Newmanstown, Pa. - The 2012 edition of PA 600 Speedweek kicked off in grand style on Saturday night at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway...especially if your name is Brock Zearfoss.
The Jonestown, Pa. resident roared to victory in the 30-lap Prelude to the Mania, the 600 Speedweek opener held on the eve of Micromania, which is the biggest and most lucrative event of the six race series.
With 60 entries competing on Saturday, Zearfoss took the green flag from the inside of the second row. Polesitter Shane Lewis pulled out to a healthy lead in the early stages, but lapped traffic played a major role in the outcome of the feature race.
The first 16 laps went clean and green, meaning the leaders caught the back of the field fairly quickly. Race leader Lewis, from Honeybrook, got stuck behind a big pack of slower cars - and that pack was using every inch of the banked oval.
Sparks began to fly from the right-rear corner of Lewis' machine as his brake rotor glowed orange-hot, and Zearfoss zeroed in on him.
Lewis remained committed to the top groove, while Zearfoss drove around the bottom lane. Their side-by-side battle for the top spot took place as they bobbed and weaved in and around the backmarkers, until Zearfoss found the opening he needed to edge in front of Lewis to take command.
The pass for the lead (and, as it turned out, for the win) occurred on lap twelve. With Zearfoss now in front, the first yellow flew after the 16th lap had been scored. Two additional caution periods did not hinder Zearfoss, as he utilized terrific restarts to jump away from Lewis and maintain the lead.
Zearfoss charged to the checkered flag, winning by more than 1.5 seconds over Lewis, who had to deal with Mike Dicely's assaults over the final few circuits. Lewis held off Dicely for runner-up honors, with Dicely, Robbie Kendall, Ryan Smith, and Jeff Hartman completing the top six at the finish.
Those drivers are now locked in to Sunday's Micromania Dash and A-Main. Provided there are at least 60 entries for night number two of the 600 Speedweek series, Sunday's 50-lap Micromania A-Main will pay $10,000 to win and $300 to take the green flag.
The 270cc Clash at the Clyde is also a part of the colossal weekend of competition, and Saturday night's Flash Before the Clash saw Richie Hartman register the triumph. It was Hartman's second 270cc victory of the season at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway, and he had to hold off four-time winner Mike Rutherford to record the win.
The top four finishers from each of the three heat races drew for starting positions in the 25-lap feature. Richie Hartman, from Temple, Pa., drew the pole and he used his good fortune to lead every one of the 25 revolutions.
With R. Hartman in front, Kyle Spence and Jeff Hartman dueled for the runner-up position. Rutherford, who rolled off the grid in tenth, was slicing his way forward; he was up to fifth by lap six, then motored into the fourth spot on the ninth trip around the clay.
After a yellow flag halted the original start, the 24-car field clicked off 16 consecutive laps under green before the second caution appeared when Rebecca LaMothe suffered mechanical problems and stopped in turn four.
On the restart, Rutherford blasted around the outside of J. Hartman for third. With six to go, he ducked under Spence to grab second. The opportunity he needed came with three laps remaining, when the yellow flew for the final time, putting Rutherford on the tail tank of the leader for the restart.
R. Hartman fought off the attack as the race went back to green, but Rutherford gave it one last shot on the final lap, diving under Hartman in turns three and four. He got a bit sideways in four, allowing Hartman to pull away and notch the win.
Chasing R. Hartman and Rutherford to the stripe were Jeff Hartman, Lee Reinhardt, and Jesse Maurer. The top four finishers are now locked into Sunday's Dash and A-Main.
*Saturday night's win was the second in a row for Zearfoss, following up Friday's victory at Linda's Speedway.
*Jeff Hartman, Flagtown, NJ, is the only driver to lock himself into both of Sunday's Dash events and A-Mains (600cc and 270cc).
*J. Hartman will not enter all of this year's PA 600 Speedweek events due to the fact he's getting married on Tuesday, July 3.
*Australia's Charlie Brown, driving a brand new Hyper assembled during the past week, appeared to have a qualifying spot locked up in the B-Main on Saturday. Mechancial gremlins, however, forced him out of the B with just a few laps left to run.
*Shred Racing Photos Hard Chargers from Saturday night: 600cc = Eric Bodine; in the 270cc Class, the Hard Charger went to Billy Logeman.
*Saturday's car count: 270cc = 29; the 600cc = 60.
600cc Feature Finish, 30 laps: 1.Brock Zearfoss, 2.Shane Lewis, 3.Mike Dicely, 4.Robbie Kendall, 5.Ryan Smith, 6.Jeff Hartman, 7.Joe B. Miller, 8.Jared Esh, 9.Danny Wykes, 10.Austin Ely, 11.Richie Hartman, 12.Eric Bodine, 13.Tyler Esh, 14.James Morris, 15.Jeff Halligan, 16.Peter Michael, 17.Joe Smith, 18.Tyler Walton, 19.Jeff Stelter, 20.Brian Carber, 21.Tyler DeVault, 22.Kyle Lick, 23.Mike Rutherford, 24.Jimmy Brookens.
270cc Feature Finish, 25 laps: 1.Richie Hartman, 2.Mike Rutherford, 3.Jeff Hartman, 4.Lee Reinhardt, 5.Jesse Maurer, 6.Billy Logeman, 7.Zack Fouse, 8.Brayden Winters, 9.Shane Lewis, 10.Justin Harrington, 11.Dave Dornblaser, 12.Charles Hellinger, 13.Brett Estep, 14.Christi Sweigart, 15.Dave Grube, 16.Ricky Sechrist Jr., 17.Kyle Spence, 18.Toby Blumenshine, 19.Jason Swavely, 20.Rebecca LaMothe, 21.Ryan Morris, 22.Nate Weidman, 23.Randy Oswald, 24.Brian Marriott.