By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- Davie Franek hasn't been a regular in the 358 sprint car division at Selinsgrove Speedway for nearly three years, but the Wantage, N.J., driver is eager to get back to victory lane.
A six-time winner at the track, Franek is looking for his first-ever win in the 13th annual Mach-1 Chassi National Open for the 358-360 sprint cars on Saturday.
Also on the racing card will be the pro stocks in an open competition event.
For the first time in the event's history, the 358-360 National Open will be co-sanctioned by the United Racing Company and the Empire Super Sprints.
In the first-ever ESS-sanctioned race at the track on May 18, T.J. Stutts, of Liverpool, took the win while URC points leader JJ Grasso won the URC feature on Aug. 10
This year's 35-lap feature pays $8,000 to win with time trials, double heats and a B-main setting up the starting field.
In 358-360 sprint car Open history at Selinsgrove Speedway, 12 races have produced eight different winners since 2001.
"I love the format. I think Pennsylvania is crazy if they don't combine the series pretty soon and have more races like this," Franek said. "You look at Jason Shultz; he won the race one year with a 358 engine. Kevin Nouse was third at Grove with a 358 among the 360s recently."
Franek finished runner-up in the points last year with URC in his first full season with the touring 360 series.
"We just wanted a change," he said of the move from the 358s. "Selinsgrove is pretty much my home track for sprint car racing. I am always excited to head back to that place."
Franek said he has a new car and a fresh engine for Saturday's big race.
"You can't come to Selinsgrove with an engine that has 15 to 20 races on it," he said.
In URC action this year, 17 races has produced 10 different winners with Grasso and defending URC champion Robbie Stillwaggon having won four times each.
Franek comes into Saturday's race third in URC points, 77 points behind second place and one-time winner Josh Weller and 194 points behind Grasso.
"Our season started out pretty decent, it was lacking a bit in the middle part of the year, and then we got involved in a wreck at Lincoln Speedway and the other guys finished ahead of us." Franek said. "Last year the points came down to the last race at Grandview and things didn't go our way."
Franek doesn't have a win this season and despite some tough luck, he feels the team is close to a win.
"We're really pumped for Saturday," he said. "We're ready to rock-and-roll."
Steve Poirier, who has already wrapped up the ESS points title, will not be in action this weekend following a crash last weekend at the Fonda Speedway in New York.
Poirier has five wins on the season.
The highest finishing ESS regular back in April was Jeff Cook.
Last year, Pat Cannon, of Etters, became the first three-time winner of the 358-360 sprint car Open. He also won the event in 2007 and 2008. Cannon has eight wins at the track this season, including his third consecutive win the 410 National Open on Sept. 14.
Logan Schuchart of Hanover drove to an impressive victory in the 2011 Open in a 360-powered sprint car.
In 2010, Daryn Pittman of Owasso, Okla., was awarded the win when Cannon's race car was under the legal weight during the post-race inspection.
Blane Heimbach, of Selinsgrove, won the 2005 Open and the rain-postponed 2009 edition of the Open that was run in the spring of 2010.
Stutts won the inaugural Open in 2001 and again in 2003. Adrian Shaffer of Hallam was the Open champion in 2002, while Nate Snyder, of Halifax, took the win in the 2004 race.
Phil Walter of McClure won the event in 2006.