SELINSGROVE, PA – Holding off a hard charging Freddie Rahmer, the ‘Kunkletown Kid’ Ryan Smith put fans on their feet on Saturday night in Central Pennsylvania, ultimately earning a first-ever Jim Nace Memorial/National Open victory at Selinsgrove Speedway.
For Smith, the route to Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 victory lane was not only challenging for the driver, but also challenging for the crew, as the team discovered a hole in the right-rear tire during an open red just before the midpoint of the 30-lap main event. Despite the setback, Smith and his team prevailed, eventually leading every lap to score the $10,000 payday.
The All Star victory, aboard the Mike McGhee & Associates No. 11, was Smith’s second of the 2018 season and his eighth overall with the Series. Freddie Rahmer held on to finish, just ahead of Brian Brown, Lucas Wolfe and TJ Stutts.
“This is all because of the crew guys standing behind me,” an elated Ryan Smith said in victory lane. “We started on this thing in May. We struggled some at first, but we kept getting faster and faster and now here we are in September with a big win. They work their butts off, that’s for sure. I definitely wouldn’t be standing here without their hard work and support.”
Ryan Smith and TJ Stutts led the field to green on Saturday night at Selinsgrove Speedway. Although Smith was able to get the initial jump, it was Salfordville, Pennsylvania’s Freddie Rahmer who was making the early moves, actually advancing from eighth to fifth by the time the leaders crossed under the flagstand to complete the first circuit.
The top-five remained unchanged until the main event’s first caution appeared on lap six for a slowing Michael Walter. When green flag action returned, Freddie Rahmer made another move toward the front, this time driving around Lucas Wolfe to take the fourth spot. Just three circuits later, Rahmer pounced again, this time taking the third position from TJ Stutts.
Traffic came into play for the first time on lap 13 which slowed Smith’s pace at the front of the field, ultimately allowing Brian Brown, who raced in the runner-up spot the entire distance, and Rahmer to catch Smith in a hurry. The very next circuit, Rahmer advanced in the running order yet again, this time beating Brian Brown in a drag race off of turn four to complete lap 14. A caution on lap 15 for a slowing Tyler Esh halted the feature field yet again allowing Rahmer to catch his breath. Due to the number of combined laps completed, the main event’s second caution resulted in a fuel stop.
During the five minute open red stop, Ryan Smith’s team noticed a hole in their right-rear tire. Instead of replacing the tire and forfeiting the lead, the team decided to plug the hole and attempt to finish the final 16 circuits. The decision proved to be worth $10,000, but not without a fight from Freddie Rahmer.
The field returned to green with Ryan Smith in control once again over Rahmer, Brown, Wolfe and Stutts. Although the action was limited for the next few circuits, it was what happened after the feature’s third and final caution on lap 23 that created the stir at the front of the field. When the green lights kicked back on, so did Freddie Rahmer, instantly applying pressure on Smith as the pair completed lap 23. By lap 24, Rahmer was all over the ‘Kunkletown Kid,’ actually pulling even with Smith to create a side-by-side battle for the lead.
Although the wheel-to-wheel battle ended in Smith’s favor, Rahmer was far from raising the white flag. The recent All Star winner at Port Royal Speedway threw everything he had at Smith for the next three circuits, pounding the cushion as Smith ran the bottom, nearly driving around Smith in turn four on three consecutive occasions. Despite Rahmer’s mad attempts, Smith prevailed, eventually pulling away to a 1.3 second advantage at the final checkers.
“I really wasn’t sure where to go there after that last restart,” Ryan Smith explained. “During the fuel stop, my crew was actually telling me to run the bottom, but I was so comfortable running the top. I knew Freddie [Rahmer] was going to be good, but if he was that good, he was going to have to drive around me.”
Only two events remain on the 2018 Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 schedule including a stop at the legendary Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, on Saturday, September 22. Joining all three divisions of USAC, Tony Stewart’s All Stars will help headline the 37th running of the 4-Crown Nationals which will also feature the USAC National Midgets, USAC National Sprint Cars and the USAC Silver Crown Series. The 4-Crown Nationals weekend at The Big E will actually begin on Friday, September 21, with World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series competition.
Those seeking more news and notes regarding the 4-Crown Nationals blockbuster at Eldora Speedway should visit the facility live on the Web at www.eldoraspeedway.com.
Contingency Awards/Results: Selinsgrove Speedway – September 15, 2018:
Jim Nace Memorial/36th Annual National Open
EMi Driver’s Meeting: 31 entrants
State Water Heaters Warm-Ups: Brian Brown – 16.159 seconds
Lincoln Electric Fast Qualifier: Aaron Reutzel – 15.876 seconds
Ford Performance Heat #1: Chad Kemenah
All Pro Aluminum Cylinder Heads Heat #2: Lucas Wolfe
Hunt Brothers Pizza Heat #3: Greg Hodnett
Mobil 1 Heat #4: Dave Blaney
JE Pistons Dash #1: Ryan Smith
WIX Filters Dash #2: TJ Stutts
Classic Ink USA B-Main: Cale Conley
Daido Engine Bearings Main Event Winner: Ryan Smith
MSD Performance Hard Charger Award: Freddie Rahmer (+6)
(Lincoln Electric, Daido Engine Bearings, MSD Performance: Need decal to qualify for contingency award)