Newmanstown, Pa. - Jared Esh is living proof that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
The Lancaster, Pa. teen, son of 410 Sprint Car driver Doug Esh (who got his start in Micro-Sprints at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway), picked up his first career 600cc victory - in just his first full season in that division - on Saturday at the Clyde.
While Esh's victory was a career first, Manheim's Heath Hehnly heaved a giant gorilla off his back - and the backs of his entire team - by scoring the 270cc triumph. It was Hehnly's first win, in any Micro-Sprint class, of the season, ending a long and unusual dry spell for him.
Other drivers who recorded victories on Saturday included Bradley Brown (125cc); Curtis R. Miller (Sportsman); and Ryan Morris (270cc Four-Stroke).
Jared Esh certainly has a racer's pedigree; there's got to be methanol in his DNA. It was just two years ago, in his first full season of competition in any type of racecar, that Esh proved he was capable of winning as he earned Lanco's Rookie of the Year distinction in the 270cc Four-Stroke Class.
The very next season, 2011, the high school student nicknamed "Rock" captured the Four-Stroke point title over established veterans such as Chip Geib and Craig DeSantis. His success in that division prompted a decision to make the jump into the ground-pounding 600's for 2012.
The learning curve has been steep; one of the lessons in hard knocks occurred during the PA 600 Speedweek event at Path Valley on July 2nd, when Esh barrel-rolled violently down the backstretch. He was okay, but the car was a mess.
Fast-forward to last Saturday night, August 18...back at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway, where he won that Four-Stroke Championship. Esh finished second in his heat race, and his three-week point average placed him on the pole for the 25-lap main event. He may be young and relatively inexperienced, but Jared Esh knows how to capitalize on a great starting spot.
Esh bolted to the lead as the first nine circuits went clean and green. Jered Hook and Tyler Esh (a cousin to Jared) battled for second until the second, and final, caution flag was displayed with eight laps remaining.
On the restart, Hook decided to try the bottom in an effort to wrestle the lead away from Esh. "We were just playing follow the leader," stated Hook afterward. "I had to try the bottom or just ride around and settle for second."
Unfortunately for Hook, the risk he took by attempting an inside move actually cost him the runner-up spot, as Tyler Esh motored around him as they blasted off turn two.
Jared Esh maintained control of the race - the two yellows were timely, as they waved just as the leader was catching the back of the field - and went on to beat Tyler Esh by half-a-second as they flashed under the checkered flag. Jered Hook ended up third, with Heath Hehnly and Chris Gerhart completing the top five.
Jim Radney, Mike Coen, and Hehnly won heat races for the 29 cars. Brent Ely notched the consolation victory.
Heath Hehnly is used to winning races, championships, and running up front on a consistent basis in the 600cc and 270cc Classes. But 2012 has been a struggle for the Manheim throttle-jockey in both divisions, with a multitude of issues - both mechanical and just plain bad luck - hampering his efforts. Saturday night's run in the 270cc feature might be a turning point, though...
Hehnly wheeled Gary Miller's Gold Rush Trailer Sales No. 82 to his first triumph of the season, utilizing the high groove to build a comfortable lead, then held that advantage to the finish.
Taking the initial green from the outside of row one, Hehnly jumped into the lead immediately over polesitter Nate Weidman. As Heath cruised out front, a four-car tussle developed for the second position, with Chip Geib, Richie Hartman, Jason Swavely, and Nick Skias (who started eleventh) fighting for the runner-up slot.
On lap thirteen, Skias slipped past Hartman on the homestretch, then ducked under Geib in turn one to grab second.
The second half of the event was highlighted by a crowd-pleasing duel for fourth between Jason Swavely and Mike Rutherford. The duo traded slide jobs at both ends of the speedway, never touching, but taking turns squeezing up in front of one another while the other wheel-twister crossed over to the bottom lane so they could do it all over again in the next two corners. Swavely eventually secured the position after he and Rutherford wore out the spectators with their terrific battle.
Hehnly crossed the finish line with an advantage of 0.404-seconds over N. Skias, while Hartman, Swavely, and Rutherford nailed down third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.
Swavely, Toby Blumenshine, and Rutherford won the 270cc heats as 29 drivers entered the night's activity. The consolation race went to Billy Logeman.
Dave Grube has suffered through some rotten luck in the 125cc Class, and it continued on Saturday night.
