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Mercer
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Sodeman Sails to Victory

(Mercer, PA April 22, 2017): Jack Sodeman, Jr. began the defense of his track championship successfully, as he led wire to wire in the Precise Racing Products 410 Sprint Cars.

Jimmy Holden chalked up his third triumph in the Turn 4 Toilets 358 Modifieds. Andy Priest won the non-stop feature for the Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprint Cars. Tyler Fulton held off a fast-closing Pat Hanlon in the Mini Stocks presented by Ray’s Racing Collectibles and Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking. Kurt Eckstrom tallied his first career victory at Mercer Raceway Park in the Rock Concrete Modified Lites.

The Sodeman family has a proud legacy at Mercer Raceway Park. “My dad’s first race was at Mercer,” Sodeman, Jr. “It was supposed to be mine, too, but it rained out, so I got started over at Knox (at Sportsman’s Speedway).” Both generations have won more than their fair share of races at Mercer’s tricky oval.

Sodeman dedicated the victory to a young fan, Megan Hise. “She’s been my fan forever,” he said. “She was so little, I don’t think she could even say my name when she started coming to the races.” Megan was the first to greet him after the post-race interview, and it was hard to determine whose smile was widest.

Jack Sodeman, Jr. was positioned perfectly to score the first win in points racing for the Precise Racing Products 410 Sprints. He started outside row one, next to Dan Kuriger. When the green flag was displayed, Sodeman dashed off to the first turn, and was never headed. Kuriger held second for a couple of laps before Jimmy Seger took over the chase.

Sodeman’s lead exceeded a full straightaway when the only caution slowed the pace. It was on lap ten. Seger was on Sodeman’s rear nerf bar on the restart, but that was as close as he would get for the rest of the race.

Sodeman had a lead of over 2.5 seconds when the checkers flew. Seger was second, followed by George Hobaugh, Jr., Kuriger, and Michael Bauer. Gary Kreiss, Jr. was sixth, with Dan Shetler, Ralph Engel, Jr., Gale Ruth, Jr., and Davey Jones completing the top ten.

The top qualifier was Sodeman, at 13.763 seconds. Seger and Hobaugh scored the preliminaries.

Jimmy Holden, the defending Turn 4 Toilets 358 Modified champion, made it a clean sweep, setting the fastest time, and winning the heats and feature. It was the first time this season that the feat was accomplished.

“Maybe we need to change the rule, bring back the handicap rule. What do you think about that,” Holden asked the fans. “I need to thank the kid who drew the pill,” he said. “It may be different if we had Lonny Riggs on the front row,” he added.

Holden jumped out front at the start of the feature, but he was pressed early on by J.R. McGinley. McGinley was showing Holden his nose as they entered the first and third corners, but Holden was able to keep his momentum up on the high side and pulled ahead of McGinley coming off turns two and four.

There was a single caution, on lap 14, for a spin by Kevin Green. That put McGinley on the outside for the restart, but he could not capitalize on the opportunity. Indeed, Kyle Fink and Lonny Riggs were hounding McGinley when the race resumed. The three put on a tremendous display of close quarters driving for a few laps after the race resumed.

At the finish, it was Holden, McGinley, Fink, and Riggs. Guidace was fifth. Jason Sines, Jerry Bowser, Sid Unverzagt, Jr., Green, and Ryan Riffe completed the top ten. Rich Whitney was unable to start the feature.

The evening’s fastest qualifier was Frank Guidace, at 16.678 seconds. The heat winners were Holden and McGinley.

In the Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprint Cars, Andy Priest outdistanced Jeremy Kornbau in the race that took just over five minutes and twenty-three seconds to complets. Priest, who turned his first laps at Mercer Raceway Park in 1985, thanked car owners Ted and Cal Hull. “They keep putting me in cars, so I will keep driving them,” he said with a laugh.

Kornbau fought off last week’s winner, Darin Gallagher, for the second spot. Behind them came Gregg McCandless, C.J. Jones, Mike Marano, II, and Joe Sylvester. George Frederick was eighth. Mike Miller was unable to take the green.

Andy Priest was quickest in qualifications. McCandless and Gallagher topped their respective heats.

Defending divisional champion, Tyler Fulton, grabbed the early lead in the Ray’s Racing Collectibles and Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking Mini Stocks. While he was never headed, Pat Hanlon was quicker in the second half of the contest. But, Fulton’s lead was so substantial that Hanlon could not get closer than a couple of car lengths away.

Tim Callahan clawed his way to third, with Rck Feely and Shane Shook completing the top five. Bill Fuchs was sixth, despite making an excursion into the infield on the front stretch. Logan Keney, Steve Longwell, Sr., James Tasker, and Steve Walker rounded out the top ten.

There were three heats for the 24 Mini Stocks. Victories went to Feely, Shook, and Longwell.

Like Holden in the 358 Modifieds, Kurt Eckstrom scored a hat trick this night in the Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites. He led the entire distance, too. Bobby Springer was second, Jason Johnston third, and Dusty Frantz fourth. Shane Webb was scored in fifth.

The Modified Lites had one heat, won by the evening’s fastest qualifier, Kurt Eckstrom. His best lap was 19.167 seconds.

Next week, the Saturday Night Live! program will be augmented by the addition of the Young Gun Junior Sprints. The six-division event will start at 6:30. Coming up on May 6 will be the Arctic Cat All Stars Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars. That will be a must see race!

Precise Racing Products 410 Sprints: Jack Sodeman, Jr., Jimmy Seger, George Hobaugh, Jr., Dan Kuriger, Michael Bauer, Gary Kreiss, Jr., Dan Shetler, Ralph Engel, Jr., Gale Ruth, Jr., Davey Jones, Eric L. Williams, Jimmy Morris, Jimmy Fitzwater.

Turn 4 Toilets 358 Modifieds: Jimmy Holden, J.R. McGinley, Kyle Fink, Lonny Riggs, Frank Guidace, Jason Sines, Jerry Bowser, Sid Unverzagt, Jr., Kevin Green, Ryan Riffe, Rich Whitney (DNS).

Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprint Cars: Andy Priest, Jeremy Kornbau, Darin Gallagher, Gregg McCandless, C.J. Jones, Mike Marano, II, Joe Sylvester, George Frederick, Mike Miller (DNS).

Ray’s Racing Collectibles/Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking Mini Stocks: Tyler Fulton, Pat Hanlon, Tim Callahan, Rck Feely, Shane Shook, Bill Fuchs, Logan Keney, Steve Longwell, Sr., James Tasker, Steve Walker, Harold Winner, Tyler Young, Josh Rathbun, William Haylett, Jim Jones, Isaac Paden, Dillion Speer, Will Aley, Terry Feely, Alan Perry, Justin Bailey, Nick Steiger, Summer Pitts, Ed Haylett (DNS).

Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites: Kurt Eckstrom, Bobby Springer, Jason Johnston, Dusty Frantz, Shane Webb.