Newmanstown, Pa. - July 2 - It was only fitting that the final race of the 2011 PA 600 Speedweek came down to the final turns of the final lap before the winner was decided.
Honeybrook, Pa. chauffeur Shane Lewis held off a determined bid by Mike Rutherford to narrowly win the $3,000 Micromania event at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway on Saturday night.
The 270 Clash at the Clyde went to Billy Logeman, Lititz, Pa., who took seized the opportunity when leader Richie Hartman suffered mechanical woes, then went on to earn the $1,050 winner's share in the Clash.
An amazing field of 62 entered the 600cc Micromania event, with drivers from various parts of the U.S. and even Australia joining the best 600cc throttle-jockeys in the northeast.
A dual heat race format, utilizing a passing points system, was used to pare the field down to 26 cars that took the green in the 50-lap A-Main.
Lewis, by virtue of winning both his heat races and earning more qualifying points than anyone else, started on the Micromania pole. The Honeybrook Hustler blasted to the early lead over Ryan Wilson, as Mike Rutherford and Tim Buckwalter battled side-by-side for third position.
The first ten circuits were caution-free, but trouble loomed as Lewis and Wilson caught the back of the pack and began to put those cars a lap down. Australian pilot Ben McCleod appeared to slow and attempted to drop low on the track as Lewis and Wilson closed in on the backstretch. Lewis got by, but McCleod and Wilson got together, with both cars sliding to the infield. Both drivers were able to fire up and restart, but the yellow caused by their tangle put Wilson to the rear.
As the first half of the race clicked off in rapid fashion, Lewis controlled the pace. Rutherford finally slipped past Buckwalter for second on lap 18 and began his pursuit of the leader.
A "competition caution" slowed the field at the halfway point, as the mandatory fuel stop/adjustment period took place on the front stretch, in full view of the large and enthusiastic crowd.
With the halftime break completed, the green reappeared and Lewis bolted away from Rutherford. The racing behind the lead duo was intense, as Buckwalter, Ryan Smith, Brian Carber, Mike Dicely, Luke Thomas, Tyler Ross, Eric Bodine, and Oklahoman Chris Bell were swapping positions and trading slide jobs on one another at both ends of the race track. Carber, Dicely, Thomas, and Ross waged a furious four-car battle royale for the fifth spot over two-thirds of the distance.
As the laps dwindled and Lewis again closed in on lapped traffic, Rutherford sliced away at the gap between himself and the leader. Less than five revolutions remained when Rutherford pulled up to Lewis' rear bumper.
Lewis was firmly planted in the high groove, so Rutherford had no choice but to dive to the bottom and attempt to drive up in front of Lewis as they exited the corners. With the lapped car of Tony Dimattia directly in front of them, Lewis and Rutherford raced wheel to wheel through the turns, then Lewis would pull ahead slightly on the straightaways.
On the final tour, Rutherford pulled even in three and four, but Lewis had just enough speed left in his Baro Trucking, RAMM Trailers, Lewis Automotive, Hyper to squeeze out the victory over Rutherford by 0.136 seconds.
"The yellows definitely helped me throughout the race," stated the victor. "It seemed as though I'd get a yellow each time I closed in on lapped traffic. There at the end, though, I wasn't sure which lane to pick to try and get around the No. 5D. I didn't want to choose the wrong lane and let Mike get by me."
"The car was awesome tonight, and I've got to credit the car and the engine, which is a combination of Spar and my dad," explained Lewis, the Penn State engineering student who was co-champion of the 2009 PA 600 Speedweek series.
"I should have gone to the bottom earlier," noted Rutherford, "but Shane deserves this; he drove a great race. He was really good on restarts and just drove away from us. Gary and Rose Hunter gave me a great car, though, and I'm happy with second."
Buckwalter wound up third, with Smith and Carber completing the top five.
Jeff Hartman had to qualify through the B-Main, then started 25th in the 50-lap A-Main. He persevered to finish tenth, clinching the PA 600 Speedweek Championship by 21 points over Buckwalter.
Polesitter Zack Fouse set the pace for most of the 270 Clash at the Clyde, but he had fourth-starting Richie Hartman and current Clyde Martin 270cc point leader Dave Grube on his tail for much of the first 15 trips around the high banked oval.
Hartman snatched the lead away from Fouse on a restart with ten to go and the ensuing shuffle found Billy Logeman weave his way to second. Fouse and Jesse Maurer, who started tenth, dueled for third with Grube falling back to fifth.
