By Jim Balentine
Adam Kekich and Phil Vigneri win the Ralph Quarterson memorial twin 33’s at Michael’s Mercer raceway.
Michaels Mercer Raceway honored the “Master of Mercer” Ralph Quarterson, who recently passed away at the age of 80, with the first running of his memorial for 410 sprints and big block modifieds, which he raced and won in both divisions.. The Quarterson family was in attendance and present special Victory Lane Plaques to both drivers. For Adam Kekich winning at Mercer is always special..but to win this race is the highlight of his young career as he battled back-and-forth with Brandon Spithaler throughout the race swapping the lead numerous times before emerging victorious in the first 33 lapper for 410 sprint cars.
New York’s Phil Vigneri picked up a second career win at Mercer holding off Brad Rapp to win the big block modified portion of the memorial.
Chase Metheney started on the pole of the Racesaver 305 Sprint feature and went on to win his 1st career at Mercer holding off Steve Cousins and last years track champ Jake Gomola.
Other feature winners were Vivian Jones-Mod lites, Sam Darby and Logan Lockhart junior sprints, Eric Gabany FASTRAK Modifieds,, and Tim Callahan Mini stocks.
The Kekich family has deep roots in racing with Paul “putsy” Kekich the patriarch of the family then sons Mike and Doug had stellar careers in the micro and 410 sprints and now Mikes son Adam who now has won back to back Western Pennsylvania sprint car championships at his families longtime home track and who’s family has deep friendships and ties with the Quarterson family going back to the 1960’s.
A top 8 redraw put Adam Kekich and Jeremy Kornbau on the front row of the 33 lapper. Kekich bolted out into the lead from the start with Dan Kuriger in second and Brandon Spithaler in 3rd. Kekich was already in lapped traffic by lap 5 and Spithaler made a slide job on Kuriger to get around him. Darren Pifer then brought out the red after hitting the frontstretch wall hard and flipping. He was ok. Once the race resumed Kekich was still leading Spithaler as both were utilizing the entire surface running high and low around lapped cars. On lap 18 Spithaler went high around a lapped car in turn 3 and finally got around Kekich to take the lead and held it until however on lap 28 Spithaler went high in turn 3 and Kekich got back underneath him and regained the lead. Kekich held on to win $3400 and became the inaugural winner of the Ralph Quarterson memorial. Spithaler would hold on for 2nd, Dan Kuriger was 3rd, Jeremy Kornbau 4th and Jack Sodeman Jr 5th.
“I dont even know what to say” said an emotional Kekich “its worth it !! it’s 2 in a row for us here..this win goes to the Quarterson family..my family and them have been together for 3 generations..this is huge!! Brandon and I stated racing go karts the same day and we’ve battled each other ever since we are really good friends..he was a little better in lapped traffic. I thought I was better in clean air but Brandon is a gasser so I knew the place to pass was in turn 4 ..other than that bobble he ran a perfect race. This surface is a lot of fun to run on.. it was rough but it was the raciest its been in a long time..if you’re gonna complain about a rough surface you shouldn’t even be out there!” Leyton Wagner was the hard charger by moving up 11 spots to finish 11th and picked up $200 for his effort.
