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Williams, Curtis, Moore, McEwen, Longwell, Jr. and Marcucci Crowned Mid-Season Champions
by Lou Long
Mercer, PA (June 23, 2012): It was Mid-season Championship Night at Mercer Raceway Park. Eric Williams surprised everybody by scoring his career first win in the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars, while Rob Curtis stretched his points lead with the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modified division.
Rusty Moore was victorious in the Precise Racing Products Stock Cars. Joe McEwen claimed the Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors win. Steve Longwell, Jr. triumphed over his father in the Mini Stocks. The Modified Lite feature, presented by Big Daddy's Speed Center and Rock Concrete, went to Mark Marcucci, who started dead last.
By virtue of their points, Bob Felmlee and Jimmy Light occupied the front row for the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Car main. It took three tries to get the race going. When it did, Felmlee took command. His lead was short-lived, as the Turkey, Eric Williams, charged by him on the outside a few laps into the contest.
Williams was the class of the field, opening up a comfortable lead each time the field got bunched back up. Drivers often get frustrated when there are cautions to break their rhythm, but Williams seemed to welcome the interruptions. "There was enough of them," Williams noted. He continued, "you know what, though, we had a good car from the get-go, it took off right on the restarts and kept going forward."
The final restart put veteran Scott Priester on Williams' tail, with champions like Rod George, and Felmlee within striking distance.
Priester tried the inside line entering turn one, but Williams kept his poise and pulled away on the outside as they raced through the corner. Rod George slipped by Priester, who lost valuable ground in the final circuits when a sideboard came off his nose wing. Likewise, Sodeman passed Priester for third in the final standings. Fifth belonged to Andy McKisson.
Jimmy Light, who was making his final start as a Mercer regular, crossed in sixth. Brian Steinman, the Cowboy, raced home in seventh. Dan Kuriger was eighth. Craig Flomar and Chris Best completed the top ten.
With seventeen cars in the field, there were a pair of heat races. The wins went to George and Adam Kekich.
Goodyear Tire certificates were awarded to Williams, for the win, George as the hard charger, and John McCracken, Jr., as the last car on the lead lap. Random selections were Craig Folmar and Ralph Spithaler.
Rapid Rob Curtis, the points leader in the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds, earned the win, but it was not as easy as it looked. Jimmy Holden, second in points entering this event, got out to the early lead. While Curtis was giving chase, he caught a break. Holden clipped a utility tire in turn four and slowed his pace. By the time that Holden reached the backstretch, he was unable to keep his car straight due to front suspension damage.
"I don't like getting wins by somebody else's disadvantage, but it it makes the work that we do during the week that much more special," Curtis said. In addition to Holden's misfortune during the race, top contenders Frank Guidace and Lonny Riggs were unable to start the main event. Curtis was looking forward to racing with them all for the win. "I thought that I was going to have one heck of a battle tonight," he added with a sigh of relief.
When Holden came to a stop, that put Curtis on the pole for the restart. He got away cleanly and stretched his lead over Kyle Fink, last week's feature winner. Curtis had a substantial margin at the checkers.
Fink held off the persistent challenges of Eric Gabany for second. J.R. McGinley finished fourth, and David Cogswell rounded out the top five.
Richard Whitney, Shawn Fleeger, Kevin Green, Max Smoker, and Andy Paden were the sixth through tenth place finishers.
The heat race winners were Ron Eperthener and Holden. There were sixteen cars on hand.
In the Precise Racing Products Stock Cars, Rusty Moore also held serve. He had to9 burn the midnight oil to get his car ready. He and his son replaced both the front and the rear clips due to crash damage from last week's action. Moore got the car right, as he jumped out to the early lead and never looked back. The victory enabled him to extend his points lead over the second-place finisher, Curtis J. Bish, Jr.
Bish was pressured the entire race by Matt Wagner. Darrin Hyde finished a close fourth. Joe Kelly edged A.J. Flick for fifth.
Bob Schwartzmiller finished seventh. Brandon Johnston, Charlie McMillen and newcomer Clyde Roberts were eight, ninth and tenth.
The preliminaries were taken by Moore and Russ Byler, who was an early retiree from the feature.
