When the weekend began, Mike Bednar was just hoping for two good runs to end his season of USAC All Pro SpeedSTR competition.
By the time Sunday evening rolled around, Bednar had picked up his first two SpeedSTR victories, the USA Regional title, and a National SpeedSTR Championship.
Two good runs, indeed.
The Whitehall, PA resident had himself a weekend to remember at the Grandview Speedway as Speedway Entertainment, the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA, and the all new Savage 61 Auto Dealership presented the Fourth Annual Fall Jamboree.
“I didn’t sleep much last night (Saturday) because I was worried and nervous about today,” smiled Bednar as the sun began to set on Sunday afternoon, “and I probably won’t sleep tonight because I can’t believe the weekend was this good; this is all too good to be true.”
Bednar’s feature victory in Saturday’s preliminary feature vaulted him to fifth in the National SpeedSTR standings and, with double points being offered on Sunday, he knew that the championship was a possibility. Saturday’s triumph also earned him the USA Regional crown.
The 30-lap finale on Sunday saw Bednar climb from the seventh starting position to challenge his Kovatch Motorsports teammates, Kevin Graver Jr. and Kris Graver, for the top spot.
As he’d done on Saturday, Bednar moved up the race track and ran a higher line than his competitors, enabling him to pass Kevin Graver Jr. for the runner-up position on lap 11. A double-file restart just before the halfway point had Bednar’s No. 46 on the outside of leader Kris Graver, and Bednar held his ground until he accelerated off turn four and led Graver by a few feet as they crossed the stripe to complete the 15th circuit.
Bednar then pulled out to a lead of several car lengths, only to have Graver close the gap and even draw alongside his SpeedSTR in the waning laps of the race. Bednar got the forward bite he needed off corner number two to remain in front, and even a late race caution period (with three to go) did not hamper his drive to the win.
Kris Graver held off a fast closing Billy Pauch Sr. to score the runner-up finish. Pauch, last year’s Fall Jamboree winner, clawed his way from the back of the pack after spinning in the middle of turns one and two on the original start.
Matt Janisch finished a strong fourth and Steven Nederostek capped off his weekend with a fifth-place effort.
A quick tally of the National points told the tale…Canadian driver Pierre Hebert led the standings heading into Sunday’s championship finale. His 18th place finish, combined with Bednar’s triumph, dropped Hebert to second and propelled Bednar to the title.
Tim Buckwalter, who captured Saturday’s Wingless 600cc Sprint victory, appeared primed to make it two in a row on Sunday as he powered past early leader Kyle Lick on the backstretch to snare the lead on the 11th trip around the racy oval. Disaster struck Buckwalter and runner-up Lick with seven to go, however, as both front runners suffered mechanical issues under yellow. Both were forced to retire at that point, handing the lead to Ryan Smith.
The yellow waved for third-place Bobby Butler, who rolled to a stop on the outside of turn four. When the two leaders suddenly slowed with problems in turn two, Smith moved from fourth all the way to first and Robbie Hocker became the runner-up.
Smith staved off the advances of Hocker over the final tours to win in Lamar Shaffer’s LHS Racing Engines No. 91s. Hocker hung on for second place money while Tommy Kunsman Jr., in Joe Plunkett’s No. 41s, wound up third. Jermain Godshall and Johnny Smith completed the top five when the 25-lap feature ended.
“Yeah, it came back to me,” grinned Smith, when complimented on his ability to remember how to drive a wingless race car. The Kunkletown driver spends most of his time in a winged 410 Sprint Car these days, and admitted to a little bit of rustiness when it came to throttling a wingless car once again. “At the beginning of the weekend, these guys were much better than me. But I remembered how to do it, and got better as the weekend went on. It’s really cool to come back to a division where I started out and race these cars again. Lamar gave me a great car and I’m happy to win for him.”
Dillon Steuer, from Bohemia, NY, was running strong in Saturday’s preliminary main for the All Star Slingshots. A broken exhaust mount left his muffler dragging on the track, though, knocking him out of the feature while running inside the top five.
Steuer made up for his misfortune on Sunday, however, by darting from the pole position and leading wire to wire to win his third main event in the last eight days – and his second National Tour race in that time span. Steuer triumphed at Mahoning Valley Speedway on October 24, then captured the King of the Sling event at Bridgeport, NJ the next day.
The All Stars also crowned a National Champion at the Fall Jamboree on Sunday, as Oley, PA’s Brett Bieber notched his fourth National title with a third place finish. Bieber finished second to Chris Kurtz on Saturday, launching him past Dylan Hoch and into the point lead. He held off Hoch for the third place finish in Sunday’s 20-lapper to claim the championship.
Bieber is the only driver to win multiple National Slingshot Championships, and his fourth title caps off a fantastic season in which he also earned the Mid-Atlantic Gold and Silver Regional crowns. The Oley Jet added a Slinger Speedweek title – the first of his stellar career – as well as the point championship at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds.
Early in the summer, Bieber also picked up the 100th feature win of his career in the Slingshot division.
Sunday’s finale had Kurtz finishing second to Steuer, with Bieber, Hoch, and Cody Kline ending up third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.
The Junior Slingshot National Tour Championship was also on the line on Sunday, and Bloomingburg, NY’s Justin Mills annexed the title with a fourth place effort.
