Eckert, Bieber, Dixon Grab Checkered Flag At Path Valley
The first race of the 2012 Big Kahuna Series at Path Valley had quite the drama in the late laps of the Speed- STR and late model races as Rick Eckert and George Dixon, Jr. got their mounts under the checkered to claim $1,000 victories.
With temperatures in the mid 70s and sunny skies greeting the racers and fans a great daytime track surface was prepared by Path Valley owner John Winsett and the racers made great use of a multi- grooved speedway to put a well-run show on for the many fans in attendance.
After dual heats qualifying was completed, the Slingshots were the first feature to take to the speedway. Alex Schoffstall put the Billy Schinkel-prepared 77 on the pole. At the drop of the green Schoffstall and Ryan Raidline swapped the lead spot in every turn until contact sent both racers to the rear after a lap-4 spin. Inheriting the lead was 2011 Slingshot National Champion Brett Bieber who had to withstand pressure from Danny Buccafusca and Kyle Gruber. Gruber took a high line around the speedway, getting his National Guard sponsored # 76 from 8th to third by Lap 5. The yellow flew for debris on Lap 6 and the restart green found Gruber now setting sail for Bieber as the pair were starting to distance themselves from the field. JR Fulper put his #67 into the fold. With these three heading for podium finishes,the real battle shaping up was between early race leaders Raidline and Schoffstall for fourth and fifth. Bieber notched the MA Silver Tour win, with Gruber a close second, and Fulper grabbed third. Raidline took fourth as Schoffstall just beat Buccafusca for fifth. Rounding out the top 10 was one of the day’s heat winners Ray Nemeth, Jr. in the Herrs 101, getting seventh, with Ray’s brother Joe Nemeth getting eighth-place money. A photo finish for ninth had Matt Miller, just ahead of Jordan Poirier, who ventured down from Canada and made his 10-hour ride home as a top 10 finisher.
The first of two twentylap mains for the Speed- STR's saw 2011 American Region champion Kyle Hieber bring the field to the green. The draw for the top 6 was done by giving your pick to another of the top 6 starters. Hieber was awarded the pole spot by Speed- STR National Champion Yannick Poirier. Sharing the front row was 2011 WoO LM champion Rick Eckert. Hieber led the first 2 laps, but it was time for the York resident, Eckert to show why he is a national champion. Eckert followed Hieber, trying different lines on the speedway, until he settled for the high side in turns 1 & 2 and the lowside in 3 & 4. This worked to perfection as he got past the # 6 of Hieber heading out of turn 2 to become the leader on lap three. When the halfway sign was shown, the drivers became a little more serious and Gary Hieber passed his brother to take second as Anthony Perrego and Poirier were trying to stay in the top 5. Moving unnoticed through the pack was Steve Davis, who started last and was now fourth when the yellow was displayed on lap 13.Eckert had the Valvoline 3 comfortably ahead of the #56 of Gary Hieber as Davis got by Kyle Hieber for third with the laps winding down. Sixth through tenth would have to wait until lap 20 to get the final finishing spots as Paul Lotier, Jr., Brittany Wixon, Perrego, Hieber, Brandon Rahmer and Bobby Dmumchowski were running that close. Rick Eckert really enjoyed his trip to victory lane with the fans letting him know they appreciated his run. Gary Hieber and Steve Davis joined Rick for a top-3 photo. Yannick Poirier notched a strongclosing fourth as Paul Lotier, Jr. got to the line ahead of Perrego.
The 30-lap late model main saw the top 6 lineup by a trade-off draw and George Dixon Jr. was awarded the top spot. There was no denying him the lead at the drop of the green. A Lap 1 yellow for Ron Kline regrouped the field and Dixon set a blistering pace as the field stayed clean and green. Sean Merkel challenged Dixon for a few laps, but Dixon was hooked up on the bottom and Merkel was now focusing his attention on the upcoming Wes Bonebrake #5.
The pair’s ten-lap run as second and third would end when Tim Fedder claimed third on lap 12 with his sights on the bigger prize. Tim Smith, Jr. had his #39 flying as he was now third on Lap 27 after starting last. Dixon would not give up the bottom and after 5 laps of passing flag use, it was apparent he was going to win or lose on the bottom. The white flag was shown and Fedder was aside of Dixon heading to turn 1. Dixon got his break as Bob Dunn, one of the slower cars, washed up heading into turn 2 giving Dixon the lowside pass and staying in front of Fedder as they came to the checkered. Smith claimed third with Sean Merkel holding off Steve Bailor for 4th. Sixth through 10th were Andy Fries, Wes Bonebrake, Kyle Merkel, Bob Dunn and Ron Kline.
A 10-car invert greeted the second 20-lap SpeedSTR field and therefore putting first race winner Rick Eckert 10th on the starting grid. Bobby Dmumchowski brought the field to the green and Brandon Rahmer stayed on the gas and the outside groove to get the lead on lap 1. The first 18 laps stayed green and Rahmer had a sizeable lead over second place running Paul Lotier, Jr. and Rick Eckert,but the action leading to Lap 18 was nothing but exciting. Brittany Wixon had the Lee Wixon-prepared 15 on the move and her battle with Anthony Perrego and Yannick Poirier was worth the price of admission alone. These three went three wide into turn 3 and Wixon went from fifth to third and was becoming a race challenger. As the laps quickly passed by, Rahmer looked to be heading towards his first win in the SpeedSTR division as Eckert passed Lotier with the 2-lap sign waving. The yellow flew for Freddie Rahmer and Daniel Nadeau, slowing the field and a single-file restart due to less than 5 laps to go would be a green, white, checker run for the $1000 top prize. Rahmer kept his #88 to the bottom of the speedway and withstood the first challenge by Eckert under the white, but Eckert took the #3 to the top and the pair raced side by side heading into turn 3. There was one turn left to decide who was taking the win and Eckert had some grip up against the outside wall to propel him past Rahmer and sweep the SpeedSTR Twin 20s. Rahmer was second with Paul Lotier Jr joining the victory lane photo. Yannick Poirier mirrored his first race run with another fourth as Kyle Hieber rounded out the top five. Perrego nosed out Gary Hieber for sixth as Brittany Wixon, Bobby Dmumchowski and Matt Dealaman passed under the checkered for top-10 runs.
The day ended with a 50 lap Enduro as Randy Wenger took the win over Shyann Bard and Garrett Watkins.
The program was completed by 4 p.m. and the next date on the Big Kahuna schedule at Path Valley will the May 27 event with 358 sprints joining the Speed- STR’s and Enduro racers.