Weatherly Hill Climb is a Traditional
Event for Area Road Racers
By Dino Oberto .. Keeping Track
The Weatherly Hillclimb is both a tradition as well as a landmark in Northeast PA. The twice a year up the mountain race is sanctioned by the NEPA-SCCA in conjunction with the Weatherly Hillclimb Association.
The two-day event takes place this weekend, September 16-17.
Having been run annually since 1960 it has become one of the most popular stops for road racers who seek the challenge of charging up the 1-mile hill.
The course has become an infamous thrill ride for those who attempt it. The run consists of uphill straights leading into hairpin turns, one called "the Wall" that has to be seen and driven to be believed, followed by a hairpin turn, a short run to another hard right hand turn and then the "Jump" where most cars leave contact with the pavement.
From this point the rest of the hill consists of a short straight leading to a long sweeping turn to the finish that tests your tires grip on the road as well as your nerve. For drivers this hill is a rush from start to finish
The event is part of the Pennsylvania Hillclimb Association (PDA) which was founded in 1963 to standardize the rules between the many hillclimbs of the time.
Hillclimbs are the among the oldest motorsports events in the world, dating back to early manufacturers wanting to test their cars over the most demanding terrain possible. Races such as Pikes Peak, CO and "The Climb to the Clouds" at Mt Washington, NH are known around the world and Pennsylvania has its own longstanding hillclimb tradition.
Since the invention of the automobile dozens of sites in Pennsylvania have seen organized hillclimb races. However, the current schedule has six events on four roads and two events on a permanent track.
Aside from Weatherly the other hillclimb sites that are part of the PDA includes Rose Valley located in Trout Run, Duryea and Pagoda in Reading, Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point, WV and the granddaddy of them all, Giants Despair near Wilkes-Barre. 2006 marked the 100th anniversary of Giants Despair and is the oldest motorsports race in Pennsylvania.
The Weatherly Hillclimb is not just a race event but a community event as well. While racers get to test their skills non-profit groups such as the Boy & Girl Scouts, Little League and the Weatherly Area High School Senior class will all have food stands set-up. There is no admission to watch the races so the only money needed would be for refreshments and those proceeds are beneficial to the aforementioned youth groups.
Once again Fairway Chevrolet in Hazleton is the major sponsor for this time-honored race of man and machine verses mountain.
The hillclimb season starts and ends at Weatherly. Drivers from allover the state, including a strong contingent of locals including Hugh and John Maloney and Matt Kujat, as well those from New York, New England, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland and Virginia and theyll all be converging on the what is normally a quiet quant borough nestled in picturesque Carbon County.
There will be as many as 20 different classes of cars ranging from GT to Formula Ford, Pro Rally, Street and even a Historic class.
Expect to see a large number of entrants too with this being the season finale.
At the spring race, held June-10-11, 79 drivers in 37 classes took part with four class records set. The following drivers set class records: in ITS, Greg Kaspryzyz in his BMW 325i at 64.442; in DSP in a Neon, Mike Ancas at 63.125; in ESP, Avent Beck in a VW R32 at 63.443 and, in F500 in a Raptor DE3, Darryl Danko at 56.004. Kurt Eikenberg set FTD in his DSR at 55.849.
Ron Moreck holds the course record at 48.515 seconds which he set back in 1998 in a Reynard. According to hill records Moreck is the only driver listed to ever run a sub 50-second time at Weatherly.
Although it may not seem like much but if you can average 60-plus mph at Weatherly then youre really flying up that mountain.
As far as watching from a fans view its just a matter of where you want to observe on the hill. There are pathways that line the course and since there is no seating the best advice would be to just stroll up and down the hill and get the full perspective from the many different vantage points.
For any motorsports enthusiast the Weatherly Hillclimb is a special type of racing event well worth going to see. It is a true test of driver skill.
Registration and tech inspection will be held on Friday from 6:00-9:00 pm and is mandatory for all novice entrees.
On Saturday tech inspection will be from 7:00 am until noon. A mandatory novice meeting takes place at 8:00 with a regular drivers meeting at 8:30. Timed runs then start at 10:00.
Sunday the activity gets going with a mandatory drivers meeting at 8:30 followed by timed runs that begin at 9:30 and continue until 4:30 pm.
Jeff Rine Gunning for 3-Peat in Paul Long
By Dino Oberto Keeping Track
Selinsgrove Speedway will present the Third Annual Selinsgrove Ford Paul Long Memorial for Late Models at 7 p.m. this coming Sunday night, September 3.
The 63-lap A-Main will pay $10,000 to win and $500 to start out of a purse totaling $30,000. Time trials, heats, C and B-Mains will be used to set the starting grid.
Two-time and defending Long Memorial winner Jeff Rine of Danville will be heading a star-studded field of late model chauffeurs and the twice track champion is looking forward to making it three wins in a row.
It means an awful lot and to try and make it a three-peat would be really cool, said 29-year out Rine. I think its awesome that Selinsgrove is doing something like this for the Late Models and trying to keep it local.
In the 2004 inaugural Long Memorial, Rine started sixth and made the winning pass on Jeremy Miller of York Haven on the 30th circuit. He went on to collect more than $6,300 in prize monies and contingencies.
In last years race, fourth-place starter Rine passed pole sitter Dustin Hoffman of Evandale for the lead on the second circuit. He was uncontested the rest of the way and won more than $11,000 for the victory over Scott Haus of Hamburg and Ricky Elliot of Seaford, Delaware.
It comes down to time trials. You set a good lap in time trials and then you make the invert in your heat race and that puts you in the Dash. That usually sets the first six spots. Time trials are the key to the whole night, said Rine.
Of course the prize money came in handy too.
That part is great but theres also a lot of money spent on these race cars.
In just two years time the Paul Long Memorial has become a must run race for the late models.
Long, 66, of Middleburg, passed away shortly after the 2003 racing season ended at Selinsgrove Speedway. He was one of the most popular late model drivers in central Pennsylvania throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
His most recognized entry was the orange and white No. 63 that carried the Selinsgrove Motors banner. Long won track titles in 1966 and 1973. Hes listed sixth on the all-time career win list with 32 victories. Hes also a former late model champion at Williams Grove Speedway.
Long was a 1955 graduate of Middleburg High School. He served in the U.S. Army from 1960-1962, serving with the 101st Airborne. For 37 years, he worked as a mechanic at Selinsgrove Ford.
Rine is now in his 11th season of late model racing. In that time he has become a top star with the class. His two career titles came in 1998 and 2004. Interestingly he too has collected 32 career wins at Selinsgrove, tying him with Long.
I think thats really cool. I went to my first race there in 1983 to watch Steve Campbell and I would have never thought that Id be this far into late model racing and weve made it this far, said Rine.
We have an awesome backer behind us with Jeffs Auto Body and Recycling Center in Paxinos. If it wasnt for him we wouldnt be doing this. Ive been lucky to have had my parents back me and my lovely wife Shelly who puts up with an awful lot.
He also points out that Sundays race is a great opportunity for the class which has always had a strong fan base and solid competitors.
Selinsgrove is one of a kind when it comes to a race track. Its so big with sweeping turns and I think all us local boys have a better shot at winning this race.
Even if it would just be the locals it would still be a great show but I hear Ricky Elliots coming and some other hot dogs. I always look forward to racing with them guys because most of them are professional race car drivers and its always fun to race with them.
At Selinsgrove he runs his own equipment while on Fridays he ventures out to Bedford Speedway taking the wheel for car-owner Bob Elden.
I think thats a great opportunity just because of all the seat time and both our cars are identical so when it comes to tuning them with set-ups and things of that nature were able to share information back and forth and it seems to be a plus for us so far, he noted.
Its races like the Paul Long Memorial and others throughout the year that Rine feels promoter Charlie Paige has done great things for the late model division. The class has equal billing to the sprint cars.
He is a great promoter and I dont think youll get a better one. Everything hes done for Selinsgrove Speedway has been an A+.
Jeffs Auto Body & Recycling will sponsor $20 to lead each lap of the main event while H&H Racing Equipment will sponsor $250 for the fast qualifier. The Middleburg IGA will sponsor the championship trophy.
The rain date is Monday, Sept. 4 at 12 p.m. The tracks pro stock division will join the late models.
Selinsgrove Speedway will host a four division show of sprint cars, late models, pro stocks and roadrunners on Saturday, September. 2. The top two finishers from Saturdays late model feature will be automatic starters in the Paul Long Memorial.
Tom Hegland Puts School Project to Good
By Dino Oberto . Keeping Track
19-year old Tom Hegland of Drums will be entering his senior year this Fall at Hazleton Area High School and like all upperclassmen a Senior Project is mandatory as part of ones passing grade.
Hegland, a motorsports enthusiast, went to work on his project almost a year ago and has been able to put it to good use as well.
