Williams Grove, Pennsylvania, September 26, 1997 1997 Williams Grove champion Fred Rahmer showed how to come from the rear to the front, winning his heat and almost capturing the final regular season Super Sprint race after a mishap early in...
Williams Grove, Pennsylvania, September 26, 1997
1997 Williams Grove champion Fred Rahmer showed how to come from the rear to the front, winning his heat and almost capturing the final regular season Super Sprint race after a mishap early in the feature put him at the back of the field. He could not overcome Todd Shaffer, who led the final 23 laps of the action-packed 25 lap race.
Action began in the first heat race (10 laps, 6 transfer, 4 handicapped to the front), which was scheduled to line up as:
6F Ron Kramer 77T Jess Thomas 81 Bob Beidleman 10N Jeff Thompson 16C Cliff Brian 10 Len Thompson 88X Sean Michael 17E Cris Eash 77 Fred Rahmer 1A Bobby Allen
As the field formed, Jeff Thompson stalled in turn 1, and was pushed into the pits. When the nine remaining cars took the green, Ron Kramer on the pole got out of shape and the field bottled up behind him. Beidleman moved to the right to avoid the jam, leaving Eash no place to go. Both cars spun, and sustained minor damage which put them out of the heat but was repaired in time for the consolation.
On the second try, Kramer held steady and was immediately passed by Jess Thomas. Rahmer, from the back row, took the low line, and passed everybody ahead of him except Thomas by the time the field reached the back stretch on the first lap. Sean Michael found the low line to his liking as he used it to move into second place after four laps, with Thomas, Len Thompson, Bobby Allen and Cliff Brian holding the remaining transfer spots. On the sixth and seventh laps Allen tested the low line repeatedly trying to take fourth away from Thompson, but Len held him off.
Heat 1 finishing order (cars still running; 6 transfer) was:
77 Rahmer, 88X Michael, 77T Thomas, 10 L. Thompson, 1A Allen, 16C C. Brian, 6F Kramer.
Time was 3:02.43
Heat 2 lineup was:
3 Bob Bennett 5W Randy Wolfe 7 Dave Cordier 53 Shawn Keen 55 Mike Wagner 5 Alan Cole 1 Kevin Gobrecht 88 Todd Shaffer 8M Ron Moss 4J Jeff Shepard
With Billy Pauch off truck racing, Kevin Gobrecht was in the #1 Zemco car for the evening. The #12 Apple car remained parked.
The heat began with Bob Bennett holding the lead on the high line, while Randy Wolfe chased him on the low line. Further back, Wagner, Shepard and Shaffer moved up. The #1 car, which had encountered problems at the end of its hot lap session, was having an off night and stayed near the rear.
After three laps Wolfe's liking for the low line paid off as he went under Bennett and took the lead coming out of turn 4. A lap later Wagner made the same move to take second place. Behind the two leaders Shepard and Shaffer continued to move up, and Bennett slowly moved back. On the final lap Wagner tried the low line in turns 3 and 4, but could not make it work against Wolfe.
Heat 2 finishing order (cars still running; 6 transfer) was:
5W Wolfe, 55 Wagner, 4J Shepard, 88 Shaffer, 7 Cordier, 3 Wagner, 53 Keen, 1 Gobrecht, 5 Cole
Time was 3:09.84
Heat 3 saw another back-to-front run, this time by Lance Dewease, as Judi Bates headed the first eight laps. The starting lineup was:
121 Judi Bates 33 Todd Hesstor 92A Jon Armstrong 15D Brook Weibley 29 Bill Brian Jr 5G Rod George 69K Don Kreitz Jr 461 Lance Dewease 2T Tracy Readinger 19 Rick Koenig
Judi Bates got a good start, then pulled out a lead as Brook Weibley battled side-by-side with Todd Hesstor for second place. Weibley soon took the position. Rod George dogged Bill Brian as Lance Dewease chased them. Dewease passed George, then Brian, on the low side in turns 1 and 2 on the third lap. Hesstor slid back in the field, leaving Dewease in third and Brian holding George off for fourth. On the fifth lap George got around Brian. A lap later Dewease caught Weibley and used the low line to take second place in turns 3 and 4. As Dewease closed the gap on leader Bates, George continued his move up and passed Weibley, while Brian slipped back.
