Small Car Nationals light on cars, big on action
Mahoning Valley Speedway closed out the 2019 season on Saturday afternoon with the Small Car Nationals, and although the turnout was less than expected, the action nonetheless was great.
There was a Pro 4/Hobby Stock open comp, Small Car Enduro, East Coast TQ Midgets and — for the first time — Junk Cars.
And while the latter classes were competitive, it was the Junk Car race that had those in attendance wide-eyed in a thrilling race that was conducted on a “modified” oval. Coming into the race, no one knew just what to expect, as it was the first time those type cars ran on asphalt, or how the course design would work out.
The responses were quickly answered after the first heat lap as drivers began an intense slam-bang affair, and it would be Ricky Gardener claiming the initial Junk Car checker in the qualifier.
With a heads-up start for the 25-lap feature it was again a wild affair as cars swapped spots over the negotiation of the turns, narrow straights and even a chicane during their trip around the make-shift course.
Gardner and Mark Fister were the show stoppers as they traded the lead several times, and the last lap proved to be the barnburner of all. Fister passed Gardner to start the final circuit. They then touched entering the chicane and Gardner edged ahead going into the slim back straight. Then, in the final two corners, Fester pulled slightly back ahead. With the checkers in reach, it was now a drag race to the line. Both cars hit and banged with Gardner being turned sideways, but he was also pushed ahead of Fister to score the inaugural verdict going across the stipe in the opposite direction.
Dave Imler, although lapped, was third and played into the lead changes several times as the front pair had fits trying to crisscross around him.
In the Pro 4/Hobby Stock open comp Kadie Pursell began the day as a heat winner, taking her first career win with a stock car. She then led the early laps of the feature until Jake Kibler took control on lap seven. From there, he would be unopposed, cruising to a resounding win — his sixth of the season — and extending his No. 1 class wins ranking to 37.
Pursell, a rookie this season, had her best ever effort in garnering second, just ahead of Tyler Stangle.
Harry O’Neill has been the man to beat when it comes to Small Car Enduro’s and such was the case yet again as he sailed to his third straight victory in four starts at Mahoning this season. This was race No. 8 of the 2019 Mahoning Valley Speedway/Evergreen Raceway Small Car Enduro Series.
O’Neill didn’t need much time during the 30-minute race to hurry to the lead. Series title contender Don Rogers showed the way at first and then came Devin Gibson, but his time out front was short-lived as O’Neill sped by both by lap 25.
The rest of the way it would be a battle for positions behind the leader, as O’Neill was superior, covering the timed distance in 129 laps and nearly three seconds ahead of Gibson. Jake Oswald, Clem Underwood and Steven Brooks rounded out the top five.
The East Coast TQ Midgets ran the Doug Craig Memorial, honoring the 4-time ATQMRA champion.
Celebrating his 18th birthday, Tyler Wagner was victorious. Wagner snagged the lead from Jason Hentrich on lap five and then stayed strong and steady the rest of the way.
Tom Arntz collected the win in the 2-cycles and Bud Routzhan won in the 4-cycle class.