Pictures and article provided by Billy McKinney and Christie Hrdlicka

BARBERTON SPEEDWAY: For the first time since late 2019, the ground shook as unlimited horsepower roared to life at Barberton Speedway. After postponing the beginning of the season due to the pandemic, owner Greg Prunty was given the go ahead by the state to open the gates to fans and pits to drivers. After several weeks of practicing, drivers were ready to go racing, and many were able to answer the call, while some were still a week away from being ready to answer the call. Regardless, the sight of Ed Tenney’s green flag was almost more welcome to some than the sight of his checkered flag. With the return to weekly racing, fans know that they can call Barberton Speedway home as they are treated to some intense and awe-inspiring door-to-door racing.

The first feature of the new decade was the Bandolero division and it was Ryan Gardner taking the win over ‘Young’ Steve Mitch. When the green flag flew for the three-car division, Mitch rocketed out front of polesitter Ryan Bradford Likens. Likens fell back to 2nd while Gardner began sizing his competition up from his 3rd place position. After two laps, Gardner had worked past Likens for 2nd on track and had his sites set on Mitch. After another lap, Gardner found himself working Mitch’s outside and the two drivers began the gladiator-like duel for the supreme position. With each driver running on the razor’s edge of control, throwing rocks and squealing tires, fans were pleasantly surprised to see the smallest division was packed to the brim with excitement. After a couple laps of battle, Gardner took command of the event. With Gardner being good in the West end of the track (turns 1-2), and Mitch owning the East end of the facility (turns 3-4), the two drivers sized one another up to see who could reign supreme. As the laps ticked away, Gardner began to pull away as Mitch began to develop handling issues. He would win by 8 car lengths, completing a clean sweep day with both the heat and feature wins.

The Legend division was up next, and the action continued with Aaron Mulrooney cashing in the first event of 2020. When the green flag flew, it was two-time Bandolero champion Chris Breads and second-year driver Derik Gacom starting up on the front row. Gacom rallied past Breads and was closely followed by championship runner-up from 2019 Austin Tapia and eventual winner Mulrooney in a three-car tandem. Gacom would hold the lead for the first five circuits until Mulrooney rallied from third to first in the span of a lap. Mulrooney looked to have a home-run style day going until a mid-race spin by Gacom bunched up the field. On the ensuing restart, Mulrooney held the lead from Austin Tapia, but Tapia kept Mulrooney close. The duo ran under a blanket with Breads sitting in a close third place. Much like the feature before, Mulrooney had control over turns 1 and 2, whereas Tapia got a good bite into turns 3 and 4 making the battle for the lead resemble a slinky being controlled by a hyperactive child lap after lap after lap. Eventually the ‘slinky’ broke and Mulrooney began to pull away with four laps to go and ran off with a clean sweep of the day, taking the heat, and feature.

On hand next was the exciting Street Stock division, and Jeff Kuykendall won after going p through the field twice. When the green flag flew, Justin Alexander wrestled the lead from rookie driver Gerald Altizer III, making his first start. Alexander’s lead would be short-lived as a rash of early yellows kept the field close to him. On the final restart after the hiatus of yellows, Altizer retook the lead and began to check out from his competition. The rookie driver in his first start led the likes of Ron Miller, Paul Price, and Jeff Kuykendall. Kuykendall would work his way up to second on track behind Altizer, but after a caution flew for a spin in the back of the pack, Kuykendall had to surrender his position to receive work on the nose of his car after it had been damaged from another issue. When the race resumed, Altizer continued his dream start to his career while 2019 Rookie of the Year Ron Miller and Anthony Price (making his first SS start as well) stayed close behind. While the trio pulled away, Cyler Bertram, the 2019 champion followed in 4th place. Bertram would work into 3rd, and worked on Miller for 2nd. Sadly, the two came together and wrecked. Bertram served a penalty and Miller had to receive work to his car in the pits. The misfortune of those two allowed Price to sit 2nd next to Altizer in 1st, both in their first ever SS race. On the next restart, Price and Altizer battled hard for first until both Bertram and Kuykendall had worked from the back to the front. First Bertram would take the lead from the two young drivers, then Kuykendall worked past the two rookies and set his sights on Bertram. The duo of Bertram and Kuykendall raced hard until contact sent the two drivers out of control on the back stretch. Bertram was served yet another penalty and Kuykendall kept the lead. He would hold off charges from Paul Price, and later, Bertram again and win the feature event.

