FRANKLIN, PA (September 20, 2020): Darin Gallagher picked a perfect time to score his first career 410 Sprint Car victory. After sliding his mentor, Jack Sodeman, Jr., for the lead, Gallagher had to fend off a strong challenge from Dan Shetler to earn the $5,000 Applefest payday At Tri-City Raceway Park. But, Erick Rudolph had the most profitable weekend, scoring $4,000 wins in both the Big Block Modifieds and the 358 Modifieds.
Other victories were scored by Jeff Schaffer (Crate Modifieds), Zack Morrow (RUSH Sprint Cars), Chris Schneider (Pro Stocks), and Pat Hanlon (Mini Stocks).
“This feels great, I’m ecstatic,” Gallagher gushed after his impressive victory. “I had to slide Jack to get the lead, and I’ve never done that before.” Gallagher then commented, “I was running so hard. Dan (Shetler) and I have a lot of respect for each other and I knew that we could run close like that.”
Indeed, Shetler chased Gallagher down and he did take the lead away, but Gallagher rallied and ran the outside line to regain the lead after a few laps racing side by side. “That’s an old Dash 12 that I bought last year and I think that I lost a cylinder,” Gallagher said. “I dont know if it was a bad spark plug or something internal,” but on the slick surface the lack of horsepower could have been his ace in the hole. “I wasn’t spinning my wheels, I was able to use everything it had.”
Sodeman, who was gunning for a track championship, started on the pole for the 30 lapper. Next to him was A.J. Flick. Gallagher and Shetler were in row two, with Dan Kuriger and Carl Bowser in row three. Brandon Spithaler, who entered the final points race trailing Sodeman by just six markers, was in row four, along with George Hobaugh, Jr. Sye Lynch and Brandon Matus made up row five.
At the drop of the green, Sodeman took the lead, with Flick, Gallagher, Shetler, and Kuriger in tow.
While Sodeman led, Spithaler began to work his way to the front. He reached second by lap nine, when the race was slowed for debris in turn one. Spithaler was pressing Sodeman for the lead after the restart, but on lap ten, his title hopes took a major blow. Spithaler spun in turn two and had to start at the rear of the field.
The drama began to build soon thereafter. Sodeman was being challenged by his protege. Just after Gallagher slid Sodeman in turn two to grab the lead, Kuriger powered into second. Sodeman started falling back through the field, while Spithaler was marching forward.
Gallagher began to put some distance on Kuriger in the middle stage of the race. Kuriger’s run came to an end on lap 22, when he spun in turn four. By that time, Spithaler had passed Sodeman, but he needed some help. He was only two positions ahead when the race resumed.
In the final nine laps, Gallagher and Shetler battled for the lead. Shetler started cutting into
Gallagher’s advantage and the engine in Gallagher’s machine started to sputter. Shetler took the lead, but Gallagher stayed close. They ran side by side for a few laps, while Flick started to close in as well.
Gallagher would not give up, though, and he drove by Shetler in turns one and two with just a couple of laps remaining. Shetler continued to give chase, but Gallagher was flawless.
At the finish, it was the young Butler pilot raising his hand in victory. Shetler was second, followed by Flick, Bowser, and Spithaler. Brandon Matus was sixth and Sodeman seventh, good enough to clinch the championship by a slim margin of two points unofficially. Jeremy Kornbau, Hobaugh, and Brent Matus completed the top ten.
Gallagher, Flick, and Sodeman won heats held on Saturday. There was no B Main.
In the Big Block Modified feature, Empire State drivers Chad Brachmann and Erick Rudolph had the front row. Shawn Kozar and Rex King, Sr. were in row two, with Garrett Krummert and Jeremiah Shingledecker in row three. Jim Rasey and Rick Regalski were in row four. Steve Barr and J.R. McGinley were in row five.
Rudolph slid under Brachmann entering turn one on the opening lap. Brachmann skid across the slick surface and lost six positions as Rudolph pulled away. King Sr. move into second, followed by Shingledecker and Kozar.
Rudolph was cruising out front,. but there was a spirited battle for second between King Sr. and Shingledecker. They banged wheels going through turns three and four and then they got together coming down the front stretch. Shingledecker got out of shape and his car began to tumble toward the first turn. King Sr. was penalized for his role in the incident, moving Brachmann into second for the restart.
