By C. BARRY GOODBAND
CENTER LISLE NY – A late summer chill was in the air on what had been the most eagerly anticipated night of the year for the Thunder Mountain Speedway fans. An unprecedented 85 crate sportsman teams reported into the pit area with their tops pulled down, ready to vie for the 30 available spots in the starting field of the inaugural TOPLESS 100 Presented by Bob Hilbert Sportswear and Escape RV. Ten qualifying heats, four C-Mains, and two B-Mains set the grid for the big 100-lap dance.
Dale Welty was the man with the hot hand as he drew the number one pill placing him on the pole alongside TMS regular campaigner Mike Austin. Dale Welty does on occasion chauffeur a Modified at the Outlaw and Woodhull speed plants but he is better known for his prowess behind the wheel of his almost entirely self-funded crate car. At the drop of the green, Welty got away first and launched into what became a nearly four second lead in the early stages. Welty reigned over the first 25 circuits until his pace was broken by a virtual wall of lap traffic. Behind him, Kenny Hammond had been making hay, driving his way up to second from his 11th starting spot. Hammond closed quickly on Welty as he picked his way through the back markers and pounced on the first opportunity provided by close interaction with the slower cars. Hammond took over on lap 26 but in the next set of turns, Hammond would spin after colliding with a lap car while trying to get through on the low side. The damage was purely cosmetic but after experiencing the view from the top, Hammond would drop to the bottom of the order. While most eyes were fixated on the front runners, track champion Jimmy Zacharias and Fonda Speedway modified regular Rocky Warner were quietly moving toward the front. Zacharias had taken a provisional 27th starting spot while Warner came through one of the B-mains to start in 26th. By the time yellow flew on lap 50 for the mid-way fuel stop, Welty had been in command for all but one circuit. Tim Hindley was running 2nd, Andy Bachetti 3rd, Zacharias 4th, Warner 5th, Sammy Martz Jr, was 6th, Mike Austin 7th, 8th was Mike Bills, Connor Cleveland 9th and Larry Meckic rounded out the top ten.
The second half of the event began with Welty still at the point but the race had begun to shift as some heavy hitters had now arrived inside the top ten. A changing of the guard came at a restart on lap 62 as Jimmy Zacharias got the hole shot and drove past Welty into the lead. Zacharias would begin to pour on the coals setting a thunderous pace that could not be matched until he found himself mired in lap traffic with less than 20 to go. To the delight of many of the Thunder Mountain fans, it was Kenny Hammond who was approaching the back bumper of the Zacharias machine. With Zacharias bottled up behind a lap car Hammond seized upon an opportunity that opened on the high side and throttled his Hunt’s Automotive sponsored ride into the lead with 11 circuits remaining. After riding highs and lows over the course of the 100 lap distance Kenny Hammond would pedal his way into Little’s Lawn Equipment Victory Lane. Kenny would collect the big $12000 winners check and the $1000 home turf defenders bonus.
In the supporting 25-lap 600cc Modified main event it was second-generation race driver Jared Green who finally gained his first feature win at TMS. Jared is the son of Street Stock ace Rich Green and the entire Green family was more than ready to celebrate this well-deserved win.
Crate Sportsman A-Main – Kenny Hammond, Jimmy Zacharias, Dale Welty, Tim Hindley, Scott Hitchens, Connor Cleveland, Tyler Thompson, Sammy Martz Jr., Tommy Collins, Mitch Gibbs, Alex Yankowski, Nick Nye, Pat Jordan, Larry Mekic, Will Eastman Jr., Dustin Jordan, Hunter Lapp, Mike Bills, Joe McCabe, Charlie Tibbitts, Connor Brown, Daryl Krebs, Jimmy Leiby, Andy Bachetti, Chance Spoonhower, Rocky Warner, Shayne Spoonhower, Mike Austin, Frank Jashembowski, Steve Davis
Crate Sportsman B Main 1 – Scott Hitchens, Connor Cleveland, Nick Nye, Rich Talada, Eldon Payne Jr., Tim Guild, David Schilling, Jim Housworth, Travis Green, Isaiah Forward, Rich Powell, Byron Worthing, Ray Leonard, Hunter Lapp, Rick Wegner, Jordan Bacon, Gary Smith, Danny Varin, Chance Spoonhower
Crate Sportsman B Main 2 – Frank Jashembowski, Tyler Thompson, Rocky Warner, Steve Hicks, Bob Henry Jr., Cole Stangle, Will Shields, Corey Cormier, Mike Nagel Jr., Kevin Borden, David DeMorst, Grant Hilfiger, Brett Buono, Tyler Keener, Dave Marcuccilli, Jimmy Zacharias, Ben Bushaw, Garret Rushlow, Randy Brokaw
600cc Modified – Jared Green, Dana Davis, Jamie Frantz, Bailey Boyd, Nick Nye, Scott Landers, Mark Golden, Will Eastman, Paul DeRuyter, James Randall, Chace Scutt, Justin LaDue, Damon Henry, Chelsie Beebe, Kristen Chamberlain, Dakota Anderson, Mike Wilcha, Tom Shiner, Doug Windhausen, Jake Waibel
The Crate Sportsman will button the roofs back on and return to postseason action next week as part of the 6th annual WADE DECKER MEMORIAL. They join a stellar line up which is headlined by a 51 lap $5000 to win Modified main event, along with Short Track Super Series Open Sportsman, Street Stocks and 600cc Modifieds.
Free camping is always available on the speedway grounds and VIP rooms are still available for rent on race nights. For rules and info on any upcoming events, visit us on the web at www.thundermtnspeedway.net or check us out on Facebook.