In the Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors, Joe McEwen got a tremendous boost in the points chase with his win. The divisional leader, Justin Whitesell, had a difficult night. Whitesell had a terminal mechanical problem in hot laps, but he borrowed a car from Dalton Daniels for the heat. Whitesell did not answer the call for the feature, and forfeited his pole position.
McEwen moved out front early and rookie C.J. Jones ran second. Last week's winner, Mike Miller, who was racing in third, spun in turn one, giving the position to Jimmy Morris. Morris held it to the finish.
Rob Felix was moved up to fourth in the official results, as Andy Feil came up light at the scales. Jacob Lagastee was scored in fifth.
Positions six through ten were held by Michael Bauer, Jeffrey Goodman, Jr., Tom Sanders, Mike Miller and Harold Braden, Jr.
The heat race winners were Felix and Jones.
Longwell and Longwell dominated the Mini Stock race, with the son, Steve Jr., earning the bragging rights over his dad.
Mike McConnell was third and Wally Stearns, driving his new machine, was in fourth. Fifth was the other member of the Longwell stable, Joel Wisser.
Todd Gabriel crossed in sixth, while Ed Haylett was right behind him. Rob McElhaney was eighth, Rudy Troples ninth and Caleb Hickok tenth.
The 22 cars were sorted into two heats, won by Trooper Tim Callahan and Gabriel.
The Modified Lites were wearing the nightcaps. Points leader Mark Marcucci stretched his lead with the win, but he came from the tail to do it. Marcucci had trouble in his heat race, so he had to line up in the back for the start.
Showing no ill effects from her forceful crash last week, Kotie Kirkbride jumped out to the early lead with a borrowed car. However, Marcucci was moving through the field quickly. He made the winning move on the backstretch, passing Cody Bova, who had nosed ahead of Kirkbride.
Bova was the runner-up, with Kirkbride third. Bill Stivason registered another solid run, finishing fourth. Fifth was Daniel Demyan.
Jason Johnston, Andrew Bruce, Tyler Frankenberry, Richard Lawson and Braeden Dellinger were the next five across the finish line.
Heat winners were Johnston and Cody Bova. Twelve cars signed in.
Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars: Eric Williams, Rod George, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Scott Priester, Andy McKisson, Jimmy Light, Brian Steinman, Dan Kuriger, Craig Flomar, Chris Best, Ralph Spithaler, John McCracken, Jr., Bob Felmloee, Adam Kekich, Gale Ruth, Sr., Mike Lutz, Francis Sesco.
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds: Rob Curtis, Kyle Fink, Eric Gabany, J.R. McGinley, David Cogswell, Richard Whitney, Shawn Fleeger, Kevin Green, Max Smoker, Andy Paden, Shayne Izzo, Matt Reeher, Jimmy Holden, Ron Eperthener. DNS: Frank Guidace, Lonny Riggs.
Precise Racing Products Stock Cars: Rusty Moore, Curtis J. Bish, Matt Wagner, Darrin Hyde, Joe Kelly, A.J. Flick, Bob Schwartzmiller, Brandon Johnston, Charlie McMillen, Clyde Roberts, Buck Buchanan, Russ Byler, Michael Tonkinson, Andy Thompson.
Ti22 Performance Outlaw Sprint Warriors: Joe McEwen, C.J. Jones, Jimmy Morris, Rob Felix, Jacob Lagastee, Michael Bauer, Jeffrey Goodman, Jr., Tom Sanders, Mike Miller, Harold Braden, Jr., Dennis Wagner, Andy Feil (DQ).
Mini Stocks: Steve Longwell, Jr., Steve Longwell, Sr., Mike McConnell, Wally Stearns, Joel Wisser, Todd Gabriel, Ed Haylett, Rob McElhaney, Rudy Troples, Caleb Hickok, Matt Cwynar, Josh Eakman, Chase Anthony, Maria Nevin, Alex Paden, Adam Bulfone, Patricia Riffe, Tim Callahan, Pete Blazak, Carl Keller. DNS: Leo Hanlon, Dillon Kineston.
Big Daddy's Speed Center/Rock Concrete Modified Lites: Mark Marcucci, Cody Bova, Kotie Kirkbride, Bill Stivason, Daniel Demyan, Jason Johnston, Andrew Bruce, Tyler Frankenberry, Richard Lawson, Braeden Dellinger, Jacob Bova, Taylor Smith.