mercer raceway park
mercer raceway park

By Mike Leone

Mercer, PA…Mercer Raceway Park wrapped up the month of August on Saturday night with the Auto Racers for Kids Charities event. It was night four of four in the 2010 Bonnell’s Collision Center Sprint Shootout Series that also featured events at Sportsman’s Speedway, Eriez Speedway, and Raceway 7. Celebrating in the Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic Victory Lane was Jack Sodeman, Jr.-Luxaire Heating & Cooling (410) Sprint Cars.

It took Jack Sodeman, Jr. 16 years and more than 80 races to win his first feature at Mercer Raceway Park when he finally ended the curse on July 31 with the $2,000 DIRTcar Challenge Series victory. They always say the first one is the toughest, and for Sodeman it could not have been any truer. Returning for the first time since that elusive first victory one month ago, Sodeman captured an exciting 25-lap win holding off hard charging Daryn Pittman and Ed Lynch, Jr. for the victory. This time the win came in Jeff Rudzik’s #94, who donated all $3,000 back to the Auto Racers for Kids Charities. Sodeman was also victorious in the $3,000 Eriez event to go along with a second after leading much of the Raceway 7 show.

“This is what you want to do for the fans,” expressed the North Jackson, Ohio winner about what many called the best race they’ve witnessed this year. “I can definitely use this Powerade for as hard as Eddie (Lynch) was coming after me and Daryn (Pittman) at the end. The red flag gave me a breather. I thought ‘Wow, Eddie really wants this one’ so I had to be up on the wheel from lap one to the checkered. The most exciting part is before I got in the car, Jeff Rudzik said, ‘When you win, the $3,000 we make tonight is all going to charity”!

Lynch jumped into the lead past Scott Priester, who was driving the Martha Dionise #15. Sodeman, who started fourth, used the outside to go around Brian Ellenberger and Priester for second on the initial lap. Sodeman caught Lynch and grabbed the lead with a great move driving under and by the leader in turn four. Ninth starting Rod George was on the move using the inside to move to the front. George was already up to fourth on lap two when he took the spot from Ellenberger.

Lynch continued to pressure Sodeman, while Priester wouldn’t go away easy as he was all over the “Apollo Rocket” for second. Lapped traffic came into play on lap seven as Sodeman continued to maintain his lead until the first caution of the event was displayed for Brent Matus, who slowed with 10 laps completed. When racing resumed, George looked like he was going to be a player as he took third from Priester. Pittman slowly entered the picture when he moved into the top five passing Ellenberger on lap 11 before Danny Holtgraver brought out the caution with 11 laps completed.

The caution wasn’t what George wanted as he’d lose third to Bob Felmlee on lap 12 and fourth to Pittman one lap later. With the race now at the halfway point, Lynch was all over Sodeman trying every move possible, but Sodeman continued to hold on. Three accidents slowed action on laps 14 and 15 with two of them being red flags for four-car accidents. Aaron Shaffer got caught up in both of them going over easy on the second one. Arnie Kent suffered heavy front and rear end damage on the first one as Shaffer, Ralph Spithaler, Jr., and Jason Dolick all got bunched up together on backstretch.

The last 10 laps then went green-to-checkered. Lynch continued to pressure Sodeman primarily running the bottom, while Sodeman hammered around the top. Lynch would get alongside Sodeman, but just couldn’t find enough momentum to make the pass. Pittman had the best seat in the house and would make his move on lap 19 driving hard underneath Lynch in turn two to make the pass for second.

With six laps to go, Pittman found himself a straightaway behind. With each successive lap, Pittman slowly cut into Sodeman’s lead. With the white flag waving, Sodeman caught traffic with a gaggle of racers battling for position. Pittman was right on Sodeman as the duo sliced and diced through lapped traffic. The experienced Pittman was right there hoping for a mistake or bobble, but it never happened as Sodeman barely held off Pittman for the popular win.

Pittman, who has nine victories this season driving the Michael Heffner #27, came up just shy in his first ever appearance at the track. Lynch settled for third. After winning the B main, Mike Lutz charged from 21st to finish fourth after getting by Felmlee on lap 17. Lutz picked up a $200 hard charger bonus from John Stickley of Whitehall Tire. Point leader Felmlee was fifth.

Completing the top 10 were Ellenberger, George, Andy McKisson, Dan Kuriger, and Holtgraver. Heat winners were Ellenberger, Shaffer, Lynch, and Pittman. Holtgraver won the $200 Ti22 Performance Dash to set positions 13-19. The 36-car field was not only the highest of the season at Mercer, but the highest in any of the Auto Racers for Kids Events. Ryan Smith picked up the $100 highest finishing 360 bonus from Whitehall Tire.

Auto Racers for Kids Charities (410) Sprint Cars (25 laps, $3,000 to-win): 1. JACK SODEMAN, JR. (Rudzik 94) 2. Daryn Pittman (Heffner 27) 3. Ed Lynch, Jr. (2L) 4. Mike Lutz (Chappel 8) 5. Bob Felmlee (6) 6. Brian Ellenberger (22) 7. Rod George (4) 8. Andy McKisson (0) 9. Dan Kuriger (08) 10. Danny Holtgraver (D4) 11. Brent Matus (33) 12. Eric Williams (7) 13. Carl Bowser (10) 14. Chris Best (66) 15. Scott Priester (Dionise 15) 16. Dan Shetler (7K) 17. Bob Howard (49) 18. Arnie Kent (18) 19. Aaron Shaffer (97s) 20. Ryan Smith (King 1K) 21. Ralph Spithaler, Jr. (56) 22. Jason Dolick (D12) 23. Gale Ruth, Jr. (5x) 24. Russ Sansosti (23s) DNQ: Jeff Taylor (17T), Paul Kish (4c), Brandon Spithaler (Burkey 57B), Chris Shuttleworth (11), Dean Ruth (7x), Brandon Spithaler (13), Brian Steinman (24s), Gale Ruth, Sr. (1R), Robert VanTassel (69x), Todd Bauer (45), Butch Beasley (1), John McCracken, Sr. (63).

Upcoming Events:

9/4 No racing

9/11 Western PA Sprint Championship presented by Ehrlich Your Local Pest Control Experts featuring DIRTcar Challenge Series ($2,000) plus BRP Modified Tour by Rock Concrete ($1,500), FASTRAK Late Models, Stock Cars ($300) & Mini Stocks. Automotive Service Industry Night presented by Hovis Auto & Truck Supply. Last night of points.

9/18 No racing

9/24-25 “Little Guy Nationals”

Grandstands at 4:30 PM. Hot laps at 6:15. Racing at 7.