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 Posted: Saturday Oct 7th, 2017 12:22 AM
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Racer4u
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Joined: Tuesday Dec 6th, 2005
Location: Olympia, Washington USA
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After five years away, I flew back east to Pennsylvania to watch the drivers of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars duke it out with the Pennsylvania Posse in the Champion Racing Oil National Open last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I touched down in Harrisburg on Wednesday and it was like an Indian summer, as it got up to 90 degrees. It seems like I can't get away from hot weather no matter where I go! :? Thursday through Monday were much more comfortable and they felt more fall-like. There were three main events in the National Open, along with the make-up A-Main from the Champion Racing Oil Summer Nationals on July 22. I'm going to give a quick recap for all of them...

Greg Hodnett led the first nine laps in Thursday's 25-lap main event until Shane Stewart passed him down low out of turn four as they complete the tenth lap. They made contact, sending Hodnett on a quick 360 spin. Greg somehow kept it dirty side down and kept right on trucking. The yellow flag came out, but Hodnett kept second place. Hodnett tried to take lead back from Stewart out of turn two on the restart, but it didn't work. Greg tried again in turn three, but he got into Shane and it sent both guys crashing hard into the turn three guardrail. That gave the lead to David Gravel, who led the remainder of the event. Daryn Pittman kept it close, as Gravel had trouble lapping slower cars. Gravel and Pittman split the slower car of Jac Haudenschild at the flagstand with five laps to go, with Gravel holding onto the top spot. Gravel captured the race ahead of Pittman, Lance Dewease, Donny Schatz, and Cory Haas.

The next main event was the make-up feature from July. Hodnett's crew made repairs to start that race on the pole, and Greg didn't let anybody down as he led all 25 laps. Danny Dietrich took second from Gravel on lap five, as he made the pass on the high side at the backstretch bridge. Lapped traffic was also a problem in this race, as Hodnett couldn't pass Parker Price-Miller. Dietrich attempted to take the lead on lap 14, but he made contact with Hodnett and spun in turn three. Brian Montieth, who was running seventh, got into Dietrich and the night was over for "The Edge". Eighth-place starter Lucas Wolfe had a great restart and he went to the high side to steal second from Gravel in turns one and two. Two more yellow flags flew on lap 16. The first one happened when Brent Marks and Anthony Macri did synchronized spins in turns three and four. Both drivers managed to keep going. Dietrich's evening went from bad to worse, as he crashed into the guardrail between turns one and two on the restart and almost flipped. Despite getting trapped behind slower cars, Hodnett saw the checkered flag first and became $20,000 richer. Wolfe was second with Schatz, Pittman, and Gravel third through fifth.

The original start of Friday's A was called off due to rain, and the track crew was able to get the track back into racing shape within minutes. James McFadden and Hodnett drag raced down the backstretch on the opening lap of the 25-lap race, and McFadden had the advantage as they approached turn three. The red lights came on for the third lap when Dietrich, Trey Starks, and Montieth wrecked in turn three. J. Haudenschild was the last car in the crash, and he ended up getting the worst of it by going for a hard flip. A yellow flag flew on the restart, as Dale Blaney spun in turn four with a broken front axle.  McFadden also had difficulty tried to lap slower cars, allowing Hodnett and Schatz to close. J-Mac kept cool and he etched his name in the record books with his first Outlaws victory. Hodnett, Schatz, Brad Sweet, and Stewart finished in spots two through five.

Schatz took the lead from pole sitter Gravel when the green flag flew on Saturday's $50,000-to-win main event. McFadden came up from his sixth starting spot on the opening lap, as he passed Dewease for third out of turn four. Gravel made Schatz's lead disappear and he took the lead away from the eight-time and defending series champion at the line on lap number six. Schatz slipped on the high side out of turn two on the 18th lap, and that allowed McFadden to get by for second. This happened just before Montieth came to a stop under the backstretch bridge for a yellow flag. McFadden showed his muscle on the restart, as he took the lead from Gravel out of turn two. Gravel came back on the next lap, as he passed J-Mac on the high side out of turn four. Another yellow period occurred two laps later for Stewart, who stopped in turn three with a flat left rear tire. Schatz took second from McFadden in turn three on the restart and tried to pursue Gravel. The race came to a halt on lap 28, when Stewart flipped out of turn two. Jason Johnson, Kraig Kinser, and Sweet were also involved. After the open red, the racing was short lived as a wreck happened in turn one on the restart. Sweet crashed into the inside guardrail and Kinser had nowhere to go and went for a roll. There were no injuries in the crashes. Schatz looked to take the lead from Gravel in the closing laps, but his plan was foiled with two laps to go when Brian Brown slowed on the backstretch with a shredded right rear tire. Gravel nailed the final restart and drove to his second National Open win and the 50 grand. Schatz settled for second with McFadden in third, Logan Schuchart surging from 20th to fourth, and Pittman in fifth. 

In the Pennsylvania races, the Outlaws have a slight lead over the Posse cars by a 5-3 margin. The Outlaws' final race in the "Keystone State" is next Saturday at Port Royal Speedway. This is my final recap for '17, so here are some bits and pieces from my second trip to the Grove...

