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The honeymoon’s over for Jeff Hartmanm, and he’s back in victory lane.
The Flagtown, NJ driver captured the season opener at the Kutztown Fair Speedway on May 16. Hartman, the two-time and defending track champion in the Wingless 600cc division, then got married on July 3 and -while no one is blaming his new marital status - Jeff and his family-run team went into a dry spell at the one-fifth mile oval that has been his own private playground for the past few seasons.
The dry spell ended on Wednesday night, as Hartman found the winner’s circle for the first time - anywhere - as a married man, winning his second of the year in Wingless 600cc competition at the Berks County dirt track.
Making just his second start of the season at Kutztown, former 270cc point champion Ross Perchak, Hazleton, won the 20-lap main event for the winged 270’s, while Simon Egan notched his second triumph of the year in the All Star Slingshot feature. Jason Dunkelberger joined Egan as a two-time winner at Kutztown in 2012 by recording the victory in the 20-lapper for the Xcel Sportsman Modifieds.
Despite his minor “slump” at his favorite track, Jeff Hartman managed to climb into the point lead at the fairgrounds, and he made sure that no one could overtake him for the point lead by winning the Wingless 600cc main event on Wednesday. In addition to the cash he received for the triumph, Hartman also wrapped up his third consecutive point title, as the 600’s and 270’s ran their final point shows of the season.
Jeff ducked under early leader Brett Schoenly as they blasted down the backstretch on lap three. His Hartman Painting/ Tosco Homes/ Delran Auto Body No. 026 nosed in front of Schoenly’s mount as they twisted through turns three and four, and that was the story of the race. Hartman went on to lead the rest of the laps and crossed the stripe with a margin of three-quarters of a second over Schoenly.
Joe Kay finished an impressive third, with Doug Snyder jumping up a couple of spots in the final point standings with his fourth place finish in Wednesday’s main event. Richie Hartman completed the top five.
It doesn’t matter that Ross Perchak only has a few starts at the fairgrounds this season; if he starts on the outside of the front row, it’s a good bet that he’ll wind up in victory lane. And that’s exactly what happened during Wednesday’s winged 270cc main event...
Perchak dueled with polesitter Austin Bishop on the opening lap before “Ross the Boss” nudged his Perchak Trucking No. 4 into the top spot at the end of the backstretch.
With Perchak quickly pulling away, the battle raged for second position between Bishop, Jason Swavely, Richie Hartman, and Nick Skias. Point leader and three-time winner Jarid Kunkle settled into the sixth slot until he was involved in a multi-car tangle at the halfway mark and had to be towed off the race track. Kunkle had a large cushion in the point standings over Tommy Kunsman, Jr., though, and still emerged as the 2012 champion of the 270cc division.
On the restart with ten to go, Richie Hartman gunned his No. 39 to the inside of Bishop and swept past the teenager to grab the runner-up position. Hartman opened the door for Kunsman to follow him by Bishop, dropping the orange No. 11 to fourth.
Bishop later spun out of fourth spot, handing that position to 15th starter Pete Skias, with 12th starting Harlee Schaffer rumbling into fifth.
While R. Hartman closed the gap on the swift running Perchak, he could not get close enough to mount a serious challenge. Perchak went on to win, with Hartman chasing him to the checkered flag. Kunsman finished third, with P. Skias and Harlee Schaffer rounding out the first five at the finish.
The All Star Slingshots, presented by Wert’s Beverage of Topton, ran their 20-lapper with only three short caution periods slowing the pace.
Travis Bieber paced the first 13 circuits after he outgunned pole man Louden Reimert on the initial start. Bieber put some distance between himself and the rest of the field, but Simon Egan, from Stroudsburg, was steadily progressing through the pack and headed toward the front.
Egan passed Reimert for third on the fourth trip around the clay, then slipped under Matt Mertz to gain the second spot on the eighth tour. A yellow with eight to go was the break of the race for Egan, as it brought the race leader back to him and he took full advantage on the restart.
Egan hung with Bieber for a lap before making his move. Simon shoved his car under Bieber’s No. 114 in turns one and two, then the duo raced side-by-side down the backchute before Egan squeezed in front in turns three and four with six laps remaining.
Egan went on to score the victory, his first at Kutztown since the Mike O’Pake Memorial Race on May 30. Travis Bieber finished as runner-up, with eighth-starting Jim Housworth threading his way through late race traffic to earn third place money. Reimert placed fourth for his best All Star Slinger finish, with Joe Nemeth registering a fifth-place effort.
Brett Bieber, who finished seventh on Wednesday, leads Jim Housworth in the Slingshot point chase with one event to go; the championship will be decided on Wednesday, August 15, as part of the annual Kutztown Fair Week racing events.
The Factor X Grafix Xcel Sportsman Modifieds waged another spirited 20-lap main on Wednesday, and Jason Dunkelberger gained a measure of redemption by winning his second feature of the year at the fairgrounds.
One week earlier, Dunkelberger got turned around on the final lap of the feature, spinning and backing into the concrete wall on the frontstretch, just past the starter’s stand. The impact was significant enough that it broke the concrete barrier.
Fast forward one week; on August 8, the Adamstown resident led all 20-laps, going from “wall breaker” to winner.
Dunkelberger survived three yellow flags and one red flag stoppage (when the powerplant imploded inside the No. 48 of Josh Fox, sending up a giant cloud of smoke that hung over the frontstretch and grandstands for several minutes). But Dunkelberger was up to the task, pulling away on each restart and leaving second-place Justin Schraden, Eric Whitby (Schraden’s dad), and Ryan Suchon to battle among themselves.
That’s the way they finished, with point leader Richie Hitzler making things interesting by challenging Suchon repeatedly over the final laps before Hitzler finally settled for fifth.
Several different cars and drivers paid a visit to Kutztown on Wednesday in an attempt to dial in their mounts for the Fair Week Nationals that take place this Tuesday and Wednesday.
A total of 28 drivers entered last week’s Wingless 600cc portion of the program, while 21 of the winged 270cc Sprints took part. There were 23 of the All Star Slingshots and 17 Xcel Sportsman Modifieds on hand last Wednesday, pushing the grand total to 89 racecars.
Wednesday’s heat race winners included:
Wingless 600cc Sprints: Joe Kay, Jeff Hartman, and Richie Hartman. Tony DiMattia won the consolation.
Winged 270cc Sprints: Ross Perchak, Austin Bishop, and Richie Hartman.
All Star Slingshots: Simon Egan, P.J. Knappenberger, and Matt Mertz.
Xcel Sportsman Modifieds: Ryan Suchon and Jordyn Mohr.
The 2012 season wraps up with three big events during this week’s annual Kutztown Fair...
Wingless 600cc Sprint Feature, 20 laps: 1.Jeff Hartman, 2.Brett Schoenly, 3.Joe Kay, 4.Doug Snyder, 5.Richie Hartman, 6.Brett Peters, 7.Bobby Butler, 8.Tyler Esh, 9.Rhett Long, 10.Greg Stevens, 11.Kameron Morral, 12.Taylor Troxel, 13.Tony DiMattia, 14.Billy Ney, 15.Louis Horvath, 16.Zach Fisher, 17.Shane Lewis, 18.Don Colaluce, 19.Rick Perone, 20.Jay Hartman, 21.Molly Chambers, 22.Travis Esh, 23.Tim Buckwalter, 24.Tyler Brehm.
Winged 270cc Sprint Feature, 20 laps: 1.Ross Perchak, 2.Richie Hartman, 3.Tom Kunsman Jr., 4.Pete Skias, 5.Harlee Schaffer, 6.Andrew Dietrich, 7.Robbie Watson, 8.Josh Pepe, 9.Nick Skias, 10.Steve Walters, 11.Brandon Heist, 12.Justin Harrington, 13.Cheyenne Schaffer, 14.Ronald Helmick, 15.Austin Bishop, 16.Jarid Kunkle, 17.Jason Swavely, 18.Alex Reinsmith, 19.Hayden Miller, 20.Trevor Dunn, 21.Brad Kemp.
All Star Slingshot Feature, 20 laps: 1.Simon Egan, 2.Travis Bieber, 3.Jim Housworth, 4.Louden Reimert, 5.Joe Nemeth, 6.Kyle Gruber, 7.Brett Bieber, 8.PJ Knappenberger, 9.William Mohring, 10.Matt Mertz, 11.Kurt Bettler, 12.Travis Gruber, 13.Matt Miller, 14.Mark Sensenig, 15.Jim Laubach, 16.Erik Jones, 17.Jacob Dunn, 18.Nick Timar III, 19.Scott Dinin, 20.Kalli Hartman, 21.Ryan Grim, 22.Matt Massone, 23.Jordan Knepp.
Xcel Sportsman Modified Feature, 20 laps: 1.Jason Dunkelberger, 2.Justin Schraden, 3.Eric Whitby, 4.Ryan Suchon, 5.Richie Hitzler, 6.Jordan Dreher, 7.Kermit Horning, 8.Aaron Bowes, 9.Chris Eckert, 10.Ray Horning, 11.Kyle Kocher, 12.Jordyn Mohr, 13.Korey Inglin, 14.Shawn Horning, 15.Ryan Mohr, 16.Ronnie Molnar, 17.Josh Fox.