It sure wasn't the best of days to start an outdoor racing season, but somehow, Lincoln Speedway managed to get things going on Saturday afternoon.
With rain overnight, and a mist falling past noon, most folks figured Lincoln would throw in the towel. But that didn't happen.
The track had been prepared early, and the dampness leading up to race time just served to make the track extremely fast. While Lincoln's crowd on Saturday wasn't up to some of its record breakers at past openers, it was a very good crowd for a damp and rainy day in February.
In fact, Lincoln's management was so happy with the size of the opening-day crowd that they offered a $2 discount for everyone who shows last Saturday's ticket stub when they buy their grandstand ticket this Saturday.
The rain and mist did push back the starting time slightly. The first heat race was called to the track at 2:30 p.m., about a half hour later than the scheduled starting time. Surprisingly, that was more because the track waited about a half hour past the scheduled time to open the track gates so that they could be sure the track surface would come around for racing. The track came in even quicker than expected, but getting the cars and fans into the track pushed things back a bit.
While plenty of fans came out, it was the racers who didn't think the show would be held. Just 17 sprint cars were on hand for the opener. None of the travelers from outside the area made the trek in for the races, and several local drivers who were expected stayed home as well.
Still, the racing went on, and Brian Montieth scored his first win of the season on the fast and tacky track. It was the third time in the last five years that Montieth has won Lincoln's opener.
I keep saying that the track was very fast, and indeed it was. In the second heat race, the electronic timing and scoring system clocked winner Alan Krimes with a lap at 12.906 seconds. To put that into proper perspective, the fastest lap ever recorded at Lincoln is a 12.730-second lap. Since the weight rule was set on the cars a number of years ago, the fastest lap recorded at Lincoln was a 13.173-second lap.
As noted the track surface was very fast and very tacky. In fact, some might say the track surface was too good. Even with the new Hoosier tires that were designed to take away some of the bite and make the cars stick less to the track surface, cars were completely "hooked up," which made it difficult to pass.
The track was also very smooth, but since it was, in fact, soft clay, a wrong move could cause cars to take an extra bite. There were numerous "wheelies," and a few crashes were caused from cars "bicycling" (having the car go up on just the right-side wheels while going around the turn) on the turns. One of those crashes happened in a heat race, when defending track champion Danny Dietrich flipped after bicycling in the first turn. Dietrich was able to repair his car, and came from the 17th starting spot to finish fifth in the feature.
The biggest crash happened at the start of the feature, when outside-front-row starter Gerard McIntyre Jr. veered left and caught third-place starter Cory Haas, of York. Haas took a nasty tumble, and in the ensuing scramble, York's Hunter Mackison also flipped. Several other cars received damage from the crash. J.J. Grasso, who started fourth had damage to both wings and the suspension. York's Glenndon Forsythe actually had to head to the pits to remove Haas' wing from his car, and York's Adam Wilt had some damage as well.
That damage may have led to Wilt's flip a lap later. All the drivers walked away from the crashes.
After those wild early laps, the race went non-stop to the finish.
Several drivers were in new rides for the season. Fred Rahmer is in the Rob Sell No. 20s, while McIntyre is in the Dietz No. 14. Ryan Smith will race the Pinter No. 92 at Lincoln, while driving for Donnie Kreitz at Williams Grove. Grasso had a 410 engine in his regular URC 360 ride with the Eldreath family, and last year's 358 sprint rookie of the year, Ryan Wilson, had a 410 in his sprinter as well.
The driver in a new ride with the best finish was Wellsville's Scott Geesey. Geesey is driving a limited schedule in the No. B52 sprinter owned by Paul Stine Jr. He will still spend most of his season racing in the super-sportsman class. Geesey led eight laps of the feature, and just lost second spot off the final turn.
LINCOLN'S FEBRUARY RECORD: Lincoln Speedway has actually achieved a slightly better record in February openers than the entire area.
Lincoln first scheduled a February opener in 1992 under previous promoters Weldon Sterner and Gary Gregory. The current promotional team of Alan Kreitzer and the Leiby brothers didn't plan a February opener for their first season in 1993, but have done so every year since.
That means Lincoln has tried to open in February 21 times. They have reeled off those February openers in 12 of those years. Saturday's race is only tied for fourth among Lincoln's earliest openers. In 1999, Lincoln opened on Feb. 20. Lincoln also opened on Feb. 21 in 1998, Feb. 22 in 1997 and Feb. 23 in 2002.
SPEEDWAY MOTORS/ CHAMPION OIL SERIES: A few weeks ago I mentioned the addition of Champion Racing Oil as a title sponsor for the area's sprint-car point series.
A few changes have happened since then. The local sprint car series is now officially known as Speedway Motors/Champion Racing Oil Central Pa. Sprint Cars presented by Hoseheads. Numerous associate sponsors have helped push the total point fund to $22,000.
Where things have changed is in the breakdown of the fund at the end of the season. The champion this year will get $6,000, which is up $1,000 from last year. The rest of the breakdown is $4,000 for second, $3,000 for third, $2,000 for fourth, $1,500 for fifth and sixth and $1,000 for seventh through 10th.
-- Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go here for the sprint-car point standings.