The Big Block Modifieds began their 33 lap affair in memory of Ralph Quarterson paced by Bobby Axe who was driving his original 1937 chevy coupe which ran at Mercer and other area track in the late 60s and early 70s. The redraw put Phil Vigneri and Brad Rapp on the front row. On the green Rapp who won 8 small block modified features at Mercer took the lead and had a wide margin until last years track champ Rex King Sr. came to a halt on the frontstretch. On the restart Rapp again took command with Vigneri who won a feature last year behind him. Dave Murdick in 3rd and Chad Brachmann in 4th were trying to reel in the 2 leaders until Murdick spun bringing out the caution. On the restart Rapp again assumed command until another yellow slowed the field. On the lap 13 restart Vigneri got around Rapp for the lead when a 3 car crash in turn one again slowed the field. Vigneri again took command and led by a wide margin until Rapp finally caught Vigneri at the end but it wasnt enough as Vigneri picked up his 2nd career Mercer checkered and the biggest paycheck of his career. Rapp would settle for 2nd, Rex King Jr. was 3rd, Kyle Fink was 4th, and Garrett Krummert was 5th. “ It seemed like whoever got the wholeshot was going to be the winner ..I got the lead and I got a lane choice and I got to fire first..its a long race and I was looking at the flagger and was like jesus is he counting right? Its very mental and physical out there I think I lost 5 pounds there but i’m so happy we are able to get a win we don’t know how much racing we will be able to do this year so im thankful I got to thanks my dad and Zack and my sponsors. It means a lot to win this race I cant believe it and i’m going to party it up tonight.” Eric Gabany moved up 12 positions to finish 7th in a great run.
Chase Metheney and Steve Cousins led the Racesaver 305 sprint feature to green with Metheney leading into turn 1. Cousins and last years track champ Jake Gomola tried in vain to catch Metheney but he was too strong and the youngster picked up his first career win in the 305 sprints and as Chase pulled into victory lane he was out of fuel. “I thought the guys were going to be right on me with the track the way it was I felt the car sputtered the last remaining laps and I was trying to hold on until the end.” Cousins would finish a career best 2nd, with Gomola, Kyle Cowell, and Brandon Hawkins rounding out the top 5.
The FASTRAK Modified feature 20 lapper began with Garrett Krummert and Don Cornelius on the front row. Krummert whom has won numerous times around the circuit the past few years immediately took command at the green and was looking for his 10th career FASTRAK Mod win, however Eric Gabany who has won 12 times in this class at Mercer came from his 6th starting spot and would hound Krummert until he passed him on lap 12. Krummert tried one last effort on the high side on the white flag lap to try to get around him and Krummert dove low in turn 4 low but Gabany held him off and went on to the opening night win..“That was a blast out there..its very racy!! I actually like this kind of track. Krummert almost had me and I had to go wide and I managed to get the lead back. Jerry (Shaffer) provides these great cars and its almost have our own race with all these cars and they are all good its very intense.” Last years track champ Brian Schaffer would end up 3rd, Jordan Ehrenberg finished a career best 4th and Jeff Schaffer Jr was 5th.
Vivian Jones held off Nathaniel Bale to pick up here 7th career Mercer Mod Lite win after winning last years point
title. Roman Jones, Jason Gracey and Shane Webb would be the top 5.
Will Aley and Kevin Thompson led the 12 lap mini stock feature to green with Aley taking the lead. 4th starting Tim
Callahan who has won 16 times previously at Mercer began hounding Aley immediately. Multiple yellow flags
would slow the feature and attrition would take its toll. Callahan would get around Aley and held off numerous
charges by Aley to win the nightcapper. Aley would finish 2nd, Leonard Baker was 3rd, Randy Ealy 4th and Andy
410 SPRINT FEATURE
1 Adam Kekich 5K; 2 Brandon Spithaler 22; 3 Dan Kuriger 08; 4 Jeremy Kornbau 27K; 5 Jack Sodeman Jr 23JR; 6 Gary Kriess Jr 55; 7 Sye Lynch 42; 8 Michael Bauer 46; 9 Bradley Howard 49; 10 Brandon Matus 13; 11 Leyton Wagner 38; 12 George Englert 11X; 13 Ken Rossey 66; 14 Joe Kubiniec 19; 15 Jared Zimbardi 35; 16 Mike Marano 34M; 17 Chase Metheney 11H; 18 Rick Holley 85; 19 Jacob Gomola 4J; 20 Darren Pifer 23; 21 Justin Gurdack 61; 22 Davey Jones 76; 23 Brent Matus 33
410 Sprint heat winners: Cody Bova; Mike Bauer; Brandon Spithaler
BIG BLOCK MODIFIED FEATURE
1 Phil Vigneri III 44V;2 Brad Rapp 11R ;3 Rex King Jr 165; 4 Kyle Fink 6F; 5 Garrett Krummert 29K; 6 chad brachman 3; 7 eric gabany 18;8 Dave Murdick 61; 9 Steve Feder 45; 10 Steve Slater 35; 11 Brian swartzlander 83; 12 Shawn Kozar 3K; 13 JR McGinley 66; 14 Tony Pangrazio 41; 15 Eric Beggs 29; 16 Dillon Barr 15B; 17 Ron Cartwright 2B 18 Rex King Sr. 65; 19 John Venuto 817; 20 Rodney Beltz 64; 21 Tom Glenn 83T; 22 Rick Regalski 13; 23 Max Smoker 5; 24 Jeremiah Shingledecker 37MD-DNS
Big Block Modified heat winners: Steve Slater; JR McGinley; Rex King Sr.
