The weather was mid-summer hot, but the action on the speedway was even hotter as the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds presented the second annual Ronnie Tobias Memorial Race on Wednesday, June 18.
In honor of Ronnie’s longtime car number – the number that is synonymous with the Tobias family – Twin 17-lap features were contested by each of the four divisions that filled the facility’s pit area.
Billy Pauch Sr. and Jeff Strunk split the two features run for the USAC Championship SpeedSTR’s, while defending track champ Jay Hartman and Billy Pauch Jr. claimed victories in the two Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Sprint mains. Mark Sensenig and last year’s point champ, Danny Buccafusca, recorded the NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshot triumphs. Five-time fairgrounds champion Ross Perchak and Brent Bull captured the two races for the wingless 270cc Micro-Sprints.
Dale Planck put his Syracuse Haulers No. 2 into the race lead at the drop of the green in the first feature for the SpeedSTR division. Behind Planck, a terrific four-car battle ensued with Billy Pauch Sr. emerging as the strongest contender for the lead over Jeff Strunk, Kenny Brightbill, and Anthony Perrego.
Pauch Sr. shoved his Fat Catt, Bob Hilbert Sportswear No. 9 under Planck in turn two on the eighth circuit. The Frenchtown, NJ veteran charged onto the back chute with the lead and, despite several challenges from Perrego, Strunk, and Brightbill, Pauch Sr. held on to register his third win in the first five events of the 2014 season at Action Track USA.
Perrego finished a close second with Planck, Strunk, and Billy Pauch Jr. making up the top five.
Race number two for the SpeedSTR’s may have been the best, most competitive feature ever run by the class on the Kutztown Fairgrounds oval.
Jeff Strunk and Kenny Brightbill waged a fantastic duel for the top spot, running side by side all the way around the track for several laps. Right behind the front-running duo, Pauch Jr. and Perrego fought tooth-and-nail for third.
Brightbill glanced off an infield tire marker in turns three and four on the final lap, losing just enough momentum to permit Strunk to once again draw even. Strunk, the dirt Modified kingpin from Boyertown, Pa. blasted off the turn four banking and narrowly won the drag race to the finish line, beating Brightbill, quite literally, by the length of his front bumper.
The victory was Strunk’s first of the year in SpeedSTR competition, with Brightbill a disappointed runner-up over Pauch Jr., Perrego, and Mike Bednar.
“He was better than me in one and two, and I was a little better than him in three and four. That was fun; we must have run side-by-side for half the race. I love running with Kenny…he’s a true professional and he’ll run you hard, but clean. He’s been a guy I’ve looked up to for many years.”
Jay Hartman, from Flagtown, NJ, stalked early leader Tim Buckwalter in the first feature for the Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Sprints, then made his move to pass Buckwalter, the June 11 winner, to snatch the top spot on the eighth trip around the progressively banked oval.
Hartman went on to record his first triumph of the year with Alex Bright, Eddie Strada, Jeff Hartman (the victor’s brother), and Mike Rutherford finishing in positions two through five.
Billy Pauch Jr. has been oh-so-close to the 600cc brass ring on numerous occasions dating back to last season, but he wasn’t able to grab that elusive triumph…until Wednesday’s second feature for the wingless warriors, that is.
Pauch Jr., from Frenchtown, NJ, started on the pole and led all 17-laps, working the low groove to perfection in holding off a fast-closing Eddie Strada. Strada traded the runner-up slot with Mike Rutherford, several times, over the final few tours before he and his Vogel Designs No. 42e secured the position for good.
Rutherford, Brandon Azzalina, and Blaine Emery rounded out the top five.
Opening night winner Mark Sensenig, from Leesport, was involved in a three-car tussle for the lead in the early laps of the first main event for the NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots. Sensenig, polesitter Danny Buccafusca, and Brett Bieber diced for the top spot before Sensenig throttled his Slinger Warehouse No. 7L to the head of the pack.
Sensenig went on to win his second Slingshot feature of the season, with B. Bieber chasing him to the checkered. Joe Nemeth, who started 12th, rumbled through the field to earn the third-place paycheck, with Dylan Hoch slipping past Buccafusca to finish fourth.
Feature number two for the Slingers was highlighted by a furious battle for the top spot as Hoch and Buccafusca continued their duel from the first 17-lapper. They were joined by Nemeth, and the threesome produced an entertaining contest for the lead until the complexion of the race turned on lap seven.
