By KEN BRUCE
After struggling for years to win his first Thunder on the Hill race, Ryan Watt has now made it two-in-a-row at the Grandview Speedway. Watt won the last TOTH race at speedway last October and backed up that win by holding off a determined Duane Howard to take the checkers in this year’s TOTH opener.
“It’s always nice to get a win here at Grandview,” said a happy Watt afterwards. “It might not be my home track, but it is definitely my closest track. We’ve been trying for years here to get a win in one of these TOTH shows and something always seems to happen. We’ve had nothing but bad luck in these show with either a bad draw, the car has issues or whatever, but now we’ve won two of these in a row so I guess we can’t complain.”
Ryan Godown jumped out from his pole position to take command of the race at the drop of the green flag with third place starting Jordan Henn slipping by outside pole sitter Jared Umbenhauer to take second. Fourth starting Ryan Watt was on the move early on as well and went by Henn and Umbenhauer to move into second and immediately started to track down the high flying Godown. Watt closed in on Godown and within a few laps was right on the leader’s bumper.
Godown and Watt put on a battle with Watt trying both high and low to get past Godown. Watt could pull alongside of the leader but Godown wouldn’t give in and was able to stay out front. Suddenly on lap 10 coming out of turn two the engine in Godown’s Searock Fabrications No. 26 started to sputter and backfire causing Godown to slow dramatically going into turn three. He drifted high and came to a stop handing the lead to Watt.
“That could’ve been an ugly situation there when Ryan broke,” as Watt explained the race he was having with Godown. “I am glad he did what he did. When he broke he went right to the bottom and didn’t stay in the groove. That sucks for him. I was really looking forward to racing with him there. He would go in and slide up the track to the top and I was trying to figure out how to get my car turned enough to cross him over.”
Watt fired off on the restart to take the lead with Craig Von Dohren coming from third to pull up to the inside of Watt going into turn one. Watt was able to hold off Von Dohren’s challenge and started to put a little distance on the field as now Von Dohren was having trouble holding off a hard charging Howard. Howard went by Von Dohren to move into second and started to track down the leader Watt.
Each and every lap Howard would inch closer to Watt and as two leaders approached the five to go signal Howard was on the bumper of the leader. Running the extreme inside line Howard would be able to pull alongside going through turns one and two but Watt would have the momentum coming off the turn to stay out in front. Still Howard wasn’t about to give up and with three to go was able to stay alongside of Watt coming off turn two racing down the back stretch. The two cars made contact while racing side by side with Watt once again coming out ahead as they entered turn three. That was the last challenge Watt would have to fend off as he pulled away from Howard whose pace was starting to slow as his No. 357 started to lose air in his right rear tire as a result of the contact a lap earlier.
Watt would go onto to take the win and the $3,000 first place price. Howard was able to nurse his car home in second with Von Dohren, Umbenhauer and Brett Kressley rounding out the top five.
“We had good battle going there with Duane but really it was only for about one lap,” explained Watt. “This car was so good tonight; I could run anywhere I wanted on the track and it seemed to work. Turns three and four had some more brown to it tonight and I could get a really good run through it. (turns) One and two I could get in and out of really good, but it was slick in the middle. I was trying to take it easy there running through lapped traffic and slow my pace a little and not run as hard. When I saw Duane there with two to go I had to give it all I had for the last couple of laps and it seemed the harder I drove it the better it stuck but I had to be careful I didn’t over drive it as well.”
Howard Gave it all he had to Finish Second
Although finishing second is not what Duane Howard races for whenever he straps himself into a race car, it’s especially frustrating for the Oley, PA driver to finish second at his home track of Grandview Speedway. Starting in the ninth position Howard quickly picked his way to the front and gave Watt all he could handle battling for the lead before the two made contact resulting in a right rear tire going down ending Howard’s bid for the lead. Howard was able to hang on and finish second.
“We had a good run tonight and the car showed some speed, but I just couldn’t get the line I wanted there at the end to get by him,” said a disappointed Howard. “He (Watt) had the preferred line and it forced me to run the bottom. I just couldn’t get the position on him that I needed to get by. You needed to be where he was running to get the momentum you needed, but I just couldn’t get there. Starting where we did it showed we had a really good race car tonight, but it also forced me to have to use it up a little more than I would’ve liked getting to the front. I think if we could’ve have started up closer to the front it might’ve been a different story.”
Godown had an Up and Down Night
Ryan Godown was the only driver Tuesday night to pull double duty. Driving his familiar No. 26 in the Modified division and the Karl Freyer owned No. 4F in the USAC wingless sprints. In the sprint division Godown knew he was underpowered running a 360 ci against the mighty 410’s but decided to give it a try anyways. The team had just dropped in the freshly rebuilt Don Ott 360 ci powerplant and had confidence they could hang in there with the big boys of USAC.
Godown knew he wouldn’t be as competitive in the heats with the track being fast and heavy but figured by the feature time when the track started to dry out, he could come towards the front. Talking to Godown early in the night he said he would be happy with a top ten finish in the 40-lap feature. Starting on the pole in his heat race Godown would hold on to finish in fourth to make the main-event.
Starting the feature race in 18th, Godown hung out in that spot early on trying to get a feel for his car while hanging in there until the track started to dry out. With around 15 laps to go Godown started to make a charge. While the USAC sprints with their big 410 ci motors started to slow, Godown’s 360 ci sprinter was starting to come to life. Lap after lap Godown would start to picked-off cars running laps almost a second faster than the leader Brady Bacon. Godown was on the move and in the last 10 laps came from deep in the field to finish a very respectable 11th, just missing his goal of finishing in the top ten.
Unfortunately for Godown that was his highlight of the night. While leading the Modified feature and in a great battle with Ryan Watt the engine in his No. 26 started to sputter forcing him to coast to a stop and having to be pushed to the pits.
“We had a good run going there in the Sprint Car,” cited Godown. “I wish the race was 50-laps instead of 40-laps. The car was really coming on there towards the end. I knew this motor had some good smoke to it and it showed there later in the race. It sucks about the Modified, we’re not sure what happened yet but I think it’s something electrical. Probably the MSD box or distributor. The car was fast but I’m not sure I would have been able to hold off Watty (Ryan Watt), he was very fast tonight.”
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