It was a night of first time occurences at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on Wednesday, July 10. And all of the “firsts” added up to another entertaining evening of motorized drama and intense competition that was enjoyed by a large crowd of enthusiastic spectators at the oval located on the Kutztown Fairgrounds.
In the first night of racing after the speedway’s three-week break (due to the annual Folk Festival that takes place at the fairgrounds in early July), Mike Rutherford captured his first career win at Kutztown - in the first Kioti Tractors PA 600 Speedweek event ever run at the Berks County race place. It was also the first time, in the seven year history of PA 600 Speedweek, that a series race took place without wings atop the rollcages of the 600cc Micro-Sprints.
The main event for the Sunoco USAC Championship SpeedSTR’s was highlighted by a very popular “first” for the legion of racing fans who cheer for legendary dirt Modified star Kenny Brightbill...the Shillington driver notched his initial triumph in one of Rich Tobias’ SpeedSTR creations on Wednesday. Leesport, Pa. wheel-twister Mark Sensenig became the first driver to record more than one victory this season in the NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshot division, winning his second feature in the 20-lapper that provided a nightcap to the evening of high speed adventure.
The Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Micro-Sprints produced an intensely competitive main event, with Rutherford emerging victorious in the 35-lap race that was worth $1,000 to the Lititz driver, courtesy of race sponsor Leisure Sports ‘n Turf. His victory did not come easily, though.
Starting third behind a formidable front row of Tim Buckwalter and Billy Pauch Jr., Rutherford stayed low and close as the lead duo traded the top spot several times during the first six trips around the progressively banked oval. Buckwalter threw numerous slide jobs on Pauch Jr., with Billy turning left and driving back under the Douglassville resident as they blasted down the straights. On a couple of occasions, Rutherford made it a three-wide tussle for the lead by shoving the nose of his No. 7H under Buckwalter and Pauch in the turns, but not getting the run he needed to get by the lead pair as he gunned his car off the corner.
On a restart with six laps complete, Buckwalter executed yet another slide job on Pauch Jr. as they raced through turns one and two. As Pauch rocketed off the banking and shot to the low side in an attempt to pull back in front, he and Rutherford banged wheels, causing Pauch to lose his momentum - along with second place.
During the next caution period, which occurred with eleven laps in the books, Buckwalter was set back to third for jumping the previous restart. That decision put Rutherford into the lead; a position he would hold for the remainder of the race.
There was one very close call for the Micro-Sprint veteran, however, as Buckwalter threw another slider on him after a restart just before the halfway point. They touched slightly in turn two, and Buckwalter appeared to get the upper hand, but another yellow (before the next lap could be scored) saved Rutherford and kept Gary Hunter’s CARSTAR No. 7H at the head of the pack.
During the final one-third of the event, the most intense racing was contested behind the leader as Rutherford opened up just enough daylight between himself and his pursuers to maintain a comfortable advantage.
Pauch Jr. slipped past Buckwalter to reclaim the runner-up position, while Chad VanHorn made his presence known inside the top four. VanHorn got by Buckwalter for third, then applied heavy pressure to Pauch as they wrestled for second over the last couple of laps.
Rutherford flashed across the finish line with a margin of 0.349-seconds over Pauch Jr., who just nipped VanHorn for runner-up honors.
Tony DiMattia, who started 19th after winning the B-Main, steadily progressed throught the field to finish fourth. The Malvern driver, who won the Speedweek opener at Lanco’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway on Saturday, grabbed the Speedweek point lead with his fourth place effort at the Action Track USA.
Tyler Walton completed the top five, with his RGR teammate for the night, Alex Bright, taking the checkered in sixth after starting 20th.
A.J. Michael, Jay Hartman, Heath Hehnly, and Shane Lewis finished in positions seven through ten.
Mike Bednar and Kenny Brightbill started on the front row of the 30-lap, Sunoco USAC Championship SpeedSTR main. The lead duo waged a terrific side-by-side battle for the top spot during the early stages of the race, with Brightbill - the all-time