Mercer, PA (April 27, 2013): Under warm and sunny skies, Mercer Raceway Park opened the gates for the first Saturday Night Live! program of the 2013 racing season. Brandon Spithaler made a daring move entering turn one on the last lap to garner his third straight opening event for the 410 Sprint Cars presented by Luxaire Heating & Cooling and New Wilmington Motors.
Gary Smoker returned to victory lane after a long hiatus in the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds. Rusty Moore began his march to a third straight track championship in the Precise Racing Products Stock Cars. Cody Bova held off a last lap challenge from Shane Pfeuffer to claim his first win in the Modified Lites sponsored by Big Daddy’s Speed Center and Rock Concrete. Michael Bauer took his new colors into victory lane in the Bonnell’s Collision Center Outlaw Sprint Warriors. Jamy Lee scored the win in the finale for the Mini Stocks, now racing for Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles.
“We’re three for three, I love opening night,” exclaimed Spithaler after exiting the car. He had to work hard, especially on the last lap, to gain the victory. “I thought that I was faster, but I didn’t know if I would be able to get by without a little help from the lapped traffic.” He got the break that he needed on the last lap, as he managed to scoot between a lapped car and leader Scott Priester. Spithaler then got a scare on the final circuit when his wing came apart entering turn three. The sound of the air coming off the damaged wing caused him to think that he was blowing some fluid from the engine, but he was relieved to see that the side of the car was clean.
Gale Ruth, Jr. and Scott Priester paced the field for the first 410 Sprint Car event at the Park. Ruth jumped out to the early lead, but his bid for a win came to an end when his car stopped on the backstretch with just two laps in the books. That gave the lead over to Priester, who was working the Martha Dionise Sprinter to perfection.
Priester was pressured in the early stages by Dan Kuriger, while Jack Sodeman, Jr. and Brandon Spithaler worked their way to the front. However, Priester was able to open up a few car lengths on Kuriger when the pair got to lapped traffic.
Sodeman, who was seeking his second win of the weekend, reached second place on lap 12, pulling Spithaler along with him. Within the span of a few laps, Spithaler got by Sodeman and he began to close on Priester.
As the laps clicked away, Spithaler continued to chop away at Priester’s lead. On lap 21, Spithaler reached his rear nerf bar. Priester still maintained a slight advantage in traffic.
However, as the leaders were approaching another lapped car, Spithaler pounced. He squeezed between Priester and the lapped car. Then, he went to the cushion to pull away from Priester as they raced down the backstretch.
With the checkered flag in Spithaler’s view, a car spun between turns three and four. Spithaler swept under the checkers for the win, and the remainder of the field reverted to the previous lap for their final results.
That put Priester in second, followed by Kuriger, Sodeman and defending champion Eric Williams.
Bill Jones, Jr. placed sixth, ahead of the father and son team of Brandon and Brent Matus. Bob McMillen and Shawn Hubler completed the top ten.
Heat winners were Sodeman and Adam Kekich, who brought out the first caution of the race.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here,” said a happy Gary Smoker after taking the win in the Approved Toilet rentals 358 Modifieds. Smoker took some time away from the cockpit to help get his son, Max, started in racing. Now, he plans to run a part-time schedule while continuing to groom him.
At the drop of the green, Gary Smoker jumped out to a lead that he would never relinquish. Frank Guidace tried valiantly to pass the veteran driver, while J.R. McGinley raced patiently in third. McGinley made a strong move to grab second from Guidace following a lap seven restart.
With Smoker and McGinley leading the way, Guidace drove harder and harder to try to gain ground. The strategy did not work, as the lead pair began to pull away from him. Meanwhile, Lonny Riggs kept his faltering car ahead of Andy Paden for the fourth spot.
On the final lap, Smoker’s pace was slowed by lapped traffic. That gave McGinley one last chance to try to steal the win. McGinley dove low entering turn three, but Smoker had just enough in reserve to hold him off in the final stretch run.
After Smoker and McGinley came Frank Guidace, Riggs and Paden.
Jeff Schaffer worked past Clyde Gumpp in the waning laps for sixth. Eighth went to second-generation driver Max Smoker. Rookie Eric Beggs was ninth and Tommy Marshall, III rounded out the top ten.
Heat winners were Paden and Kyle FInk, who retired early in the race while running inside the top five.
Trusty Rusty Moore dominated the Precise Racing Products Stock Car main, rebounding from a disappointing run in the Chiller Thriller several weeks before. While leading that race, he had a mechanical problem send him pitside for repairs that put him one lap down. Moore gave credit to a new shock package for his superiority on this night.
Andy Thompson held off Bob Schwartzmiller for second. Curt Bish, Brett McDonald, Lee Wheeler and Garrett Calvert were the remaining cars at the finish.
Michael Tonkinson and Charlie McMillen were creditted with eighth and ninth.
