Story By: JUSTIN SNYDER / PORT ROYAL SPEEDWAY – PORT ROYAL, PA – No driver who has won on Opening Day presented by Packer’s Concessions, LLC. at Port Royal Speedway has gone on to win the championship since Todd Shaffer did so in 2008.
It’s safe to bet that statistic won’t change this season either. Lance Dewease, who has committed to a scaled back 2022 Central Pennsylvania campaign, picked up his seventh career Opening Day victory Sunday evening in front of a jam-packed crowd over Mike Wagner, Justin Peck, Danny Dietrich and Logan Wagner.
For Dewease, the win was worth $5000 and was his 120th career triumph at the Juniata County oval. He now sits only nine wins away from tying Keith Kauffman as the all-time winningest driver at the Speedway.
“It’s going to be a fun year and a tough year, but we won’t be going for any points championships with this team,” said Dewease. “It’s good to start the year with a win and I just want to thank these fans for being here. With gas prices rising it can’t always be easy, but whether they hate me or like me this sport thrives on the fans and It means a lot to do this in front of them here.”
The elder Wagner and Peck led the field of 26 sprint cars to the green-flag and it was Wagner getting the initial jump to lead lap one. 10th-place starter Danny Dietrich was on the move early as he was up to sixth at the completion of the opening circuit as well, while Dewease stayed settled into third
Sixth-place starter Michael Walter II moved into fourth on lap four and one lap later Dietrich cracked the top five. Wagner held a 1.6 second advantage at the moment, but with the veteran approaching lapped traffic quickly, Peck cut the gap to less than half a second on lap eight.
However, it was Dewease who capitalized on the lapped traffic the most. Using his patented low line, he got by Peck on lap nine in turn’s three and four and three laps later he used the same move on Wagner exiting turn two to take the top spot. Meanwhile Dietrich was continuing his march forward and was up to fourth.
“Mikes has been one of the best cars rolling around this place the last few years and I was just able to sneak by him there in lapped traffic,” said Dewease. “We were able to capitalize and the car was just good enough to get out front and that’s what we needed.”
The red flag would come out two laps later after Jared Esh got upside down after contact with TJ Stutts in turn one. Esh would walk away from the incident unharmed and the stoppage would be the only caution of the event.
Wagner was no match for Dewease on the restart and with 10 laps to go Dewease held nearly a 1.5 second advantage. However, with five laps remaining Wagner was closing fast on the bottom of the Speedway and was within striking distance of the leader.
Wagner tried a move in turn’s one and two with four laps to go, but Dewease gained momentum down the backstretch to pull away again. Wagner tried to regroup and was setting up for a final opportunity with two laps to go, but Dewease was able to clear the lapped car of Skylar Gee coming to the flagstand to pull away.
Dewease took the checkered flag by a margin of .554 seconds over Wagner, Peck, Dietrich and Logan Wagner. Anthony Macri, Jeff Halligan, Hunter Schuerenberg, Dylan Cisney and Justin Whittal completed the top ten.
Freddie Rahmer charged forward from 24th to finish 13th and earned the $500 Valley Supply Hard Charger Award, while 17th-place finisher Brent Marks earned the $1000 J&S Classics Warrior Award via of a random draw.
“We were not very good yesterday in practice and we could not figure out why we were struggling,” said Dewease, who participated in a test and tune session the night prior at the track. “Donnie found something wrong with the car last night and from the moment we unloaded today it was like a completely different car.”
“We got lucky with the draw and ended up starting third and I was able to run the bottom there at the right time and it really benefitted us. The dirty air in lapped traffic really slowed us up and I knew I needed to protect the bottom there late to hold off Mike. I guess it’s just nice to see us old guys up front.”
For Wagner, who was searching for his first career Opening Day triumph in his 37th year of competition, he felt he had the best car but lapped traffic was his downfall.
“I caught Lance again and I thought I could pass him, but I just couldn’t get by him there late,” said Wagner. “I went wherever Lance was not and it worked for us. I should have won this race and I’d rather be in victory lane, but this is a good way to start the year and I’m proud of my guys.”
