PORT ROYAL - It was possibly the best sprint car race of the season Saturday night at Port Royal Speedway. Greg Hodnett, of Thomasville, won his fourth race of the year at the Juniata County oval despite feeling he was too conservative during the final laps.
"We were pretty decent," Hodnett said. "I got a little conservative in traffic and got under a guy in turn four and he just stopped. I lost my momentum and then Chad (Layton) got a huge run and got by and I screwed up. Fortunately for us, he (Layton) was presented with the same problem there the last lap and we got a good run on the top and capped it off."
If Hodnett played it too conservatively, it didn't look that way to the excited fans who watched the race run non stop following a first-lap flip by T.J. Winegardener in turns one and two. Winegardener was not injured in the mishap but his car was heavily damaged.
Sentinel photo by TIM?SHUMAKER
Greg Hodnett (22) races to the inside of Chad Layton (7) as they head off turn 2 during the sprint car feature race Saturday night at Port Royal Speedway. Hodnett beat Layton to the checkered flag on a last-lap sprint for the victory. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
Craig Robinson started on the pole and led the first four circuits before giving way to Layton on lap 5. Hodnett started 10th and was already in third place on lap 4. Layton gave up the lead to Hodnett on lap 7.
With the event running non stop, heavy lapped traffic became an issue. Only 11 of the 26-car field completed all 25 laps. As Hodnett became trapped in traffic during lap 23, Layton dove under him in turn one to regain the lead. When asked if the lapped traffic was brutal, Hodnett was quick to agree.
"That's the least you could say," he said. "That is exactly correct."
Layton appeared to open enough of an advantage to win the race until the same situation presented itself again. As the pair entered turn three, en route to the checkered flag, Hodnett was able to catch and pass Layton. Hodnett exited turn four on the high side of the speedway and won the sprint to the checkered flag.
Layton settled for second with Dave Ely third. Robinson finished fourth with Mike Erdley fifth. Todd Shaffer started ninth and came home sixth to clinch the 2009 track championship - his fifth title at the track.
Mike Wagner, Lance Dewease, Daryn Pittman and Joey Hershey rounded out the top 10.
Heat races were won by Wagner, Michael Heckman and Winegardner.
Gary Beward, of Mifflintown, won the 20-lap late model feature for the second straight week.
"I let my mechanics make most of the calls," Beward said of his second trip to victory lane in as many weeks. We keep an eye on the track and (car owner) Ed Powell gives me real good equipment and I should be getting the job done."
Matt Murphy grabbed the early lead from the outside pole before giving way to Tim Fedder on lap 6. Fedder stayed out front until Beward took control on lap 11. Beward had some anxious moments en route to the checkered flag.
"Me and Tim went at it and he was really quick. I didn't know if I was going to get around him and I got around him and then during the caution the throttle stuck wide open and I thought 'This can't be happening.' I thought 'I'm not giving (the lead) up now.' I should have maybe pulled it in but I thought 'I'm outside.' If I'd have been in traffic I would have had to pull in. I thought 'I'm gonna run it to the end.'"
Waylon Wagner came from 10th starting spot to finish second. Fedder finished third with Andy Haus fourth with his dad Scotty fifth. Sixth through 10th were Jason Miller, Jere Wierman, Bryan Sipe, Mike Hess and Scott Flickinger. Eric Zembower earned the hard charger of the race award after starting in 20th position and finishing 11th. Heat races for the 25-car field were won by Wierman, Flickinger and Beward.
Mitch Hack flipped during the second heat race severly damaging his car, but was not injured in the mishap.
The Pa. 305 sprint car series visited the track with 31 cars present. Mike Wagner II visited victory lane for the second time this season after gaining the lead during lap 17. Wagner caught leader Randy Kaylor in lapped traffic.
"It really feels good to win two in a row here," Wagner said.
Reed Thompson finished third with Joey Hershey fourth. Nate Gramley was fifth. Joe Zapp, Erin Statler, Tyler Bear, Brent Comp and Roger Irvine filled out the top 10. Heat races were won by Zapp, Alan Kumps, and Bear. Mark Watkins won the consie.
Teresa Kepner won the Powder Puff feature and in the process clinched the track championship.
"I almost had a track championship before and I lost it," Kepner said. "I didn't know if I could pull it off or not. I was psyching myself out. Then I decided to just have fun. I just went for it."
Heidi Kauffman led the first three laps and finished second. Julie Colyer came home third with Holly Renninger fourth. Amanda Bassler was fifth. Carmen Palm and Tammy Speece completed the field.
Action resumes Aug. 29 when the sixth annual Butch Renninger Memorial race will be run. The late models will race for a minimum $2,000-to-win top prize. Also on the program are the sprint cars, pro stocks and enduro cars. The Auto racing Club of Hagerstown, Md. visit the track for their annual fan club night. ARCH members save $2 when purchasing a general admission ticket by presenting a valid ARCH membership card. The night is the final points race for all classes this season.