From Lou Long
Mercer, PA (July 9, 2011): Saturday Night Live! racing saw two first-time winners at Mercer Raceway Park, as Todd Gabriel (Big Dog R/C Center Mini Stocks) and Michael Bauer (ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors) celebrated in victory lane. Joining them were Jeff Schaffer (Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds), Danny Holtgraver (Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars); Alan Knepper (Big Daddy’s Speed Center Modified Lites) and Rusty Moore (Precise Racing Products Stock Cars).
Alan Knepper dominated the Big Daddy’s Speed Center Modified Lites, despite using a back-up car after detonating an engine Friday night at another area speedway. “We just bought this car two weeks ago, and I blew my motor last night in my regular car, so this is the first night on this one.”
Cody Bova jumped out to a quick lead at the start, but veteran Lynn Knepper swept by him on the second lap. While the elder Knepper continued to lead, the second generation driver, Alan Knepper, was on the move. He drove into third on lap five and set out after the leaders. Within a few laps, he was pressuring his father for the lead.
Lynn showed no mercy to his son, as they battled hard for position. Indeed, the two made contact coming through the second turn, but both were able to maintain control of their cars. Alan had the superior machine on this night, and drove past his father on the backstretch. Lynn tried valiantly to regain the lead in turn four, but he carried too much momentum into the corner. Lynn Knepper got sideways, and drove into the infield, losing two positions and any hope of a father-son finish.
Alan Knepper maintained his advantage to the checkers, taking his first win of the season at the track. Finishing second was Tom Kline, ahead of Cody Bova. Lynn Knepper came back from his his miscue to claim fourth. Bill Johnson completed the top five.
Alan Knepper clearly enjoyed racing his dad for the win. “It’s pretty good, he’s been racing a lot more that I have, his experience makes it more interesting.”
Andy Feil led the next quintet across the finish line, folloed by points leader Darin Gallagher, Kotie Kirkbride, and Taylor Smith.
The Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds presented an action packed feature event, with Jeff Schaffer taking the surprise win in the car normally driven by Clyde Gumpp. Schaffer was helping Gumpp get a better set-up in the car and, whatever they settled upon, clearly worked.
“He (Gumpp) asked me this week to drive the car this week,” Schaffer noted. “I think we have it pretty close now!”
There was plenty of thumping and bumping all through the field on the initial start, but Ron Eperthener, Jr. was the only driver to lose control on the backstretch. When the action resumed, Matt Reeher took the lead, with Schaffer challenging.
Schaffer dove low on the leader entering turn three on lap two and came off the corner ahead. Behind the lead pair, however, Jimmy the Jet Holden was working his way to the front. He cracked the top five by lap five and climbed all the way to second within a mere two laps.
With Schaffer now in heavy lapped traffic, Holden began to close in rapidly. Schaffer had some difficulty negotiating his way through the maze of lapped cars for several laps, but he was able to keep his shrinking lead over the new dad.
On lap 17, Holden did manage to slip past Schaffer as they roared down the back chute. But, Holden’s pass was negated by a caution. That gave the lead back to Schaffer and it also gave him a clean race track for a change.
Schaffer did get away with the lead over Holden, but the action for other positions within the top five was intense. While fighting for positions, Andy Paden and Rick Hall came together, with Hall spinning in turn four. Paden was penalized for rough driving. Matt Reeher sustained some damage to his front suspension in the scramble, and he joined them at the tail of the field for the final restart.
That gave Holden another shot at Schaffer, but it was Frank on the Gas Guidace who took advantage of the new alignment. He managed to work his way past Holden in turns one and two, and came charging after Schaffer. Guidace got a tremendous run into turn three and dove to the inside to try to snatch the win away from Schaffer.
However, Schaffer powered off the corner to the win, with Guidace a close second. Holden finished third, barely ahead of Eric Gabany. Ron Eperthener, Jr. climbed back through the field to finish fifth.
