The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 30, 2012

Shawn Wood's motorsports column: End of summer brings hot events

— Although Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end to summer, it is one of the biggest racing weekends of the year.

While the IZOD INDYCAR Series hits the streets of Baltimore for the second annual Grand Prix of Baltimore on Sunday, several area tracks has some big events planned for the three-day weekend.

This weekend, two tracks — Big Diamond Speedway and Port Royal Speedway — have big anniversary races scheduled.

In the coal region, it’s the 40th anniversary of the Coal Cracker for the 358 modifieds. Unlike in years past, this year’s race is 72 laps in honor the first year of the event (1972) rather than the 100 laps as it has been since 1997. It is actually the 38th running of the event; it was not held in 1983 or 2005.

The winners list reads like a whose-who of coal region modified stars with the likes of Shinkel, Brighbill, Mayberry. Tobais, Hoffman and VonDohren. Hall of Fame 410 sprint car racer Fred Rahmer won the event in 1985 when it was a 50-lap feture.

With all of the modified talent that has raced at the track over the last 40 years, no driver has ever won the event three years in a row.

Tonight racing card at Big Diamond features two 358 modified features and will have big implications for the final points standings. VonDohren leads Rick Laubach by 74 markers.

The 61st edition of the Port Royal Speedway Labor Day Classic takes place on Monday afternoon for the 410 sprint cars and ARDC midgets.

Counting Monday’s race, there are four races left in the 2012 ARDC season. Tim Buckwalter leads Nick Wean by 97 points with the top five drivers are separated by 177 points.

Chad Layton is looking for his second Port Royal Speedway 410 title in the last three years and leads year’s titlest Mike Wagner by 155 points. Layton won the title in 2010 and has three wins this year.

Todd Shaffer of Millerstown leads all 410 drivers with six victories in the Labor Day Classic.

The only thing that will stop these two long-running events is the remnants of Hurricane Isaac which is forecasted to bring showers to the area Sunday and Monday. Let’s hope they get the forecast wrong this time.

Not worth the money

Speaking of weather, as the rain was moving into Selinsgrove last Sunday just in time to rain out the first-ever visit by the World of Outlaw late models, it gave Austin Dillon and his crew time to do some “street fishing” for their amusement before the storm.

The setup had WoO announcer Rick Eshelman as the bait man and Dillon as the reel man. They put a dollar bill on the end of a fishing line and Eshelman would tell an unsuspecting victim that someone dropped a dollar on the ground. As the victim would bend over to pick it up, the bill would move. Two older gentleman tried all they could to grab the buck and their exploits made it on to a Twitter video. Also a victim of the gag, according to reports, was Delaware super late model start Ricky Elliott. And yours truly was also a victim Sunday.

So the next time you see Eshelman and a dollar bill on the ground near him, just keep walking or you too could end up on a Twitter video.

A-plus for effort

For race fans who were not at Selinsgrove Speedway the night before, they missed out on some great action in the 358 sprint car and super late model features.

The battle for second in the 358 sprint car feature was one of the best battles in some time, with veterans Phil Walter, T.J. Stutts and Mark Smith, putting on an epic battle for the runner-up spot. In the late model division, Matt Cochran of Williamsport, a graduate of Selinsgrove Raceway Park, held off both Jeff Rine and Chad Davis for his second win of the year.

In talking with Selinsgrove promoter Charlie Paige the other day, he said that he would give the racing action at Selinsgrove this year an A-plus for all of the divisions.

I couldn’t agree more.

Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item.