305 SPRINT FEATURE FINISH:
1 Chase Metheney 31C; 2 Steve Cousins 56; 3 Jacob Gamola 4J; 4 Kyle Colwell 80JR; 5 Brandon Hawkins 27H; 6 Brett Brunkenhofer 27; 7 Greg Dobrosky 88; 8 logan mccandless 29; 9 Jim Morris 16; 10 Randy Sterling 00S; 11 Nevan O’Donnell 347; 12 Adam Noland 34; 13 Andy Cavanagh X7; 14 J.R. Jameson 97; 15 DJ Cassler 34X; 16 Ed Snyder 110; 17 Tommy Jasen 12G; 18 Shamus O’Donnell 154
305 sprint heat winners: Logan McCandless; Tommy Jasen
FASTRAK MODIFIED FEATURE
1 Eric Gabany 4S; 2 Garrett Krummert 10S; 3 Brian Schaffer 41; 4 Jordan Ehrenberg JD57; 5 Jeff Schaffer Jr 14; 6 Justin Shea RKR1; 7 Gage Priester 71; 8 Brian Sadler 5; 9 Todd Gabriel 33G; 10 Nathan McDowell 11G; 11 Don Cornelius 113; 12 Will Schaffer 4; 13 Jim Bryce 44; 14 Preston Cope ;24 15 Jordan Little 25; 16 Caden Petry 7P; 17 David Kalb 11J
FASTRAK modified heat winners: Eric Gabany; Jordan Ehrenberg
MOD LITE FEATURE
1 Vivian Jones 20M; 2 Nathaniel Bale 01; 3 Roman Jones 82M; 4 Jason Gracey17; 5 Shane Webb267; 6 Jereme Bean 49
MINI STOCK FEATURE
1 Tim Callahan 54; 2 William Aley 9; 3 Leonard Baker Jr 0B; 4 Randy Ealy 0R; 5 Andy Thompson 5; 6 Adam Aley 999; 7 Tyler Beeler 41; 8 Ron Haley X11; 9 Mike Salsgiver 17J; 10 DJ McCrae 36PACK; 11 Roger Wigton 9W; 12 Carl Ealy 0; 13 Phil King 12; 14 Summer Pitts 64; 15 Joe Campbell 40C; 16 Mike Kelley 6; 17 Justin Bailey 7X; 18 Mike Mathieson 72; 19 Kevin Thompson 27; 20 Shane Shook 15B; 21 Todd Hanlon 7H-DSQ ; 22 Michael Porterfield 23MP-DNS; 23 Larry Blake 53Z-DNS; 24 Trevn Schaffer 10S-DNS; 25 Cameron Hutchins 77H-DNS; 26 Pete Blaczak 77-DNS; 27 Jacob MceLavy 56M-DNS
Mini Stock heat race winners: Joe Campbell; Tim Callahan; Mike Kelley.