Williams Grove, Pennsylvania, September 19, 1997 The moon was approaching its last quarter, but at times the action on the track suggested it should have been full. The Super Sprints suffered only a slight bout of lunar luck as their first...
Williams Grove, Pennsylvania, September 19, 1997
The moon was approaching its last quarter, but at times the action on the track suggested it should have been full. The Super Sprints suffered only a slight bout of lunar luck as their first heat was called after three laps, but it was a tough night for the 358s. Three of the limiteds explored the territory outside of the Turn 3/4 wall, while a hungry inside rail on the front stretch decided to eat four of them. By the end of the evening, the front stretch guard rail was suffering from overindulgence, with two broken posts and a distended abdomen. At one point the rail required the services of a tow truck.
No race drivers were injured in the making of this epic.
The evening began with time trials for the Super Sprints, as they tuned for the visiting World of Outlaws at the Williams Grove National Open in two weeks. Time trials went off like clockwork, with no incidents. Qualifying run order and times were:
17 Alan Cole 18.45 18.34 45 Jeff Rohrbaugh 18.58 18.63 X Bobby Weaver 19.47 19.48 10 Len Thompson 18.37 18.23 7S Rick Schmelyun 19.03 19.00 53 Shawn Keen 18.51 18.62 16C Cliff Brian 18.90 18.74 29 Bill Brian Jr 18.68 18.63 79 Tom Bear 19.77 19.62 5W Randy Wolfe 18.53 18.46 7X Kevin Gobrecht 18.47 18.23 77 Fred Rahmer 17.87 17.90 461 Lance Dewease 17.83 17.74 4J Jeff Shepard 18.16 18.02 92A Jon Armstrong 19.47 19.51 1A Bobby Allen 18.30 18.21 57 George Kulp 20.23 20.60 1 Billy Pauch 17.93 17.84 07 Dave Haight 18.84 18.69 10N Jeff Thompson 18.70 18.78 7 Dave Cordier Jr 19.50 19.27 3 Bob Bennett 19.15 19.12 33 Todd Hesstor 19.13 19.01 15D Brook Weibley 18.52 18.55 77T Jess Thomas 19.10 18.80 55 Mike Wagner 18.26 18.15 6F Ron Kramer 19.94 19.95 69K Don Kreitz Jr 18.00 17.96 8 Dan Dietrich 18.95 18.88 81 Bob Beidleman 20.45 20.11 5G Rod George 18.35 18.25 88 Todd Shaffer 18.17 18.10 121 Judi Bates 18.67 18.44
On tonight's heavy track, Jac Haudenschild's one lap record of 16.977 was not threatened.
Three heats and one consolation race were scheduled, with six cars from each transferring to the feature.
Heat 1 (10 laps scheuled) lineup was:
77T Thomas 07 Haight 15T Weibley 121 Bates 7X Gobrecht 55 Wagner 69K Kreitz 461 Dewease 33 Hesstor X Weaver (DNS) 6F Kramer (DNS)
The heat began with Dave Haight hot on the heels of Jess Thomas, and fast qualifier Lance Dewease moving up from his eighth place start. Dewease was in third after two laps, when the yellow came out as Hesstor rolled to a stop on the back back stretch. On the first attempted restart, Kevin Gobrecht, running last of the eight cars remaining, stalled approaching the cone on the backstretch. He was pushed off, but his engine broke its crankshaft as he accelerated to rejoin the field.
On the next attempt at a restart, Dave Haight (whose car had been smoking during time trials) slowed and pulled high in 3 and 4, letting the field by. That kept the yellow out. On the final restart, with six cars remaining, Dewease challenged Thomas along the front stretch, going under him in 1 and 2 and emerging in the lead on the back stretch.
The heat appeared to have settled down on the third lap when Judi Bates spun in turn 2. With only six cars (including Bates) left in the six-transfer heat, and more yellow flags than laps, Dr. Kervorkian was called to the flagstand and the checker was displayed after three laps.
Transfers from Heat 1 were:
461 Dewease, 77T Thomas, 15D Weibley, 69K Kreitz, 55 Wagner, and 121 Bates.
Heat 2 (10 laps) lineup was:
8 Dietrich 10N J. Thompson 45 Rohrbaugh 5W Wolfe 5G George 1A Allen 4J Shepard 1 Pauch 3 Bennett 92A Armstrong 81 Beidleman
The yellow flew on the first lap as Thompson rolled to a stop on the backstretch. He was restarted, and the heat began anew with Jeff moved to the rear. As the field moved down the front stretch on the first lap, Randy Wolfe took the high line and got around Dan Dietrich. Pauch moved up from his third row restart position, with Shepard following him from the inside of the fourth row. After two laps Pauch went under Dietrich in turn 3 for second place. After three laps, Pauch went under Wolfe, taking the lead coming out of four. On the next lap Shepard took third place as Dietrich continued to fall back.
By mid-heat the leaders had strung out, with Pauch, Wolfe and Shepard stable in the first three places. The final finishing order of the six transfers from Heat 2 were:
1 Pauch, 5W Wolfe, 4J Shepard, 5G George, 45 Rohrbaugh, and 1A Allen.
Heat 3 (10 laps) lineup was:
7S Schmelyun 16C C. Brian 29 B. Brian 53 Keen 17 Cole 10 L. Thompson 88 Shaffer 77 Rahmer 7 Cordier 79 Bear 57 Kulp
On the start, the field bunched as the faster cars in the rear merged with some the slower ones up front. Taking the low line through 1 and 2, Fred Rahmer was in second place on the back stretch and in the lead as he crossed the line. However, back in the pack Rick Schmelyun got out of shape in turn 3, taking Todd Shaffer and George Kulp with him. All three cars were restarted and moved to the rear for a full restart, not all cars having completed the first lap.
