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|National Open thoughts|| Rate Topic
|Posted: Monday Oct 8th, 2018 06:50 PM||
|It was a very emotional end to the month of September for not only the Pennsylvania Posse, but the racing community as a whole. Greg Hodnett passed away at the age of 49 after he crashed during a race at BAPS Motor Speedway on the 20th. Hodnett was surely a driver that fans and fellow racers look up to with a lot of respect and honor. A talented field of drivers showed up for the Champion Racing Oil National Open at Williams Grove Speedway on the 28th and 29th, and there was a packed house for both nights. The main event on the 28th went 27 laps in honor of Hodnett, and 27 cars started. For the A-Main on the 29th, Sherry Hodnett was riding in the pace truck along with Bobbi and Jaxx Johnson. Two-time United Racing Club champion Sean Michael paced the A-Main field both nights aboard Mike Heffner's #27 car. Paul McMahan sported a #27 wing to pay tribute to Hodnett and to keep Heffner's hopes alive to win the 410 owner's championship at Williams Grove (which Heffner did win, as the finale happened last Friday).
For the main event on the 28th, defending Natty Open champion David Gravel had the pole with Giovanni Scelzi starting alongside. Gravel took off with the lead and he quickly distanced himself from the rest of the field. The first yellow flag came out on the fifth lap, as Logan Schuchart came to a stop in turn three while running fourth. Six laps later, Sheldon Haudenschild and Jacob Allen spun almost simultaneously in turn three. Allen kept going, while Haudenschild couldn't. Scelzi tried to go to the inside of Gravel in turn two on the restart, but couldn't quite make the pass. Seconds later, Freddie Rahmer nearly passed Scelzi in turn four for the second spot. The third and final slowdown happened on the 15th lap, as Carson Macedo stopped up high in turn four with a broken nose wing. Scelzi once again went on the attack on the restart and made the pass on Gravel down the backchute under the bridge. This was the first trip to the Grove for Scelzi and he withstood a last-corner pass from Gravel to hang on for an emotional victory. Lucas Wolfe finished third to round the podium. Rahmer and Tim Shaffer came together in turn four on the last lap, resulting in Shaffer spinning with a broken front end. Rahmer was fourth and Shane Stewart was fifth after starting twelfth.
It's on to the 29th, where the stakes get raised in a huge way and the winner gets $56,000. "The Jonestown Jet" Brock Zearfoss led from the pole and he led outside pole sitter Lance Dewease, Brian Brown, Scelzi, and Brian Montieth. Montieth took fourth from Scelzi out of turn four on the fifth lap, and he also went by Brown in turn four two laps later to climb to third. The yellow lights came on the twelfth lap as Brad Sweet spun in turn two and he collected Donny Schatz. It was very odd to see the top two in points wreck. Sweet was done, while Schatz was able to restart. Zearfoss was still on the point, but Dewease was knocking on the door. Lance performed a slide job in turns one and two on the 16th circuit, but Brock was able to drive back by just before the bridge. The two drivers were coming through lap traffic after the halfway point, and Dewease made the pass stick on lap 24 on the backstretch by splitting Zearfoss and the lapped car of Jordan Givler. This happened before the red lights came on the following go-around for a fuel stop. On the restart, Zearfoss' car suddenly broke loose in turn one and backed it into the guardrail very hard. Brock was unhurt, but very dejected. Dewease was in the zone during the final laps and he won the 56 grand over Daryn Pittman, Montieth, tenth-place starter Shaffer, and twelfth-starting Ryan Smith.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is my last journal for the 2018 season. It's been a fun journey and I'm already making plans for next year. As usual, there are some extra bits and bobs (did I suddenly turn British?) from the races and let's go in for a closer look...
Gee Whiz, Gio!: Making the A-Main in the National Open in your first try is awesome, but to win it over the best in the business is absolutely phenomenal. Scelzi is just 16 years of age and it's very fitting that he took the lead on the 16th lap. He's now the youngest driver in history to win an Outlaws show, as well as a race at Williams Grove. Kevin Swindell was 17 when he won his first (and only) WoO race at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in '06. Aaron Ott was also 17 when he made his first trip to Victory Lane at the Grove in '09. Gio was also the Beer Hill Gang National Open Rookie of the Year winner, and he won an extra $1,300 after finishing 13th.
