(Jennerstown, PA) The 2017 racing season came to a close on Saturday September 9, at the Jennerstown Speedway Complex, as experienced veterans prevailed, after exciting finishes in the five divisions of racing. Stoystown Auto Wreckers presented the biggest race of the year for the Modified division, and the most tenured driver in the field, Tom Golik, won the inaugural “Stoystown Auto Modified Challenge” by a very slim margin at the checkered flag. Similarly, the most veteran driver in the Martella’s Pharmacies Late Model division, Barry Awtey, celebrated in victory lane after taking the lead just two laps from the finish. The all-time leading winner in the J&J Truck Equipment Street Stock division, Adam Kostelnik scored his first victory of 2017, and 1993 Champion Scott Mitchell won for the second time this year, in the Farmers Union Co-op Charger division. David Campbell was the winner in the Somerset Trust Co. Fast ‘n Furious 4-Cylinder division. The unofficial results of Ron’s Collision Center Enduro Series finale, “The Shane Shaffer 75,” indicate Dan Zimmerman and Adam Olah as the top two finishers, however their order is currently under review by officials. Each Enduro team provides a “team scorer,” and the team scoresheets are being compared to the officials’ scoresheets for confirmation. Results of that event will be made official in the coming days.
Although it was the last event of the year, many fans were exclaiming that the Martella’s Pharmacies Late Models’ 30-lap feature was “the race of the year.” Three-time winner Garry Wiltrout started in row one, and grabbed the early lead. But the former Champion was passed on lap four, by the newly crowned 2017 Champion, Jeremiah Kuntz. Kuntz started in the sixth position, as the most recent feature race winner, and he also won his preliminary heat race to start the night. Kuntz began to run away from all competitors as the race reached the midpoint. The 2016 Champion, Barry Awtey, challenged Wiltrout for second place, and on lap 19, Awtey became the runner up to Kuntz. Awtey seemed a “distant second,” as Kuntz led lap after lap. But in the closing stages of the race, Awtey, the all-time leading winner in Jennerstown history, steadily reeled in Kuntz. Kuntz earned his 2017 Champion crown by defeating Awtey in the point standings by only five points. The duo battled for the final victory of the season, thrilling the fans at the conclusion of the race. Wiltrout was closely following the pair, making a three-car fight for the win all the more exciting. Awtey, from nearby Jenners, PA, started the event in ninth place, and took the lead with only two laps remaining in the season, to score his fourth victory of the year. Awtey also won his heat race, driving the Wheeler Show Cattle/Highlander Hot Rods/Stoystown Auto Chevrolet. On the final lap, Wiltrout moved around Kuntz for the second position. The official top five finishers were Awtey, Wiltrout, Kuntz, Joe Maruca, and recent first time winner Teddy Gibala.
The Stoystown Auto Wreckers Modified Challenge offered the highest prize money of the season, for a 35-lap feature race, as the inaugural running of what is sure to become a Jennerstown tradition. A.J. Poljak started the race from the pole position and led the first two laps. On lap three, recently crowned Champion, Chris Brink grabbed the lead. Brink, who won more races in 2017 than any other driver in any division, pulled away to a comfortable lead, after starting in the second spot. On lap seven, the 2016 Champ, Zane Ferrell took second place from Poljak. In the first 20-lap segment, Pete Rech made an impressive charge from the ninth starting position. Rech, a winner in 2017, advanced into the second position, when the action was halted for exactly five minutes at lap 20. Crews were permitted to make handling adjustments and add fuel during the competition break, to prepare for the final 15-lap segment. A random draw determined a “six car invert” for the final segment, meaning the Brink would restart in sixth place, after earning a big cash bonus for leading at lap 20. Tom Golik was in sixth place at the race break, meaning he took the green flag in first place, after the invert for the remaining laps. Matt Smith restarted second to Golik, and challenged the veteran, but never led a lap. Golik took command of the race when action resumed. The final segment included a few caution flag incidents, and after one restart, Rech officially led a single lap at the scoring line, before Golik returned to the front. With five laps to go, Brink passed Rech for second place, and challenged Golik for the final five laps. But, at the conclusion of the extra-distance race, Golik, of West Newton, PA, would claim his second victory of the year – earning his highest payday – by a margin of just one car length. Golik has been racing since Jennerstown was dirt track, and won on opening night 2017, and won the finale of the year. Brink and Rech were also “podium finishers” in second and third place, respectively. Two time winner “Racin’ Jason” Busch was set to start the race in seventh place, but he was involved in a spin before lap one was complete. As a result, he took the green flag at the tail of the field, but rallied to finish fourth. Smith finished fifth, and Brink and Ferrell were the heat race winners.
One of the most shocking stories of 2017, is that former Champion of the J&J Truck Equipment Street Stocks, Anthony Aiello, had not visited victory lane, when the final race of the year began. Aiello started in fourth place for the 20-lap feature, and was the leader of the race by lap one. Aiello ran away from the field as young Zac Todaro held second place. On lap five, Adam Kostelnik became the runner up to Aiello, but Aiello was far ahead. Kostelnik started in eighth spot, and was gaining on leader, and good friend, Aiello. Kostelnik, also a former Champ and the all-time leading Street Stock winner, made the winning pass on lap 17. Kostelnik won his heat race, and then went on to score his first feature win of 2017, racing only occasionally during the year. Aiello placed second, and long-time veteran Rick Meehlieb started sixth, and finished third. Todaro placed fourth and heat race winner Aaron Van Fleet finished fifth.
Farmers Union Co-Op Charger driver Scott Mitchell has been racing since before some of his current competitors were born. In the 15-lap feature, the 1993 Pure Stock division Champ dominated the event, for his second win of 2017. Mitchell won the heat race, and after starting third, led every lap of the feature. Former Champ Steve Long placed second, with 2017 winner Tanner Friedline in third place. Joe Ruskey and first time starter Jay Richmond placed fourth and fifth.
Apparent winner Casey Fleegle was disqualified in post-race technical inspection, following the Somerset Trust Company Fast ‘n Furious 4-Cylinder division’s 15-lap feature. Inheriting the win, was David Campbell, who started in ninth place. It was Campbell’s second win of 2017. Two-time winner Evan Nibert, Bently Miller, 2017 Champion Brent Bickerstaff, and 2016 Champ Paul Koffler, III were the top five finishers.
Results from the final race of the Ron’s Collision Center Enduro Series, “The Shane Shaffer 75″ are currently under review by track officials.
A pig roast/corn roast for all in attendance was provided by Morocco Welding, after the races, to celebrate the great season. On Friday, November 3, the 2017 Champions will be honored during the Jennerstown Speedway Complex Awards Banquet, at the Ramada Inn in Greensburg, PA.