A promising-sized crowd of fans entered the 1/3-mile asphalt facility located in Northeast Pennsylvania now known as Evergreen Raceway Park. Those that showed up were treated to an entertaining night of racing, despite a lower turnout of cars in the pit area. This was the first tryout for an idea to move the track’s program to Friday night in order to attract some additional competitors that may run at neighboring tracks on what was the originally planned Saturday night schedule for the summer months.
The Late Model feature proved that there technically only needs to be two cars to make for a good race. Former Street Stock competitor Steve Shultz remained on the back bumper of 2013 track champion Mitch Hawk for several laps before pulling along the outside to go for the lead. On the white flag lap, the two made contact and both spun in turn one. It set up a one lap duel to the finish with Shultz prevailing as he powered by on the outside of Hawk.
“Mitch and I ran Street Stocks for years and years together,” noted Shultz. “We raced really hard tonight. With two cars being out there it was definitely an exciting race. I was trying to save it there towards the end and it definitely worked out there to try and get him on the outside. We had an incident coming into one and it was definitely a racing deal.”
While the excitement factor was high, everyone was certainly hoping more Late Models would be on hand. Shultz, among others, didn’t have a solution for why the general number of them at the track has declined in the region in recent years, but was aware of many reasons that competitors could possibly be keeping their cars in the garages.
“It costs just as much to run one of these as it does a Modified, if not more considering the body and everything else,” Shultz said. “It’s tough. Nowadays with economy the way it is, nothing you can do but hope for the best and try to keep asphalt racing going.”
While some track regulars were noticeably missing, the night change brought in some new faces for 2014. Dave Brigati came over from Long Island to contend for the win in the Tour-type Modified feature and later won the shortened Sport Modified feature. However, it was track veteran Jerry Hildebrand who held off Brigati for the Tour-type Mod victory.
Cody Geist came over from Mahoning Valley Speedway and took home a bonus for being the top finishing Four Cylinder car from the track. Included in that feature was a good amount of door to door racing. Winner John Banashefski referred to it as “definitely the most fun I’ve had racing all year” in victory lane.
Additional winners for the night were Randy Schlenker in the Street Stocks and Tom Casagrande in the Pure Stocks.
Despite some growing pains, track management is forging ahead with the immediate plan to continue running on Friday nights.
By Aaron Creed
Photo Credit: Speed51.com