Along with his step-father Clay Woodington, they took purchase on a 600cc micro sprint race car. For his school project Hegland then dismantled the car and re-assembled it. Hes since spent the summer racing in the 600cc class at Greenwood Valley Action Track in Millville.
This past winter for my senior project we stripped the car down, had the frame powder-coated and put it all back together and just started racing it this year, said Hegland.
Needless to say his project earned him a well-earned passing mark.
Hegland and his family moved to the Hazleton area four years ago from Bensalem. His racing endeavors also cranked up when he moved to Drums. He raced ATVs or Quads at Borgers Speedway in Saylorsburg.
However, having taken to many wild rides and considering the safety risk with that type of vehicle, Hegland opted for a different route which is where the 600 micro sprint comes into play.
I did four years in ATV flat track racing at Borgers Speedway and I also did a year with AMA in District 6 & 3. I felt that was getting a little to dangerous because there was no (roll) cage on the quad and I flipped a bunch of times. I even broke my collar bone three years ago, said Hegland.
After that my parents wanted to get me something with a roll cage.
Hegland had ventured to a handful full of micro sprint races with close friend Nick Schlauch, Jr., of Oakford who is also a dealer of RTS micro sprint chassis.
After watching micro sprint racing it didnt take long to make the decision on switching from ATVs.
It was a world of difference from the quad. It was night and day, admitted Hegland on the change. The competition is a lot harder and there are lots of good drivers out there. Im also running for a lot more money than I was accustomed to with the quad.
After obtaining the car and completing the re-build, he took his first laps at Lindas Speedway in Jonestown during a pre-season test and tune day. Since then he makes the weekly trek west on Interstate 80 to Greenwood Valley. Unfortunately the season has been a tough road traveled.
Weve been having somewhat of a bad luck year. We blew two motors, had fuel pump problems and electrical problems and almost everything you could think of, said Hegland.
In racing, experience comes from continued seat time and for Hegland thats just the case. Despite his shortcomings as far as his luck goes, he still keeps plugging away and getting better.
I think its kind of luck right now thats the difference in getting better results because weve just had known of it. Were still working on seat time, getting use to the car and getting use to what happens in the car and on the track.
Its a slow pace but I feel Im getting there. The more seat time the better it all is.
Most of his the help both at the track and the shop comes from his step-dad but he noted that local Hazleton Area micro sprint king Ross Perchak has also been a huge hand of assistance.
As a rookie and newcomer there has also been the usual support from all his fellow drivers which is commonplace in short track racing.
Everybody at Greenwood is fantastic and theyre the nicest guys to drive against. If you need a hand or maybe a part theyll offer it to you, he said.
In racing, speed costs money and Hegland has done a superb job or rounding up a host of solid sponsors that includes TBT Trucking, Lobitz Catering, Galbiati Trucking, ER Cycle and Perchak Trucking all from Hazleton. Also Cage and Tank and Step In The Right Direction Carpeting and Flooring from Conyngham, Marks Tool Sales of Berwick, T.P. Trailers, Limerick, A1 Racing Products, Warminster, S&C Design, Southampton, Schlauch Race Cars, Oakford and from Cornelius, NC, Wally Brown Jr.
Hegland is looking to pursue a career in law enforcement and is strongly eyeing up the Pennsylvania State Police as a career path. Of course he still wants to maintain his racing profession as well.
Id like to eventually get into a 410 Sprint Car. I know Ill stick with the 600s for a couple more years before thinking along those lines though.
Hegland is a young and ambitious talent that has shown the mindset and skill to succeed in all his journeys.
Ray Bull Has His Dream Fulfilled
By Dino Oberto Keeping Track
Bloomsburgs Ray Bull has amassed an unprecedented record of wins and championships since becoming a member of the American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC), so much so that he is known nation-wide as one of the top midget car drivers in the country.
Aside from being one of the best in the midgets, Bull had always had a burning desire to someday get behind the wheel of a USAC Silver Crown car and on August 5 at Terra Haute Action Track in Indiana, hell realize that dream.
His ride to the leading open-wheel series in USAC came thanks to his current team, Mega Motorsports of Reading, Pa. Bull presently drivers the teams midget car.
Two years ago Mega Motorsports co-owners Jeff "Milt" Aquilini and Larry Gauker purchased a Silver Crown car from NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and his USAC partner George Snider. The reason for waiting this long to debut the car was for good reason as they wanted to make sure everything was perfect for their star driver to make his appearance against an always stellar field of cars.
I feel lucky for one thing and Im still trying to hold my emotions back because were not at the track yet and its been just about a year and a half, two year process to get to the point of where we are now, said 36-year old Bull.
Were two weeks away, hopefully from our debut. Weve rounded up enough parts and money and when the time comes to fire up the car at the track Ill be ecstatic. There might even be a tear in my eye. Its been a long time coming and something Ive always wanted to do.
Silver Crown, USACs premier series, is the pinnacle for many American open-wheel competitors and to win the Championship is a prestigious milestone in any drivers career. The series plays an integral role in the history of open-wheel racing. Arguably it is one of the sharpest and prettiest race cars every created.
Some of the biggest names in motor racing have come from within its ranks including Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon to name but a few.
The car that Bull will pilot is a proven winner also with the likes of J.J. Yeley, Jason Leffler, Jay Drake and Jimmy Sills all turning in winning results. With such a line-up of past drivers that have been behind the wheel of the car it seems fitting that someone with Bulls talent is a perfect to take over the seat.
Ray Bull, since hes driving in our camp, theres no one better than him in a midget I believe in the country. That man is ranked 7th or 8th in the nation. He showed me over and beyond even before he started driving for me, that hes probably one of the best. Hes a smart driver and hes educated about a chassis, said Aquilini.
We wouldnt want anyone else in our car. We could have got a journeyman driver. Theres so many guys that have been knocking on our door to run the thing. Ray, hes a smart driver, he wants to keep running the car and hes not going to go out there and trash it. Hes an educated driver and thats what we want.
For Bull, the wait should be well worth it as the Mega Motorsports Team has always given him nothing less then perfection by which to work with so he knows when it comes time to finally roll out the car all will be ready.
With Milt and the whole team they wont do anything unless its done right. As a driver a really appreciate that. Im going in knowing that I have a car owner thats willing to stick with me through the learning curve of a new car as opposed to somebody who wants instant results, said Bull.
I think he believes in my talent and I believe in myself that we can go and get the job done. It may take a little time but I know they will stick with me.
Customarily Bull has never run in races that are more than 30-laps at best. Most Silver Crown races are 100-laps. But as he notes its not so much the distance but rather the difference in how the brut Silver Crown car handles as opposed to the more nimble midget.
The extra laps dont bother me that much. Ive been fortunate to make the Hut 100 in Terra Haute with the midget and that was a 100-laps. I know the Silver Crown car is bigger and I feel the thinking game is one that Im concerned more than anything come race time, admitted Bull.
Its all about loosing your fuel load, the proportioning valve in the brakes and some of that stuff which is all new to me. You try to tune your car in from lap one when its real heavy to the end of the race when youre really light.
After Terra Haute the team will then head to the Illinois Sate Fairgrounds on August 19, DuQuoin State Fairgrounds on September 2 and then Eldora Speedway on September 22. All of those races are dirt and will be broadcast on the Outdoor Channel.
Theres going to be a smile on my face every time out, beamed Bull. Itll be nice too because hopefully well get these four races under our belt and get some laps and then next year we can do all the dirt shows. Itll be a slow process and hopefully a building process as to the year 2007.
For most drivers who step up to Silver Crown, they do so with hopes the next move is either NASCAR or Indy Car. Bull, nor Aquilini, however, aren't looking beyond those boundaries.
Were lucky to have Ray Bull driving for us and I wouldnt want to loose him. At the same time I really believe Ray and I have reached a bond in where were going in our careers. I think its a good marriage. He and I compliment each other. I think he knows what I want to get out of this and I know what he wants, said Aquilini.
Were not going to be the next NASCAR star and were not shooting for them kind of goals. Everybody, when you get to this level with the Silver Crown cars, asks if you want to move up. Well for us there isnt any up.
Likewise with Bull, he's just happy to get the chance to drive the car and showcase his ability.
Back in the nineteen-sixties, that (Silver Crown) was one step before Indy. Knowing the history from people like my father-in-law (Spike Gillespie) and Stan Lobitz (sponsor), its a dream come true.
My goal is to make the show which is number one and then put 100 laps in or however many laps we go to depending on the track. I want to finish every lap and move forward from a qualifying position. Thats my goal. It may start with a top-30 then a top-20 and a top-10 and see where it goes from there.
Langhorne Speedway, Pennsylvanias First
By: Dino Oberto Keeping Track
Pocono Raceway, now in its 35th year of hosting 500-mile races, including 32 consecutive years of having NASCAR events, has provided Pennsylvanians and fans from neighboring states the opportunity to see some of the best race car drivers in the country.
