Newmanstown, Pa. - September 17 - The final race of the year at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway had all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster...the tension and drama that revolve around intense battles for point championships; the bittersweet enthusiasm of racing the day after saying goodbye to a fallen friend; the joy of winning that final race of the season, tempered by the loss of that good friend; the sense of family as a collection is taken for one of the competitors who's young daughter is very ill; and action on the speedway that is second to none.
Yup, this year's curtain-closer at the Clyde had it all.
Tyler Ross capped off a huge weekend by claiming his first Lanco victory of the season in the main event for the 600cc Micro-Sprints. Nick Skias became the 270cc point champion by winning the feature race in that class, and Jason Swavely performed a similar feat in the Sportsman division. Ryan Wilson notched the victory in the 125cc main, and Chip Geib scored his seventh win of the year in the feature for the 270cc Four-Strokes.
On Friday, September 16, one of the most popular members of the Lanco club was laid to rest in Manheim, Pa. A successful driver and crew chief since 1984, Mark Geib was swept away by flood waters on September 9th. A massive search effort, featuring many of his friends from Lanco, led to his body being found on Sunday, September 11. Geib was certainly on the minds of everyone at the track last Saturday. The 270cc field honored his memory with a Missing Man formation during the pace laps that preceeded their feature, and Geib's wife, Donna, paced the Sportsman feature in her No. 82. In a very moving moment, those in the grandstands rose and applauded as Donna circled the track in front of the Sportsman Micros in a tribute to her late husband.
"What a weekend...last night was amazing and now we get another win tonight...I've got to thank Gary Spotts for letting us use his motor and my dad, well, he really knows what he's doing when it comes to setting up these cars," exclaimed Tyler Ross after his exciting 600cc triumph. "This new car is really awesome, too. Mark Stallard builds a heckuva car."
Ross won on Friday night at Linda's Speedway, driving a car owned by Spotts. With Spotts' engine in the new, family owned Stallard, the teenager from Lincoln University, Pa, captured his second feature of the weekend on Saturday at the Clyde. And Saturday's victory came in an action-packed fashion, as Ross went from third to first on the opening trip around the banked oval, then held off a fast-closing Shane Lewis over the final laps after a yellow with three to go wiped out his comfortable advantage.
Lewis was racing for the point title, too. He entered the night's competition trailing Heath Hehnly by 55 points. Lewis bolted from eighth to fourth in the opening circuits, took third on lap eleven, then moved past Jeff Halligan to snatch second with nine tours remaining. He made things interesting for Ross after that late restart, diving under the leader in turns three and four on the last lap, but came up just a bit short in his bid for the win.
Lewis also fell a little short in his quest for the championship, as Hehnly ran a steady race to finish sixth and clinch the title.
Chasing Ross and Lewis to the finish line were Halligan, Ryan Greth, and Chris Gerhart.
Winning 600cc heat races were Greth, Tyler Esh, and Jermain Godshall. Twenty-four teams entered the 600cc portion of the program.
As the 270cc main event went green, Nick Skias faced an eight-point deficit in the championship standings. And the driver he was trying to unseat for the title was his father, Pete. Nick started fifth in Saturday's 25-lapper, while Pete rolled off from 15th on the grid.
Nick Skias quickly motored into the runner-up position behind race leader Heath Hehnly. Nick then wrestled the top spot from Hehnly on lap four, just prior to a red flag for a scary flip involving Austin Clark. Clark was knocked out briefly and complained about pain in his hand when he regained consciousness. He was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and there was no update on his condition as this release was written.
N. Skias was the leader as the race went back to green, and Mike Rutherford was the man on the move. Rutherford climbed from eleventh starting spot to run fourth as lap seven was scored.
The championship battle took a dramatic turn with seven laps left to run, as Pete Skias, who had advanced well inside the top ten, brought out the yellow as his No. 8s suffered mechanical problems that forced him to fall out of the race.