Gary Miller was unable to start the feature after a devastating crash in turn one during his heat race. Miller’s throttle stuck wide open, and he was unable to react quickly enough to avoid the impact. Miller was transpoprted to a local hospital for treatment. Details on his condition were unavailable by the conclusion of the racing activities.
Heat winners were Thompson and Moore.
In the Modified Lites, presented by Big Daddy’s Speed Center and Rock Concrete, Cody Bova outran Mark Marcucci into turn one on a restart. The young pilot paced the field, opening up a considerable advantage. However, a late race caution allowed Shane Pfeuffer to press for the lead in the final laps. Showing the poise of a veteran driver, Bova held off Pfeuffer’s final challenge in turns one and two of the final lap.
Bova, Pfeuffer and Tyler Frankenberry were the podium finishers. Darrin Gallagher and Cory Webb were fourth and fifth.
Josh Deems, Kotie Kirkbride, Marcucci and Bill Stivason were next, based upon laps completed.
Preliminaries went to Cody Bova and Pfeuffer.
Michael Bauer led the entire distance in the Bonnell’s Collision Center Outlaw Sprint Warriors. After experiencing problems in hot laps and his heat, Bauer was able to get his racer ready to go for the feature by taking a part from his pick-up truck. Jacob Lagestee scored his career best finish, a second, after taking his first ever heat win earlier in the evening. Joe McEwen finished third despite a swollen hand suffered in a wreck at another area seppedway a couple of weeks ago.
Newcomer Greg Dobransky drove his beautiful Sprinter to fourth, just ahead of hard-charging Jason Scoville.
C.J. Jones, Dalton Daniels, Jimmy Morris, Tyler Graves and Thomas Sanders were sixth through tenth.
Jones joined Lagastee as a victor in the heat races.
Jamey Lee withsood the challenge of Trooper Tim Callahan in the Mini Stock feature. Defending divisional champion Steve Longwell, Jr. raced home in third. Dan Bish and Tyler Fulton were fourth and fifth under the new banner of Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles.
Rudy Troples, Matt Cwynar, Evan Kornbav, Jeff Bucklee and Patricia Riffe were the next five to cross the line.
Heats were scored by Mike McConnell and Fulton.
A heat race was interrupted for a fire in Ed Haylett’s machine. he was unhurt.
Next week will be another Saturday Night Live! program, plus the debut of the 602 Crate Modifieds. The Mini Stocks will be added to this card and they will race for points.
Then, on May 11, the All Stars Circuit of Champions Sprints will be in for their first of two visits. This will be a special occasion, as Cowboy Brian Steinman will get a new, motorized all-terrain wheelchair. Purchase of the new equipment was made possible by a major contribution from the Steve King Foundation and the generosity of the racing community.
Luxaire Heating & Cooling/New Wilmington Motors Sprint Cars: Brandon Spithaler, Scott Priester, Dan Kuriger, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Eric Williams, Bill Jones, Jr., Brandon Matus, Brent Matus, Bob McMillen, Shawn Hubler, Chris Best, Dennis Wagner, Francis Sesco, adam Kekich, John McCracken, Jr., Gale Ruth, Jr.
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds: Gary Smoker, J.R. McGinley,Frank Guidace, Lonny Riggs, Andy Paden, Jeff Schaffer, Clyde Gumpp, Max Smoker, Eric Beggs, Tommy Marshall, III, Makayla Guidace, Matt Reeher, Kyle Fink, Eric Gabany, Jimmy Holden (DNS).
Precise Racing Products Stock Cars: Rusty Moore, Andy Thompson, Bob Schwartzmiller, Curt Bish, Brett McDonald, Lee Wheeler, Garrett Calvert, Michael Tonkinson, Charlie McMillen, Gary Miller (DNS).
Big Daddy’s Speed Center/Rock Concrete Modified Lites: Cody Bova, Shane Pfeuffer, Tyler Frankenberry, Darin Gallagher, Cory Webb, Josh Deems, Kotie Kirkbride, Mark Marcucci, Bill Stivason, Jacob Bova (DNS).
Bonnell’s Collision Center Outlaw Sprint Warriors: Michael Bauer, Jacob Lagestee, Joe McEwen, Greg Dobransky, Jason Scoville, C.J. Jones, Dalton Daniels, Jimmy Morris, Tyler Graves, Thomas Sanders, Joe Siembida, Jeff Goodman, Rob Felix, Cody Braden, Andy Feil, Jacob Gomola, Chad Matthews.
Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking/Ray’s Caring Collectibles Mini Stocks: Jamey Lee, Tim Callahan, Steve Longwell, Jr., Dan Bish, Tyler Fulton, Rudy Troples, Matt Cwynar, Evan Kornbav, Jeff Bucklee, Patricia Riffe, Josh Eakman, Mike McConnell, Adam Bulfone, Tim McAninch, Caleb Hickok, Steve Longwell, Sr. (DNS), Ed Haylett (DNS).