Thanks to track owner Dr. Joe Mattioli, Pocono has prospered over the years and now is a key player in NASCAR which has been coming to the Long Pond tri-oval since 1974.
However, when it came to big-time stock car racing here in the Keystone State, or any type car for that matter, Pocono was not the originating facility that put Pennsylvania on racings world map.
Back in the day when you wanted to see major auto racing events such as NASCAR, the place to go was legendary Langhorne Speedway.
Located on US-Route 1, just north of Philadelphia in the Bucks County town of the same name, Langhorne was not only the big track of Pennsylvania but one of the foremost tracks in the country as well.
Langhorne was billed as the worlds fastest mile. Drivers feared it, respected it and wanted nothing more then to win at it. A victory at Langhorne was a cherished accomplishment.
In the early days of NASCAR Langhorne was a mainstay on the schedule. Starting with the inaugural season of 1949 and up until 1957, the then fledging organization held races at the infamous 1-mile track, which at that time was a dirt surface.
Like Pocono, NASCAR started out with once-a-year events and then switched to twice run races beginning with the 1950 season.
What many may not know is Langhorne was the track that todays so-called cookie cutter designed speedways are all modeled after. It was a fast D-shaped track that actually led to the outline of Daytona Speedway and so many others.
It came to be at one particular Langhorne race when Bill France, Sr., then the head of NASCAR, asked a few fans where the best place to view a race was. They replied it didnt matter because anywhere you sat was in a turn.
Thus it led to France coming up with the design of Daytona and the reason why the bleachers where first lined in the tri-oval.
500-mile races where not much of a thought back then although given the size of the track, Langhorne was able to host a number of high-digit lap races which included a pair of 300-mile runs in 1956 and 57.
Curtis Turner was the initial NASCAR star of Langhorne, capturing the first two races in 1949-50 driving an Oldsmobile. His first win netted him a then whopping $2250 while the second trip to Victory Lane was a bit less at $1500.
Lee Petty has the distinction of being the only driver who started every NASCAR race at Langhorne. In 17 tries Petty scored a lone victory in 1952, a 250-lapper he won behind the wheel of a Petty Enterprises Plymouth. The past NASCAR champion also claimed the most money won at the speedway with career earnings of $11,515.
Another champion from that era, Herb Thomas, competed three less times than Petty but was very close in earnings won with $11, 385, thanks to his winning three times there, the first coming in 1951. He then swept both shows in 1954, each time coming in the popular Hudson Hornet.
Another triple winner was Dick Rathman, who also was a member of the Hudson Hornet stable of drivers and teammate to Thomas. Rathman notched Langhorne wins in 1952 and then both races the following year.
Buck Baker and Tim Flock where lucky two-time winners while the remaining single wins were claimed by Fonty Flock, Paul Goldsmith, Fireball Roberts and Gwyn Staley.
Staley took the last NASCAR checkered flag at Langhorne and was the biggest prize money winner too after a 300-mile race on September 15, 1957 which was worth $4500.
Interestingly in 17 NASCAR races held at Langhorne the complete purse for all those events came to $134, 350. Last year during the Pocono 500, pole sitter Michael Waltrip finished 5th and pocket $135,239.
First used on May 24th, 1926, Langhorne, also known as the "The Big Left Turn." It was built in 1925 to celebrate the Philadelphia Sesqui-Centennial celebrations, and was known as the New Philadelphia Speedway.
At the first practice session in 1926, Toni Dawsons 94 mph shattered Ralph DePalmas world speed record by seven miles-per-hour. After several rain delays, Freddie Winnai won the inaugural 50-lap feature race.
It was built on marshland. Underground springs kept some parts of the track permanently moist and soft whereas cars would dig ruts in these areas of the track and the summer sun would bake them hard. The section after the start was downhill and known as "Puke Hollow".
For 1951, a 1/4 mile dirt oval known as the Yellow Jacket Speedway was built within the track, followed by a 1/8 mile paved drag strip in 1958.
However, by the early 1960s, entry lists were dwindling, so in 1965 the track was paved, but this only increased the speed of what was already a lethal track. It was subsequently closed after the last meeting held on the 17th October 1971, a modified stack car race.
Ironically that modified race, the Race of Champions (RoC), which ran consecutively since 1951, after Langhorne moved across the border to Trenton Speedway and then found its way to Pocono Raceway.
Aside from NASCAR Langhorne was home to many Indy Cars, sprint, midget, motorcycle and modified races.
Today a shopping mall sits on the hallowed ground of what once was one of the most famous race tracks in not just Pennsylvania but the entire nation.
The Indy 500 Is The Race
By Dino Oberto .Keeping Track
Without question the premier race in the world is the Indianapolis 500. For years it has been appropriately known as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and for good reason.
The speedway is the high holy palace of all motor racing venues, including Daytona, LeMans or anywhere else for that matter.
When you have history that stretches as far back as 1909, its easy to see why Indy has not only survived the test of time but become the dream track by which anyone who has ever donned a helmet and driving suit has, in some way, a burning aspiration to compete at.
Just as the NFL has the Super Bowl, auto racings show of shows is the Indy 500.
To race at Indy always has been and still is a privilege and honor. Drivers come looking to seek glory and fame but only a few are rewarded in such. No matter how they fare, though, they do become respectful of its presence.
Its hard to describe the history that is filled within the hallowed walls that encompass the 2.5-mile oval. However, if you have ever been to this great arena you can quickly understand why it is so steeped in tradition.
With nearly 450,000 fans in attendance the Indy 500 stands as the largest single-day sporting event on the planet. The feeling you get when being there is awe-inspiring.
Since the first 500 in 1911, this race has become the cornerstone by which other such events are measured by. Its not just about the high-paced cars that will rocket there way around this afternoon, but it again falls back on the deep historical aspect that has brought it to such magnitude.
Only the true racing loyalists can argue over the fact that no NASCAR race can even equal the level of man and machine that makes Indy so singular. NASCAR racing has become almost an every week attraction which is another reason that sets Indy apart as it builds up to the moment starting as soon as the checkered flag waves.
The twelve months leading up to every Memorial Day weekend are intensifying with anticipation.
History will clearly show as well that had it not been for Indy, NASCAR would not be the current motorsports magnate it is today.
The evolution of NASCAR racing on big tracks began, in part, with Indianapolis. Seeing the need to bring professional auto racing to the south, NASCARs first super speedway, Darlington, came to be only after Harold Barsington made yearly trips to the 500 and wanted to build a track of similar design, which tuned out to be the first big-scaled speedway used by NASCAR back in 1950.
It is Indianapolis, not Daytona, which is the racing capitol of the world. Winning drivers become instant superstars. The list of names etched on the Borg Warner trophy is a virtual whos who in Motorsports.
It is a race that every driver dreams of winning. Just to say you got the chance to be in the event is an honor in itself. A.J. Foyt didnt make Indianapolis famous. The Indianapolis 500 made A.J. Foyt, said the first four-time winner.
If there is a downside to anything it is the fact the open-wheel Indy Car racing is still divided between the Indy Racing League (IRL) and CART. The racing media has not been all to kind over the years as well by downplaying the race since the two organizations split in 1996.
But try as they may to say that the luster and reputation that once was so highly regarded has since faded to dare some say just another race.
To those and any others that is pure hogwash. There is no denying that the Indy 500 remains the mega auto racing event.
As for the IRL, which is the sanctioning body for the 500, and CART, the powers that be within both groups are finally realizing the importance of having just one major open-wheel series and in recent months there has been ongoing talks to hopefully unite once again.
The field for todays race is loaded with talent from all walks of the racing world and has the making of another inspiring chapter to this grand contest.
The names that have become synonymous with Indy such as Foyt, Andretti, Unser and Luyendyk are still there, although as second generation but none-the-less that is just another of the many mystics of Indy, The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
DeFebo Chills Out With 3Gs in Mahoning
Modified Frost Free 100
By: Dino Oberto Keeping Track
Despite nearly 60 feature wins for Brian DeFebo, after last Saturday nights victory on Opening Night at Lehightons Mahoning Valley Speedway, he admittedly called it perhaps the best triumph of his career.
The Berwick ace raced to a $3000 first place run in the Modified Frost Free 100 to open up the 2006 season at paved quarter-mile oval.
Its easy to see why DeFebo felt so high about this particular win. Aside from it being the biggest payday of his 12-year driving career, there were several other factors that made it unique.
First, DeFebo wasnt even thinking of attending the Mahoning opener until late into the week and even then his crew had to thrash to put the car together in order to be race ready by Saturday night. The car hadnt even been primed or painted either as bits and pieces of various sheet metal were draped around it. Even the car number was hastily applied with spray paint.
Then starting 16th in a field of 20, DeFebo executed a magnificent charge to the front of the pack. He entered into the top five within 35-laps and then bidding his time, was able to move in behind then leader Rusty Smith by lap 60.
