Towards the middle of last season, Mike Linder and his team started to show signs of being back to their championship form. Early this racing season, the team struggled somewhat, but as of late, have started to again become a force in Northwest Ohio racing.
Linder, the track’s 2005 and 2006 Fort Ball Pizza Palace 410 Sprint Champion, led all 30 laps Saturday to claim his first win of the season on McDonald’s Restaurants/Baumann Auto Group Night at Fremont Speedway.
It was Linder’s 13th career victory at “The Track That Action Built,” and came on a very hot night that saw temperatures over 100 degrees by race time.
“The old fat guy got it done in the heat. First off I want to thank everybody here tonight…you guys are rock stars. To come out and sit in 100 degree heat and watch races…this is what Fremont Speedway is all about. The great fans, great sponsors…Baumann Automotive Group and everyone. They do a lot for us racers and I can’t thank everyone that helps out here enough,” said Linder beside his No. 3.
“Early this season we were trying things that other guys were doing and for what ever reason it just doesn’t work for us. We went back to basics and we’re rolling a little better. Tonight…I’m not kidding anybody, we benefitted from starting up front…it was going to be tough to pass. But right now we’ll take a win any way we can get it,” continued Linder.
“I’d like to thank my wife, Stephanie…she puts up with a lot of complaining after the races and finally get a happy house tonight. I have to thank my brother Steven, Dad…all our sponsors. I have to thank Alan Binder, the Lang gang, the Collum boys…everyone busts their butts and sweat like monkeys and I finally got something to pay them back with,” concluded Linder.
Caleb Griffith looked like he had the Fremont Federal Credit Union 305 Sprint feature in the bag, to sweep the weekend as he won at Attica Raceway Park the previous night. But as he came to the white flag, he tagged the front stretch wall, and broke something in the front of his car. That handed the lead to veteran John Ivy, who would then have to hold off a strong challenge from Nate Dussel the remaining two laps to score the win.
Ivy’s victory is the 33rd of his career, moving him 10th on the track’s all-time win list. He also added a win this year in the Fremont Fence Dirt Trucks.
“I’ll take it any way I can get it. Caleb had us covered…he was going to win the deal. But, in order to finish first you first must finish. I hate to see that happen. He was checked out though. I couldn’t get through lapped traffic as good as he could. He got away from me and I was like ‘okay, settle down and race your race. We are kind of points racing because we are doing pretty good in that. We have to stay up in there and I didn’t want to do anything crazy. I tried to give it away on that last restart any way,” said Ivy beside his Fremont Fence/B&L Plumbing/Kear’s Speed Shop/Jenny’s Copper Penny/Willey’s Towing backed No. 4x.
“It’s pretty cool that I’m one win away from Al Franks. I’d like to get past that because that’s who Sonny (Conger) helped for years. That would be special for us. We aren’t done yet…we’re going to keep going,” added Ivy.
“I really have to thank Kenny and Karen Clark and Bobby and the whole Clark family, Joey, my brother, Sonny, Kurt…everyone bust their butts all week to keep this thing going. Kenny kept telling us all week we were close. Bobby (Clark) put it in here (victory lane) the first night out with this car…it took me a few more nights but at least we’re standing up here,” concluded Ivy.
Tiffin’s Art Ball would take the lead on lap two of the Fremont Fence Dirt Truck feature, and would hold off numerous challenges from Dan Roepke Jr., before going on to claim his second win of the season. For Ball, 73-years-old, it was his 73rd career victory at Fremont Speedway as he holds the track’s all-time win lead.
“I’ve been battling some health issues this year so I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this. I feel good tonight and we will take it one week at a time,” said Ball beside his Pierce Engineering/Kear’s Speed Shop/Chaney Roofing and Maintenance/Distel’s Septic Service/Nye Farms/Harley and Bev Lee backed No. 01.
“I have to thank all the crew. I tore this thing up pretty bad last night and they worked all day in this heat to make sure we could race tonight,” added Ball of his Faber Sub-Contracting/Lash Family Racing/AMP Photos/Ritzler Accounting/Warpaint Graphics sponsored truck.
In the first ever event for the Surf’n Sweepstakes Sports Compacts – for teens ages 12-18 – Grand Rapids, Ohio’s Brandon Myers, 17, took the lead from Steve Pocock with just three laps to go and went on to score the victory.
“I practiced a little a few weeks ago… I ran up to Oakshade. I have to thank my mom and dad and grandma and grandpa for all their support. It took me awhile to get around the No. 77. I had to quit chasing him and start going into the turns smooth,” said Myers beside his BG Radiator/Mark Shultz Signs/R&R Repair/Loren Sautter backed No. 32.
Brian Smith and Linder would bring the 410 sprint field to the green for their 30-lap feature with Linder gaining the upper hand over Smith, Todd Heller, Craig Mintz, Bryan Lay, Jody Keegan and Byron Reed. Keegan would move into fourth on lap two just after the caution flew for a Travis Philo spin.
