By MIKE MALLETT
Brent Marks has been solid in early season action at the Lincoln Speedway. The 22-year-old from Myerstown, Pa., came into Saturday with two top ten finishes. He started the season with a seventh place run and backed that up last week with a solid third place effort. Those two finishes helped boost his confidence. With that, and a strong car, he won his first race of the 2013 season Saturday.
“This shows how hard my guys and this whole team works,” stated Marks. “We had a lot to do over the off season and we got it done. We made sure we were prepared as possible and today it all worked out. These guys won this race today. We tried some things last year and we figured some things out and since then we’ve become a top five car wherever we go.”
The solid start by Marks is exactly what he and the team needed to build the confidence and keep everyone focused on getting the car where it needs to be.
“If you don’t start the season great it hurts you mentally,” commented Marks. “This keeps everything rolling nice and smooth and keeps everyone happy and upbeat. We have a really good program. This is my fifth year in it and it is our time to shine.”
Marks, who started eighth, used a lap 17 restart to slide by Billy Dietrich for the lead. He then held off Fred Rahmer and Cory Haas in the closing laps to go on to the win.
“I knew I had to do something on the restart because me and him the same speed,” stated Marks. “When I would get half a car length behind him I couldn’t do anything. On the restart I tried to pinch it off as much I could off of four to try and get a run. Once I got to his bumper going into one I made my move. He tried to race me again down here in three and four and I kind of shut the door on him. It was a really good race between me and him.”
The win for Marks came in a green racecar which historically has been considered bad luck in racing. He made the change during the off-season to try and change is luck.
“I needed a change from the fluorescent orange because a lot of people started doing it and it this was something different,” said Marks. “I look it at this way. I have a lot of bad luck so I might as well slap it in the face. So we put the whole car green and we doubled our t-shirt sales. Everyone loves the green especially the kids. Our sponsors like it to because it catches your eye. It has been a great marketing tool for me and I’ve gained three new sponsors because of it.”
Unfortunately for Marks, luck caught up with him on Sunday at Selinsgrove Speedway as he broke a torsion bar stop just prior to the start of the A-Main. He wasn’t able to get it repaired in time to start the event.
The luck that evaded Marks on Sunday may have fallen on Thomasville, Pa., driver Greg Hodnett. Hodnett, the winningest driver in Pennsylvania in 2013, started on the outside front row of his heat race, which he won. He then redrew the fourth position and was in the right place when Mark Smith, who was leading, was collected by a lapped car handing the top spot to Hodnett.
“We’ve always been really fortunate coming up here ever since I started racing on bigger tracks with the winged cars,” said the veteran driver. “This place fits my style. Obviously we had good starting spots all day and that is imperative here especially as narrow as the track was. We got a little luck and we’ll take it.”
Hodnett is still struggling to find the right feel to the car in only his second full race of the season. During his first day out at the Lincoln Speedway, Hodnett destroyed a car at the beginning of the event which has put the team a little behind.
“That was tough and I was fortunate I didn’t get hurt,” stated Hodnett. “Everything on the car was trashed except the seat and fuel lines; everything else was junk.”
As a result the team may not travel as much as originally planned.
“We were hoping to do some other things,” commented Hodnett. “We didn’t go to Florida so we could save some money there to maybe do some other things and do a little more traveling. The budget just got wiped out. Everything we saved by not going to Florida was gone in 20 yards. It didn’t fit in the plans. We have been very fortunate we haven’t crashed a lot; knock on wood. A totaled race car is not what I like to be involved in and it is pretty devastating for a car owner.”
Hodnett will return to action this coming Saturday night at the Port Royal Speedway, a place he dominated throughout the 2012 racing season.
Adjustment to New Tires: Both Hodnett and 2012 358 Sprint Car champion Pat Cannon reported an adjustment period to the new Hoosier tire that is mandated this year. It is a bit different than the compound used in the past and as a result there will be a learning curve.
“This is only my second race on them so I can’t tell yet,” said Hodnett. “I know the car has had the same consistent feel but it is not a real good one. We changed the car and made it better today but I don’t know if it is the car or the tires or how we are going about adjustments. We are going to go back to the basics next weekend and see what happens. The guys did a good job today and we just need to run more races and get some more laps.”
Cannon meanwhile reported that his major issue was “balance” with the car as a result of the fact that the compound is a bit harder than what they’ve run in the past.
Multiple drivers had tire issues on Sunday afternoon including Brian Montieth (two rear flats in feature), Michael Ruttkamp (flat left rear) and Davey Sammons (flat right rear in A-Main). The issue may have been caused by the massive cushion that had formed in turns three and four.
Haas Doesn’t Crash: For the first time this year the news out of Lincoln Speedway on Saturday afternoon didn’t involve Cory Haas getting upside down. Although Haas didn’t get upside down it was close when two cars came together in turn four while he was challenging for the lead. He drove between them as they spun.
“After two weeks I thought for sure we were going to crash,” stated Haas. “Billy (Dietrich) kind of let off the gas and committed to go through it. I figured he saw something so I followed him and I was able to drive through. Thank God.”
Racing This Weekend: Sprint cars return to the speedway this weekend on Saturday and Sunday with Lincoln and Port Royal Speedway finally opening Saturday night and then the make-up of the Brawl in the Fall on Sunday at the Hagerstown Speedway. Selinsgrove returns to action with two nights of the Race of Champions Modified series on Friday and Saturday night.