A pair of feature wins coupled with a third place finish added up to a pretty decent night’s work for Mike Rutherford.
The Lititz, Pa. wheel-twister competed in three classes at the Spring Has Sprung Season Opener presented by MJF Trucking at Lanco’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway on Saturday night. He came away with top-three finishes in each of those 25-lap main events, giving himself a hot start to the season on a chilly night at the Newmanstown oval.
Rutherford pulled off victories in the 600cc and Sportsman Micro-Sprint divisions, while settling for a third place run in a very exciting 270cc feature claimed by Bradley Brown. Dave Grube (125cc) and David Ravel (250cc Four-Stroke) also captured wins during Lanco’s 58th season opener.
The top 12 finishers from the three, 600cc heat races started heads-up in the feature lineup, putting Rutherford and James Morris on the front row. The two drivers battled furiously for the top spot as the first eight revolutions went non-stop. Heath Hehnly, in his first start for car owner Gary Hunter, climbed from eighth to third during the initial green flag run.
Brian Carber, in the GW Transport No. 32, charged from his 11th starting position to the fourth spot in the first ten circuits. From laps 14 through 20, the top four drivers ran nose to tail when they were not attempting to dive under the cars in front of them at both ends of the speedway. Morris, Hehnly, and Carber desperately tried to throw slide jobs on one another as Rutherford, in his own 600 this season, continued to hold a slim lead.
Under a yellow flag with just four laps remaining, Morris was forced to drop out, ending his terrific effort. During the final four trips around the banked oval, Hehnly tried in vain to dive under the leader, but Rutherford held on to win by one-quarter of a second over the Clyde’s defending 600cc point champion.
Carber finished third, with Chris Gerhart and Corry Roth rounding out the top five. Chris Panczner authored a great drive during the feature, finishing sixth after starting 22nd.
With 29 of the 600’s entered on opening night, heat race victories were claimed by Rutherford, Morris, and Jared Esh. The consolation winner was Will Urkuski.
A fantastic 270cc main event began with polesitter Billy Logeman leading the first pair of tours around the clay, hounded over every inch by Bradley Brown. The duo traded sliders on laps three and four, with Brown scored as the leader – barely – on those circuits. The New Providence, Pa. throttle-jockey finally secured the top spot from Logeman, but soon he had a new challenger in the form of Kyle Spence, who zoomed from tenth on the starting grid to blast into third position on lap eight.
At the halfway mark, Spence zipped past Logeman for second and set his sights on the leader. As his assault on Brown intensified, Spence’s No. 25k suddenly slowed and headed for the infield, bringing out the first yellow of the event with 15 laps complete.
Spence’s misfortune allowed Ken Miller, in Fred Falini’s A-Main Motors No. 74F, to move into the runner-up spot and begin his pursuit of the race leader. Miller shoved the nose of his car under Brown on numerous occasions, but Brown’s Reanimated Art Tattoo Studios No. 23 was launching off the high side of the corners to maintain control. Brown appeared to pull away a bit with three to go, but Miller caught him again and offered a final challenge over the last two trips. A short distance behind the two leaders, Rutherford and 19th-starting Mike Uhrich waged a fierce duel for third.
Brown fought off Miller’s attacks to record the triumph, with Rutherford narrowly beating Uhrich to the stripe for third-place money. Danny Lane Jr. wound up fifth.
Qualifying heat victories went to Nick Sweigert, Rutherford, and Spence, with Uhrich winning the consolation. There were 29 of the 270’s signed in for competition on Saturday.
In the 25-lapper for the Sportsman Class, Rutherford, who started the race in 11th, went from third to first on a lap four restart. He fended off the challenges of Ken Miller after Miller moved into the runner-up position on the eighth tour. Over the final nine revolutions, Rutherford pulled away to win by slightly more than two seconds over Miller, with Bret Habecker finishing third. Ava Bellinger advanced from 12th starting spot to finish a strong fourth and her dad, Angelo Mercado, rebounded from a mid-race spin to complete the top five.
Ava Bellinger, Mike Rutherford, and Curtis R. Miller captured heat race victories for the 32 Sportsman who entered the first program of 2015. Angelo Mercado was the consolation victor.
Justin Harrington rocketed from 11th to take the lead on lap five in the feature for the 125cc racers. Harrington appeared to have the win in hand until he looped his No. 29 in turn two with five to go, handing the lead to Dave Grube.
Grube, who hails from Denver, Pa., took full advantage of the gift, pacing the final circuits to notch the opening night triumph. Chase Gutshall finished second and Tajae Adams wrapped up a solid season opener with a third place effort. Corey Schmuck Jr. and William Manotti rounded out the top five.
With 22 of the 125cc Micros on hand, Harrington and Manotti registered heat race wins.
Donna Geib and Kassidy Michael made up the front row of the 250cc Four-Stroke feature, but Geib went around in turn two and Michael wound up against the outside guardrail as the race went green.
Their misfortune enabled defending Four-Stroke champ David Ravel to assume the pole for the restart, and Ravel made the most of his opportunity, leading all the way to record the win.
Eddie Nocera gamely challenged Ravel for the lead after a 12th lap restart, but after a few tours Ravel steadily pulled away and ran out to a comfortable margin.