Rich Whitney logged a solid sixth. Hall and Paden raced their way back into the top ten as well, followed by Doug Fleeger, who was subbing for his son, Shawn. Trucker Don Brown finished tenth.
In the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars, Danny Holtgraver made a triumphant return to Mercer Raceway Park after spending several weeks chasing the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars through the State of Ohio.
Holtgraver rode the cushion like a veteran, but he admitted that it was tricky. “Once I slowed down and satrted using my head, I was ten times faster.” Holtgraver explained that his confident approach was attributable to his recent adventures on the All Stars tour. “We’ve been running with 30 cars that could win every night; it has made me a better driver.”
Two of the division’s young lions, Brandon Spithaler and Danny Holtgraver occupied the front row for the start of the 25 lapper. Spithaler fired first, but his lead was short lived, as Holtgraver went to the cushion and drove away to a commanding lead.
Spithaler maintained second for several laps until points leader Bob Felmlee took the position away. The action was interrupted several times, but Holtgraver was generally able to speed away from Felmlee. The exception was on lap nine, when Felmlee got the jump on him. But, Holtgraver went upstairs again and was able to regain the lead as they raced through the first and second turns.
Spithaler’s strong performance ended on lap 16, when he spun in the second corner while still running third. On this restart, Felmlee hung close to his young adversary. He started to reel Holtgraver in as they entered lapped traffic. However, the veteran could never get close enough to challenge for the lead.
A caution with 22 laps down gave Holtgraver the point for a single file restart and a clear track, as well. He got away cleanly over Felmlee, but another quick yellow set up a one lap dash for the cash.
Holtgraver was up to the task and he outraced Felmlee for the win. Jimmy Light rebounded from two straight weeks of crashes to take third. Rod George and Mike Lutz rounded out the top five.
Dan Kuriger, Aussie Marty Muscles Perovich, Brent Matus, Scott Priester and Eric Turkey Williams completed the top ten.
Goodyear tire certificates were awarded to Holtgraver for his win, Light as the hard charger, and Francis Sesco as the last car on the lead lap. Random drawing winners were Shawn Minor and Cowboy Brian Steinman.
The Big Dog R/C Center Mini Stocks saw Todd Gabriel take a career first feature win. It was a night he will surely remember, as he also captured a heat race win.
Trooper Tim Callahan shot out to the initial lead, ahead of Mike McConnell. Callahan held sway through the yellow on lap five, but he surrendered his lead to Gabriel while the field was under caution. After racing resumed, Gabriel opened up a comfortable margin in his quest for the win.
Gabriel crossed in first, followed by McConnell and Steve Longwell, Jr. Michael Thompson and Ed Haylett were fourth and fifth.
Troy Lehnortt, Jerry Batcher, Steve Longwell, Sr., Maria Nevin and Rudy Troples were the next five runners.
In the ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors, young Michael Bauer also scored a career first win ahead of veterans Guy Griffin and Mike Lutz. It must have been a nerve-wracking experience for him, as frequent yellows in the early going kept giving the gray heads a chance to overtake him. But the young driver kept his poise and the lead throughout the race.
Trailing Bauer and Griffin were Mike Lutz, Chad Matthews, Harold Braden, Jr., Dennis Wagner, Jacob Lagestee and Justin Whitesell.
The Precise Racing Products Stocks were the final feature of the night. Russ Byler took the lead from the pole position, closely followed by Jim Flaherty and Bob McCann. Meanwhile, Terry Wheeler and Rusty Moore were steadily working their way to the front from positions deep in the pack.
Byler, McCann and Moore were just starting a torrid three-car battle for the lead when a caution interrupted the action. Nonetheless, Byler regained control on the restart, but Moore was in his shadow.
The points leader, Moore, got a strong run through turns three and four and powered off the corner to grab the lead away from Byler. Despite persistent pressure from McCann, Byler held the runner-up spot the rest of the way.
Moore thus regained his winning form, followed by early leader Byler. McCann took the show position. Last week’s winner, Terry Wheeler, rode home fourth, followed by Marty Warren.