When Hehnly broke while running second with only two circuits remaining, Rutherford inherited the position and had one more shot at the leader. On the restart, however, N. Skias simply drove away from Rutherford and the rest of the pack to register the victory and, in the process, the 270cc point title as well.
The new champion was almost speechless in victory lane. "I don't know what to say...I had to come from way back to win the points at Linda's last year, and I got off to a lousy start here this year. I guess that's my method; I have to come from behind to win championships. I have to thank Lanco Speedway, my sponsors, my family, and my friends. I have a lot of support, and it really helps. And thanks to my girlfriend, Megan, who puts up with my bad moods when things don't go well."
Rutherford finished second to N. Skias on Saturday, with Billy Logeman, Jesse Maurer, and Dave Grube completing the top five. With Pete Skias falling out and finishing 15th, Grube's top five effort enabled him to leapfrog over P. Skias and into second place in the final point tally.
With 23 of the 270cc teams in the pit area on Saturday, heat race victories went to Nick Skias, Hehnly, and Logeman.
Jason Swavely had an even larger hole to climb out of in the Sportsman point chase, trailing Bret Habecker by 36 markers as the season's final feature began. And Swavely, from Douglassville, wasted no time in creating some excitement.
Swavely rocketed from his tenth place starting spot to take the lead on the opening lap, utilizing the high groove and going four-wide to grab the top spot at the end of the backstretch. Swavely immediately zipped out to a healthy margin over Sheena Schaefer.
Habecker was still in a good spot to win the Sportsman title, riding in fourth position in the early stages of the 25 lap main event. But he became the race's first caution, his No. 72 coasting to a halt in turn two. Habecker wound up 18th.
With the point crown now well within his grasp, Swavely kept his foot in it, flying to the win and the championship. "Back in the spring, just before my dad passed away, he told me that I'd win a point title this year," revealed the victor in his interview. "Those were actually the last words he said to me."
Swavely's pace was so fast that only six cars finished on the lead lap. One of his teammates, Ken Miller ended up second with Schaefer, Dwayne Mathias, and Matt Abers finishing third through fifth.
Habecker and Swavely won heat races for the 20 Sportsman competitors.
Seventh starting Ryan Wilson ducked under strong running Kyle Hehnly to take the lead in the 125cc feature after Hehnly went from third to first on lap six. Wilson took command on the tenth trip around the ultra fast, super smooth clay. Two circuits later, Dave Grube claimed the runner-up spot and began his pursuit of the leader.
Grube stuck his nose under Wilson and charged ahead with five to go, but he flipped in turn four on the same lap while he was trying to navigate by a lapped car.
Wilson was back in front for the restart, and he held off his Gorski Racing teammate, Jesse Maurer, to record the win. Maurer had already clinched the championship, his second straight and fourth overall, when the September 10 event was cancelled.
Shane Braxton finished third, with Kyle Hehnly fourth and Curtis R. Miller fifth.
With 25 cars signed in for 125cc competition, heat race victories were claimed by Kory Merkey, Grube, and Wilson. Brianna Gerhart won the consolation.
The year's final main event was contested by the 270cc Four-Stroke Micros, and in grand style, the 25-lapper went non-stop.
Chip Geib started on the outside of row five and maneuvered his way into the runner-up position by lap five. Geib stalked Travis Esh for two tours, then made his move for the lead as they accelerated off corner number two. Within a few laps, Geib blasted away to a huge advantage, leaving Esh to battle for second with Ryan Morris and Justin Harrington. With ten to go, Morris secured the spot but he had no chance of reeling in the race leader.
With no caution periods to slow his pace, Geib cruised to his seventh Four-Stroke victory of the season. Morris, the impressive rookie from Honeybrook, finished a distant second and Jared Esh came out ahead in a spirited battle for third over Esh and Harrington.
Jared Esh, in just his second season of racing anything, locked up the Four-Stroke title when the September 10 event was cancelled.
Earl Eveland and Geib won heat races for the 13-car field of Four-Strokes.
Sportsman driver Kelby Stauffer was not competing on Saturday and for good reason - his two-year-old daughter was in a Philadelphia hospital after she was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer. The good news, according to her doctors, is that this form of cancer is very treatable.
A helmet drive was conducted during intermission on Saturday evening, and the Lanco faithful came through in a big way, as more than $780 was collected for the Stauffer family. By the end of the night, Lanco officials announced they would use the club's Medical Assistance Fund to raise the total contribution to $1,000 for the Stauffers.
A Flea Market/Practice Day will be held at the speedway this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The annual Awards Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, November 19, at the Host Resort in Lancaster, Pa. Details regarding the banquet and ticket information can be found at www.lancomicrosprint.com.
600cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.Tyler Ross, 2.Shane Lewis, 3.Jeff Halligan, 4.Ryan Greth, 5.Chris Gerhart, 6.Heath Hehnly, 7.Shaun Brandel, 8.Tom Kohler, 9.Mike Rutherford, 10.Jermain Godshall, 11.Peter Michael, 12.Tyler Esh, 13.Mike Dicely, 14.Ryan Hook, 15.Jered Hook, 16.Brittany Brown, 17.Shane Braxton, 18.Mark Yoder, 19.David Beiler, 20.Brent Ely, 21.Travis Esh, 22.Monnie Wonder, 23.Tim Barrick, 24.Kory Merkey.
2011 Point Champion: Heath Hehnly.
270cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.Nick Skias, 2.Mike Rutherford, 3.Billy Logeman, 4.Jesse Maurer, 5.Dave Grube, 6.Mike Dicely, 7.Christi Sweigart, 8.Mike Uhrich, 9.Zack Fouse, 10.Nathan Weidman, 11.Bret Guzik, 12.Cody Kreger, 13.Heath Hehnly, 14.Devin Harron, 15.Pete Skias, 16.Tyler Reinhardt, 17.Rebecca Lamothe, 18.Chip Geib, 19.Austin Clark, 20.Jason Swavely, 21.Charles Hellinger. DNS: Jacob Miller; John Rutter.
2011 Point Champion: Nick Skias.
Sportsman Micro-Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.Jason Swavely, 2.Ken Miller, 3.Sheena Shaeffer, 4.Dwayne Mathias, 5.Matt Abers, 6.Brett Wanner, 7.Mark Yoder, 8.Corey Schmuck Jr., 9.Rick Fisher, 10.Wesley Fasnacht, 11.Tim Ziegler, 12.Joel Tolley, 13.Jeff Hughes, 14.Brad Kemp, 15.Dave Kemp, 16.Brian Becker, 17.Jenna Keppley, 18.Bret Habecker, 19.Dave Schroeder. DNS: Mike Heiser.
2011 Point Champion: Jason Swavely.
125cc Micro-Sprint Feature, 25 laps: 1.Ryan Wilson, 2.Jesse Maurer, 3.Shane Braxton, 4.Kyle Hehnly, 5.Curtis R. Miller, 6.Derek Ecenrode, 7.Mark Yoder, 8.Brianna Gerhart, 9.Brent Shearer, 10.Ashley Kase, 11.Walter Wampole, 12.Dave Grube, 13.Nick Sweigart, 14.Kory Merkey, 15.Ken Miller, 16.Derek Miller, 17.Sonny Sweitzer, 18.Bradley Brown, 19.Josh Henise, 20.Samantha Garman, 21.Zack Hollinger.
2011 Point Champion: Jesse Maurer.
270cc Four-Stroke Feature, 25 laps: 1.Chip Geib, 2.Ryan Morris, 3.Jared Esh, 4.Travis Esh, 5.Justin Harrington, 6.Kim Enck, 7.Ed Nocera, 8.Earl Eveland, 9.Michael Jenks, 10.Lewis Kepple Jr., 11.Ron Wechter, 12.Matthew Swift, 13.Jessica Mohler.
2011 Point Champion: Jared Esh.