(Jenners, PA) On June 16, 2018, Barry Awtey stormed from the eleventh starting position to claim his third consecutive victory in the Martella’s Pharmacies RUSH Late Model division, at the Jennerstown Speedway Complex. Anthony Aiello was declared the winner in the Stoystown Auto RUSH Modified division, after a make-up race was added to the regularly scheduled event, from a May 26 rainout. Aaron Van Fleet (J&J Truck Equipment RUSH Street Stocks), defending Champion Jason Pritts (Farmers Union Co-Op Chargers), and Casey Fleegle (Somerset Trust Company Fast ‘N Furious 4-Cylinders) comprised a trio of first time winners this season.
The Martella’s Pharmacies RUSH
Late Model 30-lap feature race began with 16-year-old rookie Brandan Marhefka starting on the pole position. The third-generation racer has yet to become a licensed highway driver, but has been tutored all year by his winning father and grandfather. Mike “Hollywood” Hemminger started alongside the teenager in row one, and took the early lead. Hemminger has led or challenged for the lead in every event so far in 2018. Defending Champion Jeremiah Kuntz advanced from the fourth starting berth, into second place on the first lap. Kuntz, a winner already in 2018, struggled to keep up with Hemminger, early in the event. One week prior, Hemminger was threatening to take the race lead amidst a thrilling battle for the win, but suffered crash damage to the front of his car. Hemminger’s repaired Chevy dominated all competitors through the early and middle stages of this week’s race, running away from Kuntz, who maintained the second spot. Just before the mid-point of the event, former Champion Barry Awtey passed Kuntz for second place. Awtey, the most recent winner, started the race in eleventh place. Awtey quickly closed the sizable gap that Hemminger enjoyed as a lead interval. The veterans dueled side-by-side for the lead for multiple laps, before a caution flag halted their battle. Teddy Gibala’s tough luck continued, as he crashed after passing Kuntz for third position, and performing very strong until damaging his car for the second time this year. The restart on lap 23 gave the Awtey an opportunity the move around Hemminger for the lead; a lead he would never relinquish. Awtey, the former Champion from Jenners, PA, built up an advantage of several car lengths, to earn his third win of 2018, without a challenge at the finish. Garry Wiltrout, another former Champion, started the race in fifth position, and made a strong late race rally to catch and pass Hemminger, earning the second position when the checkered flag waved. Hemminger placed third after winning his heat race, with Kuntz finishing fourth, and veteran Rick Boyer earning fifth place. Awtey also steered the Wheeler Family Cattle/Stoystown Auto/Pizza Hut Chevrolet to a heat race win, and has scored three straight feature victories, in spite of starting in tenth and eleventh position, in consecutive weeks.
The Stoystown Auto RUSH Modified division completed two feature events: the regularly scheduled 20-lap feature, and the rained out May 26 feature race. Tom Golik, Anthony Aiello, and Chris Brink all led laps in the make-up race, with Brink crossing the line ahead of Aiello, after a thrilling, lead-swapping duel. But, Brink was one of two drivers disqualified in post-race inspection, handing another victory to rookie Aiello, of White Oak, PA. Golik placed second, “Racin’ Jason” Busch credited with third place after R.J. Dallape was also disqualified. Jared Barlay and Gary Scott completed the top five finishers. After the second 20-lap feature, three more cars were disqualified, altering the finish order for the second time in the same night. All cars that found to be out of compliance, were in violation of the required wheelbase measurement. Veteran Gary Scott led the race early, before teenage rookie R.J. Dallape led the final eight circuits to an apparent victory. But, again, Aiello was awarded the win, officially, collecting the fourth trophy of his 2018 rookie campaign. Dallape, Busch, and Barclay were the three cars in violation after the second race. After Aiello, in the official finish order from the June 16 feature were: Scott, Golik, Mike Carlson, and Jim Bodziak. Brink and Aiello were winners of the preliminary heats earlier in the night.
Two of the youngest drivers in the J&J Truck Equipment RUSH Street Stock division, Angie Kimberly and Aaron Van Fleet, started the 20-lap feature on the front row. Van Fleet, of Scottdale, PA, took the early lead, with recent winner Mel Wilt securing the second spot. After multiple wins in the 1990’s Rick Meehleib returned to competition in 2017, on a part-time basis, ending a hiatus of many years. Meehleib started in sixth position, and took the runner-up spot from Wilt early in the race. Meehleib caught up to Van Fleet, and pursued close enough to touch Van Fleet’s rear bumper through the middle stages of the race. But, in the final stages of the event, Van Fleet began to pull away from the veteran, as Meehleib displayed a very “loose” handling condition. With proper tire management skills, Van Fleet proved that his smooth style can be a winning style, as he led every lap to claim his first win of the season. The former 4-Cylinder division dominator now has two victories in his brief Street Stock career. Meehleib placed second, with heat race winner Wilt, crossing the finish line in third place. Two-time winner Josh Coughenour, started ninth and placed fourth, with rookie (after a successful dirt track racing career) Jeremy Shaffer finishing fifth.
The Farmers Union Co-Op Charger division has produced exciting racing each week of 2018, and the number of competitors has grown notably. One rookie driver, Steven Brown, makes the long tow each week from Mercersburg, PA, and he started from the pole position in the 15-lap feature. Brown has a wealth of experience in dirt track racing and can now boast that he has led feature laps in asphalt racing. For five circuits, Brown seemed poised to contend for the victory. But on lap six, defending Champion Jason Pritts made the winning pass. Pritts, of Boswell, PA, who struggled through the first couple of events in 2018, would be challenged before this race concluded. Another rookie, Casey Fleegle, started fifth and repeatedly threatened to take the lead from Pritts in the final laps. Fleegle, also a winning driver in 4-Cylinder competition last year, looked stout as a Charger freshman, fighting for the win and placing second, after winning his heat race. But, Pritts earned his first victory of the year, passing one rookie and holding off another, after starting the race in seventh place. Crossing the finish line behind Fleegle were teammates Dale Kimberly and A.J. Poljak, who both advanced from start positions in the fifth row. Emily Shaulis won the other heat race, for a second consecutive week.
Defending Champion of the Somreset Trust Company Fast ‘N Furious 4-Cylinders, Brent Bickerstaff, started the 15-lap feature from the pole position. Two-time winner this year, Andrew Pluta started fourth, but claimed the second spot by lap one. Just as the powerful duo did throughout 2017, Bickerstaff and Pluta battled for the lead for six laps. Casey Fleegle, a winner in 2017, advanced from his sixth starting spot into second place, passing Pluta on lap seven. On lap eleven, Fleegle grabbed the lead after aggressively fighting for the top spot, throwing the car sideways repeatedly in turns three and four. Fleegle earned his first win of 2018, as the previous week’s winner Evan Nibert claimed second position at the finish line, after a late race charge from the twelfth starting position. Bickerstaff, Pluta, and another 2017 winner, David Campbell finished in positions third, fourth, and fifth. Fleegle, of Friedens, PA, and Nibert were also the heat race winners.
This Saturday, June 23, 2018 the most anticipated event of the year at Jennerstown Speedway Complex will take place, at 6pm. Winged Sprint Cars return to the paved half mile oval, as the Xtreme Sprint Tour makes its’ first visit to the state of PA. These open-wheel, methanol burning monsters, are sure to challenge the all-time track speed record, as TV cameras will be rolling for this nationally televised event. Advance tickets for adults are $15, or, $18 each after the pre-sale deadline of Thursday June 21. Children ages 12 and under will be admitted free. For more information visit www.jennerstown.org