Only four circuits remained when Hartman's motor went sour, handing the top spot to Logeman. Maurer was now the runner-up, repeatedly showing his nose to Logeman in the corners. But Logeman used his momentum off the high side of the banking to stay in front, pulling ahead of Maurer on the final lap to win by three-tenths of a second over the Mount Joy Outlaw.
For Logeman, the Racin' Mason from Lititz, the triumph was his second of the season at the Clyde, but this one definitely was his biggest payday.
"At the beginning, the car was not good up high, and it was even worse down on the bottom. So I decided that I had to stay up high," said Logeman in victory lane. "I saw Jesse's nose at the end, so I took away his line on the last lap."
Forty-three of the 270's signed in for competition in the Clash at the Clyde. Following Logeman and Maurer to the stripe were Grube, Heath Hehnly, and Fouse.
Australians Ben McCleod and Jason Pryde participated in the entire Speedweek tour, with McCleod in an Eagle Chassis and Pryde in a Hyper. McCleod, in his second consecutive PA 600 Speedweek, looked right at home on the Keystone State speedways and finished 12th in the overall Speedweek points.
Billy Lawhead and Chris Bell made the jaunt from Oklahoma to compete in this year's Speedweek. Bell, fresh off his $10,000 triumph at Southern Illinois Raceway on June 25, fared better than Lawhead during the week. At Micromania, the 16-year-old from Norman, OK, captured the B-Main, then climbed from 21st to run in the top ten before settling for a 12th place finish in the A-Main.
Texas' Tyson Hall entered some of the Speedweek events, including Micromania at Clyde Martin, and finished a strong second to Ryan Greth at Path Valley on June 27. Hall was leading the C-Main at Lanco, but was sent to the rear after he accelerated too early on a restart. He rebounded to finish eighth, missing the transfer to the B-Main by two spots.
Steve Russell, from Springfield, Illinois, also competed in his second straight PA 600 Speedweek. Driving an Eagle Chassis, Russell claimed the final qualifying position in the C-Main, but could not transfer out of the B and into the A-Main.
Interesting to note that, with Lewis' victory in the Micromania A-Main, every one of the six Speedweek features were won by drivers in Hyper Chassis out of Mike Dicely's shop in Lewisberry, Pa. The 2011 Speedweek Champion, Jeff Hartman, also steers a Hyper.
Saturday, July 9, Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway returns to action with its normal weekly menu of 600cc, 270cc, 125cc, Sportsman, and 250cc Four-Stroke Micro-Sprints competing in qualifying heats, consolations, and 25-lap features. The main events will be recorded by Blue Ridge Cable 11; the broadcast is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, July 10.
On Saturday, gates will open at 3:30 with warm-ups slated for 5 p.m. The first heat race goes green at 6:00.
600cc Micromania Feature, 50 laps: 1.Shane Lewis, 2.Mike Rutherford, 3.Tim Buckwalter, 4.Ryan Smith, 5.Brian Carber, 6.Luke Thomas, 7.Heath Hehnly, 8.Tyler Ross, 9.Tyler Walton, 10.Jeff Hartman, 11.A.J. Michael, 12.Chris Bell, 13.Mike Dicely, 14.Ryan Wilson, 15.Tyler Esh, 16.Eric Bodine, 17.Ryan Greth, 18.Tim Dietz, 19.Brett Schoenly, 20.Kyle Lick, 21.Tyler DeVault, 22.Tony Dimattia, 23.Brock Zearfoss, 24.Kameron Morral, 25.Jimmy Brookens, 26.Ben McCleod.
270cc Clash at the Clyde, 25 laps: 1.Billy Logeman, 2.Jesse Maurer, 3.Dave Grube, 4.Heath Hehnly, 5.Zack Fouse, 6.Brian Marriott, 7.Ryan Smith, 8.Brayden Winters, 9.Marco Michetti, 10.Greg Miller, 11.Mike Dicely, 12.Mike Rutherford, 13.Brian Sholley, 14.Cameron Bellinger, 15.Bret Guzik, 16.Christi Sweigart, 17.Dave Falini, 18.Pete Skias, 19.Tyler Reinhardt, 20.Richie Hartman, 21.Jason Swavely, 22.Nick Skias, 23.Josh Stoyer, 24.Justin Harrington.