All Star Circuit of Champions 2009 in Review Part 4: Ohio Speedweek

From Kelly Brown

Camargo, IL – Halloween may be just a few days away and children are getting their costumes ready for trick or treating, but the O’Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions want to take you back to the end of June for the 27th annual Ohio Speedweek. With six races in just eight nights, it made for a grueling week of competition which saw several drivers lead the point standings. In a romp across Ohio that started at Eldora Speedway and ended at Fremont Speedway, Ohio Speedweek was a thrilling week of racing that will not be soon forgotten.

The Big E and Millstream

As the Green Flag flew at Eldora Speedway Stevie Smith got ahead of pole sitter Greg Wilson going into the second turn, and took off to an early lead. Lining up behind the duo was Butch Schroeder, Randy Hannagan, and Cale Conley. Wilson was able to get side-by-side with him in Turn 4, but Smith held on. While they were battling for the top spot, Hannagan was on the move picking up the third position. On Lap 5 McCarl made his first appearance in the top-five and started picking off spots, position by position. Smith opened up a large lead as he left Wilson and Hannagan to battle for second. The duo would fight back-and-forth, side-by-side for the second position. As Smith started encountering lapped traffic on the eleventh circuit of the course, Hannagan started to reel him in and McCarl picked off another position moving to third. . Smith and Hannagan would struggle side-by-side for the lead before Smith got the edge. McCarl would get the edge on Lap 19 taking second away from “The Hurricane.” On Lap 24 McCarl would take the lead shortly before another Yellow Flag flew. On the restart the top-five were McCarl, Smith, Wilson, Hannagan, and Rob Chaney. When racing action began again McCarl got the jump and left Smith and Wilson who were fighting for the second position in the dust. In the final laps it was a scuffle to see who would finish where in the top ten. Wilson would get around Smith to take second and Chaney would get around Hannagan to claim fourth. As the Checkered Flag loomed in the distance McCarl had almost a straight-away lead. Second across the line was Smith, followed by Wilson, Chaney and Hannagan.

At the start of the second night of racing at Millstream Speeway Rob Chaney and Brock Mayes started on the front row. Fast qualifier Rob Chaney bolted into the lead with third starting Shaffer sliding into second while Brock Mayes, Brandon Wimmer, Randy Hannagan and Paul McMahan staged a hot and heavy battle for the third position. Shaffer take the lead and never look back with a move in turns three and four establishing himself in the lead on Lap 5. The first of several cautions would fly on lap six and seven. Once the green flew again, Shaffer pulled away while Chaney had his hands full with Brock Mayes, Hannagan and a fast Greg Wilson. Another caution would fly on Lap 11 and 14. On the restart, Shaffer again pulled away while Chaney now had to contend with Hannagan while Wilson moved into fourth. The race would then go the remaining 12 laps under green with Shaffer setting a torrid pace. Meanwhile, the fans were treated to a great battle for second as Chaney and Hannagan ran side-by-side for next eight laps before Hannagan would take the runner-up spot on Lap 28. At the checkered Shaffer won by six car lengths over Hannagan, Chaney, Wilson and Stevie Smith.

Smith Sweep

At the beginning of the A-main at Hilltop Speedway, Tim Shaffer and Dean Jacobs shared the front row and once the Green Flag flew they stayed side-by-side throughout the first lap with Shaffer having a slight edge at the end of the first lap. Shaffer was showing the way and Stevie Smith was on the move in the early laps. First he closed in on the 59 of Jacobs and by the third lap he had stole the second position with a move on the high side. Smith then set his eye on the lead. He worked on Shaffer on the low side before moving to the high side. Shaffer moved low, but was nearly collected by a lapped car. When the duo was working traffic on Lap 12, Smith made his move. He continued to work the high side and it finally paid off. Once he got into the lead Smith pulled away from the field. While Smith was in the front skillfully working traffic, Brandon Martin came to life around Lap 15 and started his climb towards the front of the pack. At the front Shaffer was trying about every line he could to gain some ground on Smith, but the gap between the two was steadily growing. Smith was lapping cars that are normally contending for the win in All Star competition. On Lap 26, Smith avoided near disaster when he made contact with the wall while working in traffic, this allowed Shaffer to close again, but Smith held on to the lead. There was a fanatic moment on the track with Daron Clayton nearly got together with Steve Lines, but Smith dodged the two cars and everyone on track continued to battle. With a two lap shoot out remaining, Martin made his final move. The White Flag was waving high as he was still running third, but decided it was time to try once more for second. At the finish line it was Smith, with Martin edging out Jacobs in the final turn on the final lap of the race. Terry McCarl and Rob Chaney rounded out the top-five.

