Hestor defends Opperman at Selinsgrove

Hestor reflects on inaugural Opperman Memorial win. 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial set for May 4 at Selinsgrove Speedway. 4/18/03, Selinsgrove, PA - The May 4, 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial at Selinsgrove Speedway as part of the 2003 ...

Hestor reflects on inaugural Opperman Memorial win.
2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial set for May 4 at Selinsgrove Speedway.

4/18/03, Selinsgrove, PA - The May 4, 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial at Selinsgrove Speedway as part of the 2003 Middleswarth Potato Chips Susquehanna Valley 410 Sprint Series is just two weeks away. And for the defending Opperman Champion, Todd Hestor of Middleburg the race will mark another chance to return to what he considers his home track in an effort to repeat the feat.

In his fifth season piloting for Middleswarth Potato Chips, 33 year-old Hestor relishes racing at the Snyder County oval. It was there that he cut his teeth in 410 sprint cars during the mid and late 1990's before the track went to 358 powered racing, so it stands to reason he has developed an affinity for the sweeping half-mile.

To win the inaugural Jan Opperman Memorial last June and to do it at Selinsgrove was extremely meaningful to Hestor. A year later, he reflects on the win, a victory that was one of five for him last season. He thinks about what it meant to take the checkered flag, how he did it, where he did it and how it all ties together.

"The thing is, I never thought we'd win that race," Hestor says.

"I think it's neat to win any memorial race. Say you win just any race, it's just that, a race. If you win something at your home track, like the Kenny Weld Memorial at Lincoln or the Mitch Smith at the Grove, it means something. And I got the one at Selinsgrove."

Hestor continues: "And to win it at home, where they (track promoters) are really improving things makes it more special too. When we used to run there the place was in really bad shape but now it is run by people you can respect, professionals - and that makes it mean a lot too -- to win at a classy place."

Hestor feels that he flew the Selinsgrove colors high at his home course in the face of all the invaders.

"Of all the competitors there, guys from all over like Lance (Dewease) or Fred (Rahmer), who don't really call Selinsgrove home or live near it, I think it's really neat that the guy that wins it is from that track, that calls the track home," Hestor remarks. He lives just 20 minutes from the speedway.

"And then it was the Opperman race, so it means a lot to have won that race. I've never seen him (Jan) run, I just know what he accomplished - how many races he won, he went to Indy and he made it further than most guys in a sprint car."

"I went to school with the Opperman girls and Jan lived close to my house and his mechanic, Ralph Heintzelman comes from just up the road too so all of that made it really special."

Hestor's $3,700 payday in the Opperman Memorial was his biggest to date. If he didn't think he could win it, how did he do it? And how did he do it so convincingly, leading by a half lap at one point?

"I think it was the stop and go, and the way the racetrack was, it just fit our deal really good," Hestor reasons.

"We've tried the same thing in the car since then and it never worked as good as it did that night. I have never had a car run as good as our car did that night," he says of his No. 7M.

"I knew we were pretty decent all night but I was kind of concerned that if the top (of the track) ever cleaned off and opened up, I knew we were leaving room in the middle of the turn. We could run in hard but we couldn't carry our momentum through the middle and then we could drive off really well. I did watch the scoreboard throughout the race."

Hestor has had some good advice on how to motor around his home track.

"I got an idea how you can run that racetrack. I think it being my home track was definitely an advantage but really, Jim Nace kind of told me how to run around that place and I kind of listened when he was pretty good down there. That's how I get around that place."

Is he consumed with repeating in the Opperman?

"I try not to be that way," he says. "I figure if you do the right things the wins will come along. That's all you can hope for but I wouldn't mind doing it again."

Hestor will get his chance to do it again on May 4 when the Super Sportsman join the 410 Sprints for the second leg of the 2003 Middleswarth Series, the 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial. Gates for the 30-lap memorial open at 4 PM with practice laps slated for 5:30.

Former World of Outlaw star and current TV and radio/internet commentator Brad Doty will sign autographs beginning at 4:30 along with Hestor, defending Chip Series Champion Lance Dewease and Selinsgrove's all-time leading feature winner Ray Tilley.

A pair of Opperman's mounts will be on display. The first machine driven by Opperman upon his arrival in the area, the restored Harold Hanks No. 4 will be on hand as will the Hamilton No. 77 currently driven by Dewease and piloted by Opp between 1974 and '76.

Middleswarth Potato Chips will give away 1,500 bags of chips to general admission fans as they enter the speedway for the memorial. A special promotion featuring a giveaway of 24, 18 oz. tubs of chips will also be held. One fan will have a tub numbered with the starting position of the feature winner, entitling that fan to a Middleswarth prize package valued at more than $25.00 and a cash prize of $200.

2003 MIDDLESWARTH POTATO CHIPS SUSQUEHANNA VALLEY 410 SPRINT SERIES

Sunday, May 4 -- 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial and Super Sportsman. Gates open at 4 PM, practice laps 5:30, Time Trials 6 PM (raindate Sunday, June 1)

Sunday, July 6 -- 13th Annual Pennsylvania Speedweek Finale (raindate Monday, July 7)

Monday, September 1 -- Labor Day Classic and Super Sportsman

Saturday, September 13 -- 21st Annual Alexander Family Dealerships Sprint Nationals for 410 and 358 Sprints + Fireworks (raindate Sunday, September 14)

-ss-

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