Lincoln Speedway PA Speedweek Opener report

Hodnett wins opening night of Carquest Pennsylvania Speedweek; Smith leads one lap on route to 4th win of the year in wild thundercar feature. ABBOTTSTOWN, PA, 6/29/02 - Kevin Gobrecht would've been proud. Greg Hodnett took to the top side to...

Hodnett wins opening night of Carquest Pennsylvania Speedweek; Smith leads one lap on route to 4th win of the year in wild thundercar feature.

ABBOTTSTOWN, PA, 6/29/02 - Kevin Gobrecht would've been proud.

Greg Hodnett took to the top side to power around eventual pole sitter Donnie Kreitz, Jr. and led wire-to-wire in the Third Annual Kevin Gobrecht Memorial at Lincoln Speedway Saturday night.

In doing so, the Tennessee driver claimed the early points lead on opening night of the 12th Annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Pennsylvania Speedweek.

"I basically hated this place up until this year," said Hodnett in victory lane. "But the guys got the car really nice, and that allows me to drive it as hard as I want to and ease up when I need to...I can't be tickled any more than standing in here in victory lane more than one time in a season, which is usually my average here."

Hodnett then turned to the fans, which were standing room only for night one of Pennsylvania Speedweek, "You guys are the greatest!"

"Without you guys (the fans), we wouldn't have a place to race. This was a stellar field of cars. I keep saying that our fans just don't know how well you have it here (in Pennsylvania). These guys are the best in the business, and it's very much a privilege to be standing here. This win means a lot to our team. The Gobrecht family has been very kind to me personally and to my team. Kevin was a big part of this team, and a big part of everyone's lives here."

Hodnett withstood four attempts to start the race, the first of which resulted in a spin by polesitter Keith Kauffman. Everyone got around Kauffman, but the Mifflintown veteran was forced to the rear for the restart. At the same time, Kreitz, who set second quick time behind Lance Dewease in time trials, assumed the pole.

On the next restart, Michael Markey and Niki Young got together in turn four, spinning to a stop, with Glenndon Forsythe also driving through the accident and suffering top wing damage. The third try to start the feature saw returning sprint car driver Jimmy McBee flip down the backstretch after contact while racing on the first lap, forcing yet another complete restart.

The fourth time was the charm, with Hodnett driving into the lead up the backstretch. He opened up a 1.32-second lead by the time the caution waved on the third lap for a spinning Mark Smith in the second turn.

The next 14 laps went non-stop, and by the time the caution came out for debris on the backstretch on lap 18, Hodnett had a three-second lead and had placed three lapped cars between himself and runner-up Lance Dewease, who got around Kreitz for second on lap nine after the two raced wheel-to-wheel for five laps.

The only other caution was for a spinning Todd Hestor on the third turn of lap 23. Although he had reduced the number of lapped cars between himself and the leader to one car, Dewease was never able to challenge. He had problems of his own, battling Donnie Kreitz, Jr. over the final seven laps for second. Kreitz made a daring pass in the final turns to claim the runner-up spot, with Dewease crossing third, Sean Michael finishing fourth, and Fred Rahmer coming on late to complete the top five. Sixth through tenth were Johnny Mackison, Jr., Cris Eash (who started 19th), Kauffman (who came from the rear), Doug Esh, and Brook Weibley.

Hodnett's final margin of victory was 1.64 seconds. It was his fourth win of the year and fifth of his career at Lincoln, his ninth of the year overall, and his third career Pennsylvania Speedweek win.

"Normally here, we start on the front row and run about eighth," said a happy Hodnett in summing up his winning hight. "We took advantage of a front row starting spot."

"When you have a whole race track to use, it makes a huge difference from having to race somebody. You just make clean runs, and it's like running 30 time trial laps. The track was a little tricky, but we were good enough to hold on for the win. It really gives the Apple Dealerships team a good start for the week."

Heats for the sprints were won by Dewease, Rahmer, and Bobby Weaver. Michael won the B-Main. Fast time for the 29-car field was set Dewease, with a one-lap time of 13.475 seconds (100.186 MPH).

Hanover's Neil Smith led only one lap in claiming his fourth win of the year in the 20-lap thundercar feature, but it was the one the counted - the last. The winner started 11th and did not enter the top five until lap nine. But when he did, he immediately made it a five-car battle for the lead.

Polesitter Duane Hahn had led the first six laps before giving way to eighth-starting Mike Zeigler, Jr. Zeigler then led through lap 13, when outside frontrow starter Ron Shultz got a run off the top side of turn two to claim the top spot. He looked like the winner until Zeigler's slider failed on the final two turns, putting both frontrunners into the outside wall. Smith, who was running third, assumed the race lead and held off Nat Tuckey in a final-lap shootout for his 28th career win in the Pigeon Hills.

Crossing third was Mike Walls, with Bernie Beard making another run from the rear to finish fourth. Craig Wagaman came from 20th starting spot to finish fifth, and Chet McCormick came from 21st to cross sixth.

Heats for the 24 thundercars were won by Tuckey, Hahn, and Walls.

Next Saturday night, July 6th, Lincoln Speedway will give the super sprint regulars the night off to travel Pennsylvania Speedweek activities at Port Royal Speedway. This will give the Budweiser 358 Sprints a chance to shine as the headline division for the night. Joining them will be there companion point division, the Miller Brothers Thundercars. In addition, the ARDC Midgets will join in on the evening's racing activities with there second visit of the year to the Pigeon Hills oval. The first time the drivers, teams and fans of the American Racing Drivers Club were to race at Lincoln in 2002 back on April 13th resulted in a rained-out season opener for the tradition-ladened group of racers. Gates will open at 5:30 PM, with warm-ups at 7 PM, and heats getting underway at 7:30 PM.

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About this article
Series Sprint , Stock car
Drivers Neil Smith