The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

May 16, 2014

Motorsports: World of Outlaws coming to Williams Grove

MECHANICSBURG — Nothing stirs the emotions for sports fans more than beating your rival in the biggest game of the year.

Or in this case, beating the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series when they invade Central Pennsylvania.

Fred Rahmer did that last October when he won the prestigious WoO-sanctioned National Open at Williams Grove Speedway in his 28th and final try.

The Outlaws return to Williams Grove tonight and Saturday as part of the first of four visit to Central Pennsylvania this year.

While weather has hampered the racing season in the commonwealth, the Outlaws have suffered just one rainout in 25 events.

The 2014 WoO season has been a very competitive one for the traveling series.

There has been 15 different winners in 25 races and the points lead has changed nine times between five drivers.

Following Stevie Smith’s win at Lincoln Speedway on Wednesday, 89 points is all that separates the top five WoO drivers.

Former WoO Rookie of the Year winner Greg Hodnett won last week’s Outlaws tuneup race at Williams Grove as he and car owner Michael Heffner are starting to click with their second win of the season.

“We’ve had four races at Williams Grove and we finished three and fell out of one,” he said. “The racing overall has been good. We’ll see where we stack up after this weekend.”

Hodnett finished second to Smith on Wednesday night.

He noted that the racing in the WoO is as fierce as it has ever been and that could be due in part to the new dash format.

The format, which is used to set the starting first four or five rows of the feature, takes the heat race winners and the next four fastest qualifiers (depending on the number of heats, it could be more or less), who transfer to that night’s feature to the eight- or 10-car dash.

The series is still utilizing the double-file restarts.

“It (World of Outlaws) is the toughest competition to race against,” Hodnett added. “From the guy who owns the car to the guy who scrapes the mud off the car, they’re the best at it.”

Sitting atop the Williams Grove point standings is Doug Esh of Lancaster. He took over the ride in Gary Heckman’s car for Keith Kauffman, of Mifflintown, who retired after last season.

Esh finished second to Hodnett in last week’s Outlaws tuneup at the Grove and he won the Tommy Hinnershitz Memorial a few weeks ago.

“If you cannot be competitive against the Outlaws, you’ll never win a championship at the Grove,” Esh said.

Esh went on to say that he wants a Grove championship on his resume.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been this revved up for them to come in,” he said of this weekend’s race. “I think I have one of the better situations I’ve been in, in a long time. I have some things to prove to myself and to the sprint car world.”

Defending WoO champion Daryn Pittman, of Pittsboro, Ind., knows how important it is to do well in Central Pennsylvania during the Outlaws visits.

Last year, a runner-up finish to Rahmer in the National Open allowed him to extend his point lead over Donny Schatz heading into the world finals in Charlotte.

He won his first WoO title by 14 points.

“You can look back over the course of the year and point to the six races at Williams Grove and that will be a good indication as to who ends up winning the championship,” Pittman said.

“Williams Grove is a great place and I enjoy the track and we’ve had good success at it,” he added. “Last year, we had chances to win twice at the Grove and we also had a couple of rainouts. We are coming in with confidence, which can lead to some wins.”

Pittman is among several drivers who have three wins in the series this year. He trails points leader Joey Saldana, of Brownsburg, Ind., by 22 points.

In his final season to chase a points titles, 20-time WoO champion Steve Kinser is seventh in the points.

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