Ten laps later Smith spun from contention which then handed the lead over to DeFebo.
Over the last 30-tours it was an amazing race of grit and guts as he had to fend off upstart Kory Rabenold and Zane Zeiner in securing his second career Mahoning modified win.
If it wasnt for my crew we wouldnt have even been here tonight. We started working on this car on Thursday and we just threw all the scrap pieces we had on it. We had spare parts we put on it just to get us here. It was more of a joke but who would have thought that wed go from 16th to first, said DeFebo during his Victory Lane interview.
As it turned out the joke was on everyone else as he and his mount preformed flawlessly.
I never thought Id see myself bring a car to the track that looked like this, thats horrible. But were not going to change it now, this is staying like that.
There were a few other things to take into consideration on the big win.
Last year DeFebo, who was the 2005 modified champ at Mountain Speedway and a regular winner there, had just the opposite results when it came to the tight and demanding Mahoning track. Never before had he run so well there.
Passing is always an art at this tiny bowl-shaped oval too so watching him pass at will in order to reach the front of the pack was quite a crowd pleaser. DeFebo made good use of the outside lane.
Plus the competition was very stout as well. Rabenold is only 16-years old but is pegged as rising star in asphalt modified racing. Zeiner has become a top runner on the Sunoco Race of Champions Tour while Smith is a standout from a highly competitive group of New York state drivers.
The race also included NASCAR Modified Tour top player Eric Beers, who it should be noted started dead last. He is a past champion of both Mahoning and Mountain Speedways. The Mahoning regulars are not to be overlooked either.
The 100-lap grind began with Don Wagner and Glen Correll on row one. Wagner jumped out front early followed quickly by Smith. Just prior the first caution that waved with eight complete Smith had taken the lead.
Once out ahead Smith then led a multitude of circuits until his demise with 30 to go. During that time entry into the top five running order saw a flurry of activity.
Correll was very strong in the early going. Likewise with 05 Rookie of the Year, John Bennett. Also showing strength was defending track champ Roger Heffelfinger.
Rabenold needed 30-laps before he made his presence felt as he motored along the outside groove to gain his way into the front five. Unfortunately his car slowed just prior to halfway and he was forced to pit. He would soon return, though, during those electrifying waning laps.
DeFebo in the meantime had followed Rabenold on the outside and just past mid-race advanced to third behind Correll. At the same time Zeiner had began mounting his rush frontward as he zipped his way into fourth spot.
By lap-60 DeFebo was now zeroed in on the rear bumper of Smith. He continued to pressure him until Smiths untimely demise on lap 70 occurred. Coming off turn two the back end of leaders car lost traction which took him into a spin.
When the field was assembled for the restart it was DeFebo in command with Beers now second. Zeiner, Heffelfinger and Rabenold were all in tow.
The remaining laps became an all-out dogfight among the front runners. DeFebo maintained his stance at the helm while Beers, Zeiner and Rabenold settled into a fierce battle for second. All three were swapping spots while keeping at a torrid pace in pursuit of DeFebo.
Rabenold and Zeiner hustled around Beers with 15-laps remaining and then set their sites on the leader. Running side-by-side and directly in the path of DeFebo, the trio waged an outstanding battle in the quest for victory.
Even down to the final lap Rabenold attempted a last ditch outside pass but DeFebo did a fine job in protecting his line and drove to the well-earned conquest.
You just try to stay on the outside and be persistent there and try to keep your tires under you. I know a lot of guys were stopping for tires. It just came down to being in the right place at the right time and it paid off for us, said DeFebo. This is probably the biggest win weve ever had.
The victory also awarded DeFebo as the early season point leader although his plans to compete regularly at any one track remain to be seen. Nonetheless it was very well fought race.
Rabenolds season ending 100-lap win of last year was well-justified with his stunning drive.
Early in the race I got together with someone and it knocked the toe-in a little bit. We came in and the crew checked the front end. I told them I was a little tight so we took some wedge out. After we came back out the car was still a little tight but I had a good line on the outside, said Rabenold.
I had a couple close calls with Zane (Zeiner) and I want to thank him for running me clean and congratulations to Brian (DeFebo) on the win. Second place is not a bad way to start the season.
Zeiner raced to a solid third although he could have easily been in a position or two higher.
I usually like these long distance runs. You really have to have a lot of patience here at Mahoning. You try not to get to wound up at the beginning of the race. The car just kept coming to me and I thought Id have one more shot at Brian (DeFebo) but he drove a heck of a race and he protected his line just like he need to do, said Zeiner.
We hit the chassis (set-up) right on the money tonight. I was hoping Kory was going to get up alongside Brian and run him up a little bit and give me a shot underneath but it never happened.
Not to be overshadowed was Beers who held on for fourth after his shotgun start while Kevin Graver, Jr., ran a smart race and quietly rounded out the top five.
Crew Chief Role is Suited for Matt Balliet
By Dino Oberto . Keeping Track
As Fire Chief of Butler Township in Drums, Matt Balliet is responsible for being a team leader. His able skills along with the leadership of maintaining a well-balanced squad are the key to success in that unique field of trade.
Balliet has been able to apply that same skillfulness in another principal role as he for the past 13-years he has been the crew chief for Don Wagners asphalt modified team.
I think there a lot of similarities between the two. At times there both hard and they may not be the most glamorous job in the world but theyre rewarding in the end. Youre motivating people to do a job for free, said 33-yrear old Balliet of Drums.
Whats fortunate is that both groups that Im involved with between the race team and the fire company is the people are so dedicated to what theyre doing and it makes things kind of easy at that point.
Everybody is there because they want to be there but at the same time you have to keep them motivated because theyre not being paid for the job. Theyre all there on their own time. There are a lot of personal sacrifices to do stuff with the Fire Company and the same with the race team.
Before Balliet became affiliated with Wagner he was a figurehead at Mountain Speedway, then Evergreen Raceway, since 1988 where he did a variety of jobs including that of the EMT staff as well as a host of other positions pertaining to the track operations.
Wagner, who hails from Dover, New Jersey, is among the more popular stars of the asphalt modified rank and file. He upholds a cool appearance and receptiveness to the fans and his hard-charging style of driving has constantly helped him to be a frontrunner. He is a true professional of short track racing in every sense of the word.
When Donny (Wagner) started coming to Evergreen everyone took notice to this kid from New Jersey. He was a fan favorite right from the start. I got to know him and his original car owner Bill Fitz. We would just make small talk, recalled Balliet.
It was around 1993 when I was looking for a change of pace and one weekend I was hanging around his car and he made an offer that if I ever wanted to change jobs he would have a crew chief spot waiting for me. Needless to say the rest is history.
No sooner did Balliet give up his job at the track he was hitting the road with Wagner. At that time they left running modifieds and where racing with the former NASCAR Sportsman division with stops at such venues as Pocono, Charlotte and Dover.
However, the Sportsman class was short lived as NASCAR pulled the plug after three seasons.
There was a brief layoff from racing at that point before Wagner returned to modified action and when he did there was no hesitating in to calling upon Balliet as his crew chief once more.
By the late 90s the team was competing regularly at Flemington and Wall Stadium, both in New Jersey. They also made some select NASCAR Modified Tour races when possible as well an occasional return to Mountain.
Presently the team is a key fixture at Mahoning Valley and Mountain Speedways.
The opportunity to call the shots from behind the wall comes as challenge but what many may not realize is that in short track racing a crew chief is a far cry from that which is seen on TV with a national series.
The races are mostly 30-laps sprints with an occasion 50 to 100-lapper and the decisions made are crucial in getting the chance to win. Often time theres not even radio communication between the driver and crew chief. There is no time to come in and make a change to the car in that respect as well.
It may seem highly stressful but for Balliet and so many others like him in this form of the sport, its a job best suited for the talent he posses.
Saturday night short racing is a whole different deal as opposed to what you see on TV with NASCAR and you a have to be comfortable with your decisions. I never take the credit either, Balliet said. Donnys the brains behind the whole deal because I live so far away from them. Its the guys in the garage and Donny that get everything done. Races are won and lost in the garage.
Its frustrates me at times because Im not able to be at the garage but the guys show me a tremendous amount of respect in that aspect.
Balliet noted that same respect then carries over to the track on race night.
The reality of it is Donny put me in this position and I think it comes back to the correlation of the fire company which is to give the whole group some direction. When he took me on it was not as much as a crew chief and making the calls but more of getting a level of organization and direction to that side of it. He was busy doing what he needed to do in terms of working on the car and concentrating on driving.
I was able to fit into that role of organizing. From there he was able to teach me more of what I know today. Ive gotten a lot of knowledge from him as far as chassis and decision making. Now its to the point that weve been together so long that were comfortable with each other.
Balliet also credits other notable drives who have nurtured him such as former ARDC midget champ Bret Mowery, Mike Rodriguez and Jerry Hoot Brighthaupt.
