by MIKE MALLETT
Tony Stewart had an impressive Saturday night at the Selinsgrove Speedway in his first visit to the historic Pennsylvania oval. Stewart set a new track record (17.167), won his heat race and then went out and won the feature by well over two seconds even after starting eighth over defending champion Pat Cannon.
He passed both Cannon and Mark Smith en route to the victory.
“I was nervous when we drew eighth for the feature there,” said Stewart afterwards. “I knew Pat Cannon and Mark Smith would be the guys that you’d have to watch out for and that you’d have to beat. When we got by Mark there I knew we had a decent night going and I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to catch Pat or not. With Pat and Mark there you just know those are the big names here in 360 sprint car racing. It is an honor to run here and it has been something I wanted to do. We tried here last fall and got rained out and we got back here tonight and had a chance to do it all over again.”
Stewart was able to utilize the top and bottom of the speedway as he drove his way up through the field. He first worked over Smith, and then passed Jessica Zemken before ultimately tracking down and passing Cannon on the inside of the first and second turn.
“It was so wide tonight and racey,” commented Stewart. “It is fun when you can go to a track and it has a lot of room to race and it has a top and bottom like this.”
Stewart wasn’t sure what track he was going to be racing at when he left Williams Grove Speedway on Friday night after his fourth place finish there. Stewart returned to Martinsville before the crew informed him of the decision to race at Selinsgrove.
“We had planned on running Lincoln because it is a place we run with the Outlaws and the All Stars but it was a point handicap system,” said Stewart. “Stephanie Stutts actually called us and told us we have a couple other options with Port Royal or they have a nice 360 show at Selinsgrove. I told the guys we had options and told them to let me know when they get to the track where we are going and this is where they wanted to come.”
Stewart was able to bring Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup sponsor with him to the event. Like Stewart, they were pleased to be a part of the event. Stewart has big plans for the 2013 Sprint Car schedule as he currently hopes to compete in nearly 70 Sprint Car events before the end of the season and these sponsors play a major role in that.
“It was a blast,” said Stewart. “We are going to try and make 70 Sprint Car races this year and not only do we get to do it but our cup sponsor that is on the car tomorrow came with us because they are curious about what we do when we go race Sprint Cars. He is a sponsor that understands that I want to go and have fun and he wants to come and have fun with us.”
Williams Grove Speedway Notes: Danny Dietrich captured the win in Friday night’s A-Main event. It was the first win of the season for the Gettysburg, Pa., driver. For Dietrich the win puts his Gary Kauffman owned team on a path toward the 2013 track title which is the team’s ultimate goal.
“One of our biggest goals of the year,” commented Dietrich. “We definitely want to win races because that pays the most but the points deal here is second to none in the country.”
Dietrich had some mechanical issues in hot laps and from that point forward the team was hard at work all night long preparing for the feature event.
“Tonight none of us were on top of the trailer for more than a minute,” said Dietrich. “I don’t think I watched any of the races. I climbed up right before the start of the heat race to look at the race track and then I made some adjustments. I think the only time my crew was on top of the trailer was for the feature.”
Lance Dewease nearly won Friday night’s feature but was forced to settle for second. Dewease closed in on Dietrich in the closing laps only to come up one spot short. Dewease is still adjusting to his new deal and the new tires but see’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“Little bit of a learning curve with them,” said Dewease about the new Hoosiers. “I’m running different engines than before and this time of year the tracks go from real wet to slick. They are all over the place so one week you are fast and the next not as much. We’re making some ground but we need to race more.”
Donnie Kreitz Jr., took third in the 25-lap feature Friday. Kreitz was strong on the bottom as always. He was chasing down Dewease in the final laps.
“I thought was Lance leading and I was running my butt off,” said Kreitz. “I didn’t know Dietrich was out there. I was really running to try and get to him. Sometimes I was over driving the corner sometimes it was good.”
After leading the first half of the race, Logan Schuchart faded back to finish in fifth. He was loose from the drop of the green flag but held on to stay in the top five.
“We haven’t been out of the top ten yet here,” said Schuchart. “We are fast just need to get things together and get things to go our way. It hurts to go backwards. I was hoping starting on the pole that we could stay out in front. We didn’t have it tonight and we’ll try again next week.”
Greg Hodnett was a start and park on the night. Hodnett took the green in the heat race and the B-Main before heading pit-side.
Prior to racing action Hodnett reported that he has broken bones in his hand that will not require surgery at the time although it may require some time to heal. He was going to attempt and race if he felt comfortable in the car. That wasn’t the case.
Brent Marks broke a left rear shock and then caught the inside implement tire at the start of the A-Main in turn three. He shot up the track and ended up getting over collecting several other cars as well.
Selinsgrove Speedway Notes: Pat Cannon came home second to Tony Stewart. It was the third time this year that Cannon has finished second at Selinsgrove. He was second in the 410 Sprint Car opener and then again on opening night to Mark Smith.
“We can’t complain we had everyone covered tonight except for Tony Stewart,” said Cannon. “We were off just a little bit. We made a few changes and were a little better but I couldn’t get traction off the corner. We were missing it off the corner a little bit and that killed our night.”
Cannon also commented on the progress he’s been able to make in the 410 ranks. Cannon finished eighth on Friday at the Grove.
“We are making some progress,” stated Cannon. “The first night we had some problems there, last night we made some progress. We are getting a new motor here in a few weeks and that will be a little better for us.”
Liverpool, Pa., driver TJ Stutts advanced from the 17th starting position to fourth in the A-Main. Stutts admitted the challenge of running the bigger top win and the 360 engine was part of the issue as to why he was so far off in qualifying.
“I was terrible until the feature and I can’t even tell you what’s wrong,” said Stutts. “I hope we learned something for the next time here. I got to thank my guys, they kept working and working on getting the car right. We just haven’t run enough with the big wing on and we only run four 360 shows a year. To be able to drive up through like that I’m happy for my team.”
Dylan Swiernik started 18th and finished inside the top ten. Swiernik debuted a new powerplant on Saturday in Kriner Racing Engines. The engine paid off as he was able to make his way up to ninth.
“This has been a good night,” said Swiernik afterwards. “I was supposed to go to Fulton practice and they canceled because of wet grounds. We came down here with our new Kriner. They’ve been great with us. They came down to help us make sure we got this thing ticking right.”
Three-time Empire Super Sprint champion, Steve Poirier, got a vibration late in the race. The cause was a tire that began coming apart. Poirier was happy to have the track time as the team learned several things for their next visit in May.
Matt Tanner’s night ended early as he burnt a piston prior in his heat race putting him out of action for the remainder of the night.