The moon at Crystal Motor Speedway just before the feature started. – Jennifer Peterson Photo
By T.J. Buffenbarger
Dustin Daggett in front of a full house at Crystal. – Jennifer Peterson Photo
With a full, blood red moon in the sky for the 2013 Engine Pro Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP season opening event at Crystal Motor Speedway featured several unusual circumstances that culminated into one of the best programs we have seen at Crystal in years. With all of Crystal’s previous events being rained out for 2013 the season opener with SOD featured a full grandstand and over 140 cars in the pit area.
A combination of a heat race tangle with Gregg Dalman and Shawn Dancer, Ryan Grubaugh failing to run his heat race and having to transfer through the B-Main (more on this below), and Dustin Daggett suffering a flat tire on the initial start put this trio of drivers in the back of the field for the complete restart of the 25-lap feature event. All three drivers rocketed through the field with Daggett leading the charge, but Dalman and Grubaugh were not far behind. Dalman caught the wondering lapped car of Tank Brakenberry during his run to the front, otherwise it might have been a three car race through the slower cars.
Ruhl and Daggett’s race through lapped traffic was the best race for the lead seen in some time in SOD action at Crystal. Two, three, and four wide racing with slower cars also racing side by side for position was stellar until Ruhl had to hesitate for a slower car that twitched slightly towards his line and allowed Daggett to motor away. Dalman rallied to third with Grubaugh finishing fourth. The racing through the slower cars was breathtaking with Daggett
The racing took place on one of the heaviest Crystal racing surfaces seen in some time. While some complained of the bottom not being run in entirely, it would be difficult to not suggest ordering up the same preparation if possible for July when National Racing Alliance comes up to challenge the SOD series.
With a majority of test and tune days at Michigan race tracks and Ohio opening night events being rained out leading up to the event at Crystal more mechanical issues were prevalent than in previous opening nights. Brett Mann and Ryan Grubaugh both battled mechanical issues that kept Grubaugh from his heat race and Mann from competing. Grubaugh rallied to transfer through the B-Main and finish () in the feature event. Mann indicated that the Tracy Rice team would be getting their primary engine back from Gaerte Engines in time for Saturday’s event at I-96 Speedway.
Later in the night Jared Horstman had to scratch after making the feature through his heat race after breaking a U-Joint yoke and did not have a spare for his Ford powered car. Chris Pobanz also suffered mechanical issues after making the redraw on Saturday and opted to start at the tail end of the 20-car feature.
The primary beneficiary of Horstman’s scratch was Gavin Hunyady, who made his first sprint car start in over a year and first on dirt in two seasons. Hunyady also suffered some mechanical issues with his engine firing on only six cylinders that he believes will be resolved by Saturday’s event at I-96 Speedway.
Greg Wheeler led the opening portion of the feature, but admittedly needed a couple of more cautions, “to be able to stay in front of those kids” Wheeler said after the feature. Fifth place for the 60 year old plus driver though was a great way to start his second SOD campaign after racing at Butler and on pavement for several years.
Look for Ryan Grubaugh in the Wohlfiel 3W for 10 shows in 2013. – T.J. Buffenbarger Photo
Several onlookers told me during the off season that Ryan Ruhl would step up and be more a contender in 2013. After Saturday night those projections seemed to hold true with a dominating heat race performance and tremendous battle with Daggett for the lead. Ruhl had already competed in Florida and Central Pennsylvania this season and looked sharp from hot laps on at Crystal. Look for him to pick up a couple of wins before the season is over.
Max Stambaugh drove up from Ohio to drive the Huffer Racing entry on Saturday at Crystal only to find the car would not fire properly and never turned a lap.
“Captain” Kirk Cheney returned to sprint car racing at Crystal after buying Matt Lumbert’s car from last season. Cheney, who also competes in ice and super-moto motorcycle racing events, dropped the engine in just before Saturday and had not even fired it until arriving at the race track. Cheney made the feature and looked like he had not missed a full season of action. Lumbert is preparing a new car and should be out later this season.
Dalman was on his second race of the weekend after venture to Attica Raceway Park on Friday as part of his team’s new 410 sprint car program. Look for Dalman to make select 410 starts throughout the season including the World of Outlaws program at I-96 Speedway in June.
Ryan Grubaugh caught many by surprise by wheeling out the #3w car now owned by Ricky Wohfiel. Shortly before Crystal Wohlfiel contacted Grubaugh about running the car formerly owned by his late father Jim, and a deal was made. Look for Grubaugh to run the #3w car for approximately 10 select SOD programs while running his #00 car the rest of the season.
Shane Ross was the lone Canadian Driver to compete Saturday at Crystal.
Chris Jones, the #10J version different than the Chris Jones that ran with SOD last year, plans on running for rookie of the year in 2013. Ironically this Chris Jones also raced one season at Butler before tackling the SOD tour.
2012 SOD rookie of the year Eric Smith had a rough outing with his new car he put together during the off season. Smith ended up flipping off of turn four being being tagged by Jim Lingar.
One of the more controversial rule changes in recent memory sends the lapped cars to the tail of the field during the A-Feature. This new mandate did not come into play as both cautions occured before any cars were lapped.
The World of Outlaws visit “the neighborhood” for the first time this season at Eldora Speedway Friday and Saturday. With Skyline Speedway’s opener postponed, the All Star Circuit of Champions idle, and Attica and Fremont giving their 410 sprint cars the night off Eldora should have a strong car count. Roger Slack visited with us on Monday night’s show talking about some of the minor changes to pit openings in the infield and other improvements for the 2013 season.
Fremont will have non-wing sprint cars under Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series and Michigan Traditional Sprints sanction on Saturday for $3,300 to win and $300 to start.
The King of Indiana Sprint Series also opens this weekend at Bloomington and Kokomo Speedways. Meanwhile the United States Auto Club AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series visits the high banks of US 36 and Eagle Raceways this weekend. It will be interesting to see which drivers and teams pull back from Eagle to race at Kokomo Sunday.
With all of the press releases we recieve from tracks and series new ideas tend to catch our eye. This week Macon Speedway got our attention with Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Night featuring topless modifieds and Jalapeno eating contest during intermission. I’m not sure what topless modifieds has to do with Cinco de Mayo, but its nice to see the folks at Track Enterprises thinking outside the box.
As much as fans benefit from the SOD and NRA co-sanctioned events it would be nice to see both series on the same tire rule in 2014. While both series tires are legal at co-sanctioned events the NRA tire is far superior, forcing many SOD teams to have to buy a different tire for every co-sanctioned event. This partnership would be enhanced if both series were on the same tires or if the host series tire rule was in effect to even out the burden.