The rapport between Balliet and Wagner has extended beyond the race track.
You will never meet a better person then Don Wagner. Between him and his wife Sharon we have become close friends. As a matter of fact it was Sharon who introduced me to my wife Barb. All of us are like family, said Balliet.
I dont think youll go to any track that hes raced at that he hasnt helped someone or theres a bad word to say about him because thats just the kind of guy he is. Thats what makes it so easy to race with him too. Hes so determined but at the same time hes so relaxed.
Balliet is clearly enjoying this ride. Just like his team at the fire company, he is surrounded by capable hands at the race track that makes his job effective.
I love it. Its not even so much the crew chief thing its just being with those people. Being with the guys we race with, being with Donny and the years we spent racing its all about being with them, its not the title.
We race to have fun. Dont get me wrong we play to win and I think the results show that over the years but at the same time we race to have fun and make it enjoyable. Bill (Fitz) always would tell us when its not fun anymore than thats the time to get out. Were still having a blast and the fun is as good now as it ever has been.
Wagner also races with the NASCAR Busch East Series and Balliet is there too, only his job is that of spotter.
Keeping Track: Mausteller and
Weaver Out as Clinton County Promoters
By Dino Oberto .
As every well knows by now Clinton County Speedway located in Mackeyville, will not be run by Randy Mausteller and Jeff Weaver for the 2006 season.
Both reason that there was not enough money coming in to support another year and as of now they are in the process of selling the lease of the track.
Jeff (Weaver) and I are not going to open it up, thats a definite, stated Mausteller, who is a veteran open wheel racer from Bloomsburg. Weaver is also a racer of sprint cars.
According to Mausteller he and Weaver, who hails from Millhall, were locked into a schedule with the Township that was set prior to the start of the 2005 season and had to abide by it. The problem arose due to the fact that they were not allowed to alter that schedule.
For most of the year the racing was done on Friday nights but near the end of the season the agenda called for a switch to Saturdays and that, says Mausteller, is what ultimately led to the closing decision.
I kind of got stuck into what Jason McCahan (former track partner with Weaver) had already done on the schedule. The schedule has to be out a month before you open. The Township makes you do that. So I got stuck with those Saturday shows. It was 100-degree weather plus we were running against Selinsgrove and Port Royal and so there were no people, he said.
Thats what happen. Those last three Saturday races killed us and cost us a lot of money. The track held its own through most of the year but when we ended up having to go to Saturdays thats when it took a deep dive and cost us a lot of money.
I was spending a lot of money and getting a lot of aggravation and I was spending every night of the week out there. Its over a 120-mile round trip every day for me. My gas bills where over $600, I wasnt making a whole lot of money and I was putting up with a lot of grief so what do I want to do this for.
Mausteller and Weaver had done a fair amount of upgrading to the facility but its unfortunate that the benefits where not reaped as well as they could have been. Although they are no longer partners, they remain close friends just the same.
I talk to Jeff at least once a week and we have no problems at all. We pretty much decided together that it was not doing a thing and it was time to get out, said Mausteller.
On the last race of the season Jeff came to me and said he thought he was done. He just didnt want to put up with this much abuse for no money and keep spending money. I said to him the same thing that I didnt see it going anywhere.
Jeffs the greatest guy in the world. There is not a bad thing you can say about him. If I was ever going to have another partner it would be Jeff Weaver because you cant find people like him.
Mausteller claims that there is a deal that is close to happening with possible new owners of the lease for Clinton County and the track could be open some time this year.
Now that the stress and strains from running a race track are behind him Mausteller says he can focus again on his driving as well as that of his son Duanes. They will be competing every week at Selinsgrove in the 358 sprint car division.
Mausteller did say that if indeed Clinton County opens up he would in all likelihood race there on Friday nights which would allow him to concentrate more with helping Duane the next evening at Selinsgrove.
The Mausteller team also plans to make some shows at Port Royal and Susquehanna Speedways.
Im pretty sure Clinton County will open and when that does I will go back and run there on Friday nights and Duane will be at Selinsgrove on Saturdays. There will be some nights that I will race at Selinsgrove.
The problem there is we dont have enough help to do two cars in one night. Its just way to much work for my guys. We just cant both run the same place at the same time because theres not enough help to do that.
Basically were going back to going racing, doing our normal thing just like we always did but without Clinton County and thats where its at. Im not going to work myself to death and thats what I did last year. Im going to run wherever I feel like I want to run.
Weaver will also be racing his sprint car at Selinsgrove now that he too is away from promoting.
Tony Hirschman Passing on Success to His Son Matt
By Dino Oberto Keeping Track
With five NASCAR Modified titles to his name, including last season, its no wonder that Tony Hirschman is unquestionably one of the most recognized names among the multitude of drivers that hail throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.
The 49-year old from Northampton, has been motoring his way around race tracks for more than 30 years now. From his humble beginnings that started at Mahoning Valley Speedway in the mid 70s with a Late Model stock, then embarking on his great Modified career at the defunct Dorney Park Speedway as well as Evergreen, now Mountain Speedway, Hirschman has risen to the ranks as one of the all-time greats in NASCARs Modified division.
It means a lot. You always want to come back and try to defend your title. We did really well last year and did better then the year before and that was a plus. Its going to be hard to try and improve on that and Id like to say that we can but I think that its really going to be hard, said Hirschman who also operates Hirschmans Garage and Speed which caters to the needs short track racers.
It doesnt seem that long ago when I started my career in1974 at Mahoning Valley, then Dorney Park and then Evergreen. Just looking back and the guys that were running Modifieds back in them days I never even thought Id get to run against guys like (Richie) Evans and (Maynard) Troyer and all them when I first started.
Them guys where winning all the championships then and who would have ever thought that here I am winning five championships and still got a shot at maybe more.
As Hirschman was building on a reputation of winning races and championships, his two sons, Tony III and Matt, have always been by their fathers side, first by cheering from the stands and then when coming of age moving into the role of crew members.
While Tony II continues to work pit side, Matt, has been following the path of his dad from behind the wheel. Judging by his accomplishments in just a few years of driving, its evident that the bloodline runs deep in this family. The 23-year old has garnered a handful of major events at Mountain Speedway where he began racing just a short time ago.
Thats not all. Matt has also been a steady on the Sunoco Race of Champions Tour (RoC) and as it turned out 2005 became a double title year for the Hirschman gang as he earned that popular touring groups crown.
It was a special year for us to do that. I love the RoC Tour. If I can go on to be successful on the NASCAR Modified Tour the biggest thing that prepared me for that is the RoC Tour. In between running a Saturday night track to going on a touring series like the RoC only makes you better at furthering yourself, said Matt.
This talented father and son dual are proof that racers from the local scene can enjoy success beyond their regular Saturday night venues.
Its neat that the same tracks that my dad started at are the same ones that I started racing at. Its cool to know that the people who where there when he was there now get to see me and theyll tell me stories about when they use to watch him race there when he was young and coming up though the ranks, Matt noted.
Its nice because we still got Mahoning and we still got Mountain and if we had Dorney Park wed have three tracks and three different tracks. Mahoning Valley is a quarter-mile momentum track and Mountain is a nice smooth 1/3 mile track and it would be great to have a short bullring like Dorney Park.
Mahoning is a tough track but I think running Mountain where I started probably better prepared me to go to places like Oswego and some of the bigger tracks. But you can also learn things at Mahoning and when youre racing wheel-to-wheel like you do there, you learn things there too because its so unique and you learn things there that you just wont anywhere else.
The memories of when Tony was a regular at Dorney, Mahoning and Mountain have made lasting impressions. And even though its been years since he raced locally and has become one of the stars on the NASCAR Mod Tour, many still recall the great nights he turned in at all three tracks which helped him rise to stardom.
Im not ashamed to say that I raced at Mahoning or Dorney Park or Mountain and I dont have a problem going back either. Where Im at now, I dont think Im to good or anything like that to say I wont go to there, said Tony who also won the 1981 track title at Mountain.
We still have customers at those places and Matt still races them and I go back there and try to support the guys. Its where I came from and getting up as far as I did, I know where those guys are coming from and its not that bad running those short tracks and it was a lot of fun.
There highly competitive tracks too. Its no cakewalk. You go to Mahoning Valley or Mountain and you have to run hard to win. Just look at the guys who came from there besides me you have Eric Beers and hes doing really well and a few other guys.
Last year also saw Matt make a handful of starts on the NASCAR Mod Tour. That will become a full season effort in 06 as well as making as many stops as possible on the RoC Tour. It also means that father and son can now race together, something they havent got to experience all that much.
Its been great and now to see the new guys coming up like my son and our neighbor Eric Beers, it means a lot to me, said Tony.
Hopefully he (Matt) can take over. If he can get to the level where Im at, and hes getting there, then I feel he can take over. Ill probably quit racing in a few years and its good to know I have something to look forward to.
