MECHANICSBURG - The 75th Anniversary season began on Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway and underdog Gerard McIntyre Jr. was the winner.
"I was praying for (a caution) with five to go," said McIntyre, who was closing in on lapped traffic. "I knew Stevie (Smith) was back there and I know those guys want to win bad. I figured he wasn't going to get by me on the outside and if he was going to do it; he was going to work for it."
Cory Haas started on the pole and grabbed the early lead of the 25-lap main event. McIntyre, Greg Hodnett and Smith - driving for Fred Rahmer - followed Haas.
"I was trying to pass Cory because I knew whoever got the lead was going to be tough to pass," McIntyre said.
The first caution flag of the event flew with two laps completed when Doug Esh rolled to a stop off turn two.
Haas got a good restart and began to pull away from the field. His lead was increasing as he closed on the slower cars at the back of the field.
Hodnett gave up the third spot on lap 11 when he slowed to a stop on the backstretch. Hodnett's car lost brakes.
One lap later, Haas' car slowed coming off turn four and he brought out the caution flag as he stopped on the front stretch.
McIntyre, of New Oxford, inherited the lead over Stevie Smith and Ryan Smith. Rick Lafferty was up to fourth from the eighth starting spot and Brian Montieth was up to fifth from 14th.
Montieth drove around the outside of Lafferty to take fourth and then a daring move off turn four got Montieth by Ryan Smith and into third.
McIntyre built a comfortable lead over second-place driver Stevie Smith and Montieth with 16 laps completed.
However, with five laps to go, McIntyre began to close on slower cars at the back of the field and Smith and Montieth closed in.
The top three were close with two laps to go and under the white flag. They were nearly nose-to-tail down the backstretch and into the third turn. Smith took one final shot at the leader coming off turn four, but fell about one car length short at the checkered flag in his first start in Rahmer's No. 51.
McIntyre's second career Grove win was worth $3,600. Stevie Smith settled for second and $2,000. Montieth's charge netted him third place. Ryan Smith finished fourth and Lafferty finished fifth.
"Nothing better could have happened tonight," McIntyre said. "It means so much to us and our sponsors. It's unreal. I'm glad I got the first one."
"We had a really good car," Stevie Smith said. "I was a little rusty, but I feel better and I'm looking forward to the next race. I have to be happy with second tonight."
California's Trey Starks ran sixth. Robbie Stillwaggon, Kyle Reinhardt, Chad Layton and Donnie Kreitz completed the top 10.
Lafferty, Stillwaggon and McIntyre won the 10-lap heat races for the 30-car field. Dave Ely won the consolation.
Adrian Shaffer led all 20 laps to win the 358 sprint car feature over Chandler Leiby, Kevin Nouse, Brad McClelland and Jay Galloway.