By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
MECHANICSBURG -- For the first time in a couple of years, Mother Nature is going to let the racers decide the outcome of the National Open.
The 51st annual event takes place tonight and Saturday with a rain date of Sunday, if necessary.
Going into the weekend, Daryn Pittman leads five-time Open winner Donny Schatz by 52 points in the World of Outlaws points battle while Greg Hodnett leads Fred Rahmer by 35 points in the Williams Grove Speedway 410 standings.
Saturday's 40-lap, $50,000 to win feature is the richest paying sprint car race on the east coast. Tonight's 25-lap preliminary race pays $8,000 to win.
Qualifying for both nights gets underway at 7:30 p.m.
The first driver to win the $50,000 National Open was Doug Esh in 2006. The race was rained shortened to 26 laps.
The only other rain-shortened National Open took place in 1976.
Unseasonably warm temperatures will have race fans in t-shirts and shorts for the first weekend in October.
"It looks like the first weekend that I can remember in the last couple of years that we haven't had to fight with mother nature to race two days in a row," five-time National Open winner Donny Schatz said.
The weekend's racing is the third and final two-day show at Williams Grove in 2013 that is sanctioned by the World of Outlaws.
Schatz has won both WoO events at the speedway this year. There are six races left in the WoO points battle.
"It wasn't that long ago that I really didn't care to go out to Williams Grove," Schatz said. "I was so bad there that I didn't feel like I really wanted to go back, but that changes when you learn how to respect things and that's part of growing up."