The Press Newspaper
To say June 7 was a special night at Fremont Speedway is…well…a huge understatement.
And the outcome? Mark Keegan found victory lane for the 60th time in his career. Craig Mintz sported a throwback wing and claimed his second 410 sprint win of season. Shawn Valenti…well, was Shawn Valenti and scored his seventh win of the year in the dirt trucks.
While there were familiar faces in the Engine Pro Victory Lane, how they got there was the story of the evening.
Prior to the night’s racing, the sixth class was inducted into the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame in front of a packed grandstand. There was laughter, tears and a lot of pride on display for the 11 individuals and their family and friends.
Then there was the racing on Vision Quest Night. Not only were the stars of the Fort Ball Pizza Palace 410 Sprints in competition, but for the first time, 21 drivers came out of retirement to compete once again in the Legends Race behind the wheel of the Fremont Federal Credit Union 305 Sprints.
And when the checkered flew Mark Keegan celebrated his 56th birthday in familiar territory – victory lane.
“This is just a reminder of why I stopped racing. Winning helps but they are too much work and I have too much work at my shop. I don’t have the time it takes to do it and do it right,” said Mark Keegan beside his Jon Wright’s Custom Chrome Plating/Midwest Auto Sales/Al Pro Heads/Fremont Fence/American Sprint Repair/Kistler Racing Products backed machine.
“But, I’d do this deal again next year…this was a lot of fun,” continued Keegan beside the familiar X car.
In the 410 sprint feature, the crowd was treated to a shoot out between Craig Mintz and Cole Duncan with the pair trading slide jobs lap after lap. When the checkered flew Mintz was standing in the Engine Pro Victory Lane for the second time this season and the seventh time in his career. And, as a tribute to the Van Ness family, who was inducted into the hall of fame earlier in the day, Mintz carried the family’s familiar Bullwinkle logo and Norm’s Texaco banner on his wing.
“That was a blast. Hats off to Cole Duncan. He showed me his nose and blew by me and I decided it was time to get up on the wheel and run that curb a little harder. It bit me a couple of times. Lapped traffic is tough here when there’s multiple grooves and they were running side by side. We got lucky enough that we picked the right lane at the right time,” said Mintz beside his GF1 Chassis/Damschroder Roofing/Real Geese Decoys/Kistler Engines/KS Sales and Service/Erie Shore Propane backed machine.
“These Gibsonburg folks…the people behind that wing…the Van Ness family…it’s a close-knit group around our area. It means a lot to fly their colors and put it in victory lane,” added Mintz who swept the weekend as he won Friday at Attica.
Mintz hasn’t finished out of the top three all season at Attica Raceway Park. The Gibsonburg, Ohio driver dominated Friday on Croghan Colonial Bank/All Pro Cylinder Heads Night to score his second win of the season in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 410 Sprints.
For Mintz, the defending Attica track champion, it was his first Kistler Racing Products FAST (Fremont Attica Sprint Title) Championship Series win. Mintz is gunning to repeat as the FAST champion and become the first three time FAST champion. FAST is a separate point fund from that of both Attica and Fremont and pays the champion $10,000 at season’s end.
“These guys behind me know how to put a race car under me…I just drive it. They do a ton of work during the week. Ti22 makes a really good race car and the Pro Shocks Jim Linder gives us are awesome. The pill draw starting up front definitely helps,” said Mintz beside his Real Geese Decoys/Damschroder Roofing/KS Sales and Service/Erie Shore Propane/Story Equipment/Kistler Engines/Design Graphics Group backed machine.
“I actually looked up at the board during one of those cautions and seen the Chad (Kemenah) was second and I knew he started third row so I knew he had to be pretty good. I knew if I ran the top as hard as I could and try to get through lapped cars as fast as I could and make him beat me,” added Mintz who ties Johnny Beaber for 10th on the track’s all-time win list with 11 victories.
Not to be outdone at Fremont, Valenti had to hold off a charging Dan Roepke Jr. to score the dirt truck win. Valenti also swept the weekend, taking the victory Friday at Attica. The Risingsun driver now has 10 feature wins in 2014.
“When I was trying to battle those two lapped trucks I saw a nose under me and I was trying to get back to the cushion and I was able to do it,” said Valenti beside his Craig Miller Trucking Day Dream and Memories Crafts and Antiques/Best Performance Motorsports/Conrad Transport/KS Sales and Service/Dave Story Equipment Repair backed truck.
In the 25-lap Legends Race, Clay Keim and Charlie Fisher would bring the field to green but action would grind to a half when Jim Linder got upside down. He was uninjured.
