(Mercer, PA June 17, 2017): On Twin State Auto Racing Fan Club Night at Mercer Raceway Park, the Kittanning Comet made a triumphant return to Victory Lane in the Precise Racing Products 410 Sprint Cars. It was the veteran’s 38th career win at a track that he once dominated.
Another veteran, Andy Priest of New Castle, romped to his fourth victory of the season and twelfth overall in the Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprint Cars. Jimmy Holden of Tiona held off Lonny Riggs to capture his fifth of the season in the Turn 4 Toilets 358 Modifieds, building upon his points lead. Mark Marcucci made a clean sweep in the Rock Concrete Supply Mod Lites, setting fast time, winning a heat, and then acing the feature. Isaac Paden took the night cap in the Ray’s Racing Collectibles and Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking Mini Stocks.
“You know, this deal came together late, late, late,” said George.”I haven’t run for a couple of years. My crew chief, Matt (Turner), he’s been helping me for probably the last fifteen years, so we kinda got back together and it’s taken a little bit of time to get back up to speed, not him, me for sure, but it was great all night long.” George’s win, together with a second to his teammate Cory Good a few weeks back, makes George a solid contender once again.
It was a spectacular opening lap to the Precise Racing Products 410 Sprint Car Car feature event, to say the least. Third place starter Gary Kreiss, Jr. popped a wheelie, but maintained control. Michael Bauer, the outside pole man, carried too much momentum into turn three, and he spun wildly off the top of the track. While he let loose a huge cloud of dust, Bauer’s car was found safely nosed towards the guardrail, and he was able to restart the race, albeit in last. Then, the field had a bad start waived off before the race got going for real.
Through it all, Rod George maintained his cool. He bolted out to the early lead, with George Hobaugh, Jr. second and points leader Jack Sodeman, Jr. in third. Gary Kreiss, Jr. held down fourth and Mike Miller was in fifth. The racers ran in that order through the first seven laps. Sodeman broke ranks and slid beneath Hobaugh to take second in turn one on lap eight. By that time, George had a safe lead of more than a half straightaway. While Sodeman tried to reel him in, things were happening behind the leaders.
Kreiss was pressing Hobaugh for the fourth position. His challenge ended on lap 10 when he suddenly turned into the infield entering turn four. Kreiss’s car had broken its front suspension. While the field was circulating under the only yellow of the race, Hobaugh darted into the pits. He was unable to make repairs and return.
So, that juggled the restart line-up. When the field fired off again, it was still George and Sodeman out front, but Miller was now in third, with Michael Bauer breathing down his neck. Bauer took the position within a lap or two of the restart.
George was able to maintain about a two second advantage over Sodeman the rest of the way. He swooped under the checkers much to the delight of the Mercer crowd. Sodeman, Bauer, Miller, and Jimmy Morris rounded out the top five. For Morris, it was his first run at the Park in over a month, as he was sidelined with engine problems.
Joe Kubiniec was the final car in the running at the finish. The remainder of the top ten were placed on the basis of laps completed. They were Hobaugh, Kreiss, Davey Jones, and his teammate, Jimmy Fitzwater.
Jack Sodeman, Jr. set the fastest lap in qualifications, at 14.039 seconds. Rod George and Michael Bauer were best in their respective heats.
“I don’t know about Rod, but I’m sweating,” said the happy Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprint winner, Andy Priest on this hot and humid night. “I know that we’re not getting very many cars, but it sure is hard to pass anybody becasue these engines are so even,” he explained. But, Priest made the only passes that he needed on the opening lap, when he bolted from third to first. Gregg McCandless, a former car owner for Priest, held down the second spot.
Behind them, Darin Gallagher and Cody Bova were fighting for the third spot. Gallagher assumed control of it when Bova entered the pits with a dozen laps in the books.
At the finish, it was Priest by 7.178 seconds over McCandless. Gallagher was third, Bob McMillin and rookie Caitlin Chaffman rounded out the top five. Bova was scored sixth based on laps completed. Joe Sylvester was unable to start the race.
Andy Priest topped the speed charts at 15.381 seconds. However, the heat victory went to Cody Bova.
