T.J.’s Takeaways From Friday at Port Royal

(T.J. Buffenbarger photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

After an incredible feature event Friday night at Port Royal Speedway here are my takeaways to kick off Tuscarora 50 weekend.

  • On a track that has emerged as the Pennsylvania Posse’s second best home field advantage Tyler Courtney and Zeb Wise stole the spotlight on Friday at Port Royal Speedway.

    Wise and Courtney ending up first and second in qualifying was eye opening, particularly with Wise’s effort after being the 47th car to come out for qualifying and setting quick time. Both backed up those times with heat race efforts that landed them in the dash.

    Courtney continues to rack up some amazing accomplishments such as being a winged and non-winged sprint car winner at Port Royal Speedway after his victory on Friday. Courtney was persistent at working the bottom of the racetrack and it paid off as he was able to find things at both ends of the racetrack that helped contribute to his victory and an eight-point cushion in the car owner point standings with the All Stars.

    Wise has continued to improve throughout the season and seems to be clicking with his Rudeen Racing crew. Every time I take in an All Star Circuit of Champions weekend after covering other series the improvement Wise shows on track is noticeable.

    Friday at Port Royal, Wise went toe to toe with Courtney, Lance Dewease, and Logan Wagner. While he came out on the short end of the stick with two out of three, Wise clearly shows enough momentum with the Rudeen Racing team that Wise should continually increase the frequency of how often he gets the better end of a situation like Friday’s race at Port Royal.

  • While the All Star Circuit of Champions drivers had their moment in the sun, the Pa. Posse showed a lot of speed late in the feature, which should bode well for the 50-lap finale on Saturday.

    Logan Wagner moved up from eighth starting position to run in the top five while Dewease quietly made his way through the field and by the time most of us noticed him, Dewease was running in the top three.

    Dewease didn’t make his presence felt until lap 24 when he went from fifth to third on lap 25. Dewease’s drive after that was spectacular and may have seriously challenged Courtney for the win had the final caution in the main event have not fallen at an importune time.

    There are still a lot of other Central PA drivers that were quiet on Friday that I expected to see more of, but would be surprised if they were not ready to for the Tusky 50 tomorrow.

  • There is a saying in life that you should never meet your heroes. Racetracks that are bucket list destinations can fall under this same category. After seeing so many incredible races online over the past five or six years, Port Royal Speedway became a must-see destination for me. Could the in-person experience match my anticipation for seeing the Juniata County Fairgrounds?

    Not only did Port Royal meet those expectations, but it also far exceeded it.

    From the moment I walked into the fairgrounds, had my first bite of a turkey dinner from the Lutheran Church Stand, my first look at the racetrack, and the very first competitive laps I witnessed, Port Royal lived up to everything I saw through my computer screen.

    The entire night built up as the ferocity of the racing ratcheted up with every single heat race leading into that incredible feature event we witnessed on Friday.

    All of this took place with threatening weather looming. The weather combined with a lighter than expected crowd would have seen many promoters throw in the towel early. Kudos to the All Star, Port Royal and Juniata County Fairgrounds officials for sticking with that program on a tough weather night.

    One of my favorite things I did on Friday was walking around the entire facility and seeing everything done with so much care and attention to detail. The work Steve O’Neal and everyone involved with the track have accomplished should be a source of pride for the Central Pennsylvania sprint car region and has elevated the Tuscarora 50 weekend from a large regional race to one of national stature.

    I realize when people go to the same track week in and out it can grow a bit tiring even with a great facility like Port Royal. I hope the teams and fans can appreciate the remarkable turnaround that has taken place there over the past decade and truly appreciate what they have at Port Royal.

    There is someone racing or watching a random sprint car race on a Saturday night that doesn’t have a full field and is sharing the bill with seven other classes of cars hat would love to race at a facility even half as nice as what Central Pennsylvania fans get at the Port Royal.