Hes doing well so far even though hes only run about four-and-a-half seasons. He started right out in the Modifieds. He may not have the background of running a Late Model or Street Stock to fall back on work his way up but hes learning and thats what its all about.
As for Matt he is appreciating the fact that he can race against his famous father.
The last couple of years I only got to run a few RoC races where he was on the track with me but we never really got to race together. This past year running the (NASCAR) Tour and the last race at Thompson (Speedway) where we started side-by-side on the front row, that was pretty neat, said Matt.
When were on the track at the same time its something special. Growing up and watching him I always idolized him and dreamed of the day I could race against him. Theres only going to be a few years that we can do that.
Well be racing more this year then we ever have together, probably in every race. Itll be nice and special to do because more than likely Ill be racing after hes done so were going to enjoy this time right now.
Solid Schedule Awaits Selinsgrove Speedway Fans
By Dino Oberto . Keeping Track
The first of 33-races at Selinsgrove Speedway gets the green flag on Friday night, March 17 which begins a very aggressive schedule of events at the popular Snyder County ½-mile dirt oval.
In preparing for the 61st year of racing, many loyalists of Selinsgrove feel that promoter Charlie Paige has put together one of the best agendas yet.
Once again the weekly card will be the 358 sprint cars as the headline class along with the late models, pro stocks and roadrunners and while those divisions will see the brunt of action in 06, the high-powered 410 sprints are also on tap including the new National Sprint Tour (NST).
Its a lot better and different schedule then last year with two of them being the new National Sprint Tour. Theres also a pair of URC events with one of them being a challenge race which I feel will be a real good race, said Paige.
The NST was formed at the end of 2005 with the intent of rivaling the World of Outlaws. Many of that groups big name stars have defected to the new touring series including multi time champ Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski. Former Selinsgrove ace Lucas Wolfe is also touring with the NST.
The NST races are set for June 11 and again on August 5.
I approached them (NST) about it and thought it would be a good deal. We had been trying to get an Outlaw show for years. They had a couple of good dates to offer and I negotiated with them and felt it was a good deal and went ahead and booked them, said Paige.
Its been a while since (Steve) Kinser has been at the track. 1993 was his last visit and its time to have him back. The fans want to see him at Selinsgrove.
One of the region's most well attended events, the annual PA Sprint Speedweek, will also be part of the 410 slate as the week-long show will roll into the track on July 2.
Our PA Speedweek show last year was very good. We had 33 cars and lots of fans. The National Open was much of the same. Lucas Wolfe won that one which was also a reason why I booked the NST. Lucas Wolfe needs to run at Selinsgrove. He handles that track very well and he needs to be there.
As for the regular weekly action the 358 sprints continue to draw solid car counts and produce some very close contests. It is a class that Paige had switched over to a after the 410 car count had begun to dwindle a few years ago. The move proved to be a good one too as Selinsgrove as risen to one of the leading tracks in hosting the 358s.
A lot of the fans, it took a while for them to be swung over to the 358s. I got fans there now that tell me on a weekly basis that the 358 racing is more exciting and better racing then theyve ever seen with 410 racing. Theyre actually telling me that they wont watch a 410 race anymore, said Paige.
Hometown ace Blane Heimbach scored his second 358 track championship in 2005 and agrees that for the best in 358 sprints, Selinsgrove is the place to race.
I enjoy Selinsgrove probably the most because its my hometown and where I grew up and where I always wanted to race. Also because its the best limited Sprint racing around, said Heimbach.
Williams Grove Speedway has nothing to offer over Selinsgrove and as far as Im concerned its way better racing and better everything as far as a limited (sprint) standpoint is. They appreciate the show we put on and theyre always trying to get our purse better and try to get us better races and Williams Grove doesnt do that.
If youre going to run limited sprints I would go to Selinsgrove no doubt.
Heimbach also noted how Paige has taken the 358 class to heart.
Hes (Paige) doing an excellent job. Every year there seems like theres an improvement. Hes always trying to get more cars and make the racing better. Hell take the time to hear someones point of view in what they think would be better.
As much as the sprint are associated with Selinsgrove, so too are the late models which have one of the most loyal fan followings anywhere for that style car.
Selinsgrove has always been known as a late model track. There just as good as the sprint cars. The car counts in the past few years have been full fields and they always put on a good show, said Paige.
Late model racing has always been the show filler at a lot of other race tracks. We think that at Selinsgrove now they are equal to our sprint car racing. Theyve been getting about a $1000 to win at most tracks. We bumped that up to $1200 to win plus we increased the payout for the middle of the pack guys this year with the purse.
On September 3, the 3rd annual Selinsgrove Ford Paul Long Late Model Memorial will be held and once again the purse will be once of richest payoffs for the full-fender racers.
We upped that race to $10,000 to win last year and were going to duplicate that again this year. We had 49 cars last year and we expect to have more this year. We have Ricky Elliott coming in which will bring that show to a new peak. He was there last year and put on a heck of a show for our fans and I feel hes going to be a real good spokesman for that race this year.
A uniqueness about Selinsgrove is there are two tracks in one with an inner 1/5-mile oval known as Selinsgrove Raceway Park. Micro sprint and go-karts run every Friday night there.
Ive been involved with go-kart racing with my son for 14-years now and I knew there was a need for a go-kart track in central Pennsylvania that was a quality track, explained Paige.
Safety is always in mind when youre racing go-karts and I designed my track with run-offs and no guard rails. Safety is in mind all the time when youre racing karts. They dont have the cages like the sprints and late models do and there are a lot of younger kids that race them too.
So safety is always one of the things you look for.
The small track schedule mirrors that of the big oval as Friday/Saturday racing runs from March through September.
Paige has done a great job with Selinsgrove, continuing to provide excellent programming and with two nights of racing each week he is able to fulfill his fans with quality racing, arguably making it one of the most competitive open wheel and stock tracks in the country.
Kevin Hayle Claims Last Ever Sportsman Title at Greenwood
By Dino Oberto . Keeping Track
When Kevin Hayle won this years 250cc Micro Sprint Sportsman division title at Greenwood Valley Action Track in Millville, it turned out to be one for the record books. Hayle will go down as the last driver to win the crown in that class as this marked the final season for the Sportsman cars which were the building foundation of making Greenwood Valley one of the areas leading tracks for micro sprints.
Winning the title was really, really cool because it is the last year for the 250 Sportsman class at Greenwood Valley plus it was the tracks 25th anniversary so its nice to know this one will stand for a long time, said the 37-year Bloomsburg resident.
I like that track. Its close to home. 15-minutes Im at the race track and 15-minutes Im home. Ive been to a bunch of different race tracks in my career and it is by far the smoothest and best prepared race track every week.
The numbers Hayle put up were impressive, winning 14 features in 22-starts although he admitted things didnt start out that well.
It was kind of a struggle at the start of the season. The first two weeks we had our motor redesigned. It was the same motor we ran the year before and it blew up nine times. It was just a case of getting the handle on the motor because the car was fast, Hayle said. After about the fourth weekend we knew we were in pretty good shape.
He also noted that those wins were at most times hard fought as he had to work his way through the pack in reaching the checkered flag.
When we started up front it wasnt too bad but we spent over three-quarters of the season staring tenth or worse.
There werent just the every week preparations which are essential to winning either. Hayle and his team began their title hunt long before the racing even started this year.
We had really prepared over the winter, he recalled. Just our way of going about things and the way you go about your business. That was a really big difference right there
Hayle credits Randy Boston, who has been working along side him over the past five years, in making the drive to the title attainable.
Being with Randy (Boston) over that time has been great. He watches me every time Im on the track. We also brought my brother Scott on this year and between those two guys I was able to focus more on driving where as they took care of a lot of the details that are involved.
Hayle also attributes his father, Tim and wife, Diane, who was a main supporter through her place of business, Dianes Digital Photos, as intricate members of the team.
It was really gratifying for my dad. When we got up into the micros he kind of stepped in and started helping us out with different shop items and the trailer and its really cool for him. Hes really into it.
He also said how he communicated a lot with Shane Penny with certain aspects of car up set-up. A good choice too as Penny himself won 270cc titles this year at both Greenwood Valley and Selinsgrove.
Additionally there was the needed sponsorship help which came by way of Hellers Trucking, Keefer and Associates, Puterbough Motorsports, Bobs Plastering and Hammer Racing Engines.
Hayle has only been racing micro sprints for three years but he is no stranger when it comes to winning races and championships. Prior to running the micro, he was a top fight go-karter, winning handily at both Greenwood Valley and Selinsgrove Race Park and in 2002 he captured titles at each track. This was his tenth year in racing.
Not only have there been three championships during that decade but hes also racked up an impressive 99 career wins, 17 of those coming with the micro sprint.
