “It was a bummer that that had to happen, I would have liked to race with him a little bit more,” he added. Kekich noted “through traffic, we were a little bit better but Brandon was pretty good in the open air.” He added, “we were trying some new stuff and it was just coming on as the race went on, it just got better and better.”
The luck of the draw put Kekich on the pole with Brandon Spithaler by his side for the start of the first feature under the twin banners of 4 Your Car Connection and World of Wheels. Spithaler jumped out front, and he opened up a six car length advantage in no time flat. Spithaler seemed to be on cruise control, as he was seeking his fourth opening night victory at the Park. But, misfortune came his way when be lost the big right rear tire entering the first turn with 11 laps in the books. That handed the lead over to Kekich, who had closed in somewhat while the leaders were fighting their way through the lapped traffic.
Kekich sped away from good friend Brandon Matus when racing resumed. Matus had a slight margin over Dan Kuriger, but some heavy hitters were working their way to the front in a hurry. Jack Sodeman, Jr., driving the car of injured racer Jimmy Seeger, and defending track champion, Eric “Turkey” WIlliams, were on the march. They displaced New Yorker Todd Hoddick and Scott Priester. Meanwhile, Brent Matus was also starting to make some headway in the top ten.
Kekich pulled away as the laps wound down. On Lap 27, the second, and final, stoppage occurred when Davey Jones brought his mount to a halt in turn one. While the field was circulating under the yellow, Kuriger surrendered his top five position. Although that enabled Matus to close to his rear nerf bar, there was no doubt that Kekich was the star of the show.
Kekich led the last three laps to the finish without incident. Brandon Matus came home second., with Sodeman, Williams, and Hoddick completing the top five. Rod George, last year’s opening night winner, came across in sixth. Priester held off Outlaw Sprint Warrior graduate, Jimmy Morris, A.J. Flick, and Brent Matus.
The preliminaries belonged to Kekich and Spithaler. There was no B Main this night.
Veteran Tommy Kristyak drove his Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modified to an emotional win. It was his first in over a decade a track that was his oyster back in the day. Kristyak won in every type of center-steered modified at the Park, including Six Cylinders, Sprortsmen Modifieds, Big Block Modifieds, and 358 Modifieds.
Kristyak chased newcomer Sid Unversagt, Jr. for the first five rounds of the contest. Then, he ducked to the inside to make the winning move. Kristyak had a comfortable margin through most of the race. but a caution with 19 down put Lonny Riggs right next to him for the restart. The yellow was for defending divisional champion Jimmy “the Jet” Holden, whose right rear tire shredded while he was in the top five.
Riggs had some troubles with the cushion when the green light flashed on again, and Kyle Fink slipped by for second. Frankie Guidace climbed into the top five, along with Clyde Gumpp, as Unversagt slipped back in the running order.
Unversagt held on for sixth, with New Yorker Ron Cartwright, Jr. next. Shayne Izzo, Jeff Schaffer, Jr., and Brian Schaffer rounded out the top ten.
Heat winners were Kristyak and Riggs. There was no B Main.
In the Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warrior feature, Alex Paden set the early pace before spinning out of the lead. That handed the point to George Hobaugh, Jr., who was making his first start in the Lockhart 58. Hobaugh was doing his new owners proud for much of the race. However, the machine got looser and looser as the race wore on. That, plus some difficulties with lapped cars, allowed Bova to chase him down.
Meanwhile, all eyes were on Brandon Spithaler, who started the Skip Dougherty 27D last when Doughterty took ill after the heat races. Spithaler climbed all the way to fourth before retiring due to a mechanical woe.
Bova made a strong inside move as he and Hobaugh raced through turns one and two with 17 laps completed. Bova raced to the win, and Hobaugh maintained the second spot. Rob Felix was third, with Mod Lite graduate Darin Gallagher taking fourth. Mike Marano, II rallied for fifth.
Kotie Kirkbride was sixth, with Paden coming back through the pack to earn seventh. George Englert, the defending Modified Lite champion, was eighth in his first outing with a wing over his head. Evan Kornbaugh and C.J. Jones were ninth and tenth, respectively.
The heat victores went to Englert and Hobaugh. There was no B Main.
In the Precise Racing Product Stock Cars, Pat Fielding and Ryan Moyer traded the lead several times before Fielding assumed command following a mid-race restart. Curtis J. Bish worked his way into second, while Brett McDonald and Gary Miller also cracking the top five.
