Port Royal’s USAC East Coast Sprint Car “Open Wheel Madness” Belongs To Briggs Danner

Story By: NICK FILLMAN / USAC EAST COAST SPRINT CARS – PORT ROYAL, PA – One night after the season total for wins was drawn even at seven, Allentown, PA’s, Briggs Danner collected his eighth win of the 2021 Rapid Tire, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series, presented by Capitol Renegade season holding off point leader Alex Bright.

A strong contingent of twenty-three non-winged 360 sprint cars entered the pit area at the Port Royal Speedway for the series second event of the 2021 season at “The Speed Palace.” With the winged 410 sprint cars, and winged 305 sprint cars also on the card as a part of the third annual “Open Wheel Madness” program, exactly 100 sprint cars were in the pit area for Saturday’s program.

Following three strong heat races, Christian Bruno and Briggs Danner would redraw at the front of the field for the nights twenty-five lap feature event. Series points leader Alex Bright, and recent feature winner Damon Paul would share the honors for the worst redraw positions starting eighth and ninth respectively.

As the green flag flew, Danner immediately shot to the high side of the speedway and took the top spot away from Bruno and began to establish his lead in the feature event. The quickest car on the move however would be Alex Bright, as he followed in the tire tracks of Danner blasting the high side moving into the fourth place position by the completion of lap one, and moving into second by lap three.

While Danner held the lead, with Bright quickly moving by cars and finding himself into the second place position by lap five, plenty of positions were up for grabs at the back half of the top ten as Ed Aikin Eric Jennings, Tommy Kunsman, and seventeenth starting Nash Ely were quickly trading positions. Meanwhile, Danner had established a comfortable lead, but it was beginning to evaporate as Bright was maintaining pace with the leader Danner.

Around lap ten of the feature event, Bright had moved within ten car-lengths of Danner as the top two were quickly moving in on lapped traffic. Christian Bruno held a comfortable gap in third, with Kenny Miller fourth, and a dog fight for fifth between Aikin, Jennings, and Kunsman with Jennings holding onto fifth. On lap fourteen of the feature event, with the leaders in lapped traffic, Alex Bright was all over Danner for the lead and threw a series of massive slide job attempts on Danner for the race lead. Danner however, had the perfect answer for every attempt by Bright and drove underneath of the sliders to remain in the lead.

With under ten laps to go, Danner had remained out front with Bright settling into second, but not out of reach. Bruno and Miller remained in third and fourth, with Jennings also holding off the challenges of Kunsman for fifth. The top five would remain in that order, while outside of the top five, Nash Ely was continuing his way through the field and found himself solidly inside the top ten and looking fast enough to challenge for a top five position.

With each passing lap, Danner found himself deeper and deeper into lapped traffic with Bright hot on the heels of Danner for the race lead. Interestingly enough, Bright clearly had a faster car and line on the exit of turn two setting him up for a potential pass into turn three, while Danner had a much better car and line on the exit of turn four, allowing the two to remain in a stalemate for the race lead. At the completion of lap twenty three as the cars went into turn three and four, the run off of turn two for Bright allowed him to dip beneath and draw alongside Danner for the race lead. However, at that same time, Jermain Godshall slowed with issues on the front stretch halting the battle for the lead, and setting up a two lap dash to the finish.

Danner absolutely nailed the restart, while Bright had an extremely bad restart from either a stumble in the engine, spinning tires, or perhaps being surprised by the launch Danner got off of the turn. The slow restart of Bright allowed a good deal of passing to occur from the fourth spot on back, with Kenny Miller being on the worst end of the restart falling from fourth to sixth. Bruno held the third spot, with Tommy Kunsman blistering through the middle lane of the speedway into the fourth place position from sixth on the restart.

Try as he might, pounding the cushion against the high side of the speedway, Alex Bright was not able to regain the ground on Danner needed for a last lap pass as Danner went on to score win number eight of the season. Bright would have to settle for second with Bruno, Kunsman, and Eric Jennings rounding out the top five.

The win for Danner at Port Royal may have been the eight of the season for the Gallagher Racing team, but it was Danner’s first victory, in only his second start in a sprint car at Port Royal. In the immense point battle between Danner and Bright that has ensued the whole season, it is sometimes easy to forget that Danner is in his rookie season. Following the flip at Selinsgrove two weeks ago, Danner rebounded with a second on Friday and a win on Saturday, closing the gap from thirty-three points, back down to thirty for the series points lead.

