Spring thaw to Smith. SELINSGROVE, PA -- There is always hope -- no matter how bleak the picture may look. Shawn Keen believes that and now so does Mark Smith after winning his first sprint car feature at Selinsgrove Speedway on Friday night in...
Spring thaw to Smith.
SELINSGROVE, PA -- There is always hope -- no matter how bleak the picture may look. Shawn Keen believes that and now so does Mark Smith after winning his first sprint car feature at Selinsgrove Speedway on Friday night in the season opening Spring Thaw kickoff of the 2003 Middleswarth Potato Chips Susquehanna Valley 410 Sprint Series.
Several years ago, Keen of Carlisle thought he would never win a 410 sprint car race -- and then it happened, at Selinsgrove Speedway. Friday night at Selinsgrove driver turned owner Keen saw his driver Mark Smith think his chances at winning were bleak as well.
It was because of a torrid pace set by race leader and 12th starter Greg Hodnett that Camp Hill's Smith thought his chances at a win were practically non existent. It was Hodnett who zoomed from his sixth row starting spot to blister past Smith for the lead in the 25-lapper on just the sixth lap.
Prior to that time, Smith used his front row starting spot to excel at the front although Hodnett had moved into fourth by the completion of the first circuit. But with a lightning fast pace sustained by Hodnett in the Apple Chevrolet No. 12, all Smith could do was watch from behind as Hodnett's red machine drew farther and farther out of reach.
Darting in and out of traffic in the non-stop action, Hodnett performed flawlessly on the scary fast Snyder County half mile. At the halfway point he was lapping cars inside the top-ten as Smith, ninth starter Fred Rahmer, Todd Shaffer and Lance Dewease trailed.
And then it happened, in turn one with just seven laps to go what had to be a record pace was slowed. As Hodnett attempted to put sixth place runner Sean Michael a lap down contact was made between the pair. The result found Hodnett parked against the outside fence with front-end damage and the lead restored to Smith.
But the race wasn't over. Up to second was Rahmer followed by Shaffer. However only one more lap could be completed before Rahmer withdrew with a left rear flat tire giving Shaffer new life. Both drivers preferred the high line around the oval on the restart and Smith then pulled away to a .91 second win over Shaffer of Millerstown.
Fifth starter Dewease of Fayetteville rode home third followed by Brook Weibley of York Springs and Michael of Allentown.
Sixth through tenth went to Todd Hestor, Middleburg; Len Thompson, Macungie; Josh Wells, Thomasville; Jason Haggenbuch, Pottstown; and Lance Yonge, Pen Yan, NY.
"I think we were just as good as Greg but he got through traffic a lot better," said Smith after claiming his first career Selinsgrove checkered flag. "This is the second race on this car and to give Shawn his first win as a car owner, this is awesome! It didn't surprise me to see Greg up there, I knew he'd be fast."
Smith continued: "I hated to see him (Hodnett) have bad luck - I didn't wanna' win a race that way. I could hang with him but he was getting through traffic better but that's experience."
In taking the win, Smith gave himself a leg up on his chances at claiming the $10,000 Chip Challenge in the Middleswarth Series. If one driver can win three of the five scheduled events he will take the extra 10G's.
"I want to get two more of these to get that $10,000 but its all luck," said Smith of winning in sprint cars. "You need a lot of luck and maybe I have some on my side this year." Smith recorded the first two wins of his sprint car career last season at Port Royal and Williams Grove Speedways. He holds two career wins at Selinsgrove in Super Sportsman competition.
Heats for the 28 sprint cars on hand went to Smith, Hodnett and Shaffer. Wells took the consolation event.
Seventh starter Jason Schmidt inherited the lead in the 15-lap pro stock main with two to go when leader Gary Beward came up with a flat tire. Prior to that time, Beward had the win well in hand. The victory was Schmidt's second overall at Selinsgrove.
Todd Snook, Beward and Peanut Heintzelman took pro stock heats. Mark Benson won the consolation event.
Selinsgrove returns to action Saturday night, March 29 with a regular four-division program of 358 sprints, late models, pro stocks and roadrunners. Gates open at 4 PM.
The Middleswarth Chip Series returns to the track for the 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial on May 4. The second of five events in the 2003 series will close the first weekend of May, preceded on May 3 by the speedways trademark Pack The Track Free General Admission Night.