The number “four” played a prominent role in Wednesday’s racing program at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds.
The temperature may have felt like it was 104, but that can’t be substantiated. What can be confirmed, though, is that two feature races were won by cars bearing the No. 4; and the fourth main event was captured by a driver who took the lead with four laps complete. And, in the first feature race of the evening, the victor gained four positions (from where he started) to claim his third triumph - and second straight - of the season.
The first driver to win on Wednesday, during GMI First and Heating & Cooling Night at the speedway, in a car decorated with the No. 4, was Billy Pauch Jr. of Frenchtown, NJ.
Pauch Jr. nailed down his third win of the year in the Sunoco USAC Championship SpeedSTR division. In winning the 30-lap feature, he closed the gap on point leader Kenny Brightbill, who finished fifth, to just 30 points.
“The bottom was the place to be tonight,” explained the winner in Savage61.com Victory Lane. “I thought the top would be fast, but the car worked so well on the bottom that I decided to stay there until somebody passes me. And that never happened.”
Pauch Jr. set the pace from the pole - a position he garnered when young Carter Raifsnider won the Big Wheel Race (for ages 3-6) at intermission. The SpeedSTR drivers (eligible for the redraw) each picked a Big Wheel entrant; the way the kids finished the Big Wheel event was the starting order for the SpeedSTR main.
The youngster’s gift to his driver was put to good use; Pauch Jr. led all the way as the battle behind him raged throughout the 30-lapper.
Jeff Strunk, Freddie Rahmer Jr., Rick Eckert, along with Kenny and Brad Brightbill, were dicing for the second through sixth positions all race long; both Strunk and Eckert took turns at challenging Pauch Jr. from the runner-up spot.
Strunk faded back in the middle stages as he continuously attempted to make the high groove work in his favor. With Eckert looking for an opening to wrestle the lead from Pauch Jr., the outside lane came in and Strunk moved forward once again. He blasted by Eckert and set his sights on the leader as Eckert fell back into a duel for third with Freddie Rahmer Jr. Eckert spun out of contention in turn one with four laps remaining.
Pauch Jr. held off Strunk over the final circuits, winning by 0.109-seconds. Rahmer Jr. hung on for third over a fast-closing Billy Pauch Sr., who rallied from 16th on the starting grid to finish fourth after a late race charge. The winner’s father was the Isamoyer Towing/ K&A Automotive Hard Charger of the race.
Brett Peters also drove a No. 4 to the winner’s circle on Wednesday. Peters captured the Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Micro-Sprint victory, his first after several seasons of competition at the Berks County oval. And he won his first race in crowd-pleasing fashion, just nipping the runner-up at the finish line.
It took three attempts to get the race started, but once the 25-car field managed to stay green, they went all the way to the finish - 20 laps of non-stop broadsliding frenzy with Peters, from Lansdale, showing the way.
Jay Hartman, who started ninth, sliced his way forward during the first half of the event, moving into third spot on the eighth trip around the clay. Hartman then passed Rick Perone for second at the halfway mark and began his pursuit of the high-flying Peters.
“I was stayin’ on the bottom till someone showed me their nose on the outside,” admitted Peters after the race.
Ironically, Jay Hartman nearly pulled off the last gasp victory with an inside move off turn four as they headed for the checkered flag. The Flagtown, NJ racer, a feature winner at the Action Track USA on May 29, throttled off the fourth turn banking and shot low as the lead duo charged to the stripe. Peters, driving an RTS Chassis powered by a SPAR engine, got there first...but only by 0.043-seconds over Hartman.
Perone finished third and Alex Bright mounted a late race campaign on the top side of the race track to rally for fourth. Billy Ney completed the top five.
Molly Chambers climbed nine positions (20th to 11th) to claim the title of Isamoyer Towing/ K&A Automotive Hard Charger.
With his runner-up finish, Jay Hartman leap-frogged over Kyle Lick and into the 600cc point lead. Championship standings leader Brian Carber was not in attendance on Wednesday - he and the Barry Greth Racing Team were headed to Illinois to compete in a $10,000 to win race on July 19 & 20.
Jay Hartman is now 34 points ahead of Lick, with Carber falling to third in the standings.
Leesport’s Mark Sensenig only needed to gain four positions in order to take the lead in the main event for the NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots. And he had 100 laps to get there, as the Slingers took part in the Kutztown Komet 100 that honored the memory of local racing hero Freddy Adam, who passed away in February of this year. During his years of dirt Modified competition, Adam was known as “the Kutztown Komet.”
Joe Nemeth jumped out to the early lead in the century grind, with Louden Reimert chasing him as the rest of the 28-car field jockeyed for position. On a restart with 34 tours complete, Nemeth went around in turn one, spinning out of the lead. Reimert was also put to the rear for tagging Nemeth and causing the spin.
Matt Massone inherited the top spot at that point, and Massone led the group to its mandatory pit stop at the halfway point of the race. The front half of the field was stopped and parked on the homestretch. One crew member was permitted on the track to perform the pit stop; a right-rear tire had to be changed. Any additional adjustments to the right side of the car were also allowed; once the work was completed, the drivers would speed away to a checkpoint where tech officials made certain that all the lugnuts were properly tightened.
The pit stop proved to be the demise of leader Matt Massone; problems on the stop left him back in tenth when the race resumed. Danny Buccafusca dashed away from his temporary pit stall first, followed by Sensenig and Cody Kline.
