Danny Holtgraver took advantage of a rare week off the road to compete at the tracks where he cut his teeth. He showed everybody that he still knows his way around the Mercer Raceway Park, as he survived a furious attack from the defending track champion Eric Williams to get a much needed victory in the Second Annual Putsy Kekich Memorial, presented by Sunburst Environmental and Bonnell’s Rod Shop, for the 4 Your Car Connection and World of Wheels 410 Sprints.
Also scoring wins were Tommy Kristyak (Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds), Andy Priest (Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warriors), Leigh Wheeler (Precise Racing Products Stock Cars), Mark Marcucci (Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites), and Michael Thompson (Epertherner’s Auto Wrecking/Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks).
Holtgraver was relieved to get the win before the highly partisan crowd. “This has been a tough year, we really needed this win. I’m really excited to come back home and get this win in front of the best fans in the world.” He will now head off to the Knoxville Nationals, but he will be searching for a ride when he gets there. “I’m packing everything I need, helmet, suit, whatever. Hoping maybe something works out.”
Holtgraver earned the pole position by winning the Dash held for the evening’s six fastest qualifiers. That enabled him to lead the first 21 laps of the race. However, he never could shake loose from Williams, who was back in his own machine for this race. Williams snuck past Holtgraver on lap 22, but the traveler immediately mounted a counter attack. Holtgraver explained the turn of events thusly. “I was working the high side and really wasn’t getting the grip I needed, but when I saw Eric go by me low, I knew I could make that line work.” And make it work he did, taking the lead back a lap later and then holding off several additional thrusts by Williams.
There were only two cautions to slow the thirty lapper. The first came on lap seven for Mike Flynn. Seven rounds later, John McCracken, Jr. came to a halt.
Brandon Spithaler, Jack Sodeman, Jr., and Lee Jacobs completed the top five. Brandon Matus, Dan Kuriger, Arnie Kent, Brent Matus, and Michael Bauer were the next five to cross the finish line.
Heats went to Scott Priester and Brandon Spithaler, while Holtgraver prevailed in the Dash. The fastest qualifier was Adam Kekich, grandson of the late Putsy Kekich. Adam was an early retiree from the memorial feature that he wanted to win so badly.
In the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds, Tommy Kristyak scored his third win of the season, but it wasn’t easy for the veteran driver. Eric Gabany was right with him throughout the race, and Gabany did take the lead away on lap three. But, by lap nine, Kristyak was back out front to stay. Jimmy Holden was closing fast on the leaders, but ran out of time. Lonny Riggs was also right there at the end, recovering nicely from the first lap melee. J.R. McGinley was fifth. Kyle Fink, Sid Unvezagt, Jr., Shayne Izzo, Jeff Schaffer, Jr., and Brian Schaffer completed the top ten. Heat races went to Kristyak and Kyle Fink.
On the first lap of the 358 Modified feature, there was a four-car pile-up involving Riggs, Max Smoker, Jeff Schaffer, Jr., and Kevin Green. All but Smoker were able to continue. Green would be involved in a red flag incident later, for a brief fire, but it was extinguished safely.
The Outlaw Sprint Warrior feature presented by Bonnell’s Rod Shop was the Andy Priest show. In just his second start in the brand new Ted Hull machine, Priest dominated the race, opening up a 5 second lead at one point. Joe McEwen led the first two laps but Priest took command on lap 3 and never looked back. Cody Bova’s car was a rocket and he worked thru the field and was closing on Priest, but ran out of laps. He was just 1.5 seconds behind at the checkers. McEwen held on for third, with Mike Marano, II and George Hobaugh, Jr. taking fourth and fifth. Devin Litwiler, Darin Gallagher, Terry Young, Chris Matthews, and Shane Pfeuffer rounded out the top ten. Young and Bova won the two preliminaries.
There was only one stoppage in the Outlaw Sprint Warrior feature, but it was a doozie on the first lap, collecting the cars of Darren Pifer, Brandon Spithaler, Darin Gallagher, George Englert, and Evan Kornbau.
