Esh strong on way to Classic checker

MECHANICSBURG – Doug Esh scored a dominating win in the Tommy Hinnershitz Memorial Spring Classic at Williams Grove Speedway on Friday night.

It was Esh’s first win with his new team and owners Mike and Gary Heckman. He earned $7,500 for the win – his first Grove win in over two seasons.

Pat Cannon started on the pole and Esh started second. Cannon jumped to the lead, but Esh drove under him in turns three and four and would lead the first lap.

“This old guy’s tired,” Esh said in victory lane. “We just put this deal together and I knew they had good stuff. These HP Engines are incredible. I’ve got (crew chief) Rob Peters with me. I think we’re going to be pretty good.”

The first and only caution flag of the race flew when Danny Dietrich stopped on the backstretch with one lap completed.

Esh, of Lancaster, went straight to the cushion on the restart as Cannon blocked an inside move by Brian Montieth in turn one on the restart.

Dave Blaney drove by Stevie Smith and into fourth spot. All the leaders used the fast outside lane of the speedway. Esh led by a half-straightaway as he approached lapped traffic with nine laps completed.

Meanwhile, Montieth put a slider on Cannon in turns one and two to take over the second spot. Blaney tried to slide past Cannon as well but couldn’t hold the move in turn two. He took the spot, however, with a fourth turn slider.

Esh was racing through lapped traffic without much trouble but Montieth was closing with heavier traffic ahead of the leaders.

Montieth got to within a few car lengths after a close call for Esh on the front stretch on lap 16.

After that, Montieth tried a slider in turns one and two, but couldn’t hold the move. A puff of smoke came from the car and Montieth slowed and headed to the pits.

“I didn’t know he was there,” Esh said of Montieth. “You get running with lapped cars and it gets the air off your wing and you over-drive. We got lucky and got ourselves in position to start up front with timing good and a couple of cars that didn’t make it. We try to do the best we can.”

Once Montieth dropped out with a blown engine, the race for the lead was over.

With eight laps to go, Esh held a straightaway lead as Cannon moved back to second and Smith back to third.

Esh would cruise to the $7,500 win – the 21st of his career at the Grove and first in the Tommy Classic. Smith challenged Cannon for the runner-up spot over the final five laps, but Cannon would get the spot by a few car lengths. Smith settled for third. Fast timer Greg Hodnett finished fourth and Blaney faded to fifth.

“Doug was fast,” Cannon said. “Our balance wasn’t perfect on our car, but the motor ran well. I got going in the middle. I found the bottom and it came back to me.”

Lucas Wolfe, Alan Krimes, Trey Starks, Adam Wilt and Curt Michael rounded out the top 10.

Hodnett set fast time over the 32-car field with a lap of 16.488 seconds. The lap was faster than any official lap recorded at the speedway in 2013. He earned an extra $300 for the Fast Time Award presented in memory of the late speedway champion Jim Nace.

The 10-lap heat races were won by Esh, Lance Dewease, Brent Marks and opening night winner Gerard McIntyre Jr. Hodnett won the B-main.