Alex Bright and the Hummer Motorsports team have no doubt had great success all season long. But, not matter the speed all season, no race is as important as the next one. While the team may have come away with virtually the same results as Danner this weekend, just on different days, the ability for the Hummer Motorsports group to maintain their points lead in the season long championship is the biggest picture. Danner and Bright have not seen the last of each other in terms of battling for the lead in feature events, and the points race shows no signs of slowing down as the season move along.

Christian Bruno continued his consistent speed over his last four events while the results in all four may not show it. Bruno has collected three heat race wins in the last four events (Bloomsburg, Selinsgrove, and Port Royal), and matched his season best effort of third again on Saturday at Port Royal. Bruno was one of the only cars to be able to utilize the bottom and top of the speedway throughout the feature event, and held off a strong top ten of cars to end up on the podium. Bruno joins a list of at least six other drivers who are just close enough to potentially grab a feature event win at any moment throughout the rest of the season.

Rebounding from the lap one accident of the feature on Friday night at the Beford Speedway was Tommy Kunsman. Kunsman was involved in the heaviest competition of the evening for almost all of the feature event, getting the best of the bunched field on the one and only restart of the feature event. Kunsman remains inside the top five in points despite missing a couple of events. Look for Kunsman and team to continue to work toward grabbing a feature event win through the rest of the season.

Rounding out the top five was former series regular Eric Jennings. Jennings and owner Charles Weslowski have been a great paring so far during the 2021 season, and have been making more appearances with the series in recent weeks. With the exception of flipping and finishing 20th at Grandview in May, Jennings has finished inside the top ten of all the feature events the team has entered so far in 2021. Given the strong competition on any given night inside the top ten of the field, it is certainly impressive how comfortable the pairing has been. Hopefully Jennings and Weslowski continue their success throughout the rest of the season, and make a few more starts with the series in 2022.

Up next for the Rapid Tire, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series, presented by Capitol Renegade, is a return to the “First State” and the Delaware International Speedway on September 4th. The Saturday night program is also Team Appreciation Night for all series teams and crews. Following the stop at DIS, the series will make stop two of the season to the Winchester Speedway on September 11th, before returning to the Bridgeport Speedway on September 24th to wrap up the month.

USAC East Coast at Port Royal Results:

Heat 1 (8 Laps, 3 Redraw, All Qualify): 1. 21K Tommy Kunsman, 2. 57 Damon Paul, 3. 20 Alex Bright, 4. 64 Rich Carnathan, 5. 88J Joey Amantea, 6. 38s Tom Savage, 7. 83s Billy Ney, 8. 7B Aidan Borden.

Heat 2 (8 Laps, 3 Redraw, All Qualify): 1. 17m Christian Bruno, 2. 16CW Eric Jennings, 3. 23m Kenny Miller lll, 4. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 5. 32 Colin White, 6. 3BC Nash Ely, 7. 67 Jason Cherry, 8. 117 David Swanson (DNF).

Heat 3 (8 Laps, 3 Redraw, All Qualify): 1. 15 Mark Bitner, 2. 7 Ed Aikin, 3. 5G Briggs Danner, 4. 11 Mike Thompson, 5. 56 Jermain Godshall, 6. 12w Troy Fraker, 7. 17J Jonathan Swanson.

Feature results (25 Laps): 1. 5G Briggs Danner, 2. 20 Alex Bright, 3. 17m Christian Bruno, 4. 21k Tommy Kunsman, 5. 16CW Eric Jennings, 6. 23m Kenny Miller, 7. 3BC Nash Ely, 8. 83 Bruce Buckwlter, 9. 7 Ed Aikin, 10. 11 Mike Thompson, 11. 15 Mark Bitner, 12. 57 Damon Paul, 13. 32 Colin White, 14. 7B Aidan Borden, 15. 64 Rich Carnathen, 16. 38s Tom Savage, 17. 67 Jason Cherry, 18. 12w Troy Fraker, 19. 117 David Swasnon, 20. 56 Jermain Godshall, 21. 83s Billy Ney, 22. 17J Jonathan Swanson. DNS: Joey Amantea.

Penske Shocks $100 Award: Briggs Danner
Penske Shocks $50 Award: Alex Bright,
Penske Shocks $25 Award: Christian Bruno
Ultra Shield Award: Tommy Kunsman
Ultra Shield Award: Bruce Buckwalter
Vahlco Wheels Hard Charger: Nash Ely, 17th to 7th.

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