YORK HAVEN, Pa. – Steve Buckwalter knows he has the intangibles to run with the best in Central Pennsylvania.
Last season didn’t particularly prove that, though. In 46 winged 410 sprint car features, Buckwalter finished on the podium just twice and placed 26th in the Central PA point standings.
Over the offseason, he tasked his engine supplier, Buzz Wilson of A1 Engines, with a request that’s now paying dividends.
Since racing’s return in Central Pennsylvania on Memorial Day, Buckwalter has three podium efforts in five features, citing a reinvigorated motor program as the difference.
Buckwalter, who claims he’s “been running the same package for five years now,” has finishes of second of Lincoln on May 25, third at Selinsgrove on May 31, and most recently second to Lance Dewease on Sunday at BAPS Motor Speedway.
“I asked Buzz for more bottom end [in the engines] and he gave it to me,” said Buckwalter, who later explained it gives him “more of a punch off the corner” and makes the car more drivable.
“When my motors are hitting good, the car feels great,” Buckwalter added. I’ll start changing torsion bars and shocks, trying to get better. It just seems like when we get a fresh motor back and it’s hitting strong, we’re right back to our normal package.”
– While many race teams are trying to get up to speed off the heels of a two-and-a-half month shutdown due to COVID-19, Buckwalter, 42, is hitting full stride in a winged 410 sprint car for the first time in a while.
In his first race back on May 25 at Lincoln, Buckwalter timed second in his group, rolled to a win in his heat and finished second to the track’s reigning champion, Brian Montieth, in the feature.
At Selinsgrove on May 31, he timed fifth, cruised to a two-second heat win, and managed to come home third.
Most recently, at BAPS on Sunday, he collected a third heat win and, despite drawing sixth for the feature, finished second to the stalwart of the night, Lance Dewease.
“Buckwalter and them have been running real good this year, better than they have in a long time,” Dewease said after his win Sunday at BAPS.
The only other feature Buckwalter hasn’t finished on the podium since racing’s return to Central Pennsylvania is sixth-place effort May 30 at Lincoln Speedway.
“Everything seems to be clicking good,” Buckwalter said. “When the motors are right, the car comes into play.”
– Buckwalter’s runner-up to Dewease on Sunday is a good sign for things to come, he said, since BAPS isn’t a track he traditionally runs well at.
Before every race, Buckwalter unloads with a game plan to use a universal setup that overall suits him well. Before Sunday, that approach didn’t yield many results at the four-tenths-mile oval.
“Things are running so well right now and everything feels good I was kind of curious to see what it would do over here [at BAPS],” said Buckwalter, who plans to run Indiana Midget Week before gearing up for Pennsylvania Speedweek at the end of June.
In an effort to preserve and, in a way, bottle-up his recent headway, Buckwalter will be using his second engine leading up to Pennsylvania Speedweek, a grueling nice-race, nine-day swing that starts June 26 at Williams Grove Speedway.
“We want to save it for when the [purses] are up,” Buckwalter said. “I’m just hoping the other one will run just as good.”
When asked what else needs refining, Buckwalter responded with hopes of finding “more stick on entry” but not having it get “too tight” on exit.
Until then, he trusts his inner self to continue this upward trend.
“I’ve been racing for 35 years, I feel like I know what to do, you know?” Buckwalter said. “I make mistakes just like everybody else. We have a good grip on the car.”
– Williams Grove Speedway and Port Royal Speedway announced their long-awaited returns this past week.
Williams Grove, the historic half-mile located in Mechanicsburg, Pa., is set to resume racing Friday, June 19, with a 410 and 358 sprint car show at 7:30 p.m.
Port Royal, meanwhile, returns this weekend in doubleheader fashion with a $5,000-to-win 410 sprint car show with super late models and limited late models on Saturday and another $5,000-to-win 410 sprint car show on Sunday.
Selinsgrove is also set to host another 410 sprint car feature on Friday, while Lincoln presses on with its season on Saturday.
It seemed in flux only a week ago, but now, the 2020 installment of Pennsylvania Speedweek is shaping up to feature one of the highest purses in series history.
The Pennsylvania Speedweek schedule will run as follows:
- June 26 – Williams Grove Speedway, $5,000-to-win
- June 27 – Lincoln Speedway, $9,200-to-win (was $7,000)
- June 28 – Selinsgrove Speedway, $5,000-to-win
- June 29 – Lincoln Speedway, $7,000-to-win
- June 30 – Grandview Speedway, $10,000-to-win
- July 1 – Port Royal Speedway, $7,000-to-win
- July 2 – Hagerstown Speedway, $5,000-to-win
- July 3 – Williams Grove Speedway, $15,000-to-win (was $10,000)
- July 4 – Port Royal Speedway, $10,000-to-win ($7,000)