One hundred cars and thousands of people gathered Saturday at Plymouth Dirt Track (PDTR) as the track honored decades of champions. Also noting those who are no longer with us, one family added six hundred dollars to the sprint car winner’s purse and another took a parade lap to commemorate missing heroes. Intermission time was like a three ring circus while the track was being prepared for the night’s finales. Several drivers tossed prizes into the crowd, dozens of past champions were introduced in front of the grandstands and children scrambled through piles of sawdust for rewards.
Sprint car heats were won by Kurt Davis, Lance Fassbender in a replacement car after last week’s wreck, and Donny Goeden. Davis found a problem with his mount and switched to his second machine, which forced him to run the B main to gain a feature berth. It was a very busy night for Davis, who also wheeled a Grand National car Saturday just for fun. Will Gerrits won the B main, Davis made the cut and the 22-car feature field was complete. The 25-lap contest opened with Andrew Westphal and Brandon McMullen in the front row, followed by Mike Yurmanovich and Fassbender. Goeden suddenly slowed with a flat tire before the green flag, the crew quickly changing rubber and returning his car to back of the field.
McMullen took charge of the race right away but had to survive several restarts before the end. Seven laps were complete when Ryan Mayr’s mount lost a nose wing, followed by Jason Johnson’s car suddenly slowing a couple laps later. The next green flag was quickly replaced with the red banner when Justin Miller’s car rolled in a corner, catching Mayr and Paul Pokorski in the tangle. Mayr’s car spun before a dozen circuits were complete, but the rest of the race ran to the end without delay. McMullen had lapped most the field as the contest continued with Fassbender hounding him to the end. Tim Haddy came from the eighth row to third place ahead of Westphal and Danny Schlafer, with Goeden, Yurmanovich and Tessmer still on the lead lap at the end. Climbing up on his wing to wave to the cheering crowd, McMullen gave thanks to the family who made the generous donation and added that none of this would have been possible without his father.
This was topless night at PDTR, several late models and one Grand National car removing their roofs to hark back to the days of convertible racing. It was a new look and we wonder how many bugs were collected on their tear-off strips Saturday. Rick and son Taylor Scheffler won their heat races before the 25-lap feature, while Rick’s nephew Mitch McGrath suffered a flat tire and the race started while the crew was changing it in the work area. Chris Carlson and Jim Schmidt started ahead of Tony Peterson, Taylor and Rick Scheffler.
Carlson zoomed ahead at the green flag, repeating the move on the second lap after a car slowed on the track. That was the only slowdown of the race as Carlson left double rows of dueling competitors behind him. Jim Schmidt kept up to Carlson the whole time, with Mitch McGrath coming from the last row to third place to make his frustrating night much better. Tim Buhler improved from eighth to fourth and Taylor Scheffler hung on for a top five finish. Asked if the lack of a roof made any difference, Carlson claimed he didn’t change much on the car, but knew Schmidt was ready to challenge. “I knew he (Schmidt) was on my outside. My car was fast,” thanking the fans for coming to see the sight.
Don Sorce Jr. and brother Dan returned and won their respective Grand National heat races, with Brian Cesar claiming the other preliminary. Dick Hed was in charge of the B main that added the final four to the feature field. The 25-lap race invert placed Matt Loehr and Samantha Portschy in front of Brian Gilles, Cesar, Josh Pierce, Dan and Don Sorce. Loehr took charge of the 20-car field right away, but was slowed after four laps when fuel was leaking from the Gilles car. Again Loehr led the race until five laps remained. One car stopped on the track, and the Davis mount found a tire going down during the slowdown, reducing the field before the finish. Loehr posted his second win of the year with Cesar in pursuit to the final flag. Steven Weber came from eighth to third place, Mark Fieber from the fourth row to fourth place and Dan Sorce completed the top five.
Chad Vetting and newcomer Colten Van Hierden claimed the B Mod heats before the field was realigned for the 25-lap feature. Newcomer Jim Sheppard joined Brian Konitzer in the front row at feature time, followed by Larry Zirbel, Glen Blanke, Brandon Berth and Cody Eickberg. Sheppard led the opening laps with Berth taking charge before five circuits were complete. The barrier tires were knocked onto the race surface to cause the sole caution of the race on lap eleven. Van Hierden had begun in tenth place and worked up to the front by this time, taking the lead after the restart and holding on to the finish line. Berth, Jeremy Walvoord, Vetting and Justin Green completed the top five. Van Hierden had been to this track years ago, and really enjoyed his return.
A special treat of restored vintage modified cars showed up to race Saturday, with the original racer Carl Schultz returning to action to win his heat. It was quite a feat that all fifteen of the ancient machines finished the 15-lap feature, which was won by Jeremy Allard. By ten o’clock many of the retired racers were still telling tales along with their counterparts of today. For some reason the old days sounded like much more fun. Just a few more weeks are left before this season’s champions are crowned. It’s going to be quite a journey.
-Story & Photo by Fay Hendricks