Friday night at Lernerville Speedway had a little something for everyone in attendance as another fab four race night went in the books. Fans got to see Mat Williamson look like well, Mat Williamson again so to speak as the defending modified champion not only finished his first feature in three weeks but put the field to his rear, coming up with his first Lernerville win in 2014.
Those fans also got to see former sprint champion Danny Holtgraver take advantage of an off night for the All Star Sprints, by coming home and taking care business and making it look easy in his feature win. The sprints and mods sandwiched what was probably the best feature of the season in terms of entertainment value in 2014 as Mike Pegher Jr picked as hard earned win as there is at the action track while a surprise awaited everyone in victory lane in the sportsman.
Williamson had drawn the wrath of the racing gods in his last two appearances at Lernerville, suffering engine failure not once but twice, which pushed him down to 12th in the season standings. It’s early on in 2014, but we could say that Friday night may be a turning point in the current campaign.
Tom Winkle drew the pole for the feature and for eight laps looked as if he had a strong enough car to keep himself situated at the front. Meanwhile, behind him lurked some stout competition. Perennial frontrunner Brian Swartzlander once again saw himself the victim of misfortune. It was apparent his car wasn’t turning to the left so well on lap 1 and it didn’t get any better on lap 2 as Swartzlander went out of the park in turns 1 and 2 as he continued to suffer misfortune for yet another week.
Behind the battle up front, Williamson had picked through the five cars ahead of him and set his sights on Winkle, taking the lead on lap 9 while Jeremiah Shingledecker followed him to the front.
But to keep himself in the lead, Williamson would have to withstand three restarts on lap 21 and yet another one a lap later when Shingledecker and Winkle made contact on the front stretch battling for second. Shingledecker got by on the outside as Tom Winkle was sent spinning to set up one final restart that saw Williamson hold on to collect the win while pole sitter Winkle managed to climb back up to 8th in the remaining laps.
Brad Rapp and Shingledecker recorded heat wins, for Rapp it was his third such win in four nights of racing.
“We’ve had the worst luck the last two weeks with this big block ” Williamson said. “It just feels nice to actually finish a race. We came down here and we didn’t think we were going to win and I’d never run this motor before and I didn’t know how it was going to run. But right from the drop of the green I knew we were going to be good.
“He (Winkle) was good. I was just kind of biding my time, I knew I had 25 laps to do it. I was just trying to see where I was good and I was bad and I tried to judge where I could get by him, if I could get by him. I could see where I could gain on people and they could gain on me. I just had to keep my line and not screw up for 25 laps.
“We went 21 laps without a caution and sure enough the last few laps we couldn’t get it done without a caution, Williamson added referring to the late race restarts. “Once the first late caution comes out you know there might be a couple more because people get a little excited and start driving over the edge.”
1. Mat Williamson
2. Jeremiah Shingledecker
3. Steve Feder
4. Dave Murdick
5. Rex King Jr
6. Brad Rapp
7. Rex King Sr
8. Tom Winkle
9. Mike Turner
10. Rick Regalski
For entertainment value, the Late Models provided the best feature of the night, even though the first 2/3 of the race saw John Garvin Jr pace the field from the pole but behind him, Mike Pegher Jr had picked his way from 8th to second in a matter of seven laps. And when Alex Ferree joined the party at the midway point and the stage was set for an epic battle among the three cars which was made five cars later on when Chub Frank and Russ King joined them on a late race restart.
Once again Brian Swartzlander had trouble in turns one and two to bring out the late race caution, and with just a handful of laps remaining the top three emerged from the back stretch in a battle for the win as Pegher Jr, Ferree, and Garvin made it three wide going into turn four as PegherJr sliced through both competitors to take the lead. Pegher endured a late race restart and held on while the action behind him to take his second career super late model victory at Lernerville.
“It was a fun race and the cautions helped us out there at the end” Pegher said. “I have to thank Lynn, he and I are at the shop every night working on this thing. We had a couple of bad weeks there but hopefully we’re back on track now.
Pegher Jr got much more than he expected in the result. “When I drew a seven, I would have just been happy with a top 5, we’ll take it.”
The late model heats had a terrible moment when in heat two, Doug Eck was sent into the front stretch wall just exiting turn after some contact with Russ King. Eck was okay and safety personnel responded quickly to the gruesome looking accident while his car had to be up righted and removed by flat bed truck. Alex Free and Brian Swartzlander and John Garvin took the three heat races.
1. Mike Pegher Jr
2. John Garvin Jr
3. Alex Ferree
4. Russ King
5. Chub Frank
6. Colton Flinner
7. Garrett Krummert
8. Gary Lyle
9. Dave Murdick
10. Chuck Sarver
A somewhat sparse fourteen car sprint car field was put to bed by former track champion Danny Holtgraver, and he made it look easy. Starting from the 10th spot, Holtgraver made his way through the field on a surface that was getting more slippery by the lap, with little bite to be found, except in certain places.
But easy as it looked, running down top competitor Jack Sodeman Jr from the front row can be a daunting set of circumstances for any driver. Sodeman Jr looked like the class of the field early on, amassing a greater than four second lead while Brandon Matus gave it his best shot taking the high side early on and challenging for the lead. Matus couldn’t find enough upstairs to carry his momentum though and had to settle for a third place finish.
Holtgraver methodically worked through the field and passed Sodeman Jr on lap 12 which he never relinquished. Carl Bowser and Mike Lutz took the heat wins.
“We were good tonight, it just took me a little while to get going” Holtgraver said. “I couldn’t hit where I needed to hit and I couldn’t get off the bottom of two to save my life but once I got to the front I told myself I’d better start hitting it. It was a fun race track tonight and I was able to get up through.”
1. Danny Holtgraver
2. Jack Sodeman Jr
3. Brandon Matus
4. Eric Williams
5. Mike Lutz
6. Dan Shetler
7. Brent Matus
8. AJ FLick
9. Billy Dietrich
10. Pete Landram
Terry Young is having a season to…….well, never mind. Young turned the wheel over to Chris Schneider, much to everyone’s surprise, and Schneider rewarded the decision with a feature win. Schneider gave up the early lead and got it back which he later described as a “brain fart”. First he gave it up to Rob Shook on lap three who gave it back the next lap, and then he gave it up to Corey McPherson on lap seven.
McPherson and Schneider and Shook dueled for the win through a caution filled feature. McPherson lost his bite on lap 13 and opened the door for Schneider, and he took full advantage as he slammed the door on the two time defending champion taking the win in the process while McPherson held on for second and last week’s winner, Jim Fosnaught took a hard fought third.
In victory lane Schneider described his key to victory on the slippery surface. “Slower is faster”.
1. Chris Schneider
2. Corey McPherson
3. Jim Fosnaught
4. Rob Shook
5. Mike MIller
6. Mark Sanders
7. Pat Hanley
8. Aaron Easler
9. Brett McDonald
10. Joe Zambotti
To check out Eric Westendorf’s always well done recap click here: Fab Four Race Report
For the full field rundown of Friday night’s action click here: Fab Four Quick Results