The Precise Racing Products Stock Car feature was a disappointing affair, as there were numerous cautions and a red flag, as well as other incidents that prolonged the race. Leigh Wheeler managed to lead the entire distance and was able to avoid all of the mayhem behind him. Trailing Leigh Wheeler across the line were Gary Miller, Jr., Ryan Moyer, Pat Fileding, and Terry Wheeler. The rest of the cars were scored on the basis of laps completed. They were Brandon Wearing, Garrett Calvert, Brent Johnson, and Charlie Baptise. Andy Thompson was disqualified for causing an intentional yellow. Miller prevailed in the only heat for this division. The red was for Brandon Wearing who crashed hard into the spinning car of Ryan Moyer. Both drivers were unhurt.
Due to the unsportsmanlike conduct displayed on and off the track by the Stock Car drivers, the class has been taken off the racing card for the August 15 event.
The Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks were once again dominated by Michael Thompson. Tim Callahan, Shane Shook, Steve Longwell, Sr., and Mike McConnell were second through fifth. Isaac Paden, Rudy Troples, Ed Haylett, Karlee Longwell, and Tyler Fulton ran in the top ten. The only excitement in this race came on lap six when Todd Kougher’s car briefly caught fire. He, too, was not injured. There was just one caution here, on lap seven, when Tyler Fulton’s car broke. Heat races went to Thompson and Callahan, who definitely was back in his comfort zone.
The Rock Concrete Modified Lites closed out the evening, with Mark Marcucci scoring the victory once again. Three cautions slowed the race, but not Marcucci, as he dominated. Levi Spinneweber spun out on lap six, but charged back through the field to finish second. Newcomer Cole Petrelle car finished third. Positions four through ten belonged to Jacob Bova, Shane Webb, Doug Jones, Keith Smith, Bill Stivason, Dusty Frantz, and Josh Christopher. Heat races went to Smith and Marcucci.
Next week, Mercer Raceway Park will host Smackdown! This event pits the visiting Big Block Modifieds of the BRP Modified Tour against the home team, the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds. The BRP Modified Tour has been drawing outstanding fields of cars and the addition of the Mercer faithful should make things very interesting. A Mercer regular, Lonny Riggs, finally broke the long string of domination by the touring Big Block drivers, but the 358 pilots will try to use their familairity with the tricky oval to close the gap. You will not want to miss this Modified sibling rivalry.
4 Your Car Connection/World of Wheels 410 Sprint Cars: Danny Holtgraver, Eric Williams, Brandon Spithaler, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Lee Jacobs, Brandon Matus, Dan Kuriger, Arnie Kent, Brent Matus, Michael Bauer, Scott Priester, Dan Shetler, A.J. Flick, Jimmy Morris, Zach Morrow, Davey Jones, John McCracken, Jr., Adam Kekich, Gale Ruth, Jr., Mike Flynn, Dennis Wagner.
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds: Tommy Kristyak, Eric Gabany, Jimmy Holden, Lonny Riggs, J.R. McGinley, Kyle Fink, Sid Unvezagt, Jr., Shayne Izzo, Jeff Schaffer, Jr., Brian Schaffer, Kyle Holden, Rich Whitney, Eric Martin, Dillon Barr, Kevin Green, Max Smoker.
Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warriors: Andy Priest, Cody Bova, Joe McEwen, Mike Marano, II, George Hobaugh, Jr., Devin Litwiler, Darin Gallagher, Terry Young, Chris Matthews, Shane Pfeuffer, Evan Kornbau, George Englert, Brandon Spithaler, Darren Pifer.
Precise Racing Products Stock Cars: Leigh Wheeler, Gary Miller, Jr., Ryan Moyer, Pat Fileding, Terry Wheeler, Brandon Wearing, Garrett Calvert, Brent Johnson, Charlie Baptise, Andy Thompson (DQ).
Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites: Mark Marcucci, Levi Spinnewebber, Cole Petrelle, Jacob Bova, Shane Webb, Doug Jones, Keith Smith, Bill Stivason, Dusty Frantz, Josh Christopher.
Epertherner’s Auto Wrecking/Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks: Michael Thompson, Tim Callahan, Shane Shook, Steve Longwell, Sr., Mike McConnell, Isaac Paden, Rudy Troples, Ed Haylett, Karlee Longwell, Tyler Fulton, Todd Kougher.