By Jessica Mardis
After many late nights in the garage, one could not have asked for a better day for the season opener at Hilltop Speedway in Millersburg, which will be running on Friday night’s throughout the 2018 season. With fans filling the stands and 97 cars in the pits, racing action including the $500 to win Short Track Fire and Rescue mini stocks began for the first time of the season.
First to see action were the Holmes Tire late models with a field of 16. Fast qualifier for the division was Shane McLoughlin with a time of 14.220. A single heat race win went to “The General” George Lee with the dash win going to John Wyer.
With the field set, the first 25-lap feature of the season was underway. Taking the early lead from the outside was Craig Wolford. However, a caution with a mere one lap in would bunch the field back up for a single-file restart. Back under green, Wolford would again take the top spot, although “The Flying Ace” Corey Conley would make his presence known, challenging the bumper of Wolford for the lead.
As the top-two contenders battled it out for the top spot, caution would fly with seven laps down. Single-filed racing action was back under way, and front runner Conley would take to the low line, working his way under Wolford and ultimately taking the lead coming off of turn two.
As the laps dwindled, the top five would single themselves out, and Conley would advance his straightaway lead over the field. Thus, as the checkered dropped, “The Flying Ace” would start his 2018 season at the Hill right where he left off: in victory lane. Rounding out the top five was Craig Wolford, JR Gentry, DJ Cline and Shane McLoughlin.
Next up was the modified division with a field of 15. Qualifying with a 15.423 and claiming fast time was “The Toboso Bullet” Jimmy Smith. Picking up the heat race win was “The General” George Lee with fast qualifier Smith picking up the dash win.
Rounding four to the green, Smith and Jess Hartman front row, it was Smith who would take the early lead over the field. Meanwhile, looking to the inside of Hartman challenging for second was Nathon Loney. However, caution would come out, forcing a restart. Once again under green, Smith would maintain the lead as Chris Basich would work his way around Loney to claim third.
As the race neared the end, Hartman would continue to pressure Smith for the lead. White flag in the air, Hartman would look to the inside of Smith. However, contact between the two front runners in the middle of turns three and four would bring out the caution, resulting in Hartman taking his car pit-side.
Single file, the field lined up for a green, checker finish. Under green, Smith would again retain the top spot as Loney would make one last attempt at the lead. However, he would be unable to surpass as it was “The Toboso Bullet” picking up the feature win, followed by Loney, Chris Basich, Casey Fritz and Bruce Takach.
The Short Track Fire and Rescue mini stock division had the largest field of the night with 26 ready to do battle for their 15-lap, $500 to win feature event. Heat race winners were Jeff Tatro, Tim Workman and Wes Staley with the b-main win going to Tony Mullinnex. After a redraw for position, setting the pace to the start was Tatro with Dale Beckett on the outside.
Taking an early lead was Tatro as Beckett and Wes Staley would battle for second. Coming off of turn four, Staley would surpass Beckett, claiming second, and would set his sights on Tatro. As the battle for the lead ensued, the two would go door to door off turn two and down the backstretch with Staley overtaking the lead off turn four with a mere two laps in the books. Once in the lead, Staley would fend off competitors on restarts to remain out front, going on to pick up the win and a $500 payday. Finishing second was Jeff Tatro, followed by Dale Beckett, Edwin Geary and Tim Workman.
With a field of 11, Kevin Potts and Bob Daugherty each picked up a heat race win in the Holmes Pest Control street stock division, placing them on the front row for the night’s feature event. With the field set, the green was out, and it was Kevin Potts to the lead as David Potts worked his way around Daugherty for second with two laps down. Looking in on the leader, David Potts would take to the inside of Kevin Potts down the backstretch, trying to obtain the lead. However, caution would come out with seven laps down, bunching the field up single file.
With the green back out, Daniel Sanchez would make a move around David Potts to take second. Meanwhile, Daugherty would work his way back up to the bumper of David Potts to claim third. However, David Potts was unfazed and would work the low line in effort to reclaim third, ultimately setting his sights on Sanchez sitting second. As the leaders came up to lap traffic, David Potts would use the lap car to his advantage to reclaim second. Nevertheless, maintaining his position from the start, it was Kevin Potts who would be victorious. Finishing second was David Potts, followed Sanchez, Daugherty and Trae Schonauer.
The Rigz Towing modlites had a field of 20 with heat race wins going to Teddy Williams, Chris Robinson and Joe Burkhead. As the green dropped, Robinson would claim the top spot as Jason Darocha would take second. Unfortunately caution would come out, forcing a restart and ultimately sending race leader Robinson back two spots for a called jump start.
Setting the pace back to the green was Darocha, who would take the top spot as Robinson would work his way back up to second with four laps down. Meanwhile, Jimmy Smith would go to work on the bumper of Williams to ultimately take third with seven laps in the books. Ten laps in, the battle for the top spot would continue as Robinson would manage to get around Darocha to claim the lead.
Back and fourth, the top two contenders would go for the lead until unfortunate contact off of turn two would end Darocha’s night and send Robinson to the tail with a mere two laps to go. Single file, Smith would lead the field back to the start for a green-white checker finish. Smith would maintain his position out front and go on to pick up his second feature win of the night. Second would go to Tanner McLoughlin, third to Joe Burkhead, fourth to Chris Robinson and fifth to John Large.
Rounding out the night were the Bugs R Gone trucks with a field of nine. The lone heat race winner was Blake Heyder, placing him on the pole for the night’s final feature event. Jumping out front early was pole sitter Blake Heyder while Rolly Heyder would work his way to second.
On the bumper of Blake Heyder, Rolly Heyder would work the leader as the two would go side by side down the back stretch with Rolly Heyder taking the lead with five laps down. After taking a familiar position out front, Rolly Heyder would maintain his lead and go on to pick up his first feature win of the season. Second went to Blake Heyder, third to Jerry Gardner, fourth to Dwayne Powell and fifth to Zoe Stafford.