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Wolfe Rallies to Win 24th Annual Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek

By Drew Pellman
And now back to your regularly scheduled activities. Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek has come and gone for another year, and it was one that will be quite hard to forget. The week featured some new aspects never seen before, as well as the revisiting of a couple others that we hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing for many seasons. As a reminder, Speedweek is unlike any other week thoughout the racing season. This year, the greuling week began on June 27th and ran through July 6 with only one scheduled off night to regroup. Drivers earn points every time they hit the speedway, whether it be for qualifying time trials, heat races, the consolation event or the feature. Here’s a recap of how the week went down.
*Williams Grove Speedway was the scene as Speedweek kicked off it’s 24th season. 34 cars signed in for competition and things started off right for the Zemco #1 of Lucas Wolfe with the fastest lap of the night in time trials. Rick Lafferty jumped out to the early lead in the feature event and stayed there for the first 13 circuits before Danny Dietrich’s No. 48 took over from there.

Brian Montieth temporarily took the point with two laps to go, but Dietrich used a crossover move following Montieth’s slide job to regain the advantage and beat the familiar black No. 21 to the checkered. Alan Krimes, Donnie Kreitz Jr. and Greg Hodnett completed the top five.
*The series moved on to Lincoln Speedway on Saturday, June 28 with another 34-car field for the running of the prestigious Kevin Gobrecht Memorial. With time trials and heat races completed, the majority of heavy hitters found themselves at the back of the feature lineup. Adam Wilt powered his No. 15 to the point and set the pace until lap 18. That’s when Kyle Moody, a driver with no previous 410 sprint car wins, took his No. 99M around Wilt and led the final 12 laps for biggest upset victory of the season. Following Moody to the stripe were Brady Bacon, Ryan Smith, Brian Montieth and Tim Gladfelter. Gerard McIntyre Jr. set quick time in time trials. It’s important to note that Lucas Wolfe was not in attendance for this event due to the birth of his first child, seemingly ending his chances at a Speedweek crown. More on that to follow.
*Fred Rahmer may have retired from driving after last season, but he certainly hasn’t become less active in the sport. Rahmer promoted the third stop of Speedweek, which happened to be the series’ first event at Path Valley Speedweek since 1995 on June 29. The event drew a series-high 43 cars to the little bullring that calls Spring Run, Pa. home. Danny Dietrich jumped out to the early lead at the start, but he was pursued very closely by Lucas Wolfe from the get-go. It took Wolfe only five laps to get the job done with a slider in the first turn. The race was far from over, however, as current wingless USAC point leader Brady Bacon was on the charge. The invader from Indiana driving his own No. 99 stalked Wolfe’s familiar Zemco colors until lap 24. That’s when Bacon made his move through lapped traffic to zip past Wolfe and into the lead for good.

