Story By: NICK FILLMAN / EAST COAST SPRINT CAR SERIES – SWEDESBORO, NJ – Briggs Danner of Allentown, Pennsylvania picked up right where he left off after the last series event at the Bridgeport Speedway, as he held off a hard charging Alex Bright to collect the first feature event win of the 2021, Rapid Tire, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series, Presented by Capitol Renegade.
Danner would start the night off on the right foot by winning his heat race event, setting himself up for a spot in the top nine redraw at the front of the field for the feature event. Danner, by luck of the draw, would pull the number one and lead the field to green for the first feature event of the 2021 series season. Danner, would take the lead from the drop of the green flag over Troy Betts as the field would work into turns one and two.
The initial green flag of the feature event would see a massive increase in position of 2020 Rookie of the Year, Alex Bright, as he would pilot his Hummer Motorsports entry from the ninth place starting position, into fourth, by the completion of lap one. Many drivers were working high, and low, all over the exceptional surface at the Bridgeport Speedway.
By lap five, Danner would hold a strong lead over Troy Betts, Alex Bright, Christopher Allen, and Joey Amantea. The lead for the Bill Gallagher owned 5G entry was sizable as the field would begin to catch the back of the field and begin the lapping process. Danner, Betts, and Bright had opened up a significant lead over the rest of the top ten in the early laps of the feature event. On lap seven, after a major slide job into turns three and four, Alex Bright maneuvered his way into the second place position on the field, and began his charge at the leader Briggs Danner.
The top five of the feature field would remain more or less the same as the feature hit the halfway mark with Danner leading: Bright, Joey Amantea, Steven Drevicki and Troy Betts. On lap fifteen of the feature event, Tommy Kunsman and Kenny Miller lll would make contact coming off of turn four, and send Miller for a spin off of turn number four.
A caution flag would be one of the last things Danner would want to see, as he would be unaware of the momentum that Bright had been gaining as the race wore on. As the field went green, Bright would go for the dive bomb move into turns one and two, with Danner crossing Bright over off of turn two to retain the race lead.
An early race run inside the top ten would come to an end for Troy Betts as he would make heavy contact with the outside wall along the backstretch and in turn three. As the field checked up, Nash Ely and Christopher Allen would tangle sending both cars for a spin with damage to both. All three would end their feature events on the lap seventeen mark.
The ensuing restart would feature the most intense battle of the night as Briggs Danner and Alex Bright would engage in a battle of slid jobs lap after lap for the top spot in the feature event. Danner would utilize the high, and low side of the speedway to hold off, and cross over the many sliders that Bright, the veteran open-wheel driver would throw at the sprint car rookie. Danner would finally fend off Bright for the feature lead with only three laps to go, and go on to collect his second career USAC East Coast feature event win, and second at the Bridgeport Motorsports Park. Alex Bright would come home second, with Joey Amantea, Steven Drevicki, and Tommy Kunsman rounding out the top five.
Briggs Danner will be a busy driver in the northeast this season spending time behind the wheel of many different race cars. Danner will of course wheel the Bill Gallagher 5G in all USAC East Coast Events, USAC Eastern Storm, and Select URC sprint car events. Along with his sprint car schedule, Danner will pilot the family owned 358 modified, and USAC Speedstr, along with starts in 600cc micro sprints. The season debut for the Gallagher team was a good one with Danner winning his heat race, the feature event, and leading every lap of the feature event. A strong statement to kick off the 2021 season.
2020 USAC East Coast Rookie of the Year Alex Bright and his Hummer Motorsports team picked off right where the left off in 2020. Bright would finish second in his heat race event and run a strong second, after starting ninth in the feature following the redraw. Bright threw everything he had at Danner for the feature event lead, but came up just one spot short. Fortunately for Bright, the series has four more events at Bridgeport, and thirty other features to run and grace victory lane again.
For the second time in as many races at Bridgeport, Joey Amantea would snag a top five finish and run an extremely impressive race. The part time driver in 2020, will hit the series trail full time in 2021 and run for Rookie of the Year honors. Amantea finished a career best fifth place in last seasons event, and would improve that mark to third place in the 2021 opener. The now family owned team showed that they have plenty of speed, and will content for many top fives during the season.
Fourth place ended up going to reining series champion Steven Drevicki of Reading, PA. Drevicki collected the heat one victory, and would redraw eighth for the feature event. While Drevicki may not have blasted his way to the front of the field as quickly as some other drivers, it was another methodical, and smooth drive into the top five. While Drevicki has commitments to do some USAC National 410 series events in 2021, and will not be a full time regular with the series, Drevicki will continue to contend for wins and top fives whenever he enters the pit area.
Rounding out the top five was series rookie Tommy Kunsman. The multi-time 270 and 600cc micro sprint champion, and winner was extremely impressive in his sprint car debut. Kunsman would start in the tenth place position, and methodically hang around just outside of the top five for most of the feature event. With unfortunate breaks for Kyle Lick, Troy Betts, and some others, Kunsman was able to capitalize and make his presence known at the front of the field. Kunsman put on an impressive performance in his first ever start outside of a full-size racer aside from midgets. No doubt more impressive runs will lie ahead for the Bethlehem, PA Rookie on the series trail in 2021.
Honorable mentions go out to Kenny Miller lll and Kyle Lick. Miller would run inside the top ten early on in the feature event, before going for a spin on lap fifteen. In the ten laps that would follow, Miller would go from the tail end of the field too inside the top ten ending the feature event in the sixth place position. Kyle Lick would start the feature event off in the twelfth place position and made up lots of ground ripping the high side of the speedway. Lick unfortunately made contact with the outside wall with only a few to go, ending his bid at a top five feature finish.
The next event for the Rapid Tire, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series, will be next Saturday, April 10th, at the “Speed Palace” of Port Royal Speedway.
USAC East Coast at Bridgeport Results:
Heat 1 (10 Laps, 3 redraw, all qualify): 1. 19 Steven Drevicki, 2. 20 Alex Bright, 3. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 4. 21k Tommy Kunsman, 5. 3BC Nash Ely, 6. 11 Mike Thompson, 7. 117 David Swanson.
Heat 2: (10 Laps, 3 redraw, all qualify): 1. 22B Troy Betts, 2. 23M Kenny Miller lll 3. 17J Jonathan Swanson, 4. 10M Mike Meyers, 5. 12 Blaine Emery, 6. 7B Aidan Borden, 7. 83S Billy Ney.
Heat 3: (10 Laps, 3 redraw, all qualify): 1. 5G Briggs Danner, 2. 71 Christopher Allen Jr, 3. 88J Joey Amantea, 4. 8 Kyle Lick, 5. 57 Damon Paul, 6. 7 Ed Aikin, 7. 67 Jason Cherry.
Feature Results (25 Laps): 1. 5g Briggs Danner, 2. 20 Alex Bright, 3. 88J Joey Amantea, 4. 19 Steven Drevicki, 5. 21K Tommy Kunsman, 6. 23M Kenny Miller lll, 7. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 8. 11 Mike Thompson, 9. 7 Ed Aikin, 10. 12 Blaine emery, 11. 57 Damon Paul, 12. 17J Jonathan Swanson, 13. 10M Mike Meyers, 14. 7B Aidan Borden, 15. 117 David Swanson, 16. 67 Jason Cherry, 17. 8 Kyle Lick (DNF), 18. 22B Troy Betts (DNF), 19. 71 Chris Allen Jr (DNF), 20. 3BC Nash Ely (DNF), 21. 83S Billy Ney (DNS).