Rain on July 30 forced the postponement of arguably the biggest race of the year for weekly competitors at Lanco’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway. With no racing scheduled for August 6, drivers had to eagerly wait out the extra week before they could strap into their mounts for the prestigious Clyde Martin Memorial Race, presented by Gold Rush Trailer Sales, which was finally spun off on a sultry, sweaty Saturday night, August 13.
It was worth the wait, though, for the five racers who pulled off exciting victories in this year’s Memorial Race. Mike Rutherford captured his fourth 600cc Memorial triumph, and Heath Hehnly notched a third Memorial victory in the 270cc Class. Angelo Mercado recorded his first Lanco win in several seasons, and the first Gold Rush Trailer Sales Clyde Martin Memorial Race victory of his career. Dave Ravel won his third consecutive Memorial Race for the Sports n’ Turf 250cc Four-Stroke Micros, thereby retiring that division’s trophy, and William Manotti added his name to the 125cc Memorial Race hardware.
With the Memorial Race now complete, the focus turns to this Tuesday’s ground breaking, history making, first-ever appearance by the USAC National Midget Championship at Lanco’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway. Co-sanctioned by the ARDC Midgets, the event titled Battleground: Lanco will see USAC stars such as Tanner Thorson, Brady Bacon, Carson Macedo, Tyler Thomas, and many more take on ARDC hotshoes like the brothers Bright, Alex and Brendan, Trevor Kobylarz, Steve Buckwalter, Brett Arndt, Ryan Greth, and several others in a true, rock ’em-sock ’em bullring environment on the Clyde’s progressively banked oval.
Joining the mighty Midgets on Tuesday will be the Chop Designs Wingless 600 Sprint Assault. There are 40 entries for the always exciting wingless 600 portion of the program, meaning the winner’s share will be $1,000!
On Tuesday, gates will open at 4 p.m. for those spectators who have purchased Advanced General Admission tickets. The early admission also entitles fans to visit the pit area prior to the start of warm-ups. The ticket booth will open for race day general admission tickets at 5:00. Adult tickets are priced at $20 and do not include pit access prior to the event.
Midgets will be called to put heat in the motors at 6:15, with warm-ups to follow and USAC/ARDC time trials get underway at 7 p.m.
Last Saturday’s Clyde Martin Memorial Race, presented by Gold Rush Trailer Sales, saw Mike Rutherford leap from the pole and sprint away from the pack, as Rutherford drove Gary Spotts’ No. 2s to his first 600cc triumph of the season.
“We just finished this car a few weeks ago,” stated Rutherford in victory lane. “We tried it out at Greenwood last Saturday, and it was really, really good here tonight. I’ve got to thank Gary (Spotts) for giving me the opportunity to get back into a 600. We lost the brakes pretty early in the race, and that made getting through lapped traffic a bit scary. But we got it done.”
Ryan Groff, last season’s 600cc Rookie of the Year at the Clyde, chased Rutherford for the entire 35-lap distance, with the first 30 circuits going non-stop.
Kyle Spence and 19th starter Heath Hehnly put on a show as they battled one another while slicing their way through the field during the long stretch of green flag action. Hehnly, the current 600cc point leader, eventually squeezed past Spence and continued his jaunt to the front of the pack. He became one of four drivers to wage a fierce battle for the fifth position, with Jason Swavely finally securing the position as the race entered its final stages.
Hehnly kept pressing as the laps wound down. The first yellow with five to go slowed the pace, but Hehnly was quick on the draw as the race went back to green. He fought for fourth with Swavely and Bradley Brown, engaging in a crowd-pleasing three-way tussle that had Hehnly nipping Brown and nearly getting Shaun Brandel for third as they crossed the finish line.
Rutherford, from Lititz, PA, motored to the victory in Spotts’ Triple X Chassis No. 2s, beating Groff to the stripe by 0.372-seconds. Brandel, Hehnly, and Brown made up the top five.
Heat race victories for the 23-car field of 600’s went to Brandel, Austin Bishop, and Chris Gerhart.
Manheim’s Heath Hehnly only started driving Jim Skias’ Mongoose Chassis No. 25s about a month ago, but the duo have gelled quickly and on Saturday night, Hehnly registered his second straight 270cc feature win in fairly dominating fashion. The race also went non-stop, with Hehnly completing the 35-lap distance in 6:48.546.
Bolting from his outside front-row starting spot, Hehnly snatched the top spot from polesitter Brian Sholley on the opening trip around the clay. He would never be headed, blasting away to a commanding lead as several drivers battled for the runner-up position.
