Mercer, PA (January 8, 2012): Tim Gillette returned to the winner's circle in the region's most prestigious enduro, the Jack Frost 150 held at Mercer Raceway Park. Steve Longwell, Sr. opened the season with a big win the one Snowflake 25 for the Big Dog R/C Center Mini Stocks.
Although Gillette took the lead on lap 70, his run to the checkers was not an easy one. "I had just enough power," the enduro meister sighed in relief. He had de-tuned his trusty 1993 Toyota that has carried him to victory many times before. "I thought that the track was going to be slippery," he explained. However, mild temperatures melted the snow, and it didn't take the racers very long to turn the muck into a very tacky racing surface. Nonetheless, Gillette was able to hold off a last-lap challenge from Brian Sprague.
Track photographer Toni Carbone has posted her photos from the Jack Frost 150
Fifty-three cars lined up for the start of the enduro, with a pair of veteran Mini Stock drivers occupying the front row. Trooper Tim Callahan jumped out to the early lead, but Wally Stearns made a power move on the inside of turn four to snatch the lead away.
Stearns' bid for victory ended on lap six, when he retired from the race. That passed the baton to Aaron Hill, who led the next ten laps. Hill surrendered the klead to Brad Shaffer in the heavy traffic. Shaffer maintained control for five circuits beore Wally Naletko slipped out front.
Hill rallied and regained the lead on lap 21. Naletko stayed close, though, and grabbed the lead again on lap 33. Hill fought back to lead once more. This time, he was the the one to surrender the point after just one lap. While Naletko held sway, it was James Gatto starting to apply the pressure. Gatto led a pair, but Naletko battled back to lead several more laps.
On lap 58, Gatto took the lead and he opened up a comfortable margin over the rest of teh field. However, Gatto tangled with a lapped car in turn four and that enabled Gillete to slip past him on lap 70.
Gillette paced the field, with Dave Morrow in second. BUt, the man on the move was Rick Hall, a regular in the 358 Modified class. Hall climbed into second, but Gillette had him in his sights. Gillete was unable to put the veteran down a lap, as they diced through traffic. That almost proved to be his undoing.
At the 100 lap mark, Hall went to the whip. He started to pull away from the leader.Hal was steadily chopping into Gillette's advantage, and it seemd to be just a matter opf time until Hall's Ford Escort would sweep into the lead. However. Hall's charge to the front ended in turn one just ten laps from the end.
When Hall drove away from Gillete, another driver was nipping on his heels. That was Brian Sprague. When Hall faltered, Sprague continued the charge. As the final laps clicked off, Sprague was closing in on Gillete.
When the white flag flew, Sprague was all over Gillete. The pair entered turn one bumper to bumper, and Gillete made that little Toyota seem as wide as a lowboy hauling a prefab house. Sprague tried to sweep past on the outside of turn two, but Gillete powered off the corner in control. He hled off Sprague's final challenges in thurns three and four and swept under the checkers for the thousand dollar win.
Following them across the finish line was Brian Rydbom, who ran a steady race. Dan Zimmerman and Thomas Meanor rounde out the top five.
In the Big Dog R/C Center Mini Stocks, Steve Longwell, Sr. raced out to an early lead in the afternoon's opening event. His son raced in second until Rudy Truples came to life. Truples gave chase, but he was unable to overhaul Longwell, Sr. to challenge for the win.
Longwell crossed the line a few car lengths ahed of Truples. Ken Koby grabbed third, ahead of Michael Thompson and Fillippe Fetterchini.
Taylor Shaley, Steve Longwell, Jr., Bryan Warren, Jamie Wrightsman and Joel Wisser completed the top ten.
With the first racing action of 2102 in the books, attention will now turn to the annual Mercer Raceway Park Banquet and Awards Ceremony. The gala affair will take place on January 21 at the Normandy Banquet Center, in Hermitage. Tickets can be obtained by contacting track manager Frank Benic, at 724-699-1260.
About Mercer Raceway Park: Mercer Raceway Park is a 3/8-mile dirt track located minutes from both Interstate 79 and 80 just off Route 19 on Fairground Road in Mercer, Pa. Dirt track racing and quality family entertainment are presented weekly from late March through late September. For more information, check out www.mercerracewaypark.com, www.twitter.com/mercerraceway, or www.facebook.com/mercerracewaypark.