Dirt Modified veterans – who have also spent a fair amount of time wheeling Sprint Cars – appear to have the upper hand in adapting to Rich Tobias’ USAC Championship SpeedSTR creations. The results over the past 1 1/3 seasons at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds seem to confirm that statement. Of course, there have been more dirt Modified jockeys in SpeedSTR’s than those from other divisions since Tobias and Doug Rose opened the revamped and extremely racey oval in 2013.
For example: this season’s first pair of SpeedSTR main events were claimed by Billy Pauch Sr., whose resume is highlighted by more than 700 Modified victories. Race number three went to another Pauch, the one named Billy Jr. And last Wednesday night, on June 11’s Armed Forces/ Mahoning Valley Speedway Night, the fourth SpeedSTR main of the year saw dirt Modified standout (for many years) Frank Cozze take the checkered flag for his first career triumph in the spec, open-wheeled division.
“I’m havin’ a blast runnin’ this thing on Wednesdays, and this is a really cool track,” smiled Cozze in NAPA Auto Parts Victory Lane. “Then again, it’s always more fun when you’re running well…and winning!”
Joining the Wind Gap, Pa. veteran racer in Wednesday’s winner’s circle were Tim Buckwalter (Wingless 600cc Sprints), Mark Hartman (All Star Slingshots), and Dillon Steuer (Junior Slingshots).
Cozze had to bide his time in the early stages of the 30-lap SpeedSTR feature as yet another longtime Modified pilot, Larry Solomon, outgunned Pauch Jr. for the lead at the drop of the green.
Jeff Strunk (yup, another Modified guy) ran a close third, and that proved to be trouble for Strunk when Pauch Jr. shoved the nose of his Wayne Subaru No. 1 under Solomon in turns one and two, with three circuits showing on the lap counter. The cars of Solomon and Pauch Jr. got together as they raced off turn two, with Solomon spinning toward the infield and Pauch collecting Strunk’s No. 88 as both cars veered into the backstretch wall.
Solomon somehow straightened his mount and continued without stopping, while Pauch Jr. also limped away but had to pit with a flat tire. Strunk was able to restart and Pauch got back onto the track with a new sneaker on the front of his car, so he and Strunk lined up at the back of the pack while Solomon went back to the point because he never came to a complete stop.
But Cozze was now on the outside of the front row, and he shot to the lead when the race resumed. Earl Paules, who started 13th, was haulin’ the mail in the high groove and his march soon found his Schneider No. 8 in the runner-up position. Paules challenged Cozze for several laps without success, then gradually fell backwards through the field as Anthony Perrego and Kyle Lick battled one another before Perrego took his shot at the leader. Cozze repelled the young charger’s attack and Perrego, while hanging on to second place, fell out with mechanical ills after 25 trips around the clay.
Solomon once again took up the chase and Pauch Jr. came roaring back, with Strunk in his tire tracks. The battle came down to Solomon holding off Pauch Jr. for second, and Strunk hoping there wouldn’t be a repeat of the earlier incident between the two. As Solomon and Pauch Jr. fought for runner-up honors, Cozze pulled away by a few car lengths.
“We were guessing on the set up tonight, especially with the (threatening) weather,” explained the victor afterward. “The weather really made it tricky. We decided to leave it pretty much the way we ran it in the heat race. And I wasn’t sure which lane to pick for restarts, but I thought my best chance would be up top, so I picked the outside and it worked out pretty well.”
Cozze took the checkered flag with a margin of slightly more than half-a-second over Solomon, who held off Pauch Jr. for second. Strunk wound up fourth and Paules completed the top five.
Tim Buckwalter, from Douglassville, took the Gambler’s Challenge when he signed in for action on Wednesday. And it paid off handsomely as Buckwalter drove Barry and Cheryl Greth’s Hyper to a $700 victory in the Pioneer Pole Buildings Wingless 600cc Sprint feature.
What made Buckwalter’s effort even more impressive was the fact that the former ARDC Midget Champion started 19th in the 25-lapper, and he estimated that he may have dropped back even further on the start.
“I got trapped on the bottom at the start, but once I found the outside, we went forward. The crew told me that I passed eight or nine cars in one lap, and this thing (his No. 71) was flyin’. The year didn’t begin well for us, but we’re getting it figured out now.”
