PORT ROYAL, Pa. — official release – Greg Hodnett put on a dominating performance Saturday to claim his fourth Tuscarora 50 victory at Port Royal Speedway on Saturday night.
Not only was the win worth $13,350, but Hodnett wrapped up the University of Northwestern Ohio All Star Circuit of Champions Eastern Region Championship and its $20,000 payday.
It was Hodnett’s second UNOH All Star win of 2014 – the other coming in April at Port Royal – and his 10th overall victory in 2014. The win for Hodnett comes after also having won the Tuscarora 50 in 1998, 2004 and 2009, and he ties hall-of-famers Doug Wolfgang, Fred Rahmer and Lance Dewease for the most event victories.
Hodnett also now has 18 career UNOH All Star wins on his resume.
“My car owner (Mike Heffner) won his first race as an owner at Port Royal. He and his dad used to spend a lot of time at this track and I know this race was pretty important to him. Mike’s cars have won the last three straight All Star Eastern point championships with three different drivers. Daryn (Pittman) and Lance (Dewease) got him that title and I didn’t want to let him down,” said Hodnett of his Lelands.com/Eagle Steel/Trone Outdoor/Pasquariello’s Auto Body backed #27.
Sprint car drivers are always studying the track, and during the parade lap, Hodnett noticed some moisture at the top of the speedway. At the drop of the green he blasted to the cushion to drive past pole-sitter Danny Holtgraver in turn two and then ducked under Lynton Jeffrey going down the backstretch for the lead.
“It was soggy up there and when we went four abreast, I checked it a couple times,” Hodnett said. “I thought it would hold if I got up there and didn’t blow through it. We talked it through and had the car tight. The car held and didn’t slide through it. It propelled us enough to the front.”
As Hodnett began to pull away, the battle was shaping up for second. The only caution in the first half of the 50-lapper came on the seventh circuit for debris. When the green flew, so did Hodnett, distancing himself from the pack.
Meanwhile, four time UNOH All Star champion and current series point leader Dale Blaney lived up to his moniker “The Low Rider,” using the bottom to get past Ryam Smith and Holtgraver for third. A lap later he would pass Jeffrey for second but Hodnett had built up a sizeable lead.
Hodnett hit lapped traffic on the 12th circuit. While he pulled away, 10th-place starter Stevie Smith – who scored the win the previous night at Port Royal – was charging through the pack. Smith took third from Jeffrey on lap 17 and chased down Blaney by the 21st circuit to take second.
The track started to take rubber and Hodnett saw the change and took a straightaway lead into the red flag at halfway.
“I wasn’t getting off the corners and down the straightaway very well,” Hodnett said. “We tried to cure that problem. The track rubbered up – it wasn’t Port Royal’s fault, they had to seal it up due to all the rain in the area. I figured we were going to make someone else do something crazy. I knew if we stayed on the bottom, we would be OK.”
Hodnett had two lapped cars separating him and Smith on the restart and he went to the bottom and opened up a huge lead by lap 28. Hodnett caught the back of the field late in the race but didn’t budge from the bottom grove and drove away to the win.
Smith banked $5,000 for his runner-up finish and $10,000 over the two-day show. Lance Dewease came from ninth to finish third, with Holtgraver and Lucas Wolfe completing the top five.
“It’s been a really good weekend,” Smith said beside his Miller Chevrolet/Aran Trading/Tru-Line Contractors/Don Ott Engines/Ken’s Tire/Durr Enterprises/Engler backed machine.
“But boy, I really wanted to win that 50. Greg did what he had to do and got up front.”
For Dewease, it was another night of passing a lot of cars, but when the track became one lane the second half of the race, he knew his chances of a fifth Tuscarora 50 win were slim.
“We were pretty good early during the first 25 laps. But when the track took rubber it was pretty much stay in the groove. Congrats to Greg and Mike. They had the better car when it counted,” said Dewease beside his Conduit Connections/C.C. Dietz Builders/Hess Ornamental Iron/XXX Racing backed #14.
Dave Leidy won the companion econo late model feature.