NEW JERSEY'S JEFF HARTMAN OUTRUNS A PENNSYLVANIA LEGEND
BY THE NAME OF KENNY "MR. EXCITEMENT" BRIGHTBILL ON HIS WAY
TO TAKING THE SPEEDSTR CHECKERED FLAG AT ACTION TRACK USA...
Jeff Hartman picked up his 3rd career SpeedSTR Victory over Modified Stock Car
legend Kenny Brightbill, and Action Track USA's feature wins master Tim Buckwalter.
Rick's Racing Photos.
Story by Barry Angstadt
Kutztown, PA - Jeff Hartman though he'd be facing an angry crowd when Victory Lane announcer Michael Batz turned on the microphone after the USAC All Pro SpeedSTR main event on Wednesday night at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds.
"I'm thinking they are all going to hate me and boo me for passing Kenny Brightbill," whispered Hartman, the race winner, prior to Batz firing up the wireless mic.
Instead, much to his relief and surprise, Hartman received a very warm and appreciative response from the fans when Batz welcomed him to Weaknecht Archery Victory Lane.
Hartman, from Belle Meade, NJ, certainly was not the sentimental favorite of the large and passionate audience. That honor went to Brightbill, the dirt Modified legend and the very first SpeedSTR point champion at Action Track USA in 2013, who is marking his 50th (and most likely final) season of racing this year. But the knowledgeable Kutztown racing fans realize that Hartman has struggled and faced major disappointment so far, this season, so they acknowledged his exciting drive to victory in a positive manner.
Brightbill started on the pole of the 30-lap SpeedSTR feature on Scout Night at the speedway, and the Sinking Spring ace known as "Mr. Excitement" and "Mr. Outside" throughout his stellar career proceeded to set the pace for the first 20 circuits.
As the opening 11 trips around the progressively banked oval went non-stop, John Bockhorn tried gamely to stay with the leader and defend his runner-up position. Louden Reimert and fifth-starting Jeff Hartman challenged Bockhorn for second. The first yellow flag of the race occurred with 11 laps scored and on the restart, Jeff Hartman screamed past Bockhorn, then set his sights on the leader.
With Brightbill on the top side and Hartman glued to the bottom, the pair of wheel-twisters went nose-to-nose for the lead. Brightbill's momentum on the high side kept him in front with Hartman knocking on the door. Brightbill beat Hartman to the stripe, on most laps, by a foot or two. Pretty soon Billy Pauch Jr. and Tim Buckwalter (they started ninth and 11th, respectively) had motored their way into the top five, with Pauch rumbling into third and Buckwalter claiming the fourth position. Another yellow, this one with ten to go, proved to be the turning point of the race.
"I knew I had to beat him to the first turn, then clear his car and take away his line because he was so good on the top," said Hartman afterward. "I knew the restart was my best shot to get by him."
Hartman's plan worked, as he out-gunned Brightbill to turn one, then squeezed up in front of the No. 19 as the duo prepared to exit turn two. There was a new leader, much to the pro-Brightbill crowd's dismay, but this one was far from over.
The final ten trips around the oval were arguably the most hotly contested and entertaining tours ever produced by the SpeedSTRs at Action Track USA. Hartman went to the high side, partly because he felt it was better than the bottom at that point and to take it away from Brightbill. But Kenny simply moved down a lane and attacked from the middle while Tim Buckwalter, riding a two-race win streak at the Berks County speedway, made his presence known and pressured the leaders from the inside lane.
The trio ran three-wide at times and under a virtual blanket for the entire final-third of the feature, with Brightbill poking the nose of his car in front of Hartman on occasion and Buckwalter harassing both of them, lap after heart-pounding lap.
Brightbill's car seemed to twitch a bit entering turn three on the 29th revolution, allowing Hartman to ease ahead by a car length or two as Buckwalter ducked under the No. 19. Hartman paced the final circuit with a slim advantage over the tussle for second, crossing the finish line by a half-second over his pursuers. Brightbill nipped Buckwalter for second (by 0.090 seconds), much to the delight of the spectators. A late charge by teenager Briggs Danner resulted in a fourth-place finish, and Ohio's Matt Westfall rebounded (after a pit stop to replace a flat tire) to record a fifth-place effort.
"It's nice to finally finish one of these...we haven't been finishing races so far this year," smiled Brightbill afterward. "I tried to stay with him once he got by me and tried to find another line to get by him. But I'm just glad to finish and run well for a change. Thanks to Jimi's Thing, Heavy Business, Weaknecht Archery, and everybody who helps us on this car."
Buckwalter complimented Brightbill and Hartman on their runs. "It's great when you can run side by side with someone like that and know you won't get taken out. I just wasn't very good on the inside tonight, and that's where I had to run because they were up top."
James Morris set quick time - by just .001-seconds - over Briggs Danner. Both drivers locked themselves into the 30-lap feature by virtue of their quick laps in the Timed Warm-ups.
Westfall, Hartman, and Louden Reimert won heat races while Joe Mooney took the checkered in the B-Main.
This Wednesday, June 21, is the annual Ronnie Tobias Memorial as Action Track USA presents its final racing program prior to the mid-season break when the Kutztown Folk Festival takes over the fairgrounds. There will not be any racing at the facility on June 28 or July 5. The second half of the 2017 campaign at Action Track USA will begin on Wednesday, July 12.
Action Track Side bites:
This week's Ronnie Tobias Memorial has a slightly different format than years past...the USAC All Pro SpeedSTRs will compete in Twin 20-lap features, while the Hyper Racing 600 Sprints battle in Twin 17-lap mains. The All-Star Slingshots will have a single, 40-lap feature - and all Slingshots who enter the event will qualify for the 40-lapper! The Slingers will also see an increased payout for the top three, with the winner taking home $600, courtesy of Daryl Tillman Team ReMax of Reading. The Bagel Rack is also stepping up to pay the car registration fee for any Slingshot that has not yet competed at Action Track USA this season.
Qualifying for the SpeedSTRs and 600 Sprints will be done through Timed Dashes, which will lock in a specified number of cars. Everyone else will get a second chance in C and B-Mains.
Warm ups begin at 6 p.m. and qualifying - through the Timed Dashes - will be part of the warm up sessions. The C and B-Mains get underway at 7:00.VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
USAC All-Pro SpeedSTRs 30: 1. Jeff Hartman 2. Kenny Brightbill 3. Tim Buckwalter 4. Briggs Danner 5. Matt Westfall 6. Billy Pauch Jr. 7. Louden Reimert 8. Matt Jansich 9. Steve Buckwalter 10. Brad Brightbill 11. Steven Drevic ki 12. Tim Iulg 13. Dylan Hoch 14. Phil Meisner 15. Joe Mooney 16. Ray Nemeth 17. Andy Haus 18. John Bockhorn 19. Earl Paules 20. TJ Mayberry 21. Mike Bednar 22. Jason Rochelle 23. Brandon Auman 24. James Morris 25. Steve Nederostek. DNS: JT Brotosky; Keith Prutzman; Tom Mayberry.