By – Chris Porter
Photos – Bev&Ken Dippel Photos
Williamson, N.Y. – Under the spotlight of a full moon four out of five drivers took home their first checkered flag of the 2011 season Friday night at Spencer Speedway. It was Williamson’s own Mike Leaty, nixing the would-be new winner’s sweep, earning his second feature win of the season in the NASCAR Sunoco Modified division.
Entering victory lane Friday night for the first time this year at Spencer were – Brian Hallett (Super Six-cylinders), Kris Hillegeer (Super Stocks), Jake Vernon (Legend Cars) and Alison Knoepfler (Scorpion 4-cylinders). Leaty’s modified win also came on a double points night, making him the new leader in a tight title chase.
Listen to – Mike Leaty
Mike Leaty (left) and Jeff DeMinck (car owner) pose in victory lane at Spencer Speedway
Andy Lewis and Ryan Beeman led the field to the green to begin the 35-lap modified nightcap. Lewis led Beeman by a nose as the duo continued to race side-by-side after completing lap No. 1. However, Beeman maneuvered his No. 16 around the Lewis No. 65 to take sole possession of the top spot by the close of lap No. 2.
Things only went further south for the Lewis No. 65, as on the following lap, it spun-out in the second turn – with help from the front bumper of Chris Finocchario’s No. 41. Both cars went to the rear of the field.
The double-filed restart paired the now second-place running Leaty No. 1 aside Beeman at the top of the field. Kevin Timmerman’s No. 17 and the Eddie Hawkins No. 33 filled out row No. 2 behind the lead duo.
Leaty out-dragged Beeman down the backstretch to take command on the ensuing restart. Immediately, he began inching away from the field. Having disposed of Hawkins, Timmerman shot under Beeman’s No. 16 in turn No. 3, taking over the runner-up spot on the sixth lap. Half a round later, the caution was flown for Matt Lees’ No. 05.
Timmerman was placed on the outside of Leaty as the field doubled-up to take the green. Beeman and Hawkins held row No. 2, while Amy Catalano and Dave Catalano paired up in row No. 3.
As the field began to take the green, the bumpers of Bobby Lippa, Jr.’s No. 15 and Lewis’ No. 65 became entangled in turn No. 4, holding the field in caution-mode .
When racing resumed, Leaty scored an early jump on Timmerman to re-assume the lead. With 10 trips in, Leaty held a five-car advantage on the No. 17. Beeman, Hawkins, a surging Finocchario and Amy Catalano fought fiercely 10 lengths behind Timmerman.
By the 20th lap, Leaty’s comfortable lead had evaporated, as the No. 17 began pressing the race leader. Hawkins had cleared Beeman, but still trailed the leaders by a full straightaway.
Leaty’s troubles soon doubled as feisty lapped traffic attempted to come into play on the 22nd lap. However, Leaty navigated through it with out hesitation. Timmerman continued to hound the race leader, awaiting the slightest mistake.
Timmerman was able to put the nose of his No. 17 underneath Leaty’s No. 1 on the 31st lap, but Leaty slammed the door as they raced into the first turn. The pressure finally eased after the caution lights flashed after Amy Catalano’s No. 64 fell victim to uncooperative traffic while running fourth. The spin would seal the fate of the championship points lead she’d carried into the night.
The caution was like hitting a reset button for Leaty up front – clearing away the lapped traffic and cooling down his overheated tires. It proved valuable, as on the ensuing restart, he was able to race away the final four laps unchallenged.
Finishing in second place, Timmerman was pleased with his run.
Listen to – Kevin Timmerman
Quick all evening, Hawkins scored his first career podium finish, crossing the checkered stripe in third.
Listen to – Eddie Hawkins
Finocchario came back through the field to land himself a fourth-place finish.
Listen to – Chris Finocchario
Beeman broke into the top five for the first time this season, earning himself a fifth-place run.
Listen to – Ryan Beeman
Sophomore driver, 2010 Super Six Rookie of the Year driver, Brian Hallett, took home his second career checkered flag in the division – his first in 2011. Plagued by season-long mechanical woes, Hallett looked fast early in the evening, dominating his heat race. Starting on the pole, Hallett faced little challenge early on, but a mid-race restart would put points leader Tim Faro aside his No. 36. However, the young driver held his own, fending off Tim Faro’s No. 98 all the way to earn the checkered flag.
“I held on for dear life,” Hallett said in victory lane.
