The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 16, 2011

Shawn Wood's column on motorsports: Big races, big car counts

Despite the devastation caused by the flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, two area tracks were able to get in their biggest races of the year.

Broken Arrow, Okla., driver Stevie Smith won his second Tuscarora 50 while Ryan Godown of Ringoes, N.J., won his the rain-delayed Coal Cracker 100 for the second time.

The 44th annual Tuscarora 50 attracted 44 410 sprint cars.

Perkasie driver Ryan Taylor's bid to win his first-ever track title came up short when he spun on lap 22 of the 50-lapper. He came into the final weekend with a 60-point lead only to leave 15 points behind Mike Wagner. For Wagner it was his second 410 Port Royal title. Wagner started fifth in the 50-lapper and finished fifth while Taylor started 23rd and finished 20th. Mike Erdley, the 2006 track champion finished third in the final point standings with defending track champion Chad Layton fourth and Lance Dewease, fifth in the final points.

A heavy thunderstorm washed out Friday's twin 20s and in the process left the track title down to one race.

Jeff Rine of Danville made the most of his start in the late model race as he made it back-to-back wins in the 20-lap feature. It was his third win on the season at Port. After the victory lane celebration was over, his wife Shelley climbed onto the driver's side area where the window net goes and got a ride back to the pits. A neat sight to see.

While the sun was partially hidden behind a growing thunderstorm off to the west of Big Diamond Speedway on Sunday, the rain never made it to the track, allowing the final 72 laps of the Coal Cracker 100 to be run. The race took several laps to get into a rhythm as a few spins and multi-car tangles happened just after the green flag was dropped.

Once the racing got going, it was one of the best events of the season.

Godown led from lap 28 where the race was stopped on Sept. 4, until just after a lap-59 restart when reigning 358 modified champion Jeff Strunk made a power move on the outside of Turn 4 for the lead. Strunk then extended his lead until a lap-71 restart saw Godown regain the lead.

Duane Howard, who had won three of the last five Coal Crackers, started to move in on Godown by lap 82 and that got the crowd going.

As Howard was working on Godown, Strunk was getting his car back under him and Craig VonDohren was closing in on Strunk. Fans of Howard, Stunk and VonDohren are as passionate as they come in cheering on their driver and it was a great sight to see that much enthusiasm on the final race of the season.

The pinnacle of the race came on lap 86 as Howard moved in on Godown for the lead on the inside of Turn 4. Godown had a lapped car to contend with on his high side as they came three-wide off Turn 4. Howard got to Godown's wheel, but that was as close as he got.

The crowd, and a good crowd it was, was on its feet going wild as the top runners in the Central Pennsylvania 358 modified circuit battled for the lead late in the race.

Billy Pauch Jr. had a good run going in the top five until the engine let go on lap 93.

This year's Coal Cracker was a far cry from last year's event that saw eight cars finish the race and six of them were on the lead lap.

It's a good sign that Big Diamond Speedway is continuing to head in the right direction.

Logan Schuchart will make his 410 sprint car debut at Selinsgrove on Saturday in the Jim Nace Memorial 29th annual National Open. The 18-year-old grandson of Bobby Allen, has three wins at Selinsgrove this year. It will be interesting to see how the up-and-coming 358 sprint car star can handle himself in a 410. Schuchart came from 21st last week at Lincoln Speedway to win the 358 feature.

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