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George, Guidace, Byler, Griffin, Marcucci and Bratcher Winners on Opening Night of Points
by Lou Long
Mercer, PA (May 5, 2012): Once again, the veteran drivers showed the way at Mercer Raceway Park. Rod George, of Kittanning, scored the win in the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars, while Frank Guidace, of Mercer, dominated the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds. Russell Byler made his season debut a successful one, as he was victorious in the Precise Racing Products Stock Cars. Guy Griffin topped the Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors, Mark Marcucci led the way in the Modified Lites presented by Big Daddy's Speed Center and Rock Concrete. The Mini Stock nightcap went to Jerry Bratcher.
The Kittanning Comet, Rod George, took advantage of a restart on lap 16 to overtake Scott Priester, who led from the start of the 25 lap affair. George followed Priester into turn one, but rocketed off turn two. George's momentum carried him into the lead as the pair entered turn three. "My wife always gives me hell every night for sleeping on the restarts, so I decided to make it count tonight," the happy winner said.
Priester looked to be the class of the field in the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprints for the first fifteen laps. Even George agreed. "Scott was running a super race, if it would not have been for that yellow, I'm sure that I wouldn't have gotten around him."
Priester swept into the lead at the drop of the green and he held off a challenge from Pete Miller, III, who was looking for a weekend double to celebrate his birthday.
Priester stretched his lead as he encountered traffic on lap eight. Meanwhile, George worked past Miller and took off after his pal. Priester was able to maintain his advantage as they negotiated through the slower cars.
The 16th lap was problematic for more than Priester, however. The caution that set up George's winning move eliminated the fourth and fifth place cars of Jimmy Light and Broc Martin. Their misfortune moved Eric "Turkey" Williams and Bob Felmlee closer to the front.
Williams took advantage of his opportunity, passing Miller in the waning laps to take third.
At the checkers, it was George over Priester, Williams, Miller and Felmlee.
The sixth spot went to Jason Dolick. Dan Kuriger, Brandon Spithaler, Brandon Matus and Rob Chaney completed the top ten.
Heat wins for the 24 car field went to Felmlee, Priester and Chaney. The B Main winner was Craig Folmar.
Goodyear tire awards went to George (winner), Spithaler (hard charger), Nathan Skaggs (last car lead lap), Felmlee (random) and Priester (random).
Frank "on the Gas" Guidace scored his second win of the young season in his immaculate Troyer car. He credited the shop for their help in working on the set-up for slicker conditions. "I started changing and changing on that thing all night because I saw that the track was going to be harder and slicker." Guidace, who usually likes the heavier surfaces, thought that it was going to be a long, dry summer, so getting a better set-up was important for him.
Lonny Riggs and Frank Guidace paced the field for the 20 lap Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modified feature. Riggs jumped out front at the start, but there was no stopping Guidace this night. He swept into the lead coming through turns three and four to lead lap 2. Riggs continued to run second while Rob Curtis and Jeff Shaffer took turns applying the pressure.
After a couple of stoppages, Curtis snuck by Riggs on a restart. Shaffer, who was driving the 51 of Clyde Gumpp, also passed the Tugboat for position.
A couple more cautions slowed the pace during the middle stages of the race, but the final half of the event went non-stop.
Guidace led the way to the checkers, with Curtis taking second. Shaffer held on for third, just one spot ahead of Riggs. Eric Gabany closed quickly in the final laps to snare the fifth position.
Sixth through tenth were Kyle Fink, J.R. McGinley, Matt Reeher, Dave Cogswell and Kevin Green.
The three heat winners were Guidace, Shaffer and Gabany. Dustin Martin took the B Main. There were 24 cars on hand.
The Precise Racing Products Stock Cars were next to the track. Bob McCann took the early lead, but Russ Byler snuck ahead coming off turn four early in the race. The pass counted, despite the spin by Travis Walsh in turn three, as Walsh was able to re-fire his mount.
Joe Kelley charged to the front, and started to press Byler for the lead. It looked like Kelley was going to make an inside move coming off turn two, but he lost his traction when Rusty Moore tapped him. Moore slipped by Kelley a couple of laps later.
Kelley's run from the back ended when he tangled with McCann on the front stretch bringing out a yellow.
Moore, the leading winner at the Park last year, had two shots at Byler on late-race restarts, but Byler made the correct inside lane choice each time, and Moore could not get enough momentum to drive by on the outside.
Behind Byler and Moore were McCann, Matt Wagner and Danny Exley, subbing for Curtis Bish.