The two New Yorkers continued racing out front, while Rasey, Brad Rapp, and others fought for spots in the top five. Kozar rolled in turn two with 18 laps complete to bunch things up again. Nonetheless, Kozar was able to restart the race as his car was battered but not broken.
In the final laps of the race, Rudolph and Brachmann pulled away from the rest of the pack. Rasey and Rapp continued their struggle, but Garrett Krummert entered the picture. along with King Sr. and Rex King Jr. who pitted for two new tires while Kozar was being turned back onto his wheels.
At the finish, it was Rudolph, Brachmann, Krummert, King Jr. and King Sr. Rapp faded to sixth.Regalski, Barr, Kyle Fink, amd Mike Turner rounded out the top ten. Rasey spun in between turns three and four on the final lap and he was scored eleventh based upon laps completed.
Regalski and Krummert won the qualifying rounds on Saturday. There was no B Main.
Rex King, Jr. had the pole for his first 358 Modified start. Two-time winner Greg Martin was on his flank. Rudolph and Tim Holden, another two-tine victor, were in row two. Brachmann and Brian Sadler were in row three, with Ryan Riffe and Shingledecker in row four. Ryan Susice and Brandon Michaud were in row five.
King Jr. led the opening lap, but Rudolph was stalking him. Martin hovered in third, with Brachmann, Holden, Riffe, and Susice following. Rudolph powered by King J. on lap two and was never headed.
King Jr. continued on in second through the halfway mark. However, Susice took the position away soon thereafter. Shingledecker and Kevin Hoffman cracked the top five as Martin began to slide back.
A pair of cautions on lap 17 set up an eight lap run to the checkers. Rudolph completed them without incident. Shingledecker came on strong to get the second spot. Suicice helpd on for third. King Jr. was fourth followed by Martin. J.R. McGinley, Jimmy Holden, Brian Sadler, Tom Holden, and Jeff Schaffer, Jr. were sixth through tenth.
Suicise, Riffe, and Rudolph scored the preliminaries on Saturday. There was no B Main.
Zack Morrow started on the pole for the RUSH non-wing Sprint Car feature and he would go wire to wire for the emotional victory. He dedicated the win to his father, who passed on about a week before the race. Shaun Smith moved from third into second early in the contest, but he was no match for the high-flying Morrow in this one. Jeremy Weaver chased him home. Steve Pedley and Gale Ruth, Jr. rounded out the top five.
Nolan Graves, Brian Hartzell, Rick Regalski, , Andy Feil, and Amelia Clay made up the second group of five finishers.
Morrow and Ruth were the heat winners in Saturday’s action. There was no B Main.
The Pro Stocks ran for 50 laps. Noah Brunell earned the pole Saturday based on his heat and dash wins. He led the first 19 laps, but he could not break free from Chris Schneider, who also was a heat winner. Schneider made the pass and went on to lead the remaining 31 laps.
Bobby Whitling gave chase for a significant portion of the second half of the race, but he surrendered the runner-up spot to Randy Wyant. Wyant closed in on Schneider, but never posed a threat for the win.
At the finish, it was Schneider, Wyant, Whitling, Jimmy Fosnaught, and Jackson Humanic who came from the last row on the starting grid. Joe Stajnrajh, Blaze Myers, Pat Fielding, Rod Laskey, and Josh Seippel completed the top ten.
Joining Brunell and Schneider in heat wins Saturday was Doug Iorio, II. There was no B Main.
Jeff Schaffer, Sr. was back behind the wheel of a Modified for the first time in a couple of years and he made the most of the opportunity leading the entire twenty laps for the Crate Modified win. His teammate, Garrett Krummert was second. Kyle Martell was third, followed by Kole Holden and D.J. Schrader. David Kalb, Jr., Todd Gabriel, Kevin Hoffman, Jessica Kriegisch, and Gage Priester completed the top ten.
Krummert won the only heat race held on Saturday. There was no B Main.
Pat Hanlon stormed from twenty-third to second in less than a handful of laps in the nightcap for the Mini Stocks. He inherited the lead when Dillon Speer could not get his mount to shift out of first gear after a critical restart. J.R. Shaner was second. Austin Fedder, Patrick Lane, and Justin Bailey were the next three finishers. Jesse Armstrong, Joseph DeWoody, Kelly Clark, Mike Barr, and Zack Swartz held down positions six through ten.
Dillon Speer and Bill Fuchs were heat winners Saturday. There was no B Main.