Ravel, from Reading, crossed the stripe by more than a half-second over Nocera, with Kassidy Michael charging back from her first lap mishap to finish third. Zackery Vickers was fourth and Dick Huzzard finished fifth.
Nocera and Jarrett Imler won the Four-Stroke heats as a field of 13 signed in for action.
The second event of 2015 will be contested this Saturday, April 18, as RTS Chassis sponsors the night of racing at Lanco’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway. The five weekly divisions – 600cc, 270cc, Sportsman, 125cc, and 250cc Four-Strokes – will battle in qualifying heats, consolations, and 25-lap feature races. A total of 125 Micro-Sprints took part in the MJF Trucking season opener, and there could be even more on hand this Saturday as non-members are welcome to compete beginning with the second race of the year.
Gates will open at 3:30 and warm-ups begin at 5 p.m. The first heat race goes green at 6:00.
Keep up with all of the Lanco news, whether you’re at the track on Saturday nights or during the week, by logging on to www.lancomicrosprint.com. The Clyde is also active on social media, with its Facebook page (facebook.com/ClydeMartinMemorialSpeedway) or on Twitter (@LancoCMMS). Additionally, when weather might be an issue, it’s important to “know before you go” by checking the speedway’s status at RainedOut.com. Set up a free account so that you’ll receive an email or text message from the track when there’s weather-related or other important information to release. Simply go to RainedOut.com, search on Lanco – Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway, and follow the easy instructions to set up an account.
MJF Trucking 600cc Finish, 25 laps: 1.Mike Rutherford, 2.Heath Hehnly, 3.Brian Carber, 4.Chris Gerhart, 5.Corry Roth, 6.Chris Panczner, 7.Dan Souder, 8.Steve Whary, 9.Taylor Troxel, 10.Will Urkuski, 11.Brent Ely, 12.Zach Light, 13.Brittany Brown, 14.Rebecca LaMothe, 15.Pat Ely, 16.James Morris, 17.Kameron Morral, 18.Josh Conover, 19.Brooklynn Gable, 20.Jason Swavely, 21.Justin Whittall, 22.Jared Esh, 23.Jenna Heagy, 24.Kenny Miller III.
DNQ: Ryan Groff, Dylan Binkley, Shaun Brandel, Jason Sechrist, Jack Conover.
MJF Trucking 270cc Finish, 25 laps: 1.Bradley Brown, 2.Ken Miller, 3.Mike Rutherford, 4.Mike Uhrich, 5.Dan Lane Jr., 6.Nick Skias, 7.Christi Sweigart, 8.Nick Sweigert, 9.Dave Grube, 10.Tyler Ulrich, 11.Dylan Adams, 12.TJ Greve Jr., 13.Brian Sholley, 14.Ricky Sechrist, 15.Keith Holiday, 16.Michael Binkley, 17.Billy Logeman, 18.Kenny Miller III, 19.William Manotti, 20.Kyle Spence, 21.Kyle Hehnly, 22.Nate Weidman, 23.Richie Hartman, 24.Toby Blumenshine.
DNQ: Anthony Yerger, Cameron Bellinger, Elizabeth Helmick, Dustin Fox, Denise Pensel.
MJF Trucking Sportsman Finish, 25 laps: 1.Mike Rutherford, 2.Ken Miller, 3.Bret Habecker, 4.Ava Bellinger, 5.Angelo Mercado, 6.David Ravel, 7.Curtis R. Miller, 8.Jas Hehnly, 9.Anthony Yerger, 10.Jamie Fetterolf, 11.Dave Kemp, 12.Patrick Kirn, 13.Charles Hellinger, 14.Dave Schroeder, 15.Adam Minzer, 16.Dennis Fenstermacher, 17.Devin Adams, 18.Brandon Mundis, 19.Brandon Bucher, 20.Kerry Lengle, 21.Sami Schenk, 22.Brian Becker, 23.Joe Ilg, 24.Robert Shanaman. DNS: John Davis.
DNQ: Jeff Boyer, Katelin Vragovich, Toby Blumenshine, Michael Kreiser, Megan Mercado, Steve Smith Sr., Joshua Sears.
MJF Trucking 125cc Finish, 25 laps: 1.Dave Grube, 2.Chase Gutshall, 3.Tajae Adams, 4.Corey Schmuck Jr., 5.William Manotti, 6.Justin Harrington, 7.Alexis Sheely, 8.Brie Weiler, 9.Sonny Sweitzer, 10.Thomas Kelley, 11.Michael Zimmerman, 12.Kelsey Heiney, 13.Austin Graby, 14.Jarrett Imler, 15.Jason Hehnly, 16.Jas Hehnly, 17.Brandon Gibble, 18.Nick Sweigert, 19.Jimmy Wampole, 20.Walt Wampole. DNS: Dustin Adams, Zach Hollinger.
MJF Trucking 250cc Four-Stroke Finish, 25 laps: 1.David Ravel, 2.Eddie Nocera, 3.Kassidy Michael, 4.Zackery Vickers, 5.Dick Huzzard, 6.Aiden Jones, 7.Brian Kramer, 8.Jarrett Imler, 9.Lester Dice, 10.Ronnie Rhoads, 11.Zach Hollinger, 12.Donna Geib. DNS: Scott Renninger.
By Barry Angstadt – https://www.facebook.com/barry.angstadt?fref=ts&ref=br_tf