MERCER ARDC VICTORIES TO BUCKWALTER & MILLER Mercer, PA - Burning the midnight oil to repair and maintain racecars is nothing new to Steve Buckwalter. And that is exactly how the Royersford, PA leadfoot spent the week prior to the ARDC Midget...
MERCER ARDC VICTORIES TO BUCKWALTER & MILLER
Mercer, PA - Burning the midnight oil to repair and maintain racecars is nothing new to Steve Buckwalter. And that is exactly how the Royersford, PA leadfoot spent the week prior to the ARDC Midget event at Mercer Raceway Park.
After flipping his midget at Wisconsin's Angell Park on Sunday, July 17, Buckwalter and a few friends had to "replace everything that bolts on to the car." Their hard work was rewarded, however, with a victory in the first of Twin 25's at Mercer last Saturday night.
The Royersford Rocket's triumph came in the wingless feature. In the second race, which was run with wings, Mike Miller of Birdsboro, PA, notched his first win of the 2005 ARDC campaign.
In the wingless feature, Carey Becker jumped into the lead from his outside pole starting spot. Michele Miller moved from fourth to second on the first trip around the 3/8-mile oval, and Buckwalter flew from the 10th starting position to third on the opening circuit.
Michele accelerated past Becker to lead lap four by a few feet. She cleared the Mega Motorsports no. 20 as they blasted off turn two, opening the door for Buckwalter to zip into second. As they entered turn three, Buckwalter stayed on the bottom, diving under Michele and snatching the top spot away from her.
Only three cautions interrupted the competitive affair, with all three coming between laps 15 and 25. The first was for Michele Miller, as the magneto broke while she was running third on lap 16. Ted Schmid spun in turn four a few laps later, and then Ray Bull spun to a stop with two trips remaining. Bull was running a distant second to Buckwalter at the time, and his mechanical malfunction would have a significant effect on the rest of his evening.
Buckwalter drove the Victory Motorcycle Stealth/Ott to his third win of the season, taking the checkered by a comfortable margin over Ed Stimely, Jr. Last year's ARDC Rookie of the Year, Dave Shirk, recorded his initial top-five finish of 2005 with a third-place effort.
A very appreciative Buckwalter was quick to credit his victory to the people who assisted him in repairing his no. 5 after the flip at Angell Park. "I could not be here if it weren't for Ed Heffline and Jeff Stelter. The car was a mess, and those guys really pitched in to get it back together this week. Ed even took off from work for a couple of days to help me." Asked how he made the charge from 10th to third on the first lap, Steve had a simple explanation: "I finally started in the outside row of a feature. When everyone dives to the bottom in (turns) one and two, you just stay on the top and go around them."
Michele Miller set the pace for the first four laps of the winged, 25-lap feature. Her father, Mike, hounded her for a few trips around the clay before he blasted by on lap five. Mike then darted away from the field, opening up a commanding lead as the race stayed green.
Buckwalter moved to the runner-up slot just prior to the halfway point, but he had no luck in closing the big gap between himself and the leader. With Steve settling into the second position, all eyes were fixed on some great side-by-side racing behind the top two.
With the aid of some lapped traffic, Andy Martin was finally able to slip by Michele Miller for the third spot, which is where he was running when the checkered flag waved. Michele wound up fourth at the finish. Ray Bull, driving the Mega Motorsports no. 20 in place of Carey Becker, disposed of teammate Dave Shirk, Ed Stimely, and Scott Zipp to make his way into the top five as the race entered its final stages. Stimely just got by Zipp on the final circuit to finish sixth in the non-stop event.
Mike Miller, ending a frustrating start to his 2005 season, was asked about running his daughter so hard before passing her to take the lead. "I'm going to run her just as hard as I would anyone else," stated last year's runner-up in points. "That's going to make her a better driver. And I want her to run me the same way, because that will make me better."
Bull's potent no. 22m suffered driveline failure in the wingless event. The yoke that holds the driveline in the back of the engine blew apart with only two laps to go, sidelining the Bloomsburg throttle-jockey. The Mega Motorsports team feverishly attempted to replace the yoke and check for additional damage, but the repairs could not be completed in time for the second feature. One of Bull's teammates, Carey Becker, graciously turned over his ride to the defending ARDC Champion for the winged event.
Shirk, the other member of the Mega stable, was elated over his third-place finish in the wingless race. "The car kept getting better and better in the first feature," he stated. "I kept running it harder and harder, and it worked great. I was able to get my nose under Andy near the end and take third away from him. That was fun."
Martin noted that it was a rookie mistake that allowed Shirk to steal the spot from him. "The top was going away, and I knew it, but I stayed on the outside going into one. I let Dave get under me...it was all my fault." Martin did feel somewhat better after his third place finish in the winged 25-lapper.
Mike Miller was running second in the wingless race when he went bouncing wildly into turn one on a restart. "The bleeder valve on the right-rear tire must have leaked, so the air pressure was low when we took that green. That's what caused all the bouncing, and the car didn't handle well at all after that." Miller did recover, after losing several positions, to finish fifth.
After her crew replaced the cap on the magneto (again) between the two features, Michele Miler finally finished a race in the top five. Magneto problems have plagued the Ray's Yamaha/Scott Performance Wire no. 4 during the last several ARDC events, so Michele was pleased with her strong fourth-place finish in the winged feature. "I had to make a big adjustment on the shock during the race," she explained. "The car was so tight in the beginning, that I turned the knob as far as I could. It was much better after that."
Stimely said he just "missed the set-up for the winged race." The Yetter Racing Team tried a few suggestions made by Dan Boorse, an accomplished midget racer from the midwest. "We actually tried some things that you would do for a wingless set-up on a slick track, but they didn't work with the wing on the car." Nevertheless, Stimely continued his string of steady finishes with a second and a sixth at Mercer.
Based on his first and second place finishes, along with Bull's bad luck, Steve Buckwalter took over the point lead at Mercer.
NOTE: Sunday evening's event at Latrobe was cancelled due to circumstances beyond the club's control.
WINGLESS 25-LAP FEATURE: 1.Steve Buckwalter 2.Ed Stimely, Jr. 3.Dave Shirk 4.Steve Lenig 5.Mike Miller 6.Andy Martin 7.Scott Zipp 8.Jeff Stelter 9.Carey Becker DNF: 10.Ray Bull 11.Ted Schmid 12.Michele Miller 13.Lew Blair 14.Jeff Schell 15.Mark Lawshe.
WINGED 25-LAP FEATURE: 1.Mike Miller 2.Steve Buckwalter 3.Andy Martin 4.Michele Miller 5.Ray Bull 6.Ed Stimely, Jr. 7.Scott Zipp 8.Dave Shirk 9.Steve Lenig 10.Jeff Schell 11.Jeff Stelter DNF: 12.Mark Lawshe 13.Lew Blair DNS: Ted Schmid, Carey Becker.