Newmanstown, Pa - Saturday was Fan Appreciation Night at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway, and it just may have been the biggest bargain in local motorsports.
For just $1.00 (Adult General Admission price), fans were treated to many giveaway items, the chance to have their photo taken with one of the feature winners in victory lane, and they got to witness some terrific action presented by the 127 race teams that entered the evening's program.
James Morris, from Riegelsville, Pa., captured his second consecutive 600cc triumph, once again thrilling the large crowd with his rim-riding, on-the-edge driving style. But the "feel good stories" of the night belonged to a couple of Micro-Sprint veterans who visited the winner's circle for the first time in many, many years.
Mike Uhrich, a resident of Lebanon, Pa., held off a talented field of 270cc racers to notch his first victory since 2003 - an 11-year drought. And Mohnton's Eddie Nocera, who began racing at the Clyde's 250cc Four-Stroke division in 1994, finally registered the first win - of his career - in the 25-lap main event for the Four-Strokes.
Darren Miller recorded his second triumph of the year (he also won the season opener) in the 125cc feature, and Bret Habecker was victorious in the Sportsman Class headliner.
Jared Esh, Millersville, snatched the top spot from Rebecca LaMothe on a restart with six circuits completed in the 25-lap, 600cc main event. Esh set the pace for the next four laps with former track champion Chris Gerhart in the runner-up position until fifth-starting James Morris slipped past Gerhart just prior to a caution with ten laps in the books. The slow-down was for debris on the backstretch, and it doomed Esh because, before the yellow could be thrown, he ran over the piece of rubrail that had come off one of the cars, flattening his left-front tire and forcing him to pull off the track.
Morris inherited the lead at that point, and he proceded to put on a dominating show for the Fan Appreciation Night crowd, rocketing away to an eventual five-second victory over Heath Hehnly.
Brent Ely held off Mike Dicely and Mike Rutherford for several laps to score an impressive third-place finish, with Rutherford (who started 18th) and Brittany Brown (who just recently graduated with a degree in Psychology from Millersville University) making up the top five.
Morris also received the Weld Racing Fast Lap of the Feature award for running the quickest lap of the race at 10.394 seconds.
A strong field of 34 cars entered the 600cc portion of the program, with Bret Cronrath, Eric Bodine, Hehnly, and Morris capturing heat race victories. Twin consolations went to Dan Souder and Rutherford.
"I can't think of a better place to be (on a Saturday night) than right here in victory lane at Lanco!" Those were the words of a beaming Mike Uhrich after he scored his first win since 2003 in the 270cc feature.
Taking the green from the outside of row one, Uhrich immediately jumped into the lead over polesitter Kyle Spence. After a caution on the original start, the first 14 tours went non-stop as Uhrich led the way over Bradley Brown, who wrestled second away from Spence on the fourth trip around the oval. Brown caught the leader as Uhrich's pace was slowed by lapped traffic, and Brown pounced on an opportunity to go three-wide and take the lead from Uhrich, but the yellow flag negated the pass and put Uhrich back in front for the single-file restart.
Three late race cautions may have caused Uhrich some anxious moments, but the veteran Micro-Sprint jockey and his yellow No. 11 were up to the task, pulling away from Brown on each restart to maintain control.
Uhrich went on to record the popular triumph, with Spence surprising Brown on the final restart (with three to go), reclaiming the runner-up spot and forcing Brown to settle for third place money. Dave Grube (from 15th) and Austin Bishop (from 18th) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Brown was the recipient of the Weld Racing Fast Lap of the Feature award, turning the quickest revolution of the race at 10.919 seconds.
A stellar field of 38 signed in for 270cc competition on Saturday. The four qualifying heat race winners were Brown, Mike Rutherford, Billy Logeman, and Kenny Miller III. The two consolation race victors were Toby Blumenshine and Nick Sweigart.
"Fast Eddie" Nocera had come oh-so-close to victory on numerous occasions over the years, finishing second and third more times than he could - or cared - to count. But the number one position had eluded him...until Saturday night.
Nocera, who started fifth, darted past early leader Donna Geib on the third trip around the clay, then set sail, building a big lead and leaving his pursuers to battle for a second place pay envelope.
Seventh-starting Devin Adams charged into the runner-up slot in the early going, but he was no match for the high-flying Nocera on this night. Adams held off David Ravel and Kenny Miller III, who came from the back of the pack to challenge Ravel in the closing laps.
At the checkered, it was Nocera scoring his first-ever triumph, winning by 1.309 seconds over Devin Adams. Ravel held off Miller for third, and rookie Brian Kramer notched his second consecutive fifth-place effort.
Heat wins went to Adams and Ravel, as 13 of the Four-Strokes entered Saturday's racing program.
Mount Joy's Darren Miller won the season opening feature for the 125cc Micros, and could easily have one or two additional victories, but mechanical gremlins knocked him out while running at or near the front of the pack.
His Cocalico Plumbing & Heating/ Pork Producers No. 29 didn't suffer any ills on Saturday, and Miller parked it in the winner's circle once again, beating Kyle Hehnly to the finish by slightly more than two-seconds.
Hehnly sliced his way from tenth on the starting grid to run second by the time the first lap was scored, but he could not keep pace with Miller. Hehnly just barely held off Dylan Adams, who went to the high side coming off turn four on the final lap in an effort to snare the runner-up position, but fell just short. Jason Hehnly and Chase Gutshall rounded out the top five when the checkered flag waved after 25 laps.