John Welch, Brandon Allen and Van Grant completed the top five Super Six feature finishers.
Listen to – Brian Hallett
Kris Hillegeer was finally able to take home his first feature win of the season in the Super Stock division. Leading from the pole position, Hillegeer twice, battled hard with Mitchell Wright to earn the No. 1 spot. Wright battled side-by-side Hillegeer at the initial drop of the green, as well as on an early race, double-filed restart. However, he failed to inch his No. 25 out far enough to take the position away. Wright would fade while Hillegeer would cruise to victory. Hillegeer’s No. 18 was followed across the line by Brian Gordon, Tommy Catalano, Tom Fecteau and Wright.
In his first trip to Spencer in 2011, Hamburg, N.Y.’s Jake Vernon walked away with the feature win in the Legend Cars 25-lap main. Starting on the inside of row No. 2, Vernon nabbed the lead on a daring 3-wide move on the backstretch on opening lap. Vernon held off Brad Salatino and Carl Vilardo for the win. Brandon DeBrakeleer and Brett Coon completed the top five. The dreaded “Hardest Hit of the Night” award went to 14-year old Bryce Norton. Norton walloped the outside front stretch wall hard with his No. 8 machine, doing significant damage to the right-front side of his car. Norton was OK, but his Legend Car needed to be cradled back into the pits.
Alison Knoepfler pocketed the 4-cyl Auto Value Scorpion main event
16-year old Alison Knoepfler captured her first checkered flag of the season in the Auto Value 4-cylinder Scorpion division. Zach Willis earned the point early, but on an early race restart, Knoepfler used the double-filed lineup to her advantage, taking the lead away from Willis on the outside. Once there, Knoepfler did the unladylike thing of walking away from her fellow competitors. Dominating the 15-lap feature, she led Mike Bradshaw, Kevin Bertolone, Willis and Otis Bradshaw to the checkers. It was the second feature win in the young driver’s career – her first in two years.
Listen to – Alison Knoepfler
Point leaders, Kevin Timmerman and Amy Catalano scored heat race wins in the Sunoco Modified division. Hoosier Tire Super Six heats were pocketed by Brian Hallett and Tim Faro. Kris Hillegeer and Mitchell Wright both dominated their respective Super Stock heats. Auto Value 4-cylinder Scorpion division prelims went to Kevin Bertolone and Mike Bradshaw. Legend Car qualifiers were earned by Brad Salatino and Jake Vernon.
NASCAR Sunoco Modified Feature (35-laps): 1. Mike Leaty (1), 2. Kevin Timmerman (17), 3. Eddie Hawkins (33), 4. Chris Finocchario (41), 5. Ryan Beeman (16), 6. Andy Lewis (65), 7. Amy Catalano (64), 8. Dave Catalano (54), 9. Jake Boerman (67), 10. Matt Lees (05), 11. Fred Taylor (4), 12. Toad Bradshaw (00), 13. Bobby Lippa, Jr. (15), 14. John Semmler (07), 15. Scott Combs (80), 16. Daryl Lewis, Jr. (10)
Hoosier Tires Super Six Feature (20-laps): 1. Bill Hallett (36), 2. Tim Faro (98), 3. Chris Andolino (88), 4. Brandon Allen (89), 5. Van Grant (4), 6. Adam VanHall (2), 7. Erick Ruffell (33), 8. Rick Wilson (72), 9. Troy Youngs (80), 10. Kailea Nelson, 11. Peter Cowell (7), 12. Ryan Hillegeer (18)
Super Stock Feature (20-Laps): 1. Kris Hillegeer (18), 2. Brian Gordon (17), 3. Tom Catalano (54), 4. Tom Fecteau (33), 5. Mitchell Wright (25), 6. Brandon Larner (10), 7. Billy Gleason (69), 8. Jeff Parent (39), 9. Steve Malin (94)
Auto Value Scorpion Feature (15-laps): 1. Alison Coupler (5), 2. Mike Bradshaw (02), 3. Kevin Bertolone (18), 4. Zach Willis (75), 5. Otis Bradshaw (00), 6. Dale Lazzaro (03), 7. Russell, Peets (91), 8. Joe Clark (7), 9. Dave Bradshaw (01), 10. Bro Bradshaw (0), 11. Austin Montgomery (54), 12. Amanda DeLyser (07), 13. Richie Gross (06), 14. Beth Dennie (25), 15. Andrea LaManna (05)