MERCER, PA – Rex King, Jr. dominated the 35 lap Chiller Thriller for the BRP Modified Tour at Mercer Raceway Park. It was the second year in a row that he claimed the first win at the Park.
Also taking his second victory in the opening event was Joel Watson in the UEMS Modifieds. Mike Pegher, Jr. and Max Blair fought to the finish in the Crate Late Model race, bringing back fond memories of their younger days when they were arch rivals at the Park. Rusty Martz was back in command in the Open Stock Cars.
For King, Jr. everything came together. “We had a good starting spot, the first half of the field took right off. I’ve raced here enough over the years, that I knew what I had to do.” He explained that he had to be cautious working past the lapped cars. “I was trying to keep it clean in traffic. This is a tight place, you never know what can happen.” In conclusion, he gave props to his crew, led by his brother, Russell, who was competing this night in the Crate Late Model division. “I haven’t touched the cars all winter. I’ve been too busy making babies and working, and trying to grow the business,” he said with a laugh.
Tyler Willard and Brad Rapp held the front row starting positions, with Rex King, Jr. and Randy Chrysler behind them. At the drop of the green, the leaders were side by side as they entered turn one, Slowly, Rapp began to edge ahead of Willard as they raced down the back stretch. His lead was short lived, however, as a caution in turn three for a multi-car crash stopped the action. Some heavy hitters were involved, including multi-time series champion, Rex King, Sr., former track champion, Lonnie Riggs, Mat Williamson, Mike Bowman, and defending series champion, Erick Rudolph. Only Bowman was eliminated from further competition.
On the restart, Rapp pulled away from the pack, but King Jr. was on the move into the second spot.
On lap three, King dove low into the third turn, and he powered into the lead. Cooter held control the rest of the way, despite two interruptions that wiped out his comfortable margin.
With King deftly negotiating lapped traffic, the battle was on for the second position. Rapp held it until lap 10, when Randy Chrysler came off the inside of turn four to take the position away. Rapp continued to dog the popular New Yorker the rest of teh way, but he could not regain the spot.
Behind them, J.R. McGinley and Garrett Krummert were getting after one another for the fourth spot.
Meanwhile, Rex King, Sr. and Erick Rudolph were working their way to the front, coming back from that early shunt in turn three. In the waning laps of the race, Rudolph slipped ahead of both Krummert and McGinley to snare the fourth spot.
At the checkers, it was King Jr. by two seconds over Chrysler. Rapp, Rudolph, and McGinley rounded out the top five. McGinley was the highest finishing Mercer Raceway Park regular. Krummert, King Sr., Rick Regalski, Lonnie Riggs, and Tyler Willard completed the top ten.
The heat race winners were Tom Glenn, Rudolph, and Riggs. There was no B Main, as all 27 cars were allowed to take the green.
Joel Watson jumped out to the early lead in the UEMS 25 lapper. Josh Ferry held the second spot, with David Scott, Carl McKinney, and Shawn Shingledecker in tow. Several laps into the contest, McKinney slipped out over the edge while racing down the back stretch, losing a couple of positions. He battled back, tough, as the race progressed.
In the second half of the race, Scott moved into second and he started to close in on the leader. Watson had enough of a lead, and Scot did not have enough time to run him down.
Watson took the checkers, with Scott, Ferry, McKinney, and Troy Johnson in the top five. The next five finishers were Dan Davies, Al Brewer, Ken Zimmer, Michael McGee, and Shawn Shingledecker.
The pair of heat wins went to Ferry and Scott. There was no B Main.
The Crate Late Model race was a thriller. Early on Mike Pegher, Jr. fought with Andy Boozel. Later, Pegher and Max Blair battled back and forth. Pegher held the low line, but Blair showed his nose several times. Blair was never able to get by, however.
On lap 14, immediately after a restart, Blair had his chance. He powered around Pegher coming off turn two to grab the lead, but a caution was displayed, giving the lead back to Pegher. Pegher was up for the challenge on the second try to complete that lap, and he was never headed.
Blair positioned himself for a last lap outside charge. However, he slid high in turn two, giving the second spot to Russell King. King tried a similar maneuver in turns three and four, and he, too, slid above the cushion, returning Blair to second.
Pegher captured the win, with Blair and King close behind. Matt Latta and Chad Wright took positions four and five. Sixth went to John Watters. T.J. Downs, Andy Boozel, Tony White, and Jeff Walters were next across the line.
The heat victories belonged to Boozel and Pegher. There was no B Main.
Rusty Martz was back in victory lane after nearly a three year struggle sorting out a new car. Martz had to contend with Brent Johnson for teh first half of teh race. After a restart, however, Johnson drifted back. That enabled Bruce Hartzfeld to contend for teh second position. Hartzfeld did gain the advantage briefly, but Johnso rallied in the closing laps.
Martz, Johnson, and Hartzfeld led Pat Fielding and Troy Norman to the finish. Perennial contender Chris Schneider retired three laps from the finish, but was scored in sixth anyway. Richard Chess, Gary Miller, and Charlie McMillen were also pitside at the conclusion of the race.
Preliminaries were captured by Johnson and Schneider.
Next week, Mercer Raceway Park will host its first Saturday Night Live! event of the season. The five division program will feature the Precise Racing Products 410 Sprint Cars, Turn 4 Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds, Bonnell’s Rod Shop 305 Sprint Cars, Ray’s Racing Collectibles/Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking Mini Stocks, and Rock Concrete Supply Modifed Lites. Gates will open at 4 p.m., with heat racing starting at 6:30.
BRP Modified Tour: Rex King, Jr., Randy Chrysler, Brad Rapp, Erick Rudolph, J.R. McGinley, Garrett Krummert, Rex King, Sr., Rick Regalski, Lonnie Riggs, Tyler Willard, Kyle Fink, Dave Murdick, Ray Bliss, Shawn Kozar, Travis Shingledecker, Richard Whitney, Steve Barr, Rod Laskey, Kevin Green, Kenny Willis, Skip Moore, Jeremiah Shingledecker, Mat Williamson, Chris Haines, Ton Glenn, Mike Bowman, Kevin Hoffman.
UEMS Modifieds: Joel Watson, David Scott, Josh Ferry, Carl McKinney, Troy Johnson, Dan Davies, Al Brewer, Ken Zimmer, Michael McGee, Shawn Shingledecker. DNS: Mike Potosky, Mike Kinney, Greg Johnson.
Crate Late Models: Mike Pegher, Jr., Max Blair, Russel King, Matt Latta, Chad Wright, John Watters, T.J. Downs, Andy Boozel, Tony White, Jeff Walters, Khole Wanzer, Robert Mitcham, Hunter Hulley, Alan Dellinger. DNS: Brian Swank.
Open Stock Cars: Rusty Martz, Brent Johnson, Bruce Hartzfeld, Pat Fielding, Troy Norman, Chris Schneider, Richard Chess, Gary Miller, Charlie McMillen.