By CHARLIE BROWN
DELMAR, DE – Beautiful autumn weather provided the backdrop for the $60,000 2017 Delaware Dirt Track Championships at the Delaware International Speedway. The two night event provided some great racing action. A total of 170 teams took part in the 2017 finale.
Craig VonDohren of Oley, Pa. made a statement in the trilling 50-lap Big Block Modified Fall Championship. VonDohren had won five previous Fall Championships coming into the event and was looking to be the first repeat winner in the sixth event of the 2017 Full Throttle Series.
Qualifying took place on Friday night with heat wins going to VonDohren, Matt Jester, Ryan Watt and Brandon Watkins. Two consolations on Saturday night were captured by Scott VanGorder and Dale Hawkins.
VonDohren drew the pole in the inversion draw and would lead all 50 laps but the race was far from a cake walk for the popular driver. JoJo Watson brought out the first yellow before a lap was in forcing him to restart in the rear. It would be the first of a flock of 13 yellows throughout the race but there were no serious incidents.
Ryan Watt and Jordan Watson dogged the VonDohren from the high groove for the first 19 circuits. By lap 20, JoJo Watson had moved from the rear of the field to third settling in behind Watt. Eighteen laps of caution free racing found Watt trying to use lapped traffic to grab the lead. The plan didn’t work out for Watt as something broke in the rear of the car with ten to go sending him high on two wheel before slamming back down on all fours in turn three.
Disaster almost struck on the restart when JoJo and VonDohren made contact coming off turn four. H.J. Bunting made his presence know on the restart getting by Jordan Watson for third while Michael White and Richie Pratt, Jr. battle for a top five spot.
The final yellow would fly with four laps to go as Eric Vent came to a stop. VonDohren made a clean getaway on the restart with Watson still trying everything he could to get by on the top. VonDorhen held solid for the final four laps to post his sixth Fall Championship Big Block win and became the only two time winner this season in the six Full Throttle Series event. The win with bonuses was worth $7225. JoJo Watson had to settle for second after an amazing drive with Bunting taking third. Fourth went to Jordan Watson and Pratt, Jr. won the battle for fifth.
“I was a tough deal,” said VonDohren in Victory Lane. “This place is unbelievable. It was fast on the bottom and fast on the top and different guys were coming. There was only one way for me to go and that was backwards and I sure as hell didn’t want to do that.”
The 50-lap S.R. Pete & Sons Super Late Model Fall Championship turned into a survival of the fittest before drop of the green. It started when three time Fall Champion, Gary Stuhler who was starting in the second row, pull into the pits on the initial pace laps and was done for the night.
Donald Lingo, Jr. shot to the front on the green but became the second causality when he lost steering coming off the fourth turn and smacked the outside wall bring out the first of eight yellow in the first half.
Ross Robinson took over the point and was the class of the field running the high groove to perfection. Contact on the back straight got Dylan Evans around and into the wall on the next lap and Kerry King headed to the pits.
On the restart Bob Geiger came off the fourth turn too high and collected the wall as the yellow fever continued. Nick Davis was the next victim when a tire let go while he was flat foot blazing to the front at the extreme top of the track. Davis would get the tire changed and returned at the back of the pack.
Mark Pettyjohn was the next causality when his car got out from under him in the fourth turn while running in second. Dale Hollidge was now up to the second spot as Robinson continued to set a torrid pace at the point.
Ricky Elliott had been taking his time coming up through the field and dropped Hollidge to third on the fifth restart. The seventh yellow was displayed when Herb Tunis lost and engine just 15 laps in. On the restart Hollidge got back by Elliott while Robinson took advantage of a clear track ahead.
The final yellow would fly when Hollidge tried to get around the lapped car of Kellie Lewis on the back straight. Lewis was unaware that Hollidge was outside making contact and spinning while Hollidge was able to continue. Under the yellow, Davis headed to the pits and was done for the night.
The final 29 laps were all green but by halfway the only cars remaining from the 17 car starting field in order were Robinson, Elliott, Pettyjohn, Hollidge, Amanda Whaley and Rob Schirmer. Whaley got by Hollidge to take fourth and with ten to go Elliott turned up the heat on Robinson.
Robinson would never abandon the faster top groove but it was evident that he was beginning to struggle. With six to go Elliott was able to make the pass on the low side then immediately climbed to the top. Elliott was able to pull away to post his sixth Fall Championship win. Robinson revealed in victory lane that he had done his best but was fighting the handling after losing his power steering with 15 laps to go. Pettyjohn survived to finish in third with Whaley fourth and Hollidge rounding out the top five. Heats on Friday night were won by Robinson, Lingo, Jr. and Elliott
“The track smoothed out a little bit and we smoothed it up,” said Elliott. “I needed the top to burn off. I was too tight to run the top. We kept plugging on the bottom and plugging on the botton and plugging on the bottom and either the top was going away at the end or we were coming to it at the end. It was a heck of a race.
Chad Cathell announced in victory lane that Elliott’s win would be his last at the speedway as Elliott was retiring. With the gambler bonus, lap money and Carolyn Parsons’s breast cancer awareness bonus the win was worth $7260.
In the 25-lap AC Delco PSC 602 Sportsman championship it was Mike Hough leading lap one before Scott Hitchens moved on top. Jon Callaway chased from the second spot. Brad Trice had gotten the call to drive the Tubbs Motorsports No. 10 earlier in the week and was up to third. On a restart just prior to halfway, Trice powered by both Callaway and Hitchens to take the lead.
