HEINTZELMAN: Buckwalter Does More Than Win Midget Races

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LIVERPOOL, Pa. — Central Pennsylvania isn’t known for its wingless midget racing, but we do have one of the best in Steve Buckwalter.

His 2010 season has been a busy one and it has been a good one as well. When he’s not racing his self-owned midget with the American Racing Drivers Club, he’s behind the wheel of Clair and Jan Ritter’s 410 sprint car.

Buckwalter has 10 victories with ARDC this season and leads the standings, and he finally broke through and scored a long-overdue sprint-car win.

He’s led a lot of laps in the 410s, but something always kept him from victory lane. He put it all together with a win at Williams Grove Speedway Sept. 17.

Beyond all the emotion of his first victory, it came only a few days after the death of his grandmother.

“It meant a lot,” Buckwalter said. “Everybody works so hard. My grandmother came up here for years trying to watch us get that win and she passes away and the next week we wind up winning.”

On the midget side of things, Buckwalter has been dominant with ARDC the past few seasons. Despite missing a race this season, he still leads the points and can never be counted out for a win.

He’s also making a name for himself nationally with his midget. He missed the ARDC race because he was competing in Indiana Midget Week, where he won a race on June 16 at Gas City, Ind.

“That was real important,” he said. “We’ve been trying and we knew we could do it, we’re always fast, we just always seem to have issues. We finally pulled it off. We were two points out of the (midget week) championship going into the last night and then the motor broke. Hopefully, next year we can win a couple more.”

His busy season reached its peak a few weeks ago. Buckwalter competed in the USAC Gold Crown Nationals at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill.

He had a fifth and a ninth in the first two races. He was leading the Saturday finale when the engine expired. He rushed back to Pennsylvania (about 14 hours) because ARDC had a doubleheader at Big Diamond Raceway Sunday.

He won the make-up feature and finished fourth in the second race to maintain his point lead.

“I think there’s more driving involved with the midget and I’ve been doing it a long time,” he said.

Buckwalter, who lives near Philadelphia in Royersford, has qualified for four A mains during the Chili Bowl Nationals. His best finish was a ninth in 2009.

He’s a dedicated racer as he travels 2.5 hours at least once a week to work on the sprint car. He’s 30 years old and has been racing for almost all of those years.

“It’s all I know,” Buckwalter said. “I know how to drive race cars and lay shingles and I don’t want to be a roofer.”

He will be back in the Ritter’s car next year and they plan to upgrade the engine program and build a new car.

“I just want to keep racing and as long as it’s putting money in my pocket, I’m happy,” he said.

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