Flaherty held on for sixth. Darrin Hyde, Terry Kronner, Brandon Johnston and Andy Thompson were seventh through tenth.
Big Daddy’s Speed Cenetr Modified Lites: 1. Alan Knepper (20); 2. Tom Kline (68); 3. Cody Bova (20B); 4. Lynn Knepper (10: 5. Bill Johnson (7); 6. Andy Feil (08); 7. Darin Gallagher (12); 8. Brian Kaszubski (5); 9. Kotie Kirkbride (97N); a0. Taylor Smith (23TT); 11. Jacob Bova (28J); 12. Brian Miller (726). Heat wins: A. Knepper, Feil.
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds: 1. Jeff Schaffer (51); 2. Frank Guidace (1G); 3. Jimmy Holden (28H); 4. Eric Gabany (3E); 5. Ron Eperthener, Jr. (333); 6. Rich Whitney (19W); 7. Rick Hall (B2); 8. Andy Paden (55); 9. Doug Fleeger (88); 10. Don Brown (71B); 11. Matt Reeher (711); 12. Chris Myers (1C); 13. Eric Martin (29D); 14. Lonnie Riggs (58). Heat wins: Eperthener, Guidace.
Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars: 1. Danny Holtgraver (D4); 2. Bob Felmlee (6); 3. Jimmy Light (23); 4. Rod George (4); 5. Mike Lutz (8); 6. Dan Kuriger (08); 7. Marty Perovich (17); 8. Brent Matus (33); 9. Scott Priester (15); 10. Eric Williams (7); 11. Gale Ruth, Jr. (1R); 12. Bryce Dickson (11D); 13. Brandon Matus (13); 14. Brandon Spithaler (22S); 15. Brian Steinman (24S); 16. Shawn Minor (3M); 17. Francis Sesco (2S); 18. Vern Wasson (5); 19. Carl Bowser (10); 20. Chirs Best (66); 21. Adam Kekich (5K); 22. Aaron Shaffer (97S); 23. Lindsay Enscoe (96); 24. Lance Moss (23M). Heat wins: Kuriger, Bowser, Felmlee.
Big Dog R/C Center Mini Stocks: 1. Todd Gabriel (33G); 2. Mike McConnell 931); 3. Steve Longwell, Jr. (17K); 4. Michael Thompson (82T); 5. Ed Haylett (8Ball); 6. Troy Lehnortt (46); 7. Jerry Batcher (7); 8. Steve Longwell, Sr. (16K); 9. Maria Nevin (9); 10. Rudy Troples (28); 11. Chase Anthony (26); 12. Clay Wonsor (197); 13. Anthony Shetter (33A); 14. Dillon Kineston (19); 15. Tim Callahan (54); 16. Tyler Fulton (409); 17. Pete Blaczcak (77); 18. Joel Wisser (15K). Heat wins: Kineson, Gabriel.
ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors: 1. Michael bauer (35); 2. Guy Griffin (11); 3. Mike Lutz (86); 4. Chad Matthews (1); 5. Harold Braden, Jr. (9); 6. Dennis Wagner (38); 7. Jacob Lagestee (72); 8. Justin Whitesell (17). Heat win: Griffin.
Precise Racing Products Stock Cars: 1. Rusty Moore (17M); 2. Russ Byler (06R); 3. Bob McCann (33); 4. Terry Wheeler (2W); 5. Marty Warren (05); 6. Jim Flaherty (38SPL); 7. Darrin Hyde (4); 8. Terry Kronner (67); 9. Brandon Johnston (14J); 10. Andy Thompson (7); 11. Brian Wagner (56); 12. Travis Walsh (1); 13. Ryan Moyer (13X); 14. Matt Wagner (12); 15. Joe Kelly (100); 16. Clyde Roberts (65); 17. Bucky Buchanan (93B); 18. Eric Piotrowski (7P); 19. Tony Spaghetti; 20. Jamie Duncan (67J); 21. Dan Lewis (64). Heat wins: Byler, Warren, Flaherty.