The second go was less spectacular, with Rahmer taking a few laps to reach second place. Todd Shaffer lost no time in moving toward the front. By lap 5, when the yellow came out for Alan Cole's slowed car, the order at the front was B. Brian, Rahmer, C. Brian, Shaffer, Thompson, and Keen holding onto the final transfer position just ahead of the challenging Cordier. On the restart, Rahmer immediately challenged Brian for the lead, moving into first. He stretched out an advantage, as Shaffer soon got past C. Brian and closed on B. Brian. Bill held Todd off to retain second place.
Transfers from Heat 3 were:
77 Rahmer, 29 B. Brian, 88 Shaffer, 16C C. Brian, 10 L. Thompson, and 7 Cordier.
Twelve cars lined up for the ten lap consolation race:
53 Keen 07 Haight 10N J. Thompson 8 Dietrich 7S Schmelyun 33 Hesstor 3 Bennett X Weaver 92A Armstrong 79 Bear 57 Kulp 81 Beidleman
Also scheduled were Gobrecht (7X), Cole (17) and Kramer (6F), but the three were finished for the evening.
The first try at a start was spoiled by Dietrich spinning in turn 1. On the full double file restart, Keen, Haight and Thompson moved out in their 1-2-3 starting positions, holding that order through the race. Behind them, Weaver, Bennett and Hesstor quickly moved into the remaining three transfer spots. Bennett challenged Weaver for fourth, taking it on the sixth lap. Haight was running a strong second when he lost power on the final lap, in an apparent repeat of his Heat 1 problems. He coasted around to finish the lap, losing his long lead but not position to third place Thompson.
Transfers from the consolation race were:
53 Keen, 07 Haight, 10N J. Thompson, 3 Bennett, X Weaver, and 33 Bennett.
The 25 lap feature race was lined up according to qualifying time, with the first six places inverted and the last three transfers from the consolation race starting at the rear. The lineup was:
88 Shaffer 4J Shepard 69K Kreitz 77 Rahmer 1 Pauch 461 Dewease 55 Wagner 1A Allen 10 L. Thompson 5G George 121 Bates 5W Wolfe 53 Keen 15D Weibley 45 Rohrbaugh 29 B. Brian 07 Haight 10N J. Thompson 16C C. Brian 77T Thomas 7 Cordier 3 Bennett X Weaver 33 Hesstor
The feature began with a minor replay of Heat 2, with Jeff Thompson again rolling to a stop on the first lap, this time on the front stretch. Bennett also came to a stop. Both cars were refired, and moved to the back.
The full double-file restart saw the inverted front six holding their starting order, with some jostling for position. On the second lap Kreitz challenged Shepard low, but Shepard emerged from lap 2 still in second place. Dewease and Pauch were side by side on the third lap, with the #1 Zemco car eventually finding itself ahead of the #461 brickmobile. On the seventh lap Shepard took the lead away from Shaffer.
The yellow came out after 11 laps as Mike Wagner came to a stop on the backstretch. The running order at the front was Shepard, Shaffer, Rahmer, Pauch and Dewease. When the yellow turned to green Dewease took the high line around Pauch for fourth place. A lap later he went around Rahmer for third place, then began an assault on Shaffer. Chasing Shaffer down the front stretch on the sixteenth lap he dove underneath in turns 1 and 2. Not quite doing it then, he made the same move a lap later, this time emerging from the low line in second place. Lance then put on a spectacular show trying to catch Jeff, particularly when he found a very high line out of 2, but the 4J was hooked up and maintained its distance.
After 24 laps Judi Bates spun in turn 3, setting up a final one-lap shootout. The restart order was Shepard, Dewease, Rahmer, Pauch and Shaffer. The lapped cars of Len Thompson and Jeff Rohrbaugh stood between Shepard and Dewease, the lapped cars of Jeff Thompson and Bill Brian buffered Dewease from Rahmer, and Bobby Weaver separated Pauch from Shaffer.
On the restart, Dewease immediately dove under the two lapped cars and set out after Shepard. With clear track ahead, both cars ran at equal speeds and Lance was not able to close in on Jeff. While Dewease was making his run toward Shepard, Billy Pauch got past Fred Rahmer for third, and Shawn Keen passed Todd Shaffer for fifth.
Rahmer's fourth place finish was good enough to clinch the 1997 Williams Grove Sprint Championship.
Shepard was delighted with his victory and his team. "This is the best deal I think I've ever had. I have an excellent crew, excellent car owners, excellent mechanic. Everything just worked real good." When asked about his car, he said "They've given me everything you can ask for to put a winning race car together. And I think week after week we're getting a little faster." When asked about the Outlaws coming in two weeks, Shepard said that was why he was here tonight, and that he thinks they can get two or three tenths quicker. "Hopefully, when they come to town we'll have all our ducks in a row and we'll be standing here again." He assured the crowd that he would be here. "Besides that, I've got a bet with the car owner. If I win the second night of the National Open he's got a Harley that I want. He's going to give it to me right here on the front stretch."
That was the second "Beat the Outlaws" bounty announced this evening. Earlier, track announcer Bruce Ellis reported that an anonymous fan had posted a $10,000 bonus if Fred Rahmer beats the outlaws in the upcoming National Open.
Feature Results (25 laps, $3000 to win):
4J Shepard 461 Dewease 1 Pauch 77 Rahmer 53 Keen 88 Shaffer 1A Allen 5G George 10 L. Thompson 45 Rohrbaugh 29 B. Brian 15D Weibley 77T Thomas X Weaver 121 Bates 5W Wolfe 33 Hesstor 16C C. Brian 69K Kreitz 55 Wagner 3 Bennett 7 Cordier 10N J. Thompson 07 Haight
Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International