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Mercer Raceway Park Crowns Champions, 2013 Season Announcements Made
by Lou Long
Mercer, PA (January 20, 2013): Mercer Raceway Park celebrated the end of its 61st season of racing with the annual banquet and awards ceremony at the Normandy Banquet Center, in nearby Hermitage, PA. Taking the top honors were Eric Williams (Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars), Rob Curtis (Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds), Joe McEwen (Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors), Rusty Moore (Precise Racing Products Stock Cars), Mark Marcucci (Big Daddy's Speed Center/Rock Concrete Modified Lites), and Steve Longwell, Jr. (Mini Stocks). A number of special awards were also conferred upon C.J. Jones (Rookie of the Year), J.R. McGinley (Most Improved Driver), and Martha Dionise (Special Recognition for Longevity and Dedication to the Sport). In addition, an exciting slate of racing events were announced for the 2013 season.
Toni Carbone has all of the photos from the banquet online now.
When Eric Williams was recognized by emcee Mike Dutko for his award in the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars, some good natured turkey calls were heard. Williams, whose nickname is Turkey, parlayed one win into his first career track championship. The young electrician from Greenville announced that he will be back to defend his title.
Following him to the podium was Scott Priester, of Rimersburg. Priester did not score a win in 2012, but he racked up numerous consistent finishes for Martha Dionise, who was recognized later in the program for her long-time dedication to the sport as an owner of Sprint Cars. The Dionise/Priester pair will be a formidable challenger for the 2013 title.
Mike Lutz took the seat of Jim Chappel's Sprinter early in the year and scored one win on his way to third in the point standings. The Mercer veteran will be back with Chappel for the 2013 season.
Veteran Rod George, of Kittanning, was fourth in the standings, with one win to his credit. George drove a family-owned car with the number CIII in tribute to his former owner and sponsor, Doc Crawford. Rounding out the top five was Jack Sodeman, Jr., who will be splitting time between the local circuit and the All Stars Circuit of Champions in 2013.
Other Sprint Car pilots recognized for their achievements were Adam Kekich, Dan Kuriger, Chris Best, Gale Ruth, Sr., and John McCracken, Jr.
Rob Curtis, also of Greenvile, was lauded for his first championship in the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds. Curtis scored several wins, but his reliability carried him to the title, as a number of other contenders fell by the wayside with mechanical failures. Curtis will make numerous appearances at the Park in 2013, but is unsure if he will make a run for the title. He will be spending some time promoting the new Sportsman Modified class, which will make its debut at the track this season.
Jimmy Holden, the two-time defending champ from Tiona, was one of the racers whose early season engine problems hampered his title defense. He will be back in his family-owned machine. The racing stable will include a new mount purchased from New York superstar Danny Johnson.
Kyle Fink, ofStrattanville, scored two wins on his way to third in the standings. He will be back with a new Troyer chassis. J.R. McGinley, of Fairmont City, scored an emotional first career win midway through the year and, with that added confidence, he ran off a string of top finishes to lock down fourth in the points. completing the top five was Lonny Riggs. The Tugboat, who hails from Volant, was another of those drivers whose mechanical problems kept him from being a threat for the title despite marking off two wins.
The other drivers in the top ten for the Modifieds were Eric Gabany, Matt Reeher, Ron Eperthener, Shane Izzo and David Cogswell.
Smokin Joe McEwen, of Mercer, was named the champion of the Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors. His three wins and consistent finishes enabled him to outpace Rob Felix, of Finleyville. Jimmy Morris, with a pair of wins, and C.J. Jones, with one, were the top-ranking Ohio drivers in this division. Jones also got the nod as thr track's Rookie of the Year, as he adapted very quickly to the full-sized cars after spending several seasons in Micros. Fifth in points was Jacob Lagastee, who made consistent improvement over the course of the season.
Chris Matthews, a long-time supporter of Limited Sprint racing, was sixth, followed by newcomer Mike Miller. The Stock Car convert scored two wins in his first year of competition with a winged Sprinter. Justin Whitesell, Harold Braden, Jr. and Thomas Sanders completed the top ten.
Trusty Rusty Moore, of New Castle, was the only driver to repeat as a track champion. While he did not have the dream year of 2011, his performance included three wins and consistent finishes in the Precise Racing Products Stock Cars. Curtis Bish, of Oil City, also took three wins on his way to second. A pair of drivers from New WIlmington, Matthew Wagner and Russ Byler, were third and fourth in the final tally. Brandon Johnston, of Jamestown, was fifth.
Darrin Hyde, Andy Thompson, Charlie McMillen, Bob McCann and Bob Schwartzmiller finished sixth through tenth in the Stocks.
Mark Marcucci, of West Middlesex, used five wins to top the standings in the Modified Lites presented by Big Daddy's Speed Center and Rock Concrete. Cody Bova, of Struthers, OH, scored one win on his way to second. Shane Pfeuffer also had one win after returning from an earlyy season injury, and that was good enough for third for the Rochester pilot. Kotie Kirkbride, of Mercer, was the highest-placing female driver, in fourth. Wild Bill Stivason was fifth.
Andrew Bruce, Daniel Demyan, Jacob Bova, Taylor Smith and Jason Johnstown were the next five Modified Lite drivers noted.
In the Mini Stocks, Steve Longwell. Jr. used a pair of wins to outdisatance his father, Steve Longwell Sr., who also scored one win in addition to the season-opening Snowflake 25. Behind the pair of Evans City racers was Rudy Troples, of Hadley. Joel Wisser, the third member of the Longwell team, was fourth in the final rundown. Tyler Fulton ranked fifth in his sophomore season.
The Godfather of the Mini Stocks, Wally Stearns, was sixth, followed by Chase Anthony, Ed Haylett, rookie Patricia Riffe, and Adam Bulfone.
At the conclusion of the awards ceremonies, track manager Frank Benic announced the marquee events for the 2013 season. Once again, two appearances by the All Stars Circuit of Champions will top the card, on May 11 and August 24. The latter will be the 24th Annual Western PA Sprint Championship. The B.O.S.S. wingless Sprint series will be back on May 25, the Patriot 360 Sprint Tour on June 1, and the A.R.D.C. Midgets on July 20. The BRP Modifed Tour will be in for the annual Smackdown challenge between the Big Blocks and the 358 Modifieds on August 17. The 14th Annual Little Guy Nationals will complete the season on September 20 and 21.
Plus, the track will host a pair of pulling events on May 26 and September 14.
Numerous other special events and activities are planned, including the Auto Racers for Kids Charity event, mid-season championships, Patriot Night with fireworks, American Cancer Society Racing for a Cure Night, children's bike races, and more!
Once again, the season opener will take place the final Saturday in March. The Chiller Thriller will be the only appearance of the Late Models at the speedway. The ULMS variety will top the card, but FASTRAK Crate Lates will have the second billing. UEMS Modifieds and Open Stocks will round out the action. This show will carry an April 6 rain date.
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.