On the ninth lap Dewease caught Bates on the backstretch and passed under her in turns 3 and 4. During the next two laps he pulled out a convincing lead while Bates maintained her second over the cars behind.
Heat 3 finishing order (all cars running; 6 transfer) was:
461 Dewease, 121 Bates, 5G George, 15D Weibley, 69K Kreitz, 29 B. Brian, 19 Koenig, 33 Hesstor, 92A Armstrong, 2T Readinger.
Time was 3:07.35
Scheduled lineup for the Consolation race (10 laps, 6 transfer) was:
6F Kramer (DNS) 53 Keen 19 Koenig 81 Beidleman 1 Gobrecht 33 Hesstor 17E Eash 5 Cole 92A Armstrong 10N J. Thompson 8M Moss 2T Readinger
Kramer did not start, so the inside line moved up, putting Rick Koenig on the inside pole for the start. As the field came out of turn 4 after the green, Koenig held onto the lead position and cars fell into position in almost their starting order. The #1 car continued to have a bad night, and slipped back. The yellow came out after two laps as Gobrecht slowed on the front stretch, then came to a stop on the back stretch, while Moss spun in turn 3.
The restart order was Koenig, Keen, Eash, Beidleman, Hesstor and Cole in the top six places. On the restart, Eash immediately passed Keen and set after Koenig. He caught Koenig entering turn 1, but got into the side of the #19. The red came out with Eash against the fence in the middle of turns 1 and 2 after rolling several times, and Koenig stopped in 2. Both drivers were uninjured, but done for the evening.
The green resumed with Shawn Keen in the lead, followed by Beidleman, Hesstor, Cole and Armstrong. As Beidleman took the high line around 1 and 2 and onto the backstretch, Hesstor took a look underneath. They were side by side into three. The pass was complete coming out of four, and Hesstor owned second place at the end of the third lap.
After four laps, Keen held a straightaway lead over Hesstor, who in turn held almost as long a lead over Beidleman. No gap separated Beidleman from Alan Cole, who took the low line past Beidleman entering turn 3 a lap later. On the sixth lap Armstrong passed Beidleman underneath on the back stretch. After that final pass, the six cars remaining in the heat maintained that order to the end.
Consolation finishing order (cars still running; all 6 transfer) was:
53 Keen, 33 Hesstor, 5 Cole, 92A Armstrong, 81 Beidleman, 2T Readinger
The feature (25 laps, $3000 to win) lined up with the four top finishers in each heat handicapped into the front according to season points, followed by the remaining heat transfers, then the six consolation transfers:
121 Bates 77T Thomas 5W Wolfe 15D Weibley 55 Wagner 10 L. Thompson 5G George 88X Michael 88 Shaffer 461 Dewease 77 Rahmer 4J Shepard 1A Allen 7 Cordier 69K Kreitz 16C C. Brian 3 Bennett 29 B. Brian 53 Keen 33 Hesstor 5 Cole 92A Armstrong 81 Beidleman 2T Readinger
The feature got off to a bad start as Mike Wagner flipped violently on the front stretch, tearing the front axle off against the inside rail. Wagner was unhurt. During the red Bob Bennett and Bob Beidleman were pushed into the pits and did not resume. Sean Michael was pushed into the pits to replace a flat tire, and re-joined. Don Kreitz's wing was crushed, and his crew replaced it on the front stretch while the #55 was being removed.
After the full restart, Judi Bates held the lead from her pole position, with Jess Thomas chasing from his outside pole start. Bates pulled out a lead on the backstretch, and owned the lead at the end of lap 1. Behind her, Len Thompson caught Jess Thomas and passed him on the outside in 3 and 4 for second place. Also on the second lap Lance Dewease bobbled in 2, letting Rahmer and Shepard slip past him.
The red came out as Jon Armstrong, running near the back, found himself on his side at the exit of 4. At the same time Bates spun between 3 and 4. Armstrong was not hurt. After clearing his car, the restart order reverted to that of the last complete lap: Bates, Thompson, Thomas, Shaffer, George, Wolfe, Rahmer, Shepard, Dewease, Weibley, Cordier, and Keen rounding out the top dozen.
After the field passed the cone on the backstretch, Thompson dove past Bates into 3, but Bates went to the inside to hold the lead. Thompson tried it again entering turn 1, with the same result. As the act unfolded for a third time in turn 3, Bates spun. The red came out as the spinning 121 collected Fred Rahmer, Rod George and Shawn Keen, with Rahmer winding up on his side.
