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Spithaler Sprint Star at Tri-City Raceway Park

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Photo Courtesy: Mark Swanson

FRANKLIN, PA (June 14, 2020): Brandon Spithaler scored an impressive 410 Sprint Car victory in the second round of action at Tri-City Raceway Park on Sunday evening. Joining him in celebrating wins were Tom Holden in the 358 Modifieds, Rod Laskey in the Pro Stocks, and Dillon Speer in the Mini Stocks.

Under Tri-City rules, the first several rows of each feature event consist of the drivers who excel in their respective heat races. Brandon Spithaler wound up on the pole courtesy of Brandon Matus who was tasked with the responsibility to pull the pills that determined the starting order for the Sprint Cars. “I knew when I pulled the number one pill for him that he was going to be tough,” lamented Matus. His concerns were indeed valid, as Spithaler absolutely dominated the race from start to finish.

“This track was perfect tonight,” Spithaler said. “If Tri-City was like this every week, I would love it.” Conditions were much more to his liking compared to the previous week, when the track was smooth and slick, and he struggled to a sixth place finish. Sunday’s track was moist and a little choppy, giving Spithaler the opportunity to “cowboy up” as one of his competitors put it.

Spithaler jumped out front at the drop of the green. Tim Shaffer moved from fourth to second on the opening lap. However, Spithaler knew that the Steel City Outlaw was stalking him when he saw Shaffer’s number 28 on the scoreboard while the field was pacing under a caution. That did not rattle Spithaler, though. Instead, it incentivized him. He drove even harder to keep Shaffer at bay. Spithaler’s car worked to perfection regardless where he put it as he picked his way through lapped traffic during the second half of the race. His pace was so frenetic that he lapped all the way through the fifth position!

Following Spithaler and Shaffer were Jack Sodeman, Jr., Lee Jacobs, and Dan Kuriger. Once again, Kuriger passed plenty of cars. He started deep in the pack, eighteenth to be exact. Unfortunately for him, there was no hard charger award given this night.

Brandon Matus, Jared McFarland, Cody Bova, Gary Kriess, Jr., and Darren Pifer completed the top ten.

Heat wins for the 28 cars on hand were won by Brandon Matus, Jacobs, and Shaffer. There was no B Main as promoter Merle Black once again allowed all cars to start the feature event.

Tom Holden scored the emotional win in the 358 Modifieds. He dedicated the triumph to two family members who recently passed. One of them was his father, a former sprint car driver who never won a race at Tri-City despite years of trying. Holden’s car carries a picture of his late father on the right rear quarter panel, and Tom proudly said that his dad finally made it to victory lane at the track.

To earn the win, Holden had to pass Eric Beggs, who led from the start. Holden got his chance following a restart on lap twelve. Beggs entered turn one on the inside groove and Holden drove by him on the outside. That surprised Beggs, as Holden had been using the low line prior to the restart and Beggs changed up his own line in an effort to slow Holden’s advance.

Taking third was Travis Shingledecker, who was subbing for his brother, Jeremiah, who had other commitments for the evening. Kevin Green scored his second top five finish of the season, followed by Jeff Schaffer, Jr.

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Positions six through ten went to Richard Whitney, Ryan Riffe, Shawn Fleeger, D.J. Schrader, and Brandon Ritchey.

Schaffer and Beggs were victorious in their heats. There was no B Main. Last week’s winner, Kyle Fink, was the first driver eliminated from the race when he struck the water barrels lining the outside wall between turns one and two.

In the Pro Stock contest, Curtis J. Bish took the early lead from last week’s winner, Josh Seippel, and then he had to hold off Rod Laskey. Although Laskey was scored as the leader on one lap in the middle of the race, it was Bish who seemed to have control. But, Laskey was determined and he came storming back on the final lap. He made a bold move coming through turn four on the final round to steal the win from Bish.

While Bish and Laskey were fighting for the lead and the win, Jackson Humanic was lurking in third. Neither of his rivals faltered, and Humanic was forced to settle for the podium finish. Curt Bish was fourth and Seippel crossed in fifth.

Tyler Wyant, Pat Fielding, Blaze Myers, Josh Blum, and Chase Lambert completed the top ten.

