For Immediate Release
BARBERTON SPEEDWAY: For the first time since September of last year, Barberton Speedway was able to run more than two consecutive events in a row. With weather looking nice and the pits packed tighter than a can of sardines, excitement, drama, triumph, and heartbreak lay ahead. For some lucky drivers, a HUGE payday awaited them in victory lane. For others, it would just be a week of racing they could add to their respective resumes. Six divisions were on hand and the night was headlined by a $1,000 to win Compact feature. Lots of anticipation went into tonight and fans were in for a treat! Would their favorite driver win?
Racin’ Mason Surgener took home the Bandolero feature win in a photo finish over Ryan Bille. With excitement at an all-time high, the first feature ending in a photo-finish had fans extra pumped. When the race started, Flyin’ Ryan Gardner and Young Steve Mitch brought the full field to green. Before the first lap could be completed, it was first year driver Killian McMann blasting to the lead. McMann would lead much of the race’s first half as he held off challenged from Ryan Bille and Steve Mitch. Just before the halfway flags were displayed, a caution for an incident between Surgener and Bille for second erased McMann’s lead over the field. McMann restarted the race as the leader and found a mirror full of Mason Surgener in 2nd. Surgener quickly got around McMann and led at the race’s halfway mark. While he began leading, Bille was on a mission. After taking blame for the incident on the last caution and falling back to last, Bille tore through the field to find himself in second place after five laps. With one final caution with just two laps to go, a heavyweight battle between last year’s champion and this year’s championship leader was brewing. When the race restarted, Surgener gained a little bit of an advantage on Bille. Bille tracked him back down for the rest of that lap and the two were near door to door at the white flag. Coming to the checkers, Bille tried one more time to time a run off of turn four. He did so perfectly and set up for a drag race to the checkers. The two drivers scraped and scrounged for precious inches and at the line, it was Surgener winning by less than a fender. Oddly enough, last year on this day, Ryan Bille won in a photo finish of his own while leading the championship hunt, but over 2016-2017 champion Chris Breads.
As fans gathered their breath, the Legends pulled on to the track and Caleb Heady took home the win in a masterclass. When the race started, Chuck Witt and Mike Holewinski brought the field to green. Anthony Price used the first lap to leapfrog from third to first and he led lap one. Following close behind Price was this year’s winningest driver Dan Shively. Shively began working to pass Price but a caution came out bunching the field up. On the restart, Caleb Heady, who was third, passed both Price and Shively for the lead. Heady began to stretch out his lead while Shively passed Price for second. The race was mostly incident free from there with only one more yellow. While the one yellow was untimely for Heady, Shively knew this was his one shot to dethrone Heady. On the restart, Shively tried to out-brake Heady into turn one but lost the nose on his car. He gathered it up but it was too late. Heady had already expanded his lead too far and Shively was unable to overcome the deficit. Caleb Heady, in just his second ever start at Barberton took home the win!
The titans of steel, A.K.A. the Street Stocks were on hand and Dennis Wood returned in triumphant fashion as he won the wildest Street Stock Feature of the year! When the green flag waved for the 15-car field, Gabe Pringle and Frank Boychi got the field to speed and the action started immediately. Pringle led up until the first yellow four laps in. When the race restarted, Boychi got a good run and took the top spot from Pringle. Boychi led the lap after the restart but lost it to Ron Miller as Miller made a bold move into turn one to take the lead. Miller led while Cyler Bertram and Dennis Wood worked through the field to sit in second and third place, respectively. A yellow for Tom Early’s car catching on fire brought Bertram and Wood into contention with Miller, who had commanded the event thus far. On the restart, Miller scraped and traded paint with Bertram and retained the lead after a five lap side by side battle which had fans jumping and cheering. He was able to retain the lead yet again. The laps ticked by with Miller looking to have this race put away but a yellow for a bad head on wreck between Tim Schmitt and Chet Collmar halted Miller’s supremacy. On the restart, Bertram and Miller got together which wrecked Bertram into the front stretch wall and affected Miller’s toe. While Miller was able to hold on to the first place, he was no match for Dennis Wood. Wood used the restart to pass Miller and took home the win!