Bates, George and Keen were done for the evening. As track crews removed the wreckage, it appeared that Rahmer was also finished. Then Bruce Ellis announced that Rahmer's crew asked for two laps to get the car going. The red #77 Manheim Auction car was brought to the infield where the Hamilton crew made repairs. The car was pushed off, and rejoined the field in 16th place of the 18 cars remaining. The top 10 for the restart were Thompson, Thomas, Shaffer, Wolf, Shepard, Dewease, Weibley, Cordier, Kreitz and C. Brian. Two laps were in the books.
Todd Shaffer wasted no time showing his intentions. After the green fell, he took the high line around 3 and 4, passing both Thomas and Thompson and emerging in first place as the third lap began. As the field worked the third lap, Dewease got past Shepard and Sean Michael went past both Brians.
The yellow flew again as the leaders were working the fourth lap when Don Kreitz slowed on the front stretch, looking as if he was going to stop. He picked up speed again, then dropped out on the back stretch.
On the restart, Dewease got around Wolfe, then past Thomas on the front stretch. Shepard followed suit, getting past Thomas out of 2. Dewease took the high line around Thompson in turn 3, claiming second place. Further back, Sean Michael moved up to seventh on lap 4, passing Weibley on the back stretch. A lap later Michael had gotten around Thomas for sixth. The running order after five laps were in the books was Shaffer, Dewease, Thompson, Shepard, Wolfe, Michael, Thomas and Weibley.
The leaders kept their positions over the next few laps. By lap 10 Rahmer was in eighth place, eight places up from his position after the lap 3 incident. By lap 12 Shepard had taken third place away from Thompson.
The yellow came out after 14 laps as Dewease slowed on the back stretch, falling out of his second place position. A fan who had taken a nap after lap 5 might have only noticed a few changes in the top six: Dewease was gone. Shepard was ahead of Thompson. And.... Fred Rahmer was now in sixth place.
With 14 laps recorded and the order Shaffer, Shepard, Thompson, Wolfe, Michael and Rahmer, the green flew again. After crossing the stripe, Rahmer went low into turn 1, emerging from turn 2 ahead of Michael and Wolfe. Keeping to the low line into 3, he emerged into third place.
Except for Shepard closing the gap between him and Shaffer, the field strung out over the next few laps. After 19 laps, Shepard was right behind Shaffer, and decided to try a slide job as they entered turn 1 on lap 20. He passed under, then slid up in front of the #88, then kept sliding until he came to a gentle stop with his right rear against the turn wall and his nose pointed toward the infield.
No damage was done to Shepard's car, and he joined the field (which was now down to 11 cars) at the back. Shaffer, Rahmer, Thompson, Michael and Wolfe formed the top five. When the green came out, Rahmer tried diving under Shaffer entering turn 1, but did not make it and fell back. He tried the same maneuver entering turn 3, with equal results. After that, Shaffer pulled out a lead, winding up almost a full straightaway ahead of Rahmer at the end. During the last five laps, Sean Michael got past Len Thompson for third, and Jeff Shepard worked his way up to fifth place.
After the race, Shaffer said of his fifth win at the Grove this season "We were pretty good tonight. Just lucked out and got to the front and got on the curve." He noted that "a lot of the heavy hitters got taken out", and said that Rahmer had a flat right front at the end. When asked about Shepard's flyer at him on the 20th lap, he first said "I'd say you'd have to ask him about that." Then he added "I went in wide open and followed the curve and he passed me. But he didn't make it".
Bruce Ellis reminded Todd that he was actually under orders to win tonight. Before the race, Todd's daughter called out to him "Hey, Dad - try and win." He replied "OK, I'll try".
Feature Results (25 laps, $3000 to win):
1. 88 Shaffer 2. 77 Rahmer 3. 88X Michael 4. 10 L. Thompson 5. 4J Shepard 6. 16C C. Brian 7. 5W Wolfe 8. 7 Cordier 9. 29 B. Brian 10. 77T Thomas 11. 1A Allen 12. 2T Readinger 13. 33 Hesstor 14. 461 Dewease 15. 15D Weibley 16. 5 Cole 17. 3 Bennett 18. 69K Kreitz 19. 121 Bates 20. 5G George 21. 53 Keen 22. 92A Armstrong 23. 55 Wagner 24. 81 Beidleman
Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International