Based upon their performances all season long, Sodeman (410 Sprints), Fink (358 Modifieds) and Dillon Speer (Mini Stocks) were named as champions for the three core classes at Tri-City Raceway Park.
Williamson Whips Port Royal Foes
PORT ROYAL, PA (October 17, 2020): Mat Williamson picked the perfect time to score his first win in the Short Track Super Series for Modifieds. The driver, who earned the nickname “Money” after scoring some big victories in the rival DIRTcar Super Series, carried $53,000 out of Port Royal Speedway. His share of the bounty would go back to St. Catharines, ONT, where he and his fiance are planning to build a home.
COVID travel restrictions kept Williamson on the northern side of the Canadian border for most of the 2020 racing season. While he did get to race several times (successfully), the purses were much smaller, and he never got into a rhythm like he could do when he was able to cross the border at will. Williamson, who said that he was “tired of eating Ramen noodles,” came into the United States for a few weeks, starting with OctoberFAST (the Super DIRTweek substitute) and concluding with the Eastern States 200. “It sucks that we cannot celebrate with family and friends after a win like this,” Williamson said. He and his two traveling companions planned to party hearty and then start to prepare the car for the upcoming Eastern States race. He plans to serve out his quarantine deer hunting upon his return to Canada.
Second place finisher, Stewart Friesen, who is also Canadian by birth, did not face such restrictions, as he is now a permanent resident of Sprakers, NY.
Both drivers overcame some mechanical difficulties to get to the front of the highest paying race of the 2020 Modified season. Friesen’s problems came during Friday night’s qualifications. He blew the engine in his primary car, which was powered by a 430 cubic inch open small block. He switched to a back-up car that was equipped with a 360 cubic inch small block, and used a provisional to start 39th in the talent-laden field. While the car was down on power, series rules allowed it to race at a light 2300 pounds, and Friesen was able to get the most out of the machine. Williamson’s difficulty came during the open red at the halfway mark of the big race. The team decided to change front shocks to improve forward bite. They broke a critical part in the process and they had to scramble to find a replacement in the infield hot pit area, as crossing the track to retrieve one from the hauler was not allowed. They found the piece in Anthony Perrego’s toolbox. Perrego was leading at the break and would go on to finish fourth in the final tally.
The first ten starters were lined up by the luck of the draw. Alex Yankowski started on the pole and Danny Bouc was next to the rapid teen. Aussie Peter Britten and Mike Gular were in row two. Erick Rudolph and Matt Sheppard, a pre-race favorite, were in row three. Max McLaughlin and Mike Maresca were in row four, with Maresca driving a borrowed car after suffering a terminal engine failure at the checkers in his Friday heat race. Williamson lined up next to Billy Pauch, Jr. in row five. Perrego and Mike Mahaney were in row six.
Yankowski blasted out to the lead over Bouc and Britten while Maresca and Rudolph were fighting for position. Just as the leaders crossed for lap one, veteran Billy Van Pelt brought out the first caution of the double century contest.
Yankowski held the advantage through lap 16, when Williamson surged to the front. Although Sheppard and Bouc would also pass Yankowski, the youthful driver held his own reamining in or just outside the top five for most of the first half of the race.
Meanwhile, Friesen was methodically passing cars using the highest groove possible. He was able to roll up beside cars and pass them off the corner before they even realized that he was out there. He reached 13th by lap 20 and was positioned to assault the top ten when drama unfolded.
Billy Pauch, Jr., who was biding his time riding just outside the top ten, had his throttle stick going down the long back chute. Although he tried desperately to shut the car down, he was unable to do so, and he collided massively with the turn three fence. He punched a hole in that as the car burst into flames and then tumbled to a stop yards away. The car lost its roof and the top of the cage was exposed to oncoming traffic, but all others were able to avoid contact with Pauch. Pauch climbed from the demolished car unscathed. It took track crews over an hour and fifteen minutes to make repairs to the fence.
After that break, Williamson continued to lead, but the car was not performing up to its full potential. Perrego, who would become Williamson’s savior a short time later, rode the rim to the front on lap 86. Soon thereafter, a caution came out, and Friesen surrendered P4 to pit for tires and fuel. This enabled him to play out a strategy that would give him track position over Perrego, Williamson, Sheppard, and others.
Perrego led to the halfway mark, with Williamson, Sheppard, McLaughlin, Britten, Ryan Godown, Yankowski, Alan Johnson, Ryan Susice, and Billy Dunn making up the top ten.