The twin titles, that was a lot effort because we ran well over 70 races that year and we were racing somebody elses car so we didnt have to put the monies into it we just had to put the effort in.
This deal here with the micro, we own everything from the hauler, the truck, the race car, everything. Its all our own stuff, my wife and I and it takes a lot more effort when youre footing the bill and you try not to wreck your own stuff.
Hayle will be upgrading his motor in order to run with the 270cc class for 2006 where he will again be in competition every Saturday night at Greenwood Valley, however, if his work schedule permits there could be trips on Friday evenings at such venues as Selinsgrove, Path Valley and Lindas Speedways.
Any driver knows when its time to move up. Were ready to go to the 270 class. Its going to be a whole different learning curve. Its a little bit different car set-ups but Im sure well be ready. We actually ran three 270 races with our 250 car this past year and we didn't do to bad.
As he now gears for the move up to the 270ccs, Hayle will keep his objective simple.
What were looking for is to qualify for every race. Thats our main goal, to qualify and if we can run in the top ten pretty much all the time, that would be our target.
Zach Martini Getting Shot At USAC Sprint Ride
By Dino Oberto Keeping Track
Auto racing, like most any sport, has its youth leagues that give aspiring talent the chance to nurture through a variety of ranks that will hopefully take them into the big leagues and Zach Martini of Drums is a fitting example of that.
The 17-year old Hazleton Area High School junior spent a successful tenure racing quarter midgets and now has the shot of entering into the big leagues of motorsport.
It wasnt until Martini switched to racing 305 Sprint cars two years ago that his advancing took a positive turn thanks to the efforts of his crew chief Ken Yermal, who has strong ties within the racing circles out in Indianapolis.
Yermal, through an affiliation with Eddie Sachs, Jr., who is a key partner with Great Lakes Motorsports based in Leroy, Ohio, is giving Martini the opportunity to race in selected Midwest USAC Sprint asphalt events in 2006. He will also run a full season of dirt races here in Pennsylvania with a 410 Sprinter.
Sachs is the son of the late Eddie Sachs, a former Indy Car racing great. His group focuses on helping up and coming talent such as Martini. They currently have a NASCAR Busch Grand Nation Team and also have a strong interest in open wheel racing which is were Martini fits in.
Plans are already laid out to have him race the prestigious Little 500 at Anderson Speedway, held annually on the eve of the Indy 500. There is also four other USAC Sprint shows planned.
Zachs dad (Gary Martini) and Ken (Yermal) started him going in the right direction in building him right with the Sprint cars. I talked with Ken about two years ago but at that time Zach was still very young. He was talking about the IRL and the Infinity Pro Series and I had an interest there too, said Sachs.
We kept in touch and seeing that Zach had such a great season this year running the 305. Gary and Ken are going to get a little better equipment for next year for the dirt series.
My involvement will be with a pavement car. Ken and I are going to put a pavement program together. We do have a goal and that is to try and qualify for the Little 500 out at Anderson Speedway. That will be a major goal for 2006, including running four other asphalt races with USAC.
I feel very lucky to have this opportunity. Its like a dream come true, added Martini. Theres a little bit of stress involved in it but I just have to drive a race car like I normally do and hopefully everything will fall into place.
After ten years of successful quarter-midget racing, Martini wrapped up his second year of wheeling a Sprint car and noted how the transition was knowledge well applied.
That was a great learning curve for me. I learned a lot on driving a Sprint car and whats all involved in the handling of it, especially after making the jump from quarter-midgets, said Martini. I really liked when we got to run against the 410s at Clinton County and that was pretty good. It was all about getting seat time in.
He is only running five USAC events in order to maintain rookie status. While Sachs will provide the necessities needed to race on the pavement, Martini meanwhile will do the brunt of his 06 track-time on dirt at Clinton County Speedway.
I really like that track. Its small and tight and I think you really learn how to drive there because youre always in traffic unlike a bigger track like Williams Grove where you tend to get more spread out, said Martini who ran a handful of events there this past season.
There will be added stops during the annual PA Sprint Speedweek events at Big Diamond, Silver Spring, Grandview and Susquehanna Speedways.
This all leads into the next year or two of deciding if were going to run a USAC series in 2007 and also look at the Infinity Pro Series and eventually the IRL, said Sachs.
Because of Martinis experience with quarter midgets and the 305 Sprints, Sachs feels that has carried him well.
Yes its somewhat of a statistical thing in what I know about Zach and its not just his family and crew chief thats saying hes a good guy. Hes been running for the last few years with the Sprints and has done well. There have been a lot of other people that has said hes done well, noted Sachs.
Zach is the type of person that fits what a major sponsor is looking for. Young, good looking and on top of that, the icing on the cake is hes a good driver and hopefully he can be provided with good equipment and the chances to win.
Martini realizes this is a big step for him but feels this is a chance he cant pass on.
Im really looking forward to that. There will be some very good people out there to help coach me and I think Ill be fine. USAC Sprint champion Brian Tyler is going to do some coaching with me and thats great to know I will be with such a talent as him, said Martini.
Added Sachs, What we plan on doing is try to get in some testing on the asphalt tracks around here and just let him go out and get use to driving. The next phase would be to let him run one or two races before we take him to Indy so he can have that feel on how the car is.
Its a step, a big step for all of us. But its also a starting point.
With such fallout of late of young drivers aiming at NASCAR, Sachs, who has deep roots in open wheel racing, realizes there are still great opportunities going down the opposite avenue of making it to the big leagues.
With the open wheel stuff I have a bigger interest in going to Indy somewhere down the road and I think we need to build upon going to Indy verses trying to buy our way in getting there, explained Sachs.
Fortunately I have a family back ground in it that makes me enjoy it a little bit more. I lived and ate it for a real long time and I still do.
We can go about this either the proper way or the hard way and whats the proper way, who knows. Of course theres a little bit of luck involved. We need to have a little luck and a little technology and well be ready to go.
As for Martini this is a great opportunity in what could very well turn into a promising career.
I just want to be able to do the best I can with the dirt car and try to win a race or two and finish well in the points. One of my main goals will be to qualify for the Little 500 which will be another dream come true and just do good in the asphalt races when we head there.
I need to concentrate on next year and running at Clinton Country and then doing those USAC shows.
For Shane Penny, Track Championship is Twice as Nice
By Dino Oberto . Keeping Track
Throughout the 2005 season Shane Penny remained at the forefront of Micro Sprint racing and it paid off big for the Nescopek star as he captured twin titles between Greenwood Valley Action Track and Selinsgrove Raceway Park.
It was a rare feat as well as he became the first driver to win 270cc championships in the same season at both tracks.
It really feels good, especially Greenwood Valley because that was the one we really wanted. Its always tough there and the biggest thing is you never know whats going on with the points until the final race has been run, said 35-year old Penny. That place is hard to keep yourself upfront all the time.
At Selinsgrove it marked his second career title with the first coming two years ago. Penny was riding at the top of the points virtually the entire year there and after all was said and done he had amassed a nearly 500-point advantage over runner up Sean Stolz of Bloomsburg.
Selinsgrove this year, I didnt have the pressure like I did back in 2003 when I won the championship. That year I dont think Colby (Wolmer, points runner-up) and I were never much more than 50 to 100 points apart and it was stressful coming down to the end.
This year we ended up almost 500 points ahead. We came out of the box pretty quick and we got a big lead and it kind of stuck throughout the year, noted Penny.
At Millville it was really gratifying for two reasons. One was that we really wanted to win the title. Thats the one we really where gunning for. The other thing was never knowing where you stand because they dont post the points all year. It ended up we had a good size point lead but all year long you never know that.
Stolz was also gunning for him at Greenwood Valley as well as the always tough Ross Perchak of Hazleton who placed runner-up for the second straight year.
Without a doubt they were the guys I had to beat each week, admitted Penney. For the most part between Ross (Perchak), Sean (Stolz) and me it came down to which one of us started in front of the other one. When it came to Selinsgrove it was pretty much between Sean and I. Over at Greenwood Valley on Saturday nights it was both Sean and Ross.
What really aided Penny in getting his titles were feature wins. This season was outstanding as he scored 20 victories between three different tracks. That number was double of his best ever win season of ten which he had done twice before.
He notched nine wins at Selinsgrove and ten at Greenwood. He also added a triumph at Clinton County Speedway in the prestigious Blaise Alexander Memorial and is fast approaching 50 career wins.
At one point this year he was the leader in victories for Micro Sprinters throughout the northeast but unfortunately fell one win shy of coming away with that distinction.
That was one of those deals that was hard to take because we came so close. We worked our tails off to get where we were. It was by far my most consistent season.
Theres a lot of things that factor in. its more than just flat out running good. If you want to win a championship you cant have DNFs and those were things that kind of plagued me before. Theres different things that can go wrong and now I feel its a culmination of experience. Im better at keeping my motors tuned and not blowing up. We went all year and had only four DNFs out of 59 races and two of them where parts failures and that were out of our control.
