Plymouth Dirt Track Racing began with sunny skies and ended under the stars, but the racing stars provided the action that keeps fans coming back. The night’s feature rotation kept people in their seats until the end of the program as all five divisions had completed their events by 9:30. During opening ceremonies Jason Johnson carried the black flag for a memorial lap honoring Billy “Schwartz” Johnson III, who lost his battle with cancer last week. Racing heritage runs deep in the Johnson family. Billy Johnson was instrumental in the building of Slinger Speedway, and Billy Johnson Jr. was one of the stars and champions during the early years. Jason’s other famous racing grandfather is Bob Robel, who also claimed titles in the old big-engine winged modified cars.
The Grand National heat races were won by Barry Maas, Mark Fieber and Tim Simon, and all 21 entries made the 25-lap feature. The redraw placed Maas and Fieber in front of Don Sorce Jr., Kevin Lubach, Brian Gilles, Brad Lubach, Jeff Lammers and Roger Lee. Maas got ahead at the green flag, but a spun car forced a restart after three laps were complete. Three more restarts for minor events made things challenging for Maas, the final time six laps from the finish. Dogged by Roger Lee and Sorce Jr. the whole time, Maas forced himself to stop looking in his mirror and just drive. Sorce got past Lee before the finish line, with Lammers and Gilles completing the top five.
An incident resulted in a black flag for Kevin Lubach early in the race, and Brad Lubach was the final retiree three laps from the finish. Maas was happy to complete his sweep Saturday, stating, “I kept my eyes on the 10 (Lee) and 99 (Sorce). It turned out good.” Talking about his car, Maas added, “I started out slow and we’ve been busting our butts trying to make it get better.” Mission accomplished.
The Outlaw Compact heat race was won by Brody Rivest and the 15-lap feature was led all the way by Scott Schlafke. Schlafke started in the front row, but was challenged by Rivest and Chris Maas in the caution-free contest. Taking a reverse victory lap on his way to the infield, Schlafke was asked about his license plate declaring “Lucky 7”. The winner claimed, “This is actually an asphalt car I bought years ago.”
The wingless Super Modified cars returned to action with Johnny Fahl winning the heat and starting on the pole of the 15-lap feature. Fahl led the pack until a stalled car forced the field to regroup after six orbits. The next green flag was followed by Butchie Hafemann riding the high line and finding just enough footing to take the lead two laps later. The race was completed quickly with Hafemann and Fahl followed by Bob Brion, Roy Stern and Randy Ostermann Jr. The second win in a row for Hafemann was greatly appreciated, the victor exclaiming, “Before the last win it was 1981 when I won here. I never won two in a row, though.” Later Hafemann showed he was wearing late model racer Brad Mueller apparel, thinking it may have brought him luck, and pointed out most of the night’s winners were the same as the last time he was here.
The Sprint Car heats were won by Kurt Davis, Jim Melis and Paul Pokorski, and the B main ended with Shane Wenninger heading the final six feature entries. The 22-car field began with Jim Melis and Davis in front of Robbie Pribnow, Pokorski, Tony Wondra, Tim Haddy and Dannon Tessmer. Melis enjoyed the view at the front until the first caution on lap eight. Donny Goeden had to start in the sixth row due to last week’s win, reaching fourth place by this time. When the next green flag waved, Goeden launched his car high up the track and was leading the race the next time around. Haddy caught up to Goeden just as the leader came upon the back of the pack. Goeden maneuvered through the slower mounts and stretched out his lead again. Davis and Pokorski also had strong runs at the front as the race neared completion.
With three laps remaining second-place Davis had slight contact with Nick Melis that ended with both spinning and being towed to the pits with damage. The field regrouped a final time and Goeden stayed ahead of Pokorski, Haddy, Chris Clayton from the eighth row, and Johnson from the fifth row. Parking in front of the grandstands and climbing to his wing, Goeden shared his joy with the audience.
Asked about the restart at the end, Goeden replied,” I don’t know. I saw Tim Haddy up there and thought I’d better go. I don’t mind starting back there. It’s a good show for the fans. There are a lot of good cars here.”
The late model field capped off the night with a memorable race. Rookie Taylor Scheffler, who won his first feature a night ago, won the first heat race and Tim Buhler took the next win. The 25-lap feature inversion placed Billy Rezutek and Brad Mueller in front of TJ Dolhun, Turk Letizia, Rick and Taylor Scheffler. To no one’s surprise, Mueller launched his car into the lead right away and led the nonstop race to the checkered flag. Amid lapped cars, Mueller notched another win this year, but Dolhun gave a strong challenge all the way in his father’s backup car. Rezutek hung on for third place, with Taylor and father Rick Scheffler completing the top five. “It’s a good thing I could see the scoreboard,” said Mueller, “The 21 (Dolhun) was there the whole time. I found near the end there was a little bit of moisture at the bottom. I wish I could have found that earlier.”
There was a bit of chill in the air by 9:30, but most of us were in light jackets at the end of the program. Warmer weather and rain was due the next day, but Saturday was wonderful.
-By Fay Hendricks. Photo credit: Fay Hendricks