---- — By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- With some of the best drivers from the Northeast in attendance on Saturday night for the 13th annual MACH-1 Chassis 358-360 sprint car National Open, Liverpool's T.J. Stutts was able turn a tough season into a good one as he wired the field in the 35-lap feature for an $8,000 payday.
Stutts started on the outside of the front row thanks to the revenge draw, grabbed the lead at the start and never looked back in a race which was slowed by two caution periods.
"When you come into the pits and there are 50 cars here, the heat races are the most stressful part of the night," Stutts said. "Our 360 program is pretty stout right now."
Stutts, who won the inaugural Empire Super Sprint 360-sanctioned feature at the track earlier this season, also won one of the heat races. The double heats counted toward the points that set the night's lineup.
"I haven't won this event in so long; I have kids that are older than when I won it last in 2003," Stutts said.
He also won the inaugural 358-360 challenge Open in 2001.
Stutts' car was stout enough that he maintained his lead of 1.7 seconds over the latter part of the race while racing in and out of lapped traffic.
Eight-time Selinsgrove winner Pat Cannon moved into the runner-up spot on lap 25, but he never got close enough to mount a challenge on Stutts. After crossing the line in second, Cannon was five pounds light at the scales and he was dropped to 20th in the final finish.
Selinsgrove's Blane Heimbach, who held the runner-up spot until lap 25 when he was passed by Cannon, was moved into the runner-up spot after Cannon's infraction.
"We were pretty good in the beginning and not very good at the end," said Heimbach. "It's been a real good year and we've been working hard to figure out some issues."
Brock Zearfoss, who has been racing both the 358 and 410 sprint cars this year, came home third.
"The car was pretty good the whole race, we had some trouble with the lapped cars, but we are happy with a third-place finish in our first open," Zearfoss said.
Mark Smith of Sunbury finished fifth. He's the lead fabricator for MACH-1 Chassis, the title sponsor of the race, who had four chassis in the top five finishing positions in the feature.