Last weekend's racing action in Florida was rained out, while here in the Northeast, racing did go on inside the Sun Bank Center in Trenton, N.J.
All three days of All-Star sprint-car racing at the Bubba Raceway in Ocala, Fla., were rained out, and reset for early this week. The All-Stars then race at Volusia on Wednesday and Thursday and the Outlaws move in from Friday through Sunday.
Meanwhile, the TQ Midgets did race in the "Battle of Trenton" last Friday and Saturday. In Friday's Twin 20s program, Ryan Preece and Andy Jankowiak each scored victories. Preece won the opener. That race went non-stop for the first 17 laps until the leaders got caught up with a spinning lapped car. Jimmy Blewett was leading at the time, but came to a stop. Preece inherited the lead and went on to the victory over Patrick Emerling, Neal Williams (who spent some time in a 410 sprint car last season), Shawn Nye and Matt Janisch.
The second event saw Jankowiak score his first indoor win, taking the lead from Billy Pauch Jr. on the fifth lap. Lou Cicconi Jr. finished second, followed by Joanathan Reid, Ryan Tidman and Emerling.
Gary Heiber led all 25 laps to win the slingshot feature.
In Saturday's 40-lap TQ feature, Erick Rudolph led the whole way to best Mike Lichty for the win. Zane Zeiner, Janisch and Blewett completed the top five.
Anthony Sesely didn't have a great weekend, but combined with his two wins in Atlantic City was able to best Janisch by one point for the indoor series title.
Justin Gumley won Saturday's champ kart feature.
Opening day, 40 years ago: As I promised last week, I'll continue a series about season-opening winners from around the area.
This week, I'll look at the local track's season openers for the sprint cars from 40 years ago in 1974.
That season, Port Royal was the first track to open its gates. The Port opened for the season on Saturday, March 23. Lynn Paxton drove to the victory that evening in the Emrich Chevy No. 1. Paxton's win at the Port came over Loganville's Paul Pitzer. Manchester's Ed Zirkle finished third that night, with Kramer Williamson and Johnny Grum in the top five.
The very next afternoon the sprint cars moved to Lincoln for its opener. This time it was Pitzer who drove to the victory, besting his Weikert Livestock teammate Kenny Weld for the big victory. Hanover's Bobby Allen finished third, with Zirkle's fourth-place finish allowing him to join Pitzer as the two drivers with top-five finishes in both races that weekend. Hanover's Kenny Slaybaugh completed the top five.
That same afternoon, the USAC sprints were at the Reading Fairgrounds, where Bill Puterbaugh scored the win.
The next local track to open its gates was Selinsgrove on Saturday, April 6, and "Captain Crunch" was still on his game. Paul Pitzer scored his second season-opening win of the season that night, besting Williamson for the win. Paxton, Allen and Weld completed the top five.
Williams Grove opened the next afternoon on Sunday, April 7, and Williamson drove to the victory in Al Hamilton's No. 77. Steve Smith finished second that day, with Allen, Dover's Smokey Snellbaker and Garry Howsare in the top five.
Neither Susquehanna nor Hagerstown was racing sprint cars that season. In fact, 1974 is the only year since it opened in 1954 that Susquehanna didn't have any racing. However, the dirt track on the grounds of the Penn National complex hosted regular Sunday night sprint-car racing that season. It opened for the season under Jack Gunn's KARS banner on Sunday, May 5. If my facts are correct, the location of that track now sits under the Hollywood Casino.
In that race, for the third time that season, Paul Pitzer drove to a victory in a season opener. Pitzer's Weikert Livestock No. 92 bested teammate Weld's Weikert No. 29 for the win. Williamson, Smith and Snellbaker completed the top five.
Those were the local season openers that season, but I should also take time to mention that drivers with local ties swept the February Florida action at Tampa's old fairgrounds track. The Plant City facility hosted five races that February for the wingless sprints of the old IMCA. Jan Opperman, fresh off four full seasons on our local circuit, won the first three events at Tampa, with Williamson getting the fourth event in the Hamilton racer. The final event of the series fell to Lee Osborne, who also had spent a number of seasons on the local circuit.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.