As the race went back to green, Sensenig made his move on Buccafusca. He swung to the inside of Buccafusca’s No. 55 as they raced off turn four to complete the 51st revolution, pulling ahead at the end of the straightaway.
Sensenig, who also reached victory lane on July 10, motored away from his pursuers during the final 49 circuits. Larry Raifsnider, the Slingshot point leader and opening night feature winner, got by Buccafusca for second but wasn’t able to close in and seriously challenge Sensenig for the win.
Kline and Brett Bieber battled for third in the latter stages of the event, with Bieber securing that spot on lap 65.
At the finish, it was Sensenig scoring his third win of the season at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA with Raifsnider extending his point lead by finishing second. Brett Bieber wound up third, ahead of Cody Kline and Travis Bieber.
The Kutztown Komet 100 triumph was worth $750 to Sensenig, who was behind the wheel of Paul Lotier Jr.’s Slinger Warehouse No. 7L.
Blandon’s Simon Whitnel, who started dead last in 28th, gained 12 spots to become the Isamoyer Towing/ K&A Automotive Hard Charger of the race.
The fourth and final main event of the evening saw the eventual victor grab the lead with four laps in the books.
Bobby Butler, from Alpha NJ, notched the first 270cc Micro-Sprint victory of his career - anywhere - in his seventh year of competition. It was also Butler’s first win with a wing bolted to the top of his rollcage; he’s got some wingless 600cc triumphs but had never claimed a winged checkered flag...until Wednesday.
Starting third in the 20-lapper, Butler slipped to the inside of Andrew Dietrich off turn two, then nudged ahead on the fifth trip around the progressively banked oval.
One-time winner Ross Perchak flew into the runner-up position on lap 12, but by that time, Butler had checked out. Perchak needed a caution flag to close the gap, and he got one, as the yellow waved with three to go.
Butler took off on the restart, leaving Perchak to defend the second position. Austin Bishop, who began the race in 14th (last), may have been the fastest car on the track during much of the main event, rocketing to fourth at the halfway point. Bishop made short work of Perchak on lap 18, dashing past the Hazelton driver in turns three and four to snare the runner-up spot. Bishop ran out of time, however, and could not catch up to Butler in the final two tours.
Butler flashed across the stripe for his first 270cc triumph, beating Bishop to the line by just over one-second. Perchak settled for third, with Mike Miller and Tommy Kunsman Jr. making up the top five.
For his run from 14th to second, Bishop was named the Isamoyer Towing/ K&A Automotive Hard Charger.
Action Track Sidebites:
Despite the intense heat, a very sizeable crowd turned out for Wednesday’s GMI First/ Heat & Cool racing program.
Another terrific field of race teams also traveled to the Action Track USA, as 30 of the Wingless 600cc Micro-Sprints led the way over 28 All Star Slingshots. There were 23 SpeedSTR’s on hand, and 14 of the winged 270cc Micros. The grand total was 95 racecars signed in for competition.
Timed Dashes were held for the All Star Slingshots, SpeedSTR’s, and 270’s. The Fast Five in each division were as follows...
NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots: Matt Massone (13.506 seconds), Larry Raifsnider, Mark Sensenig, Travis Bieber, and Brett Bieber.
Sunoco USAC Championship SpeedSTR’s: Rick Eckert (12.279 seconds), Brian Montieth, Billy Pauch Sr., Freddie Rahmer Jr., and Kenny Brightbill.
Winged 270cc Micro-Sprints: Tommy Kunsman Jr. (12.018 seconds), Jarid Kunkle, Bobby Butler, Andrew Dietrich, and Mike Miller.
The Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600’s competed in three qualifying heats, with wins going to Kyle Lick, Jay Hartman, and Jeff Hartman.
Last Chance Qualifiers, or B-Mains, were won by Molly Chambers (Wingless 600cc), Joey Allen (SpeedSTR’s), and Dylan Hoch (All Star Slingshots).
A scary incident occurred on one of the aborted starts of the Wingless 600cc main. Cars near the front of the pack turned sideways and collected others behind them as everyone scrambled to avoid contact. Blaine Emery, who started fifth, tried to sneak around the inside of turns one and two and stay out of the melee. One car came down and clobbered his front end, knocking out the steering. Emery’s No. 12 dug into the track in turn two, flipping and landing on its rollcage. Emery, from Oley, Pa., slowly climbed out and walked to the ambulance. After being evaluated by the ambulance crew, he was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
On Thursday it was learned that Emery was released from the ER around midnight. He went home and waited for results of x-rays taken at the hospital. A phone call on Thursday morning informed him that he’d suffered a broken vertebrae and badly bruised shoulder in the incident. Doctors estimate that the vertebrae will need 4-6 weeks to heal properly.
The JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA swings open its gates once again this Wednesday, July 24, with another four-division menu of high speed adventure. Both Micro-Sprint Classes will compete in 30-lap features, as will the SpeedSTR’s. The All Star Slingshots will tune up for the July 31st NAPA Dutch Classic with a 20-lap main event this Wednesday.
There will be a Candy Scramble for the kids on Wednesday, and the entire program will be sponsored by Pocono Raceway.
Gates open at 5 p.m. (pit gate at 4:00) and racing begins at 6 p.m.