Stock car racing: Wilder's win creates a little controversy
Remember the old Grecian Formula commercials, that asked, “Does he, or doesn’t he?”
The big question at Glen Ridge Motorsports Sunday night was, “Did he, or didn’t he?”
Did Jeremy Wilder jump the final restart to get his first win of the season in the 35-lap modified feature, denying veteran driver John Lutes Jr. his first career victory?
Obviously, Wilder says no; Lutes says yes. But after reviewing tapes of the restart, track promoter and race director Mike Sowle said no, and that made it official.
“Lutes got up off the bottom, and Wilder took him,” said Sowle Thursday. “You have to remember, we have the whole place on camera, and we looked at the restart film by film. At the tire, Lutes still had a bumper in front. At the drop of the green, you don’t have to be single-file.”
According to people who witnessed the finish, Wilder was booed when he came to victory lane, but that’s not surprising. Fans love underdogs, and there are few drivers who are bigger underdogs than Lutes, who has been a loyal supporter of the local speedways for a long time. Heck, he earned the Walt Schutt Award at Lebanon Valley 13 years ago. The award is given annually to someone who emulates the spirit of Schutt, a low-budget driver who loved to compete, and always had a smile on his face. Schutt was killed in an accident at the Valley.
Sowle didn’t just review tape. He also asked other drivers what they thought of the restart.
“I asked some of the drivers who were behind them,” he said. “[Craig] Hanson and [Bobby] Varin said they thought it was perfect timing. Lutes got off the bottom, drifted high, and Jeremy got him.”
Wilder, who earned $2,711 for the victory, didn’t think he did anything wrong.
“As for Sunday, when the leader fires, the race in on,” he wrote on his Facebook account, “and when John fired, that is when I fired.
“I did not pass [and by pass, I mean my car was not in front of John, and that was reviewed several times] before going by the orange tire.
“Now, the argument comes up that I ‘jumped out of line.’ I’ve run enough races to know that you don’t leave the bottom open on a restart.”
So Wilder has his first win of the year, Lutes has his best finish in quite a while (but not that $2,711), and fans are still grumbling.
“We won’t have this problem again,” said Sowle. “Beginning this week, we’re going to have double-file restarts throughout the whole race in all classes.”
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Even though he upped his purse and began paying the sportsman division $1,000 to win, Sowle was disappointed that he only drew 21 cars in that class Sunday.
“I don’t know what else I can do to get them here,” he said. “I’m paying the biggest purse around, and only 21 cars show up. I’m giving the best I can give them.”
But Sowle remains optimistic.
“I knew it would be a slow start,” he said. “But everything is starting to come around.”
Sowle also said that he’ll be adding Slingshots to his racing card this week.
A rare feat
All the talk nationally last weekend was about Kurt Busch pulling a double — competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, N.C., in the same day.
Move over, Kurt, Billy Pauch Jr. competed in six features — all in a 24-hour period on Sunday.
His adventure started on Saturday at Lanco Speedway in Newmantown, Pa. Because of a long rain delay, the 600 micro sprint feature didn’t get on the track until the wee hours Sunday morning. Pauch finished second in that one.
Then, it was on to Grandview Speedway. Because last year’s “Thunder on the Hill” show was rained out, the features were added to Sunday’s Memorial Day holiday weekend show. Pauch ran in two URC sprint features (finishing fifth and sixth), two small-block modified features (a win and a fourth) and an ARDC midget feature (fourth).
That’s a full day.
Around the tracks
With Fonda Speedway getting rained out last Saturday, the Lou Lazzaro Memorial will be held Saturday. The 44-lap feature will pay $4,444.44 to win, and will feature track promoter Matt DeLorenzo climbing back into his modified at Fonda for the first time this season.
Defending Fonda Speedway champion Stewart Friesen went 3-for-3 at Utica-Rome Speedway last weekend, earning nearly $14,000 by sweeping the two modified features and the Empire Super Sprint feature that made up Victoria 200.
Rocky Warner also had a good holiday, picking up wins at Glen Ridge on Sunday and in the GRIT series race at Utica-Rome Monday. Both races paid $1,000 to win.
Brett Hearn took a rare Saturday night off last weekend, skipping racing at the Valley to watch his daughter, Brooke, graduate from Johnson and Wales College.