PORT ROYAL, Pa. - Port Royal Speedway closed the 2012 racing season on Saturday night with an exciting and suspenseful 410 sprint car feature that saw Greg Hodnett score the $4,500 victory in the make-up Labor Day Classic event.
In the 20-lap super sportsman main, veteran Rich Eichelberger wired the field from the front row for his fourth career win at the oval.
The initial start of the sprint car main was red-flagged for a backstretch mishap that saw Mark Coldren tear through the infield fence near the scoreboard before coming to rest.
Hodnett started eighth in the 30-lap Labor Day race while Mike Wagner took control once the race got rolling over polesitter Pat Cannon and newly crowned track titlist Chad Layton.
Wagner pulled away with clear track at the start but the distance between the leaders was shrinking amid traffic when the red flag unfurled with seven laps down for a hard hit of the fourth turn guardrail by Trenton Shaffer.
With open track, Wagner again pulled away at the new green, still followed by Cannon, Layton, Daryn Pittman and Hodnett.
A barnburner unfolded over the ensuing laps with Cannon stalking Wagner for the lead and again as they entered the rear of the field, the distance between the front runners started shrinking.
At the halfway point, Hodnett had gotten by Pittman for fourth but was still some distance behind the leaders although the entire pack was closing in on one another.
With 10 laps to go, the front five cars were racing on the same straightaway together and inching ever so close to each others fuel cells with Cannon working the bottom groove to try and overtake Wagner while Layton, Hodnett and now Mark Smith gave chase.
But a final yellow flag for a slowing car in the second corner with five laps to go broke up what was shaping up to be a thrilling finish and settled the field down for a restart free of traffic with 2.5 miles to go.
Hodnett drove masterfully on the restart, ducking under Layton for third at the new green before disposing of Cannon with three to go.
The Tennessee transplant then dusted off Wagner with a lap and a half to go by muscling away the lead with an inside move before driving to a 1.526 second lead at the checkers.
It was Hodnett’s eighth overall win of the season at the track and his second in the prestigious Labor Day Classic after taking his first in 2007.
Wagner settled for second followed by Cannon, Smith and Blane Heimbach.
Eichelberger’s pace was hampered by yellow flag periods on laps six, 10 and 13 and was trailed by Paul Miller early before Scott Geesey took over the runner-up spot.
Geesey pressured Eichelberger after the final restart, staying just two car-lengths behind at times before Eichelberger pulled away at the finish.
Geesey was second followed by Rick Barr, Jay Fannasy and Scott Dellinger.