Aaron Reutzel wins competitive race

Only one racer stays in 410’s top five

Sentinel photo by TIM SHUMAKER
Aaron Reutzel, 87, and Justin Whittal, 67, race off turn four for position during the Foss Jewelers 67th annual Labor day Classic for 410 sprint cars Monday at Port Royal Speedway. Reutzel won the feature.

PORT ROYAL — There are some in the racing community that claim you can’t have a good sprint car race on a daylight racing surface. Port Royal Speedway has been debunking that myth the past several years, and did so again Monday afternoon with the 67th running of the Labor Day Classic. In fact, only one driver that started in the top five positions managed to stay there — a sure sign that plenty of passing was taking place through the field for the duration of the event.

For the third straight racing program, the Juniata County half-mile got itself a new 410 winner — this time in the form of Aaron Reutzel. The Texas native has visited Port Royal for a couple different shows this season, and is the current point leader with Tony Stewart’s All-Star Circuit of Champions. Getting to celebrate on the Speed Palace stage, however, was anything but easy.

Liverpool’s T.J. Stutts — running just his third race since returning from a June injury — jumped out to an early lead and led the first several laps before giving way to Reutzel and sixth-starting Brock Zearfoss. Zearfoss — Port Royal’s defending track champion — always seems to run well on the dry Labor Day surface, but had yet to get the trophy at the end of the afternoon. From there, both drivers found themselves in heavy traffic, which allowed Zearfoss to grab the lead before the first caution waved on lap nine. Unfortunately for Stutts, the yellow was for a flat tire on his No. 11T, effectively ending his chances in the event. At the time of the stoppage, however, it was quite clear that a few other drivers that started a bit deeper in the field were beginning their respective ways to the front — namely eighth-starting Greg Hodnett, 14th-starting Danny Dietrich and 11th-starting Freddie Rahmer.

While Reutzel stalked Zearfoss for the lead as the race went back to green, the other three continued to pick off cars to enter the top five. But as is often the case, running second was where you wanted to be. Reutzel waited patiently for his opportunity to strike, and got it in the form of a pass for the lead with just four laps to go. His No. 87 took the checkers with a .591-second advantage over Zearfoss. Hodnett, Dietrich and Rahmer rounded out the top five, with sixth through tenth going to Mike Wagner, Lucas Wolfe, Logan Wagner, Saturday’s winner A.J. Flick and Justin Barger.

Reutzel, Hodnett and Rahmer won the three Labor Day Classic heat races for the impressive 29-car field. Chase Dietz captured the B-main. The 410s will be back in action at Port Royal Friday night for the Night Before the 50, and again on Saturday evening for the $51,000-to-win Tuscarora 50. Lance Dewease is the defending winner of both races.

The 355 econo late models saw 17 cars entered for their portion of the afternoon — an 18-lap event that was dominated by Tim Fedder. After getting the jump on Andrew Yoder at the start, Fedder — who was second in the Port Royal point standings entering the day — was nearly perfect on the way to his first win of the season.

Devin Hart was the car on the move– going from sixth to second in an impressive runner-up effort. Todd Snook finished third, while Yoder settled for fourth and Eric Hohol crossed fifth. Tim Krape and Yoder were the two heat race winners for the 355 econo late models, which wrap up their season on Saturday night as part of the Tuscarora 50.

The four-cylinder pure stocks — which have become a bit of a Labor Day tradition at Port Royal — wrapped up the afternoon with a 15-lap main event. Eric Boozel bested the 26-car field for the victory and was joined on the podium by Kent Leonard and Lee Zook.