Williams Grove race report

MECHANICSBURG, PA., 5/25/01 - Sometimes the second win is the hardest. A little over a year ago Newtown's Len Thompson picked up his first career Williams Grove Speedway victory - a Mother's Day present for his car-owner and mother Bev Thompson.

MECHANICSBURG, PA., 5/25/01 - Sometimes the second win is the hardest.

A little over a year ago Newtown's Len Thompson picked up his first career Williams Grove Speedway victory - a Mother's Day present for his car-owner and mother Bev Thompson. In that race he took the lead on the 13th lap and led the remainder of the race for his inaugural Grove win.

Since then bad luck and unfortunate circumstances have prevented him from winning his second.

Last night, in a eerie twist of irony, Thompson took the lead once again on the 13th lap, this time from a resurgent Craig Keel, and held off a hard-charging Dave Ely following a 22nd lap caution restart to pick up that elusive second career win at the historic Mechanicsburg half-mile in the 25 lap super sprint feature.

"We definitely did (worked hard for the win)," said a happy Thompson in victory lane. "It feels good to be back here again...it's been a little over a year and we knew it was too long, so I'm glad to be back."

"It's a deal where you make your own luck, and we haven't been as good as we could have been."

Weedsport, New York's Craig Keel grabbed the lead at the drop of the green from his pole position with third-starting Mike Erdley, fellow frontrow starter Troy Whitesel, and fourth-starting Thompson in tow.

A caution on the second lap for a Jason Haggenbuch spin in the fourth turn forced a single-file restart, allowing Keel to quickly pull away on the ensuing restart as Thompson passed Whitesel for third. By the time the race's second caution waved for a stalled Todd Hestor on the fifth lap, Keel had opened up a 1.45 second lead.

Keel continued to motor away following the restart and had a 1.82 second lead by the time Thompson worked his way around Erdley for the runner-up spot on the ninth lap. It quickly became apparent that Thompson was a serious player this night as he began to track down the race-leading Keel by the 12th lap.

Thompson then executed a classic slider under the New York racing veteran in the third and fourth turn of the 13th lap to grab the lead exiting the fourth turn. Thompson quickly opened up a 1.60 second lead over the field as they headed into lapped traffic on the next lap.

Sinking Spring's Dave Ely then entered the picture on the 17th lap as he passed Keel for second place as Thompson widened his lead to 1.79 seconds. Little-by-little Ely cut into Thompson's lead as they diced through lapped traffic and had narrowed the gap to a mere second when the race's final caution waved on the 22nd lap for Erdley who had came to a stop on the frontstretch.

With no lapped traffic between himself and Thompson, Ely made his bid for the lead on the restart. Ely slid under Thompson in the first and second turns on the restart and appeared to have the lead heading up the backstretch. But Thompson was not to be denied this night as he returned the favor with an exiting low-side move through the third and fourth turns to regain the lead.

"We were a little sluggish on the starts and the motor was dragging a little bit and I knew Dave (Ely) was quick because he kicked my butt in the heat race," said Thompson. "I got hung up a little bit on the curb (in turns one and two) and I knew I was probably only going to get one shot to get it back, and that was the shot."

"I hope I gave Dave some room. Dave races real clean. It was a deal where I said to myself that we were either going to win, or not, so I did it."

With a clear track ahead, Thompson motored away over the final four laps to take the checkered 1.04 seconds ahead of Ely for his first win of the year, and giving him only his second top-five, and fourth top-10 finish of the season at the Grove.

"We were better on the top," Thompson said. "I ran the top through a couple of lapped cars, but I got hung up behind the one lapped car there when I first got the lead...it's one of those deals where you've got so many good cars and everybody is coming and you can't screw around."

With the win, Thompson picked up the $3,000 winners check, and became the 10th different winner in 12 races at Williams Grove this season.

Defending track champion Fred Rahmer came from his distant 16th starting position to finish third. Current Cindy Rowe Auto Glass point leader Lance Dewease came from 12th while battling a stuck throttle to finish fourth, with Cris Eash right behind him to finish fifth.

Completing the top-10 was Curt Michael, Keel, Todd Shaffer, Keith Kauffman, and Brook Weibley.

Heats for the 25 super sprinters on hand were won by Keel, Dewease, and Ely, with Shaffer winning the consolation.

Newville's Mark Smith charged from his 16th starting position to take the lead from polesitter and race-long leader Bill Brown on the 10th lap and then raced away from the field to pick up his second win of the season at Williams Grove in the 20 lap super sportsman feature.

Smith took the checkered 4.79 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor for his 10th career sportsman win at the Grove, placing him within two of all-time leader Larry Jackson.

Ryan Rupp finished second, and was followed by Dave Berkheimer, Paul Troutman and Pat Cannon in third through fifth place respectively.

Heats for the 38 super sportsman on hand were won by Brown, Rusty Rupp, Ryan Rupp and Billy Schoffstall. Twin consolations were won by Pat Cannon and Russ Mitten.

-DR

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Bill Brown
Teams Williams