With 20 of the 125cc racers in the pit area, heat race winners included Dave Grube and Gutshall.
Leesport, Pa.'s Bret Habecker recorded the Sportsman triumph, starting sixth and taking the lead from Wesley Fasnacht on the fourth circuit.
Eighth-starting Mike Rutherford, winner of the second event of the year, moved into the runner-up position on the fifth tour, but didn't have enough to muster a serious challenge to Habecker, who, despite a few close calls with lapped cars (he also threaded the needle between a spinner in turn four and a slower car to his outside), maintained a steady four-to-five car length advantage over Rutherford for the duration of the 25-lapper.
As the race concluded, Habecker flashed across the stripe with a margin of 0.222 seconds over Rutherford. Curtis R. Miller, who spun early, rebounded to finish third, with David Ravel fourth and Fasnacht dropping to fifth at the checkered.
Habecker picked up the award for the Weld Racing Fast Lap of the Feature, zipping around the banked oval in 11.209 seconds to record the quickest lap of the main event.
Fasnacht and Curtis R. Miller won heats for the 22 Sportsman Micro-Sprints.
This Saturday, May 24, is Lanco's annual Memorial Day Open Show, presented by Bud's Spring & Suspension of Lancaster. Gates will open at 2 p.m., with the pill draw ending as the driver's meeting begins at 4:00. Warm-ups commence at 4:15, and the first heat race goes green at 5:30.
Heats, consolations, and 30-lap features will be contested by the winged 600cc, 270cc, 125cc, Sportsman, and 250cc Four-Stroke Micro-Sprints as well as a special wingless 600cc racing program. The entire winged 600 portion of the Open Show will be completed before the wingless program begins.
Invaders are invited to the Memorial Day Open Show, as only "show up" points are awarded to the Clyde Martin members.
It'll be another great night of racing action...30-lap features plus winged and WINGLESS competition for the 600's...meaning only one thing - you've just gotta come out and LIVE the excitement that is Lanco!
600cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.James Morris, 2.Heath Hehnly, 3.Brent Ely, 4.Mike Rutherford, 5.Brittany Brown, 6.Jason Swavely, 7.Chris Gerhart, 8.PJ Williams, 9.Mike Dicely, 10.Eric Bodine, 11.Ernie Miles, 12.Mike Freed, 13.Mike Coen, 14.Bret Cronrath, 15.Zach Light, 16.Becca LaMothe, 17.Dan Souder, 18.Austin Bishop, 19.Jared Esh, 20.Chris Panczner, 21.Shaun Brandel, 22.Kameron Morral, 23.Austin Quick, 24.Gregg Stevens. DNQ: Scott Smith, Nathan Prazenica, Josh Sell, Taylor Troxel, Dylan Binkley, Hunter James, Chris James, Jason Sechrist, Troy Musselman.
270cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.Mike Uhrich, 2.Kyle Spence, 3.Bradley Brown, 4.Dave Grube, 5.Austin Bishop, 6.Kenny Miller III, 7.TJ Greve Jr., 8.Brandon Heist, 9.Cody Drace, 10.Toby Blumenshine, 11.Christi Sweigart, 12.Nick Sweigart, 13.Ken Miller, 14.Billy Logeman, 15.Corey Schmuck Jr., 16.Nick Skias, 17.Dan Lane Jr. 18.Ron Helmick, 19.Brian Sholley, 20.Richie Hartman, 21.Mike Rutherford, 22.Nate Weidman, 23.Damon Bomgardner, 24.Brent Shearer. DNQ: Mike Binkley, Jarid Kunkle, Matt Peachy, John Davis, Ricky Sechrist, Heath Hehnly, Taylor Shissler, Tyler Ulrich, Kory Shissler, Dean Spangler Jr., Elizabeth Helmick, Dan Braun Jr. DNS: Dennis Fenstermacher, Tim Gilbert.
125cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 1.Darren Miller, 2.Kyle Hehnly, 3.Dylan Adams, 4.Jason Hehnly, 5.Chase Gutshall, 6.William Manotti, 7.Nick Sweigart, 8.Brandon Gibble, 9.Brie Weiler, 10.Thomas Kelly, 11.Dave Grube, 12.James Wampole, 13.Brooklyn Shearer, 14.Alexis Sheely, 15.Justin Harrington, 16.Walt Wampole, 17.Dustin Adams, 18.Zack Hollinger. DNS: Tajae Adams, Jason Rhoads.
250cc Four-Stroke Micro-Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.Eddie Nocera, 2.Devin Adams, 3.Dave Ravel, 4.Kenny Miller, 5.Brian Kramer, 6.Kassidy Michaels, 7.Lewis Kepple, 8.Jarrett Imler, 9.Ronald Wechter, 10.Ronald Good, 11.Ryan Shupp, 12.Donna Geib. DNS: Zachary Young.
Sportsman Feature, 25 Laps: 1.Bret Habecker, 2.Mike Rutherford, 3.Curtis R. Miller, 4.Dave Ravel, 5.Wesley Fasnacht, 6.Ken Miller, 7.Anthony Yerger, 8.Patrick Kirn, 9.Kerry Lengle, 10.Brandon Mundis, 11.Robert Simmerman, 12.Jenna Heagy, 13.Megan Mercado, 14.Randy Landis, 15.Kelby Stauffer, 16.Bobby Shanaman, 17.Kim Minzer, 18.Steve Smith Sr., 19.Brandon Bucher, 20.Dave Kemp, 21.Jason Rhoads, 22.Kyle Hehnly. DNS: Brian Becker.