Column By: RUSTY RHOADES / RPW – MECHANICSBURG, PA – Oftentimes I (we) may look at a certain racing card ahead of the event and decide either how the event will transpire or whether to even attend it based on a combination of the classes present, amount of feature laps involved and the specific facility in which the show takes place.
Well I’m here to remind everyone that the USAC Silver Crown and Central Pennsylvania 410 Sprint Car doubleheader at Williams Grove Speedway over the weekend was another great example of why we can be completely wrong in those assumptions.
Last Friday night had everything. EVERYTHING! Race-long competition in both features? Check. Local talent vs. national hotshoe battling? Check. Drama? CHECK!
The Pennsylvania Posse and Williams Grove have teamed up for some great features so far this year, and that continued as they put on the first big time performance of the double feature on an absolutely glorious late Spring evening. Young Kody Lehman took off from the front row and looked poised through a good portion of the race to pick up his first ever win.
Then you had savvy vets Lucas Wolfe and Freddie Rahmer (yes, little Freddie does qualify as a savvy vet!) passing each other back and forth while picking their way around others to the front.
All the while, rising young gun Anthony Macri was all over and even alongside Lehman from early on until the biggest point of the race. Wolfe had regained the edge over Rahmer and quickly pulled up to join the Lehman and Macri battle.
With 5 to go, the following all happened in 5 minutes time:
- Macri passss Lehman in 1 and 2.
- Wolfe pulls alongside both of them down the backstretch.
- Yellow comes out, negating all those moves.
- Macri slows to a stop under yellow and is pushed to the pits.
- Rahmer gets Wolfe on the restart then Lehman for the lead within one lap.
Rahmer would sail off to his second consecutive win at “The Grove”, another feat that is tough to accomplish at the famed half-mile paper clip.
The basic identifying features of a winged 410 sprint car sometimes makes for a boring feature for any class that has to follow them, with the wing’s downforce pushing that huge right rear spinning down into the surface and kicking it back up in the air lap after lap, especially when you add in the 100 lap distance of the Silver Crown races.
That had no effect, however, on the epic USAC event that was about to take place.
Although Indiana’s Chris Windom took off to a big lead for much of the first half of the race and local Silver Crown frequenter Steve Buckwalter paced things for most of the second half, it seemed as if there were battles for position over practically every lap of the race. Windom, Justin Grant, Austin Nemire and eventual winner Brady Bacon were all swapping spots in the first portion, then you had Buckwalter systematically picking off the best of the best in the USAC business on his way to the front along with multi-time Silver Crown champ Kody Swanson following after him. And by now everyone knows of the madness that took place late in the event, as Brady Bacon was in third taking the original white flag and ended up in victory lane celebrating his first ever Silver Crown win when all was said and done.
I was originally mad and felt like the race was kind of runied when Windom took Buckwalter out going into turn 1 on the last lap. The whole place was one huge Steve Buckwalter fan that kept growing come the last 15, then 10, then 5 laps of the race. You could cut the anticipation in the air for him to get that win with a knife at that point. And when he got spun, it felt like all the air was let out of the show.
Then I went on vacation to the beach for a few days, thought about it a little and also listened to some of Windom’s comments before writing this. I figure, I have to take him at his word when he says he didn’t come under the white flag thinking “I’m gonna dump him going into one” but also added that doesn’t excuse the fact that he did something wrong and got into Buckwalter.
I also thought that would be taking away from the first ever Silver Crown win for an already “all-time” level USAC Champion like Brady Bacon, who ran a very solid and competitive race from start to finish.
Not to mention overshadowing other great runs from local entrants like Mike Haggenbottom. The former United Racing Club sprint car champion from Levittown, PA had only a couple 11th place finishes to count as his best in his second season racing with the series up until this event. He blew that out of the water at Williams Grove, finishing fourth as well as earning the KSE Hard Charger Award having started all the way back in 15th position! This career best also vaulted him into fifth in the season long Silver Crown point standings.
So all in all, the night that many had considered an Eastern Storm tour “off night” beforehand most likely produced the best show of USAC’s entire venture to our part of the country this season. It was the only the second Silver Crown race I’ve seen, but it was far better than the first and definitely one I’ll look back on at the end of 2019 as one of the best I’ve witnessed all year.
Be sure not to be too choosy when deciding where you’re going to see one of those gems on your schedule next!