On the restart Linder would rocket away while Smith battled with Heller and Keegan for second while Mintz, Lay, Reed and Caleb Helms gave chase. Linder would continue to lead Smith with Keegan moving into third on lap six as the caution flew for Jared Ridge. Again on the restart Linder would pull away with Smith comfortably in second while Keegan, Lay and Heller followed.
With eight laps in, Cole Duncan would get upside down in turn three with the running order Linder, Smith, Keegan, Lay, Heller and Mintz. When the green reappeared, Linder would take a four car length lead over the battle for second between Smith and Keegan while Mintz moved into fourth followed by Lay, Heller, Reed, 16th starter Phil Gressman and Helms.
Brandy Bower would spin on lap 10 and again with a clear track, Linder went unchallenged with Smith and Keegan resuming their tremendous battle for second with Mintz, Lay, Gressman and Reed in tow. Linder would catch the rear of the field on lap 18, but Smith could not close.
With six laps to go, Keegan would make contact with one of the infield barriers, ending his great run. Linder would have a lapped car between himself and Smith with Mintz now third and Lay, Reed, Gressman and Duane Zablocki in pursuit. Again with a clear track, Linder would drive away from Smith with Mintz, Lay, Reed and Gressman waging a fantastic battle for third.
Linder would drive to the checkers over Smith, Mintz, Lay and Reed.
The 25-lap 305 sprint feature would get off to a rough start when Paige Polyak would spin in turn three. On the second attempt, pole-sitter Jason Keckler would spin in turn two, collecting Jess Stiger, Jimmy Colvin, Polyak, D.J. Foos, Dustin Stroup and Jordan Ryan, ending the night for Stiger, Polyak, Ryan and Keckler.
The field would be realigned during the red flag to clear the track, with Dustin Dinan and Nate Dussel now bringing the field to the green. Dussel, who came into the night leading the division points, would take the lead over Dinan, Caleb Griffith, Ivy, Steve Rando and Dan Hammond.
Dussel would continue to lead as Dinan and Griffith battled hard for second. Dussel would hit lapped traffic by the seventh circuit, as Griffith, Dinan, Ivy, Foos, Rando and Colvin gave chase. At the half-way mark, Dussel was now in heavy lapped traffic, allowing Griffith to close quickly. Dussel would bobble over the cushion in turns three and four trying to negotiate lapped traffic, allowing Griffith to take the lead on lap 13 as Ivy took the second spot.
Griffith pulled away from Ivy as Dussel, Foos, Dinan and Rando were in pursuit. As Griffith raced to the white flag, he made contact with the front stretch wall, apparently breaking something in the front of the car as he stopped exiting turn two to bring out the caution.
Ivy not inherited the lead for a green, white, checkered finish. On the restart, Dussel tried a slide job on Ivy as they nearly collided, racing side by side down the back stretch. Dussel would try another slider in turns three and four as they battled to the white flag, with Ivy maintaining a slim lead. Ivy would hit his marks to perfection on the last lap and would take the win over Dussel with Foos rallying for third while Dinan and Rando completed the top five.
Steve Sabo and Jim McGrath Sr. would bring the dirt truck feature to the green, with McGrath leading the first lap, only to lose his drive shaft after one lap was recorded. On the ensuing restart it was Sabo leading Ball, Kent Brewer, Dan Roepke Jr., Jimmy McGrath Jr. and Brian Sorg. Ball would drive around Sabo to take the lead as they came to the line for the second scored lap.
On lap four, Roepke would take the runner-up spot and immediately closed on Ball with Sabo, Brewer, McGrath Jr., Sorg and Brand Mitten in pursuit. Ball and Roepke ran side by side and nose to tail over the next several laps until the caution would fly on lap nine for Sorg and Craig Holland who stopped with tire issues.
The running order on the restart was Ball, Roepke, Brewer, Sabo and McGrath Jr. Ball and Roepke pulled away from the field with Brewer, McGrath, last place starter Dustin Keegan, Cory Ward, Mitten and Willey Keegan giving chase. Art Howey Jr. and Sabo would make contact on the front stretch on lap 13 with Sabo spinning to bring out the caution.
Again on the restart, Ball and Roepke were the class of the field as they pulled away nose to tail. The pair would battle the remaining seven laps with Ball taking the narrow victory over Roepke, McGrath Jr., Brewer and Ward.
In the 12-lap sports compact race, Steve Pocock and Erik Paulson would bring the field to the green with Pocock taking the lead over Paulson, Myers, Amanda Shammo, Chevy Farmer, Kourtny Hood, Jared Singleton, and Kyle Farmer. As Pocock pulled away, Paulson and Myers were locked in a heated battle for second with Shammo comfortably in fourth. Myers would take the runner-up spot on lap four and with five laps to go had closed in on Pocock.
Pocock and Myers would race side by side for three laps before Myers took the lead on lap 10 with Paulson, Chevy Farmer, Shammo and Kyle Farmer in pursuit. Myers would hold off Pocock for the win with Paulson, Chevy Farmer and Shammo rounding out the top five.