Photo courtesy of Port Royal Speedway
BY DREW PELLMAN
PORT ROYAL — “Hey, here comes the blue car!”
That was the feeling from where yours truly was sitting about 10 laps into Friday’s “Night Before The 50” at Port Royal Speedway. The “blue car,” of course, is the familiar Kreitz Racing No. 69K entry driven by veteran pilot Lance Dewease. From his 8th starting position, it took him a bit to get to the front, but when he did there was no looking back. The Fayetteville, Pennsylvania native notched his 121st career victory at the Juniata County half-mile, and he’s now just eight wins shy of Keith Kauffman on Port Royal’s all-time win list.
Brian Brown got the early jump from the pole, and held a fairly comfortable advantage when the first caution of the race was displayed on lap 5 for a slowing Zeb Wise. Like several others through the course of the evening, the right rear exploded after making contact with the outside fence between turns one and two. California invader Gio Scelzi was second at the time of the yellow, but Danny Dietrich — Thursday’s runner up — had advanced from 5th to 3rd and was showing some very early speed.
From there, the race would stay green until the 11th circuit when Bill Balog suffered a similar fate to Wise. By that time, Dewease had begun his drive to the front advancing from 8th to 3rd in a short time frame while passing the likes of Dietrich, Brent Marks, Tyler Courtney and others.
The ensuing restart saw the red flag come out for the only time on the night. Sye Lynch spun after losing a left front tire, and that set off a chain reaction with Mike Wagner getting the worst of it. Wagner’s No. 55 drove over Lynch’s tire, which launched him into the catch-fence in the process. He was uninjured. Lynch, Austin Bishop and Ayrton Gennettan were also done for the night as a result of the incident. Anthony Macri — Thursday’s winner — also got a piece of Lynch’s tire and was forced to the work area to replace the nose wing on his No. 39M machine.
When the green flag was thrown once again, it was Dewease who would make relatively quick work of Scelzi and Brown on the bottom of the speedway to take the top spot. Dietrich did the same just a few circuits later and set his sights back on Dewease. But unfortunately for Dietrich, just as he had caught the leader on lap 22, his No. 48 dropped off the pace on the backstretch with what appeared to be engine trouble.
With Dietrich pitside, Dewease wasn’t challenged again. Brown and Scelzi held on to secure podium positions, while Justin Peck and Marks rounded out the top five. Sixth through 10th went to Courtney, Dylan Cisney, Justin Whittall (who advanced from 24th to 8th to take hard-charger honors), Macri and Cory Eliason.
Heats for the 52 410 sprint cars signed in for competition were won by Eliason, Kasey Kahne, Dewease, Dietrich and Rico Abreu. Zach Hampton won the C-main for the second time in as many nights, Macri won the B-main, and Brian Brown secured the All-Star Circuit of Champions dash. Like he did on Thursday night, Courtney — with a lap of 16.225 seconds — set quick time in qualifying.
Logan Wagner, though he wasn’t in contention for the win on this night, earned enough points to once again be crowned track champion in the Zemco No. 1 sprinter for a record-setting fifth year in a row.
In super late model action, Jason Covert tracked down leader Mike Lupfer to secure the victory in the 25-lap main event. Hayes Mattern finished third, Colton Flinner (who also secured the 2022 track championship) crossed fourth and Gary Stuhler rounded out the top five.
Port Royal swings right back into action with its biggest race of the season this evening (Saturday) — the 55th Annual Tuscarora 50 which pays a whopping $60,000 to win. Logan Wagner is the defending race champion.