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HOUSEHOLDER: A look back at a memorable Williams Grove National Open weekend

BRYAN HOUSEHOLDER
717-505-5403/@ydsports
Donny Schatz
  • Donny Schatz won the Williams Grove National Open on Saturday night.
  • Schatz won $75,000 for his record sixth National Open triumph.
  • That was the largest winning prize in the world this year for a 410 sprint race.

It was a National Open weekend that won't soon be forgotten around Williams Grove Speedway.

Donny Schatz extended his record in Saturday’s event at the Cumberland County track. Schatz’s victory in the event sponsored by Champion Racing Oil marked his sixth career National Open win.  Lance Dewease, with four National Open wins, is his nearest challenger.

Dewease is the only driver to spread his National Open wins over a longer period than Schatz, who picked up his first National Open win in 2000, and followed it with wins in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012 and now 2020. Dewease got his first in 1996 and followed with wins in 2001, 2002, and 2018.

An avid reader also passed along this fact: Schatz is the first driver to win the Open with a Ford engine.

Saturday’s purse was the largest in National Open history and the winner’s share of $75,000 was the largest for a 410 sprint race anywhere in the world this year.

Motivated Donny Schatz holds off former NASCAR star Kyle Larson to win National Open

Another first at this year’s National Open: Shane Stewart set a new track record in Friday’s qualifying time trials. Stewart broke the 18-year-old record held by Brian Paulus, when he turned a lap at 16.111 seconds around the paper-clip-shaped half-mile oval. Paulus’ record was set in the days before weight limits on sprint cars and was thought unbreakable.

Williams Grove drew 57 cars for Friday’s preliminary event and 54 on Saturday for the National Open. That drop in car count was because several teams lost engines on Friday or suffered crash damage.

There was one driver who changed cars from Friday to Saturday. “The Northpole Nightmare,” Bill Balog, was involved in a heat-race accident Friday that damaged his race car. The Alaska native, who now lives in Wisconsin, picked up a ride in the Etters-based Mark Coldren car for Saturday.

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Perhaps the National Open should now be called the International Open. The weekend field of drivers came from 13 different states, plus three drivers from Australia. Slightly less than half the field was made up of Pennsylvania natives.

Friday’s feature at Williams Grove went nonstop, while Saturday’s race had several caution flags, but no serious crashes.

Freddie Rahmer actually locked up his second Williams Grove track title by starting Saturday’s feature. Rahmer entered Saturday’s race just 35 points shy of clinching the title and last place in the feature awarded 50 points. With the World of Outlaws policy of providing provisional starting spots for top point men should they fail to qualify, Rahmer was assured of the title when he took the green flag in his time trial.

Kyle Larson failed to add another win to his season total, but did finish second on both nights of National Open competition. Saturday he bounced it off the fence on the final turns in a last-lap effort to wrest the lead from Schatz.

Despite the state's COVID-19 attendance restrictions, the crowd for this year’s National Open was probably the biggest ever, with reserved seats sold out before the weekend began.

PIT STOPS

Weekend schedule: The World of Outlaws stick around the area for another two-day show this weekend. 

The Outlaws visit Port Royal Speedway this week, with racing on Friday and Saturday evenings.  Friday’s preliminary event offers up $8,000 to the winner, while Saturday there is $15,000 on line for the feature winner.

The Outlaws first visited the Juniata County track in 1979, when local racer Lynn Paxton took their measure. They didn’t return to the Port until 1986, when Donnie Kreitz Jr. was the winner, with Doug Wolfgang winning the following year in the locally-based Weikert’s Livestock car.

The Outlaws weren’t back at the Port again until 2001, when Danny Wood scored an upset victory. Brad Furr, Jason Meyers and Donny Schatz each won over the next three years.

Then the Outlaws didn’t get back to the Port until 2014, when Ryan Smith scored a shocking victory. They have been there every year since, with Brad Sweet winning in 2015, Hanover’s Logan Schuchart in 2016 and Schatz winning the last three times the Outlaws raced at the Port.

What's left: The local season is winding down quickly now that we’ve entered the fall season.

After this weekend’s Outlaw visit at Port Royal, there is a big weekend of racing over Oct. 16-17 and only one event after that.

The Oct. 16-17 weekend will feature the Short Track Super Series Modifieds racing in a two-day show at the Port. The 410 sprints and 358 sprints race that Saturday at Lincoln Speedway in the final point races of the season at the Adams County track. Also BAPS Motor Speedway in northern York County has a big event for the stock cars over Oct. 16-17.

Then things settle down until BAPS opens back up for the Sprint Showdown on Nov. 13. Modifieds are also a part of the program that day.

Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

CHAMPION RACING OIL

CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT CAR SERIES

Presented by Hoseheads.com

(Wins in parenthesis)

1. Danny Dietrich (11)               1,171 

2. Anthony Macri (8)                  1,146

3. Freddie Rahmer (7)                1060 

4. Brent Marks (3)                       962

5.  Kyle Larson (10)                     835

6. Lance Dewease (6)                 828 

7. Dylan Cisney (2)                      519

8. Brock Zearfoss                         492

9. Logan Wagner (1)                    444 

10. Brian Montieth (1)                  439