Cole Duncan gave local dirt-track fans the ultimate compliment on Saturday night.
"I want to thank all you fans for coming out. The only place in the country that would pack the place when it's 35 degrees is central Pennsylvania," he said after winning Saturday's Lincoln Speedway sprint-car race.
Duncan is the son of former All-Star sprint-car driver Rodney Duncan. And he spends most of his time racing in his native Ohio. Several times each year, Duncan makes a journey to the area. Last summer he won a race on neutral territory at Path Valley Speedway in Spring Run. The win at Lincoln was his first on actual central Pennsylvania turf. Duncan turned 21 Friday, and gave himself a big birthday present one day later.
"This ranks up there with all the wins of my whole career," Duncan said. "There is no better local competition than central Pa. To come beat these guys, I don't care if I did start on the pole or not, that was a lot of fun. I just respect these guys so much. To win here is awesome."
Lincoln was the only local track to attempt a night-time show during last weekend's bitter weather. Trailway did run an afternoon show on Saturday. Williams Grove, Port Royal, Hagerstown and Selinsgrove all postponed their shows.
As you might have gathered from Duncan's words, Lincoln actually had a great crowd for the weather conditions, and there were 27 sprint cars in competition. Add in 24 limited-late models and 14 thundercars and it was a pretty good night. And, it was also a quickly run show, with the final checkered flag falling just 21/2 hours after starting time.
One interesting note -- Duncan collected an extra $100 from a fan for his win. Early in the evening, Lincoln announced the death of Tom Strausbaugh, who attended races at Lincoln for 40 years. Strausbaugh's son, Kevin, was in attendance, and as luck would have it won the $100 in the "Restart Raffle" drawing at intermission. Kevin Strausbaugh immediately placed the $100 on top of the winner's share of $3,200 for the sprint-car feature in memory of his father.
LIMITED LATE MODELS: The opening race of the season for the limited, or 358 late models, produced a strong field of 24 cars at Lincoln. With no other tracks in the area racing, the race also produced a few surprise entries.
Maryland racing stars Kyle Lear and Paul Cursey joined the field. Lear is a regular at Hagerstown, and also raced in several of the indoor TQ midget races last winter. He won the first heat race, but drew a 12 for the feature inversion. That put him 12th in the starting lineup, and he climbed to sixth at the finish. Cursey had a strong feature run and finished third.
Dover's Gene Knaub set a new eight-lap track record in his heat race, and then came from the 11th starting spot to win the feature. It appears Knaub is as strong as ever.
Grant Adams, who won last year's combined point series between Lincoln and Trailway, was late getting to the track and was unable to start his heat race. With just enough cars on hand, no consy was needed, and Adams had to start last in the feature. He raced through the pack to finish seventh.
HISTORY: The 1968 racing season finally got going in the area on this weekend. After three weeks of being halted by winter weather, Susquehanna opted to race twice on the weekend. The season started Friday night, and there was also a Sunday show at Susky. Hagerstown and Reading also raced Sunday.
At Susky, the winner was the same on both Friday and Sunday. Kenny Weld started that season in his own No. 91, while putting the finishing touches on the roadster-type sprinter he was building for Don Rice Ford. That No. 31 would debut later in the season. Weld won on both nights at Susky. Friday, he topped Bobby Brymesser, Johnny Crawford, Ray Tilley and Bobby Gerhart. Sunday's show found Weld the winner over Gerhart, Eddie Zirkle, Steve Ungar and Brymesser.
Hagerstown's Sunday show found Mitch Smith in victory lane, with the Regester Chevrolet No. 6. Smith's win came over Johnny Grum, Red Ninninger, Kenny Slaybaugh and Milt Miller.
Larry Dickson won the USAC sprint car-event at Reading that Sunday.
WEEKEND SCHEDULE: Williams Grove will try again this Friday evening to open its racing season. The Grove has the sprint cars and super sportsmen lined up for this week's show. The race will be the first of the season for the super sportsmen.
Lincoln will shoot for its fifth show of the young season on Saturday. This week's schedule calls for a sprint-car championship event with $4,000 for the winner. The 358 sprints and Legends are also on the slate.
Port Royal will make a third attempt at starting its season Saturday evening. The sprint cars, late models and pro stocks are on the Port's agenda.
Selinsgrove has completed two shows this season, but this Saturday will be the first for its regular divisions -- the 358 sprints, late models, pro stocks and roadrunners. Selinsgrove recently announced a purse increase for the late models, which will now race for $1,500 to win.
Trailway will offer another Saturday afternoon show for the micro sprints Saturday.
The Three State Flyers late-model series will attempt to kick off its season with a two-race slate this weekend. The series will visit Winchester, Va., Friday, and then move a half hour up the road to Hagerstown Saturday. The pure stocks join the Hagerstown program.
POINT SERIES: Fred Rahmer continues to lead the Speedway Motors/Champion Racing Oil Series for the local sprint cars. Rahmer has four top-fives and five top-10s in the five local races run this season. Those consistent finishes have produced a slim four-point lead over Lincoln point leader Brent Marks.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdis patch.com.