Buckwalter earns 6th Grove victory

MECHANICSBURG – Steve Buckwalter has had nothing short of a miserable 2014 season thus far in the sprint cars.

Although his car wasn’t perfect, Buckwalter turned his season around a little bit with a feature win Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway.

Buckwalter, of Royersford, earned the $3,600 base pay plus $250 for leading every lap in his sixth career Grove win.

“Starting position definitely helps and we took advantage of it,” Buckwalter said. “I got into the turn and the car rolled-over real hard on the right rear. So, I stayed off the cushion. I felt terrible. I was maybe half-throttle in the corner.”

He’s had motor trouble all season including a cracked head in the team’s good motor and a broken piston in the spare motor.

“We’re down to this one engine,” he said. “It’s down a little bit. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but we’re going to work on it.”

His car owner, Clair Ritter, who was in victory lane, will undergo another hip replacement soon.

“I’m glad we got a win before he gets that done again,” Buckwalter said.

Chad Layton took a violent flip down the front stretch on the initial start of the 25-lap main event. He walked back to the pit area.

The second start was safer as Buckwalter grabbed the top spot and led Cory Haas and Brian Montieth off the second corner.

As Buckwalter increased his lead, the race was for second between Haas and Montieth. They raced side-by-side for a lap before Haas secured the spot again.

Greg Hodnett was up to fifth by lap seven from his 12th starting spot. Hodnett tried to take fourth from Austin Hogue, but the rookie would hold onto the spot.

The caution flag few with 12 laps completed when Rick Lafferty’s engine blew and his car rolled to a stop on the backstretch.

This erased Buckwalter’s lead over Haas, Montieth, Hogue and Hodnett.

Danny Dietrich pulled to the pits on the restart as Buckwalter went to the cushion again and pulled away from the renewed battle for second.

Haas tried the bottom in turn one and Montieth shot around the cushion to drive by and into the runner-up spot off turn two.

Hodnett finally drove by Hogue for fourth and new point leader Donnie Kreitz moved into fifth.

Montieth was closing on the leader, but slowed on the front stretch and pitted with five laps to go giving Buckwalter a straightaway lead over Haas and Hodnett.

Buckwalter got the win in the Clair and Jan Ritter No. 17B on York County Racing Club Night. The race for second was close at the finish, but it was Haas getting the spot over Hodnett, Kreitz and Ryan Wilson. Hogue hung on for sixth ahead of Lance Dewease, Doug Esh, Gerard McIntyre Jr. and Alan Krimes.

“We were pretty good,” Haas said. “I couldn’t get a good start off the bottom and Stevie got the lead. I struggled in one and two all night. I was good in three and four. Steve was just better. We’ve been struggling, but got the car better tonight. It felt good all night and it’s something to build on.”

Kreitz, Krimes and Lafferty won the 10-lap heat races for the 23-car field.

Brock Zearfoss made an inside move down the frontstretch to grab the early race lead in the 358 sprint car feature. The caution flag flew and slowed the pace with one lap completed.

The red flag flew with two laps down. No drivers were injured.

Zearfoss, of Jonestown, easily controlled the rest of the race for his first Grove win of the season over Kody Lehman, Doug Hammaker, defending champion Kevin Nouse and D.J. Montgomery.

Brie Hershey and Phil Walter won the eight-lap heat races for the 19 cars in the 358s.