Sprint Car Results: 1. Lance Dewease; 2. Mike Wagner; 3. Justin Peck; 4. Danny Dietrich; 5. Logan Wagner; 6. Anthony Macri; 7. Jeff Halligan; 8. Hunter Schuerenberg; 9. Dylan Cisney; 10. Justin Whittall; 11. Buddy Kofoid; 12. Michael Walter II; 13. Freddie Rahmer; 14. Zach Newlin; 15. Blane Heimbach; 16. Pat Cannon; 17. Brent Marks; 18. Devon Borden; 19. Lucas Wolfe; 20. Chase Dietz; 21. Gerard McIntyre Jr.; 22. Skylar Gee; 23. Tyler Ross; 24. T.J. Stutts; 25. Jared Esh; 26. George Hobaugh.
Colton Flinner broke a two-year stranglehold on Opening Day honors for Trevor Feathers as he scored the win in Krill Recycling, LLC Super Late Model competition over Kyle Hardy and Gary Stuhler.
The win was worth $3000 for Flinner and was his third career victory at the Speedway. Even more special for Flinner, the win was his first opportunity to get his young daughter with him in victory lane at the Speedway.
“This is my daughter and I’m pretty happy to get her to victory lane for the first time at Port Royal,” said Flinner. “This car was unbelievable. It’s a new car and we made a ton of changes before the feature and it was just unbelievable.”
Following a spin for Austin Berry on the initial start, Delaware’s Trevor Collins and Virginia’s Kyle Hardy led the field of 18 cars to the green flag and it was Hardy getting the initial jump to lead lap one.
Stuhler, who started eighth, was already up to third after one lap while fourth-place starter Kyle Lee was on the move in second.
Hardy hit lapped traffic coming to the flagstand with 16 laps remaining, but the field was slowed for a second time three laps later when Chad Meyers slowed on the frontstretch with flat right-rear tire.
While it looked like Lee might be the benefactor on the restart, it was Flinner and Stuhler who made things work as the two settled into second and third respectively. Flinner appeared poised to take the lead from Hardy as well, but the caution flew again for a spin in turn three to halt his momentum again.
This time it was Stuhler and Feathers who made the restart work to their advantage as Stuhler slid into second briefly, before Feathers used a move on the top side to go from fourth to second.
Stuhler got back by Feathers for the runner-up spot with 11 laps to go, but would lose the spot to Flinner as he was able to regroup to get back into second with 10 laps remaining.
Proving to be a man on a mission, Flinner slid under Hardy one lap later entering turn one and exited turn two with the lead for good. Lapped traffic came into play with four laps remaining, however Flinner would take the checkered flag with relative ease by a margin of 2.954 seconds after 25 laps.
Feathers and Lee rounded out the top-five, while Collins, Mike Lupfer, Jason Schmidt, Kyle Knapp and Berry completed the top ten. Lupfer earned the Georges Used Cars Hard Charger Award after starting 13th.
“We came out for bug day yesterday and didn’t get any notes as the cars just were not working right,” he said. “We got things working and this is so cool. This is the most badass racetrack in Central Pennsylvania and I’m so proud to start the season with a win.”
For Hardy, he led a lot of laps but came up one position short in search of his first career Port Royal win.
“I felt pretty good out there and didn’t expect him to pass me,” said Hardy. “I just need to stay positive and I think we just needed to stay green with the tires we chose. We just didn’t come to life after that yellow, but we’ll keep trying to get ourselves a win here soon.”
Super Late Model Results: 1. Colton Flinner; 2. Kyle Hardy; 3. Gary Stuhler; 4. Trever Feathers; 5. Kyle Lee; 6. Trevor Collins; 7. Mike Lupfer; 8. Jason Schmidt; 9. Kyle Knapp; 10. Austin Berry; 11. Jason Miller; 12. Levi Yetter; 13. Del Rougeux; 14. Larry Neiderer; 15. Kody Lyter; 16. Chris Casner; 17. Chad Myers; 18. Brandon Little