Cottle Collects Eastern Storm Finale

Shane Cottle (65) races under Kevin Thomas Jr. en route to victory Sunday night at Susquehanna Speedway Park. (David E. Heithaus photo)
Shane Cottle (65) races under Kevin Thomas Jr. en route to victory Sunday night at Susquehanna Speedway Park. (David E. Heithaus photo)

NEWBERRYTOWN, Pa. — Shane Cottle finished the Rotondo Weirich “Eastern Storm” with a win for the hometown crowd as he put Pennsylvania car owner Gene Franckowiak and his tribute “City of Syracuse Special” in victory lane on Sunday night at Susquehanna Speedway Park.

It was Cottle’s third career National Sprint Car win and first in the state of Pennsylvania.

Cottle started from the front row and set the pace early as he and front-row mate Tracy Hines stretched it out over the rest of the field. The red came out on lap seven as Joey Biasi was caught up in a turn-three spin. That restart set up the longest green-flag section of the race, with early-race mover Dave Darland fading from a podium spot. Kevin Thomas Jr. moved into the show position with a couple big slide-jobs, and he brought Bryan Clauson and Robert Ballou along past the halfway point.

With just 11 laps to go, Hines got a big run on Cottle and followed him into turn three. Finding a strip of rubber through the middle, Hines flew by just as they exited turn-four, but the red flag was flying as Tim Glatfelter flipped in turn one.

Cottle retained the lead for the restart, giving him another chance to hold the lead.

On the restart, Thomas dove to the bottom of turn-one and bounced up in front of Hines, who was unable to turn back underneath him. Now with less than ten laps to go, Thomas reeled Cottle in and threw a succession of dive-bombs, with Cottle countering every one with a crossover off the corner.

With the white flag waving, Thomas got a good run down the backstretch and tried one more monster slide-job but Cottle drove back underneath and nearly brought Hines with him. At the line, it was a .114-second win for Cottle in the Viper Risk Management – Specialty Rigging No. 65 Spike/Rider.

“This was kind of a throw-together deal, but Gene Franckowiak put together a good car for us. It took us a couple nights to figure it out, but we threw some things at it tonight, and it worked. It was hard to find where to be, and then I was sick as I saw Tracy go by. Luckily the red came out, and I got another chance. I figured that was where the rubber was, so I moved down a bit there. I knew he (Kevin Thomas Jr.) was gonna blow through the rubber, so I just had to focus on hitting it and staying smooth with our tires going away there,” Cottle said.

Thomas held off Hines by .26 seconds to finish second in the Mike Dutcher/Rotondo Weirich/Tri-Star Motorsports – Black Jack Oil Company No. 17rw Maxim/Fisher.

“The restart gave us a chance at the top two. There was just a fine line, and it was hard to hit it on a slider. It was a pretty good race for us, and I’m happy to get back on the podium after kinda having a rough week out East here. I threw everything I had at him for the win. I drove it off in there the last lap pretty hard and it didn’t stick, but that’s a well-deserved win for those guys and I’m happy with our run,” Thomas said.

Hines just missed his opportunity at the win with an untimely red flag, but still held on for third in the Hansen’s Welding – Motor City Auto Transport No. 4 DRC/Stanton Mopar.

“I knew I showed everybody when I passed him for the lead where the track was. Kevin got us there with his slider on the restart, and I could get back to them, but there wasn’t much room to do anything. You really only get one shot at it on a track like that, but the red flag just got us there. The last two nights went pretty well for us, so I’m pretty excited to go back home and race again,” Hines said.

Clauson and Ballou completed the top five.