MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Matt Campbell understands how every nut and bolt works on the sprint cars he wheels every weekend, not necessarily out of necessity, but because he genuinely loves the shop grind.
“If I’m not at the racetrack, I’m in a race shop,” Campbell said. “Whether it’s here [with my family team in the No. 16c] or the deal with [John Westbrook’s No. 1w], this is my life. This is what I do and love to do.”
The 22-year-old’s work when no one was looking finally broke into the light over the weekend, as Campbell posted finishes of second on Friday at Williams Grove and fourth on Saturday at Lincoln.
He also picked up a heat race win on Saturday at Lincoln, turning away some mid-season misfortune that caused him to either fail to qualify or finish a feature in four of his previous seven races.
“It all starts in the shop,” Campbell said. “The shop is some of your most important work you can do. Me, as a driver, all I’ve learned working in the garage has made me better at the track. You can learn more and try more things. It’s what you need to do to stay ahead of everyone else.”
For Campbell, this is his fourth full season in the 410 division. He and his family launched their own team in the 358 division in 2016 and moved to the 410 class the following season.
Now, he is running for track championships in his family-owned No. 16c at Lincoln Speedway and for Westbrook in the No. 1w at Williams Grove.
On Friday at Williams Grove, Campbell came .223 seconds shy of his third career 410 victory, nearly making a last-corner attempt at the win pay off.
Campbell started the 25-lap feature in fourth, but hounded eventual winner Steve Buckwalter for the lead with 10 laps to go as the two weaved through lapped traffic.
On the following lap, though, Campbell nearly threw it all away coming off turn two, getting sideways behind a lapped car, and then saving it as Buckwalter pulled away.
Going into the final corner, Campbell, roughly seven tenths behind, dived into turn three as Buckwalter worked the top, and the two rounded the frontstretch side-by-side before Buckwalter beat him back to the finish line.
On Saturday at Lincoln, Campbell won his heat race from fourth by 1.146 seconds and held on for a fourth-place finish despite some steering issues.
“For the luck we’ve had recently, yes, it’s nice,” Campbell said of his weekend. “I think we’ve had some crap luck. I know good race cars are there, we just need to have everything to work out. We had a good weekend. We just need to keep it going.”
Campbell’s biggest sights for 2020 are the $20,000-to-win Dirt Classic at Lincoln Speedway in September and the National Open at Williams Grove in October, where he finished ninth on the Friday preliminary night and 12th on Saturday last year.
“We hope to improve on that,” Campbell said. “I’m feeling pretty good about this second half of the season. [Racing] wants to beat you down. It makes you just work harder. It makes nights like [Friday] pay off. If we can keep that going, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
– If you missed the thrill show, Jeff Halligan outdueled Dylan Cisney and edged him out at the line by .061 seconds to win at Port Royal Speedway on Saturday night.
It was Halligan’s first career win at the speedway and first of 2020 in 12 feature attempts.
Brent Marks collected his sixth overall podium in central Pennsylvania with a third-place finish, while Anthony Macri and Ryan Taylor completed the top five.
– The All Star Circuit of Champions stop at Williams Grove on Friday starts another significant stretch of races in central Pennsylvania.
Over the next three weeks, there are three World of Outlaws races (July 23 at Lincoln and July 24-25 at Williams Grove), three All Star Circuit of Champions races (July 17 at Williams Grove and July 18-19 at Port Royal), two $10,000-to-win races at Lincoln (July 18 and July 29) and a $10,000-to-win race at Port Royal on Aug. 1.
– Steve Buckwalter has been feast or famine in 2020. In 14 of his central Pennsylvania 410 races, he’s either finished on the podium, failed to qualify, or failed to finish the feature.
Buckwalter has four podium finishes, including his win on Friday at Williams Grove, and 10 combined DNQs and DNFs.
– Numerous invaders are taking part in the events at Williams Grove, Lincoln, and Port Royal Speedway this weekend.
PA Speedweek champion Kyle Larson and World of Outlaws driver David Gravel are expected to compete in the All Star Circuit of Champions-sanctioned races at Williams Grove and Port Royal.
World of Outlaws drivers Sheldon Haudenschild, Logan Schuchart, and Jacob Allen are also expected to be in central Pennsylvania, as are Parker Price-Miller, Jac Haudenschild and Mason Daniel.
– Lance Dewease’s 10th-place effort Friday at Williams Grove was the first race this year he failed to finish inside the top six.
He had 13 straight top sixes entering Friday, where he started 19th.
– It’s been tough-sledding for central Pennsylvania stalwart Lucas Wolfe, who failed to complete a lap in both features entered at Williams Grove and Port Royal this past weekend.
Wolfe had a mechanical issue in the pace laps Friday at Williams Grove and then got tangled in a nasty, turn-one wreck at Port Royal. He now has six DNFs in 25 features, which puts him tied for second most in central Pennsylvania.
– Brent Marks is 0-for-17 in central Pennsylvania so far, but he’s been efficient: posting six podiums, 10 top sixes, seven heat race wins, and zero DNFs or DNQs.
– Freddie Rahmer’s win on Saturday at Lincoln ties him with Kyle Larson and Anthony Macri for most wins in central Pennsylvania with four.