ABBOTSTOWN, Pa. — After being out of a race car for three months, Brian Montieth returned to his formidable self Monday night at Lincoln Speedway, wiring a stiff field of 49 entrants to win the track’s 35-lap Memorial Day 410 sprint car feature.
Montieth started from the pole and scored a 1.789-second victory over Steve Buckwalter. The win marked his 66th overall at the speedway.
“I can’t thank my guys [enough],” Montieth said in victory lane. “I sort of miss my guys. I haven’t seen my guys in three months. I’m glad to be back doing what we like to do on a regular week.”
Lance Dewease, who set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 13.309 seconds, joined Montieth and Buckwalter on the podium in third.
Anthony Macri earned hard-charger honors by racing to fifth from 14th, just behind T.J. Stutts in fourth.
Chase Dietz, Chad Trout, Billy Dietrich, Lucas Wolfe, and Ryan Smith rounded out the top 10.
Montieth timed sixth in group one time trials, but took command for good when he powered around Wolfe on lap two of 10 in his heat race.
From there, all the cards fell in Montieth’s hand, as he drew the pole for the main event and staked an early lead on Tim Shaffer before a pair of cautions by lap 8.
On lap 12, four laps after the race’s second restart, Montieth had built a one-second advantage over Shaffer and worked into lapped traffic by lap 14.
He picked off the first few at the tail end of the field with ease, but once the main event reached halfway, Shaffer cut Montieth’s 1.2-second lead to just two car lengths.
“I knew lapped traffic was going to be tough,” Montieth said. “You’re basically just not trying to mess up. And the cars that were sitting behind me have way more [experience], so one screw up and the two veterans [Shaffer and Dewease] will get on by you.”
Once Montieth successfully passed the lapped car of Robbie Kendall on his fifth attempt, he stretched the lead to 1.8 seconds.
But with six laps remaining, Gerard McIntyre’s No. 07 whipped around amidst a fierce battle with other lapped cars, bringing out the yellow. The incident collected Shaffer and Smith, who were running second and third, in the process.
Montieth held on from there though, producing two pristine restarts with six and three laps to go to secure his first win at Lincoln this season.
“To be off this long and come out of the box and be this fast, it shows you how good this team really is,” Montieth said.
Monday night also marked the first 410 sprint car race in Central Pennsylvania since the statewide shutdown due to COVID-19 on March 14.
Despite not being cleared to race by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe and sensing a lack of direction on how to safely return, Lincoln Speedway co-owner Mike Heffner took matters into his own hands.
Heffner and speedway employees hashed out ideas for a Memorial Day show throughout the week and officially rolled out the plans for Monday on Friday evening.
“It just came to a point where we had so many people requesting and wanting to come to a race we just said, ‘We’re gonna have to race,’” Heffner said. “There also comes a time, as a business, you have to make a decision whether you have to keep the business going or shut it down. The decision around here is pretty simple: on our watch, this place isn’t going out of business. The decision was pretty easy for us.”
In order to enter Lincoln Speedway, a communicable release waiver affirming no diagnoses, symptoms, or exposure to the virus had to be completed.
The speedway also added two viewing areas in the infield and outside of turn one and employed security guards to monitor social distancing.
Masks were encouraged, but not mandatory.
“There are governmental guidelines, and we try to follow them,” Heffner said. “We do the same types of things that the Walmarts and the Lowes and the Home Depots do. We try to do social distancing. We encourage people to wear masks. Whether they did or not … you can’t force them to wear the masks. We have a lot of hand sanitizer.
“I don’t know if there is one thing I’d change about [Monday],” Heffner added. “The fans were superb. They knew they had to set a good example. I didn’t see one person step out of line. The fans were terrific.”
Additionally, Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano and David Maloney, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, attended Monday’s event.
“We have support from the local officials and lawmakers,” Heffner said. “We are on board to make the right step.”
In regards to future events at Lincoln Speedway, track officials announced a 7:30 p.m. show with 410 sprint cars and 358 sprint cars on Saturday, May 30.
As for the remaining schedule, Heffner is taking it week-to-week for now.
“I think we’ll try to get back into the swing of things,” Heffner said. “We have to make some adjustments. We’re not gonna get back to 100 percent normal of course. We still have to take many things into consideration, especially when it comes to looking out for people’s safety. But race fans are very responsible.”
When asked about his thoughts on how Monday went, Montieth offered a positive review.
“I thought it was really good,” Montieth said. “Everyone was well-behaved. It went a lot smoother than I thought it would.”
Brian Montieth, Steve Buckwalter, Lance Dewease, TJ Stutts, Anthony Macri, Chase Dietz, Chad Trout, Billy Dietrich, Lucas Wolfe, Ryan Smith, Alan Krimes, Chad Layton, Adam Wilt, Robbie Kendall, Rick Lafferty, Tim Glatfelter, Kyle Moody, Landon Myers, Freddie Rahmer, Brandon Rahmer, Tim Shaffer, Gerard McIntyre,