By JUSTIN SNYDER
PORT ROYAL, Pa- Entering the 78th Annual Port Royal Speedway Opening Day presented by Packer’s Concessions racing activities, it had been 12 years since a driver (Todd Shaffer) claimed the opening day Weikert’s Livestock 410 Sprint Car victory and went on to capture the season engine championship title.
With 46 drivers signed in to compete under sunny Juniata County skies and temperature’s reaching nearly 60 degrees for a 2pm start time, many had their eyes on breaking that streak.
However, California native and Ollies Bargain Outlet’s All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 regular Cory Eliason, made sure that the streak would go to 13 as he led 24 laps to pick up his first ever victory at ‘The Speed Palace’ in front of a record breaking crowd for Opening Day.
“We’re headed out west here next week so I think you can count us out of the championship chase,” smiled Eliason. “But I love this place and I’m really happy to get a win here on Opening Day. We’ll be here as much as the schedule permits this season.”
Liverpool, Pa. native TJ Stutts and Eliason led the field of 26 cars to the green flag with Eliason taking the lead with a slide-job in the opening turn. Stutts repaid the favor in turn’s three and four to slide back under Eliason to lead the first feature lap of the 2020 race season.
However, Eliason wasn’t about to sit and wait as he once again pulled a slide job in turn one and exited turn two with what would ultimately be the race winning pass.
“He drove back by us on the bottom, so I had to slide him again down here and I think we got together maybe a little bit,” said Eliason. “But I had to go for it. It was time to get moving. You have to be out front to control the pace.”
Eliason quickly stretched his lead to nearly 1.2 seconds over Stutts and weekend invader Brent Marks the first five laps, while Danny Dietrich (10th to sixth) and Logan Wagner (ninth to seventh) were moving forward through the field.
All momentum was halted the following circuit when Tyler Reeser and Cale Thomas got together in turn one to bring out the first caution. Both drivers would fail to re-join the field and be done for the night.
On the restart, Eliason once again sped out to a large lead while Marks slid under Stutts in turn 1 to take the second position. Stutts pulled back under Marks down the backstretch to move back into second.
The following lap would spell trouble for Dietrich as he made contact with 14th-place starter Brock Zearfoss in turn three, sending both cars into the outside guardrail to bring out the second caution of the event. Dietrich would tag onto the tail of the field, but Zearfoss would end his night with front end damage.
When green flag action returned, Eliason once again jumped out to a commanding lead as Stutts, Marks, Anthony Macri and Wagner all jockeyed for position behind him. Meanwhile, 16th-place starter Lance Dewease entered the top-10 on lap seven and moved into eighth the following circuit.
By lap 12, Eliason had closed in on the back end of the field and was working lap traffic with a 1.5 second advantage over Stutts at the halfway mark. Capitalizing on a failed attempt by Macri to pass Marks for third, Wagner moved into the fourth position on lap 15, while Dewease advanced to seventh the same lap.
Stutts had one chance to take back the lead on lap 17 when Eliason struggled with a lap car in turn’s three and four and he closed to the tail of the leader. However, he couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and found himself with Marks in heavy pursuit of second.
Stutts, who closed out the 2019 race season with a win at the speedway, attempt to make it two in a row ended four laps later as he slowed on the front stretch with engine troubles and one lap later the final caution of the feature would fall as 21st place starter Ryan Smith came to a stop in turn three.
The final restart proved to be beneficial to Eliason as he got a great restart, virtually eliminating any hopeful charge by Marks, who inherited the second spot when Stutts dropped out. Eliason would ultimately take the checkered flag by a 1.097 margin over Marks, Wagner, Dewease and Macri. He earned $5000 for his efforts.
Freddie Rahmer, weekend invader Lynton Jeffrey, Blane Heimbach, Dylan Cisney and Jeff Miller rounded out the top-10.
“I’m glad we had that caution as it opened it back up for me to have clean air,” said Eliason. “I was able to make my lead big again and not really have to worry about getting slid or passed at any given time.”
Marks noted that if the race had stayed green, he thought he might’ve been able to steal the win away in lapped traffic.
“If not for the late caution I think we might have had something for him,” said Marks, who is in his first season racing for CJB Motorsports. “He was making some mistakes and I was just kind of waiting there to pounce, but it didn’t work out that way and we’ll take second.
Dewease passed a total of 12 cars and was the race’s hard charger. Courtesy of the family and friends of Joey Pharo ($725) and Valley Supply Inc. ($200), he took home an additional $925 for the feat.
