Mechanicsburg, PA - As the Pennzoil World of Outlaws annually circle the country, one stop usually brings out the toughest contingent of weekly racers. This weekend the traveling sprint car stars will take on the best competitors from the Keystone...
Mechanicsburg, PA - As the Pennzoil World of Outlaws annually circle the country, one stop usually brings out the toughest contingent of weekly racers. This weekend the traveling sprint car stars will take on the best competitors from the Keystone State in the Wirtgen Shootout at Williams Grove Speedway near Mechanicsburg, PA. The locals are known as the Pennsylvania Posse and each season the drivers and their loyal fans want nothing more than to defeat the Outlaws. Last May, Fred Rahmer drove Al Hamilton's #77 J&J to victory lane providing plenty of ammunition to brag for the entire year. For Rahmer, it's just another race, but there are some differences when the Outlaws come to town.
"It's certainly tough when they come to town and the pressure is on to put a complete night together," said Rahmer, a Salfordsville, PA native. "You have to qualify well, run well in the heat race and do a good job in the feature race. I know Wirtgen is putting some extra money up, so hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of that."
The added purse that Rahmer mentioned is a $10,000 bonus to any "PA Posse" member that can defeat the Outlaws in Friday's 30-lap "A" Feature, which will air live on TNN: The National Network. Wirtgen President Stu Murray also is offering a $5000 to an Outlaw that wins the race making the victory worth $17,000 for an Outlaw or $22,000 for a PA Posse member.
Rahmer has put together a solid start to this 2001 season. He's won eight feature events in ten starts at Lincoln Speedway and he picked up his first feature victory of the season at Williams Grove versus the WoO Gumout series on April 27.
"I would say the Gumout deal isn't up to the caliber of the regular Outlaws, but anytime you win a race it's an accomplishment," said Rahmer about his 45th career feature win at the Grove, which tied him with Donnie Kreitz for the most all-time at the half-mile oval. " Last year, we were able to beat them in May, and it took a heck of an effort. Al Hamilton provides us the equipment to do it. We've got good cars, good motors and a terrific tire program, and you have to have all of that just to have a fighting chance versus the Outlaws."
Hamilton's team has been a loyal user of J&J Auto Racing cars for years and a number of other high-caliber PA teams have also started using them. Rahmer has been very pleased with the 2001 car, a chassis that he helped develop by doing R&D work last fall. He considers the quality of the car the main reason for the number of competitions choosing Jack Elam's TN-based company for their race cars.
"You can see the quality workmanship in the J&J cars," explained Rahmer. "In my opinion, Jack's cars are nicer than any other make of chassis. We can switch part to part from one car to the next and there aren't too many brands that can say that. You can take a body panel from one car and bolt it right on to the next one and everything fits. You don't have to re-weld tabs or use different parts. It certainly makes life easier on the crews when they know that they have consistency in every car."
Another advantage Rahmer and his team hope to have is a different tire brand. The debate with the Outlaws this season has been can the Goodyears keep up the with Hoosiers. At Williams Grove, American Racer tires have been the dominant make, and Rahmer is confident that tires won't be a problem on Thursday and Friday.
"If there is any place in the country that the American Racers will have an advantage, I think it will be here," said Rahmer. "The Outlaws come in and are always tough, but I'm confident our tires will be better than what they're running (Goodyears and Hoosiers), or we'd be running something else. We should be okay there, tires aren't a concern at all."
For most of the sprint car fans in Central Pennsylvania, these two races against the Outlaws are the biggest nights of the season until the WoO returns in July, but for Rahmer he looks at them as two more nights to prove he's one of best behind the wheel of a 1200-pound, 800-horsepower sprint car.
"I go to every race with the mindset that it's the last one that I'm going to run. To win an Outlaw race, you've got to start the feature in the top six spots. I do the best I can every night out and probably the biggest thing is being focused the entire program, from qualifying to racing in the feature. I'd sure like to be around late in the feature with a chance to win."