Story By: JUSTIN SNYDER / PORT ROYAL SPEEDWAY – PORT ROYAL, PA – When the 2019 racing season started, T.J Stutts wasn’t sure if he’d be behind the wheel of a racecar, let alone in victory lane. A grueling offseason that saw the Liverpool, Pa. fighting the effects of a neuroendocrine tumor on the tail of the pancreas, Stutts was just happy to be living his life.
However, he kept his head up and he kept working hard. With his kids serving as crewmembers, Stutts got his health in order and the race team trudged along. Bad luck and a lack of speed made for many tough nights at the track.
All the hard work and dedication paid off Saturday night as Stutts picked up his first ever Weikert’s Livestock 410 Sprint Car victory at the Juniata County in front of a packed crowd on Open Wheel Madness Night 3.
“I just had this feeling all week,” said Stutts surrounded by family and friends. “I’m not even going to hold back. I’m going to cry. This is special.”
But like this season, it didn’t come easy. Stutts had to fend off multiple cautions and a hard charging Logan Wagner and Lance Dewease to bring home to win.
Stutts and Cory Haas led the field to the green flag with Stutts jumping out to the early lead. Danny Dietrich, who started fourth, slid into the second spot on the opening lap as well.
One lap later, Dylan Cisney came to a slow on the backstretch, bringing out the cautionon lap two. Cisney would rejoin the field.
With a return to green flag action, Haas showed his muscle as he ripped the top of the speedway in turn’s one and two to pull alongside Stutts down the backstretch. He made slight contact with the outside guardrail, but powered underneath Stutts entering turn’s three and four to lead at the stripe on lap three.
Dietrich would come to a slow just after the leaders crossed the line and bring out the second caution of the night. He would not rejoin the field.
On the restart, Stutts powered off the top of the speedway and re-took the lead from Haas and opened up a hefty lead. However that would all be erased as Danny Varin flipped over the inside guardrail of the front stretch on lap 11, bringing out the red flag. Dan Shetler also was involved with minor front end damage
On the restart, it was Wagner showing his hand. He hit the top of the speedway to take the third position from Ryan Smith before using the bottom in three and four the following circuit to pass Haas for second.
With nearly a 1.3 second lead entering lap traffic, Stutts was in command on lap 17. But the lap cars gave Wagner an opportunity to close the gap. Two laps later, Wagner made his move as he dove under the leader in turn’s three and four. It looked as if he would run away, but a caution for debris of the backstretch negated the pass and once again gave Stutts the lead.
Not only did the caution give Stutts the lead, but it told him that he needed to change lanes on the track.
“Logan showed his nose down there and I was really hoping we didn’t wait too long to move down,” said Stutts. “Me and my boys were talking earlier in the night and he asked me when we’d know to come off the top. Well I said you never really know and we caught a break with that caution.”
Another restart was plagued by a wreck involving Brock Zearfoss and Anthony Macri and when the field took the green flag again, Stutts hit the high side in turn;s one and two and used the bottom in three and four to thwart any attempt Wagner had to get under him.
Over the next few laps, Wagner attempted to reel in Stutts and he had him in his sights. Meanwhile, Dewease had found something on the bottom of the speedway and had entered the third spot. However, Stutts continued to hit his marks and nobody would stop his fairytale story from becoming a reality.
He would cross the finish line and take the checkered flag by a .790 margin over Wagner and Dewease. Smith and Haas rounded out the top five with Tyler Reeser, Jared Esh, Alan Krimes, AJ Flick and Cisney rounding out the top 10.
“I’m just happy to be here man,” said Stutts. “I was beginning to think this season might just be a wash. But here we are finishing strong. I can’t explain how much this means to me.”
For Wagner, he was happy with the speed he had and even though he didn’t win, he was excited to see the hard work and dedication of Stutts pay off.
“If we couldn’t win, I don’t know if there is a guy who deserves it more than TJ,” said Wagner. “Everyone knows what he’s gone through this year and it’s a gamily deal, so happy for a fellow competitor who works hard.”
410 Sprint Cars- 1. TJ Stutts, 2.Logan Wagner 3.Lance Dewease 4.Ryan Smith 5.Cory Haas 6. Tyler Reeser 7.Jared Esh 8. Alan Krimes 9. AJ Flick 10. Dylan Cisney 11.Rick Lafferty 12. Lucas Wolfe 13. Kyle Smith 14. Trenton Sheaffer 15. Justin Whittal 16.Anthony Macri 17.Brock Zearfoss 18.Steve Buckwalter 19.Ryan Taylor 20.George Hobaugh 21. Danny Varin 22.Dan Shetler 23.Danny Dietrich 24.Tyler Walton
305 Sprint Cars.
Garrett Bard lead all 20 laps and fought off a hard charging Ken Duke to pick up his second Penns Valley Meat Market PASS/IMCA 305 Sprint Car victory of the season at the Port Royal Speedway.
Nathan Gramley and Bard led the field to the green, with Bard jumping out the lead on the outside of the speedway. The first start of the night was negated by caution.
Duke, who started third, moved into the second position by lap three before another caution haulted racing activity.
When green flag action returned, Bard once again ripped the outside of the speedway and opened up a sizeable lead. It seemed to be smooth sailing until he hit lap traffic on lap 8 and aloowed Duke to close the gap.
A caution would once again fly on lap 13 and set up Duke to make a move. On the restart, he tried the bottom, but Bard was too good and pulled away.
Bard would go on to take the checkered flag, his sixth overall in PASS/IMCA action, by .334 seconds over Duke, Nick Sweigart, Jeremi Hanson and Doug Dodsen.
“I wish we didn’t have that last caution as I knew Ken was there,” said Bard. “It’s been an amazing season and I’m really thankful to be here.”
For Duke, he finished second, but also claimed the Port Royal 305 Sprint Car track championship for 2019.
“I gave it everything I had, but overall Garrett deserved to win that race,” said Duke. “He didn’t make any mistakes and he drove a great race.”
305 Sprint Cars- 1. Garrett Bard 2. Ken Duke 3. Nick Sweigart 4. Jeremi Hanson 5.Doug Dodson 6. Jonathon Jones 7. Drew Ritchey 8. Nathan Gramley 9. Landon Price 10. Devin Adams 11. Reed Thompson 12. Kassidy Kreitz 13. Domenic Melair 14. John Walp 15. Jared Zionkowski 16. Peter Dance 17. Erin Statler 18. Mike Alleman 19. Ryan Lynn 20. Will Brunson 21. Fred Arnold 22. Dave Guss Jr. 23.Jimmy Whitew 24. Cassandra Minium DNF- Alex Bright, Wally Eshenaur
360 Sprint Cars.
Brock Zearfoss overcame a rough start to his night that ended in wrecked fashion in 410 Sprint Car action to pick up his first career United Racing Club 360 Sprint Car feature win at Port Royal Speedway.
Brian Carber and Mike Kiser led the field to the green flag with Kiser jumping out to the early lead. An ear;ly caution came out for a two car wreck in turn 1.
When the field went back to green flag action, Steve Buckwalter and Doug Hammaker got together, causing Buckwalter go go flipping. Several cars were involved in the back half if the field and all drivers walked away safely.
Carber led Kiser to the green flag on the restart, Meanwhile, Ryan Smith was making his trek to the front of the field, entering the top five form his eight starting spot. By lap eight, Smith was challenging for the lead and he successfully passed Carber to take over the top spot.
Meanwhile, Zearfoss, who started 12th was lurking. Both Smith and Zearfoss used the extreme top of the speedway in lap traffic.
With three laps to go, Zearfoss finally closed the gap and made his move. He would go on to claim victory over Smith, Carber, Chad Layton and Adam Carberry.
Layton and Josh Weller got together coming to the checkered flag and the race ended under red flag condituons.
“Anytime you can get laps in another division earlier in the night you are feeling really good,” said Zearfoss. “This is a nice thing to check off the bucket list and I’m really happy to be sitting here in victory lane.”
360 Sprint Cars- 1. Brock Zearfoss 2. Ryan Smith 3.Brian Carber 4. Chad Layton 5. Adam Carberry 6. Brett Wanner 7. Austin Bishop 8.Mike Kiser 9. Josh Weller 10.Steve Drevicki 11. Ed Aiken 12. Lucas Wolfe 13. Curt Michael 14. Matt Campbell 15. Ryan Quakenbush 16. Mark Van Vorst 17.Chad Criswell 18.Danny Varin 19. Steve Buckwalter 20. Tyler Ross 21. Doug Hammaker 22. Jake Eldreth 23. Ryan Stillwagon 24. Troy Wagaman Jr. 25. Joe Trenca