Toby Blumenshine zipped through the field quickly, rumbling around Sholley for second in the early laps of the race. He was soon joined by Kyle Spence, with 12th starting Mike Rutherford also becoming a factor as the race reached its halfway point.
With ten to go, Spence and Rutherford were trading slide jobs in the race for second. Within a few laps, Rutherford secured the runner-up position, but Hehnly had long since checked out and Rutherford, the 270cc winner of the 2015 edition of the Memorial Race, would have to settle for second on this night.
Following Hehnly to the checkered flag were Rutherford (the 270cc point leader), Spence, Blumenshine, and Bradley Brown.
With 19 of the 270’s in the pit area on Saturday, heat race victories went to Heath Hehnly and Mike Skias.
On July 23rd, Angelo Mercado zipped out to a huge lead in the Sportsman feature and seemingly had the race won, but a lapped car got sideways right in front of him at the halfway mark, and Angelo could not avoid contact that forced him to retire from the race.
Mercado, from Middletown, DE, came roaring back on Saturday. He earned his redemption from that heart breaker of three weeks ago by capturing the biggest race of the year for Lanco’s regulars, the Gold Rush Trailer Sales Clyde Martin Memorial Race for the Sportsman. And Mercado showed that he was the class of the field, taking the lead from impressive rookie Kane Rogers with three laps complete.
Anthony Yerger pulled into second place on lap 13 and Mike Miller moved into fourth, after starting the race in 12th, with 15 tours remaining. Miller passed Ava Bellinger for third a few laps later, but Mercado and Yerger were way ahead of him.
Sami Schenck found the high groove to her liking, rim-riding her way to fourth ahead of her boyfriend and Sportsman point leader Dan Lane Jr. Schenck challenged Miller for third, passing him with three to go. Miller returned the favor one lap later as he re-claimed the third position.
After missing several weeks earlier in the season due to some health issues, Mercado proved he was all the way back to 100%, winning his first feature of the season and the first Clyde Martin Memorial Race of his career.
“Hated to lose that race a few weeks ago, but this is the one I really wanted,” said Mercado in his winner’s circle interview. “This is the big one; it’s a race I’ve always wanted to win!”
Yerger finished a strong second, with Miller hanging on for third ahead of Schenck and Lane.
Bellinger, Rogers, and Dave Ravel were victorious in Sportsman heat races while Nick Skias scored the consolation win. There were 27 Sportsman entered in Saturday’s event.
Part of the prestige of the Clyde Martin Memorial Race is getting your name engraved on the winner’s trophy, which is handed down each season from the previous year’s victor. When a driver wins the Memorial three times (in one class), he or she gets to keep it and a new trophy is ordered for the following season’s Memorial.
On Saturday, Dave Ravel won his third Memorial Race in the Sports n’ Turf 250cc Four-Stroke division, so the winner’s trophy is his to keep. It was also Ravel’s third consecutive triumph in the Four-Stroke portion of the big race.
The driver from Reading started eighth and quickly worked his way into the top three. He went to the top as part of a three-way wrestling match for the lead, tussling with rookie Andrew Potts and Donna Geib. On the tenth trip around the clay oval, Ravel stormed to the top spot, squeezing between the outside guardrail, Potts, and Geib to grab the lead.
Geib lost her left-rear wheel while running second with 13 to go and Potts slid back on the restart, leaving Jarrett Imler to chase Ravel. With just one caution (for Geib’s unfortunate loss of her left-rear wheel) slowing the pace of the Four-Stroke main, Imler watched Ravel’s car grow smaller and smaller in front of him. Point leader Kassidy Michael, still looking for her first career victory, took over the third spot but was unable to close in and challenge Imler for second.
Ravel cruised to the win by just more than three seconds over Imler, with Michael crossing the line in third. Mike Coen and rookie Cliff Brian Jr. completed the top five.
Coen and Michael were heat race winners for the 14 car field of Four-Strokes.
Austin Graby paced the first 23 circuits of the 125cc feature, looking like a good candidate for his first-ever Lanco victory. A yellow flag interrupted his run to the checkered, however, and the ensuing double-file restart had Graby choosing the inside lane.
Lancaster’s William Manotti was to his outside, and Manotti shot in front as the green reappeared. Manotti would go on to notch his fifth win of the season in 125cc competition and his first Memorial Race triumph.
“I grew up watching and idolizing the drivers whose names are on this trophy,” said the teenager afterward. “To have my name on there now, with those drivers, is just incredible.”
