Jeff Jones (left) and Sean Puz battle for position in the turns during Late Model action Friday, April 26, 2013, at Lernerville Speedway. Photo by Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch
By Thomas Zuck| Saturday, April 27, 2013, 12:15 a.m.
The 2013 racing season at Lernerville Speedway opened with a bang Friday as a full field of cars translated to some outstanding racing on the track.
Jack Sodeman Jr. earned the Sprint Car feature victory, the seventh of his career at Lernerville.
“We got a little lucky tonight, but we also had a pretty good car,” Sodeman said. “I am not sure what would have happened with Brian (Ellenberger), but I think we could have mixed it up with him a little bit. I almost didn't make it to the end because it was sputtering out on me, and I coasted across the finish line. I ran out of fuel.”
Ellenberger had control of the race with the main battle for position being between Sodeman and Eric Williams for second and third. But as Ellenberger exited Turn 4 midway through the 25-lap feature, he broke a gear, smacked the front wall and drifted to a stop on the back straight.
“There was no warning at all,” Ellenberger said. “The car was amazing all night. I wasn't even pushing it. It's nothing major that happened, so it's not that big of a deal, but it is disappointing.”
Williams finished second, Brandon Spithaler was third, Danny Shetler was fourth and Dan Kuriger was fifth.
The race featured a few early cautions. With seven laps completed, Spithaler and Brandon Matus had a little contact heading into Turn 1, and Matus was knocked out of the race. With 10 completed, Bill Kiley spun in Turn 4, and Ellenberger managed to keep his car in motion hile avoiding Kiley, the jersey barrier and then the front wall.
But Ellenberger could not avoid the broken gear three laps later.
For the 21-year old Spithaler, who is still looking for his first Lernerville victory, the race got better as it went on once he worked his way through some tough restarts.
“It seemed like on the one restart where we were fourth, but then fell back to seventh, that we got better as things went on,” Spithaler said. “I had to tighten the car up a bit after the heat, but it was already a really good run to begin with.”
For Williams, who finished third last season in the final standings, the race was just about as close as he could get to a win without actually getting a win.
“The car was great tonight in the heat and then in the feature,” Williams said. “I went off the track a few times; the cushion blew off where normally you can ride that around the top, so I had to watch that. I think on one of the starts Jack (Sodeman) got a little too low and he ended up spinning his tires a bit. But you know, the car is in one piece and we had a good finish, so it's a win, now on to tomorrow.”
Dave Hess Jr., 2010-11 track champion, held off a furious challenge from defending champion Jared Miley to win his 14th career Late Model feature. The margin of victory for Hess was under half of a second. Ron Davies finished third, John Garvin Jr. finished fourth and Michael Norris rounded out the top five.
“I love racing here; it's a fantastic track,” Hess said. “I started up front, so I was the target tonight. I was losing tire, and my car was getting worse and worse as the race went on.”
In the V-8 Modified feature it looked like Brian Swartzlander had won his 78th Lernerville feature. But during post-race scaling of the car, he was judged to be too light, and the victory was awarded to Matt Williamson. Swartzlander was disqualified. Dave Murdick finished second, Rex King was third, Jeremiah Shingledecker was fourth, and Jim Weller was fifth.
While leading and looking for his second-career Lernerville victory, Jim Fosnaught was struck by some bad luck on the final lap of the Sportsman Stock feature. In Turn 2 of lap 20, Fosnaught spun to avoid the car of David Sugar. Because Fosnaught's car came to a stop, he forfeited his spot in the lead and lost his chance to win. Mike Miller inherited the lead, but on the third restart attempt lap, Miller spun coming out of Turn 3 and lost his spot while bringing out the caution.
Fosnaught was caught in the melee that occurred after Miller's spin. That gave the lead to Bob Egley for the restart, which needed two clean laps to count as an official finish. On the restart, defending champion Corey McPherson jumped from fourth to first in one lap, but he could not hold the lead and on the final lap.
Egley, who started 14th, found a way back around for the lead and the victory, his first since 2010.
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