Grube started on the pole (evidence of his recent streak of bad luck) of the 25-lapper, and led the way through three caution periods during the first twelve trips around the banked oval.
Eleventh-starting Richie Hartman, the point leader and five-time winner, worked his way to second as the field went back to green, one lap prior to the halfway mark. Hartman began his assault on the race leader, pulling even with Grube as they charged down the homechute. Near the end of the straightaway, the engine in Grube's mount suddenly expired and his car lurched to the left, making contact that threw Hartman's No. 29 into a spin. Hartman was able to restart, but Grube was forced to retire.
Bradley Brown inherited the lead at that point, and the New Providence, Pa. driver made the most of his golden opportunity. Brown has endured some tough luck of his own this season, but he shook off the gremlins on Saturday to win his first of the year over three-time victor Shane Braxton.
The move of the night - in any of the five divisions - came on the final circuit of the 125cc feature. As Ken Miller and Nick Sweigart battled furiously for third, running side by side as they exited turn four and headed for the checkered, Kyle Hehnly seemingly came out of nowhere on the high side of the race track. Hehnly had just enough room to squeeze by Miller and Sweigart at the stripe, claiming third place by inches in a three-wide scramble. Sweigart edged Miller for fourth in the incredible three-abreast finish.
Braxton and Kory Merkey were victorious in the two heat races contested by the 19-car field of 125cc Micros.
One week earlier, during the Clyde Martin Memorial Race on August 11, contact with a lapped car cost Curtis R. Miller an almost certain victory. The teenager, while very disappointed on the inside, appeared to let the misfortune roll off his back with an outward disposition of, "oh well, we'll get 'em next week." And you know what? That attitude paid off, because the Mertztown, Pa. driver did indeed "get 'em next week."
Miller, who notched his first career Micro-Sprint triumph on May 12 of this year, roared from his pole starting spot to set the pace in Saturday's Sportsman feature while a couple of his teammates, Ken Miller (Curtis' uncle) and Jason Swavely wrestled for the runner-up position. Ken Miller first had to deal with Matt Abers, and that was an entertaining battle until K. Miller gained the spot and Swavely passed Abers for third.
With his nephew out front, Ken Miller and Swavely weaved their way in and out of lapped traffic as they raced one another. Swavely finally claimed the position, then set his sights on Curtis R. and the lead.
Lapped traffic again played a factor as C. Miller and Swavely fought for the top spot. At one point, Miller bounced off a slower car as the two of them, along with Swavely, battled for the same piece of real estate in turn three. The impact shoved Miller's No. 7R up and into Swavely, but the leaders were able to continue and Miller kept the lead. He used momentum from the high groove to repel each challenge from Swavely and finally reached the finish with a margin of nearly a quarter-second over the defending Sportsman Class champion.
Ken Miller wound up third, with current point leader Bret Habecker and Sheena Logeman finishing fourth and fifth.
Sportsman heats were won by Kerry Lengle and Dean Spangler, Jr., as 19 drivers entered the evening's competition.
Ryan Morris won his third main event of the season in Saturday's 270cc Four-Stroke feature, and he did it in relatively dominating fashion.
Kim Enck flew from fourth on the starting grid to grab the lead from Kenny Miller III on the opening tour. Morris, who took the green from the outside of row six, blazed a path to the front of the pack, zipping past Eddie Nocera and Chip Geib to secure second after a restart with four laps complete.
Morris, from Honeybrook, Pa., darted past Enck to take command off of turn four as lap eight was about to be scored. Chip Geib stole second away from Enck at the halfway point, but even a yellow flag with three to go could not alter the outcome as Morris eased away from Geib on the restart.
Morris pulled away to win by 1.606-seconds over Geib, with Enck nipping Craig DeSantis for third at the stripe. Kory Shissler earned fifth-place money.
The pair of Four-Stroke heat races were captured by Enck and Morris.
Another five division card of high speed adventure is slated for this Saturday, August 25, as the 600cc, 270cc, 125cc, Sportsman, and 270cc Four-Stroke Micro-Sprints slug it out in qualifying heats, consolations, and 25-lap feature races. Gates open at 3:30, with warm-ups beginning at 5 p.m. The first heat race goes green at 6:00.
