New race records, a few lost wheels and a couple rollovers dotted the action at Plymouth Dirt Track (PDTR) Saturday night. Joined by a contingent of Sport Mods for the first time, there were 100 race entries and several spectators trying their skills on the clay oval. Rain during the week helped provide a very moist track that may have provided too much bite for some competitors. Some cars listed heavily to the right and many four-cylinder machines danced through the corners with their rear wheels off the ground.
The late models were first in feature rotation this week, beginning with Rick Scheffler and Brad Mueller winning their heats. The random invert placed Russ Scheffler and Kyle Odekirk in front of Rick Scheffler Mueller, Jim Schmidt, Billy Rezutek, Bob Cullen and Justin Schmidt. The 25-lap contest went nonstop with Russ Scheffler leading every lap and setting a new race record in the process. Behind him at the checkered flag was younger brother Rick, followed by Tim Buhler from the fifth row, Odekirk and Mitch McGrath from his tenth-place start.
Scheffler was surprised when told this was his forty-third win at PDTR, remarking, “That’s awesome. I didn’t know I had that many. This is a fun race track.” Before the night began Scheffler had talked about retiring, but there’s nothing like a win to energize a racer. Unfortunately, Scheffler left before the fans flocked into the pits after the races.
The Grand National heats were won by Aaron Hauck, JJ Pagel, Tyler Kulow and Tim Simon, who posted a new race record in the process. Only the top sixteen in passing points made the feature field before Roger Lee led the final four entries from the B main. Lee made his first visit momentous by also setting a new race record. The redraw set Don Sorce Jr. and Simon ahead of Dick Hed, Hauck and Brad Lubach at the start of the 25-lap feature. Before the green flag Gilson’s car pulled into the infield, realigning the field. The next attempt at a start was thwarted by some getting out of line before the cone, and the third time was not the charm when Simon spun and pitted. Three of the twenty starters had not recorded one lap when the field actually started their feature.
Sorce leaped ahead of the rest and the race finally roared to life. Kevin Lubach was in the top three when suddenly retiring after seven circuits. Some cars bounced through the barrier tires, forcing a caution for debris at the halfway mark. The next lap saw the red flag when Hed’s car climbed atop Matt Yancey’s mount, rolled a few times and spun on the car’s nose before landing heavily. Climbing out to thunderous applause from the relieved audience, Hed then paid a visit to the ambulance as the track was cleared. After all, Hed is in his mid-seventies, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. Lee amazed the crowd five laps later, getting past Sorce with six laps remaining.
The final caution came five laps from the end for an incident, and two others were taken from the lineup with damage and a flat tire before the final green flag. Lee was hounded by Sorce to the finish line with Kulow a strong contender as well. Aaron Stolp rallied to a fourth place finish and Brad Lubach completed the top five. Lee told the crowd, “I had fun. It’s my first time here racing. I usually run Beaver Dam.” Lee and others were given the night off when his home oval hosted a special event this night. We don’t know how long it’s been when someone came from the B to win the main, and it’s normally done in a sprint car at this oval.
The sport mods began their 30-lap feature with a few cars missing. While most had never raced at PDTR before, there were some familiar names in this field. Travis Arenz was one of them, doubling his fun by competing in his Outlaw Compact as well. Gary Glander started ahead of Jesse Brey, Mike Plate and Steve Schneider at the drop of the green. When the first lap was complete it was Brey ahead, then Glander recovered four laps later to take the point. Eric Scribner came from the third row to the lead just as Arenz spun on unlucky lap thirteen. The restart saw Schneider surge ahead until he spun with ten laps remaining. A pair of cars met disaster at the green flag to regroup the field one more time. The final ten circuits went nonstop as Scribner took the point for one lap before Colten Van Heirden roared ahead. The soft-spoken winner could scarcely be heard in victory lane, but his performance spoke for him. Scribner, Brandon Berth, Schneider and Brey completed the top five.
Two dozen sprint cars began with heats won by Kyle Marten, Jim Melis and Doug Wondra. Passing points locked in the top sixteen cars to the main before Tim Melis led the other six from the B main. After the redraw the 25-lap feature began with Justin Miller and Tim Haddy in front of Brandon McMullen, Jason Johnson, Travis Luedke and Donny Goeden. The 22-car field thundered to life at the start and Haddy led the opening circuits. Five laps later Dannon Tessmer met the wall and Matt Van Wyk sustained damage. The drivers were fine, but their cars were out of the race. The restart was quickly followed by another yellow flag when Josh Walter’s car rolled and Chris Clayton’s mount ran into the errant mount. Again, the drivers survived but their cars did not.
The rest of the contest was nonstop action to the checkered flag. Haddy was passed by Johnson two laps after the next green flag, but Haddy got ahead again with nine laps remaining. Johnson took the point back for the final eight circuits, while behind him Goeden was the next challenger. Following the top duo across the final stripe were Haddy, Jim Melis and Doug Wondra, the latter pair from the fourth row. Johnson, a third-generation racer, drove to the front of the grandstands to the cheers of the crowd. “That was a lot of hard work,” began the victor, adding, “We had some brake rotor issues. We got it figured out.” Later Johnson told me this was his first win since 2009, having had a couple years away from racing, one year with only a couple races and last year with season-long engine problems.
The Outlaw Compact heats were won by Shaun Bangart and Arenz, with the 15-lap feature invert scrambling the field again. Ben Meyerhofer and Scott Schlafke were in front of Arenz, Bangart, Patrick Ciske and James Johnson at the start. Ciske had a wheel come off before the green flag. Tires and wheels coming off were the reasons for the ensuing four cautions in the first four laps, with a couple cars retiring with flats on the third orbit. Schlafke led the first three circuits, and Brody Rivest roared into the front spot on the fourth time around. Followed by Schlafke, Meyerhofer, Arenz and Bangart at the final flag, Rivest ended up with another win. Later the rookie said, “I don’t believe it. I only have eight hundred dollars in the car. I thought I didn’t have a chance. Now I have three in a row.”
Eight spectators took to the track in eliminations that closed the show just as the mandatory curfew of eleven o’clock arrived. The warm night was a bonus to the racing we have seen. When we return it will be July and midseason will soon arrive. It seems we just began.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.) Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks.