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Zearfoss, Wolfe and Smith Score Wins at Open Wheel Madness

photo by Bob Hockenbrock

PORT ROYAL — More than 90 sprint cars piled into the Port Royal Speedway pit area Saturday night for the first Open Wheel Madness program of the season. On a beautiful evening for racing, each sprint car division secured full fields — 24 410s, 29 360s and 40 305s — with several drivers competing in both the 410 and 360 ranks.

The 410 sprints used a unique passing points qualifying format in which each of the three heat races were decreased to six laps apiece. After that, the starting order was completely reversed before another six laps were run. Designed to promote meaningful action in the heat races, drivers were rewarded with points for improving on their starting spots. After all heats were completed, the feature lineup went heads up with the amount of points each driver earned through the qualifiers. That put current point leader Greg Hodnett and defending track champion Brock Zearfoss on the front row for the 25-lap main event.

It was the veteran that got the jump on the initial start, as Hodnett drove his No. 27 to the point through the opening corner. Zearfoss though had no intention of backing down and powered his machine by Hodnett on the cushion to take the lead by the time the pair hit the backstretch. From there, the 3Z simply took off until side-by-side lapped traffic began playing havoc on the leader. Hodnett — still running second — showed poise and experience while running Zearfoss down, and had himself in position to pounce with just three laps to go. Then came the major factor in the race — the first caution for a spinning Aaron Ott in the second turn. Now, with no traffic directly ahead, Zearfoss could do what his car did the best on this night — hammer down and drive away. He did just that, crossing the line 1.705 seconds ahead of Hodnett for his 7th career win at the track. Lucas Wolfe was on the move the entire race, coming from his 8th starting position to complete the podium. Logan Wagner piloted his car to fourth — his best run to date in his first season behind the wheel of the Zemco No. 1 — and Dylan Cisney rounded out the top five. Steve Buckwalter, T.J. Stutts, Gerard McIntyre Jr., Mike Wagner and Anthony Macri finished six through 10.

The 360 feature — sanctioned by the United Racing Club (URC) — was the best of the evening from a pure entertainment standard. You wouldn’t believe that if you just read the facts — a 25-lap feature that went nonstop and didn’t feature an official lead change. However, polesitter and eventual race winner Lucas Wolfe was forced to hold off a hard-charging Mark Smith in what turned into a photo finish. Timing and scoring from the transponders on each car gave the victory to Wolfe by a mere 0.004 seconds. Smith, who passed Wolfe on three separate occasions without leading a lap, certainly stayed true to his nickname — “The Rim Rider” — in the feature, using the highest groove possible around the Juniata County Oval for much of the race. Trey Starks, Hodnett and Zearfoss rounded out the top five. Each of those drivers had also raced in the 410 feature earlier in the night. Six through 10 went to Josh Weller, Ryan Kissinger, Jason Schultz, Eric Parker and Bill Balog (who also finished 14th in the 410 race). Heats for the 29 360s were won by Zearfoss, Starks and Smith. Derek Locke won the B-main.

In 305 competition, a race that took place in between the 410 and 360 features to give some extra time to the drivers racing in both divisions, it was Kyle Smith picking up the victory from his 5th starting spot. Dylan Shatzer and Christian Rumsey both took their turns pacing the field, but it was Smith who used a lap seven restart to make the winning move. Jeff Miller and Darren Miller motored to finish second and third, while Rumsey and Shatzer settled for fourth and fifth. Zach Newlin, Ken Duke Jr., Jonathan Jones, Drew Ritchey and Kassidy Kreitz rounded out the top 10. Four heats for the 305s were won by Shatzer, D. Miller, J. Miller and Smith. Stephanie Dodson won the B-main.

Racing action resumes on Saturday night with the 410 sprints, super late models, 355 econo late models and xtreme stocks. The late models will be competing in the 30-lap ULMS Late Model “Chiller Thriller” that was postponed from March 24th.

Friday — Williams Grove Speedway — 410s: Brock Zearfoss, 358s: Chase Dietz.
Friday — Trail-Way Speedway — 358s: Cody Fletcher.
Friday — Bedford Speedway — 305: Kyle Ganoe.
Saturday — Lincoln Speedway — 410s: Danny Dietrich, 358s: Dave Brown.
Sunday — Selinsgrove Speedway — 410s: Mark Smith.

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