Duane Grinnel finished sixth, ahead of Brendt McDonald, Darrin Hyde, Bill Bannick, Jr., and Kelley.
Heat winners for the 14 cars were McCann and Byler.
The Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors were dominated once again by Guy Griffin. Griffin wrestled the lead away from Rob Felix after battling with Justin Whitesell in the early going. That was the way the top three crossed the line.
Rookie C.J. Jones turned in a fine fourth place run, just a notch ahead of Jimmy Morris.
Skip Dougherty, Joe McEwen, Dalton Daniels, Chris Matthews and Bob McMillin rounded out the top ten.
The pair of heats went to Felix and Griffin. There were fifteen cars in this class.
Mark Marcucci jumped out front of the Modified Lite feature and was never headed. George Englert ran second for several laps before fading. Bill Stivason was making a strong run, as was Kotie Kirkbride, but Stivason's night ended in turn three when he spun and collected Englert.
At the checkers, it was Marcucci over a rapidly advancing Darin Gallagher. Kirkbride was third, Richard Lawson was fourth and Jason Johnsto rode home fifth.
Positions six through ten belonged to Daniel Demyan, Stivason, Taylor Smith, Jacob Bova and Englert.
The thirteen-car field had a pair of heat winners, Gallagher and Marcucci.
The Mini Stock feature completed the action-packed program. Jerry Batcher took the early lead and held off Tyler Fulton for the win. Mike McConnell was the third place finisher.Clay Wansor and Rudy Trouples completed the top five.
The next group across the stripe were Wally Stearns, Steve Longwell, Jr., Kyle Zaffuto, Michael Thompson and Tim Callahan.
Twenty cars comprised two heats, which were won by Fulton and Stearns.
Next week, the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars bring their high-flying show to town. They will be joined by the Stock Cars, Outlaw Sprint Warriors and Mini Stocks. Gates will open at 4 and racing will begin at 7.
Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars: Rod George, Scott Priester, Eric Williams, Pete Miller, III, Bob Felmlee, Jason Dolick, Dan Kuriger, Brandon Spithaler, Brandon Matus, Rob Chaney, Brent Matus, Lee Jacobs, Jimmy Light, Brian Steinman, Adam Kekich, Craig Folmar, Nathan Skaggs, Russ Sansosti, Adam Anderson, Broc Martin. DNQ: Gale Ruth, Sr., John MCCracken, Jr., Chris Best, Andy Priest (DQ).
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds: Frank Guidace, Rob Curtis, Jeff Shaffer, Lonny Riggs, Eric Gabany, Kyle Fink, J.R. McGinley, Matt Reeher, Dave Cogswell, Kevin Green, Jimmy Holden, Dustin Martin, Tommy Glenn, Max Smoker, Rich Whitney, Makayla Guidace, Chad Gumpp, Joe Gibson, Shane Izzo. DNS: Andy Paden, Rick Hall. DNQ: Tom Holden, Ron Eperthener, Rick Kress.
Precise Racing Products Stock Cars: Russ Byler, Rusty Moore, Bob McCann, Matt Wagner, Duane Grinnell, Brendt McDonald, Darrin Hyde, Bill Bannick, Jr., Joe Kelley, Travis Walsh, Brent Coleman, Dan Lewis, Brandon Johnston.
Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors: Guy Griffin, Rob Felix, Justin Whitesell, C.J. Jones, Jimmy Morris, Skip Dougherty, Joe McEwen, Dalton Daniels, Chris Matthews, Bob McMillin, Harold Braden, Jr., Joe Siembida, Jacob Lagastee. DNS: Chad Matthews.
Big Daddy's Speed Center/Rock Modified Lites: Mark Marcucci, Darin Gallagher, Kotie Kirkbride, Richard Lawson, Jason Johnston, Daniel Demyan, Bill Stivason, Taylor Smith, Jacob Bova, George Englert, Jordie McClaine, Andrew Bruce, Rick Ament.
Mini Stocks: Jerry Batcher, Tyler Fulton, Mike McConnell, Clay Wansor, Rudy Trouples, Wally Stearns, Steve Longwell, Jr., Kyle Zaffuto, Michael Thompson, Tim Callahan, Maria Nevin, Steve Longwell, Sr. DNS: Carl Keller, Todd Hanlon, Matthew Cwynar, Pete Blazak, Rob McElhaney, Ed Haylett, Patricia Riffe, Chase Anthony.