On the second attempt Fisher would grab the lead over Keegan, Keim, Eric Rankine, Rodney Duncan, Brian Neeb and Ed Haudenschild. Keegan and Fisher would battle side by side the next circuit before Keegan took the top spot with Duncan, Rankine, Keim and Haudenschild in tow. Rankine would steal third on lap four.
The red would come out on lap five when George Dussel had trouble getting pit side and hit the fence followed by Kenny Clark Jr. getting upside down on the front stretch. Both drivers were okay.
On the ensuing restart Keegan blasted away as Fisher had his hands full with Rankine with Duncan, Keim, Haudenschild, Bobby Distel and Kenny Jacobs in tow. Keegan would build his lead while Rankine would slide into second on lap 12 with Fisher, Duncan and Jacobs staying close.
With 10 laps to go Keegan had a sizeable lead over Rankine with Duncan taking third followed by Fisher, Jacobs, Distel and Kelly Kinser. Kinser had taken the Baumann Auto Group Big Bucks Bump and went to the tail of the starting grid with the goal to win and take an additional $5,000.
As Keegan threaded his way through traffic with Rankine trying to make up ground, with five laps to go there was a tremendous battle for third involving Duncan, Jacobs and Fisher.
Keegan would drive to the win with the large crowd roaring their approval with Rankine, Duncan, Jacobs (who flipped in his heat) and Fisher rounding out the top five.
Mintz and Cole Duncan would bring the field to the green in the 410 sprint feature as outside front row starter Jody Keegan accepted the Baumann Auto Group Big Bucks Bump and went to the tail for the possible $5,000 bonus.
Mintz would grab the lead with Duncan staying close as Brad Bowman, Caleb Griffith, Chris Andrews, Rob Chaney, Byron Reed and Stuart Brubaker gave chase. Griffith would blast into third on lap two as the caution flew for debris.
On the restart Mintz would have his hands full with Duncan as Griffith, Bowman and Chaney battled for third. Mintz and Duncan would drive into lapped traffic on lap eight with Bowman, Griffith, Chaney, Reed, Andrews and Brian Lay staying close.
On lap 12 Bowman would slide up the track and Griffith, Chaney and Reed would move by. Kody Kinser would bring out the last caution of the rac eon lap 14 with the running order Mintz, Duncan, Griffith, Chaney, Reed, Bowman, Andrews, Lay and Travis Philo.
When the green flew so did Mintz and Duncan as the pair battled side by side for the lead. Duncan found something on the bottom of turns three and four and drove into the lead on lap 17. Two laps later Mintz blasted around the high side to regain the top spot in turn two. A circuit later and Duncan would use a lapped car as a pick and moved back into the lead.
On lap 21 Mintz executed a slider in turns three and four to regain the lead with Chaney, Griffith, Reed and Lay in pursuit. Mintz and Duncan would run nose to tail over the next hand full of laps and with three to go Duncan got a good run off the bottom of turn four to pull beside Mintz.
Mintz would keep his cool and drove to the win over Duncan, Chaney, Reed and Griffith.
In the 20-lap AAA Ohio Auto Club Dirt Trucks Brad Keckler and Art Ball brought the field to the green. Pole-sitter Dustin Keegan also accepted the Baumann Auto Group Big Bucks Bump and went to the tail for the chance at the $5,000 bonus.
The opening lap served notice it was going to be an entertaining feature with Keckler holding a slight lead over Jim McGrath, Valenti, Jeff Ward, Cory Ward, John Ivy and Kent Brewer. Keckler’s run would end a lap later as fire erupted under the hood of his truck. Jeff Ward would go to the pits to change a flat tire and Cory Ward retired from the event.
On the restart McGrath led Valenti, Brewer, Ball, Jimmy McGrath, Roepke and Ivy. But, Andrew Lutman would spin to bring out the yellow again. On the restart Valenti drove into the lead with McGrath Sr. challenging to his inside with Brewer, Ball, McGrath Jr., Roepke and Matt Foos staying close.
The final caution would fly on lap seven for debris. On the restart Valenti led McGrath Sr., Brewer, Roepke, Ball, McGrath Jr., Foos and Ward who had come from the tail. At the half-way point it was a three truck battle up front between Valenti, Roepke and Brewer. Roepke would take second on lap 11 and started to slowly eat into Valenti’s lead.
With three laps to go the leaders found heavy lapped traffic and Roepke drove to Valenti’s inside to challenge with Brewer, McGrath Sr. and ball staying close. Valenti and Roepke raced side by side slicing through traffic. Once clear, Valenti drove away for the win with Roepke, Brewer, McGrath Sr. and Ball rounding out the top five.
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