Hodnett leads Speedweek points race heading down the stretch
BECHTELSVILLE – Greg Hodnett didn’t have the fastest sprint car Tuesday night at the Grandview Speedway.
In fact, his sprint car didn’t even have four inflated tires at the end of 35 laps in the fourth race of Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek.
However, Hodnett did have the winning car as he held off Lucas Wolfe to capture his 24th career Speedweek win in the Mike Heffner No. 27 with a flat left front tire.
With another checkered flag at Hagerstown Tuesday, Hodness comes into Port Royal tonight with a nearly 80-point lead in the series over Wolfe.
“I knew those guys were actually faster than us,” said Hodnett. “Especially after I cut a tire down. The left front tire was flat the last four or five laps. I was really hanging on. Lucas showed me the middle and he ran the middle up at Path Valley really well.”
Hodnett, of Thomasville, the defending Speedweek champion, started second and grabbed the early lead from Australian racer Darren Mollenyux. Meanwhile, Wolfe and Danny Dietrich went back and forth for the third spot.
The first caution flag flew on lap three when Kyle Reinhardt spun off turn four. The battle continued for third as Hodnett maintained the lead.
The red flag flew on lap six when Alex Schanz tipped over after hitting the fourth turn wall.
Mollenyux didn’t get a good restart and Wolfe used the inside in turns one and two to drive by and into second. Alan Krimes got by Dietrich and Mollenyux to take third. Krimes showed himself under Wolfe as well, but then Wolfe took his lane away.
Wolfe was running down Hodnett, who was racing the top. He was next to Hodnett in turns one and two, but couldn’t make the pass. Hodnett would drop low and take Wolfe’s line in three.
“I heard somebody coming on the bottom right before the yellow,” said Hodnett. “I didn’t have the wing back, so I shoved it in the trunk. Lucas got next to me down the straightaway and I went into turn one and ran around the bottom and it stuck. I figured that’s where I needed to be.”
A caution flag for J.J. Grasso interrupted a great race for the lead and among the top five drivers.
After that caution, the top three drivers went to the bottom and Dietrich blasted around a narrow cushion and was able to make up ground and drive all the way up to second. Hodnett moved up as Wolfe tried the middle as the top three raced for the lead.
“Then I heard Dietrich wide-open around the top and I went up there to at least see what its got,” said Hodnett. “The first half (the top) was pretty good, but the second half it was pretty skinny. I moved around to try and find something. I’m fortunate to be standing up here.”
Mollenyux and Krimes were also racing hard for the fourth spot and made contact on the backstretch. Mollenyux spun and kept going, while Krimes stopped with a flat tire, pitted, and rejoined the field.
Wolfe began to work the center of the corners and got back around Dietrich and began to close on Hodnett with 10 laps to go.
Wolfe had a good run off turn four, but Hodnett moved up just enough to force Wolfe to check-up on the frontstretch. Wolfe would get next to Hodnett entering and through the center of the corners, but Hodnett had just enough momentum off the bottom to maintain the lead and get the $5,000 win by a car length.
Wolfe settled for second and Dietrich third. Brent Marks and 15th starter Lance Dewease completed the top five with Robbie Stillwaggon, Ryan Smith, Krimes, Mollenyux and Path Valley winner Brady Bacon in the top 10.
“You could pretty much run wherever you wanted at the end,” said Wolfe. “It was a racy track. I raced really good with Dietrich. It was a lot of fun with him. We’re fairly fast and we have to make some minor tweaks to get a little better.
“I got beside him and he ran me into the frontstretch wall. It’s just the way it goes. I didn’t have enough there at the end. The bottom started to rubber-up just enough that he was able to beat me up every time. I was making way more speed a couple lanes up. It’s hard to give up spots and then get them back. That shows how strong the car was. If I would have made a few moves different throughout the race, I would have given myself more opportunities and time at the front to challenge green. The yellow on lap 22 hurt me because I was really good then once I found the middle.”
“After that caution, the track got dirty and my left rear sealed over,” said Dietrich. “Stuff happens and we’ll move on to tomorrow night. If it wouldn’t have been for the caution, we had our eyes set on the lead. The track was nice and cleaned off and we were good.”
Wolfe set fast time over a short 22-car field with a lap of 12.033. It was his second quick time of Speedweek. A four was drawn for feature inversion for the first time this week. Marks, Reinhardt, and Washington state driver Austin Wheatley won the 10-lap heat races.
Hodnett left Grandview with the Speedweek point lead with 481. Dietrich was second with 463 and Dewease third with 450. Bacon, 447 and Krimes, 426 were top five. Wolfe was sixth with 417 and missed the Lincoln event as he was celebrating the birth of his daughter.
The Speedweek series moved to Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway on Wednesday night, where Hodnett started on the pole of the 30-lap main event with Donnie Kreitz to his outside. Kreitz led Hodnett, Mike Wagner and Wolfe when the caution flag flew on lap 10 when Aaron Ott rolled to a stop. Wagner’s good run came to an end when he stopped with a right rear flat tire on lap 20.
Hodnett took the lead on the restart and Wolfe followed him into second. Hodnett extended his Speedweek point lead with his second straight win. Wolfe finished second for the second straight night. Kreitz, Stevie Smith and Dietrich, who started 18th, completed the top five. Brent Marks, Alan Krimes, Brady Bacon, Dave Blaney and Blane Heimbach were the top 10 finishers.
Wolfe set fast time over the 31-car field with a lap of 15.208 seconds. Hodnett, Brent Marks and Brady Bacon won the 10-lap heat races. Dietrich won the B-main.
The unofficial top five drivers in Speedweek points headed into tonight’s race at Port Royal Speedway are: Hodnett, 652; Wolfe, 573; Dietrich, 570; Bacon, 558; and Krimes, 547.
Port Royal will be a big part of the final four races of the 2014 version of Speedweek with races tonight and Saturday night. Tonight’s 30-lap main event at Port Royal will pay $7,000 to win and Saturday’s race will pay $5,000.
Hodnett has won three of the past six Speedweek races at Port Royal. Defending track champion Blane Heimbach is also the defending Speedweek winner. Tyler Walker won at Port in 2012 and Justin Henderson joined Hodnett as a winner in 2011.
The series heads to Williams Grove Speedway Friday night for the Mitch Smith Memorial paying $10,000 to win the 30-lap main event. Danny Dietrich won last year’s race.
The series finale is scheduled for Sunday at Selinsgrove Speedway. The 30-lap Jan Opperman Memorial at Selinsgrove pays $5,000 to win. Last year’s race was rained out. Lance Dewease won in 2012.
Speedweek began at the Grove last Friday night with Dietrich scoring the victory. Kyle Moody scored an upset win Saturday night at Lincoln Speedway in the Kevin Gobrecht Memorial. Retired Hall of Fame driver Fred Rahmer promoted the Speedweek race Sunday night at Path Valley Speedway and Oklahoma invader Brady Bacon scored the win.