Multi-time champion Roger Smith owned the first Late Model race of 2020 as he led every lap in the 25-lap event. After going winless all of last season, Smith quickly assumed the lead from 2011 track champion Jesse Adams and began checking out. While Smith began laying down record-setting laps, Adams found himself in a furious four car battle for 2nd as he, Larry Baker, 2010 champion Jeff Taylor, and five-time MERS champion Gary Whipkey all followed Adams’ 10-inch wide tire tracks. Whipkey was the first to make a move as he worked from 5th to 4th around teammate/team-owner Jeff Taylor. Whipkey attempted to use his fastest qualifier racecar to his advantage, but Larry Baker kept Whipkey in 4th. Baker attempted several times to get a crossover move on Adams but to no avail. While all of this was going on, Smith continued to pull away in the Petty-Blue #43. When the checkers fell in the fastest event of the night, Smith had nearly a half of a track advantage over Adams and company. It was his first trip into victory lane since his last season championship.

Bob Sibila continued his dominance over the Modifieds as he bested John White and many others in a star-studded field. When the green flag flew, White took the lead on the outside from Jason Drew and began to check out with the win seemingly in hand. While he led, Sibila made countless passes on the high line, passing the likes of Lucas and Todd Ripely, Burden Racing teammates Shawn Lewis and Doug Mate,, Drew, and rookie standout Mike Walsh. Before long, Sibila sat in 2nd and began to amass a plan to pass White. His plan came to fruition after a mid-race spin involving the Burden Racing teammates of Lewis and Mate. Sibila, once again, used the high line to pass White. White followed Sibila closely behind in 2nd place and looked to see if Sibila had any weaknesses in his seemingly bulletproof ‘Bullit’ modified. Sibila showed that his car was bulletproof and he would take the win over White by less than 2 car lengths.

‘Ironman’ Cody Collmar returned to victory lane in the compact division after one of the hardest fights for the lead in recent memory over Sheldon Sommers. With the action and sportsmenship being astronomical in the compact division, owner Greg Prunty decided to make them the main event of the night, and the drivers showed that Prunty’s decision was a smart one. When the green flag flew, rookie Jason Morris and veteran ‘Crash’ Dallas brought the 15-car field to speed. Dallas would lead the first couple laps as Morris fell back and led up until the first yellow. He would lose the lead to ‘Mr. Cloud-Nine’ Chad Greenland. Greenland, fresh off of his first ever win in the evening’s preliminary heat race, took the lead and checked out. While Greenland was looking for the winners’ circle again, GM teammates Alyson Smith, Cody Collmar, Dustin Wyckoff, and Leeza Brown all followed in positions 2-5. Smith would pass Greenland after a slipup in turn three and began to set her sights on the win. Greenland began to fall to the GM’s of Collmar and Wyckoff and would settle just in front of Brown. While the pack ran in a semi-spread out train, Mopar-powered driver Sheldon Sommers began to pick off drivers one-by-one. First passing Brown and Greenland. Then he worked past Wyckoff. As he began to work on Collmar, race leader Alyson Smith began to sputter with a presumed fuel pickup issue. The car would stall out on the front stretch and would get hit by Noah Patterson on his pilgrimage to the front. Patterson went airborne and hit the wall. He would come down on all four tires and was unhurt. Smith would also be okay but was visibly disappointed after her dominating race was cut short. After a quick cleanup by the Barberton Speedway safety team, Collmar and Sommers brought the field to green. Collmar worked Sommers over and held on to the lead while Sommers fell back to 2nd. Sommers would work hard on Collmar, using the high line, low line, zig-zagging, and even trying to intimidate Collmar out of the way. The acrobatics displayed by Sommers were no match for ‘Ironman’ as he was unphased. Collmar ran his own race and held off at least 20 different challenges from Sommers and took the win. This is his first win since 2012!

 

RACE RESULTS:

*Denotes heat winner

Bandoleros

1- Ryan Gardner*

2- Steve Mitch

3- Ryan Likens

Legends:

1- Aaron Mulrooney*

2- Austin Tapia

3- Chris Breads

4- Derik Gacom

5- Chuck Witt

6- Richie Kuhn

Street Stocks:

1- Jeff Kuykendall

2- Cyler Bertram*

3- Paul Price

4- Lee Bonnell

5- Anthony Price

6- Gerald Altizer

7- Ron Miller

8- Jeff Mundell

9- Justin Alexander

Late Models:

1- Roger Smith

2-Jesse Adams

3- Larry Baker

4- Gary Whipkey*

5- Jeff Taylor

Modifieds:

1- Bob Sibila

2- John White

3- Shawn Lewis

4- Lucas Ripley

5- Jason Drew*

6- Mike Walsh

7- Kurt Hennings

8- Todd Ripley

9- Doug Mate

10- Norm Taylor

Compacts:

1- Cody Collmar

2- Sheldon Sommers

3- Jesse Knox

4- Kenny Betts

5- Chad Greenland*

6- Dustin Wyckoff

7- Billy Miller Jr.

8- Bill Miller

9- Crash Dallas

10- Donny Howe

11- Leeza Brown

12- Alyson Smith*

13- Noah Patterson

14- Jason Morris

15- Chris Kennedy