The Late Model feature was won by Gary Whipkey Jr. after a race long heavyweight battle with Doug Sommers and teammate Jeff Taylor. Dave Martin and Dino Campolito, last week’s winner, brought the ten car field to green. Campolito led the first lap but succumbed to Doug Sommers on lap two. Sommers stretched out his lead over the field as the race progressed. Just as it looked like Sommers had this event wrapped up, a red flag was displayed for a five-car melee in turn two which erased Sommers’ advantage and brought the field back in touch with him. After the cleanup, the ensuing restart thrilled fans as Sommers battled with second place Campolito and Gary Whipkey in fourth got around Roger Smith for third the hard way. Just a few laps later, Whipkey worked past Campolito for second. When flagman Ed Tenney displayed the crossed ‘halfway’ flags, Whipkey and Sommers were nose-to-tail and ready for a twenty lap battle to the checkers. With fifteen laps to go, Whipkey got his break. After a spin and cleanup for Dino Campolito going into the turn four pond, Whipkey got the outside line on the restart and rocketed around Sommers with twelve to go. Over the final ten laps, a few cautions kept Sommers in tight with Whipkey on the ensuing restarts. Fans were treated to an epic battle as Sommers tried everything in his racing repertoire to pass Whipkey, but he also had to play defense as Jeff Taylor was in the picture in third. Coming to the checkers, Whipkey took the win barely over Sommers and Jeff Taylor.
The ‘Modified Marathon’ was capped off with a win in thrilling fashion by Lucas Ripley. While the race was marred by a slew of cautions over the 40-lap event, the intense on-track action was historic! John White sped to the lead on lap one but a yellow for a bad wreck in turn one the next lap halted the race. While most of the cars involved were able to continue pre-race favorite Bob Sibila was unable to continue. A few laps and cautions later, another favorite, Norm Taylor went pitside with a fuel issue in the carburetor ending his night. On lap ten, Bryce Allensworth worked past White, who was fast all night, to take the lead. Allensworth reigned supreme through many of the race’s midway yellows and ensuing restarts. On one such restart just before halfway, Lucas Ripley worked to second and began to saw on Allensworth’s back bumper. From there, fans were treated to some awesome side by side racing as Allensworth and Ripley duked it out for the lead. The halfway flags fell over the hard battling duo and fans were up and cheering them on. Sadly, with just eleven laps to go, Allensworth broke out of his qualifying time and had to go to the back handing the lead to Ripley. When the race resumed for the final ten lap run to the end, Ripley and Dave Dobbins scraped and scrounged for an advantage and thrilled fans with their battle. At the finish, Ripley was able to hold off Dobbins and Dan Burden, Norm Taylor, Dave Dobbins and others who helped him get his car together after qualifying.
The final race was on hand and the $1,000 stage was set and Britt Vanmeter returned from retirement to add another big win to his already impressive resume. Before the green could fly, the race had to run a B-main ‘last chance’ race for those not yet qualified for the main. With ten drivers transferring from racing and one from a points provisional, the fifteen lap race was quite tame. While it looked like Scott Kitchen would have it owned, he got passed on the last lap and lost to Dan Buckey. Regardless, they and eight others transferred to the big show and were guaranteed 100 dollars to start. The main event green flag flew for Dennis Garrett and Doug Sommers. Garrett sped out front and led the first seven laps until he got passed by Vanmeter. Vanmeter led from there and stretched out front to an insurmountable lead. Unfortunately, a yellow just past halfway erased his lead but set up for a final 12-lap sprint to the checkers. On the restart, Vanmeter, Toby Cook, and Tim Farrar began to slice and dice it out for the lead. Farrar would move to second and began to run Vanmeter down. The duo quickly became crowded as lap traffic and places 3-8 all joined in on the fun. At the white flag, the front battle for the lead resembled something from a race at Talladega. Vanmeter, side by side with Farrar, were only a foot ahead of a three-wide battle for second. Vanmeter held off Farrar in turn three and took the win by less than a car length.
RESULTS (*Heat/Dash Winner)
2-Jim Raines III*
3-Tim Schmitt Jr.*
15- #60 Cloverleaf Tribute Chevelle
1-Gary Whipkey Jr.
18-Mike Protzman Jr
B-Main (*transferred from racing/points provisional)
8-Mike Protzman Jr*
17-Billy Miller (DNS)
18-Mike Scott (DNS)
19-Melvin Martin (DNS)
***Will Custer elected to not run the feature giving his spot up to the next in line.
Photos and article by Bill McKinney and Christie Hrdlicka