With the season now done he will be deliberating on what his 2006 plans are.
I put my car up for sale but havent had any hits on it yet. I guess the option is we could be running this car again. My chassis builder wants to try some new things and he wants to build me a new car so there are things there we have to work out.
As far as repeating as a title contender Penny would rather take his show on the road and expand on some other regional tracks.
I think were going to jump around a little more. I always wanted to race at Hill Valley so I think well go out there a few times. Trialways is another we may hit. Well just kind of move around a little bit.
I would love to race more at Clinton County too. If over the winter they were to announce that they are going to race micros full time then Id be there.
There are a strong number of drivers who compete in Micro Sprints and Penny has become a driving force among them. Although advancing up a class would be something he or any driver would like, the Micros suit him just fine.
I really enjoy racing these cars. My only hope of moving up is waiting for a phone call. This is very competitive racing with the Micro Sprints and now more so then it was say ten years ago. Then there were a select number of guys that had really good motors and cars. Now it seems that everyone has got good stuff.
Brian DeFebo is Mountain Speedway Champion Again
By Dino Oberto .. Keeping Track
In just over a decade of racing at Mountain Speedway, Brian DeFebo has become a symbol of excellence. With the 2005 season now over the 27-year old from Berwick earned his third career modified track title and fifth overall championship at the 1/3-mile paved St. Johns oval.
And it was another year in which he simply dominated as he won half of all races run, racking up 10 wins in 20 point races held.
Though he was able to add another title trophy to his mantle, that wasnt the original plan when the season began back in April. His main focus was to win races and not worry so much about points. But winning and points go hand-in-hand.
It was a good year. When started out the year we didnt really look at to win a championship, we looked at it more to win races and that was our goal and then the next thing you know after winning so many races we were up in the point lead, said DeFebo.
We started out the season where the first two races were bad but then everything just snowballed from there. We ended up winning back to back races and then at one point we won four in a row. There were a lot of second and third places (finishes) too.
All in all it was good and it felt good to win another championship but that wasnt our main intent. Weve had some good luck the last couple of years in just being able to win races. To win 10 races in one season like we did this year, its a good deal no matter what.
Even though he did win so handily, DeFebo admitted it was never an easy task as he faced his share of hard-hitting competition.
All year long there was a bunch of tough guys coming in and racing with us. You put a bulls-eye on your back and all these guys do come down trying to beat you because they know if they dont then their going to finish second.
Its tough too because we started in the back every race. Every race I was starting at least 10th or more. Its nice when you see the year end point stats were they ran 20 races and you won 10 of them and had 18-top fives.
This years win total has added to an already impressive sum of track victories as he is second to none with nearly 60 features won.
Thats kind of neat to have that distinction. Really since 2000 weve dominated at that track if you look at wins and championships. Its amazing to look back and see that in the last three years alone Ive won 30 races, he said.
Besides Mountain, DeFebo also spent the season racing at Mahoning Valley Speedway and was the only modified driver that ran every race at the areas only two asphalt tracks.
At one point he was as high as third in the standings at the Lehighton ¼-miler but had his share of struggles there and wound up 11th in the final tally. He did, however, win a feature race which was something he had been striving for.
That place (Mahoning) is like a thorn in my side. We were able to get one win there. Weve gone to Tioga and other places and had good runs. We just never had the final results. Were hoping to be able to pull that off starting next year.
Its tough when youre able to dominate at one track and then get your expectations up high to go to other places and its always something wrong happening like a flat tire or shocks going bad. Youre always so happy to leave your home track and try something else but then to have the silly stuff happen just dampens it all.
It was aggravating actually. To be able to run a whole season at Mountain and not rip any wheels off the car and then go to the bullring down there (Mahoning). Dont get me wrong, its a great track but its just a tough track. Fast cars dont always win there. Its a hit and miss deal there. I would have liked to have won maybe three races but one is better then none.
With the off season ahead DeFebo will be looking to lay out his plans for 2006 which may see more spreading out. Although another championship would be nice, hed like it to be somewhere other than Mountain Speedway.
Hopefully at another track and not at Mountain. Well show up there just to run a couple of shows but were not going to dedicate our schedule to staying there. Even though is a close drive from the house Id rather drive two hours and have a bad day then just get wrapped up in the same old circus everyday., he explained.
You get yourself to a point where you put so much expectation. We dont go there to finish second we go there to win. Anybody else would be happy finishing second but thats a disappointment to us at this point in running there. You take it for granted.
He also noted that hell again try to make as many events as possible on the Race of Champions Tour (RoC).
Were going to concentrate on the RoC series next year. That series is something that you can say compares with the NASCAR Modified Series. You have a traveling series that throws you in the same type of scenario but without the cost factor.
Id like to get back to the (NASCAR) Modified Series if I can get a ride perhaps. Well most likely travel around to a couple of different tracks and keep my name out there and try to get some good results out.
Expect to see DeFebo make use of not only a modified but a late model car as well. He excels equally with the full fender cars.
Out intent for next year is to run more with the late model too. More tracks seemingly want to work together with different series between modified series and late model series. I going to try and hop around more. I enjoy running the late model as much as the modified.
Luke Hoffner at 100 Career Wins and Counting
By Dino Oberto . Keeping Track
25-years ago when Luke Hoffner of Turboville began racing at Selinsgrove Speedway little did he know then that one day he would be making a career achievement which in his case was notching his 100th feature win.
Hoffner, 42, is a region-wide leader in dirt late model racing. The milestone event happened on September 3 at Hummingbird Speedway in Falls Creek. Hoffner led every lap while holding off track champion Chris Farrell in recording the popular verdict.
It was a big relief because I won last year in the first race of the season and then had a dry spell from then until now. We were stuck on 99 (wins) for just about a year. We were worried about it all year long, said Hoffner.
We were all getting worried we werent going to win a race let alone the 100th. I didnt think it would ever come. It was a pretty good race.
It was 1981 when Hoffner first took to the track at Selinsgrove and Clinton County Speedways. He was a winning fixture at both tracks, however, over the past decade he took his show on the road, doing a lot of traveling and winning at various other speed plants.
We use to run Selinsgrove every week for about 15-years and never missed a race. Then we started running Clinton County Speedway on Fridays. Then we just started traveling around a little bit and it was kind of neat going somewhere else to win. We won at eight different race tracks now and have 12 track championships.
Hoffner is a five time champion at Clinton County, 1989, 96, 99, 00 and 01. There also came three titles at Hidden Valley Speedway, 97, 98 and 00 while hes also garnered a pair of track crowns in 02 and 03 at Redline Raceway and Ace High Speedway.
This year and last year we didnt run for points. We just jumped around a lot. This year we went out to Hesston (Speedway) a couple weekends and then to Hummingbird and over to Thunder Mountain Speedway. On Friday nights we ran Dog Hollow once in a while and sometimes out at Central PA Speedway.
In 25-years and 100 wins there are plenty of memorable races but one that stands out was a win over legendary Red Farmer from the famous Alabama Gang. Farmer was making guest appearance at Ace High Speedway a few years ago. He had been in the area while helping Jason Jarrett during a Nextel Cup weekend at Pocono Raceway. Hoffner beat Framer, who was actually driving in a back-up car that Hoffner had lent him for that night.
He also noted when Central PA Speedway re-opened as a dirt track he won the inaugural race there as a particular victory.
When it comes to the range of tracks Hoffner admits there are none preferred from one to the next.
Theres different cars everywhere you go so you didnt know which ones are fast and thats kind of whats neat about it. We been up to Little Valley and Freedom (Speedways) in New York
Where ever you can win at. Where ever you win at is kind of a neat track for me. I like all race tracks and there really isnt any that I dont like. Thats why I like to travel around. I really dont have a favorite.
His team includes crew chief Josh Young who also is a primary sponsor through his Youngs Garage in Berwick. Hoffners two sons, A.J., 19 and Brandon, 16 are along for the ride with their dad while other team members are Steve Hauck and May Greenly.
Hoffner gets addition sponsorship help from AMSOIL Motor Oil.
In a quarter century of racing throughout the region Hoffner has earned more than just 100 wins. He also gained the respect of his competitors and notoriety amongst the fans. Four different times he was chosen as the Fan Favorite and won a pair of Sportsmanship Awards. Also added to his long list of accomplishments was Driver of the Year on two occasions.
In 2002 he was the honored by Area Auto Racing News as the winningest dirt late model driver on the east coast thanks to a 20-win season.
Im pretty well known all over the place. Its kind of neat too because you go somewhere and see people you dont even know and theyll say, How are you doing Luke? and Ill say pretty good and I dont even know who they are, said Hoffner. Well keep doing this until Im too old to drive. Its still fun.
Copyright © 1998-2005 by South Jersey Dirt Racing/ToddJ All Rights Reserved. Born on date April 21, 1998