Story By: NICK FILLMAN / USAC EAST COAST SPRINT CARS – SWEDESBORO, NJ – Briggs Danner of Allentown, Pennsylvania kicked off the 2022 Rapid Tire, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series presented by Capitol Renegade, the same way he did during the 2021 campaign by striking first and picking up the season opening win at the Bridgeport Motorsports Park.
Tommy Kunsman Jr and Bruce Buckwalter Jr would lead the field to green for the first feature event of the 2022 season, with 2021 series champion Alex Bright taking advantage of his third place starting spot and quickly grabbing the lead away. While Bright took the early lead of the feature event, drivers quickly utilized all lanes of the dauntingly wide Bridgeport Motorsports Park battling for position.
One of the quickest cars on the move was that of tenth place starting Joey Amantea who in no short time worked his way into the top five on the high side of the speedway where he is most comfortable. His partner in row five, Briggs Dinner was utilizing the bottom lane of the speedway and beginning to make his way through the field as well, but not quite at the same pace as Amantea early on.
The first caution flag of the feature event would fly on lap five as rookie driver Preston Lattomus slowed with an issue off of turn number two. The restart would bunch the field together putting early race lead challenger Steven Drevicki on the back bumper of the Hummer Motorsports no. 20 of Alex Bright. Tommy Kunsman, Kenny Miller lll, and Joey Amantea would round out the top five.
On the restart, Briggs Danner made a pair of dazzling moves on the low side of the speedway and moved his way first into the fourth place position, before sneaking by Steven Drevicki on the bottom side of the speedway to take second around lap eight of the feature event.
Danner began to draw his sights in on race leader Alex Bright who was working the extreme high side of the speedway, with Danner working the high lane in turns one and two, and the bottom of turns three and four. As the field began to catch lapped traffic, Danner continued to draw ever closer and found himself within a car length of race leader Alex Bright at the halfway point of the feature event.
On lap seventeen, Briggs Danner utilized a diamond maneuver off of turn two to get underneath the race leader of Alex Bright and take the race lead at the line. As Danner passed for the lead, Drevicki drew in closer to Bright for second as the track began a transition period from being top dominant to the moisture stip around the low side of the speedway.
In a shocking turn of events, Alex Bright spun battling for second off of the fourth turn and stopped to bring out the caution on lap nineteen of the feature event. Bright would retire the car to the infield, with what would be discovered later to be a severe over-heating issue.
Danner lead the field to green for the lap nineteen restart with Drevicki, Miller lll, Amantea, and Ed Aikin rounding out the top five. Danner had a great start and pulled away from Drevicki on the restart, while Ed Aikin put a move on Joey Amantea for fourth and attempted to reel in Kenny Miller lll for third after he and Amantea raged a spirited battle for the fourth spot just a few laps before.
The top five remained relatively the same for the next handful of laps with Drevicki closing in on Danner some for the race lead. The third and final caution of the feature event was displayed on lap 23 for a spinning Brian Spencer, setting up a two lap dash to the finish.
Danner again nailed the restart with Drevicki pushing Danner as much as he could for the race lead, drawing even with the race leader multiple times in turns one and two.
Danner remained strong and held off the efforts of Drevicki to collect feature event win number one on the season with Steve Drevicki coming home in a strong second place. Kenny Miller lll, Ed Aikin, and Mike Thompson who got by Joey Amantea at the line rounded out the top five.
The feature win for Danner may not be the first for the team at the Bridgeport Motorsports Park, but it was the official win for the all “new” Heffner Racing 5G entry. Heffner took over ownership of the team late last season following the passing of legendary car owner Bill Gallagher. The team didn’t skip a beat as they and Danner came out of the box fast in Florida, and backed it up with a season opening victory at Bridgeport.
Steven Drevicki and his 2022 Redemption tour got off to an amazing start on Saturday at Bridgeport as he collected a heat race victory, challenged for the feature event win, and ended the night with a strong second place effort. After a dismal 2021 season, Drevicki and team are hoping to get back to their winning ways in 2022 and possibly make a run for the an unprecedented fourth series title.
Kenny Miller lll unfortunately will not be a full time driver on tour again in 2022, but the Morgantown, PA driver started off his 2022 season where 2021 left off with solid runs inside the top five. Miller will be with the series for at least the first six events of the season, before things will become a bit more scarce as the summer months roll on.
Ed Aikin is becoming more and more known for his patience during a USAC East Coast Series feature event. Aikin, continued his strong runs at Bridgeport yet again, methodically working the bottom side of the speedway to yet another top five effort. No doubt a sign of things to come for the veteran sprint car driver.
Rounding out the top five was the feel good story of the night for Mike Thompson. Mike was injured in a nasty winged 360 sprint car crash at the Georgetown Speedway last September, and missed the remainder of the 2021 season. Mike got back behind the wheel of a sprint car for the first time since the accident on Saturday night and had what was no doubt his most impressive ever run with the series. A welcome sight for the eighteen year old third generation sprint car driver.
Thankfully all caution were for driver spinning or having minor parts issues during the 2022 season opener, with drivers like Tommy Kunsman and Bruce Buckwalter Jr experiencing what preliminarily are minor engine issues. Hopefully both teams have nothing major wrong and will be back in action in two weeks.
Up next for the Rapid Tire, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series, presented by Capitol Renegade is our first double header of the season. A special Thursday show kicks the weekend off on April 14th at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds Speedway, before the series makes their first stop of the season at the Williams Grove Speedway on April 15th.
USAC EC at Bridgeport Speedway Results:
Heat 1(8 Laps, all transfer, 3 redraw): 1. 19 Steven Drevicki, 2. 71 Chris Allen Jr, 3. 7 Ed Aikin, 4. 88J Joey Amantea, 5. 62 Brian Spencer, 6. 96 Lee Kauffman, 7. 27c Craig Pellegrini Jr (DNS).
Heat 2 (8 Laps, all transfer, 3 redraw): 1. 20 Alex Bright, 2. 5G Briggs Danner, 3. 23m Kenny Miller lll, 4. 11 Mike Thompson, 5. 7B Aidan Borden, 6. 67 Jason Cherry, 7. 7T Dylan Hoch.
Heat 3 (8 Laps, all transfer, 3 redraw): 1. 21k Tommy Kunsman, 2. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 3. 17J Jonathan Swanson, 4. 23B Preston Lattomus, 5. 56 Jermain Godshall, 6. 85 Lee Nardelli, 7. 117 David Swanson (DNS).
Feature Event (25 Laps): 1. 5G Briggs Danner, 2. 19 Steven Drevicki, 3. 23M Kenny Miller lll, 4. 7 Ed Aikin, 5. 11 Mike Thompson, 6. 88J Joey Amantea, 7. 71 Chris Allen Jr, 8. 17J Jonathan Swanson, 9. 7B Aidan Borden, 10. 62 Brian Spencer, 11. 56 Jermain Godshall, 12. 67 Jason Cherry, 13. 85 Lee Nardelli, 14. 96 Lee Kauffman, 15. 7T Dylan Hoch, 16. 20 Alex Bright, 17. 21k Tommy Kunsman, 18. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 19. 23B Preston Lattomus, 20. 27c Craig Pellegrini Jr.
Lap Leaders: Alex Bright 1-16, Briggs Danner 17-25.
Hard Charger: Briggs Danner (9th to 1st)