Hodnett gets title by default

SELINSGROVE – A heavy thunderstorm hit Selinsgrove Speedway late Sunday afternoon and rained out the Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek finale.

Thomasville’s Greg Hodnett is the 2013 Speedweek champion after taking the points lead with a fifth-place finish at Port Royal Speedway on Saturday night. He’ll earn about $2,000 for the title.

Hodnett’s Hall of Fame crew chief Lee Stauffer missed the second half of Speedweek because he was attending his sister’s wedding in Hawaii.

“I started with the points lead and the good thing is I ended with the points lead,” said Hodnett, who turned 44 in June. “It was a great team effort. I was fortunate to have a good run last night to help us. A couple guys had some problems that helped us out. That’s the way it goes.

“It was definitely different,” Hodnett said of racing without Stauffer. “It was a lot of extra work for the guys and myself. Another set of eyes not there and another set of hands not there. It makes it more difficult, but everybody stepped up. Lee had everything in place before he left.”

Hodnett got a single win, but was consistent throughout the week.

“We were okay,” he said. “We struggled at Lincoln. It’s my worst track. We were there and won one race. We had some decent runs and were fairly consistent.

“It’s very gratifying because it’s a tough week for everybody,” Hodnett said. “It’s a big financial commitment from the owners. It takes a lot. I think this year’s caliber of cars and teams throughout the whole thing was pretty high.”

Sam Hafertepe Jr. of Sunnyvale, Texas, led the points for most of the week, but qualified poorly at Port Royal and was forced to start last in the main event and finished 12th.

The chase for this year’s Speedweek title was very close headed into Selinsgrove. Speedweek King Fred Rahmer, who has 13 Speedweek championships, finished second to Hodnett and was only 15 points behind him. Rahmer’s best finish was a runner-up at Lincoln’s first race.

Stevie Smith finished third in points and was 24 back of Hodnett. Hafertepe fell to fourth after Port Royal, but was still in contention, being only 27 points behind.

Hodnett won the series opener at Williams Grove Speedway on June 28. He had five top-five finishes in seven races completed. He set fast time at the Mitch Smith Memorial on Friday night. It is his fourth Speedweek championship and first with current car owner John Trone. His other championships came in 2002, 2009 and 2010. His 23 career Speedweek wins are second all-time.

Seven different drivers won Speedweek races this season including four new drivers. Hodnett won the opener and then Alan Krimes won at Lincoln on June 29 and Hafertepe got his first Speedweek win at Big Diamond on June 30.

The series event scheduled for Grandview Speedway on Tuesday night was canceled due to saturated grounds.

Former World of Outlaws champion and current NASCAR driver Dave Blaney scored a sprint car win at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway on Wednesday night. Stevie Smith won the Kevin Gobrecht Memorial at Lincoln Speedway on Thursday night and Danny Dietrich scored a $10,000 win at the Grove in the Mitch Smith Memorial on Friday night. Blane Heimbach beat Doug Esh to win at Port Royal on Saturday.

Blaney and Dietrich recorded their first Speedweek wins. Along with seven different winners, seven different drivers also finished second.

The highest car count was Port Royal with 40 followed by Lincoln’s second race with 39. Other car counts: Lincoln’s first race (36); Williams Grove (34 both races); Hagerstown (30); and Big Diamond (24), an average of roughly 34 cars per race.

A total of 72 drivers participated in at least one race. A total of 12 new drivers were at Port Royal on Saturday.

In its 23-year history, there have been 155 Speedweek races held at 12 different tracks with 32 different winners.

Rahmer still leads the way with 30, but hasn’t won during Speedweek competition since 2008. Hodnett now has 23 and Dewease 19. Nobody else is in double-digits.

Selinsgrove’s rainout was the first time the track has cancelled a Speedweek race since it started hosting the series in 1992.