Giving Back: Schuchart was on top of the time trials on the 28th and he won a $327 bonus from Fast Tees, and he immediately donated it to Sherry Hodnett. Later that night, Schatz gave Hodnett $500 after winning the Wicked Cushion Hard Charger Award.
Dewease Does It Again: When big money races take place in Pennsylvania, Dewease gets the job done and he took home $56,000 after his huge victory on the 29th. He swept last year's Tuscarora 50 weekend at Port Royal Speedway with the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions and won a total of $55,000. Lance has to be the odds-on favorite to win this year's $51,000-to-win Tuscarora 50, which is rescheduled on October 27 as an Outlaws show with the $10,000-to-win Nittany Showdown being held the night before. The All Stars tried to race the Tusky 50 on September 8 and 9, but Mother Nature had other plans both days.
Extra Money in Your Pocket: For the third straight year, Dirt Track Digest gave out the "Just Missed Award" and tag teamed with SprintCarUnlimited.com. This award saw the biggest payday yet at $1,527 for the first non-transfer out of the B-Main on the 29th. It went to Chad Trout, who finished tenth. The three racers who were seventh through ninth (Wolfe, Kraig Kinser, and Rahmer) earned provisional spots to tag the back of the A.
Fast as Lightning: Brian Paulus set the track record in 2002 with a lap of 16.140 seconds, and it still stands. The top qualifiers for the two nights weren't far off from that time, as Schuchart had a lap of 16.305 seconds on the 28th and Scelzi was even faster at 16.250 on the 29th. Racers were still running laps well into the 16's in the heat races both nights. Shaffer had a blistering lap of 16.253 seconds during the second heat on the 28th!
Givler Gets In: After finishing sixth in the D-Main on the 28th, it looked like it would be a similar deal for Givler the following night. He qualified next-to-last in his group (24th out of 25) and started eighth in the third heat. Jordan avoided an opening-lap accident in turn three that involved Jacob Allen (who flipped), Rahmer, and Danny Dietrich. Gravel lost power on the backstretch while running second on lap four, and Rahmer ran into the back of him. Givler passed Justin Whittall on the restart to take third, which is enough to get a ticket to his first Outlaw A-Main.
Running Through the Alphabet: Doing the "alphabet soup" route in any track is really tough, but two drivers proved that it can be done at the Grove. Dietrich won the C-Main on the 28th, then charged from 13th to sixth to get to the A. Brent Marks finished second in the C behind Rahmer on the 29th, and it only took Brent two laps to rocket from 14th to sixth! Brent ended up fifth, and that also gave him a spot for the big dance.
Perfect Season: I went to a total of 17 races this year and none of them were rained out! I had to miss the Summer Thunder Sprint Series/Washington Modified Tour opener at Yakima in early April because my workplace was being renovated. It's safe to say I made up lost ground very well. I went to seven races at both Grays Harbor Raceway and Skagit Speedway, plus one race at the Rainier Cycle Bowl as a regular fan.
One More Red Nightmare: Most of the time when I'm out flying, I had no or little issues. I experienced the not-so-pleasant side of travelling, as four of my six flights were delayed. My first flight from Portland to SeaTac was delayed for about 45 minutes because there was a lot of construction going on at SeaTac and there was no room to land. My first trip home (Harrisburg to Detroit) had its air conditioning unit fail just before takeoff, causing a delay of over an hour. The upsides were I was able to make all of my connections and my bags didn't get lost. I hope when I fly next year, things will go much smoother.
Number for the Weekend: 4. This is the fourth time that Dewease has won the Natty Open, but it's been a number of years since he's done so. He won this race in 1995, 2001, and 2002. The only driver that has won the Natty Open more times is Schatz with five.
Consistency Award: Montieth. Quite a few drivers had just one decent finish in this event, so it was tough to choose. I'm going to go with "The Edge", who had finishes of seventh and third.
Hard Luck Award: Jared Esh. Jared's first National Open appearance came to an end on the first night, as he drilled the wall in turn three on lap seven during the C-Main.
Next race: Bring on 2019!
Avatar: Greg Hamilton at Grays Harbor Raceway (taken 6/2/18
Last edited on Monday Oct 8th, 2018 06:53 PM by Racer4u
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