After 10 races in 10 days, the 2018 Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek overall championship was determined by the slimmest of margins.
For the first time since 2012, the entire series of races was run without a rainout. This year also marked the first time since the series expanded to 10 races that all 10 have been completed.
After all of those races, the series title came down to a mere two points, or just one finishing position.
Spring Grove's Greg Hodnett claimed the title by just those two points over Danny Dietrich. Had Dietrich finished one spot higher, or Hodnett one spot lower, Dietrich would have won the Speedweek crown.
By every measure, Speedweek had to be considered a major success.
In all, 77 different drivers from 14 states and Australia competed during Speedweek. There were 12 drivers who competed at every event. Three of those drivers, Ryan Smith, Rico Abreu and Gerard McIntyre Jr., also competed during the entire Ohio Speedweek, which had some rainouts but still managed seven races in 10 days.
The ever-changing cast of drivers during the week went from the lowest-budget local racers to drivers who have won races and championships in all of NASCAR’s top three classes and on the IndyCar scene.
In the end, winless Hodnett won the title based on the strength of four second-place finishes and eight top 10s in the 10 races. Dietrich scored three wins, but had three bad nights and seven top 10s.
Lance Dewease and Lucas Wolfe both won twice. Wolfe ended third in points, while Dewease, who didn’t compete in all the races, nailed down the eighth spot. Dewease was the only driver in the top 10 who didn’t run in all of the races.
NASCAR star Kyle Larson, Washington state’s Trey Starks and Ohio’s Cole Duncan also scored wins.
While none of the races was rained out, weather did play a big part in the week. It was very hot at the beginning of Speedweek and rain entered the picture for a while at midweek.
The Thunder on the Hill program at Grandview Speedway did indeed play to lightning in the background and a threat of rain. Port Royal Speedway’s midweek show was about an hour late starting because of an early-evening rain shower and the lurking rains hit at Hagerstown Speedway just after racing was completed.
Crowds during Speedweek were exceptional, and car counts were generally good, as well. The high car count was 39 at Lincoln Speedway on the second night of the series and the low was on the final night at Selinsgrove Speedway, where there were 22 cars. The average car count for the week was 32.
Visitors at some point during the week included Larson and fellow NASCAR stars Kasey Kahne and Christopher Bell. Former NASCAR stars Tony Stewart and Dave Blaney made several starts.
The Australians were James McFadden, Jessie Attard and Mitchell Wormall. Midwestern visitors included Duncan, Spencer Bayston, Parker Price Miller, Aaron Reutzel and Cale Conley. The ever-popular Abreu, from California, made the whole series.
Several times during the week drivers missed races because of problems with tow rigs. Lewisberry’s Kyle Moody made it Grandview a little late after problems on the way. Kody Lehman was left sitting along the road six miles from Hagerstown. Most serious was when the trailer brakes caught fire on McFadden’s Highlands team rig and caused serious damage on the way to Port Royal Saturday.
Both Path Valley Speedway and Williams Grove Speedway increased their winners' share of the purse money. Path promoter Fred Rahmer upped his pay from $7,000 to win to $10,000. At Williams Grove, the Mitch Smith family added $1,000 for the winner and the Grove matched it, bringing the winner’s share to $12,000.
In all, it was a long and entertaining 10 days for local fans and racers.
This week: Williams Grove offers up an Outlaw Tune-Up race for the sprint cars Friday, along with the 358 sprints, while Trailway Speedway has the 305 sprints, 270cc micro sprints, street stocks and limited stocks. The wingless super sportsmen are at Path Valley Friday.
Lincoln will have a full show on Saturday with sprints, 358 sprints and Legends. The sprints will also make up the Brandon Little Memorial feature, which runs 33 laps and pays $5,000 to win.
Port Royal has the sprints, late models, econo late models and Xtreme stocks Saturday, while Selinsgrove offers 360 sprints, late models, pro stocks and roadrunners. Hagerstown has crate late models, late-model sportsmen, pure stocks, hobby stocks and two classes of four cylinders.
BAPS Motor Speedway will take Saturday off, but offers sprints and super sportsmen on Sunday.
1984: On this weekend in 1984, things kicked off Friday with Joey Gravino scoring his second Williams Grove win in a row in his own No. 9. The win was Gravino’s third overall that season.
At Lincoln on Saturday, Richard Lupo made it two in a row and four on the season in Bobby Allen’s No. 2a. Gravino came back to win again on Saturday at Port Royal, while Barry Camp parked the Camel Express No. 26 in Selinsgrove’s victory lane for his second win of the season.
Sunday at Susquehanna, Keith Kauffman drove Al Hamilton’s No. 77 to his 22nd win of the season. Meanwhile, the URC sprints were at Penn National, where then-modified star Fred Rahmer won his first-ever race in a sprint car. Rahmer was driving his own No. 51, a car he purchased with his wedding gift money. (Just ask his wife Debbie about that story).
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2018 PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT CAR SPEEDWEEK POINTS
(WINS IN PARENTHESIS)
1. Greg Hodnett 1,234*
2. Danny Dietrich (3) 1,232*
3. Lucas Wolfe (2) 1,202
4. Freddie Rahmer 1,172*
5. Ryan Smith 1,055*
6. Trey Starks (1) 943*
7. Rico Abreu 937*
8. Lance Dewease (2) 812
9. Anthony Macri 797*
10. Brock Zearfoss 785*
CHAMPION RACING OIL/STIRLING LUBRICANTS
CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT CAR STANDINGS
Presented by Hoseheads.com
1. Greg Hodnett (2) 916
2. Lucas Wolfe (5) 790
3. Danny Dietrich (8) 765
4. Freddie Rahmer (1) 630
5. Lance Dewease (8) 576
6. Brian Montieth (4) 506
7. Brock Zearfoss (2) 458
8. T.J. Stutts 350
9. Anthony Macri 348
10. Cory Haas (1) 296