Third Time Lucky: Really lucky, I should say! :shock: This was the third year where the National Open tried to have a three-day show and everything was ran as scheduled for the first time. Mother Nature came through with a couple of small showers on Friday during the C-Main and the original start of the A-Main. The showers didn't last long in both cases, and everything was back in business after the track was reworked. The last two years had nothing but problems with the weather. The National Open was ran on the Sunday rain date in 2015 after the three days before were all rained out. It was another washout last year and the event was postponed by two weeks.

Sweet Sixteen: Gravel's phenomenal season continues with the Outlaws this year, as his win total is up to a career-high sixteen. :cool: He won nine times last year in his first season driving the CJB Motorsports #5 car, and wound up third in the point standings. David currently sits third in points with just ten races left to go in his standout year. He has a great deal of success in Pennsylvania in '17, as he has three wins at the Grove and one at Lincoln Speedway.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!: McFadden was the new crowd favorite in Posse Country, as he won his first ever Outlaws event on Friday. :cool: He was the first driver from Australia to win a main event at Williams Grove since Garry Brazier did so in 1997. James ended a very stellar weekend on the podium with a third-place finish and he also picked up the National Open Rookie Award from the Beer Hill Gang, pocketing an extra $2,250. :D

Fast Freddie the Second: 21-year-old Freddie Rahmer clinched his first track championship at Williams Grove, an accomplishment that his Hall of Fame father Fred has done nine times. Freddie (the kid) did something very rare on Thursday, as he won the KSE Hard Charger Award in both main events. He climbed his way up to eighth in the regular-scheduled feature and 11th in the Summer Nationals makeup. :)

Brother vs. Brother: "The Madman" Kerry Madsen returned to Williams Grove for another try at the Natty Open, while his younger brother Ian made his first ever trip to the famed half-mile. The brothers made the A-Main all three nights with Kerry getting the edge with two seventh-place runs along with a ninth. Ian, this year's 410 champion at Knoxville Raceway, had his best result on Friday with a seventh. He also had a 19th on Thursday and 13th on Saturday.

Logan Locks In: Schuchart failed to qualify for the main events on Thursday and Friday, and came into Saturday 33rd in total points out of 49 people. He started seventh in the fourth heat race, but he earned a ticket to the A-Main with a third-place run. Logan started the big dance in 20th and he did a masterful job moving up through the field. He and Pittman swapped the fourth spot three different times in the final laps until Logan got that spot for good out of turn four with four laps remaining and also picked up the KSE Hard Charger Award for good measure. :)

Life's Still Grand: Dirt Track Digest and Camp Mayhem partnered up for the "Just Missed Award" for the second straight year to give the first non-transferring driver out of the B-Main some extra spending money. That driver was Ryan Smith, who walked away with $1,115. Last year's winner Steve Buckwalter earned an extra $1,000.

Troubles for Trey: If there's a driver who'd love to put the National Open behind him, it's Starks. :( He was battling for fifth with T.J. Stutts in Thursday's B-Main when they made contact on the frontstretch on lap number three. Stutts took a tumble and Starks was also out of the race. Starks was involved in the second-lap accident in Friday's feature with Dietrich, Montieth, and J. Haudenschild. Trey was able to continue on, but fell out a few laps later. It looked he finally turned his luck around on Saturday, as he finished fourth in the fourth heat race. However, he was disqualified for an illegal top wing and failed to transfer out of the B. :(

East Meets West: I mentioned in one of my blog entries/recaps in my last trip to the Grove in 2012 when I bumped into Tim Zimbardi, the father of sprint car racer Jared, at the funnel cake stand. I managed to find him again on the backstretch bleachers on Saturday after he got, yep, a funnel cake. :) He remembered me and got out his phone to show me a nasty crash that Jared was involved in during the National Open URC race at Williams Grove on September 1. Jared stuffed his car into the frontstretch guardrail and went on a violent series of somersaults. :? He was knocked out, but he has since recovered from it and is back racing again. 

Number for the Weekend: 6...the number of Outlaws drivers in the top ten in Saturday's main event. Sheldon Haudenschild was eighth, while Jason Sides was tenth. The highest-finishing Posse car belonged to McFadden.

Consistency Award: Schatz. Donny was the only driver to register top five finishes in all four main events. He had a second-place finish, plus two thirds and a fourth. He also extended his points lead to 148 markers over Sweet.  

Hard Luck Award: Buckwalter. Steve had mechanical problems towards the end of Thursday's third heat race and scratched from the remainder of the National Open. Eric Tomecek also ran only one night of racing, as did Tim Wagaman.

"Never Say Die" Award: "The Wild Child". Jac destroyed his sprinter in a flip during Friday's A-Main and had to be transported by ambulance. He came back on Saturday with a new car and took the fourth and final transfer spot in heat number three from Smith on a last-corner pass to get into the big show.

Next race: Sometime and somewhere next year!

R.I.P. Tom Petty (1950-2017)

Pictures (new site!): https://www.facebook.com/Twisted-Logic-Photography-1715739992067898/

Blog: http://www.shauninthedirt.com/bensblog

____________________
Avatar (new!): Sam Hafertepe, Jr. at Grays Harbor Raceway in the Fred Brownfield Classic (taken 6/30/17).

Last edited on Saturday Oct 7th, 2017 02:02 AM by Racer4u

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