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Spithaler Takes Sprint Opener, Guidace, Kelly, Griffin, Sliter and McConnell also Win
by Lou Long
Mercer, PA (April 6, 2102): Brandon Spithaler is developing a taste for opening night victories at Mercer Raceway Park. For the second year in a row, the young driver from Evans City, PA captured the win in the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars. Frank Guidace topped the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds. Joe Kelly won a thriller in the Precise Racing Products Stock Cars, while Guy Griffin scored the win in the ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors. Canadian Josh Sliter copped the Modified Lite feature presented by Big Daddy's Speed Center and Rock Concrete. Mike McConnell picked up his first win of the season in the Mini Stock division.
Spithaler explained that his car was really locked down at the beginning of the race. "It was great for about the first two-thirds of the race, then it started to go away as the track slicked off." So, he slid the wing back all the way, and hoped for the best. His concerns were for naught, as he maintained a comfortable margin over Jack Sodeman, Jr., who was making his first start at the track since his horrific accident last season at an All Star Circuit of Champions race in Canada.
Spithaler shot out to the lead from the pole position and led the entire 25 lap distance in the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars. Sodeman took second on the opening lap, held the position throughout the race, and finished several car lengths behind the winner. Eric Williams took third, one notch ahead of Chris Myers.
Behind the top four, however, the drivers were swapping positions, much to the delight of the crowd. Veteran racers Bob Felmlee and Rod George came to life after restarts. Felmlee took off after the caution on lap ten, and George moved ahead after the caution on lap 18. George was the prime beneficiary, charging his way to fifth at the checkers.
Jimmy Light was sixth, Dan Kuriger seventh and Felmlee eighth. Brandon Matus and Adam Kekich completed the top ten.
Heat winners for the 25 Sprinters were Andrew Albrecht, Andre Leyfield and George. The B Main winner was Racin' Ralphie Spithaler.
Goodyear rear tires were awarded to Brandon Spithaler, George (hard charger), Brian Steinman (last car lead lap), Adam Kekich (random) and Brandon Matus (random). Front tires went to Sodeman (second place), Albrecht (first car on lap down), and Steve Collins (random).
Frank "on the gas" Guidace captured the opening race for the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds. However, the first thing that he said in his post-race interview was "how did Makayla do?" He was referring to his daughter, who ran her first race in the highly competitive class. She came home seventh, just one spot ahead of second generation driver Max Smoker, who was also making his debut.
For Guidace, his immaculate new Troyer chassis car was working to perfection. He used the outside line to crack into the top five, but his big move came on the inside after a restart. Guidace lined up third on lap five, and, as is so often the case at the Park, he powered off the fourth corner in the second spot. He pressed the early leader, Matt Reeher, as they entered the first turn. Soon thereafter, Guidace assumed command.
As Guidace moved forward, so did Lonnie Riggs. Riggs was running second when he retired from the event.
Guidace finished out the race on the cushion of the speedway. It was almost his undoing. Clyde Gumpp began to reel him in, as the top seemed to be going away. Gumpp drew close, but he could not pull off the pass for the win.
Finishing third was Rick Hall. Shawn Fleeger took fourth and Dave Cogswell ran fifth. Sixth went to Kevin Green, followed by the pair of rookies, Makayla Guidace and Max Smoker. Riggs was credited with ninth and Kyle Fink with tenth.
Heat winners in the 17 car field were Rob Curtis and Frank Guidace.
In the Precise Racing Products Stock Car Class, Rusty Moore blasted into the lead at the drop of the green. Just one week after a broken valve sidelined him, Moore appeared to be on his way to victory. However, a late race caution allowed Joe Kelly, Andy Buckley and Dan Lewis to challenge for the win.
The final laps of the race were something to behold. Moore worked the cushion like a master, but Kelly preferred the low side of the track. Kelly pulled beside Moore coming through turns three and four and grabbed the lead coming off turn four. Moore rallied, and tried to regain the lead as the white flag was displayed.
Kelly slid up the track a bit, and that left a lane for Andy Buckley. Buckley charged hard into turn three on the final lap, and the pair came off the final corner side by side. There was a bit of contact, and the cars spun to the inside of the speedway as they crossed the finish line.
Moore was a close third, followed by Lewis. Curtis J. Bish claimed fifth. Positions six through ten belonged to Dillon Kineston, Greg Beach, Brandon Johnston, Terry Young, and Darrin Hyde.
The pair of heat races went to Lewis and Buckley. There were twelve cars on hand for the night's activity.