Eric Whitby set the pace early, but it was Blaine Emery who made the first daring move, threading the needle between Whitby and Simon Egan on a restart to grab the top spot and run away from his pursuers.
Buckwalter was slicing his way to the front, zipping up to fourth by the time eight laps were scored. Timmy continued his trek to the head of the field by trucking into the runner-up position, then catching and beginning his assault on Emery. Buckwalter threw a slider on the leader in three and four but Emery was ready for it and drove back under Buckwalter as they blasted off of four.
Buckwalter tried it again in one and two with 13 complete, and this time he protected the bottom so Emery would not have room to cross over and drive back by him. Accelerating onto the backchute, it was now Buckwalter in command – and he would hold the top spot for the remainder of the event.
Jay Hartman took up the chase as Emery’s left-rear wheel got packed with mud and began to vibrate, causing him to fade a bit but the Oley driver persevered to a fifth place finish, his best of the season.
Kyle Lick and Billy Pauch Jr. both had to drop to the rear in the early going, but the duo weaved their way through heavy traffic to run third and fourth as the laps wound down. Lick challenged Jay Hartman for second, but Hartman repelled the maneuvers and finished as the runner-up, with Lick third and Pauch Jr. was fourth ahead of Emery.
In victory lane, Buckwalter commented on the tacky racing surface as a light mist fell for most of the three main events. “My girlfriend, Amanda, did a great job with the tear-offs on my helmet tonight. She put enough on there, and I needed every one of ’em.”
The NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots took part in a 30-lap Mid-Atlantic Silver Tour event, with Flemington, NJ driver Mark Hartman notching his first-ever triumph at Action Track USA.
Hartman was fifth when the initial green waved, but quickly jumped to third as Travis Bieber (the previous week’s winner) led Larry Raifsnider.
Matt Miller, winner of the May 28 race, suddenly dashed into second and Brett Bieber moved past Hartman and Raifsnider for third. Miller then throttled past Bieber on the sixth circuit to snatch the lead.
Hartman’s No. 124 was strong, though, and he muscled his way by the Bieber brothers to run second, setting his sights on Miller’s No. 16m. Hartman slipped under Miller in turns three and four, then bolted in front of Miller as the pair crossed the stripe to complete lap 17.
From that point on, the race belonged to Mark Hartman. He went on to win handily over Miller, who held off Brett Bieber for the runner-up’s pay envelope. Kassidy Kreitz ran an impressively steady race to finish fourth and Dave Carraghan finished fifth.
Dillon Steuer, from Bohemia, NY, faced a three-hour ride home after the Junior Slingshot feature. The long ride probably seemed much shorter after Steuer, who had to get up for school the next morning, captured the victory in dominant style.
Steuer led all the way from his pole position, beating Dylan Swinehart, Chloe Andreas, Damon Paul, and Andrew Kreis to the checkered flag.
Action Track Sidebites…
The car counts continue to impress, as a solid field of 23 SpeedSTR’s, 38 Wingless 600’s, 30 All Star Slingshots, and 13 Junior Slingers signed in for competition.
Anthony Perrego set quick time for the USAC Championship SpeedSTR’s in timed warm-ups, with Billy Pauch Jr. turning the second-fastest lap.
Kyle Lick and Kenny Brightbill won the two heat races for the SpeedSTR’s, with Earl Paules winning the B-Main.
Marty Gorr captured the non-stop Mad Scramble for the Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Sprints, locking himself into the feature. The Mad Scramble is the first race of the night, and those drivers who did not qualify for the previous week’s feature are eligible to run the Scramble.
Eric Whitby, Jay Hartman, Kyle Lick, and Blaine Emery were victorious in the 600cc heat races. The C-Main went to Rhett Long, and Long roared from the back of the pack to win the B-Main, too. Unfortunately, mechanical problems prevented Long from starting the 25-lap main event.
The NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots, since it was a Mid-Atlantic Silver Tour event, competed in time warm-ups with the fastest 12 cars transferring directly to the feature. Travis Bieber set quick time at 14.283 seconds, with Dave Carraghan and Larry Raifsnider turning the second and third fastest times.
