---- — By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
BLOOMSBURG -- The American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) is celebrating its 74th year of existence in 2013.
One of the oldest touring midget clubs in the world, ARDC dropped the green flag on its 71st year of racing last Saturday at the New Egypt Speedway in New Jersey as 2010 ARDC champion Steve Buckwalter got the win.
The midgets are at Williams Grove tonight, the second of a 22-race season. It's the first of two times that they'll be on the card with the All Stars.
Bloomsburg's Eric Heydenreich notched his fourth career win and first ever at Williams Grove last June. Nescopeck's Shane Penny made just three starts and got caught up in wrecks in all three events.
Last year, ARDC had 11 different winners in 19 races.
"We missed a couple of races while waiting on parts and with that we had to start at the back of the field at our first race at Winchester (Va.) Speedway," Penny said. "I came up through the field pretty quickly in the feature and I was running sixth when a caution came out. I was confident that I could get by the car in front of me and we were probably going to have a top-five run, but he and another car spun out heading into Turn 1 on the restart and took me out."
Penny's two other starts were are at Mercer Raceway Park (Mercer) and Grandview.
"We got caught up in the second red flag at Grandview and got torn up and at Mercer, we had just taken the checkers in the heat race when Brian Gilmore bounced off the wall and into me, breaking the rear end," he said. "At that point, I was frustrated with getting torn up because of other peoples' faults and I just parked the car."
Despite the frustrating year, Penny, the former three-time micro sprint car champion at Selinsgrove Raceway Park, will be back for his fifth season in the midget this year.
"My game plan is to run between 10 and 15 races this year," Penny said. "It looks like my first race will be May 4 at Port Royal."
Penny will also be racing a 600 micro sprint car for Steve Young who in turn will crew for Penny's midget.
Outside of tonight's race at the Grove, ARDC will make two more stops at the track on June 14 (with the All Stars) and on Sept. 7.
The midgets will join the United States Auto Club during its Eastern Swing on June 5 (Grandview), June 8 (Port Royal) and June 9 (Susquehanna). They'll also be at Port Royal Speedway on Sept. 2.
Heydenreich, who has been racing with ARDC since 2005, was pleased with last year's results.
"We were struggling with the set-up on the car early on and we found something later in the year that we feel will help us for this year," he said. "We are behind on getting the motor freshed. We're looking forward to getting the other engine back and we'll be in good shape with that one."
Heydenreich's win at the Grove last year had a special meaning to him.
"My dad always talked about watching (A.J) Foyt and (Roger) McCluskey race with USAC back there in the '60s and that's a track where I always wanted to win at," he said. "I said in victory lane that night, that if I never won another race, to say that you won at Williams Grove, even though it's in a midget, the history of this track and the drivers who have raced here, is pretty darn good."
The way Heydenreich won the race was quite thrilling.
"We were racing Ryan Greth for the lead and I was able to get under him on the white-flag lap in Turn 2," he said.
Heydenreich has also won at Susquehanna, Lincoln and Big Diamond speedways. He and his wife, Jessalynn, are expecting their second child, a boy, in three weeks.
"I told her that I would like to name him Hewitt, after legendary sprint car driver Jack Hewitt," he said. "It didn't go over too well."
The couple's son, Cole, turns 1 on May 11.
Defending champion Tim Buckwalter, a three-time winner last year, is running a limited schedule with the club this year while concentrating on his 358 modified deal at Grandview Speedway.
"We won our championship with our work in the shop and consistent top-five finishes," Buckwalter said.
Brett Wanner, of Shoemakersville, won the Rookie of the Year honors. He picked up his first ARDC win last year at Winchester Speedway (Va.).