BECHTELSVILLE, PA. ? Duane Howard got perturbed during the running of the Bashore/Pepsi Challenge on Saturday night at Grandview Speedway and that lit a fire under the five-time point champion to get out front early in the 30-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified feature. The flame never went out until he pulled the Petruska-owned/Atlas Paving No. 66 into the winner?s circle.
The Oley lead foot picked a perfect night to chalk up his fifth win since Atlas Paving was also the race sponsor.
For the third consecutive week Bobby Gunther-Walsh was once again the early race leader, a position he maintained until Don Norris Jr. pulled in front on the 10th lap.
Mike Gular spun between the first and second turns to bring out the 11th lap caution. Gunther-Walsh stormed back into the lead when action resumed, but now Howard was second pressuring him for first.
Howard powered the Morrison Engines/TEO mount into first on the12th lap to take control. Behind him, Gunther-Walsh, Norris Jr., Doug Manmiller and Ray Swinehart dueled for positions.
Manmiller advanced into second at the Dan?s Deli ?-way hoagie mark claimed by Howard and took chase after Howard, who had a slight advantage over the competition.
Howard and rest of the top five that now consisted of Manmiller, Norris Jr., Swinehart and Jeff Strunk encountered heavy lap traffic by the 22nd lap. Despite being at the back, the lap cars were racing for positions too.
A green, white, checkered shoot-out was set up when Swinehart, running fourth, hit the first turn infield tire and spun. Swinehart suffered heavy front end damage and had to be towed back to the pits. Kevin Hirthler, who won $1,500 in the Bashore/Pepsi Challenge when he defeated Craig Von Dohren in the final segment pitted with a flat tire along with Tim Buckwalter, last week?s feature winner also out of action with a flat tire.
On the restart Howard was still the leader and charging towards the front on the outside with a full-head of steam was Frank Cozze. Contact was made between Von Dohren and Cozze with Cozze being sidelined slowing drastically in the first turn. Rather than stop on the track with a broken race car, Cozze limped it into the infield and kept the show going. The contact also hindered Von Dohren as he began falling off the pace.
Howard kept everyone behind him and collected his 64th career win at the wave of the checkered. Chasing him across the line were Manmiller, Strunk and posting their best finishes were Norris Jr. and rookie Kyle Borror. Sixth through tenth were Nate Christman, Gular, Jon Kellner, Von Dohren and Jordan Umbenhauer, who also received the Cargo Trailer certificate.
Borror, Hirthler and Norris Jr. won the heats. The consi went to Glenn Owens.
In the Bashore/Pepsi Challenge for the Modifieds that paid $100 to the winner of each round, Nate Christman defeated John Willman while Howard ousted Christman and Strunk in two and three. Von Dohren won the next six rounds as he eliminated Howard, Ryan Grim, Cozze, Gular, Umbenhauer and Manmiller. In the final round that paid $1,500 it was Hirthler able to outrun Von Dohren.
In the 25-lap NASCAR BRC Late Model feature, rookie racer Cory ?Crazy? Merkel finally had a change of luck and ended up at a place he thought he?d never see ? victory lane. His dad, Ken, calmed him down earlier and the youngster ran a good race. What probably made him the happiest and the win extra special was he finally defeated his older brother Sean at a sport.
Joe ?Geezer? Fanelli took the early lead and set the pace for eight laps before Cory Merkel was able to pass him.
The battle behind C. Merkel consisted of Fanelli, S. Merkel, Kory Fleming and Lou Egrie.
While S. Merkel and Fanelli diced for the runner-up spot this gave C. Merkel some breathing room.