ABBOTTSTOWN, Pa. – PA Speedweek’s return to Lincoln Speedway for night brought a number of storylines to the forefront on Monday evening.
Brent Marks and Ryan Smith, each driving top-tier cars, are among those feeling pressure to perform as the tour heads to Grandview Speedway Tuesday night. Freddie Rahmer continued to hang in the PA Speedweek points battle, while Anthony Macri continued his recent struggles at Lincoln.
Reporter Kyle McFadden took a deeper look at those three points following the fourth night of action during Speedweek in the Keystone State.
1. Marks, Smith Feeling Pressure To Perform
If you took Brent Marks’ and Ryan Smith’s assessments of Pennsylvania Speedweek to date and attributed them anonymously, it’d be hard to discern who said what.
“Third, fourth, that’s nice but we want to win,” one of the two drivers said Monday night at Lincoln Speedway. “It’s a trying deal. We need to win races. We aren’t getting it done.”
“We really need to pick up a couple wins,” the other added. “You just need to win when you’re in cars like this. That’s all we care about: Winning.”
Those statements read practically identical for two drivers feeling the pressure to pick up the slack in performance and, ultimately, win in top tier equipment.
The big reveal of the aforementioned quotes: Smith isn’t “getting it done” in the established Heffner Racing No. 72, pressing to perform in the shadow of the late Greg Hodnett. And Marks needs “to win when you’re in cars like this,” the successor of Shane Stewart and David Gravel in CJB Motorsports’ No. 5, which has 33 wins on the World of Outlaws circuit since 2016.
Through four races of Pennsylvania Speedweek, Smith and Marks are fifth and sixth in the series standings, 121 points and 136 points off pace set by Danny Dietrich, who already has two wins. Smith and Marks haven’t finished outside the top eight in those four races, something only two other drivers – Dietrich and Kyle Larson – can say. But unlike Dietrich and Larson, Smith and Marks have yet to contend for wins by the end of the night and the amplified stakes are mounting.
“You need to win,” Smith said after a fifth-place run Monday night at Lincoln Speedway. “And that’s about it.”
Smith showed the speed necessary to win on Monday. He timed third in his flight during time trials, behind Aaron Reutzel and Freddie Rahmer, and ahead of Cory Eliason, Dietrich, and Sammy Swindell. He won his heat race and drew third for the 30-lap main event, but five laps in Smith slipped to sixth, realizing he needs an edge from the onset.
“I’m like, ‘Son of a gun. I should’ve done this or should’ve done that,’” said Smith, who makes his own adjustments when it comes to setup changes. “I need to forget about what I’m doing with the car and drive with what I got. It took me five laps to go, and by then I was sixth.”
“I need to get the mind game out of my head,” Smith added, “and tell myself, ‘Let’s go. We need to go.’”
Smith knows he has the resources to get it done. Smith has done it before, winning once last year at Lincoln Speedway and five times with the All Star Circuit of Champions in 2017 and 2018 combined. It’s just those statements are largely provoked by a driver wanting to win more than once with Heffner Racing since the start of 2019.
“For some reason, it takes me 10 races to get my confidence up,” Smith said. “If you aren’t comfortable by night nine, you shouldn’t be doing it. I’m right there. We’re consistent. We just need to get better.”
Coincidentally, Smith and Marks were parked next to each other on Monday. While Smith was candid about his struggles, Marks kept it short and sweet.
“Overall, we had a pretty good night,” Marks said. “We just need to keep having these runs and get better and better every night. Hopefully it leads to wins soon.”
Marks timed fifth in his time trial flight and was set to start second in his feature before race control moved him back a row for misjudging the initial start with polesitter Kyle Reinhardt. He clawed from fourth to finish second in his heat, 1.494 seconds behind Larson, before placing fourth in a feature that provided little passing up front.
“We’ll keep on plugging away and working at it,” Marks said.
2. Rahmer Salvages Eighth, Stays In Points Battle
Going into round four Monday at Lincoln Speedway, Freddie Rahmer seemed to be in a good position to eat away at Dietrich’s 73-point lead over him in the series standings.
Rahmer had won two of the last three races at the track and maybe this would be his night. Instead, Rahmer found himself scrambling to just make the feature, racing in the B-Main. Rahmer qualified for the 30-lap event, started 21st and by the end of it drove all the way to eighth, finishing behind Larson (sixth) and Dietrich (seventh) to stay in the points battle.
“We had some trouble in the heat, but I’m glad we salvaged something,” Rahmer said. “I’d really like to win one of these big races but we’ll take this and keep going.”
Rahmer lost eight points to Dietrich and maintained his third-place positioning in the standings on a night where it all could’ve gone wayward. He timed second in his flight of time trials, but had to start fourth in his heat because of the Speedweek format. Swindell, who started in front of Rahmer in the heat race, got a slow initial jump and immediately pushed Rahmer back to sixth on the opening lap.
Rahmer couldn’t make up another position to transfer but eventually won the B-Main to at least keep his title hopes alive for another night.
“We just seem to keep fighting and that’s all you can ask for,” Rahmer said. “We just need to keep digging.”
3. Macri Misses Lincoln Cut Again
After three wins in a row at Port Royal Speedway, including one with the All Star Circuit of Champions last Wednesday, Macri missed his second straight Speedweek feature at Lincoln on Monday.
Unfortunately for Macri, both Lincoln races have comprised half of the Speedweek schedule to date and, as one would imagine, the off nights have spiraled the 21-year-old out of the top 10 in the standings.
In Macri’s two races at Williams Grove and Selinsgrove, both half miles, he has finishes of sixth and fourth to show for.
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