So many odd things happened Saturday at Plymouth Dirt Track that more than one person was looking to see if there was a full moon. With temperatures in the nineties, extra watering was done so the track wouldn’t be a dust bowl. But the anticipated winds didn’t show up, so the wide-tired sprint cars helped roll in the race surface. An hour later the heavy equipment came back and redid the clay, followed by the rest of the race cars taking their laps. During this time a spectator had a medical emergency, was revived and transported to the hospital. Springing into action during the delay, the staff spread out a tarp and loaded it with candy, bringing the kids down for a special treat. Drivers joined the action by throwing T-shirts and frisbees into the crowd. The opening ceremony included best hopes for the unfortunate fan and the crowd was rewarded for their patience with an offer of a huge discount in the future.
The crowd cheered when the first heat race rolled onto the oval around 7:30, and feature events would be reduced by five laps. Late model heats were won by Tony Peterson and Tim Buhler. The 20-lap main began with father Jim Letizia and Billy Rezutek in front of Chris Carlson, Brad Mueller, son Turk Letizia and Justin Hirt. Jim Letizia led the opening circuits until Taylor Scheffler’s mount rolled into the concrete wall on lap four. The young racer climbed out of the mangled mount to grateful applause and the field aligned again. Hirt’s car got sideways and recovered after the green flag, but several were caught in the aftermath and sustained damage. At the same time Rezutek’s car sat on the frontstretch without his drive shaft.
The track was cleared and the survivors continued the rest of the way without delay. Carlson charged ahead and took the lead just before the midway mark to gain his first late model victory in over ten years. Carlson took a few years off to compete in a modified before returning to the fold last year. Much was happening behind Carlson as Hirt was on a mission to the front, passing cars quickly, including Rick and brother Russ Scheffler on the last laps. At the checkered flag Carlson was followed by Mueller, Hirt, Russ and Rick Scheffler, Jim Letizia and Tim Buhler from tenth place.
Mark Fieber, Brian Cesar and Matt Yancey won the Grand National heats. At feature time the inversion placed Tyler Kulow and Ben Konen in front of Justin Erickson, Matt Jackson, Yancey and Cesar. Konen quickly took charge of the 20-lap contest until his car suddenly slowed, and Jackson happily assumed the lead on lap seven. Konen’s season debut turned worse when involved in the only caution of the race, pitting and returning laps later. Jackson led the second half of the race without incident, crossing the final stripe ahead of Erickson, Cesar, Yancey and Fieber.
Justin Bauer won the B Mod heat and the 20-lap feature followed. Brandon Knepprath and Glenn Blanke started ahead of Cody Eickberg, Justin Bauer, Gary Glander and Spencer Long. Blanke led the way, surviving a restart for a spun car on lap five. Four laps later it was Eickberg leading the pack, with one more restart when Bauer’s mount went up on two wheels before recovering. The final eight orbits concluded without incident with Eickberg ahead of Glander, Blanke, Knepprath and Bauer.
Zach Boden and Denver Larsen won the Micro Sprint heats, the field inverted for the 15-lap finale. Tony Strauss and Larsen led Boden, Andy Rein and Jack Vander Boom before the green flag waved. Strauss led for two laps before Rein rolled in the corner and clambered out of his machine to view the damage. Boden got past Strauss on the fifth time around, seeing the yellow banner the next lap for a spun car. Boden may have won the event if his car hadn’t had a problem, retiring on unlucky lap thirteen. Strauss happily took charge to the checkered flag, making his debut a good one. Dylan and Denver Larsen followed with Eric Casper behind.
Sprint car heat races were won by Paul Pokorski, Kevin Karnitz, Donny Goeden and Mitch Yurmanovich. The unlucky thirteen B main entries were plagued with misfortune. Charging into the first turn, three mounts tangled and rolled into the wall on the opening lap. The drivers received grateful applause when climbing out of the carnage, but their cars were done for the night. Andrew Westphal led the final six feature entries from this contest. There was just enough time to complete the 20-lap feature before curfew time, if nothing slowed the race. Unfortunately, things did happen.
Jim Melis and Doug Wondra started in front of Anthony Knierim, Brandon McMullen, Tony Wondra and Ken Jay Fiedler. Melis survived two minor incidents and restarts in the first seven orbits, but two laps later a pair of cars crashed into the outer concrete and one complained of foot and leg pain. The safety crew took great care to tend to the driver and curfew time arrived. Because they were one lap shy of the halfway mark, no winner was declared and all would receive equal pay and points. Many racers and fans watched with great interest at the outcome of the extrication process afterwards. By this time the cold front had arrived a few hours earlier, dropping the temperature by some thirty degrees in a hurry. Next weekend the full moon will be much closer. To be continued.
-By Fay Hendricks, Motorsports Columnist
-Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks