The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

May 16, 2014

Shawn Wood on The Inside Track: Super Sportsman make triumphant return

POTTSVILLE — Last Friday night, after a seven-year absence, the Super Sportsman returned to Big Diamond Speedway, a track that used to host them three or four times a year on a regular basis during the days of the Sportsman tour.

With their former home, Silver Spring Speedway in Mechanicsburg, now a shopping center, they call Williams Grove Speedway home on most Saturday nights.

A good field of 28 cars were on hand at Big Diamond where Duaine Smith, the older brother of Sunbury’s Mark Smith, was the winner back in 2007.

It’s not too often you see a driver get a straightaway lead on the field in a heat race in the Sportsman division, as the racing is ultra-competitive. But that’s what Scott Geesey did in his heat race. However, mechanical issues caused the then-points leader to fall out of the feature on lap 13.

The Sportsman utilize a 358 cubic-inch engine, but they differ from the 358 sprint car in that they have a carburetor instead of fuel injection and a different size wing, among other things.

Drivers like Pat Cannon, of Etters — who won his one and only Silver Spring track title and tour title in 2005 — and Smith, who has 10-career Sportsman wins, are just two examples of drivers who came out of the series and into the 358 and 410 sprint car ranks.

On the lap 11 restart, Rich Eichelberger, who has been racing since 1971, went to the high side in Turn 2 on a lap-11 restart and went from eighth to fourth by the end of the backstretch.

He would finish fourth at the end of the 25-lap feature, but a veteran move like that showed why he’s tied for sixth on the all-time win list with Howie Locke at 38 wins.

Eichelberger holds the one-lap track record at Silver Spring with a lap of 15.224 seconds, which he set back on Sept. 20, 2003.

Then there are drivers like veteran Lanny Hake, who pulls in on an open flat-bed trailer. Hake is a Vietnam Veteran who served in the U.S  Army with the 101st as part of a recon platoon.

Mike Enders, of Halifax, is the current points leader and the tour has had five different winners in five races.

Larry Jackson, who is third on the all-time win list with 56, now watches his son Tony, a rookie this year, take his turn behind the wheel of a Super Sportsman.

The late Kramer Williamson and Smokey Snellbaker have seven and 24-career wins in the division, respectively, while Gary Wolford is the all-time winningest driver with 86.

Chad Trout, who runs both the Sportsman and the 360 sprint cars, went on to win the race last Friday, but not before there was an early three-car battle for the lead before he took the lead for good on lap 7.

Five races have produced five different winners this year so far.

Back in the 1990s, I was around the Sportsman tour through an acquaintance and I saw first hand who great the racing is.

Some of the drivers who were in competition on Friday night were racing back then as well. The one constant about the Super Sportsman is the action-packed races they put on.

While the days of the Silver Spring and Penn National are gone, they left a lasting memory on race fans of just how intense and close the battles are in a Sportsman feature.

Race fans might want to mark May 25 and July 6 on their calendar as they visit Selinsgrove Speedway on those two dates.

And hopefully fans will let management know at Big Diamond to bring them back more often. Seven years was a long time between shows, but it was well worth the wait last Friday night in coal country.

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