At the end of 40 laps, Bacon crossed the line in front of a hard-charging Lance Dewease, Wolfe, Dietrich and Cole Duncan who started the event from the 22nd position. Greg Hodnett paced the field in time trials and picked up a $1,000 bonus that Rahmer had set up for his efforts.
*After missing its annual Speedweek show to the forecast in 2013, the Grandview Speedway had perfect weather for this year’s version of “Thunder on the Hill” on July 1. Even though just 22 sprinters signed in for competition — the lowest number of any race all week — the action on the track easily made up for it. It was a four-car battle from the outset of the feature, with pole-sitter Greg Hodnett controlling the feature in his No. 27 Heffner Motorsports entry. Lucas Wolfe, Danny Dietrich and Alan Krimes were in hot pursuit, at one point getting so close that you could throw a blanket over all four race cars. After Krimes slowed with a flat tire, it was a three-car battle with Hodnett using every inch of the track to keep the two faster cars behind him. By the time the 35th and final lap rolled around, it was Wolfe who had the best shot in the middle of the track, but Hodnett managed to hold on to the low side of the speedway to improbably lead every lap. Wolfe — who set fast time — was second, Dietrich settled for third, Brent Marks got fourth and Lance Dewease completed the top five.
*The Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway was stop number five for the traveling series on July 2, and once again it got off to a good start for Lucas Wolfe when he set quick time in time trials. It looked to be all Donnie Kreitz in his familiar blue No. 69K, but a late-race caution flag bunched up the field and gave Greg Hodnett the opportunity that he needed. On the ensuing restart, Hodnett powered the No. 27 past Kreitz for the lead and never looked back to make it consecutive wins. Wolfe got by Kreitz for second, pushing the veteran driver back to third in the process. Stevie Smith made his Speedweek debut with a fourth-place finish in the Fred Rahmer/Dave Pritchard owned No. 51 and Danny Dietrich rounded out the top five. 30 cars were pitside for the event.
*It’s extremely rare that you can make it through a week of dirt track racing with total cooperation from Mother Nature. This year’s interruption came at Juniata County’s Port Royal Speedway on July 3. The first thunderstorm hit the fairgrounds around 3 p.m. on Thursday with 27 cars signed in for competition with more presumably on the way. Although delayed, the track crew was making significant progress on the racing surface when another hard rain started falling later in the evening. Unfortunately, that was the final nail in the coffin for round number six of Speedweek.
*The rainout gave everybody an extra day to prepare for a 4th of July celebration — the prestigious Mitch Smith Memorial at Williams Grove. Called the “Crown Jewel” of Speedweek, the race pays $10,000 to win and saw 39 cars pitside. Once again, Lucas Wolfe set fast time, something that was starting to become a noticeable trend in the pits and throughout the grandstands. Brian Montieth jumped out to a big lead at the start of the feature, but Stevie Smith made sure to never let the Montieth’s No. 21 out of his sight. Working in and out of lapped traffic, the Black Bandit waited for the perfect Bandit waited for the perfect moment with just a couple circuits remaining and pulled off a perfectly-executed slidejob in turns three and four for the race-winning pass. After Smith and Montieth came Donnie Kreitz Jr., Brent Marks and Wolfe.
*After the rain washed away Port Royal’s first attempt, it was nothing but sunny skies for the 34 entries on July 5th. A new-track record of 15.168 was set in time trials by none other than Lucas Wolfe, his fifth fast time of the week. Former World of Outlaws champion and current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney invaded Juniata County for the race and led the first 19 laps before his right-rear tire exploded to end his night. Wolfe assumed the lead after charging from his sixth-place starting position and held off a fast-approaching Stevie Smith over the final two laps for his first ever victory at the Port. Doug Esh took third place, Greg Hodnett was fourth and Curt Michael crossed in fifth. Unbelievably, the win — and all of the bonus points earned throughout the week in time trials — allowed Wolfe to pull into a tie with Hodnett in the Speedweek point standings despite Wolfe not attending the event at Lincoln earlier in the week.
*As fans and race teams pulled into Snyder County’s Selinsgrove Speedway to put a cap on the week, it was made known that the Speedweek points have never been tied entering the final event like they were this year. But for Lucas Wolfe, things couldn’t have started off worse. During hot laps, the right-front axel broke as his No. 1 was speeding into turn one, forcing the car to slam the wall before entering a series of flips. Surely that was the end of the road for Wolfe’s title chances, right?

Wrong. The Zemco team went to work and managed to replace every necessary part to get their driver out for his regularly scheduled time trial laps. Surely he couldn’t set fast time AGAIN could he — in a damaged race car no less? Wrong again. Wolfe earned his unprecedented sixth quick time award of the week. Nothing could stop him now — that is, except for a blown motor in his heat race! But once again, the team went back to work, changed engines and put the outcome back in the hands of their driver. Entering the feature, Hodnett held a slim 4-point advantage on Wolfe. The side story here was Brent Marks — a driver that was in a winless streak that dated back to May of last season. He gave his No. 19M the early jump, but was forced to fight off Mike Erdley for the top spot for a well-deserved victory over the field of 26 entries. Wolfe, meanwhile, started 10th and drove to fifth — easily passing Hodnett in the process — completing the most unlikely comeback in Speedweek history to take his crown by just six points. Blane Heimbach finished second in the race, Erdley settled for third, Kyle Reinhardt was fourth and Wolfe earned fifth.

*In all, 85 different drivers competed in at least one Speedweek event. Five of them — Greg Hodnett, Brent Marks, Danny Dietrich, Ryan Smith and Curt Stroup — competed in all eight. After Wolfe and Hodnett, Marks finished third in the Speedweek point standings, Dietrich took fourth and Montieth got fifth. Sixth through ten went to Bacon, Krimes Dewease, RyanSmith and Kreitz. With Speedweek completed, we’ve officially reached the halfway point of the Central Pa. Sprint Car season as we enter July — commonly known as the month of money with many big events on the card. It’s always bittersweet to see the greatest week of the year come to a close, but our region is in for a very exciting second half of the season. Come on out and join us at your local track this weekend!


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