Dramatic interlude number two began with drivers declaring their intentions with regard to the mandatory pit stop. Drivers that elected to stay on the track could get fuel only. Drivers entering the hot pits could make any adjustments they wanted, including changing tires. Perrego stayed on the track, while almost all others came into the pits. After his crew looked over the tires, Perrego chose to enter the pits, losing only a minute or two of worktime. The racers who stayed out got the preferred starting positions, while those that went into the hot pits lined up behind them according to running order. So, Fiesen and his cohorts got track position with tires only 14 laps old, while Perrego, Williamson, et al. were ninth on back, albeit with fresh tires.
“We had a plan going into the race, but we threw it out the window,” Williamson said. Because the car was hot handling properly, his team switched the front shocks and almost took the car out of the race. Perrego’s team came through for them in the pinch, though, and Williamson was able to rejoin the field for the second half. “We made the right calls,” Williamson said with a sigh of relief.
It only took Friesen six laps to take the lead. He began to stretch his advantage while Perrego, McLaughlin, Sheppard, and Williamson began their march to the front. Perrego reached second on lap 128, with Andy Bachetti sitting in third. He, like Friesen, opted for the earlier pit stop to gain track position. Then came McLaughlin, Sheppard, and WiIlliamson.
With Friesen and Perrego racing the high groove, Williamson moved forward by running about a car width off the inside fence. He reached third by lap 150. Sheppard was also moving forward, but he suddenly stopped on the track with 168 completed. He pitted for a pair of fresh rear tires. “I’m sure that the fresh tires helped,” he noted. “We had a tire going down so I pitted and put two new ones on.” Indeed, in the remaining laps, Sheppard had one of the fastest cars on the track, but he did not have enough time to catch Williamson and Friesen.
Friesen continued to lead Perrego, but they had another racer to contend with as the laps wound down. Williamson took second on lap 175 and the issues became whether and when he would make a move on Friesen.
It only took eleven more circuits for the fans to know. Williamson drove by the leader on lap 186. While Williamson did open up a several car length advantage, Friesen continued to flog the cushion in an effort to chase him down. Aided by a yellow on lap 194, Friesen did get his shot at the leader. However, Williamson held his line and rode home with the lucrative win.
“I tried to beat the heck out of it,” Friesen explained. “I was starting to come back before the last yellow. I may have been able to come back if we had some traffic. I think my tore cooled off and it didn’t come back after that last caution.”
At the finish, it was Willaimson over Friesen, Sheppard, Perrego, and Larry Wight. McLaughlin, Godown, Bachetti, Yankowski, and Billy Decker rounded out the top ten. Decker’s machine bore the battle scars of an early race skirmish, but it continued to function satisfactorily.
Just over half of the field completed all 200 laps.
Port Royal and STSS officials announced that the Modifieds would return in 2021, with a Spring race contemplated. No announcement was made whether the big Fall classic would be on the docket. That decision may await further developments as STSS boss Brett Deyo also promoted Fonda Speedway where the 2019 edition of the 200 was held. COVID limitations in the Empire State forced him to move the race to Port Royal.
Port Royal Speedway will hold its final race of the season on October 24. It will be the Ninth Annual Keystone RaceSaver Challenge for 305 Sprints. Limited Late Models and Mini Stocks will also be on the card. General admission will be a mere $5, as the speedway celebrates a fan appreciation day. Racing will start at 3 p.m.
Hot Action in Heat Races at Port Royal
PORT ROYAL, PA (October 16, 2020): Friday was qualifying night for the Short Track Super Series Modifieds and Sportsmen competing in the Speed Showcase. Five heats were contested in each division with five cars advancing to the respective features to be held on Saturday night. Each Big Block heat paid $750 to win, and each Sportsman heat was worth $200 to the victor.
Danny Bouc took the first 20 lapper for the Big Block Modifieds. He climbed from sixth on the grid to take the lead with 12 laps in the books. Australian pilot Peter Britten came across in second, with Anthony Perrego in third, and Richie Pratt, Jr. in fourth. Early leader Rick Laubach fell back to get the fifth and final transfer. “We seem to have these heat races figured out,” said Bouc. “This car was a real beast.”
Mike Gular captured the second heat race, taking the lead from Mike Maresca on lap nine. Maresca was in a late race battle with Stewart Friese for the second spot before Friesen retired with an engine problem. Maresca suffered a terminal engine failure just as he crossed the line in second. Third was Mike Mahaney. Tyler Dippel and J.R. Heffner completed the top five. Heffner started last on the grid but still made the big show. “We had a good car the last two nights,” Gular noted. “I’m glad we got the win.”
