By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
The 358 sprint cars will headline Selinsgrove Speedway for the 13th consecutive year in 2013, according to speedway promoter Charlie Paige.
“I’ll be staying with the 358s, there’s no doubt about it,” Paige said. “I’ve told the drivers that I would let them know a year ahead of time if I was going to make an engine change.”
This year, MACH 1 Chassis president Brian Scandle set forth to have a 360 series. Paige was on board for the extra races as Scandle was looking into events at other tracks. Outside of Selinsgrove, only Lincoln Speedway hosted an event this year.
“The 360 deal was more or less a science project, and Brian wanted to try it and I didn’t mind trying here at the Speedway,” Paige added. “It was never a go-to type of deal for the 360s. If I wanted to go to the 360s why would I do that and not go back to the 410 when you look at the cost of a 360 and 410 engine?”
When asked if some day the 410s could return as the headline division, if the economy ever turns around and the three tracks (Selisngrove, Lincoln and Port Royal) could all field good car counts on a Saturday night, Paige replied, “That’s a great question. I’d like for someone to answer that for me. At this point, I don’t know.”
T.J. Stutts of Liverpool won the first-ever regular season 358 sprint car race in 2001.
This Saturday, the Speedway host the 12th annual 358-360 National Open for the MACH 1 Chassis Mid-Atlantic 360 Sprint Car Series.
Logan Schuchart of Hanover topped an event-record 50 car-field last year and won with a 360 engine.
Stutts won the inaugural event in 2001, then called the “Summer Nationals,” and returned to victory lane in the 2003. Adrian Shaffer of Hallam won the Open in 2002, while Nate Snyder of Halifax took the victory in 2004. Phil Walter of McClure took home the trophy in 2006.
Pat Cannon of Etters won the event in 2007 and 2008, while Blane Heimbach of Selinsgrove was the 2005 winner and won again in 2009. Daryn Pittman of Owasso, Okla., won the 2010 edition of the event with a 360 engine.
Winners of the Mach 1 Chassis series events this year include Cannon, Heimbach, Pittman (at Lincoln) and Jason Shultz of Carlisle.
Heading into Saturday’s race, Smith, the chief fabricator and house driver for MACH 1, leads Davie Franek of Wantage, N.J., by 40 points.
The top 10 finishers in the series standings will share an $8,400 point fund with the champion earning $2,000.
Last year’s qualifying format will be in place again for this year’s National Open. Times from the hot lap sessions will be used to determine the heat race line ups in lieu of a draw. There are tentatively two rounds of eight-lap heat races slated with points awarded for a driver’s finish. Those points will determine a driver’s starting position in the 30-lap A-Main.
The starting lineup for the second round of heats will be a complete inversion of the starting positions from the first round. Qualifiers from the B-main will round out the starting grid for the A-main.
There is an open tire rule for the sprint cars for the National Open.
“I like the idea of the URC/358 challenge,” Paige added. “We’ll have those races for some time to come. As for the deal with Brian, we’ll have a conversation at the end of the season. If he wants to continue to do it, we’ll continue to have it.”