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 leading feature winner at the Reading Fairgrounds - pleasing his legion of fans by eventually clearing the No. 46 of Bednar, then pulling away from the field.
Grandview Speedway Late Model Champion Chuck Schutz ducked under Bednar for second and began his pursuit of Brightbill’s No. 19. Unfortunately for Schutz, his solid run would end on a restart with five to go, as mechanical ills knocked him out while still in the runner-up position.
Prior to Schutz’s demise, an entertaining four-car battle for third erupted between Bednar, Brandon Rahmer, Paul Lotier Jr., and Freddie Rahmer Jr. After Schutz fell out, Bednar pulled away from the other three, leaving Lotier to deal with the Rahmer brothers over the final frantic tours.
Lotier rolled the top in the corners, and used his momentum to pull off a third place finish behind Brightbill and Bednar. Freddie Rahmer edged his brother, Brandon, for fourth.
With the popular victory, his first at the Action Track USA and first in a SpeedSTR, the 65-year-old Brightbill increased his point lead over Billy Pauch Jr., who lost his brakes early in the event but persevered to finish tenth.
Mark Sensenig led all the way to record his second win of the season in NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshot competition at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA.
With the Leesport driver cruising out front in his Slinger Warehouse No. 7L, fifth-starter Travis Bieber navigated his way into second, passing Dylan Hoch and bringing seventh-starting Larry Raifsnider with him into third.
Danny Buccafusca, who started sixth, rumbled into the top four as the laps clicked off quickly. Buccafusca, the winner of the last race on June 19, accelerated past Raifsnider for third and challenged Bieber for second as the 20-lapper entered its final stages.
Sensenig raced to the checkered flag by almost four seconds over Bieber, who held off Buccafusca for second-place money. Raifsnider and Hoch wound up fourth and fifth, respectively.
Brett Bieber, the point leader when the night began, was involved in an early tangle with Cody Kline. The Oley driver came back to finish 12th, but Raifsnider’s fourth-place effort vaulted him past Bieber and into the number one position in the point chase. Buccafusca also moved past Bieber in the standings as the season enters its second-half at the Action Track USA.
Action Track Sidebites...
There were 53 of the Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Micro-Sprints on hand for the first-ever PA 600 Speedweek show at Action Trackk USA.
The SpeedSTR’s had a 21-car field on Wednesday, while the All Star Slingshots pulled in 30 entries. That’s a grand total of 104 racecars entered in the first event at the Action Track USA since June 19.
Per Speedweek rules, the Wingless 600cc Micros competed in a dual heat race, passing points format for qualifying. There five heat races in each round, with Pauch Jr., Buckwalter, Jeff Hartman, Bill Unglert, and Mike Dicely winning first round preliminaries. Second round heat winners included Pauch Jr., Brandon Azzalina, Alex Bright, VanHorn, and A.J. Michael.
The last chance B-Main went to Tony DiMattia. Buckwalter earned $300 for his victory in the PR2 Racing Engines Cash Dash, with Pauch Jr. picking up $200 and Rutherford getting $100 for second and third.
Heading into the event at the Action Track USA in Kutztown, Mike Dicely sat atop the PA 600 Speedweek point standings after two events. Unfortunately for the Lewisberry, Pa. driver, he was involved in an incident with Rick Perone in the B-Main and did not qualify. His DNS in the A-Main cost him several spots in the standings - DiMattia took over the top spot with his fourth-place finish at Kutztown - with two Speedweek events remaining on the schedule.
Drivers who gained the most positions in the 35-lap A-Main were: Shane Lewis (26th to 10th); DiMattia (19th to fourth); Alex Bright (20th to sixth); and Heath Hehnly (23rd to ninth). Collegeville’s Bright, the ARDC Midget hotshoe, also traveled from 16th to second in the B- Main.
Winning the three NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshot heat races were Travis Bieber, Matt Miller, and Brett Bieber. William Mohring was victorious in the B-Main.
The Sunoco USAC Championship SpeedSTR’s competed in Time Dashes to set the lineups for their heat races. The Fast Five in the Timed Dashes were quick-timer Billy Pauch Jr. (12.289 seconds), Freddie Rahmer Jr., Kenny Brightbill, Mike Bednar, and Mike Mahaney.
Mahaney and Billy Pauch Sr. won the two SpeedSTR heat races.
Kioti Tractors/ Leisure Sports ‘n Turf PA 600 Speedweek Finish, 35 laps: 1.Mike Rutherford, 2.Billy Pauch Jr., 3.Chad VanHorn, 4.Tony DiMattia, 5.Tyler Walton, 6.Alex Bright, 7.A.J. Michael, 8.Jay Hartman, 9.Heath Hehnly, 10.Shane Lewis, 11.Blaine Emery, 12.Brandon Azzalina, 13.Brock Zearfoss, 14.Tom Schearer, 15.Kyle Lick, 16.Tim Buckwalter, 17.Billy Ney, 18.Brett Schoenly, 19.Molly Chambers, 20.Jeff Hartman, 21.Brett Michalski, 22.Rick Perone, 23.Chris Panzcner, 24.James Morris, 25.Jim Radney, 26.Bill Unglert.
Sunoco USAC Championship SpeedSTR Finish, 30 laps: 1.Kenny Brightbill, 2.Mike Bednar, 3.Paul Lotier Jr., 4.Freddie Rahmer Jr., 5.Brandon Rahmer, 6.Mike Mahaney, 7.Jeff Strunk, 8.Matt Janisch, 9.Gary Huber, 10.Billy Pauch Jr., 11.Brittany Wixon, 12.Brian Monteith, 13.Brad Brightbill, 14.Chuck Schutz, 15.Joey Allen, 16.Wayne Weaver, 17.Mike Vermeulen, 18.Billy Pauch Sr., 19.Al Arrisher, 20.Craig VonDohren, 21.John Kovatch.
NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots Finish, 20 laps: 1.Mark Sensenig, 2.Travis Bieber, 3.Danny Buccafusca, 4.Larry Raifsnider, 5.Dylan Hoch, 6.Matt Miller, 7.Shannon Smith, 8.Kyle Gruber, 9.Jeff Kemp, 10.Dakota Barlet, 11.Louden Reimert, 12.Brett Bieber, 13.Travis Gruber, 14.David Kreis, 15.Chris Kurtz, 16.Cody Kline, 17.Ed Shaub, 18.Jordan Knepp, 19.Ray Nemeth, 20.Damian Nemeth, 21.Dave Carraghan, 22.William Mohring, 23.Erik Jones, 24.Sterling Hamm.