By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
T. J. Stutts likes the big-paying Empire Super Sprints challenge races at Selinsgrove Speedway.
The long-time sprint car driver from Liverpool christened the new era of the 358-360 sprint car division on Saturday night by surviving a torrid battle with Selinsgrove’s Mike Walter for the $3,000 pay day.
Other winners on Saturday night were Jeff Rine (late models), Brad Mitch (pro stocks) and Keith Bissinger (roadrunners).
“In the beginning, we were getting away with running the top on the restarts, as I knew I had to at some point, start doing mock flyers and blocking the bottom off,” Stutts said. “I didn’t think my car was good enough, but the dirt got cleaned off and the last 10 laps of the race, we were getting better.”
Walter took the early lead in the 30-lap feature before Stutts made the first of several back-and-forth lead swaps as he completed a slide job coming out of Turn 4 on lap 4.
By lap 8, Walter closed in on Stutts as the two battled for the lead in Turn 2, but Stutts held on to the lead.
The leaders were about to enter lapped traffic on lap 14 when the caution came out again. In all, there were seven caution periods and one red flag.
On the restart, Sunbury’s Mark Smith got by Walter for second before the caution came out again on lap 15.
Walter retook the lead on lap 17, but Stutts drove under him in Turn 3 to regain the lead.
Davie Franek slowed on lap 19 to bring out the fourth caution of the race. He was running eighth at the time.
Walter retook the lead on lap 20, but Stutts passed him on lap 21 for the final time.
Smith was able to get by Walter late to finish second while Walter held on for third with Pat Cannon fourth and Brock Zearfoss fifth.
Sixth through 10th were Andy Best, Mark Bittner, Derek Locke, Kevin Ward Jr. and Ed Aikin.
Heats for the 26 358-360 sprint cars were won by Stutts, Walter and Akin.
ESS champion Steve Porier set fast time with a lap of 17.384 seconds, but broke during his heat.
Mitch, of McClure, picked up his 10th-career win in the pro stock feature as he led all 15 laps for the win. Peanut Heintzelman finished second with Tommy Slanker, Adam Campbell and Andrew Shoop completing the top five.
Sixth through 10th were Jake Buck, Brandon Moser, Chris Snyder, Jeff Ceballo and Tom Hartman.
Heat wins for the 12 pro stocks were won by Slanker and Mitch.
Rine led all 25 laps in the late model feature to record his 86th career win at the track. The Danville driver won the race over Selinsgrove’s Jim Yoder by more than five seconds.
Bryan Bernheisel, Tony Adams and Jim Bernheisel completed the top five.
Heat wins for the 21 late models were won by Chad Davis, Adams and Rine.
Bissinger won his division-leading 41st roadrunner feature by taking the 12-lap race over Milton’s John Fowler. Curtis Lawson, Dave Kamp and Jeremy Kline rounded out the top five.