Chris Knopp claims first career win in Lincoln "Icebreaker 30"; Bernie Beard begins title defense with Spring Thaw 20 thundercar win. ABBOTTSTOWN, PA, 3/15/03 - In his own words, Chris Knopp spent "every last dime" to get ready for opening day...
Chris Knopp claims first career win in Lincoln "Icebreaker 30"; Bernie Beard begins title defense with Spring Thaw 20 thundercar win.
ABBOTTSTOWN, PA, 3/15/03 - In his own words, Chris Knopp spent "every last dime" to get ready for opening day at Lincoln Speedway Saturday afternoon.
Now, he has 30,000 of them, after claiming the $3,000 top prize over a stellar 40-car field in the "Icebreaker 30" for 410 sprint cars.
It was the tenth straight year that Lincoln has staged the Northeast's season opener. The first win of Knopp's career ended an eight-year stranglehold by opening day winners Keith Kauffman, Todd Shaffer, and Fred Rahmer. Though Shaffer's day was rather uneventful with an eighth-place finish, it was a long day for both Rahmer and Kauffman, Central Pennsylvania's all-time winningest sprint car drivers. Another big gun who would rather forget opening day was defending Williams Grove champ Lance Dewease.
Rahmer's misfortune began when a push truck ran over his right rear tire while staging for the feature, resulting in top wing, rear tire, shock, and related damage and forcing track officials to run the Northeast Classic Race Car feature until the Harz #88H team could make repairs. He was also involved in a five-car melee on the front stretch of the first lap, and then spun in turn four while advancing through the field on lap seven. Rahmer was forced into the pits to remove a damaged front win after making contact with the inside guardrail, but was unable to get back out in time for the restart. He was credited with a 21st-place finish.
Kauffman, opening day winner two of the last three years, spun in his heat and passed three cars on the final two laps to make the field in the first consolation event. He started on the back row of the feature and finished ninth.
Dewease was sent to the rear of the field for hitting the restart cone during his heat, came back through the ten-car field to qualify fourth, started 13th in the feature, and looped it in turn three while trying to avoid a spinning Jeff Rohrbaugh on the second lap. He finished tenth.
Though Knopp started on the pole, it was not an easy win.
"I knew Cris (Eash) was starting beside me and Sean (Michael) was starting behind me," explained the jubilant Knopp, adding, "They were both fast and I didn't know if I could hold them off."
Unlike the big guns, things got better for Knopp as the day went on.
"We couldn't even get the car started until after warm-ups because it was messed up. Davey Brown came over and helped us, and this is great!"
Then the front wing dropped onto the hood at mid-race.
"I didn't even notice that until that caution with seven laps to go," said Knopp, "I thought, 'Well, I'm screwed.'"
But it didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference. The early-season daytime racing surface make it hard to pass, and Michael and Greg Hodnett couldn't get the traction to catch the Acadia Financial Services #6K. It was the first race for Knopp's team since the Delta driver put together his own deal two months ago. Knopp crossed 1.07 seconds over Michael, with Hodnett third.
Cris Eash and Tim Shaffer (driving the Michael Markey #5) crossed fourth and fifth, with Brook Weibley, Steve Siegel, Todd Shaffer, Kauffman, and Dewease completing the top ten.
Todd Hestor was shaken but otherwise uninjured in a scary end-over-end flip on the front stretch of lap one.
Heats for the 40 "410" sprints on hand were won by Rohrbaugh, Eash, Hestor, and Rahmer. Twin consolation events were won by Doug Esh and Rick Lafferty.
It was Lincoln's version of "Survivor" in the Spring Thaw 20 for thundercars. Bernie Beard defended his Spring Thaw and Lincoln track titles by outlasting the remaining six cars still running at the finish. Beard's 1.23-second win was the 68th of his Lincoln career. Allen Cullum and Chet McCormick hung in the top five the entire race and finished second and third, respectively. David Prunkl, who didn't run a heat and came from 23rd starting spot, finished fourth, with Mike Zeigler, Sr. completing the top five.
Outside front row starter Mike Walls led the first lap before sixth-starting Steve Clabaugh grabbed the point from laps two through seven. Beard took control on lap 8, and fended off all challengers the rest of the way. Nat Tuckey and Clabaugh got together while racing for second late in the race, ending the race for both drivers.
Heat for the 25 Thundercars on hand were won by Bernie Beard, Tuckey, and Marshall McMullen.
Bill Brown, Sr. ended an eventful day by winning the 15-lap Northeast Classic Race Car feature. Brown, who spun out while leading and finished last in his heat, came from 13th starting spot to take the race lead on lap eight of the feature. His margin of victory was 1.42 seconds over early race leader Charlie Weaver. Weaver was runner-up, followed by Randy Doty, Kurt Welsh, and Bill Bollinger.
Heats for the 25 Northeast Classic Stock Cars were won by Weaver and Roy Warehime.
Next Saturday, March 22nd, Lincoln Speedway will quickly shift gears and move to night time racing as the 410 sprints and thundercars will be joined by the other point division at the Pigeon Hills oval in 2003 - the 358 sprints. The first of three straight 6 PM starts before moving to 7 PM will feature see all three regular point divisions for the first time in 2003 with gates opening at 4 PM, warm-ups taking the track at 5:30 PM, before the first heat takes the green at 6 PM.
To get all the latest news, results, schedule changes and rule changes, visit Lincoln Speedway's website at http://www.lincolnspeedway.com to stay up-to-date on all the action or pending weather conditions at Central Pennsylvania's "Premier" Saturday night race track - The Fabulous Lincoln Speedway.