Billy Pauch, Jr. grabbed the lead with four laps down and went on to victory. Matt Sheppard chased him home. Although Pauch Jr. and Sheppard were locked into the 200 lapper based on their finishes on Thursday night, the were able to participate in the top ten redraw on Saturday. Getting third was Demitrios Drellos . Veteran Billy Van Pelt was fourth, and Jeff Strunk got fifth after starting last in this heat race. “We’ve ben really good all weekend,” Pauch Jr. said. His team brought out a different car than the one that he steered from 22nd to second on Thursday. He explained that this car had a new motor in it.
Erick Rudolph chased down new arrival Billy Dunn to grab a lead that he would not relinquish. Teenager Alex Yankowski crossed in second. Third went to Larry Wight. Dunn held off Jimmy Horton for the fourth spot. “We had the speed last night, but the luck was not on our side,” Rudolph said. He missed the Thursday A Main by one spot but he was not going to let that happen again.
The final heat for the Big Blocks went to Max McLaughlin over Mat Williamson. Ryan Godown took third, with Rocky Warner and Alan Johnson also making the cut. McLaughlin felt that he had to atone for his poor performance on Thursday. “I gave that one away,” he said. McLaughlin hit the wall and flattened a tire while running near the front of the field the night before. “I didn’t sleep at all after that,” he added.
Will Shields, Steve Davis, Justin Grosso, Tanner Van Doren, and Brian Krummel prevailed in the twelve lappers for the 602 Crate Sportsmen. Davis and Krummel were driving team cars sponsored by Ice Less, which was the title sponsor for the Saturday night 50 lapper. Van Doren was the youngest racer on the grounds this night. He drove a masterful race despite being too young to hold a valid driver’s license.
Sheppard Starts Speed Showcase Weekend as Winner
PORT ROYAL, PA (October 15, 2020): Matt Sheppard kicked off the Speed Showcase weekend at Port Royal Speedway with a dominant performance in the 40 lap feature for the Short Track Super Series Big Block Modifieds. His win locked him into the big dance on Saturday, along with Billy Pauch, Jr., Mike Mahaney, and Mat Williamson.
“I wasn’t liking all the cautions,” Sheppard commented. “I liked racing on the top, but not restarting on the top because you are at the mercy of the guys starting next to you. I was fortunate that they all raced me clean.” Although he had to endure several restarts in the first dozen laps of the contest, Sheppard and company reeled off the last 28 without any more interruptions.
Jojo Watson and Sheppard had the front row for the start of the A Main. Jeff Strunk and Danny Bouc were in row two, with Max McLaughlin and Josh Hohenforst in the third row. Rocky Warner and Mike Mahaney were paired up in row four, with Peter Britten and Mike Maresca in row five. The sixth row belonged to Richie Pratt, Jr. and Alex Yankowski.
Watson fired off first and took the early lead, with Sheppard and Bouc falling in behind him.
Sheppard was able to grab the advantage on a restart with three in the books. McLaughlin followed him into second. Watson began to fall back after that and he was the cause of a caution which occurred on lap seven.
Two more stoppages would occur before the racers settled into a long green flag run to the finish.
Before the final restart, Pauch Jr. had climbed from 22nd to eighth, but he wasn’t finished just yet. On that long green run, he passed six more cars to grab second. “We got going really good there,” he noted. “I couldn’t run with him,” he said while gesturing towards Sheppard who was still grinning for the photographers after the win. Pauch Jr. explained that be backed down an little too much, allowing Mahaney to make a run at him in the final laps.
Mahaney ran a consistent race to get the third position. “I don’t know if we nailed it, but it felt good to get locked in,” he remarked. Next came Williamson, who also started deep in the pack after winning one of the B Mains. “We can try something new in the heat tomorrow and if we can improve, OK, but if we don’t do so good it won’t hurt us,” Williamson explained.
Peter Britten was fifth, followed by Warner, Stewart Friesen, , Pratt, Bouc, and Ryan Godown.
Six heats were held, with the wins going to Yankowski, McLaughlin, Maresca, Sheppard, Hohenforst, and Bouc. The trio of B Mains belonged to Williamson, Friesen, and Billy Decker.
The 602 Crate Sportsmen, some 70 strong, participated in hot laps during the program.