FREMONT, Ohio — You would be hard pressed to find any sprint car team in Ohio that operates with less resources than the 2+ and its owner/driver Brian Smith. Smith has been able to race weekly at Fremont Speedway thanks help from several sponsors and friends but more importantly sheer determination and focus.
The Fremont, Ohio native was rewarded for his dedication to racing Saturday at “The Track That Action Built.” Smith, a former 305 sprint track champion, passed Mike Linder on lap 11 and went on to claim his first win of the year to wrap up the track’s 61st season Saturday on Hoy’s Bar and Grill Run What You Brung Night. It was Smith’s fourth career victory at the track.
“My wife texted me before the feature and told me if I didn’t win not to come home. I knew she was kidding, but I’m sleeping with this trophy tonight,” joked Smith. “I said this thing has terminal velocity…that’s as fast as it gets and it was enough tonight. I have an old motor that Scott Gressman helps me get the most out of. I get a lot of used tires that keeps me on the track and I have a lot of support from a lot of great people…the Lord has truly blessed me.”
On a night that featured sprint cars with huge tail fin like appendages hanging from the rear of the car, late models with giant panels of plexi-glass from nose to tail and trucks with top wings, Fremont Speedway fans saw several first time winners. Findlay, Ohio’s Tim Cole scored his first ever feature event in the stock/truck division, holding off Shawn Valenti, and Bryan, Ohio’s Pete Dodson dominated the late model field, lapping up to the fourth place car to score his first ever Fremont Speedway win. Liberty Center, Ohio’s Mark Gillingham Jr. held off a late race charge from Maverick Wright to score his second career win at Fremont in the four-cylinder class while Kelsey Ivy ran away with the ladies’ powder puff event.
“We had a lot of fun putting the extra things on the car. The race track was awesome…this was just a great way to end the season,” said Dotson.
For Cole, getting his first ever racing win at a track he grew up around, was more than just special.
“This is my first win since I started racing in 1997. This is so special. I have to thank my family and my crew who have worked so hard and have supported me all these years. And, to beat Shawn…he’s kicked our butts all season at Limaland,” said Cole, who would then give his helmet to a young fan in the stands.
For young Gillingham, he overcame a last lap bobble to score the win in the four-cylinder class. “I just got too pumped up and messed up on the last lap. But, this car was really good…what a year we’ve had,” he said.
Linder and Brad Bowman would bring the field to the green for the 25-lap sprint car feature with Linder – aboard his #3 sprint that carried a tail-fin that ran from the roll cage to the rear bumper and was over four feat tall – sailing into the lead. Bowman, Stuart Brubaker, Smith, Travis Philo, Paul Weaver, Jordan Ryan and Matt Foos in tow. Smith would drive into third on the second circuit as Linder pulled away.
On lap seven, Smith drove under Bowman for second on lap seven and started to reel in Linder. By lap 10, Smith was racing under Linder to challenge for the lead, which he took a circuit later. Smith would cruise around the track’s bottom and would pull away the rest of the race. Linder would continue to run comfortably in second as Bowman and Brubaker battled hard for third.
Smith would easily take the checkers over Linder, Brubaker, Bowman and Philo. Exiting his car in victory lane, Smith would do a “snow angel” in the mud on the inside of the track left after all-day rains on Friday.
In the 25-lap late model feature, Steve Sabo and Dotson would pace the field with Sabo grabbing the lead when the green flew. Dotson would follow closely with John Mayes Jr., Ron Miller, Mike Bores and Matt Irey giving chase. After a lap was completed, Rusty Smith would make hard contact with the wall in turn three, getting upside down and collecting Larry Kingseed. Smith escaped injury, but his car was destroyed. On the restart, Sabo would continue to lead, but Dotson applied pressure with Miller moving into third.
On lap four, Dotson would drive under Sabo to grab the lead and began to check out. Miller would take second from Sabo on lap six, but had nothing for Dotson. The only thing that slowed Dotson’s march to the win was a couple of cautions on lap six and with four laps to go. Dotson was on the verge of lapping the field as he drove to the checkers, with only four cars remaining on the lead lap. Miller would finish second with Mayes, Sabo and Nate Potts rounding out the top five.
The trucks of Willie Keegan – complete with a sprint car win on the roof – and Kent Brewer would bring the trucks/stock field to the green with Keegan grabbing the lead. But, Cole, who started fifth, would drive into the lead on the second lap, as the caution flew for Jim McGrath who made hard contact with the wall exiting turn two. On the restart Cole drove away with Keegan, Brewer, Bob Dible and 11th starter Shawn Valenti in tow. Cole hit heavy lapped traffic by lap five with Keegan battling with Valenti for second. By lap 10, Valenti had caught Cole as they weaved through traffic. Cole would get hung up in traffic and Valenti pounced to take the lead, but the caution would fly, necessitating the line-up going back to the last completely scored lap and putting Cole back in the lead.
With a clear track, Cole would not be denied as he held off several late race challenges from Valenti to score the win. Dible would come home third with Keegan and Brewer rounding out the top five.
Wright and Brandon Myers would lead the field to the green in the four-cylinder feature, but it was fourth starter Gillingham who bolted into the lead with Wright, Myers, Steve Miller, Greg Sherman and Kelsey Ivy in tow. Gillingham would lead very lap of the 12 circuit event, but he was unable to shake Wright who raced on his rear bumper the entire distance. A caution with two laps to go would give Wright one last chance, but Gillingham was too strong and took the victory with Myers coming home third, Sherman fourth and Bryan Shammo rounding out the top five.
Prior to the night’s racing, a special kick-ball tournament was held involving drivers, fans and crews. The event helped raise over $7,000 for the Kick-It organization, a nation-wide effort to raise funds to combat childhood cancer. Donations are still being excepted and fans can go to www.kick-it.org to contribute.