Stevie Smith, who recorded quick time at Waynesfield Raceway Park, started on the front row of the feature with Cole Duncan by his side. On the wave of the Green Flag Smith sprinted out to the lead, like a hunting dog pursing its prey. Behind him Brandon Martin slid past Cole Duncan for second, while Daryn Pittman and Jason Johnson brawled for the fifth position. On Lap 5 Smith started encountering lapped traffic and started picking them off car by car in the high line. Martin began to start mimicking Smith’s line hoping to catch up some ground. After a short Yellow Flag, Smith begun where he let off with Martin in his tire tracks trying every move he could to stick with the leader. At this point Pittman was at the move executing a slide job on Duncan to take over the third position. Pittman had a close call while working lapped traffic as he had a near collision with a lapped car, but in a skillful move he was able to save the 17 car without losing a position. On the restart there was a lapped car between Smith, and second place running Martin. Martin made quick work of the lapped machine, but not quick enough as Pittman was hot on his heels. While Smith pulled out to another sizable lead. At one point Martin looked to be reeling him in, but was not able to get close enough to pass Smith. In the last ten laps of the event Pittman could feel the race coming to the end and made his move between turns three and four. Pittman would put a slide job on Martin, but Martin fought back. As they sprinted down the front stretch towards Turn 1, Pittman got the edge taking over the second position. Rob Chaney was also on the move as he moved into the top-5 with eight laps to go. The night would end with a Green-White-Checkered showdown. On the final restart, Smith got the jump and did not look back. Smith would pass under the Checkered Flag first collecting his second win of Ohio Speedweek. He was followed to the line by: Pittman, Martin, Duncan, and Chaney.

Another Smith emerges and a familiar face returns to Victory Lane

When racing action got underway at Limaland Motorsports Park it was fast and furious as Danny Smith got the jump and led the first lap of the event. He would be followed to the line by Mayes, Rob Chaney and Tim Shaffer. A few laps later Shaffer made his move in Turn 3 snatching the third position. Chaney battled back, but Shaffer had his car working in the top groove, holding him off. By Lap 5 Mayes, took his turn in the top position briefly, but Smith quickly retook the lead. Mayes fell into the clutches of Shaffer as the top three traded positions back and forth. It seemed as if every time Mayes would catch Smith, Shaffer would close on the duo and join the battle. Shaffer appeared to be the best entering Turn 3 as he picked up the second position on Lap 11. Then a few laps later he would celebrate his 42nd birthday by taking the lead. While the top three were battling Dale Blaney was on the move from his seventh place starting position, moving into the top-five and closing in on the lead pack as he passed Greg Wilson for the position. When the field started encountering traffic on Lap 14, Danny Smith dove under Shaffer for the lead. Shaffer would get held up by a lapped car letting Mayes get by for second. Using a lapped car as a pick, Mayes took the lead away from Smith on Lap 16. This is when Blaney really made his presence known on the track as he dove under Shaffer and Smith to take the second position on Lap 17. Lap 18 will be one that goes down in infamy as Mayes, Smith, Shaffer and Blaney all led on the same lap. The top four could have been thrown under a blanket. Smith would out muscle his fellow competitors and establish himself in the lead on Lap 20 of the 40 Lap A main event. Blaney established himself in the second position, followed by Shaffer, Wilson, and Mayes. Once Smith was in the lead, he pulled away from the fray. In the latter part of the event Wilson came to life picking off Mayes for fourth. When he caught Shaffer the two battled side-by-side until Wilson bobbled slightly. In the mean time Shaffer caught Blaney for second and started working on him. As the two battled it allowed Wilson catch up to the leaders again. With five laps remaining Wilson made quick work of Shaffer diving under him in Turn 2 to take over the third position in the top line. Wilson then set his sights on second, catching Blaney using the high line. Wilson worked on Blaney each lap, but was unable to execute the pass. At the Checkered Flag it was Smith picking up the win, followed by Blaney, Wilson, Shaffer and Mayes.