Heat wins went to Custis J. Bish and Bobby Whitling. There was no B Main.

The Mini Stocks got to open and close the racing action this night. First up was the remaining ten laps from last week’s feature for the class. That race had to be cut short due to a power failure that darkened the long back stretch. The winner of that event was Dillon Speer, and he would go on to claim the honors in the nightcap as well. Speer also won his heat race, making for a clean sweep of Mini Stock action.

In the opener, Kyle Janas was second, but he crashed in the final event of the night. Emily Stoyer was third, followed by Shane Shook and Jesse Armstrong.

In the finale, Dillon’s cousin, Dalton Speer, was the runner-up. Patrick Hanlon crossed in third, with Bondy Stoyer and Justin Bailey rounding out the top five.

Dillon Speer and Patrick Hanlon captured the preliminaries. There was no B Main.

Tri-City Raceway Park will be in action again on June 21, with 410 Sprints, 358 Modifieds, and Mini Stocks topping the card. Joining the fun will be the Vintage Modifieds. In celebration of Father’s Day, all men will get a free popcorn.

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Local Racing

Pennsylvania Racing Economic Impact Surveys Released

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PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania (MCP) is sending out economic impact surveys to Pennsylvania race tracks, teams and racing related entities.

The data collected from the surveys will be compiled by Washington & Jefferson College professors Rob & Leslie Dunn, who along with the MCP, will produce a study on the range and economic impact of the racing industry in the Keystone State.

The economic impact study will be a valuable tool for race tracks, teams and marketing professionals in their efforts to attract partners, sponsors and other assets that may be available throughout the State.

Race teams are needed to take part in the survey!  Here is link to the team survey: https://forms.gle/XWTehM4nsKGfzTC58

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Fans are also asked to help the MCP in the efforts.  Here is a link to the fan survey so take a few minutes of your time to support race tracks and teams in this endeavor: https://forms.gle/vEcZR5XJbQHKPBLLA

Marketing and media professionals have a survey that the MCP is asking them to complete.  Here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/EX32bbXubANUaUGr7

Race tracks are also participating in the survey, if a track has not received a survey directly from the MCP, here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/fkhuwgg3EDvFTGuR7

The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania hopes to have the Economic Impact Study completed by the start of the 2021 racing season.

Editors Note: Robert Johnson of the Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania will be one of the guests on the next episode of The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.

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Local Racing

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek Is Coming Back

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SHIPPENVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Five local dirt tracks are teaming up to bring back Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek for the 2021 season.

Michael’s Mercer Raceway (Mercer, PA), Thunder Mountain Speedway (Brookville, PA), Lernerville Speedway (Sarver, PA), Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH) and Tri City Raceway Park (Franklin, PA) are the five tracks where the owners and promoters have aligned to bring back the event for the 410 Sprint Cars.

“The ‘410 Sprint Car’ division in the local area has been through many ups-and-downs over the last two decades, but there’s no doubt it’s as strong now as it ever was”, said Dave Willoughby, Sharon Speedway’s General Manager. “You see our guys competing for spots up front everywhere they go, and that even includes out at some of the tougher Central PA tracks.”

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Additional details will be released in the near future regarding the established point fund and other race night details.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Wednesday, June 2nd – Michael’s Mercer Raceway
  • Thursday, June 3rd – Thunder Mountain Speedway
  • Friday, June 4th – Lernerville Speedway
  • Saturday, June 5th – Sharon Speedway
  • Sunday, June 6th – Tri City Raceway Park

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek was previously run from 1993-2000 by the All-Star Circuit of Champions.

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Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled

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Indy Autonomous Challenge/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature Dallaras as the race cars.

Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this week unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.

Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series since 2002, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.

“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”

“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”

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One of the teams competing in the challenge is the Panther AV RAS-ing team from the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

Panther AV RAS-ing is part of more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software that have responded to the challenge.  The challengers represent 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.

The IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races.

“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”

Two companies headquartered in Western Pennsylvania are sponsors of the event.  Ansys, a global leader in engineering simulation that is headquartered in Canonsburg, and Aptiv, an autonomous vehicle company who is relocating from O’Hara Township to Hazelwood Green.

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