By Jeff Pederson – Pedal Down Promotions
(PEDAL DOWN PROMOTIONS) May 5, 2018 – After a long winter of hibernation, racing action roared back to life at the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds in Plymouth, Wis. on Saturday, May 5, as Plymouth Dirt Track Racing (PDTR) opened its 14th season of competition with a huge contingent of 107 cars in the pit area and an equally large crowd of fans in the stands eager to take in the first racing action of the season.
The evening, which was sponsored by Collins State Bank, was filled with impressive performances from veterans and newcomers alike as a handful of drivers sent an early statement about their competitive intentions in 2018.
In the 25-lap Richard’s of Dunbar Sprint Car headliner, 2005 PDTR champion Danny Schlafer of Sussex led flag-to-flag en route to an impressive victory. Cleveland’s Justin Schmidt turned in a commanding performance to capture the victory in the 25-lap Gasroots Project Late Model A main. Justin Erickson of Plymouth opened the season on a high note by claiming the 25-lap Klips & Tips Grand National A main. Manitowoc’s Cody Schroeder notched his first career PDTR triumph in the Cellcom B Mod A main and Shiocton’s Dylan Larsen was also victorious for the first time in PDTR competition in the 15-lap Kristine Hartmann Pleasant View Realty Micro Sprint A main.
The front row of the 25-lap PDTR Sprint Car A main featured two most successful drivers in the history of the Midwest Sprint Car Association as Schlafer lined up on the pole flanked by South Milwaukee’s Kurt Davis to his outside.
On the drop of the green flag, Schlafer used the preferred low groove to speed out to the early lead on the dry, slick racing surface followed by third starter John Krebsbach of Cascade.
As Schlafer held a solid advantage at the point, Davis charged in to challenge Krebsbach for the runner-up spot on lap 8 and two laps later he secured the position with a low move in turn two.
By lap 12, Schlafer began to encounter lapped traffic, which allowed Davis to close the gap substantially. On lap 14, Davis charged in to mount a bid for the top spot as the leaders clung to fast line along the bottom of the track. Two laps later, the 2010 PDTR Sprint Car champion snuck under Schlafer in heavy lapped traffic to seize the top spot.
However, the move was negated when a caution flag flew for the stalled car of Glenbeulah’s Jim Melis in turn three. With scoring of the race reverting to the previously completed lap, Schlafer was reinstated as the race leader when the green flag flew again.
With an open track ahead of him, Schlafer solidly maintained the top spot over the final 10 laps on the way to his 20th career PDTR Sprint Car A-main victory and 49th overall MSA A-main triumph.
Davis, who tops the MSA all-time A-main victory list with 53, had to settle for second, Plymouth’s Justin Miller charged from the ninth starting spot to place third, former 410 Sprint Car driver Josh Walter of Plymouth scored a fourth-place showing in his return to regular PDTR 360 Sprint Car competition after starting eighth and fifth starter Kevin Karnitz of West Bend rounded out the top five.
The front row of the 25-lap Late Model A main featured the father-and-son team of Jim Letizia and Turk Letizia of Milwaukee.
Jim, who started on the pole, raced out to the early lead as Turk got sideways in the first turn of the opening lap to drop back to 10th place in the early going. On lap 4, Justin Schmidt moved up from his fourth starting spot to slip past fifth starter Dave Jaeger of Slinger for second place.
Three laps later, Schmidt bolted under Jim Letizia with a nifty low move in turn one on lap 7. The lone caution of the event appeared on lap 9 when Jared Siefert of Luxemburg spun in turn 2.
On the restart, Schmidt pulled away while Jaeger moved past Letizia in turn four on lap 15 to gain second. However, out in front it was all Schmidt has he cruised to his sixth career PDTR Late Model A-main victory by a half-lap margin over Jaeger, who placed a strong second.
Jim Schmidt of Cleveland finished third after starting 11th, 12th starter Tim Buhler of Greenbush placed fourth and four-time and defending PDTR Late Model champion Brad Mueller of Random Lake came home fifth after starting sixth.
J.J. Pagel of Campbellsport grabbed the initial lead of the 25-lap Grand National A main from the pole as third starter Matt Loehr of Dotyville settled into second place. On lap 6, Erickson, who started sixth, began to make his presence felt as he dipped underneath Sheboygan’s Matt Yancey to take third in the running order.
On lap 8, Loehr was beginning to close the gap on Pagel before a caution flag flew on lap 9 for a spin on the backstretch involving Dylan May of West Bend. When the race resumed, Erickson bolted up to the high line to pass Loehr for second on lap 10.
Erickson steadily reeled in Pagel over the next eight laps before ducking underneath Pagel to take the lead in turn two on lap 18. Over the final seven laps, Erickson expertly negotiated lapped traffic to notch his second career PDTR Grand National victory by a half-straightaway margin over Pagel.
Loehr finished third, Yancey, who started fifth, ended up fourth and ninth starter Tyler Kulow of Plymouth placed fifth.
In victory lane after the race, Erickson revealed that 2018 will be his final year in the Grand National division has he intends to move to the Sprint Car ranks in 2019.
Outside front row starter Tom Stark grabbed the initial lead in the 25-lap B Mod A main. On lap 4, fifth starter Geoff Jeche of Juneau moved past third starter Glen Blanke of Sheboygan Falls to assume the runner-up spot.
As Stark encountered slower traffic, Jeche took advantage by reducing the margin substantially over the next 10 circuits. On lap 14, Jeche made contact with Stark while challenging for the lead in turn four. The collision caused Jeche to spin just inside the infield tires, which brought out a caution flag.
On the restart, eighth starter Cody Schroeder raced past Stark to assume the top spot in turn two. After that, Schroeder pulled away steadily on the way to his first career PDTR B Mod victory by a half-lap margin over runner-up Tim Sheppard of Beaver Dam, who started seventh. Sixth starter Travis Hansen of Brillion finished third, Stark wound up fourth and Travis Schmidt of Plymouth placed fifth after starting ninth.
After starting third, Jack Vanderboom of Dousman used a great start to assume the lead on the drop of the green flag in the 15-lap Micro Sprint A main.
Vanderboom cruised out to a large margin over polesitter Dylan Larsen until disaster struck when Vanderboom clipped an infield tire on lap 11, which caused him to spin in turn 4 to bring out a caution.
Larsen inherited the lead on the restart and never let go on the way to his first career PDTR Micro Sprint A-main victory by five car lengths over Plymouth’s Emily Portschy, who started sixth.
Defending PDTR Micro Sprint champion Preston Ruh of Elkhart Lake finished third, after starting fifth, Kasi Graff was fourth after starting seventh and Vanderboom wound up fifth.
Travis Arenz of Sheboygan won the Sprint Car B main. Brandon Berth of Plymouth captured the first B Mod B Main and Plymouth’s Cody Eickberg collected the victory in the second B Mod B main.
PDTR racing action will continue next Saturday, May 12, with grandstands opening at 4:30 p.m. and racing scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
The Plymouth Dirt Track at the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds in Plymouth is located at 229 Fairview Drive in Plymouth. For more information, visit www.plymouthdtr.com or check out Plymouth Dirt Track Racing on Facebook.
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