BECHTELSVILLE, PA?~ Dirt track legend Meme DeSantis showed that he is looking to be a serious contender for the lucrative championship at Grandview Speedway winning the opening night 30-lap feature for the NASCAR Whelen All American Series 358 Modifieds Saturday night. Mike Kellner, a consistent winner at the one-third-mile, banked clay track, kicked off his season with a win in the 25 lap Late Model feature while Jared Umbenhauer started defense of his 2012 Sportsman title by leading almost all the laps to win the 25 lap main event for the Sportsman racers.
Don Norris Jr. was quick to set the pace at the drop of the green flag for the 30-lap NASCAR 358 Modified feature with Kyle Weiss close behind. With six laps in the record book Weiss went a little wide as he was challenged and gave second to hard charging Meme DeSantis. At the halfway mark it was a three car battle for the number one spot featuring Norris, DeSantis and now defending Modified champion Duane Howard. At 18 laps Howard, now second, was able to take the top spot by ?rubbing? past Norris.
With 22 laps completed Doug Manmiller, who had been running in the top five for much of the race, hit the fourth turn wall hard. Manmiller climbed out of his car pointing his finger at Howard apparently blaming him for an earlier incident that had Manmiller bouncing off the wall going into Turn 3 and, perhaps, damaging his car and leading to the hard crash.
One lap later DeSantis got wide in Turn 2 while taking the top spot from Howard bouncing the defending champion off the wall. Howard was able to maintain control and charge after DeSantis.
The final laps had DeSantis, who calls Temple, PA home, holding on to the lead and holding off a strong late race challenge from Howard (Oley). Norris (Douglassville) was able to grab third followed by nine time track champion Jeff Strunk (Boyertown) making a late race charge. Ryan Grim (Laury?s Station) had a strong effort grabbing fifth in the final standings.
In victory lane DeSantis, coming off a difficult season that actually had rumors floating around during the off season that he would not be racing at Grandview this season, brought quite a reaction from the large fan turnout on a very cold night when he responded to a question from the victory lane announcer. DeSantis indicated that he did not feel bad about the contact with Howard that got him the lead.
The victory earned DeSantis $2750 for his winning efforts with the In-Home Oxygen/Dino?s Wings & Things sponsored #88D. $250 of the winner?s money coming from the TP Trailers of Limerick bonus bucks given to the feature winner provided TP decals are both sides of the car and clearly visible.
A multi-car accident in the first turn shortly after the green flag was displayed eliminated a couple of the top performers in the 25-lap Late Model feature. On the restart after the caution Mike Kellner went to the front and that is where he and his Power Washer/Mary Kay #57 stayed until the checkered flag was displayed.
With seven laps remaining Wayne Pfeil, who had challenged the leader for most of the race, made a run for the top spot but got sideways in Turn 2 losing a couple of spots.
At the finish Kellner (Lansdale) was able to hold off a fast closing Sean Merkel (Gilbertsville) to get the victory. Pfeil (Mohnton) was able to hold on for a third place finish followed by Jason Miller (New Tripoli) and Bill Henning (Lansdale).
Defending Late Model champion Chuck Schutz had to climb into a borrowed car (Buddy Mertz? s #00) and start last in the feature race. He managed to come home with a 10th place finish.
Jared Umbenhauer (Richland) showed that he is serious about winning his second straight Sportsman title as he lead all but two of the laps in the driving the Eastern Rigging #5 to victory in the