Cole Stangle started on the outside of the front row in the 15-lap Junior Slingshot feature, bolted to the lead at the drop of the green flag over polesitter Mills, and led all the way to record the triumph.
Stangle’s No. 20 began to smoke over the final laps, giving hope to runner-up Jared Silfee. But Stangle’s mount held up long enough to register the victory, with Silfee settling for second and Hunter Lapp holding off Mills for third.
Tyler Peet had an outside shot of unseating Mills as the Junior National champ, but Peet found himself chasing Mills to the checkered on Sunday and finishing second in the point chase.
A total of 104 cars took part in Sunday’s portion of the Fall Jamboree, with 33 SpeedSTRs, 23 of the Wingless 600cc Sprints, 32 All Star Slingshots, and 16 Junior Slingers making up the field.
The entire weekend was marked by some intensely competitive action by all four divisions, which is a credit to Grandview’s track prep crew headed up by Brad Missimer. He and his staff maintained a very racy surface despite the fact that both Saturday and Sunday were daytime shows. As Mike Bednar reported after his SpeedSTR victory on Sunday, “there were definitely two grooves out there all weekend long; the crew deserves a lot of credit for giving us a great track to race on.”
Tyler Pirone won the All Star Slingshot Mad Scramble to start the day on Sunday. The Scramble was a race for Saturday’s non-qualifiers, and Pirone’s win earned him a berth in the feature – and a spot in the redraw for one of the top starting positions.
Group time trials were held for the three Speedway Entertainment divisions, with Dillon Steuer setting fast time for the All Star Slingshots, Tim Buckwalter topping the SpeedSTR entries at 15.876 seconds, and Justin Mills turning the quickest lap in the Junior Slingshot Class.
Wingless 600cc heat race victories were claimed by Ryan Quackenbush and Tommy Kunsman Jr.
SpeedSTR heat races fell to the Pauch family, as Billy Sr. captured the first one and Billy Jr. took the checkered in heat race number two. The B-Main went to Kenny Brightbill.
Dylan Swinehart won the All Star Slingers B-Main.
USAC All Pro SpeedSTR Tour, 30 laps: 1.Mike Bednar, 2.Kris Graver, 3.Billy Pauch Sr., 4.Matt Janisch, 5.Steven Nederostek, 6.Ryan Smith, 7.Kevin Graver Jr., 8.Jeff Strunk, 9.Larry Solomon, 10.Billy Pauch Jr., 11.Tim Iulg, 12.John Bockhorn, 13.Skylar Sheriff, 14.Andy Haus, 15.Brian Hirthler, 16.Bobby Butler, 17.Gary Huber, 18.Pierre Hebert, 19.Frank Yankowski, 20.Kevin Hebert, 21.Tim Buckwalter, 22.Kenny Brightbill, 23.Kyle Lick, 24.Lucas Wolfe, 25.Jay Hartman, 26.Carl Labonte, 27.Brad Brightbill, 28.James Morris. DNS: Rick Kirkendall, Joe Vaccaro.
DNQ: Mike Vermeulen, Frank Cozze Jr., Damon Paul.
Wingless 600cc Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.Ryan Smith, 2.Robbie Hocker, 3.Tommy Kunsman Jr., 4.Jermain Godshall, 5.John Smith, 6.Tom Fraschetta, 7.Rich Mellor, 8.Craig Fox, 9.Ryan Quackenbush, 10.Louie Horvath, 11.Tim Bauer, 12.Dan Bair, 13.Devin Gundrum, 14.Rebecca LaMothe, 15.Tim Buckwalter, 16.Kyle Lick, 17.Bobby Butler, 18.Pat Ely, 19.Dave Ogin, 20.Pat Bealer, 21.Rob Vivona. DNS: Jerry Seabridge, Kasey Ernst.
All Star Slingshot National Tour, 20 laps: 1.Dillon Steuer, 2.Chris Kurtz, 3.Brett Bieber, 4.Dylan Hoch, 5.Cody Kline, 6.Damon Paul, 7.Andrew Kreis, 8.Louden Reimert, 9.Corey Cormier, 10.Alan Selemba, 11.Dylan Swinehart, 12.Don Schmidt, 13.Henry Anderson, 14.Austin Silfee, 15.Tyler Pirone, 16.Dakota Kohler, 17.Anthony Raisner, 18.Donny Hockman, 19.Jordan Knepp, 20.Jason Rice Sr., 21.Sam Scicchitano, 22.Ken Shive, 23.Tes Horvath, 24.Kassidy Kreitz, 25.Dan Morgiewicz, 26.Ashley Rogosich, 27.Dawson Landes.
DNQ: Jordan Lawrence, Don Boonstra, Bridget Conti, Chris Daw, Ryan Updegrove.
Junior Slingshot National Tour, 15 laps: 1.Cole Stangle, 2.Jared Silfee, 3.Hunter Lapp, 4.Justin Mills, 5.Tyler Peet, 6.Kyle Smith, 7.Reece Nowatarski, 8.Kyle Braun, 9.Samantha Muller, 10.Gavin Santee, 11.Alex Yankowski, 12.Tanner Jones, 13.Jack VanVarick, 14.Nico Flammer, 15.Logan Bauman, 16.Joey Vaccaro.
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By Barry Angstadt – https://www.facebook.com/barry.angstadt?fref=ts&ref=br_tf