Two Slingshot heats went to Austin Stofflet and Dylan Hoch, with Matt Massone winning the B-Main.
Dillon Steuer was the winner of the lone heat race for the Junior Slingshots.
This Wednesday, June 18, is the final race before the track takes its annual two-week break as the fairgrounds plays host to the PA Heritage Festival. This week’s program is packed with feature races, as the second annual Ronnie Tobias Memorial is highlighted by twin 17-lap mains for all divisions. Timed hot laps and last-chance B-Mains will set the fields as the SpeedSTR’s, Wingless 600’s, and All Star Slingshots are joined by wingless 270cc Micro-Sprints.
Pit gates open at 4 p.m. and grandstand gates swing open at 5:00. Warm-ups get underway at 6:15 with racing action immediately following the hot lap sessions.
Twin 17’s for four divisions…that’s eight feature races for the normal price of admission…and you’ll get your midweek motorsports adrenaline rush as the Ronnie Tobias Memorial takes center stage at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds…where the Superstars come to race!
USAC Championship SpeedSTR’s, 30 laps: 1.Frank Cozze, 2.Larry Solomon, 3.Billy Pauch Jr., 4.Jeff Strunk, 5.Earl Paules, 6.Dale Planck, 7.Kyle Weiss, 8.Frank Yankowski, 9.Steve Yankowski, 10.Brittany Wixon, 11.Eric Beers, 12.Gary Huber, 13.Anthony Perrego, 14.Kevin Graver Jr., 15.Pancho Lawler, 16.Kenny Brightbill, 17.Ryan Krachun, 18.John Kovatch IV, 19.Kyle Lick, 20.Wayne Weaver, 21.Billy Pauch Sr., 22.Brad Brightbill. DNS: Mike Vermuelen.
Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Sprints, 25 laps: 1.Tim Buckwalter, 2.Jay Hartman, 3.Kyle Lick, 4.Billy Pauch Jr., 5.Blaine Emery, 6.Chris Stockham, 7.Mike Rutherford, 8.Jermain Godshall, 9.Eddie Strada, 10.James Morris, 11.Frank Cozze, 12.Jeff Hartman, 13.Rob Adams, 14.Simon Egan, 15.Greg Stevens, 16.Dave Dimaio, 17.Brandon Azzalina, 18.Billy Ney, 19.Will Butler, 20.Eric Whitby, 21.Marty Gorr, 22.Daniel Schumaker, 23.Bobby Scherff. DNS: Rhett Long, Peter Michael, Joe Kay.
DNQ: Molly Chambers, Donny Smith, Ryann Neil, Robbie Hocker, Heidi Hedin, Shelby Harper, Mark Conrad Jr., Kurt Bettler, Zach Fisher, Jessica Weiss, Jim Hendricks, Jeff Carman.
NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots Mid-Atlantic Silver Tour Race, 30 laps: 1.Mark Hartman, 2.Matt Miller, 3.Brett Bieber, 4.Kassidy Kreitz, 5.Dave Carraghan, 6.Larry Raifsnider, 7.Danny Buccafusca, 8.Erik Jones, 9.Matt Massone, 10.Austin Stufflet, 11.Joe Nemeth, 12.Cody Kline, 13.Tayllor Schoenly, 14.BJ Antonio, 15.William Mohring, 16.Jackson Ring, 17.John Bockhorn, 18.Jordan Knepp, 19.Travis Bieber, 20.Donny Hockman, 21.Matt Stangle, 22.Louden Reimert, 23.Alex Schoffstall, 24.Dylan Hoch, 25.Mark Sensenig, 26.David Morrell. DNS: Amber Britto.
DNQ: Tess Horvath, Blaire Schoenly, Jeff Kemp.
Junior Slingshots, 20 laps: 1.Dillon Steuer, 2.Dylan Swinehart, 3.Chloe Andreas, 4.Damon Paul, 5.Andrew Kreis, 6.Cole Hentschel, 7.Dakota Kohler, 8.Reese Nowatarski, 9.Gavin Santee, 10.Alex Yankowski, 11.Kyle Smith, 12.Cole Stangle, 13.Alex McCollum.