Mercer, PA (August 23, 2013): Danny Holtgraver maintained his winning streak at Mercer Raceway Park, taking the 24th Annual Western Pennsylvania Sprint Car Championship. The victory was his fifth at the track this season and second with the UNOH All Stars Circuit of Champions at the track he knows so well.
After burning the midnight oil to get his car ready for action, Jimmy Morris still had to overcome some engine problems earlier in the night to put himself in position to register a dominant win in the Outlaw Sprint Warriors, presented by Bonnell’s Collision Center.
Tim Bish, on hand to get ready for a big event less than a month away, copped the win in the Precise Racing Products Open Stock Cars, passing points leader Rusty Moore on the way to victory. The Mini Stock nightcap, offered by Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles, went to points leader Jamey Lee.
Holtgraver explained that the lapped traffic was a big help to him in getting the win. He conceded that Andrew Palker “was good in clean air and good in lapped traffic, everything, and I could get close to him, but couldn’t bet close enough, but there was just enough lapped traffic at the end, and I was able to squeak by.”
Palker, who was extremely fast the night before at Lernerville Speedway, where he captured his first career win, gave much of the credit to Holtgraver’s crew chief, Brian Kemenah, for helping with setups, and to his engine builder, Kistler Engines.
Holtgraver had the prime starting spot for the All Stars 30 lapper, and he did lead the first circuit. However, it was Andrew Palker who blasted around him on the outside to grab the point. For most of the race, it appeared that Palker would break the Pittsburgh driver’s stranglehold at the Park. Palker pulled away from Holtgraver, who was also distancing himself from his mentor, TIm Shaffer. These advantages were wiped away, however, by a caution on lap ten when Scott Priester plastered the guardrail at the turn three exit from the speedway. Priester was unhurt, and the car was pushed back to the pits.
Palker had a couple of lapped cars insulating him from Holtgraver on the restart, so he was able to open several car lengths on the runner-up, as he cleared the slower cars. Another caution just two laps later bunched the field back up again. This time, Palker had no protection, but he got away cleanly. As Palker opened up a slight advantage on Holtgraver, Shaffer began to test him on the inside. Hotgraver held Shaffer off and the three leaders began to pull away from Cole Duncan and Dale Blaney, who were locked in a battle for the fourth spot. Behind them, Lee Jacobs and Paige Polyak were swapping sixth and seventh.
The final 18 laps ran off without any further interruptions. That meant that Palker and company had to contend with lapped traffic. Palker maintained the lead throughout, but when the traffic got really heavy for him, Holtgraver and Shaffer were able to close in.
As the leaders picked their way through the traffic, Holtgraver tried high and low to work past Palker, but nothing seemed to work for him. Holtgraver got a break with just a few laps remaining. He and Palker got by a pair of cars fighting for position, and it appeared that they might not reach the next couple of cars to put them a lap down before the end of the race. That opened up the bottom line for Holtgraver, who threw caution to the wind as he tried to regain the lead.
Holtgraver inched closer and closer to Palker in the waning moments of the race. He dove low entering turn one on the final lap and got next to the leader, who was riding the rim. Holtgraver got a nose ahead of Palker coming off turn two, much to the delight of the partisan crowd. Holtgraver began to pull away from Palker they raced toward turn three. Palker slid a little high and got his right rear wheel over the edge of the speedway, ensuring that Holtgraver would enter turn three uncontested.
Holtgraver navigated the final two turns without incident. Palker held off a fast closing Dale Blaney, who had passed his pal, Tim Shaffer, for third with six laps to go.
Shaffer crossed in fourth, with Cole Duncan placing fifth. Lee Jacobs outpaced Paige Polyak for sixth. Ralph Spithaler was eighth in a rare appearance. Carl Bowser and Jack Sodeman, Jr. completed the top ten.
The evening’s fastest qualifier was Andrew Palker. Heat winners were Jack Sodeman, Jr., Cap Henry, and Dennis Wagner. The Dash winner was Danny Holtgraver. Caleb Helms prevailed in the B Main.
In the Bonnell’s Collision Center Outlaw Sprint Warrior 20 lap feature event, Jimmy Morris surged ahead of Rob Felix at the start, and the duo was never challenged the rest of the way. Morris found the win especially satisfying, as he had to make substantial repairs to his racer during the week after a rough ride at another area track. His troubles continued early in the evening at the Park, too. He replaced some clogged injectors after hot laps. The extra work paid off, though, as Morris was clearly the class of the field.
Andy Feil drove an impressive race, climbing to third from tenth.Greg Dobrosky applied pressure to the young driver in the final rounds, but Feil held his ground. C.J. Jones registered a fine fifth, after destroying his racer on Tuesday night at another area track.
Joe McEwen placed sixth, just a notch ahead of Mike Miller. Points leader Michael Bauer was eighth. Ralph Engel, Jr. was ninth and Mike Murano, II was tenth.
The two heat winners were McEwen and Chris Matthews.
