MERCER, PA – Mercer’s Eric Gabany celebrated a homecoming of sorts, winning the opening night for the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds in the 17th Annual Little Guys Nationals. Another former track regular, Andy Buckley, seized upon the opportunity presented on lap ten when the leader pounded the wall in turn one, and went on to win the main for the Penn Ohio Pro Stock Series and Precise Racing Products Open Stock Cars.
Also taking wins were Adam Kekich (Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warriors), Todd Reuser (270 Micro Sprints), Ed Haylett (Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks), Tyler Frankenberry (2 Barrel E-Mods), Mark Marcucci (Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites), Roman Jones (Elder Tractor Sales & Service Junior Sprints).
Gabany, who swapped out his 358 powerplant for a big block midway through the year, was glad that he kept the trusty engine. “The big block didn’t last very long. That small block, man, I’ll tell you, it keeps going, and it’s great when you win.”
Kyle Fink grabbed the early lead in the Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modified feature event. He was challenged by Gabany, Lonny Riggs, and J.R. McGinley. Fink led the way through lap ten. However, a caution allowed Gabany to line up beside him for the restart. Gabany had the preferred inside line, and he shot out to the lead, pulling Riggs into second.
Two laps later, another restart put Riggs on the front row, and this time, Gabany switched to the outside. It was almost his undoing.
“The restarts were a little tricky, but I managed to pull through,” Gabany said. “I tried the outside for that restart and the flagman wouldn’t let me start the race, so I had to go back down on the inside, which was smart becasue there was a lot more grip down there than on the outside anyway.”
Riggs got away first, and he began pulling away. But as the laps counted down, Gabany rallied. He was able to make a power move coming though turn four to take the lead from Riggs on lap 23.
Soon after Gabany regained the lead, a rash of yellow fever took over, but he was able to maintain control. Having learned his lesson, Gabany stayed low for the final restarts in the race.
Riggs was not so fortunate, though. The restarts did not suit him, and he was shuffled out of contention for the win. Kyle Fink grabbed second in the process, with Jimmy Holden quietly getting third. McGinley had the fourth spot. Fifth went to Kevin Hoffman.
New York invader Steve Schumacher was the last man to pass Riggs. Next came Jeff Schaffer, Sr., Sid Unverzagt, Jr., and Frank Guidace.
The winners of the twin semi-features were Fink and Richard Whitney.
Randy Wyant and Chris Schneider led the opening lap of the Penn Ohio Pro Stock Series feature, with Andy Buckley and Mike Clark hanging tough. Scneider worked his way past Wyant on lap three and started to pull away from the field.
Scneider had things well in hand until lap ten. He entered turn one a little higher than normal, and soon he was hard into the wall. The damage was too severe for Schneider to continue.
“Chris was running a pretty dangerous line, as you could see. That cushion was really bad, you had to hit it perfectly every lap or you were going to hit the wall,” Buckley said. “I just figured that I’d let him run up there and see what he did, and he made a mistake, and hit the wall. I figured from then on, I was going to the bottom and protect that becasue the middle was just black and polished.”
Buckley inherited the lead, but he had to contend with persistent challenges from Wyant the rest of the way. Wyant worked high and low, but Buckley was able to keep him at bay.
Wyant made one last desperate charge on the inside of turn four on the final lap. He was unable to hold his line and the car spun, almost collecting the third place racer of Rusty Moore. Moore managed to sneak around Wyant to cross in second.
Brent Johnson was third, with track champion William Hurrelbrink in fourth. Rusty Martz was fifth. A few laps before the end of the fray, those three drivers were fighting with Moore for the third spot, but Moore was able to separate himself from them in the waning laps.
Sixth went to Brian Rhed, followed by Bob Schwartzmiller, Mike Clark, Jason Fosnaught, and Andy Thompson.
Heat winners for the 44 car field were Schneider, Clark, Bob McCann, and Johnson. The B Main victories belonged to Curtis J. Bish and Terry Wheeler.
