Words by Paul Griffin, Pics by Matt Stock
Cody Darrah won the 11th Williams Grove Sprint Car Summer Nationals on Saturday July 21 after the Friday Preliminary night was rained out. Darrah started second pole next to Gerard MacIntyre. He jumped to the lead going into Turn 1 and led all 30 Laps, showing all World of Outlaws competitors and Local PA Posse Drivers a clean set of wheels.
It was Darrah’s second Summer Nationals victory at Williams Grove – the first being back in 2009.
Second across the Line was a very determined Jason Sides, followed by PA Posse Driver Greg Hodnett, Kraig Kinser, Adam Wilt, Lucas Wolfe, Steve Kinser, Tony Stewart, Kerry Madsen and Cory Haas rounding out the top 10 finishers. It was Jason Sides best ever result at Williams Grove Speedway.
The race was an Epic event that took 70 minutes to run, with multiple yellows and reds being thrown. The crowd was huge – PA fans are hardcore about their Sprint Car racing, that’s for sure, and the lead up to the Saturday night’s racing didn’t look like Ivy League from a weatherman’s viewpoint either. So seeing a good sized crowd was a bonus.
The first yellow was brought down by Danny Dietrich with just one lap down as he put the #48 entry into the Turn1/2 wall.
Chad Kemenah whose car would not fire for the race start seized the moment and attempted another engine start. If successful he would join the field one lap down. Unfortunately for the popular Driver from Ohio, this wasn’t to be and his night was done before it even started. The mechanical gremlin interfering with his run was rumoured to be the magneto.
The restart was a double file affair with Darrah electing to run the pole line. The track was exceptionally fast – so fast that it made it extremely difficult to pass. Darrah quickly opened up a significant lead on Sides, MacIntyre, Kraig Kinser, Adam Wilt and Greg Hodnett. Steve Kinser was on a mission and with 4 laps down when the yellows came on for Danny Haltgraver going into the Turn3/4 guard rail, Kinser had moved up to P15 after starting 23 rd.
Darrah again elected to run the low line on the double file restart. Again his killer engine and quick reflexes gave him the jump on the restart. Craig Dollansky while running 8 th was battling an ill handling racecar and brought on the yellows one lap further on (lap 5) as he skipped over the Turn 2 cushion and spun sideways and stalled – it was simply amazing that no one collected him in the process as cars weaved around him at break neck speed. The Crowd Pleaser was clearly not “pleased” with himself, and was ultimately sent to the rear for the restart.
The double file restart was again an all Darrah affair with Sides simply not able to match Darrah’s package. It wasn’t long before Fred Rahmer took a wild ride one lap later. It was a viscous, bone crunching flip down the back straight – one of the worst that has been witnessed at “The Grove” for a long, long time. Rahmer had gone three wide down the back stretch and got together with Sammy Swindell bringing on the reds. Fast Freddie exited the car and was fine. The same couldn’t be said for his racecar – she was junk and the front axle had buried itself like a torpedo into the Williams Grove track surface. This incident took some time to clear and gave Drivers like Tyler Walker and Dollansky time to attend the work area.
Lance Dewease was unable to restart with mechanical issues grounding his car. This was to hurt Dewease in his local Williams Grove points tally. At that juncture he was running second to Greg Hodnett. Ironically the 3 rd placed Driver on points and just behind Dewease was Freddie Rahmer who had also just exited the race, but in a slightly more spectacular fashion.
So with five down the restart order was Darrah, Sides, K Kinser, Wilt and Hodnett. Steve Kinser was continuing his forward thrust running in at 12 th. Similarly Kerry Madsen who had entered the event with a Provisional WoO start had stormed into P16 after starting off the last row.
Like all the restarts before, Darrah got the jump and raced straight to the lead. Stevie Smith brought on an Open Red as he flipped wildly in Turn 1 and ending up against the guard rail. Smith was running 8th at the time and was fortunately unhurt and able towalk away.
