Story By: NICK FILLMAN / USAC EAST COAST SPRINT CARS – SELINSGROVE, PA – In a truly wild series of late race events, Alex Bright of Collegeville, PA survived the drama and won his sixth event of the 2021 USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series. Bright also notched his second victory at the speedway in a total of five non-winged sprint car starts at the fast half-mile.
At the conclusion of three action packed heat races, an extremely interesting redraw for the feature event would result in arguable the fastest four cars in the pit area starting in positions seven through ten. Ed Aikin and Eric Jennings would be the two drivers at the head of the pack coming to the green flag, with Aikin getting the best of Jennings on the initial start of the event. However, by the conclusion of lap number two as the field made their way through turns one and two, Damon Paul had assumed the race lead over Aikin before the caution flag would fly as Michael Walter went for a spin entering turn one.
The ensuing restart early on in the feature event saw Paul move out to a slight advantage over Aikin and the rest of the field, with series front runners quickly moving up from the mid-pack starting positions they had. By the end of the third lap, Alex Bright had worked his way from seventh to second and begin to reel in leader Paul. At the conclusion of the fifth lap, Bright motored by Paul for the feature event lead, with Briggs Danner working his way into the third position from ninth.
As the top three began to settle for the time being, series invader Shane Cottle began making his way toward the moving into the sixth place position as the field neared the ten lap mark. Bright had established himself as the race leader, with Danner moving into second by lap eight, setting his sights on the tail tank of Bright as the field began to move in closer and closer on the back half of the field.
Nearing the half way point of the feature event, Bright and Danner raced nose to tail through lapped traffic, with Paul holding strong in third, and Shane Cottle moving into the fourth place position passing Steven Drevicki. While field worked their way around the speedway on lap fifteen, Jonathan Swanson came to a stop on the front stretch entering turn one, setting up a ten lap dash to the finish. Bright was the race leader, but narrowly as Danner was nearly hooked to Bright as the two worked lapped traffic. Paul held on to third, with Cottle, and Drevicki rounding out the top five.
The restart was not a good one for Bright as Danner timed it perfectly and threw a dive-bomb slider into turn one. However, Danner was not as far ahead as needed to assume the race lead, with Bright barley having enough room to blast around the outside of Danner to retain the lead. Meanwhile, another two car battle raged on behind Bright and Danner with Damon Paul and Shane Cottle throwing sliders and crossover moves on each other multiple times over the next two to three laps for position three and four. As the front four battled side beside on the restart, so too did positions five and six, as Nash Ely moved by Steven Drevicki to take over spot number five and try to reel in the lead four.
Bright remained the leader as the laps wound down, however, Briggs Danner was absolutely blistering the cushion around the high side of the speedway bouncing off the wall in turn three on more than one occasion while quickly reeling Bright in for the lead.
The duo who have dominated the season so far ran nose to tail as laps continued count down, and time for Danner to make a move quickly evaporated. As the leaders came off of turn four, Danner got the run he was looking for and dove down under Bright to take the lead, with Bright pushing up almost into the wall on the cushion. As they worked their way into turn three, Danner again dove to the bottom to protect the slide job attempt from Bright, but the cushion that had been forgiving laps before was not so kind on the final circuit. Danner caught the cushion hard and went for a series of tumbles through the turn coming to rest in turn four. Luckily Danner was ok and able to walk away from the vicious crash.
With a green, white, checkered finish on the horizon, Bright moved out to the race lead with Paul holding onto second. The most action remained between Shane Cottle, and Nash Ely who utilized a series of slide jobs to battle side by side with Cottle for third, with the crafty veteran Shane Cottle coming out on top. As the field worked off of turn four for the final time, the Hummer Motorsports entry for Alex Bright began to slow. A series of loud pops and bangs erupted from the headers, and Damon Paul quickly caught Bright as they raced toward the line. Bright had just enough power in the car to hang on for the win with Paul coming home in a close second, Cottle third, Ely in fourth, and Drevicki rounding out the top five.
The win for Bright and the Hummer Motorsports team was much needed after Briggs Danner nabbed another win on Friday at Bloomsburg. The win for Bright has put him back into the series points lead by twenty-nine markers over Danner, after entering the night of action trailing Danner by one. Unfortunately for the Hummer Motorsports team, their wingless 360 engine has seen better days and suffered some mechanical failure. Bright and the Hummer Motorsports team will drop their spare engine in the car, and return to another track where he and Danner have each won in our next event at the Bridgeport Motorsports Park.
Continually impressing both drivers and fans on the series trail week after week, is Stony Point, NY rookie driver Damon Paul. Paul and the Lou Cicconi Racing team had a strong run at Bridgeport, followed by a win at Winchester, a third at Bloomsburg, and a runner up at Selinsgrove. Paul celebrated a birthday on Sunday at Selinsgrove, and nearly stole the win for what would have been an incredible birthday gift. However it was not to be, and the team finished a strong second and have now worked their way into the third place position in points behind Bright and Danner.
