The area’s biggest sprint-car race of the season always produces plenty of story lines, and this year’s Williams Grove National Open was no different.
For the first time, the National Open was a three-day show. That, in itself, is a big story, since for the past several years the Grove had attempted to run a three-day National Open, only to be thwarted by rain.
Rain again played a small part in the weekend. Friday’s show was twice hampered by minor rain showers, and Thursday’s show had an added feature because of a rainout from July.
In the end, David Gravel won twice for the World of Outlaws, including Saturday’s main event and the $50,000 top prize. Spring Grove’s Greg Hodnett won the make-up race on Thursday, which was the second-highest-paying event of the weekend, with $20,000 going to the winner. Hodnett won that race in a back-up car after totaling his racer in a crash while battling Shane Stewart for the lead in the regular event that night.
Friday’s race produced a new Williams Grove winner and a new Outlaw winner. Australian James McFadden drove the locally-based Highlands’ No. 3 car to that win. McFadden, an Australian national champion, has driven the Highlands' car on a semi-regular basis in this area since the mid point of the 2016 season.
He competed in the Pennsylvania Speedweek series and then the team followed the Outlaws to Knoxville. McFadden then returned to Australia for several weeks of racing before returning to the area two weeks ago. Now it’s back home to Australia with a winner’s flag from Williams Grove and a big trophy from the Beer Hill Gang as this year’s National Open Rookie of the Year.
New champ at Grove: Williams Grove has had only five track champions since 1990. Now that has changed, although you might have to look closely to see the change.
Since 1990, Fred Rahmer has nine Grove titles, Lance Dewease has six, Greg Hodnett, has five, Donnie Kreitz Jr. has four and Todd Shaffer has three. Rahmer, Kreitz and Shaffer have retired, Dewease runs a limited schedule and Hodnett had won the last three. Hodnett finished second this year.
The new champion has the same name as the driver with the most titles at the Grove, but this one is his first. Freddie Rahmer, 21, is the Grove’s new champion. The third-generation driver entered the National Open weekend with a sizable points lead, but had to work hard to keep that lead. Thursday’s races probably clinched the title for Rahmer, although it wasn’t until he took a green flag in a heat race Saturday that he indeed locked up the title.
Thursday, Rahmer won the Last Chance Showdown to make the regular feature, and then charged from the 21st starting spot to eighth in the final rundown, earning the Outlaws' Hard Charger Award.
In the make-up feature that night, Rahmer was in the field on a provisional, although through a series of weird happenings, that provisional turned into an alternate starting spot. Rahmer was actually the second alternate for the race. When one car scratched from the event and the first alternate wasn’t ready, Rahmer became an alternate instead of a provisional. That would matter later in the weekend, since the Outlaws only allow local racers two provisionals a year.
Rahmer went from 25th to 11th in that race, again earning the Hard Charger Award. Friday he used a provisional , but dropped from the event, finishing last. Saturday, although he had already clinched the title, Rahmer again used a provisional, this time coming from 25th to 14th in the feature.
This weekend: Racing action is winding down in the area for the season, but there are still plenty of races left during this month.
Williams Grove wraps up its season Friday evening with a special “Run What Ya Brung” program. The sprint cars and late models will both compete, with rules relaxed in both classes.
Saturday, Lincoln will wrap up its season with a race that will combine the rained-out Labor Day weekend Bob Leiby Memorial Race with the annual Manufacturers' Appreciation Race that is run in memory of Hank Gentzler. The sprints will compete for $4,000 to win and each car that qualifies for the feature will also get thousands of dollars worth of racing products. The 358 sprints race for $1,200 to win, and the All American Outlaws also compete.
Susquehanna plays host to the Harvest Classic for the super sportsmen, with a 40-lap feature. The limited late models, street stocks and Legends also compete.
It’s the Blue Collar Classic at Port Royal on Saturday. The biggest race of the year for the 305 sprints headlines, along with the Mason-Dixon Series for the limited late models. The Xtreme stocks and mini stocks are also on the program.
Trailway presents the Kart Klassic on Saturday.
1972: The local tracks were dark on this weekend in 1972, but there was a big race in western Pennsylvania. Buddy Cochran, a regular visitor to the local circuit at the time, won the 100-lap event at the Tri City Speedway.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.
2017 CHAMPION RACING OIL
CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT SERIES
PRESENTED BY HOSEHEADS.COM
1. 24/5w Lucas Wolfe 1403 8
2. 48/13 Danny Dietrich 1359 11
3. 27 Greg Hodnett 1171 7
4. 69k Lance Dewease 1000 11
5. 3z/58 Brock Zearfoss 972 6
6. 51 Freddie Rahmer 943 6
7. 21 Brian Montieth 840 3
8. 1/55 Dale Blaney 507
9. 11 T J Stutts 500
10. 87 Alan Krimes 441
11. 39 Cory Haas 440
12. 5 Dylan Cisney 371
13. 44 Trey Starks 339 2
14. 25 Aaron Ott 338
15. 5 David Gravel 329 4
16. 16 Matt Campbell 317 1
17. 16 Gerard McIntyre Jr 314 1
18. 3 James McFadden 303 1
19. 07 Doug Esh 285 2
20. 12 Blane Heimbach 264 1
21. 55 Mike Wagner 255
22. 0 Rick Lafferty 242 1
23. 94 Ryan Smith 228
24. 17B Steve Buckwalter 213 1
25. 1x Chad Trout 210