On the first revolution following a restart, the trio went three-wide into turns three and four. Slight contact made Hoch’s No. 35 a bit squirrely and Buccafusca shot to the inside of him and into the lead.
The Montague, NJ racer went on to notch his first Action Track USA victory of the 2014 campaign, with Hoch finishing a season-best second. Larry Raifsnider was third, Brett Bieber wound up fourth, and Nemeth fell back to fifth in the latter stages of the race.
Hazleton’s Ross Perchak set the pace for all 17 laps of the first feature for the wingless 270cc Micro-Sprints. No stranger to Kutztown’s victory lane over the years, when the 270’s were on the weekly schedule, Perchak cruised to the victory over Jay Hartman, former fairgrounds point champ Richie Hartman, Brent Bull, and Robbie Watson.
In the nightcap, Hanover’s Brent Bull gassed his No. 1b to the inside of Ray Miller, wrestling the lead away from Miller on the second trip around the oval.
Jay Hartman rocketed into the runner-up position and appeared ready to challenge Bull for the win, but Hartman got crossed up in three and four at the midpoint of the race and he lost several positions by time he gathered up his mount and continued on.
Bull charged to the win ahead of Richie Hartman and Perchak. Kyle Spence navigated his way from the back of the pack to finish fourth and Jay Hartman rebounded to claim fifth-place money.
Action Track Sidebites…
A large crowd watched 120 cars take part in the Ronnie Tobias Memorial, with two of Ronnie’s restored Modifieds on display and many of his family and former crew members on hand to witness the action.
The 120 racecars were divided as follows: 24 SpeedSTR’s; 44 Wingless 600cc Sprints; 28 All Star Slingshots; and 24 wingless 270cc Micro-Sprints.
Jeff Strunk (SpeedSTR’s), Tim Buckwalter (Wingless 600’s), Danny Buccafusca (All Star Slingshots), and Ross Perchak (wingless 270cc Micros) set quick time in their respective divisions in the Timed Dashes.
Special qualifier races (one per division) were held after the time dashes, with victories recorded by Kyle Weiss (SpeedSTR’s), Rhett Long (Wingless 600’s), John Bockhorn (Slingshots), and Ronald Helmick (wingless 270’s).
The second half of the season will be filled with special events and tightly contested point chases. Join the fun and get your midweek motorsports adrenaline rush on July 9 and every Wednesday through mid-August at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds, where the superstars come to race!
USAC Championship SpeedSTR, Feature #1, 17 laps: 1.Billy Pauch Sr., 2.Anthony Perrego, 3.Dale Planck, 4.Jeff Strunk, 5.Billy Pauch Jr., 6.Kenny Brightbill, 7.Larry Solomon, 8.Alex Bright, 9.Kyle Weiss, 10.Earl Paules, 11.Mike Bednar, 12.Kyle Lick, 13.Frank Cozze, 14.Brittany Wixon, 15.Gary Huber, 16.Steve Yankowski, 17.Mike Vermuelen, 18.John Kovatch IV, 19.Ryan Krachun, 20.Frank Yankowski, 21.Wayne Weaver. DNS: Jim Mahaney, Pancho Lawler, Brad Brightbill.
USAC Championship SpeedSTR Feature #2, 17 laps: 1.Jeff Strunk, 2.Kenny Brightbill, 3.Billy Pauch Jr., 4.Anthony Perrego, 5.Mike Bednar, 6.Billy Pauch Sr., 7.Kyle Weiss, 8.Frank Cozze, 9.Ryan Krachun, 10.Frank Yankowski, 11.Wayne Weaver, 12.Alex Bright, 13.Larry Solomon, 14.Brittany Wixon, 15.Gary Huber, 16.Dale Planck, 17.Steve Yankowski, 18.Mike Vermuelen, 19.Earl Paules, 20.John Kovatch IV, 21.Kyle Lick. DNS: Jim Mahaney, Pancho Lawler, Brad Brightbill.
Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Sprints, Feature #1, 17 laps: 1.Jay Hartman, 2.Alex Bright, 3.Eddie Strada, 4.Jeff Hartman, 5.Mike Rutherford, 6.Billy Pauch Jr., 7.Tim Buckwalter, 8.Blaine Emery, 9.James Morris, 10.Chris Stockham, 11.Brandon Azzalina, 12.Kyle Lick, 13.Simon Egan, 14.Frank Cozze, 15.Shelby Harper, 16.Rhett Long, 17.Dave Dimaio, 18.Jacob Severn, 19.Billy Ney, 20.Rich Mellor, 21.Jermain Godshall, 22.Molly Chambers, 23.Robbie Hocker, 24.Eric Whitby, 25.Marty Gorr, 26.Jarid Kunkle.
Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Sprints, Feature #2, 17 laps: 1.Billy Pauch Jr., 2.Eddie Strada, 3.Mike Rutherford, 4.Brandon Azzalina, 5.Blaine Emery, 6.Alex Bright, 7.James Morris, 8.Jay Hartman, 9.Jeff Hartman, 10.Chris Stockham, 11.Simon Egan, 12.Tim Buckwalter, 13.Frank Cozze, 14.Jacob Severn, 15.Rich Mellor, 16.Marty Gorr, 17.Billy Ney, 18.Molly Chambers, 19.Kyle Lick, 20.Jermain Godshall, 21.Jarid Kunkle, 22.Rhett Long, 23.Dave Dimaio, 24.Shelby Harper. DNS: Robbie Hocker, Eric Whitby.
NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots, Feature #1, 17 laps: 1.Mark Sensenig, 2.Brett Bieber, 3.Joe Nemeth, 4.Dylan Hoch, 5.Danny Buccafusca, 6.John Bockhorn, 7.Larry Raifsnider, 8.Louden Reimert, 9.Cody Kline, 10.Dakota Kohler,11.Matt Miller, 12.Pete Knappenberger, 13.Tayllor Schoenly, 14.Dave Carraghan, 15.Billy Osmun, 16.Kassidy Kreitz, 17.Donny Hockman, 18.Eric Jones, 19.Travis Bieber, 20.Mark Hartman, 21.Simon Whitnell, 22.Matt Stangle, 23.Jordan Knepp, 24.Damian Nemeth, 25.Matt Massone, 26.Austin Stofflet. DNS: David Morrell.
NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots, Feature #2, 17 laps: 1.Danny Buccafusca, 2.Dylan Hoch, 3.Larry Raifsnider, 4.Brett Bieber, 5.Joe Nemeth, 6.Cody Kline, 7.Pete Knappenberger, 8.Dave Carraghan, 9.Donny Hockman, 10.Kassidy Kreitz, 11.Dakota Kohler, 12.Matt Miller, 13.Mark Hartman, 14.Billy Osmun, 15.Louden Reimert, 16.Jordan Knepp, 17.John Bockhorn, 18.Eric Jones, 19.Tayllor Schoenly, 20.Mark Sensenig, 21.Simon Whitnell, 22.Matt Massone. DNS: Travis Bieber, Matt Stangle, Damian Nemeth, Austin Stofflet, David Morrell.
Wingless 270cc Micro-Sprints, Feature #1, 17 laps: 1.Ross Perchak, 2.Jay Hartman, 3.Richie Hartman, 4.Brent Bull, 5.Robbie Watson, 6.Ray Miller, 7.John Vreeland, 8.Cale Mutter, 9.Paul Richards, 10.Tyler Ulrich, 11.Mike Kalman, 12.Dave Nelson, 13.Brent Shearer, 14.Damon Bomgardner, 15.Josh Schaffer, 16.Nick Sweigart, 17.Ronald Helmick, 18.Logan Diehl, 19.Hunter James, 20.Kyle Spence, 21.Jacob Hendershot, 22.Derek Miller. DNS: Geordan Marrero, Marty Gorr.
Wingless 270cc Micro-Sprints, Feature #2, 17 laps: 1.Brent Bull, 2.Richie Hartman, 3.Ross Perchak, 4.Kyle Spence, 5.Jay Hartman, 6.John Vreeland, 7.Tyler Ulrich, 8.Ray Miller, 9.Paul Richards, 10.Robbie Watson, 11.Dave Nelson, 12.Brent Shearer, 13.Cale Mutter, 14.Josh Schaffer, 15.Derek Miller, 16.Hunter James, 17.Damon Bomgardner, 18.Nick Sweigart, 19.Mike Kalman. DNS: Ronald Helmick, Logan Diehl, Jacob Hendershot, Geordan Marrero, Marty Gorr.