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Stutts ends dry spell with first Port win in a 410

Sentinel photo by TIM SHUMAKER
Cory Haus, left, and feature winner T.J. Stutts race for the lead in turn one Saturday at Port Royal. Stutts got his first win in three years

PORT ROYAL — T.J. Stutts scored a long overdue and emotional win in the 25-lap sprint car feature Saturday night at Port Royal Speedway.

Stutts’ first career Port Royal win in the 410-sprint division was worth $4,000 and came in the final tune-up for the World of Outlaws Nittany Showdown this Friday and Saturday.

It’s been a tough calendar year for Stutts, recovering from crash-related injuries and then pancreatic cancer.

But, with the help of his sons, Ethan and Reese, their hard work finally paid off.

“We didn’t know if I’d even be here this year,” Stutts said fighting back tears in victory lane.

Stutts, of Liverpool, started on the pole and raced into the lead. Fourth starter Danny Dietrich was quickly up to second before the yellow flew with two laps down.

Dietrich slowed coming off turn two on the restart as Cory Haas took the lead from Stutts.

The yellow flew after one more lap was completed.

Stutts blasted back to the front on the restart as track champion Logan Wagner charged into the top five.

The race was stopped with 10 laps completed when Danny Varin flipped over the inside frontstretch wall. He was OK.

Wagner passed Ryan Smith and then Haas following the restart racing against the fence along a very narrow cushion as Stutts did the same.

Wagner changed lanes ducking under Stutts for the lead in turn four, but the yellow negated the pass.

At this point, Stutts knew it was time to change his line.

“When he showed me himself, I knew I had to move to the bottom,” Stutts said. “My two boys work on this thing and Joel VanBuskirk. That’s our crew. This is as much for them as it is for me because without them, I couldn’t do it.”

They swapped the lead on the restart, but the yellow flew again for a back stretch crash. Nobody was hurt.

Stutts got a better restart denying Wagner another chance at a slider for the lead.

He controlled the final laps beating Wagner by .790 seconds.

“Three years and we haven’t won a race is pretty embarrassing, but we can’t start off the front row every week,” Stutts said. “They didn’t make it easy tonight will all those yellows.”

Lance Dewease charged into third spot over the final laps. Smith and Haas completed the top five. Tyler Reeser, Jared Esh, Alan Krimes, A.J. Flick and Dylan Cisney rounded out the top 10.

Dietrich set quick time over the 35-car field with a lap of 16.147 seconds. Dietrich, Brock Zearfoss, Dewease and Stutts won the heat races. Trenton Sheaffer won the B-main.

In the 20-lap main event for the 305 sprint cars, it was Garrett Bard starting second and racing into the lead. Ken Duke Jr. passed Doug Dodson and Nathan Gramley taking over second before the yellow flew with two completed.

Duke went low after the lead on the restart and was next to the leader, but Bard’s momentum off the cushion kept him out front.

Bard slowly pulled away until they reached slower traffic with eight laps down.

Nick Sweigart was blasting the top advancing into third and quickly closing on the top two, but ran out of laps as Bard scored the win by .334 seconds over Duke, who clinched his first career Port Royal track championship adding to his National Championship, Pennsylvania State Championship and Pennsylvania Sprint Series Championship.

Jaremi Hanson and Dodson completed the top five. Jonathan Jones, Drew Ritchey, Gramley, Landon Price and Devin Adams rounded out the top 10.

Heat races for the 29 cars were won by Bard, Wally Eshenaur and Duke.

In a crash-marred 25-lap main event for the 360 sprints, Brian Carber raced into the lead as Danny Varin charged into second by the fourth lap.

Tyler Ross slammed the frontstretch wall bringing out the yellow. A violent front stretch crash involving many cars ensued following the double-file restart. No serious injuries were reported.

Ryan Smith moved up to third on the next restart and then into second when Varin dropped off the pace. Brock Zearfoss was moving into contention as well.

Smith took the lead and Zearfoss quickly followed him into second. Now at the front, they swapped the lead with Smith regaining the top spot.

With four to go, Smith went low to lap some cars and Zearfoss stayed up at the fence passing Smith and both lapped cars in one impressive move.

He went on to score his first 360 win over Smith. Carber, Chad Layton and Adam Carberry completed the top five. Brett Wanner, Austin Bishop, Mike Kiser, Josh Weller and Steve Drevicki rounded out the top 10.

Heat races for the 35 cars were won by Zearfoss, Weller, Steve Buckwalter and Curt Michael.

Port Royal’s season concludes this Friday and Saturday with the Nittany Showdown featuring the World of Outlaws and the Pennsylvania Posse. The features pay $8,000 and $15,000 to win, respectively.

The track announced that a two-day show for the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series will be held next season with $50K going to the Saturday night winner.

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