MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Before rolling off on the pole for Friday’s All Star Circuit of Champions feature at Williams Grove, Anthony Macri exhaled deeply, perhaps out of nervousness or excitement or everything in between.
It was going to take 30 composed laps for Macri, in a position he’s still not comfortable with, to get the job done. The 22-year-old knew that.
He eventually came five laps short of another landmark win, as Kyle Larson rushed in and stole the show like he’s done the last month in central Pennsylvania. And while he was understandably disappointed, Macri held a soft smile in his post-race assessment.
That was something he needed to go through if he wants to secure his first 410 win at Williams Grove.
“It’s essential, for winning races, to get your ass kicked in a sense,” Macri said. “We know what we need to do better. I know what I need to do as a driver. Coming back next week, it should be better.”
That week has arrived: the Summer Nationals with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and a field that could rival what will be seen in the prestigious, $65,000-to-win National Open in October.
Prior to Friday night, Macri had a best-finish of sixth at Williams Grove in four races. It’s not a large sample size, but clearly Macri didn’t like the way things were headed at the paper-clip-like oval.
“To us, it feels like a win,” Macri said of finishing runner-up to Larson, who extended his summer hot streak to 18 wins in 31 races at that point. “We were so [bad] at the beginning of the year.”
Macri, whose four wins have all come in a string at Port Royal Speedway from June 14 to July 1, has pointed Friday’s upswing to going “back to the basics” with “a few tweaks.”
It was also the first race in 20 features this season Macri finished on the podium outside of his four victories, as he continues to learn how to win races without having the most dominant car.
“I feel like we have something pretty solid and we have to just keep working with it,” Macri said. “[Friday] is probably the best might we’ve had with the car as far as being able to go to the top and then come back down to the bottom.”
Macri raced out to a 2.5-second gap in the early going, but by the time he caught the tail-end of the field, it took him three laps to pick off his first lapped car. By then, his comfortable lead had vanished.
Five laps later, at the halfway point, a caution came out but Macri regained a sizable lead when things resumed shortly after.
But when lapped traffic congested Macri’s view at the point, in a matter of minutes Larson sliced his way through the slower cars, overtook Macri and raced away.
“Lapped cars were a little bit of a struggle but that’s a part of the growing pains,” Macri said. “I’d say I probably don’t know how to race lapped traffic efficiently here as well as we do at Port [Royal]. At Port [Royal], I know what I need to do in lapped traffic. Here, I don’t even know how many laps I’ve led here.”
The number of laps he’s led at Williams Grove may be unknown to Macri off the top of his head, but the case could be made that he’s 25 laps closer to his first win at the famed track than he was before.
“If we can get through time trials [Friday], I don’t see there’s a reason why we can’t win,” Macri said.
– Lance Dewease finished second on Sunday night to Kyle Larson in the Bob Weikert Memorial at Port Royal Speedway and thought it was one of the better overall performances out of his No. 69K he’s had at the track recently.
“We weren’t as good as [Larson] probably, but that’s the best we’ve been up here in awhile,” Dewease said. “At least we passed cars and maintained with him a little bit. I’ll take a second tonight and be really happy with it.”
Dewease started 10th, and by lap 10 had worked his way up to third using the bottom, while most operated the top.
Two laps later and after a lap 10 restart, Dewease passed Reutzel for second and started to track down Larson but couldn’t get closer than a second to the driver that eventually won his third race of the weekend.
“It’s OK,” Dewease said. “I’m happy with it. You’re not going to drive by [Larson] too easily right now. I’m happy. I was happy to just maintain a little bit.”
– Jared Esh has been tabbed as the driver of the Golden Flavor No. 98 for the remainder of the season at Port Royal Speedway, taking over the car owned by Tom and Fran Chiappelli after Kyle Reinhardt parted ways with the team on Sunday.
– After suffering a concussion on July 4 at Port Royal Speedway and being out of the driver’s seat last weekend, Kyle Moody had an “informative” visit with renowned concussion expert Dr. Micky Collins on Thursday, he said.
Moody hopes to be cleared in three weeks, but needs to regain his hand-eye coordination and reaction time first through extensive physical therapy.
– Larson has finished on the podium 11 times in his 13 Central Pennsylvania races this season, a remarkable 85 percent clip.
Lance Dewease has the second-highest such clip at 56 percent (nine podiums in 16 events), with Danny Dietrich at 38 percent (eight in 21 events), Brent Marks at 35 percent (seven in 20 events), and Freddie Rahmer at 33 percent (10 in 30 events) following.
– Meanwhile, notable drivers still winless in central Pennsylvania this season include Lucas Wolfe (28 events), Ryan Smith (27 events), TJ Stutts (26 events), Brent Marks (20 events), Logan Wagner (19 events) and Robbie Kendall (17 events).