Happy Easter, race fans.
NASCAR has the week end off which I'm sure many need. However, some NASCAR racers return to their roots and head to America's short tracks. Dave Blaney and Kenny Schrader are two NASCAR drivers racing dirt this weekend. Schrader will compete in midwestern IMCA dirt modified action. Cortland, Ohio, native Dave Blaney will strap into a sprint car tonight at Port Royal Speedway.
Blaney and his brother Dale arrived in the midstate earlier this week. They joined Greg Hodnett to test run Thursday night at Susquehanna Speedway. Last night the Blaneys and Jac Haudenschild of Wooster, Ohio, were planning to race in the Tommy Hinnershitz Spring Classic at Williams Grove Speedway. Haudenschild indicated on his team's Facebook page he will race tonight at Mercer Speedway, joining son Sheldon, who competed last night at Lernerville.
The area will be full of invaders the next two weeks as The All Star Circuit of Champions invade Williams Grove and Port Royal speedways.
Lincoln Speedway hosts a spring championship 30-lap sprint car event this evening that pays the winner $4,000. 358 sprint cars and street stocks also will compete. Port Royal will hold its tune-up night for next week's Bob Weikert memorial along with late models and 305 sprint cars. Both tracks will have special Easter activities with candy giveaways for kids. At Port Royal, drivers Logan Wagner, Mike Erdley and Mike Lupfer will hand out chocolate Easter rabbits to the first 200 kids.
Last week's Lincoln winner was Alan Krimes, who was passed by Brian Montieth before Montieth struck the wall and spun out. The Port Royal sprint car winner was Rick Lafferty. Nick Dickson of Lewistown scored the late model feature over Eric Zembower.
Selinsgrove Speedway hosts the United Racing Company 360 sprint cars this evening along with late models, pro stocks and roadrunners. T. J. Stutts won last week's ESS/358 sprint car event. For Stutts it was his third ESS win in the last four starts at the Snyder County oval. Jeff Rine won the late model feature. McClure's Brad Mitch topped the pro stock field.
Last Sunday night the 410 sprint cars were in action at Susquehanna Speedway near York. Donnie Kreitz Jr. went home the winner. Young Trey Starks from the state of Washington finished in fourth spot. I'm impressed. Starks had raced in four Pennsylvania events to that point. Also, congratulations go out to Lewistown 305 driver Eric Parker, who finished fifth.
Port Royal Speedway and Trackside Restaurant hosted a celebrity night Thursday to benefit Kids Night at the Juniata County oval. Race car drivers served in various hospitality services at the facility. Former ARCA/Port Royal/NASCAR/drag racer Graham Taylor was joined by fellow drag racer Mike Harpster, late model racers Tim Wilson, Mike Lupfer, Patrick Bryner, Trent Brenneman and Devin Hart. Kids Night will be held at the track on July 12.
The World of Outlaws return to their roots this weekend at Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas. The Outlaws ran their first event there in 1978 and have not raced at the track in quite some time. Shane Carson, a veteran driver, arranged a reunion of original racers from that event. Some of those drivers are still racing today.
Western Pennsylvania sprint car racing is finally getting started for the year. Mercer Speedway opened last week with Rod George the 410 sprint car winner. Lernerville Speedway was scheduled to open last night. Bedford Speedway now has its regular Friday night late model program underway. Trailway Speedway near Hanover was trying to open last night. The speedway has been plagued by weather issues.
The sprint car silly season is already getting started. Californian Tim Kaeding has left the Roth Motorsports Racing No. 83 car on the World of Outlaws Circuit and returned home. Danny Lasoski is scheduled to drive the car tonight at Devil's Bowl Speedway. The rumor mill has Cody Darrah possibly feeling the heat at Kasey Kahne Racing. Kahne has performed well of late. And in published reports say Mark Coldren is stepping out of the driving role with his own race team next month. His wife is expecting twins. Coldren is seeking to hire a driver and has good equipment. Coldren and Mark Smith enjoyed success before when Coldren was not driving.
Next week during the Bob Weikert Memorial event at Port Royal Speedway, Danny Dietrich will pilot a Weikert's Livestock replica car and sign autographs before the event. Dietrich will be joined by former Weikert drivers Paul "Captain Crunch" Pitzer and Lenny Krautheim III. "Old Blue," a former Weikert racer driven by Pitzer, also will be on display. The first 400 fans through the gate will receive a Weikert Livestock hat or coolie cup. Todd Weikert, owner of Weikert's Livestock, will have 10 bicycles to give away to kids and 20 ticket holders will win 5 pound packages of Weikert's prime ground beef.
Rico Abreu is on tear winning in any type open wheel race car he drives. Last week end Abreu swept the United States Auto Club events at Kokomo, Ind.
Despite the current economic conditions, it appears sprint car racing is doing well. Area 410 car counts have been good with 29 cars at Lincoln last week. 26 at Port Royal and 25 raced Sunday at Susquehanna. The 358/360 car counts have been down a bit, which may be in part because some 410 drivers retired and a few 358 competitors moved up to 410 action. 305 sprint car counts remain strong.
Live NASCAR racing is following the trend of other top tier professional sports with declining attendance. International Speedway Corp., operator of numerous NASCAR sanctioned racetracks continues to remove seats at some of its facilities. Currently seats have been removed at Talladega and they track will have a seating capacity around 80,000 when finished. Sadly this track has hosted as many as 300,000 people at its peak. NASCAR stopped releasing attendance figures several years ago.
NASCAR heads to Richmond, Va., next Saturday night for Sprint Cup action.
Have a happy holiday week end. I'll be back next week; until then please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.