THOROLD, ON – Travis Braun won his first Bobcat of Hamilton 358 Modified Feature of 2012 on Saturday, July 7, at Merrittville Speedway. The Modern Corporation Lucas Oil Weekly Racing Series event also found Rocco Conte, Josh Sliter, Kevin Knapp and Greg Panunte winning features in the Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinder, J&S Heating and Air Conditioning Modified Lite, Hoosier Stock and Original Pizza Logs Sportsman Divisions.
“We’ve been real fortunate with this car … our back-up car,” said Travis Braun in 358 Modified victory lane. “I have to thank Randy (father of fellow competitor Mat Williamson) for the new shocks … the last two weeks they seem to be working!” Braun who started on the front row was first to lead the 35 lap Bobcat of Hamilton 358 Modified Feature and by lap 8 led the field into lap traffic with almost a straightaway lead. With the leader so far out front, the race to watch was the one for the runner-up spot.
Tommy Flannigan had settled comfortably into second and surely was hoping for a caution to narrow the gap but past halfway and beyond it was still under green. Closing in were Mat Williamson and Pete Bicknell with the two only able to get to within a couple car lengths of Flannigan.
With the entire race run under green, Braun was able to pull away to a lead of almost half a lap with Flannigan, Williamson and Bicknell following. Mike Bowman made a late race charge to round out the top 5.
“Our car was good finally for a change here,” said Original Pizza Logs Sportsman Feature Winner Greg Panunte. “We have really been struggling since our win. We really haven’t done anything since but I think we may have found something!”
Travis Miller was the initial leader but with it called off, the second attempt was too close to call between the second generation driver and Joey Mastroianni until Mastroianni took control. Caution would slow the field again on lap 2 with Rob Knapp the new leader on the restart. With Knapp driving away to a huge lead, eventually Austin Wood would wind up in the runner up spot with caution slowing the field once again on lap 6. After a lap 9 caution, the leader Knapp slowed himself pulling into the infield with Greg Panunte taking over top spot. Panunte opened up a lead of 5 car lengths by lap 15 over Brent Begolo who had taken over second. One last caution slowed the field on lap 24 eliminating about a ¼ lap lead for Panunte. The former champion would win the one lap dash to the checkered flag before a red flag sent the field through the infield after the cool down lap.
Just after the checkers, Brandon Easey made contact with Wood sending Easey careening into BJ Willard with Willard flipping after making contact with the Turn 1 Guardrail – surely taking away from a fine 6th place finish. Willard climbed out of his car under his own power. Panunte and Begolo were followed by Cody McPherson, Adam Leslie and Wood.
“It’s too bad … it’s not how I like to win races,” said Hoosier Stock Feature Winner Kevin Knapp after being moved into the lead at the conclusion of the 20 lap event. “It seemed like Brad [Sheehan] had me beat fair and square … sorry Brad!”
Race Director Bob St. Amand led a pre-race Driver’s Meeting for all of the five Lucas Oil Weekly Racing Series Divisions and one of the points mentioned was about drivers being penalized for pulling out of line before the cone on starts.
Sheehan’s mistake tarnished an exciting battle between the two past halfway when Sheehan first took the lead. Knapp regained top spot on lap 15 after the pair ran several laps side by side. Sheehan regained the lead for good in Turn 2 of lap 18 and held a couple car length lead at the finish.
With the entire event caution free, that was the only time that the 2 spots back penalty could unfortunately be enforced. After making it back to Victory Lane, Knapp made good on his early season promise. Merrittville’s mascot Crash was given Free Harvey’s Hamburg coupons to hand out for the two St. Catharines locations – Glendale Avenue or Geneva Street. It’s a beautiful thing when Knapp wins.
Knapp was followed by Cory Turner who had led the first half of the event with Sheehan, Jim Lampman and Aaron Wiley rounding out the top 5. “Today was a busy day for the team,” said a relieved Josh Sliter in J&S Heating and Air Conditioning Modified Lite Victory Lane. “We all thrashed on Rob’s car today putting a new front clip on it after Ohsweken. My uncle Tim drove my other car last night and he beat me … so I guess I have to win when he’s not here.”
After a false start on the original start, Derek Bredin was first to lead before Blair Young took control with caution right away on lap 1. Young was back out front once again on the restart before Jeffrey May took over top spot. May opened up a big lead that went away on lap 4 after caution slowed the field once again. May would lose the lead to Kory Howe who passed it on to Shawn Sliter all before caution once again on lap 7. On the restart Shawn was joined by his nephew Josh Sliter with the two side by side until the younger Sliter took control. Eventually Shawn would face a challenge from Derek Wagner who would take over second but well behind the leader.
That all changed on lap 12 when caution slowed the field with Sliter out front before an incident back in the pack delayed the return to action. Sliter would face a challenge from Wagner on the restart with the two side by side before Wagner took control by lap 15. Sliter regained the lead on lap 16 and drove off to a comfortable lead at the finish. Josh Sliter and Wagner were followed by Shawn Sliter, Kory Howe and Randy Hollingshead.
“The last few weeks I’ve had to add a 100 pounds to my car for the wins,” said Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinder Feature Winner Rocco Conte. “I really struggled to get the car going in the heat but for the feature the track was perfect.”
The start of the 15 lap Feature was a literal drag race between Chris Shepherd and Mike Sadusek – a race Sadusek would win the first time into Turn 2. Sadusek was off to a good lead right away but by the one third mark, Brandon Iudicianni began to close in. Just as quickly as he closed however, Sadusek was out front by a comfortable margin once again. Soon Rocco Conte began to challenge Iudicianni for runner-up spot and with three laps to go became the new leader through to the finish.
Sadusek’s best run of the season in the St. Catharines Freightliner sponsored #16 would come ironically in Modern Corporation’s Annual Truck Show and Shine Night with Iudicianni settling for third. Tony Kelly and Kyle Pelrine closed out the top 5.
INSIDE TRACK MOTORSPORT NEWS PIT NOTES
Chris Crawford began the night as the latest B&C Truck Centre Mack Canada Driver of the Week after July 30th Boltworks Night Hoosier Stock Win. With all the Trucks taking part in Modern Corporation’s 9th Annual Truck Show and Shine, some of them just weeks old, fans picked a 1960 International Flatbed as the winner of the contest. Merrittville Speedway would once again like to thank all those that participated.
UPCOMING AT MERRITTVILLE SPEEDWAY
Merrittville Speedway’s Reunion Committee is preparing to host Nostalgia Night 2012 Saturday, July 14, with Lucas Oil presenting the 61st Anniversary Celebration highlighted by the Jerry Winger Lucas Oil Slick Mist 60 for the Bobcat of Hamilton 358 Modifieds plus Vintage Race Cars and the L. St. Amand Enterprises Wall of Fame Inductions.
For further information on either event – call the Speedway Office at 905-892-8266 or visit www.merrittvillespeedway.com. For directions to Merrittville Speedway click on www.merrittvillespeedway.com/track_map Race fans and Race teams alike can follow Merrittville on Face Book (Facebook.com/Merrittville Speedway) and Twitter (Twitter.com/Merrittville).
From Jim Irvine/Assistant General Manager