MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Doug Esh wired the field for a $7,500 payday in Friday nights 30-lap Tommy Hinnershitz Memorial Spring Classic for 410 sprint cars at Williams Grove Speedway.
But his flag to flag performance wasn’t quite as easy as it may sound.
Esh started second in the event that saw only one caution period, on just the second lap. Esh outgunned polesitter Pat Cannon to lead the first lap before the yellow appeared and a torrid pace unfolded on the restart.
During the first 10 laps, 10th starter Dave Blaney surged forward, taking over fourth on the fourth tour before moving into third with 12 laps down. Esh entered the rear of the field with 11 laps away and found fifth starter Brian Montieth chasing him in second after finally getting by Cannon for the spot a lap earlier.
Through heavy lapped traffic Esh preserved his lead all the while with Montieth bearing down on him for the win as the race moved past the halfway point. Esh escaped disaster on the 16th tour and again on the 18th lap after contact with lapped cars, Chad Layton first and then Brent Marks.
And then just as he settled down after the Marks incident, Montieth pounced to Esh’s inside as the pair entered the first corner. But just as Montieth went for the kill and massive slider to briefly take control, his No. 21 mount puffed a cloud of blue smoke and with that the Phoenixville racers chances were over for the victory.
Montieth then pulled pitside and Esh streaked away to the victory, his first in the prestigious event and first at the track since August 2011.
His margin was that of some six seconds over the rest of the field. The win was also a Williams Grove career first for car owner Gary and Linda Heckman.
Cannon was second followed by Stevie Smith, Greg Hodnett and Dave Blaney. Sixth through 10th went to Lucas Wolfe, Alan Krimes, Trey Starks, Adam Wilt and Curt Michael. Heats for the 32-car field went to Esh, Lance Dewease, Brent Marks and Gerard McIntyre Jr. The consolation went to Hodnett, who also set fast time in qualification with a lap of 16.488 seconds.
Frankie Herr finally wrestled the lead away from Duaine Smith as the pair raced through the second corner on the final lap of the 20-lap super sportsman feature event.
Smith had led from the outset with Herr moving into second on the eighth tour. During the final 10 laps, Herr relentlesstly pursued Smith for the lead with Smith performing flawlessly and holding Herr at bay despite repeated attempts by the champion to take control.
But the pressure was too much on the final lap as Herr made an outside whip past Smith as the pair raced onto the backstretch for the final time.
Smith settled for second followed by Scott Geesey, Chad Criswell and Dave Berkheimer. Heats went to Bobby Hockenberry, Gregg Foster and Geesey.