Upon learning that he was moving up the all time winner’s list in the Turn 4 Toilets 358 Modified division, Holden remarked, “I sure wish that Gary (Smoker) and Frank (Guidace) were still racing with us, we had a lot of fun back then.” Smoker and Guidace were divisional kingpins while Holden was cutting his teeth in the class. Now it is his turn to lead the way, and he did just that despite a constant threat from his nemesis, Lonny Riggs.
Riggs wrestled the second position away from Brian Fink. Brian was substituting for his son, Kyle, who stepped aside to allow his father to race the family-owned hot rod as a father’s day gift. Fink did him proud taking home a well deserved third place finish.
Steady Sid Unverzagt, Jr. topped Tom Holden, also subbing for his son Kyle, for the fourth position. It was Ryan Riffe’s turn behind the wheel of the car he shares with his brother, and he brought it home in the sixth spot. Jerry Bowser, Ethan Siple, and Jason Sines rounded out the field.
Jimmy Holden once again topped the qualifications at 17.481 seconds. He and Brian Fink captured the heat wins.
In the Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites, former champion Mark Marcucci showed that he still knows the fast way around Mercer Raceway Park. He was the best every time he hit the speedway. Another former champ, Shane Pfeuffer was just under one second behind Marcucci at the finish. Last week’s winner, Doug Stanley, rode home in third.
Chris Logan was fourth and Kurt Eckstrom in fifth. Positions six through ten went to Jason Johnston, Shane Webb, Bobby Springer, Dusty Frantz, and Ed Mudrick.
The evening’s fastest qualifier was Mark Marcucci, at 19.117 seconds. He backed that up with a heat win. The other preliminary belonged to Shane Pfeuffer.
In the finale, the Mini Stocks preswented by Ray’s Racing Collectibles and Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking again put on an exciting race. While Isaac Paden ran out front, Shane shook held down second. Bill Fuchs and Mike Porterfield had a struggle for the third position, with Fuchs salting it away in the final stages. Tim Callahan recovered from problem on the opening lap. His hood flew up, but he was able to stop the car safely and get to the pits for service. He raced his way back through the field to take fifth.
Tyler Fulton was next across the line. J.R. Shaner was seventh. Jacob Rice, Justin Bailey, and William Haylett completed the top ten.
Late arriving Shane Shook and Tyler Fulton scored the heat race wins.
Next week, the speedway will host another Saturday Night Live! event, with the fabulous five racing divisions in action. But, coming soon will be the Independence Day holiday spectacular, which will feature three, yes, three divisions of Sprint Cars. Joining the Precise Racing Products 410 Sprints and the Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprints will be the Patriot Sprint Tour. It is not too long ago when Danny Holtgraver won both the 410 and Patriot 360 races on the same night. Can somebody do the double? Is a triple even possible? You will want to be at the track to find out first hand. Plus, you will get to see the fireworks! All of this will be made possible by Bonnell’s Rod Shop and Pizza Joe’s.
Precise Racing Products 410 Sprint Cars: Rod George, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Michael Bauer, Mike Miller, Jimmy Morris, Joe Kubiniec, George Hobaugh, Jr., Gary Kreiss, Jr., Davey Jones, Jimmy Fitzwater, Joe McEwen, Vincent Daugherty (DNS).
Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprint Cars: Andy Pries, Gregg McCandless, Darin Gallagher, Bob McMillin, Caitlin Chaffman, Cody Bova, Joe Sylvester (DNS).
Turn 4 Toilets 358 Modifieds: Jimmy Holden, Lonny Riggs, Brian Fink, Sid Unverzagt, Jr., Tom Holden, Ryan Riffe, Jerry Bowser, Ethan Siple, Jason Sines, Richard Whitney (DNS).
Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites: Mark Marcucci, Shane Pfeuffer, Doug Stanley, Chris Logan, Kurt Eckstrom, Jason Johnston, Shane Webb, Bobby Springer, Dusty Frantz, Ed Mudrick, Larry Bevivino.
Ray’s Racing Collectibles/Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking Mini Stocks: Isaac Paden, Shane Shook, Bill Fuchs, Mike Porterfield, Tim Callahan, Tyler Fulton, J.R. Shaner, Jacob Rice, Justin Bailey, William Haylett, John McCracken, Kyle Donnelly, Harold Winner, Nick Steiger, Ed Haylett (DNS).