By Ken Johnson
For 21st Century Media
The racing world was shocked last weekend at the death and cause of death of Kevin Ward Jr. As a racing fan of 60-plus years, I could not form an opinion as to what and how it happened. Reason being, I have never driven an 800 horsepower Sprint Car.
I have no idea how it reacts to just the slightest touch of the gas pedal. Tires that are five times the size of a passenger car tire. A field of vision smaller than a peep hole, and a wing that looks like it just came off a jet plane. And the big factor, nobody was in that car except Tony Stewart. But every sportscaster, newsman and people who have never even seen a sprint car race, can tell you what and why it happened. A young man thought he would let Tony Stewart know he wasnít just another driver filling the field for a Tony Stewart show at his home speedway. Now, heís paid the ultimate price, and could very well have ruined the career of one of the top race drivers of all-time.
Scott Haus scored the Late Model point championship Aug. 15 at Big Diamond Speedway, and he did it in fashionable style as he also scored the eveningís feature win.
Scottís son, Andy, finished second in what may be the last Late Model race at Big Diamond. After the race, when drivers went to collect their nightís winnings, it was cut in half. Reason being, that only a handful of cars have been running the semi-weekly shows at Big Diamond, and the promoter cut the purse. Drivers I have talked to in that division have said they wonís run Big Diamond because of the price they are charged to run there, and the dust that covers the track is so bad at times that you canít even see the cars.
Also, some drivers didnít know they race 358 Late Models. Williams Grove, Susquehanna and Grandview all race 358 Late Modeals on a weekly basis on Saturday nights, and there are plenty of cars to go around. Yet, they wonít come to Big Diamond. I have also noticed the crowd is not as big as it used to be. Just recently, the Big Diamond promoter stated that the rumor we are closing is not true, but it may be one of the first signs that the end is near.
In the DIRTcar 358 Modifieds covering 30 laps, Billy Pauch Jr. finished first, followed by Doug Manmiller, Craig VonDohren, Frank Cozze and Rick Laubach in the top five.
Brent Marks and Greg Hodnett split twin 20ís for 410 sprints at Williams Grove Speedway on Aug. 15, taking checkered flags worth $2,500 each.
In the 20-lap ARDC Midget feature event, Alex Bright wired the field from the second starting spot to claim his fourth overall win of the ARDC season.
Longtime Late Model standout Mike Kellner was able to drive to victory in the 30-lap NASCAR Whelen 358 Modified feature race, earning his first career Modified victory on Aug. 16 at Grandview Speedway.
Defending BRC Late Model champion Jason Miller was able to win his second feature of the season. Taking the top spot in the 25-lap Late Model main event, and returning to victory lane in the 25-lap Sportsman feature after a long absence, was Brett Kressley, who earned his third victory of the season.
Duane Howard, Mike Laise, Terry Meitzler and Jeff Strunk completed the first top five finishers. Tim Buckwalter was sixth, and another local driver, Don Norris Jr., came in 20th.
The night looked like it belonged to young Freddie Rahmer, but then Danny Dietrich stole the show. Rahmer won the dash for cash (a $500 bonus from race sponsor Jerry Parrish and Perimer Auto Works in a winner-take-all 10-lapper), and then came from fourth starting spot to take the lead from polesitter Mike Bittinger by the end of the second lap.
He was the fastest car all night to that point, and looked to be in command of the 30-lap feature. Then lapped traffic (including brother Brandon) entered the picture, and a charging Dietrich was plowing through the field from 11th starting spot to pass both third-place Robbie Kendall and second-place Bittinger between turns four and one of laps 22 and 23. One lap later, he passed both Rahmer sprinters to take the race lead on the front stretch and drove away to an impressve 2.88-second win.
For the second week in a row, on Aug. 16, the Port Royal Speedway produced a thrilling 410 sprint car feature, with the likes of Blane Heimbach, Logan Wagner, Greg Hodnett and Mike Wagner takings shots at the lead, and point leader Mike Wagner sealing the victory to become the 13th different winner at the oval this season.
In the 20-lap super late model main, Jeff Miller Sr. scored his first victory of the season to push the division to 12 and 12 on the year, 12 races and 12 different winners.
Selinsgroveís Cody Keller made a breakthrough on Aug. 16 at Selinsgrove Speedway and scored an impressive victory in the 25-lap 360 sprint car feature, following a season filled with mechanical woes. The $2,000 win was Kellerís first of the season and first career in a 360 sprint car at the wheel of the Kellerís Auto Body/Troutmanís Meat Market No. 99. He became the divisionís seventh different winner this season, and in doing so, ended point leader Mark Smithís three-race winning streak. Keller previously won two 358 sprint car races at the track.
Coleby Frye of Dover also turned in a convincing performance for his first win of the season in the 25-lap late model feature. Frye became the 10th different lade model winner this season in 15 races.