Less than two weeks remain before one of Lanco's biggest events of the year, the annual Labor Day Shootout, takes center stage. The huge two-day extravaganza of Micro-Sprint action is set for Saturday, September 1st and Sunday, September 2nd, with the same time schedule as listed above. And this year, for the first time, there's a new wrinkle in the holiday weekend's agenda...
On Saturday, the format calls for dual heat races (utilizing a passing points system), last chance qualifiers, and 30-lap main events for four divisions: the winged 600cc; Sportsman; 270cc Four-Stroke; and 250cc Stock Class (from Airport Speedway). All of the qualifying races and main events will be run on Saturday, with $1,000 going to the winner of the winged 600cc A-Main (as long as a minimum of 45 cars are entered at race time).
Sunday, September 2nd, will see a similar format as the one being used the previous night. On Sunday, however, the classes competing will be the 270cc; 125cc; and Wingless 600cc. As long as 45 or more cars are entered (in each class), the 270cc and wingless 600cc A-Mains will pay $1,000 to win.
Camping is allowed for the Labor Shootout weekend, provided arrangements are made in advance - see details on the track's website at www.lancomicrosprint.com.
Kids Fun Day will be a part of the festivities on both Saturday and Sunday of the Labor Day Shootout, with games, activities, and prizes for the youthful race fans in attendance that weekend.
600cc Micro-Sprints, 25 laps: 1.Jared Esh, 2.Tyler Esh, 3.Jered Hook, 4.Heath Hehnly, 5.Chris Gerhart, 6.Mike Rutherford, 7.Jeff Halligan, 8.Jim Radney, 9.Jeff Stelter, 10.Mike Dicely, 11.Shaun Brandel, 12.Mike Coen, 13.Eric Bodine, 14.Mark Yoder, 15.Brent Ely, 16.Travis Esh, 17.Rick Perone, 18.Danny Wykes, 19.Devin Gundrum, 20.Chris Panczner, 21.Peter Michael, 22.Jon Stewart, 23.Kory Merkey. DNS: Jeff Anderson.
270cc Micro-Sprints, 25 laps: 1.Heath Hehnly, 2.Nick Skias, 3.Richie Hartman, 4.Jason Swavely, 5.Mike Rutherford, 6.Jesse Maurer, 7.Billy Logeman, 8.Chip Geib, 9.Ryan Morris, 10.Brian Sholley, 11.Zach Fouse, 12.Justin Harrington, 13.Mike Miller, 14.Christi Sweigart, 15.Kyle Spence, 16.Mike Uhrich, 17.Rebecca LaMothe, 18.Mike Skias, 19.Charles Hellinger, 20.Terry Ellex, 21.Shaun Brandel, 22.Toby Blumenshine, 23.Dave Grube, 24.Nate Weidman.
125cc Micro-Sprints, 25 laps: 1.Bradley Brown, 2.Shane Braxton, 3.Kyle Hehnly, 4.Nick Sweigart, 5.Ken Miller, 6.Brianna Gerhart, 7.Richie Hartman, 8.Felisha Kirlin, 9.Darren Miller, 10.Dylan Adams, 11.Daniel Braun, 12.James Wampole, 13.Dave Grube, 14.Trevor Shirk, 15.Brent Shearer, 16.Kory Merkey, 17.Derek Ecenrode, 18.Jesse Maurer, 19.Walt Wampole.
Sportsman Micro-Sprints, 25 laps: 1.Curtis R. Miller, 2.Jason Swavely, 3.Ken Miller, 4.Bret Habecker, 5.Sheena Logeman, 6.Tim Ziegler, 7.Matt Abers, 8.Dean Spangler Jr., 9.Wesley Fasnacht, 10.Jeff Hughes, 11.Robert Shanaman, 12.Kerry Lengle, 13.Vince Malcom, 14.Jenna Heagy, 15.Dennis Fenstermacher, 16.Jordan Stites, 17.Brian Becker, 18.Dave Kemp, 19.Corey Schmuck.
270cc Four-Stroke Micro-Sprints, 25 laps: 1.Ryan Morris, 2.Chip Geib, 3.Kim Enck, 4.Craig DeSantis, 5.Kory Shissler, 6.Kenny Miller III, 7.Steve Smith Sr., 8.Greg Schmuck, 9.Ronald Good, 10.Sheila Fetter, 11.Eddie Nocera, 12.Cody Kreger, 13.Lewis Kepple Jr., 14.Donna Geib.