When Plymouth Dirt Track Racing people tell you it’s not raining, believe them. We left out home with ominous weather an hour away to spend a rain-free Saturday night at the races. Over ninety entries filled the pits with the Outlaw Compact field getting the cash bonus this week. The kids had a penny grab as well as the weekly bike giveaway, and the huge 50-50 pot went to someone other than us, as usual.
Bret Sievert came out of retirement again to drive Jason Enoch’s late model, since Enoch injured his back at work. The heats were won by Justin Schmidt and T. J. Dolhun, and the top sixteen in passing points were redrawn for feature positions. The 25-lap main was headed by Ron Stroika, Dave Thomas, Jim Letizia, Tim Buhler, Jim Schmidt and Kyle Odekirk at the drop of the green flag, with Thomas ahead on the first lap. Buhler zoomed into the lead on the second time around, holding on to the checkered flag. It wasn’t easy. Both Schmidt machines got sideways with Brian Gilles to force the first slowdown after eleven laps were complete. Billy Rezutek joined the field at this point, only to be shown the black flag because he did not take the green flag. With little to no crew, Rezutek’s night ended in frustration.
The restart ended in another caution when someone bobbled and caused a ripple effect that ended with father and son Ted and T. J. Dolhun colliding and leaving on the hook. The next green flag stayed out for four circuits before a spun car brought back the yellow flag, and another four circuits were complete when the next yellow waved. The contest ended in a six-lap dash with Buhler knowing he was being chased to the checkered flag. Behind him was Mitch McGrath from the fourth row, followed by Odekirk, Jim Letizia and Russ Scheffler. The soft-spoken winner was heard to say it helped to start in the front, and had praises for the track preparation, his crew and sponsors. Buhler later told your scribe about finding that sweet spot on the cushion and holding his line.
The sprint car field found misfortune right away when Justin Miller’s mount rolled over in the first heat. The driver was fine, later returning with someone else’s wing atop his mount. Randy Walter, Chris Clayton, Scott Conger and Brandon McMullen won the heat races, but Tim Haddy had problems that forced him to the pits at the start of his heat. Haddy came out for the B main and found a deflating tire before the start. His crew quickly ran to the work area to change the rubber, but the two minute time limit expired just as the field was taking the green flag, and Haddy was not allowed to enter the track. Jason Johnson led the final six who progressed from the B main.
The 25-lap main began with Danny Schlafer and Josh Walter in front of Donny Goeden, Chris Clayton, Tim Melis and Jim Melis. Twenty-two engines roared to life as the green flag waved, with Schlafer leading the way. Two laps were complete when a spun car regrouped the field. Schlafer again was in charge until suddenly slowing and recovering as Goeden got past on the tenth lap. Two laps later Goeden began lapping the back markers. Another three circuits were complete when suddenly Jim Melis caught someone’s tire and flew head-on into the outer wall, bounced off the catch fence and flipped over. Everything came to a halt as the safety crew attended the driver, who received grateful applause from the hushed crowd when put onto a stretcher and leaving in an ambulance for a checkup. Fans at this oval are very respectful and pay due homage to their drivers, and were very relieved to hear Melis was alert before being transported.
Sixteen cars were left at the next green flag, but only two more laps were completed before a spun car forced another caution. The ensuing green was quickly replaced with the yellow when Kurt Davis ended his top run with a flat tire. The final seven circuits ran caution-free, with Goeden tailed by Schlafer and McMullen improving from his eighth place start. Josh Walter and Doug Wondra completed the top five. Goeden took a reverse victory lap with the checkered flag before parking in front of the grandstands and climbing atop his wing to give high fives to the cheering crowd. Celebrating his fourth win this year, Goeden claimed, “Brad Mueller always says drive it like you stole it, and I did. I hope Jim Melis is okay.” Asked about track conditions, Goeden replied, “The track is good all over.”
The Outlaw Compact heats were won by Chris Maas and Scott Schlafke. The 20-lap feature started with Cody Pankow and Brian Chiminatti in the front, followed by Donnie Welch, Jonathan Otte, Schlafke and Maas. Pankow led the first two circuits, which ended when a car slid sideways. The next attempt ended with Otte’s car caught in a tangle with others, but things calmed down after this. The next green flag stayed out until the end as Brody Rivest came from seventh to the lead on the third circuit. Lapping the others before the halfway mark, Rivest celebrated his win with a reverse victory lap and parked in front of the stands. After wrecking his initial car weeks earlier, Rivest has been using his grandfather’s enduro car. This was the last night Rivest would be in the machine, for he had to give the car back. Rivest later told me when he returns it will be in his first mount with major repairs and a paint job.
Brad Lubach, Brandon Frank and Dan Sorce won the Grand National heats and Ben Konen led the four transferees from the B main. Frequent winner Don Sorce Jr. was knocked out of his heat race and finished fifth in the B, but joined the back of the feature field as an alternate when another scratched from the race. The 25-lap feature field was headed by Steven Weber, Frank, Brad Lubach, Roger Lee, Barry Maas, Dan Sorce and Jeff Lammers. Weber had the point when a cluster of cars ended in a tangle after seven circuits. A couple cars left with flat tires, but only one made it back in time for the restart.
Lee soon forged his way into the lead and stayed there as the others fought for their positions. With nine laps remaining a spun car brought a slowdown, with the regrouped field slowed the next circuit after several cars tangled. Another pair of cars left with flat tires, one for the second time. Every caution found Don Sorce gaining more ground from the back of the 20-car field, and he soon was in the top five. The race got up to speed and was heading to the white flag when more spun cars forced the final restart.
The dash to the finish line saw Lee ahead of the Sorce brothers, Dan and Don, with Mark Fieber and Aaron Stolp completing the top five. “The track was just beautiful,” claimed Lee from victory lane, adding, “I could just go as hard as I wanted.” Lee was asked how long it took for him to get here from much further south, to which Lee responded, “Seventy minutes.” Whether he uses his racing skills to drive the distance quicker than most, we will leave to conjecture.
There were eight spectators competing against each other in pairs before the night was complete just before curfew time. When we return it will be the month of August and suddenly there will be a rush to the end of the season.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.com)
Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks.