Flick gets first Port Royal checkers

Sentinel photo by TIM SHUMAKER
A.J. Flick celebrates after winning his first 410 sprint car race at Port Royal Speedway Saturday.

PORT ROYAL — “We beat Lance Dewease!”

That was the first thought that went through the head of first-time Port Royal winner A.J. Flick after the young sprint car driver from Western Pennsylvania climbed out of his machine Saturday night. Fresh off clinching his third Lernerville Speedway championship in the last four years, Flick found himself in a place that he’s dreamed of being in for the past couple seasons — Port Royal victory lane.

“I’m sorry this has been a long victory lane so far,” Flick said to the crowd on the opening night of the 164th Juniata County Fair. “But I’m about to bawl my eyes out. We have worked so hard for this and we’ve never given up. And very single week we’re trying something new to try and get better.”

Flick lined up on the outside of the front row beside Joey Hershey’s No. 44 — a driver who got his first career Port Royal victory last season. Hershey got the jump at the start and led the first six laps before the race saw its first caution for a slowing Vince Snyder on the back stretch. Flick took full advantage of the restart, diving to bottom through turns one and two and sliding up in front of Hershey before powering off the top side to take command.

The car everyone seemed to be watching, though, was beginning to make its way to the front — Lance Dewease in the famed No. 69K. One by one, Dewease picked off cars at an impressive rate from his ninth starting position. With Flick’s lead shrinking as they completed the 15th lap, he had a slight stumble while trying to get around a lapped car. Dewease pounced on the opportunity and had just taken the lead when the yellow flag was displayed again for a spinning Justin Whittal in turn four. The 16th circuit was never completed, thus handing the lead right back to Flick.

With new life, Flick was picture perfect on the top of the speedway for the next nine laps. Dewease gave it one last try after the white flag was shown to Flick’s No. 2, but it came up just short. Danny Dietrich followed the front pairing to finish third, Steve Buckwalter was fourth and Lucas Wolfe crossed fifth.

Heats were won by Dietrich, Buckwalter and Dewease.

“I know how much clear air means at this place,” Flick said. “I lost the lead to Hershey right at the beginning, but you can’t ever give up in these races. Then I saw Lance, but I was so confident that he was going to beat us that it relaxed me even more. I just told myself to drive my own race and I never saw the blue 69K again.”

A huge field of late models — 41 to be exact — filled the pit area for the running of the Butch Renninger Memorial. From the drop of the green flag, it was Delaware’s Ross Robinson who took command. The man on a mission, however, was Virginia’s Tyler Bare. From his sixth starting position, Bare moved into the runner-up spot within the first 10 laps and had his sights firmly set on Robinson. Though Bare was gaining ground, it still seemed as if Robinson was going to be tough to pass until disaster struck for the leader in turn two of the 16th lap. Robinson lost a right-rear wheel, sending his No. 7 into the wall and handing the lead to Bare.

From there, Bare was uncontested and took his first Port Royal victory by more than seven seconds over Roy Deese Jr., Jeff Rine, Jason Covert and 17th-starting Kyle Hardy. Heats were won by Mike Maresca, Rine, Gene Knaub and Matt Cosner, and a pair of consolations went to Hardy and Dillon Stake. Bare set quick time with a 17.802-second lap in time trials.

In 355 econo late model action, Derick Garmin emerged victorious after taking the lead from Todd Snook on the 14th lap. Devin Hart finished a strong second, Andrew Yoder cthird, Snook fourth and Steve Campbell rounded out the top five. Snook, Tim Krape and Yoder won the heat races.

In the final event of the night, Will Brunson captured the xtreme stock feature event and led every lap in the process. Dustin Hoffman, Herm Renninger, Bill Powell and Brad Mitch completed the top five. Brunson and Hoffman also won twin heats for the 17-car field.

The 410 sprints and 355 econo late models will return to action today at 1 p.m. for the 67th running of the Labor Day Classic, with four-cylinder pure stocks in their only appearance of the season at the Juniata County oval.