Big races and big money are the highlights of this weekend's racing cards here in Central Pennsylvania.
The World of Outlaws race at Williams Grove this evening. The Outlaws ran at the Grove Friday as well, and raced at Lernerville Speedway Tuesday. I'll have more on that shortly.
Tonight's Williams Grove race pays $20,000 to the winner. Doug Esh enters the week end fresh off a two-race sweep last week. Esh won at Williams Grove and Lincoln speedways.
Steve Kinser won the last time the Outlaws visited the area in May. Kinser is fresh off a $40,000 win Tuesday night at Lernerville in the Don Martin Memorial race. Kinser started on the pole and led all the way. The race was good even though there wasn't a pass for the lead.
Our local drivers put on the show. Not all of it was good. Lance DeWease flipped in turn three during his heat race. DeWease finished 13th in the B-Main and did not qualify.
Others fared better. Jeff Shepard started back and finished 10th. Shepard passed a bunch of cars and was actually into sixth spot before fading late. Greg Hodnett finished eighth. Fred Rahmer put on a heck of a show just to qualify. Rahmer was in seventh position during the B-Main with just two laps remaining. On a restart, Rahmer got a good run to finish fourth and be the final qualifier for the night. Rahmer raced to an 11th place finish. Stevie Smith was 26th.
The top five at Lernerville were Kinser, Donny Schatz, Jason Meyers, Joey Saldana and Kerry Madsen.
Selinsgrove Speedway hosts the Jack Gunn Memorial race for 358 sprint cars this evening. Also on the card are the late models, and pro stocks. Race time is 7 p.m. The race honors the late promoter of the track, who did much for Central Pennsylvania auto racing and sprint cars in particular. Gunn treated his sprint car drivers and owners well. Normally there was a free pass waiting for both whenever they showed up to race at one of his tracks. Gunn and Hilly Rife were two of the prominent area promoters in the area at that time. The other one was Jerry Clark at the Port Royal Speedway.
If you haven't purchased or read Doug Wolfgang's book "Lone Wolf" yet, my side kick Tommy Little tells me it is a must read for any sprint car fan. The book tells many tales of Wolfgang's days in the midstate and talks about the fiery crash that nearly took his life. I'll get you info on where to find the book and pass it along next week.
Also available for 2009 is the All Star Circuit of Champions photo calendar, which features ladies that have real connections to auto racing. This is not just a calendar of swim suit models. It was shot at Lernerville Speedway and is on sale at several tracks. Again, I'll find out how to order one and let you know where you can buy it.
I attended the National Sprint Car Summit in Pittsburgh this week with Tom Little and Steve Arnold. Also present from the area were Alan Kreitzer, Don Leiby, Kathy Morgan, and Justin and Michelle Loh. That meant Port Royal, Lincoln and Williams Grove attended. There was an unofficial media black out on the event.
I will tell you that a lot of subjects were discussed including tires, wings, engines, costs and how to promote and improve the sport. A lot of ideas were exchanged and some changes are forthcoming. I left the meeting with the thought that there really are some folks that are thinking about the future of the sport and where it needs to go. The World of Outlaws hosted the event. The All Stars and most 410 sprint car tracks racing weekly were represented. I will say that it looks as though the All Stars will mandate a larger fuel cell next season in an attempt to cut down on fuel stops. I think that's a good move.
All Star President Guy Webb told me that he will race at three tracks in Florida this winter during the southern swing. The year will open up again at North Florida Speedway for one night. There will be a three race show at Ocala Speedway, followed by the annual trip to the Dirt Car Winter Nationals at Volusia County Speedway. Ocala was an asphalt track that has gone back to dirt. They ran their first dirt races there this season. No All Star racing will take place Super Bowl Sunday.
As for Port Royal Speedway, the 410 sprint cars have the night off because of Williams Grove's Outlaw show. That doesn't mean there won't be plenty of excitement. The late models and enduro cars are joined by the super sportsman and 305 sprint cars. Young Dylan Cisney, of Port Royal, rolls into his hometown track fresh off his first career win last week at Williams Grove. Nice job, Dylan. Cisney is all of 16 years old. It's quite a feat to win a feature in the sportsman class when you are so young. Also, the Flying Cowboy, Jim Kennedy, has two chances to win a 305 sprint car race tonight. Kennedy won the last 305 feature ran at the Juniata County oval and then performed his famous yodeling act. It was a night some will never forget.
Port Royal Speedway President Tom Little had an interesting week. Little was taken to task by a race driver and mother-in-law of a late model racer for decisions that were made at recent events. I understand folks get upset. Officials officiating sports events sometimes make mistakes. However, in both instances, I know for a fact that Little had absolutely nothing to do with the decisions made. And, the writers did not have all their facts straight either. Sometimes emotions take over and things are said or written. I look for Little to respond to both folks publicly, which he doesn't normally do.
Port Royal Speedway's front-stretch lighting project continues. Crews raised the rest of the lights to their new positions this week. Three light poles were moved in time for last week's show, and what a difference it made. Four additional lights were purchased by the speedway this week and will be added as crews have time. They've done a great job.
In the world of NASCAR, Tony Stewart will own 50 percent of Stewart/Haas Racing and trade paper reports indicate Stewart didn't have to put up one cent of his own money to do it. No wonder he left Joe Gibbs racing. When you are handed a gift - which I'm sure Chevrolet helped to broker - you take it. Two teams initially will race out of the Stewart/Haas shop with support from Rick Hendricks. Sponsors and car numbers will be announced later. Rumors have Office Depot as Stewart's sponsor.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will lose the US Navy as his sponsor on the Nationwide team Earnhardt owns. The Navy will finish out the season. The Navy thinks the budget is too expensive. When did a government agency think anything cost too much? I remember the expensive toilet seats, etc.
Long time Harrisburg racing writer Jerry Reigle has left his daily newspaper position to work full time for Area Auto Racing News. Reigle will continue to live in the area and cover motor sport for Area. Reigle is the best writer to cover local sprint car racing since Bob Chorpenning.
Port Royal Speedway's Dream Race Extreme is right around the corner, on Aug. 2. The 50 lap, $30,000 to win sprint car race was won last year by Sean Michael.
The Cup cars will head to Indy next. Cup teams received a proposal from NASCAR this week that will allow each organization 24 testing sessions at tracks. Drivers must test their own cars at the event.
Bedford Speedway had Friday off to prepare for its annual fair, which gets under way Sunday. Bedford has a pre-fair demolition derby tonight. The late models and support classes run their fair week show July 25, and there's an automotive thrill show the next night.
Until next time, please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.