Dwayne Crockett was on the move and climbed to the second spot with Greg Humlhanz, driving the Jordn Justice backup car moving to third. The second half of the race was all green until two laps to go when Nick Alberti got around in four.
Trice had a great restart and took his first time ride to the checkered. Crockett would finish a solid second with Humlhanz third. Fourth went to Hitchens and Adam White rounded out the top five. Heats on Friday night were won by White, Callaway and Trice.
The 25-lap RUSH Crate Late Model Fall Championship was highly competitive with four lead changes. Matt Hill and Joe Warren won the qualifying heats on Friday night and in the inversion draw Hill drew the pole and Warren drew 12th.
Hill quickly settled into the top groove with Chuck Bowie and Cory Lawler giving chase. Bowie was able to take advantage of a bobble by Hill after a lap eight restart to take the lead. The Welcome, Md. drive held the top spot for two circuits before Hill moved back on top with David Pettyjohn following into second.
The top five was shuffled on lap 13 when Hill suddenly slowed to a stop at the top of the fourth turn and Bowie headed to the pits with a flat tire. Pettyjohn was now the new leader with Sparky White and Warren running second and third. Warren quickly earned the second spot and with eight laps to go took the lead.
Warren made no mistakes the rest of the distance to record his second Fall Championship victory. Pettyjohn finished in second with White third. Zac Weller finished in the fourth spot and Bowie came back through the field after the tire change to finish in fifth.
James Hill ended his season the way he started it by winning in dominate fashion. Rookie Jerry Barker led the first five laps before Hill took over. Hill pulled away from the field while Jason Musser and Ray Gulliver dueled for second.
The only caution of the race would erase Hill’s lead on lap 13. Gulliver tried to keep Hill in striking distance but Hill would never be seriously challenged as he drove to his third straight Mod Lite Fall Championship win. With the gambler’s bonus, lap money and breast cancer awareness bonus Hill’s winnings totaled $1346.
The battle for the lead started at the drop of the green between C.J. Schirmer and Dwayne Heck in the 12-lap Vintage Stock Car championship. It would come to an abrupt end on lap six when Dustin Shultie got out of shape coming off the fourth turn in front of the leaders. Schirmer was able to get by but Heck made hard contact and was done for the night.
Schirmer had no problems holding off Josh Smith, who finished first Sportsman, to the checkered. It was Schirmer’s first championship win since 2010. Veteran Dave Schamp finished in third with Todd Miller and Don Davidson rounding out the top five.
50-Lap Big Block Modified Finish: 1. Craig VonDohren; 2. JoJo Watson; 3. H.J. Bunting; 4. Jordan Watson; 5. Richie Pratt, Jr.; 6. Michael White; 7. Jamie Mills; 8. Neal Williams; 9. Jared Umbenhauer; 10. Robert Dutton; 11. Dale Hawkins; 12. Eric Vent; 13. Jim Britt; 14. Ryan Watt; 15. Brandon Watkins; 16. Kyle Fuller; 17. Carson Wright; 18. Scott Hitchens; 19. Daniel Johnson, Jr.; 20. Scott VanGorder; 21. Matt Jester; 22. Westley Smith; 23. Wayne Weaver; 24. Kevin Scott, Jr.; DNQ: Brad Trice; Greg Humlhanz; Clay Tatman; Scott Hulmes; Howard O’Neal; Brian Hitz; Dave Schamp; T.J. Williams; Charlie Moore.
50-Lap S.R. Pete & Sons Super Late Model Finish: 1. Ricky Elliott; 2. Ross Robinson; 3. Mark Pettyjohn; 4. Amanda Whaley; 5. Dale Hollidge; 6. Rob Schirmer; 7. Nick Davis; 8. Kellie Lewis; 9. Herb Tunis; 10. Kevin Scott, Jr.; 11. Reese Masiello; 12. Kerry King; 13. Dylan Evans; 14. Bob Geiger; 15. Donald Lingo, Jr. ; 16. Eddie Drurry, III; DNS: Gary Stuhler.
25-Lap AC Delco 602 Sportsman Finish: 1. Brad Trice; 2. Dwayne Crockett; 3. Greg Humlhanz; 4. Scott Hitchens; 5. Adam White; 6. Kevin Gardner; 7. Jordn Justice; 8. Jon Callaway; 9. Brian Nailor; 10. Mike Hough; 11. John Stevenson; 12. Matthew Peck; 13. Freddy Massey; 14. Pete Serra; 15. Chuck Sayres; 16. Jeff Marker; 17. Nick Alberti; 18. Duane Rust; 19. George Richardson; 20. Matt Smith; 21. David Jenkins; 22. Sean Metz; 23. Westley Smith; 24. Ryan Riddle.
25-Lap RUSH Crate Late Model Finish; 1. Joe Warren; 2. David Pettyjohn; 3. Sparky White; 4. Zac Weller; 5. Chuck Bowie; 6. Mike Wharton; 7. Brandon Sturgis; 8. Mike Wilson; 9. Charles Shawver; 10. Cory Lawler; 11. Cody Dawson; 12. Richard Harden; 13. Matt Hill; 14. Kerry King, Jr.; 15. Trevor Collins; 16. Daniel Drury; DNS: Chip Disharoon.
20-Lap Mod Lite Finish: 1. James Hill; 2. Ray Gulliver; 3. Jason Musser; 4. Jerry Barker; 5. Ryan Charland; 6. Curt Miles, Jr.; 7. Nick Sapp; 8. Jake Nelson; 9. Kirk Miles, Sr.; 10. Jason White; 11. Brian Gladden; 12. Tim White; DNS: Aaron VanVorst; Bobby Watkins; Nick Nash.