2009-08-20 / Sports

Watkins, Peck, And Steele Get First At Path Valley

By Rob Keller

Path Valley Speedway ran seven feature events on Friday night, including a make-up for the Sidewinder division that was rained out during the 600cc Micro Sprint Speed Week show. One driver claimed a pair of wins and three others made their first stop to victory lane in 2009.

The first feature to run was the Sidewinder make-up feature. Since this race was scheduled for 30 laps and $500 to win back in June, that is what was run Friday night. Tim Mertz started on the pole and was pulling away when the first of two cautions came out. After the restart Donnie Hendershot passed Mark Strickler for second. But Mertz easily kept Hendershot behind him to score win number four at Path Valley this year. With Hendershot in second and Strickler in third, Jess Snyder finished fourth and Alex Schanz came from starting last to finish fifth. Snyder and Hendershot won the heat races in June.

Lyle Barnes got his second win this year leading the 4-Cylinder Thunder Car feature from start-to-finish. Denny Scofield started alongside Barnes on the front row and ran in second the entire race, but could never mount a serious challenge for the lead. Josh Walstrum was collected in a six-car incident on lap ten, but came from the back to finish third. Jeff Koser finished fourth with Sam Rock, Jr. in fifth. Scofield and Barnes also won the heat races.

Kevin Steele kept the streak of winners starting from the pole when he led the entire twenty laps of the 600cc Micro Sprint feature. Although Steele led every official lap, he was passed on lap fifteen by Tyler Walton. But when the sixth caution came out before they returned to the finish line, the pass was negated. After the restart Steele adjusted his driving line and kept Walton in second. Rob Kendall had one of his best finishes at Path Valley, coming home third. Jake Murphy started and finished fourth and Dusty Foust continued to show improvement with a fifth-place finish. Steele and Foust were the heat winners.

The first half of the Mini Stock feature provided some of the most exciting racing action of the evening. Frank Gordon started on the pole and grabbed the lead going into turn one ahead of Kevin Thomas who started second. Gordon was running one lane from the bottom and Thomas was hugging the inside apron. Ricky Harper started third and was attempting to pass Thomas for second running the high groove. The three drivers stayed in that formation until the first caution on lap seven. Two laps later Gordon bobbled slightly in turn four and Thomas pounced on the opportunity to get the lead. While under caution two laps later Gordon developed a flat tire and had to pit, surrendering second place to Harper. After the restart Thomas pulled away to win by nearly a full straightaway for his twelfth win at Path Valley this year. Kenny Hill closed in on Harper in the final laps, but came up a carlength short and finished third. Eric Seibert finished fourth and Scott Gordon in fifth. Frank Gordon and Thomas won the heat races.

Mike Pychinka started second in the second Sidewinder feature and took command of the field on lap one. Pychinka, driving a Henchcraft house car and making his first start at Path Valley, looked to be the driver to beat as he held the lead past halfway, including several restarts. Tim Mertz started eighth and powered his way into second by lap four. Mertz finally discovered that Pychinka could not hold the bottom groove in turns three and four and capitalized with an inside move on lap twelve. Mertz then pulled away the remaining eight laps to get his second win and $500 payout of the evening. Pychinka finished second, well ahead of Mark Strickler in third. Craig Myers started next to last in the 17-car field and pushed his way forward to a fourth place finish. Chad Hough spun-out on lap two but rebounded to finish fifth. Mertz and Strickler were the heat race winners.

Each time Mark Watkins has entered at Path Valley in the PA Sprint Series events he has been one of the fastest cars. But each time a "bad break" or "racing incident" would cost him a chance at the win. Watkins got to start first and beat Rodney Westhafer out of turn two for the lead. Watkins lead grew to nearly a straightaway until he caught the back of the field and started to put other drivers a lap down. Westhafer chipped away at the lead, but was still a few car lengths behind on the final lap. The leaders were in the final turns and it looked like the race would run caution free. But John Byers, making his first start this year, spun setting up a one-lap dash to the finish. Watkins made sure this win did not get away as he pulled away by several car lengths for the win. Westhafer stayed in second for his best finish of the year. Matt Mountz ran a solid third ahead of Dave Wilson and Ryan Lynn. Lynn and Ben Naugle won the heat races.

"Flyin" Bryan Hart started on the pole of the 270cc Micro Sprint feature and led the field for the first four laps. Levi Peck started third and quickly found the high groove to his liking, driving around Hart for the lead on lap five. Ryan McAndrew took over second place on a restart on lap seven. From then on McAndrew stayed within a car length of Peck, but could not find the speed to pass for the lead. It was Peck's first win in 2009, and just over a year since his last win. Sean McAndrew came from starting 13th to finish third and Steve Whary came from 12th to fourth. Hart held on to fifth. Whary and Ryan McAndrew also won the heat races.

Melvin's Auto Repair of Shippensburg sponsored the races. All the winners received a special plaque and over 50 door prizes were handed out to the spectators. Next Friday night is Path Valley's "Back to School" special and is sponsored by Juniata Beverage.

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