If the early season results are any indication, Tim Shaffer will be a force to be reckoned with throughout 2009. The Aliquippa, Pa. driver took the lead on lap 9 and stormed through the field at Fremont Speedway Saturday, lapping up to 9th place to score the win on Pepsi Night to open The Track That Action Built's 58th season.
"Brian (Kemenah) had this thing awesome. Between the both of us we seem to communicate really great and this is a lot of fun. CH Motorsports gave us some backing and this J&J Chassis has been awesome. Kistler (Engines) has done a great job...everyone has done their job and it's been a lot of fun," said Shaffer in the Engine Pro Victory Lane.
"It was a great race track...hats off to the guys for opening night...they did a beautiful job," added Shaffer of his second career feature win at Fremont in the Fort Ball Pizza Palace 410 Sprints..
Over the past couple of years it has been the youth movement in the Fremont Federal Credit Union 305 Sprints. But, it was a veteran who showed them the way in the 25-lap feature, as Bill Kraylek, 49, of Fostoria, used his traditional bottom groove to score his 7th career win.
"We rebuilt the motor this winter and it has been awesome. I wasn't moving off that bottom and I had the breaks glowing and it got hot on my back," said Kraylek beside his Jack's Carryout, Dyer's Home Improvement backed #71.
Another veteran, 70-year-old Art Ball, showed he still has a lot of racing left in him as well. He powered to his 70th career Fremont victory - the most in the track's history - in the 20 lap Fremont Fence Dirt Truck feature. It was Ball's second win of the season as he also scored the victory Friday at Attica Raceway Park.
"We usually end the year winning races and struggle at the beginning. I guess I must have remembered how to do this early," said Ball beside his Kear's Speed Shop, Tin Lizzy Collision, All In One Home Improvement backed #01.
"I go to Florida in the winter and Keith Pierce and the whole crew work hard on this thing," added Ball from the Engine Pro Victory Lane.
In the 30-lap 410 sprint feature, Phil Gressman bolted into the early lead with Mark Keegan challenging while Rob Chaney stayed on their bumper. A yellow on lap two bunched the field up and now Chaney was on the move on the restart, getting around Keegan and pressuring Gressman. Meanwhile, Shaffer, who started 7th in the field, had worked his way to third by lap six and joined the tremendous battle for the lead with Gressman and Chaney two laps later. Shaffer made the move of the night on lap 9, splitting Chaney and Gressman in turns one and two to take the lead.
Following a lap 10 caution, the race would go green the rest of the way as Shaffer set a blistering pace. The battle for second was a good one between Gressman, Chaney and Greg Wilson. Shaffer hit lapped traffic at the half-way mark as Chaney moved into second. The car now on the move was fast qualifier Dale Blaney, who moved into fourth on lap 15. While Shaffer picked his way through traffic, Chaney, Gressman and Blaney staged a wicked battle for second. Blaney would move into third on lap 19 and into the second spot two laps later. Shaffer got hung up a tad in traffic, and Blaney closed, but it was too little too late as Shaffer took the win. Blaney, Chaney, Brock Mayes and Gressman would round out the top five.
Blaney and Shaffer will be battling all season for the O'Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions title, and Shaffer is ready.
"He better get used to it...I think we'll be coming at him this season," said Shaffer.
In the 25-lap 305 sprint feature, Zack Kramer jumped into the early lead with Bill Kraylek, Todd Heuerman and Nate Dussel in tow. Kraylek would drive under Kramer a lap later for the lead, but Kramer, Heuerman and Dussel would dog him the entire feature. The second and final yellow would fly on lap 10 with Kraylek leading over Kramer, Dussel, Heuerman, Stuart Brubaker and Dustin Dinan. Kraylek could not shake the youngsters, but the veteran stayed smooth on the bottom and they could not rattle his nerves. On lap 15, Dussel would drive around Kramer into second, but Dussel would slide off the track three laps later, moving Kramer back to second and Heuerman third.
Now the car on the move was defending track champion Brubaker, who moved around Heuerman into third on lap 20 and pressured Kramer for the runner-up spot. At the checkered flag, Kraylek won by a car length with Kramer, Brubaker, Heuerman and Dussel rounding out the top five.
"A lot of people kind of wrote me off over the past few years, but it looks like I can still show these kids a thing or two," added Kraylek in the Engine Pro Victory Lane.
The 20-lap truck feature was a barn-burner, with five trucks racing side-by-side for the lead in the opening laps. Steve Endicott was the lead, but defending track champion Jim McGrath raced to his outside while Cory Ward and Art Ball ran right on their rear bumpers. As Endicott continued to lead, Ward would hold second for a lap, then it was Ball, with McGrath into third. Ball would drive under Endicott for the lead on lap 11, with McGrath pressuring Endicott for second. With five laps to go, Ball had opened up a comfortable lead, but Endicott had his hands full with McGrath and now a closing Brian Sorg. McGrath would exit the track a lap later with a flat tire.
Ball would take the checkered flag over Endicott, Sorg, Bob Dible and Loren Schwochow.