DeGRAFF – Brian Gerster took back the reins of the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series from reigning champion and two-time season winner Jimmy McCune on Saturday night, turning in a stunning performance in the series’ inaugural visit to Shady Bowl Speedway.
Gerster passed early race leader and former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bobby Santos on lap 10 of the 50-lap Battle at the Bowl, and once he was out front, the Dick Myers-owned “Mopar Missile” lived up to its nickname. The two-time series champion paced the remainder of the distance with startling speed, lapping all but the top four cars and motoring to a 7.716 second victory over seven-time Super Sprints champion Jason Blonde. All told, the feature ran caution-free and took a scant 10 minutes and three seconds to complete. The race also served as round four of the six-race American Sprint Cup mini-series.
Engine Pro polesitter Jerry Caryer and Santos led the field to the green flag, and it was Santos who got the early advantage as he rolled from the outside to the lead on the opening lap.
By the time another circuit was in the books, the Dick Fieler Racing driver had opened up a one second advantage over the field as a furious scramble for second was under way behind him. That advantage would not last, however. By lap five, Gerster had worked his way from sixth on the grid to second, and he quickly axed the margin from a second down to two car lengths in just two laps. By the ninth round, Gerster was knocking on the tail tank of the No. 22A and the next time by, he had worked clear of Santos in turn three to assume the lead for good.
As Gerster worked his way through traffic and away from the field, Santos was left to deal with Blonde for the last two-thirds of the race. While the modified ace was able to hold Blonde at bay through halfway and into the final 20 laps, Blonde finally worked his way past with 13 laps to go but finished a distant second at the twin checkereds. In heat race action Gerstner and Jacob Wilson were winners of the 10-lap events. The first heat was red-flagged when Kris Lemming flipped in turn one. Lemming was unhurt but the car suffered heavy damage.
After setting a new track record of 10.666 seconds (101.256 mph) in Engine Pro Time Trials, breaking Dave Baumgartner’s old mark of 10.830 set on Sept. 18, 2010, Johnny Bridges’ run at glory was stalled by the invert die. Bridges rolled an eight, placing him on the outside of the fourth row for the feature, fell off the lead lap on the 26th circuit and could never recover. He limped home to an eighth-place finish. With the win, Gerster assumes the points lead by five tallies over McCune, with Bridges nine points further back in third.
The pure stocks and compacts rounded out the night of racing. In pure stock action second generation driver Jason Purtee of DeGraff carried the checkered for the 20-lapper. It was the second win in a row for the rookie driver behind the wheel of his L&B Auto Repair Ford. Rob Bryant, Scott Binkley, and Justin Durflinger followed Purtee to the checkered. Purtee also was the dash winner, with Durflinger setting fast time.
In compact racing Larry Adams of East Liberty continued his dominance of the division as he once again was in victory lane at the end of the 20-lapper. This win was a little harder for Adams in his Detroit Tire backed Neon as he passed early leader Josh Foltz with two laps to go. Foltz also won the dash with heat winner Zach Doolin taking third spot. Nick Barrett and Dean Adams rounded out the top five.
This weekend will see a doubleheader at Shady Bowl with racing Saturday and Sunday. The races will be held to honor the memory of Sidney car owner Denny Shatto. Shatto fielded some of the best cars in the area before losing a battle with cancer. Kevin Shatto, his son, is carrying on the family tradition by fielding the famed #110 cars now. The Saturday program will feature a 55-lap late model feature with $1,200 going to the winner. The street stocks, pure stocks and tuners will also be racing.
On Sunday night the late models return for another 55-lapper once again paying $1,200 to win. The modifieds, pure stocks and compacts will join the late models. The late model drivers will also be battling for a $1,000 bonus if they can win both nights. Racing will start at 7 p.m. both days.