By MIKE MALLETT
MIDDLETOWN, NY – Jesse Leiby went from sixth to first one lap from the conclusion of Friday night’s Sportsman 50-lap feature at the Orange County Fair Speedway. Leiby, the 2017 Sportsman champion, rebounded from a couple of tough finishes to earn the $1,000 victory.
The feature got underway with Matt Stangle taking the lead at the start. He led the first two circuits before a multi-car incident in turn two. Leiby was involved in that crash sending him to the back of the pack for the first time in the race.
“To rebound after that was just incredible,” mentioned Leiby. “My goal was to get back up through there without blowing a tire which we ended up doing. It’s racing. We came back out and I didn’t notice how many people were still in the race. We gave it what we had.”
As Leiby restarted at the tail, the race at the front was a good one between Stangle and Tyler Boniface. Boniface rocketed around Stangle for the lead on lap five.
The top two remained unchanged early on as they maintained a clear advantage over the rest of the field. Boniface found traffic by lap 13, but he made short work at the cars at the back end of the field.
Howie Finch came to a stop on lap 25 setting up a restart between Stangle and Boniface. Boniface got the jump and was able to hold off the challenges of Stangle.
On lap 35 another caution and another restart saw Stangle get by Boniface to take the lead. He was able to work around Boniface going through turns one and two. Boniface tried to regroup on the backstretch to no avail.
Leiby felt his right-rear tire go down on lap 40 bringing out another yellow while sending him to the back again which proved to be lucky break. He returned with fresh rubber while nearly everyone in front of him was struggling to keep their Hoosier tires inflated.
Boniface dropped back on lap 43 with a flat, Stangle gave up the lead on lap 45 with a flat before Cole Hentschel took over the number one position.
Kyle Rohner slowed on lap 48 for the final caution of the race when he got a right rear flat. Hentschel brought the field to the green with a pack of wolves behind him including Jimmy Johnson.
Johnson got the jump and took the lead off of two with Lieby moving from sixth into third. On the backstretch Leiby continued his charge pulling up to the top two. He dove underneath of everyone in turns three and four muscling his way to the lead. He led the final lap for the win.
“I apologize to Jimmy Johnson for running him that way, but I’m just sick and tired of getting second everywhere,” commented Leiby. “I just couldn’t let this one slip away.”
Johnson finished second with Mel Schrufer ending up third. Corey Cormier and Joe Conklin completed the top five.
Finch was the fastest in Sportsman time trials with a lap of 21.767. Heat race wins were taken by Joey Bruning, Johnson, Dan Morgeiwicz, Schrufer and Rohner. Consolation wins were taken by Matt Shultz and Jeff Hulseapple.
SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (50-LAPS – UNOFFICIAL): 1 Jesse Leiby 2 Jimmy Johnson 3 Mel Schrufer 4 Corey Cormier 5 Joe Conklin 6 Cole Hentschel 7 Conno Otten 8 Tommy Vigh 9 Matt Shultz 10 Kyle Rohner 11 Bobby Deleon 12 Dan Morgiewicz 13 Joey Bonetti 14 Matt Stangle 15 bobby Flood 16 Tylre Boniface 17 Jared LeBagh 18 Joey Bruning 19 Michael Sabia 20 Jeff Hulseapple 21 Anthony Falanga 22 Austin Smith 23 Fred Proctor 24 Nick Plumstead 25 Howie Finch 26 Billy Eggers 27 Cody Hunt 28 Shane Jablonka 29 Tyler Pirone 30 Greg Sleight