By Billy McKinney
After not racing for a month due to weather issues, Mother Nature decided the calm Norton air needed to be roughed up with the sound of high horsepower racing. With eager fans in the stands hoping their driver would win, and plenty of new drivers finishing their cars, there was plenty to be excited about.
On hand first was the Bandolero division. With a large field of young guns, anything was fair game. Ryan Bille took home the win, but it was not an easy drive. When the Ed Tenney green flag fell, Madison Lengyel and Mason Surgeon started up front. Surgeon had the lead early and did not want to give it up. Working each line, ‘Racin’ Mason kept his #42 in front until Bille worked his way around him. Bille had his hands and mirrors full as champion Chris Breads kept the silver #23 of Bille close. As the laps ticked off, Breads had plenty of chances to pass Bille as yellows kept the large field close. The two ran side by side for many restarts. As the laps ticked off, Bille found some grip and began pulling away from Breads and took home the win.
The Legends also had a much-improved car count with big named drivers like Ryan Miller, John Ambrose, and Cale Grimes. When the green fell for the field, the drivers got to work. Teammates Sam Butler and Ryan Miller put on a battle for the ages as they and John Ambrose put on a grand three-way battle. Miller prevailed and began pulling away from the field. His large lead was short lived as multiple yellows kept the field close and honest. Through the many restarts positions shuffled behind Miller. With only three laps to go, Miller’s biggest challenge came from 2017 champion Cale Grimes. Grimes gave it his all, even running faster lap times than Miller, but could not catch Miller. Ryan Miller took home his first win of 2018.
The Modified race was a race that kept fans on the edge of their seats and kept crews busy. Bob Sibila won the race, but he would not actually make the pass for the lead until late in the event. When the feature rolled out, Bryce Allensworth and Tim Gulatta had the front row. Before the green could fall, the duo got stuck together and crashed. This re-racked the field. Gulatta kept the pole but it was Dave Dobbins on the outside taking the lead upon green. Dobbins kept the lead through over halfway while Sibila stalked. Going into turn one, Sibila made contact with Dobbins and sent the blue #53 spinning. Sibila took the blame for it and fell to the back of the field. As the race got going again, Dobbins battled 2016 champion Aaron Prater. The duo worked on eachother lap after lap. They had many opportunities to race hard as yellows also plagued this race. With only a handful of laps to go, a familiar sight filled both drivers’ mirrors. It was the red #82 of Sibila making his run through the field. Sibila passed Prater and got around Dobbins with five laps to go and took home the feature win.
The Street Stocks had perhaps the cleanest race. Tim Schmitt took home the win but once again, it was not easy. With an improved field of cars, the green fell, and hard racing ensued. Matt Hicks and Jim Raines III brought them down and Raines took the lead. Behind him, two and three wide racing was everywhere! At the race’s quarter mark, Rick Pereces, and Tim Schmitt made contact for third. The two got stuck together resulting in a lengthy yellow while safety crews dislodged the duo. Pereces took blame and started rear of the field. Schmitt kept third and began chasing Raines down. Before halfway, Schmitt passed Raines and never looked back. The orange #42 stayed out of trouble while the field behind him raced hard. Mike McDonald squeaked through several small gaps in the field to gain 2nd place. He began chasing Schmitt, but the race ended too soon for McDonald. Tim Schmitt took home the feature win, his first in the SS division at Barberton.
The Late Models also ran a pretty clean race headlined by a large field and a win by Tony Urdiales. When the green fell, Doug Mate grabbed the lead and held off challenges from Urdiales and Gary Whipkey. The ageless trio swapped lanes and tried their best to out-race one another. Urdiales got around Mate and began to stretch his lead. The large gap was short lived as Whipkey passed Mate for 2nd and began reeling in Urdiales. The duo battled it out hard lap after lap and put on quite a show for the fans. After a lengthy yellow for cleanup on the expired engine of Jeff Walker, Whipkey had the high line and did everything he could to out duel Urdiales on the restart. Urdiales kept a calm head and worked hard to keep his lead and began to pull away from Whipkey. Inches at a time the #88 of Urdiales gained his largest lead over Whipkey; a car length when the white flag fell. Coming to the checkers, Urdiales took home the win, his first in nearly two years.
It was finally time for the compacts to get on the track. Nicole Hrdlicka got her first win since entering competition in 2010. When the green fell, Paul Magnum pushed hard in turn four coming to the start bunching up the field. David Nester grabbed the lead and was followed by Hrdlicka. The race was slowed many times for yellows involving wrecks and mechanical failures. The wort incident involved Brian Tredway who came to a stop off of turn two after stalling. Tredway’s car was hit hard from the rear which resulted in a red flag that took a couple cars off. Tredway was okay. When the race restarted, Hrdlicka used her handling to her advantage and got around Nester. Behind her, a couple more females followed. Alyson Smith and Katie Wood ran in positions two and three. The trio ran 1-2-3 from halfway all the way to the finish. Nicole held off Alyson Smith coming to the line and won by less than a car length.