By MIKE MALLETT
Josh Weller finally found success in 2017 on Tuesday night at the Bridgeport Speedway. The Mertztown, Pa., driver captured the win in the 25-lap United Racing Club main-event for his first win of the season. The win made him the first two-time winner in Three for All action at the South Jersey oval in any division as he also won the URC portion in 2016.
“This is one of those places we seemed to have found something,” commented Weller. “We seem to like it right now. Everything is clicking. We’ve been struggling a little bit this year so if feels good to get one. That monkey might be gone for the year now. We don’t have a lot of races in this year, but it’s all better when you win a race.”
Weller started the race from the fourth position. It took until lap nine for him to run down pole starter and early leader Mark Bitner. Bitner was running the low to middle groove while Weller got his car hooked up on the top. That allowed him to blast around Bitner in turns three and four.
“He seemed to loosen up quite a bit early in the run and we just got the thing wound up on the top,” said Weller of Bitner. “He seemed to be hanging a little bit coming off the corner. We had a drag race to the third turn. It’s good racing with guys like him. It’s someone you know you can run with and you don’t have to worry about getting dumped for it or anything like that. Its fun racing.”
In the late stages Weller felt pressure from both traffic and a hard charging Davie Franek. Franek took several looks to the inside of Weller but just couldn’t make it stick with momentum keeping Weller in front. With only three to go, Weller got a caution that opened the door for him to finish off the race.
“I think we stopped catching lapped cars at the right time and were starting to race them too much,” commented Weller. “I think the caution did come out at a good time. I was a little bit concerned with how tight I had the car from running in lapped traffic until we got back to clean air. I underestimated how much I needed to go. Luckily we had a clean race track to make the car work through the whole thing.”
Franek Low on Fuel
Franek, from Sussex, N.J., made things interesting up until the final caution. Franek got a great start to move from eighth into the top five. From there the former URC champion inched his way forward before pressing Weller for the lead before the final yellow.
“The car was really good,” mentioned Franek. “I think we were running him down a little bit, even in clean air. When you can do that here and run that close to someone you know you are good. We are going to write our notes down and move on.”
In reality, Franek was lucky to finish as the car ran out of fuel as he was going across the scales at the completion of the race. He knew the fuel was running low before the final green flag got the race back underway.
“We ran out of fuel,” cited Franek. “Right before the last yellow it blubbered, I thought to myself, ‘we ain’t gonna make it.’ I was running around the bottom side of the race track. The green came back out and it blubbered going into one. I thought we were definitely done. We went down the backstretch and came back around to one again and it blubbered and picked it up again. Then it damn near shut off going into three and four. I went across the scales and it died.”
Sammons Saves It
Bordentown, N.J., driver Davey Sammons was saved by a late race caution. Sammons was just a bit off on the setup which caused his car to fade over the course of the race. Luckily, on the final caution, he was able to make a couple of nifty moves to work his way back onto the podium after starting on the outside pole.
“The motor was acting up all night and I couldn’t get good restarts,” stated Sammons. “On the original start I was getting run into by the fourth place car. We just missed it. It was too tight. The higher the tires got the worse I got. I was probably was an eighth or ninth place car I felt like. I was able to cool them off. I timed that restart perfectly and got away from the stumble. Those guys went to the bottom and we were able to salvage it. We weren’t a third place car but made it work.”
Bitner Coming Along
Bitner ended up in fourth after leading the way early. Bitner held his own even though he was attempting to overcome some gremlins of his own with his No. 15. Although he gave up the lead, he was still smiling in typical ‘Mr. Twister’ fashion after the race.
“I’m still happy with it,” he said about fourth. “We’ve been struggling a little bit with the car and some nick knack issues with the motor. We got everything ironed out tonight and got a good solid run under it. Now we can take that and go from there and get some really good runs.”
The car was very good in the beginning stages before a few things popped up slowing the pace which included beating up the tires. Making the tires last is an essential to finishing up front at Bridgeport.
“Early the car was very strong, then it started running a little bit higher on temperature,” he said. “Then I overheated the tires I think. Toward the end there the left rear was just toast. I was just hanging on. It was kind of floating along.”
Big Track Bernheisel
Bryan Bernheisel captured the in the 25-lap Super Late Model feature event after starting on the pole. Bernheisel lost the lead early before regaining it when the leader dropped out with mechanical woes. He held off a strong challenge by Kenny Pettyjohn en route to the win. Afterwards he talked about his love of for the five-eighths mile Bridgeport Speedway.
“We definitely have been getting better here every year,” said Bernheisel. “I honed my craft driving on big tracks so this is right where I belong. Starting up front definitely didn’t hurt. We still had the best car.”
Bernheisel did his best to stay up on the high-side of the speedway to keep him momentum up. The Pennsylvania native was going to make anyone trying to pass him go down below. He had some issues late with the cautions but fended off all comers to stay at the front.
“Late in the race those cautions were getting me out of my rhythm,” commented Bernheisel. “I wasn’t driving as well as I would have liked. I had a good car and I knew as long as I kept it up in the top groove I’d be alright.”
Sprint Car Spots
20 United Racing Club drivers were pit-side to start the night. They ran a pair of heat races with checkered flags going to Bitner and Robbie Stillwaggon…
Lucas Wolfe was in the pits and started seventh in the feature. He ended up dropping out early in the race…
Late Model Leftovers
20 cars attended the event on Tuesday night with Pettyjohn and Ricky Elliott taking heat race wins…
Austin Hubbard dropped out while leading after only a circuit was complete. He limped back to the pit area…
Chad Hollenbeck suffered a right rear flat while running in the top five causing a caution. He did not return to action upon heading to the pits…
Kyle Hardy finished in the runner-up position. Hardy had the car ‘too tight’ to be able to challenge Bernheisel for the win…
Danny Snyder, who finished third, wished he had gone with harder tires as his car began to fade late in the race…
Kenny Pettyjohn was making a charge for the lead before bringing out a caution with eight laps to go while running second. Pettyjohn’s car came to stop on the backstretch at the entrance to turn three. He was able to resume at the tail of the field before driving his way back up to fourth. He believe he had an electrical issue in the ignition system or the wiring that caused the car to die…
Gary Stuhler ended up finishing in fifth but admitted afterwards they were fortunate guys in front of them dropped out. They continue to search for speed…