Guy Griffin sped to the win in the ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors. C.J. Jones jumped out to the lead in his first race in this class. His bid for a first race first victory came to an end, though, when he spun coming off turn four. Griffin was able to take evasive measures, as he was closing in on the rookie driver. Dennis Wagner likewise avoided contact by dropping to the inside of the speedway.
Griffin and Wagner would lead the way to the finish. Placing third was Justin Whitesell. Joe McEwen and Jeff Goodman completed the top five. Sixth was Skip Dougherty, followed by Dalton Daniels, Jones, Joe Sienbida and Jacob Lagastee.
Heat races for the dozen Outlaw Sprint Warriors were Doughtery and Wagner.
The Modified Lite fifteen lap feature was presented by Big Daddy's Speed Center and Rock Concrete. Taking the win was Canadian Josh Sliter, one of five drivers from north of the border.
Mark Marcucci pressured Sliter throughout the race, pulling even on the outside as the pair raced through turns one and two near the halfway mark. Sliter held his line and powered off turn two with the lead, which he would never surrender.
Behind Sliter and Marcucci were Shane Pfeuffer, Jeff Teeters, and Andy Feil. Cody Bova led the next group to the checkers. He was followed by Shawn Sliter, Tyler Frankenberry, Kotie Kirkbride and Jason Corless.
Eighteen Modified Lites entered the event, Their heat winners were Cody Bova and Teeters.
Doug Ehrenberg jumped out to an early lead, but Mike McConnell made the pass and never looked back. McConnell's march to victory was slowed by a caution on lap nine. That gave Ed Haylett the opportunity to line up beside the leader for the restart. Haylett was able3 to keep pace into turn one, but McConnell powered off turn two with a substantial advantage.
McConnell led the rest of the way to claim his third career victory. Haylett was second, but he was pressed by his pal, Rudy Troples over the remainder of the distance. Steve Longwell, Sr. and Steve Longwell, Jr. rounded out the top five.
The next five finishers were Cody Baughman, Kyle Suffutp, Joel Wisser, Matt Cwynar and Chase Anthony.
The heat winners for the 16 car field were Haylett and McConnell.
Next week will be another fun-filled night of Saturday Night Live! racing. The racers will start their quest for track championships, as it will be the first night of points racing in the six classes. Gates will open at 4, with racing at 7.
Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars (25 laps): Brandon Spithaler, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Eric Williams, Chris Myers, Rod George, Jimmy Light, Dan Kuriger, Bob Felmlee, Brent Matus, Adam Kekich, Brandon Matus, Ralph Spithaler, Scott Priester, Jason Dolick, Davey Jones, Brian Steinman, Andrew Albrecht, Russ Sansosti, Brad Knabb, Andre Leyfield.
DNQ: Adam Miller, John McCracken, Jr., Steve Collins, Adam Anderson, Gale Ruth, Sr.
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds (20 laps): Frank Guidace, Clyde Gumpp, Rick Hall, Shawn Fleeger, Dave Cogswell, Kevin Green, Makayla Guidace, Max Smoker, Lonnie Riggs, Kyle Fink, Matt Reeher, Joe Gibson, Rob Curtis, J.R. McGinley, Jimmy Holden (DNS), Ron Eperthener (DNS).
Precise Racing Products Stock Cars (15 laps): Joe Kelly, Andy Buckley, Rusty Moore, Dan Lewis, Curtis J. Bish, Dillon Kinneston, Greg Beach, Brandon Johnston, Terry Young, Darrin Hyde, Matt Wagner, Travis Walsh.
ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors (15 laps): Guy Griffin, Dennis Wagner, Justin Whitesell, Joe McEwen, Jeff Goodman, Skip Dougherty, Dalton Daniels, C.J. Jones, Joe Sienbida, Jacob Lagastee, Bob McMillin.
Big Daddy's Speed Center/Rock Concrete Modified Lites (15 laps): Josh Sliter, Mark Marcucci, Shane Pfeuffer, Jeff Teeters, Andy Feil, Cody Bova, Shawn Sliter, Tyler Frankenberry, Kotie Kirkbride, Jason Corless, Andrew Bruce, Bill Stivason, Taylor Smith, Ray Sliter, Dillon Sliter, Darin Gallagher, Jacob Bova (DNS).
Mini Stocks (12 laps): Mike McConnell, Ed Haylett, Rudy Troples, Steve Longwell, Sr., Steve Longwell, Jr., Cody Baughman, Kyle Suffuto, Joel Wisser, Matt Cwynar, Chase Anthony, Pete Blaczak, Jerry Bratcher, Todd Hanlon, Trisha Riffe, Doug Ehrenberg, Jordan Ehrenberg, Tim Callahan (DNS).