By Billy McKinney
BARBERTON OHIO: After what seemed like months of rain, and poor weather conditions, the fans of Barberton Speedway were treated to wonderful warm weather. Without a cloud in the sky, fans packed the stands in hopes they’d witness history. They were not disappointed. With a spectacular fireworks show on hand, and fields drastically larger in size and talent, the stage was set for a special Friday racing program. With only a week before midseason championships, drivers knew more was on the line this week as they needed to get in position to have a good shot at next week’s glory as well. But it would not be easy. The hot slick Barberton surface was bound to separate the fast from the ill-handling. And the heat was going to make sure drivers did their homework.
Jeff Kuykendall kicked off the night’s racing action with a win in the street stock division. Kuykendall’s win marked the 2nd consecutive win for the driver of the #12 car at the famed Barberton paperclip. When the green flag flew, action was everywhere. The large field headed by Tim Likens raced into turn one and it was on from there. Likens continued to impress as he led the race’s opening few circuits until a spin off of turn four derailed his lead and chance to win. This handed the lead to Matt Hicks. Hicks led the field for several laps until his car broke loose, handing the lead over to Mark Kramer. Kramer, with a knack for leading big street stock races, battled Cyler Bertram who worked Kramer high, low, and in every corner. Bertram eventually snuck past to get the lead of the event. Despite his #55 breaking loose, Bertram made sure he held on to it and held the lead for a good chunk of the event until Jeff Kuykendall began to make a charge on Bertram. Kuykendall battled hard with Bertram but the battle ended quickly as Bertram’s car began showing signs of fatigue. Kuykendall took advantage of the issue and took off with the lead and never looked back.
Bryce Allensworth was hoping for a shred of great luck to befall his Burden Racing #1 Modified and this week was the week he found plenty of it. When the green flag fell, Allensworth led Dave Dobbins and company into turn one. The large field of modifieds screamed past the fans lap after lap, spreading out over all grooves of the racing surface. Allensworth ran harder than he ever had as Zach Miller kept the driver of the #1 honest as every corner was a battle that amazed the fans as the sun set on the lengthy Modified race. As the laps ticked away, Miller gave way to Lucas Ripley. Ripley began to reel in the blue #1 of Allensworth with last week’s winner Norm Taylor following a close third position. Ripley and Taylor ran Allensworth down and put him on the defensive for the final ten circuits. Bryce Allensworth drove for his life and was able to hold off the two challengers and collect his first victory at Barberton Speedway.
As the dust settled fans wondered… ‘How could the night get better than this?’ Their question was answered as Bubba Smith kept fans on seat’s edge as he won his first Barberton Speedway race since the 2015 cavalcade. When the green flag flew the improved field of late models roared past the fans, and they knew something special was about to happen. As the large cell of hard racing late models jockeyed for position, it was the ‘Doug and Doug’ show. Doug Mate held the early lead of the 50-lap event, but it was Doug Sommers who wanted it. Still in the race’s infancy, Doug Sommers used his powerplant to make the outside line work and grabbed Mate’s lead. With a couple spins following Sommers’ lead change, many in the field decided to ride it out for a couple laps and perhaps position themselves for a later race-winning move. Tony Urdiales was one of those drivers. Upon the race’s restart, Urdiales took advantage of Sommers’ #3 pushing up the track as he grabbed the lead. Urdiales looked to have his car on rails as he ran conservative laps in hopes that he’d have plenty of car in the case of a late-race battle. He wasn’t ready for what came next. Bubba Smith decided it was ‘go time’ and began battling Urdiales’ RPM Motorsports #88 in every corner. Smith cleanly went to the outside and began battling. Giving only an inch of room between the two automobiles, the two dazzled fans with a long ten lap side-by-side battle that sent the fans into absolute ecstasy. Smith eventually cleared the #88 and began leading. He was untouchable as he led through halfway and took home the big 50-lap event.
Fans were treated to fireworks following that event and those that stayed around for the compact race may have witnessed history. When the green flag fell for a record field of cars, Tony Barbuscio led the race’s opening circuits with 2010 champion Tim Farrar in close 2nd place. Farrar tried to pass Barbuscio in every corner but the #48 was to not be denied. In a move off of turn four, Farrar found himself three-wide with Clayton Oliver. Oliver checked up in the confusion and sent Sheldon Sommers sailing through the infield. Oliver was told to serve the penalty and fell to the back of the massive field. As the race got going, Barbuscio found himself under attack from Brent Shreffler. Shreffler grabbed the lead from Barbuscio and found himself untouched as the race entered a long green flag run. While Shreffler set a record pace, running laps faster than anything ever witnessed in the compact division, the pace came with issue. Lap cars were plentiful as drivers simply could not keep pace with Brent’s #24 Cavalier. While some broke, many still battled for precious positions knowing points were still up for grabs. The side by side battled slowed Shreffler ever so little, and before he knew it, he had a back bumper full of none other than Clayton Oliver. Oliver had rallied from 26th place using his power to make three and four wide passes quickly to put himself in 2nd place. His #19 may have been scraped and beaten but he was not to be denied. On the backstretch, Oliver took advantage of lap traffic and made a bold move to the lead. Weaving three wide for the lead in one pack of cars, and then getting to the bottom of another three wide pack of cars by turn three, Oliver inherited the lead and never looked back. He took home the win and got out in front of a stunned crowd. Never had a race like that happened, and his many colleagues congratulated him for the display of driving.