DOWN THE CHUTE BY JOHN SMITHAction Track USA
DOWN THE CHUTE BY JOHN SMITH
Ever since Rich Tobias and Doug Rose took over the Kutztown Fairgrounds racetrack and made improvements to the surface, along with adding the SpeedSTR division, the area has been buzzing with excitement. Especially with the heavy hitter names that have decided to race there on Wednesdays. I’ve mentioned those who have indicated they will race there in previous efforts in these greater pages of Gater, so I won’t rehash old stuff.
This past Tuesday night, yeah they ran Tuesday because the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA is sanctioned by USAC and with the USAC Eastern Storm swing starting at Grandview on Wednesday, they decided to run on Tuesday, which was a brilliant move because USAC star Brian Clausen showed up to not only run a SpeedSTR but a wingless 600 cc Micro. But I must digress for just a bit. Opening night was to be the Goldie Meitzler Memorial, but it got stormed out, so they ran it back a couple weeks ago and WoO Late Model star Rick Eckert got the win over a talent laden field. And in the regularly scheduled feature for the SpeedSTR’s, New Yorks’ Mike Mahaney got the win.
One week later, this past Tuesday, now that the drivers have had some track time, gotten used to how these cars handle, and how the track is going to turn out, they can adjust. Boy was that evident in the running of the “Flying Farmer 40” for the Tobias built SpeedSTR’s last week. And unbeknownst to me, these cars have no power steering, which makes them tough to handle.
In the 40 lap “Flying Farmer Memorial 40,” to set it up, Kenny Brightbill set fast time in the timed dashes, which put him outside front row. On lap 10, Kenny’s son, Brad, ended up going over on the front chute. It was not a violent flip and Brad was not injured, but done for the night. At this point, New Yorker Dale Planck had the lead with USAC star Brian Clausen, in Brian Monteith’s number 21 right there with him. One lap later, Clausen grabbed the lead but Paul Lotier Jr. spun, something you don’t see every day as Lotier Jr. is last year’s regional SpeedSTR champion. On the restart, Planck pitched it too hard into turn one and collected Brightbill and Grandview Late Model champion Chuck Shutz, but all were able to continue. Now this caution happened on lap 20 of a 40 lap race and the intensity of the race shot through the roof at this point. It was at this point in the evening that the air started to get chilly as sweatshirts began popping up.
Back under green and Clausen broke away clean but had Billy Pauch Sr. hounding him while all eyes were on Birghtbill as he found the outside and was marching to the front. Puach Sr. made his move with five to go around Clasuen to take the lead.With three to go, Craig VonDohren hit an inside the turn uke tire and in the process, involved both the Rahmer brothers, Freddie and Brandyn. All were able to continue and in fact, VonDohren would be another who would roar back for a great finish. Pauch Sr. held off clausen for the popluar win with Brightbill, living up to his nickname of “Mr. Outside,” coming in third.
In victory lane, located between the outside fence and the stands, the first thing Pauch said was he needed a drink. I mentioned no power steering in these cars as he exclaimed “these cars are a handful.”
Pauch Sr. went on to say “I ain’t no kid anymore let me tell ya that. You really gotta work at it. The track crew did a helluva job. There was a bottom and a top. It was pretty racy. I moved to the top and found something.” I’d say so. prior to the interview, Pauch climbed up on the cage of his Sunoco sponsored number nine and almost slipped off. Then he posed for photos atop one of the restored tractors that were there to honor Tommy Hinnershitz as he was a farmer from Oley, PA, and perhaps one of the greatest Sprint car drivers of all time, most famous from steering the Miracle Power number two.
Brian Clausen had plenty to smile about, coming in second and he spoke about it. “I got to the top early and I thought we could hold them off. Ol’ Bill (Pauch) hasn’t lost a step. he’s definitely a legend here in Pennsylvania. I was hoping he would fall out of the seat a little bit. Thanks to everybody for coming out. Thanks to Doug rose for putting this thing on. I had an absolute blast.” Now, how’s that for an endorsement.
And then there was third place finisher “King” Kenny Brightbill, who no doubt got the biggest ovation of all the top three finishers. He had this to say. “Well, I thought we’d give it a try (the outside) and see how it goes. It turned out pretty good.” I should say. You came from the rear and got third.
Friends, this was an incredible race where words seem meager in comparison to what was witnessed. And I’m glad to say it was no different in the preliminary 600 cc wingless Micro Sprint feature in which USAC’s Brian Clausen was also in the field.
Jason VanDoren, Kyle Lick, and again, here’s Brian Clausen, hooked up in a three car battle the entire race. That is until three to go when Clausen suffered front end damage and eliminated him from competition. That left VanDoren and Lick, in a Bogar 99 tribute car, to battle it out, which they did in a classic, for the win. At the line, it was VanDoren getting the win. Lick had him late in the race but washed up just a bit in three and four and that was just enough to open the door for VanDoren to take the lead but also allowed James Morris to close into contention. At the line it was VanDoren over James Morris and Kyle Lick in a blanket finish. And I like Kyle Licks’ car. It’s painted like the Bogar owned 99 that the late, great Jan Opperman drove to so many wins on the Sprint car trail, so yeah, being a member of the media, we’re supposed to be impartial, but I couldn’t resist rooting for Lick in that car. It brought me back to all those battles that “Opp” had with another legend, the late Kenny Weld in the Weikert 29.
I didn’t stay for the Slingshot or Jr. Slingshot features, but let me tell you folks something. If you get the chance, you’ve GOT to come out to the JeffreyHogueRaltor.com Action Track USA in Kutztown, PA. I know, long name, but those SpeedSTR’s have a star studded field and the 600 cc wingless Micros put on a whale of a show. This place has it goin’ on. And let’s not forget the concession. There’s crab cakes, pierogies, and even Syracuse salt potatoes. I’ll also give a call to announcer Barry Angstadt, who goes a great job airing out the pipes and calling the shots. One more thing, there’s the Action Track USA Angels selling 50/50 tickets and posing in victory lane. What a great, fun place this is!
Five wins so far this year. That’s what Duane Howard has at the Grandview Speedway so far. I’d say the Al Finch led team has the new Bicknell chassis figured out as Howard roared on to get that fifth win in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series 358 Modifieds and just like last week, he had arch rival Craig Von Dohren right behind him to finish second.
Second generation racer Danny Snyder got his first win of the year in Grandview’s Late Models after the profunctory early race crashes. Once these guys settle down, they get racy but sometimes it takes awhile. And in the Sportsman, Brett Kressley picked up his third win of the year.