Graby settled for runner-up honors, with point leader Justin Harrington finishing third in the double-points event. Tajae Adams wound up fourth and Corey Schmuck Jr. earned the fifth place pay envelope.
A total of 14 of the 125cc racers signed in for action on Saturday, with Kyler Heiney and Jas Hehnly winning heat races.
The Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway won’t be dark for long, as Battleground: Lanco and the invasion of the USAC National Midget Championship takes place on Tuesday, August 16. The Chop Designs Wingless 600 Sprint Assault is also part of the Tuesday night program.
The five weekly divisions are back in action on Saturday, August 20, as the championship battles heat up and the season begins to wind down. The winged 600cc, 270cc, Sportsman, 125cc, and Sports n’ Turf 250cc Four-Stroke Micro-Sprints will compete in qualifying heats, consolations, and 25-lap main events.
Saturday’s agenda will have gates opening at 4:30 p.m., with warm-ups at 6:00. The first heat race takes the green at 7:00.
You have two chances to watch some of the best short track racing on the planet this week…so come on out and LIVE the excitement that is Battleground: Lanco and Saturday’s weekly program at the Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway!
600cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 35 laps: 1.Mike Rutherford, 2.Ryan Groff, 3.Shaun Brandel, 4.Heath Hehnly, 5.Bradley Brown, 6.Jason Swavely, 7.Kyle Spence, 8.Brent Ely, 9.Rebecca LaMothe, 10.TJ Greve Jr., 11.Chris Panczner, 12.Taylor Troxel, 13.Zach Light, 14.Will Urkuski, 15.Kassidy Michael, 16.Chris Oraschin, 17.Amber Oraschin, 18.Jarid Kunkle, 19.Austin Bishop, 20.Ryan Hook, 21.Chris Gerhart, 22.Patrick Ely. DNS: Cameron Bellinger.
270cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 35 laps: 1.Heath Hehnly, 2.Mike Rutherford, 3.Kyle Spence, 4.Toby Blumenshine, 5.Bradley Brown, 6.Brian Sholley, 7.Andrew Dietrich, 8.Mike Skias, 9.Billy Logeman, 10.Mike Uhrich, 11.Nick Sweigart, 12.Richie Hartman, 13.Christi Sweigart, 14.Dustin Fox, 15.Daryl Davis, 16.Dan Lane Jr., 17.Mike Miller, 18.Nick Skias, 19.Tyler Ulrich.
Sportsman Micro-Sprint Feature, 35 laps: 1.Angelo Mercado, 2.Anthony Yerger, 3.Mike Miller, 4.Sami Schenck, 5.Dan Lane Jr., 6.Ava Bellinger, 7.Toby Blumenshine, 8.Kerry Lengle, 9.Austin Graby, 10.Dave Ravel, 11.Curtis R. Miller, 12.Sheena Schaefer, 13.Robert Shanaman, 14.Dave Schroeder, 15.Alan Durham, 16.Kane Rogers, 17.Michael Kreiser, 18.Alex Funari, 19.Tyler Ulrich, 20.Nick Skias, 21.Ricky Sechrist, 22.Cody Sechrist, 23.Devin Adams, 24.Patrick Kirn.
DNQ: Dennis Fenstermacher, Katelin Vragovich, Brian Kramer.
Sports n’ Turf 250cc Four-Stroke Micro-Sprint Feature, 35 laps: 1.Dave Ravel, 2.Jarrett Imler, 3.Kassidy Michael, 4.Mike Coen, 5.Cliff Brian Jr., 6.Eddie Nocera, 7.Andrew Potts, 8.Zak Vickers, 9.Ron Wechter, 10.Ron Zimmerman, 11.Dick Huzzard, 12.Lewis Kepple Jr., 13.Donna Geib, 14.Zachary Young.
125cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 35 laps: 1.William Manotti, 2.Austin Graby, 3.Justin Harrington, 4.Tajae Adams, 5.Corey Schmuck Jr., 6.Brandon Gibble, 7.Jas Hehnly, 8.Kyler Heiney, 9.Tyler Hershey, 10.Shane Davis, 11.Walt Wampole, 12.Brandon Stuck, 13.Jimmy Wampole. DNS: Matthew Donley.
By Barry Angstadt – https://www.facebook.com/barry.angstadt?fref=ts
Want to discuss this article on our forum? Visit – http://smallcarweeklyforum.com/thread/126/memorial-victories-rutherford-hehnly-mercado
Lee Greenawalt Photo