A number of cautions and one red flag interrupted the final third of the race. During one interlude, Bish passed Fielding and he led the way to the checkers. Fielding held second, with Moyer in third. Gary Miller came back to reclaim fifth. He had spun while racing fourth and fought back with just a few laps remaining. Travis Norman was fifth.
Garrett Calvert took sixth, ahead of Brett McDonald, Dennis Clark, Chris Haines, and Rob Bates.
Miller and Bish prevailed in their respective heats. There was no B Main.
In the Rock Concrete Modified Lites, Mark Marcucci briefly surrendered the lead to Jacob Bova when his car got loose coming through turn four. However, within a couple of laps, Marcucci had the corner figured out, and he raced past Bova once again. Marcucci stretched things out over the remaining laps of the event.
Following Marcucci and Bova to the checkers were Keith Smith, Glenn Teeter, and Jason Darocha. Aaron Meister, Jason Johnston, Bill Stivason, Shane Webb, and Mike Flockerzi were the next five finishers.
Marcucci and Bova were the tops in the heats. There was no B Main.
Former champion Steve Longwell, Jr. made a bold late race pass of Russ Grossman to take the win in the Mini Stocks presented by Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles. Grossman’s teammate, Caleb Hickok was a very close third. Steve Longwell, Sr. and Tyler Fulton were fourth and fifth.
Tim Callahan raced back to sixth after he forfeited the lead on the opening lap of the race. Callahan’s hood came up as he entered turn one. After minor repairs, Callahan was one of the fastest cars on the track, but he ran out of laps. Alan Perry, Rudy Troples, Josh Seippel, and Roger Wigton were the next finishers.
Heat winners were Perry and Callahan. There was no B Main.
Next week will be a Saturday Night Live! racing event and Pittsburgh Circle Track CLub night. Two weeks hence, the All Stars Circuit of Champions make their first of three appearances at the Park. Remember, too, that the May Flowers 150 Enduro and Full Bloom 25 will be held on Sunday, May 3.
4 Your Car Connection/World of Wheels 410 Sprint Cars: Adam Kekich, Brandon Matus, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Eric Williams, Todd Hoddick, Rod George, Scott Priester, Jimmy Morris, A.J. Flick, Brent Matus, Gale Ruth, Sr., Dan Kurriger, Francis Sesco, Davey Jones, Brandon Spithaler, John McCracken, Jr. (DNS), Michael Bauer (DNS).
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds: Tommy Kristyak, Kyle Fink, Lonny Riggs, Frankie Guidace, Clyde Gumpp, Sid Unversagt, Jr., Ron Cartwright, Jr., Shayne Izzo, Jeff Schaffer, Jr., Brian Schaffer, Max Smoker, Jimmy Holden, J.R. McGinley, Kevin Green, Jeremiah Shingledecker, Rich Whitney, Eric Gabany (DNS).
Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warriors: Cody Bova, George Hobaugh, Jr., Rob Felix, Darin Gallagher, Mike Marano, II, Kotie Kirkbride, Alex Paden, George Englert, Evan Kornbaugh, C.J. Jones, Mark Rossey, Devin Litwiler, Ken Rossey, Brandon Spithaler, Darrin Pifer, Jacob Gomola, Andrew Rescemyer, Joe McEwen, Andy Feil.
Precise Racing Products Stock Cars: Curtis J. Bish, Pat Fielding, Ryan Moyer, Gary Miller, Travis Norman, Garrett Calvert, Brett McDonald, Dennis Clark, Chris Haines, Rob Bates, Jacob Billyk, Curt Bish, Jr., Andy Thompson, William Hurrelbrink, Chris Myers (DNS), Tim Burns (DNS).
Rock Concrete Modified Lites: Mark Marcucci, Jacob Bova, Keith Smith, Glenn Teeter, Jason Darocha, Aaron Meister, Jason Johnston, Bill Stivason, Shane Webb, Mike Flockerzi, Preston Roach, Shane Pfeuffer, Josh Christopher, Doug Jones (DNS).
Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking/Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks: Steve Longwell, Jr., Russ Grossman, Caleb Hickok, Steve Longwell, Sr., Tyler Fulton, Tim Callahan, Alan Perry, Rudy Troples, Josh Seippel, Roger Wigton, Shane Shook, Todd Kougher, Todd Hanlon, Andy Proper, Corey Reitz, and Joshua Rathburn (DNS).