The Precise Racing Products Open Stocks attracted a few invaders, who were getting ready for the big season-ending event, the 14th Annual Little Guy Nationals. It was one of them, Tim Bish, who claimed the victory.
Curt Bish led lap one, but Rusty Moore took the lead away on the next round. Moore held command with Bish running second until lap 11. That was when Bish executed an inside move coming off turn two to overtake Moore. Moore brought out a caution just a few laps after that, explaining his disappointing finish outside the top ten.
Bish led the rest of the way, but it was Bob Sloss, another invader, who claimed second with five laps left in the event. Sloss held off Chris WIthers, Pat Fielding, and Leigh Wheeler the rest of the way.
Positions six through ten belonged to Bobby Heim, Bob Schwartzmiller, Andy Thompson, Brent Johnson, and Ryan Moyer.
Preliminaries went to Schwartzmiller, Johnson, and Curt Bish.
Claiming the win in the Mini Stock finale was Jamey Lee, who benefited from a spin by leader Pete Blazak and a rough driving call on the second place car of Tyler Fulton. Lee solidified his points lead in the quest for the championship crown offered by Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles. Steve Longwell, Jr., the defending champion in the division, crossed in second. Blazak charged back to third on the final lap. Shane Shook and Tyler Fulton were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Rudy Troples placed sixth, with Jeff Bucklew, Steve Longwell, Sr., Patricia Riffe, and Ryan Carroll rounded out the top ten.
Heat wins were scored by Fulton and Alex Paden.
Remember that Mercer Raceway Park will be dark over the Labor Day weekend. Racing will resume on Saturday, September 7, with the final points events of the season. Double points will be on the line, as the racers fight for every position on the track and in the season’s standings. All six of the track’s exciting divisions will see action. Plus, it will be “Meet your Heroes” night, presented by Herr’s. Then, on September 14, the track will host the “Finals” for the pulling Trucks and Tractors, the USA East Regional Final Fall Nationals! The speedway will close out the 2013 season with the 14th Annual Little Guy Nationals, on September 20 and 21.
UNOH All Stars Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars Qualifications: Andrew Palker, 13.606; Danny Holtgraver 13.727; Paige Polyak 13.897; Caleb Helms 14.004; Cole Duncan 14.040; Tim Shaffer 14.049; Trey Gustin 14.091; Dale Blaney 14.116; Lee Jacobs 14.123; Adam Kekich 14.158; Carl Bowser 14.262; Ralph Spithaler 14.395; Eric Williams 14. 400; Scott Priester 14.422; Russ Sansosti 14.426; Jack Sodeman, Jr. 14.478; Cap Henry 14.610; Dennis Wagner 14.615; Dan Kuriger 14.633; Brandon Matus 14.656; Jim Schuster 14.748; Andy McKisson 14.821; Chris Best 14.954; Brent Matus 15.297; Bob Howard 15.368; Brad Howard 15.560; John McCracken 16.595; Gale Ruth, Jr. NT.
UNOH All Stars Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars: Danny Holtgraver, Andrew Palker, Dale Blaney, Tim Shaffer, Cole Duncan, Lee Jacobs, Paige Polyak, Ralph Spithaler, Carl Bowser, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Andy McKisson, Trey Gustin, Adam Kekich, Cap Henry, Caleb Helms, Russ Sansosti, Eric Williams, Dennis Wagner, Chris best, Bob Howard, Brent Mayus, Jim Shuster, Scott Priester, Brandon Matus. DNQ: Brad Howard, John McCracken, Dan Kuriger.
Bonnell’s Collision Center Outlaw Sprint Warriors: Jimmy Morris, Rob Felix, Andy Feil, Greg Dobrosky, C.J. Jones, Joe McEwen, Mike Miller, Michael Bauer, Ralph Engel, Jr., Mike Murano, II, Chris Matthews, Jake Gomola, Eric L. Williams, George Frederick, Walt Tutak, Kotie Kirkbride, Cody Braden, Jason Scoville, Brian Biddle.
Precise Racing Products Open Stock Cars: Tim Bish, Bob Sloss, Chris WIthers, Pat Fielding, Leigh Wheeler, Bobby Heim, Bob Schwartzmiller, Andy Thompson, Brent Johnson, Ryan Moyer, Dan McEwen, Garrett Calvert, Terry Kroner, Jeremy Williams, Rusty Moore, Michael Tonkinson, Troy DeZarn, Curt Bish, Shawn Fawcett, Colton Gearhart, Dan Smeal (DNS).
Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking/Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks: Jamey Lee, Steve Longwell, Jr., Pete Blazak, Shane Shook, Tyler Fulton, Rudy Troples, Jeff Bucklew, Steve Longwell, Sr., Patricia Riffe, Ryan Carroll, Matt Cwynar, Josh Eakman, Joel Wisser, Alex Paden, Ed Haylett, Caleb Hickok, Steve Walker, Chad Fry, Tyler Blake.