Still 5 laps down and now using WoO rules, the restart is to be single file because of the crash on a double file restart after a red stoppage. Twenty Two cars remained in the event at that point for a starting field of 28. Underway again the cars were circulating in a very fast low 17 seconds. Again showing the ultimate in consistency Darrah got the jump again. He worked up a huge lead by lap 9 – nearly a full straight away to second placed Sides, and starting to close in on the tail ender Ryan Smith.
Feeling the strain, Danny Lasoski’s rig expired and went up in smoke at the end of the front straightaway – he manhandles his car into the pit entry as Darrah increases his lead on Sides. Darrah catches the back of the field and passes Ryan Smith. Then the unthinkable – Dollansky after his earlier spins goes upside down in Turn 4 and brings on the reds.
Dollansky retires to the work area in a desperate attempt to keep his championship points alive. Coming into this Williams Grove event he was only 25 points in arrears of Leader Steve Kinser. After repairs Dollansky is able to re-join the field for the single line restart – in fact the WoO Officals announced a blanket ruling from this point that all restarts would be single file because of the track conditions.
On the restart we would see 20 cars remaining and the Flying Steve Kinser in P8. Darrah just seems untouchable. Sides, K Kinser, and Hodnett wage a spectacular battle of running the bottom, running the middle and running the cushion for several laps. The luckless Dollansky then flips yet again with 11 to go, bringing on the 4th red for the night. Dollansky was able to exit his car under very difficult circumstances with some great sportsman-like assistance from race leader Cody Darrah. Darrah was quick to see that Dollansky was in trouble with a fuel fire, unbuckled himself and ran over to the stricken #7 to offer assistance to The Crowd Pleaser. It was a fabulous gesture and one applauded by concerned spectators. That put an abrupt end to Dollansky’s night and placed a massive dent in his Championship Quest.
The top 10 order for yet another restart was Darrah, Sides, Hodnett, K Kinser, Wilt, S Kinser, T Stewart, Kreitz, Schatz, Madsen.
So within the first 19 laps, we had seen numerous stoppages, spectacular crashes, hard luck stories and champions like S Kinser, Madsen and Schatz coming off the rear of the field and driving into the top 10.
On the Get Go, Darrah went straight to the bottom. Sides wasn’t one for giving in and pushed Darrah as hard as he had done all race. Darrah prevailed and Sides then became embroiled in a three way battle for second with Hodnett and K Kinser. This battle gave Darrah a small break with 5 laps remaining. Darrah was strong and unwavering and crossed the line a few car lengths ahead of Sides and just behind him was Hodnett. Drivers in order after that were K Kinser (he has never been within the top 5 at Williams Grove until now), Adam Wilt, Lucas Wolfe, Steve Kinser, Tony Stewart, Kerry Madsen and Cory Hass.
An action packed race that had everything in it – what a spectacle it was! Darrah picked up a cool and well deserved $10,000 for the win. Not as much as he would have liked as the rainout reduced the winners prize from $20,000. His Victory Speech was nothing short of emotion charged – Darrah went on to thank his Team, Kasey Kahne, his Mom & Dad, Grandparents , and Speedway Engines for Killer Power on restarts.
Australia’s Kerry Madsen took out the KSE Hard Charger award scorching form P27 to P9. The top 10 finishers included 6 World of Outlaw Drivers, 1 reigning Nascar Sprint Cup Champion and 3 PA Posse hotshoes.
Earlier in the evening Greg Hodnett had set Quick Time with a 16.745 sec while Steve Kinser was awarded the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company “Halfway” bonus for leading the World of Outlaws Championship at the half way point on 5377 points ahead of Dollansky, Swindell and Schatz
The C-Main transferees were Layton and Schatz.
Gerard MacIntyre outlasted Cody Darrah in a close battle to win the Dash and earn pole for the 30 lap A-Main. The remaining order for the Dash was: K. Kinser, Sides, Hodnett, Kreitz, Wilt, T. Stewart, Holtgraver and Swindell
B-Main transferees were Lasoski, Krimes, Haas, and Kemenah. In taking victory, Lasoski registered as the 30 th LCS (Last Chance Showdown) Winner for the season thus far.