Weikert’s Livestock 410 Sprint Car Results- 1. Cory Eliason, 2. Brent Marks, 3. Logan Wagner, 4. Lance Dewease, 5. Anthony Macri, 6.Freddie Rahmer, 7. Lynton Jeffrey, 8.Blane Heimbach, 9.Dylan Cisney, 10.Jeff Miller, 11. Mike Wagner, 12. Alan Krimes, 13. Lucas Wolfe, 14.Danny Dietrich, 15.Kyle Reihardt, 16.A.J. Flick, 17. Chad Kemenah, 18.Paulie Colagiovanni, 19. Jeff Halligan, 20.TJ Stutts, 21.Ryan Smith, 22.Kyle Moody, 23.Tyler Bear, 24.Brock Zearfoss, 25. Cale Thomas, 26. Tyler Reeser
DNQ- Jared Esh, Gerard McIntyre, Zeb Wise, Kody Lehman, Joey Hershey, Brett Michalski, Steve Buckwalter, Mike Walter II, Justin Whittall, Rick Lafferty, George Hobaugh, RJ Jacobs, Landon Myers, Anthony Fiore, Billy Dietrich, Jonathon Jones, John Garvin, Tyler Walton, Zach Hampton, Ryan Taylor
Super Late Models
In River Valley Builders Super Lat Model competition, Winchester, Va. native Trevor Feathers capitalized on a front row starting spot to pick up his first career victory at the Port Royal Speedway. He bested Dan Stone by .796 seconds to claim the checkered flag and the $2500 prize.
“This place is just amazing, and I’m really pumped up to be standing in victory lane this early in the season,” said Feathers. “I thought we had them covered there late, but you never really know at this place and ultimately we did enough to win.”
Stone and Feathers led the field to the green flag with Stone getting the early advantage through turn’s one and two. Feathers pulled even with Stone down the backstretch to take the point entering turn three and pulled away to the flag stand to lead lap one.
Fourth-place starter Dillan Stake inched by Stone at the flagstand for second as well on the opening circuit. Over the next 12 laps, Feathers built up a near straightaway lead over Stake and Stone, while Jason Covert was advancing forward form the ninth starting spot and was running in sixth.
Feathers reached lapped traffic on lap 13 and four laps later Stone regained the second position, passing Stake for second on the bottom of the speedway in turn three. The following lap, Feather’s lead would be erased as seventh place Gene Knaub made contact with the lapped car of Larry Neiderer, bringing out the first caution of the feature.
The field returned to green flag action with Feathers at the point but would once again be slowed when four cars got together in turn three before a lap could be completed.
Over the remaining seven laps, Feathers would go unchallenged to claim his first career victory at the Juniata County oval over Stone, Covert, Andy Haus and Ross Robinson.
“This is a brand new car and we ran it six night’s down at East Bay before coming here, but it just fits me really well for what I like to do on the track,” said Feathers holding his son in victory lane. “This means a lot to me to have my son here with me and this track is simply amazing. We’ll be back as much as possible and try and get some more wins.”
Stone believed he might’ve had a chance if not for the late caution.
“I didn’t want to see that caution come out as we were running really good, but that’s the way things go sometimes,” said Stone. “I knew Trevor was going to be tough as he’s really good when the track is slick like this. It’s probably the best we’ve ever run with this car, so I think we’re in for a good season.”
Hayes Mattern, who started last on the field for the A-Main, passed 11 cars to finish 15th and claimed a $725 hard charger award courtesy of the family and friends of Joey Pharo.
Colton Flinner, Stake, 2019 Track Champion Dylan Yoder, Mike Lupfer and Roy Deese rounded out the top-10.
River Valley Builders Super Late Model Results- 1. Trevor Feathers, 2. Dan Stone, 3. Jason Covert, 4.Andy Haus, 5.Ross Robinson, 6. Colton Flinner, 7.Dillan Stake, 8.Dylan Yoder, 9.Mike Lupfer, 10. Roy Deese, 11. Gene Kanub, 12. Coleby Frye, 13.Trent Brenneman, 14.Tim Smith Jr., 15.Hayes Mattern, 16. Dave Brouse Jr., 17. Kyle Lear, 18. Scott Flickinger, 19. Chad Myers, 20. Dave Stamm, 21. Jeff Rine, 22. Gary Stuhler, 23. Larry Neiderer, 24. Nick Dickson, 25. Drake Troutman, 26. Kyle Kanpp
DNS- Chris Casner