In the Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warriors, Adam Kekich registered the win, and the significance of the accomplishment was not lost on him. You see, Kekich was driving the McMillin number five, one of the most storied cars in the annals of Western PA Sprint Car racing. Kekich fondly recalled Ted Wise, who drove that mount many years ago. “It’s an honor to bring home a win for them at a historical place like this,” he added.
C.J. Jones jumped ahead at the start, with Kekich biding his time in second. Jeremy Kornbau and Gregg McCandless were also in the mix. The race was stopped on lap five when Mike Miller rolled slowly after colliding with Greg Dobrosky, who spun in turn two. Jones held the lead for four more laps before he slid out of the groove in turn three. That opened the door for Kekich, who went by and led the remainder of the race.
“I knew if I kept C.J. in check, I was going to have a shot at him in traffic. But he just bobbled there, and we took advantage of the opportunity we had to get by.”
Andy Priest took the second spot from Jones near the midpoint of the race, and he followed Kekich to the checkers. Jones held on for third. Jeremy Kornbau turned in a strong performance getting fourth. Gregg McCandless ran in the top five the whole distance. Jacob Gomola came through the field to take sixth. Seventh was Ken Rossey, with Tyler Denochick, Dan Bennett, and Andrew Naugle rounding out the top ten.
The twin Semi-features went to Jones and Denochick.
The final feature of the night was for teh 270 Micros. C.J. Davis had the early lead, but it dod not take long for Todd Reuser to get to the front. He climbed from fifth to second in just one lap. Soon, he was hounding Davis. Once he got past, Reuser pulled away to an easy victory.
Getting second was Ryan Fredericks. Brandon Fredericks followed him across the finish line. Next came David Hawkins and Denny Rineheimer. Positions six through ten went to Brian Borawiec, Jr., Brandon Hawkins, Tom Sigler, Davis, and Lee Lehnerd.
Borawiec and Sigler paced the semi-features.
Ed Haylett scored the biggest win of his career in the Mini Stocks presented by Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking and Ray’s Racing Collectibles. He drove around the outside of Kenny Lawson in turns one and two on lap eleven. Interestingly, Haylett was in a car that he borrowed from point champion Tyler Fulton.
Lawson held on for second. Late arrival Shane Shook was third, after starting shotgun on the field. Isaac Paden beat Mike Porterfield to the line for fifth. Chris Knight, Tyler Young, Ed Roberts, Rick Feely, and William Haylett completed the top ten.
Butch Lambert paced the 2 Barrel E Mod feature for the fist five laps before Tyer Frankenberry took command one lap after the first caution was displayed. Frankenberry led to the checkers followed by Lambert. Alan Dellinger came from tenth to take third. Zach Myers and Brad Blackshear were fourth and fifth. Todd Canter, Cameron Nastasi, Ray Gregory, Tommy Davis, and James Myers completed the top ten.
In the Rock Concrete Modified Lites, Mark Marcucci came from eighth on the grid to take the lead away from Keith Smith on lap four. Marcucci, who was the evening’s fastest qualifier, led the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Smith battled with teammate Alan Dellinger for the runner-up spot. Dellinger claimed it for good on lap five, but Smith was constantly in his shadow. Fourth went to Zak Kimbrew, and fifth to Mitch Ward. Point champ Doug Jones was sixth, followed by Vivian Jones, Rod Jones, Chris Robinson, and Dusty Frantz.
The Elder Tractor Sales & Service Junior Sprints were the first feature of the 17th Annual Little Guys Nationals. Roman Jones, the divisional champion, snagged the lead on lap number one, and he held control to the finish. Ayden Cipriano chased him home. Jordan Simmons was third, followed by Sammy Darby, Tyler Allison, and Tyler Schiegel.
The season will conclude Saturday with the second haldf of the 17th Annual Little Guys Nationals. Gates will open at 1 with racing starting at 3 p.m.