Third place belonged to series invader Shane Cottle of Kansas, IL. The veteran sprint car, midget, and silver crown ace was back behind the wheel of the Tim Hogue 39 machine following a successful Eastern Storm in June. Cottle lost out on the battle for the third and final redraw spot in his heat race to Damon Paul, and the two battled hard for position in the feature event as well. Caution laps helped Cottle and team well as they had fallen back some in the early stages of the feature. In the end, the Hogue Racing team was rewarded with a successful run, and some momentum heading into their next event with the series at Bridgeport with Billy Pauch Jr behind the wheel.
After suffering an engine failure at Winchester two weeks ago, and getting into an issue with a lapped car on Friday night, third generation driver Nash Ely found himself back in the top five of a USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series event with a strong fourth place run. Ely has found great deal of success on the bigger half mile tracks, with his season best runner up coming at the fast banks of the Georgetown Speedway just a few weeks ago. Ely is one of the multitude of impressive rookies that are racing with the series this season, and continues to knock on the door of his first career win.
Rounding out the top five with another solid run since returning to the series, was three time champion Steven Drevicki. Since returning to action last week at the Winchester Speedway, Drevicki has improved his position in the finishing order by one. A seventh place effort at Winchester, followed by a sixth at Bloomsburg on Friday, and now a fifth place run at Selinsgrove. While the three time champ is certainly not at the speed he wants to be, the comfort is starting to return after a long break due to crashes, and an out of town work schedule. While Drevicki is still not back in the family owned 19 car, the added comfort with 410 car owner Greg Stevens with surely help the pair as they venture out to the mid west in the coming weeks for more 410 National Sprint Car Series action.
The night unfortunately featured a violent and scary flip for rookie driver Briggs Danner. Luckily, the car and safety equipment did its job allowing Danner to walk away from the incident virtually unscathed. The Gallagher Racing team has already made their intentions known and will have another car prepped and ready to go for our next event at the Bridgeport Speedway on August 18th.
Up next for the Rapid Tire, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series, presented by Capitol Renegade, is our third of five stops to the Bridgeport Motorsports Park on August 18th, where our second scheduled “Best of Both Worlds” shows will take place as the series will be accompanied by the URC Winged 360’s. From there, the series makes our second visit to the Bedford Speedway on August 20th, before moving to the Port Royal Speedway on August 21st. The previously announced rescheduled date at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds on August 22nd, has been cancelled.
USAC East Coast at Selinsgrove Results:
Heat 1 (8 Laps, 3 Redraw, All Qualify): 1. 19 Steven Drevicki, 2. 20 Alex Bright, 3. 57 Damon Paul, 4. 39 Shane Cottle, 5. 3BC Nash Ely, 6. 11 Mike Thompson, 7. 83s Billy Ney, 8. 38s Tom Savage.
Heat 2 (8 Laps, 3 Redraw, All Qualify): 1. 5G Briggs Danner, 2. 7 Ed Aikin, 3. 17J Jonathan Swanson, 4. 88J Joey Amantea, 5. 33w Michael Walter, 6. 12w Troy Fraker, 7. 67 Jason Cherry, 8. 75 Justin Grant (DNS).
Heat 3 (8 Laps, 3 Redraw, All Qualify): 1. 17m Christian Bruno, 2. 32 Colin White, 3. 16CW Eric Jennings, 4. 21K Tommy Kunsman, 5. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 6. 74JR JR Berry, 7. 117 David Swanson.
Feature Event (25 Laps): 1. 20 Alex Bright, 2. 57 Damon Paul, 3. 39 Shane Cottle, 4. 3BC Nash Ely, 5. 19 Steven Drevicki, 6. 21K Tommy Kunsman, 7. 7 Ed Aikin, 8. 16CW Eric Jennings, 9. 32 Colin White, 10. 11 Mike Thompson, 11. 88J Joey Amantea, 12. 5G Briggs Danner, 13. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 14. 33W Mike Walter, 15. 117 David Swanson, 16. 67 Jason Cherry, 17. 38s Tom Savage, 18. 74JR JR Berry, 19. 17m Christian Bruno, 20. 17J Jonathan Swanson, 21. 12w Troy Fraker, 22. 83s Billy Ney. DNS: 75 Justin Grant.
Lap Leaders: (1) Ed Aikin, (2-5) Damon Paul, (6-25) Alex Bright.
Penske Shocks $100 Award: Alex Bright
Penske Shocks $50 Award: Damon Paul
Penske Shocks $25 Award: Shane Cottle
Ultra Shield 4th Place: Nash Ely
Ultra Shield 8th Place: Eric Jennings
Vahlco Wheels $50 Hard Charger: Nash Ely, +9 positions (13th to 4th).