Tim Shaffer, who won the B main to make his way into the main event at Fremont Speedway, put on a clinic on how to execute passes on the 1/3-mile semi-banked oval from the beginning of the event. Chad Blonde started from the pole of the feature with Brock Mayes by his side. As the Green Flag was unfurled Blonde had the edge rocketing towards Turn 1. Mayes, Duane Zablocki, and Craig Mintz would quickly fall in line. While Blonde was setting a fast and furious pace at the front of the pack, Shaffer was on the move picking up seven spots in just four laps. As the field began to encounter lapped traffic on Lap 9, Blonde began to fall into the clutches of Mayes and Mintz who were able to pull up on him. Mayes was right on Blonde’s tail allowing Mintz to join the fight. Mintz, who was the only driver who was hooked up on the high side made his move on Lap 13 to take the second position. Once he got into the second spot, he set his sights on the lead waging a battle with Blonde which would see the duo race side-by-side for four laps straight. While the cars up front were battling, Shaffer kept picking off cars and had moved up to four by the 14th circuit of the course. On Lap 18 Mayes a daring move diving between Blonde and Mintz to take the lead. It was short lived though as Mintz muscled his way back on the following lap. Mayes would take his turn up front, when he used a lapped car as a pick to drive around Mintz into the lead on Lap 27. Mayes would jet out to a slight lead as second was up for the taking and three cars wanted it. Mintz, Shaffer and Smith staged quite a battle as Smith drove under the 20x car. Mintz would fight back in the outside line trying to retake the spot. The same lapped traffic that had given Mayes the opportunity to take the lead became his enemy as Shaffer caught up to him. On Lap 36, Shaffer would make his move diving to the low side to take the lead. When the Green Flag flew for the final time Shaffer drove out to a sizable lead, with a clear track in his sight. At the line it was Shaffer taking the Checkered Flag first with Mayes, Smith, Blonde, and Brad Sweet rounding out the top-five.

A Champion is Crowned

When the dust settled at Fremont Speedway after six races in eight days, it was Stevie Smith who emerged as Ohio Speedweek Champion to take his first title. At the end Smith clinched the title with a third place finish at Fremont Speedway. During the week Smith proved to be one of the most consistent drivers, not placing out of the top ten once, in fact his worst finish came Friday night at Limaland Motorsports Park. Several times over the week Smith raced at few tracks for the first time, taking each one in stride. Smith began his quest for the Championship at Eldora Speedway with a second place finish. He lost a little momentum on the second night at Millstream Speedway finishing fifth. It was midweek when Smith hit his stride winning at both Hilltop Speedway and Waynesfield Motorsports Park, the latter he had not raced at previously. The only night he would place out of the top-five was at Limaland Motorsports Park where he finished ninth. Then to take the title, he finished third at Fremont Speedway. Smith added his name to those greats who have won Ohio Speedweek championships. In sprint car history Smith will be listed with greats such as: Jack Hewitt, Frankie Kerr, Sammy Swindell, Steve Kinser, Dave Blaney, Kenny Jacobs, and Bobby Allen.

As the O’Reilly Circuit of Champions zoomed into July it was another breath taking month which ended with the infamous Thunder through the Plains. First the All Stars had business to take care of though with races in three states before heading out west. Stay tuned as the O’Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions look back on another fast and furious season of racing action. For the most up to date information on the All Star Circuit of Champions, bookmark on your computer.