Approved Toilet Rentals 358 Modifieds: Eric Gabany, Kyle Fink, Jimmy Holden, J.R. McGinley, Kevin Hoffman, Steve Schumacher was the last man to pass Riggs. Next came Jeff Schaffer, Sr., Sid Unverzagt, Jr., Frank Guidace, Jason Sines, Richard Whitney, Kevin Green, John Smith, Matt Reeher, Clyde Gumpp, Ryan Kemery, Jerry Bowser, Tommy Kristyak, Kyle Holden. DNQ: Josh Deems, Jeff Schaffer, Jr., Travis Walsh.
Penn Ohio Pro Stock Series/Precise Racing Products Open Stocks: Andy Buckley, Rusty Moore, Brent Johnson, William Hurrelbrink, Rusty Martz, Brian Rhed, Bob Schwartzmiller, Mike Clark, Jason Fosnaught, Andy Thompson, Bobby Whitling, Rob Shook, Curtis J. Bish, Gary Luzier, Pat Fielding, Randy Wyant, Russ Byler, Curt Bish, Jr., Chris Schneider, Paul Davis, Jacob Billyk, Mike Miller, Bob McCann, Tim Bish, Terry Wheeler, Rod Laskey. DNQ: Butch Lambert, Bill Phillips, Ryan Newman, Steve Allison, Tony Spaghetti, Jackson Humanik, Joey Zambotti, Joe Stajnrajh, Raymond Reynolds, Hunter Exley, Bob Sloss, Bobby Heim, Jake Simmons, Jesse Brock, Drew Koteles, William Best, Nick Kocuba, Todd Weldon.
Bonnell’s Rod Shop Outlaw Sprint Warriors: Adam Kekich, Andy Priest, C.J. Jones, Jeremy Kornbau, Gregg McCandless, Jacob Gomola, Ken Rossey, Tyler Denochick, Dan Bennett, Andrew Naugle, Greg Dobrosky, Mike Miller, George Englert.
270 Micros: Todd Reuser, Ryan Fredericks, Brandon Fredericks, David Hawkins, Denny Rineheimer, Brian Borawiec, Jr., Brandon Hawkins, Tom Sigler, Davis, Lee Lehnerd, Mike Kerr, Austin Pasqualla, Levi Truitt, Al Caroto, Scott Hawkins, Brett Brunkenhoefer, Tom Mall, Chase Metheney, Wes Libert, Brian Forester. DNQ: Steve Haefke, Jr., Tim Eakin, Markus Miller, Johnny Walker, Dustin Young, Ed Holben, Sterling Theiss.
Eperthener’s Auto Wrecking/Ray’s Racing Collectibles Mini Stocks: Ed Haylett, Kenny Lawson, Shane Shook, Isaac Paden, Mike Porterfield, Chris Knight, Tyler Young, Ed Roberts, Rick Feely, William Haylett, Jr. Shaner, John McCracken, Karlee Longwell, Darrell Lawson, Joe Lawson, Bill Fuchs, Tyler Fulton, Will Aley, Jason Callender, Josh Rathbun.
2 Barrel E-Mods: Tyler Frankenberry, Butch Lambert, Alan Dellinger, Zach Myers, Brad Blackshear, Todd Canter, Cameron Nastasi, Ray Gregory, Tommy Davis, James Myers, Brian Toto, Gary Davis (DNS).
Rock Concrete Supply Modified Lites: Mark Marcucci, Alan Dellinger, Keith Smith, Zak Kimbrew, Mitch Ward, Doug Jones, Vivian Jones, Rod Jones, Chris Robinson, Dusty Frantz, Matt Ward, Shane Pfeuffer, Mike Heverly, Mark Beveridge.
Elder Tractor Sales & Service Junior Sprints: Roman Jones, Ayden Cipriano, Jordan Simmons, Sammy Darby, Tyler Allison, Tyler Schiegel.