He's been close to victory on several occasions this year, but had not been able to "seal the deal"...until Saturday night, that is...
Aaron Bollinger, the youthful charger in the Bollinger's Septic Service No. 16a finally kicked open the door to victory lane at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway. And he did it in a big way, executing a slide job on the last lap to win the biggest 600 Sprint race of the year for Lanco club members, the Clyde Martin Memorial presented by Gold Rush Trailer Sales.
The annual Memorial Race, highlighted by the longest features of the year at 35 laps and awarding double points and a perpetual trophy, also saw Bradley Brown painfully drive to his second 270cc Memorial victory; David Ravel win his second straight Memorial in the Sportsman Class; and the Brian brothers, Marty and Cliff Jr., won in the 250cc Four-Stroke and 125cc Classes.
Bollinger has registered several podium finishes in 600 Sprint competition this season, but a recent spate of bad luck had him wondering if he would ever record a victory at the Clyde. Saturday night, it appeared he might run second (again) to Holden Eckman, but a caution flag with five to go gave him a shot at the leader. Bollinger ducked under Eckman a few times over the last few circuits, but saved his best for the last trip around the oval. He threw a slider on Eckman in turns one and two, skating up the track and just barely clearing the No. 11h. Bollinger's right-rear tire glanced off the left-front of Eckman's mount, forcing Eckman to lift a bit, and Bollinger roared away with the top spot.
Prior to the last lap pass, Eckman ruled the race, leading from the pole through lap 34. Some fantastic action took place behind him, however, as Jarid Kunkle, Jesse Snyder, Chris Gerhart, Brent Ely, Bollinger, Heath Hehnly, and Mike Rutherford fought tooth-and-nail for positions two through eight. Terrific three-wide competition was the norm as Snyder, Kunkle, and Bollinger ran three abreast for second place from lap 21 through 26. Bollinger emerged from that tussle with the runner-up spot, was able to restart on the leader's tail tank with five to go, and the rest is history.
"This is more for my dad than me," said the winner in his victory lane interview. "He's been working so hard on this thing, trying to get it better. And I've learned a lot this year, too...I know I can't constantly dive under people and try slide jobs because that lets the cars behind me get a run on me," said Bollinger as he fought with his emotions after the big win.
Following Bollinger and Eckman to the stripe were Snyder, Heath Hehnly, and B. Ely. The point standings tightened after the double-point event, with point leader Rutherford finishing 12th (he spun after hitting an infield tire, then was collected in another incident late in the race) and Hehnly's fourth-place effort. Rutherford's lead is now down to 13 points (unofficial tally right after the race).
Kunkle and Snyder were 600 Sprint heat race winners.
A hard crash one week earlier had Bradley Brown hurting before the big race on Saturday. "Pretty sure I broke some ribs; it hurts to be in the car but this is the Clyde Martin Memorial Race," said Brown after his triumph in the Viper Chassis 270 Sprint main.
His second 270cc Memorial Race victory occurred after two drivers were knocked out of the lead...one in a crash and the other due to a blown engine. Mike Rutherford, a four-time winner of the 270cc Memorial, started on the pole of the 35-lapper. He and Nick Skias put on quite a show in the early stages, dicing for and trading the lead while eighth-starter Brown battled Mike Skias, Danny Lane Jr., and Corey Schmuck Jr. for second spot. Just after they completed lap 12, N. Skias and Rutherford got together at the end of the homestretch, ending with Rutherford spinning wildly out of the lead and into the outside guardrail. "Totally my fault, and I apologize," said N. Skias afterward. "I went to cut low and get under him going into one, and I caught his rear bumper and turned him. Definitely nothing intentional and I hate that I knocked him out of the race."
Skias inherited the point and led until his engine decided to call it a night, sending him to the infield with 14 tours scored and handing the lead over to Bradley Brown. Brown, from New Providence, PA, waltzed to the win, his third triumph of the season in the 270cc Class, over Mike Skias and Jarrett Imler. Patrick Kirn wound up fourth and Corey Schmuck Jr. completed the top five.
Brown's win, along with Rutherford's early demise (he wound up 15th in the final rundown) closed the gap in the 270 point chase. Brown is now just 38 points behind Rutherford (unofficially; points are tabulated immediately after each event but are double-checked over the next couple days before they are officially released).
Toby Blumenshine and Brown won heat races for the Viper Chassis 270's.
The Gold Rush Trailer Sales Clyde Martin Memorial Race for the Sportsman Class was a dandy, with Patrick Kirn showing his hand in the early going. Kirn zipped through a tiny opening between his foes and the outside guardrail to pass both David Ravel and leader Clinton Hauser as they accelerated off turn two on the second revolution. Kirn would go on to set the pace through lap 25, when the yellow flag waved for just the second time in the race. On the restart, Ravel tossed a slide job on the leader, but could not quite clear him off turn two. Ravel squeezed Kirn toward the fence just enough, at the exit of turn two, that Kirn had to lift and Ravel shot into the lead. A slidefest then ensued between Kirn and Ravel before Ravel was able to pull away, leaving Kirn to deal with 15th-starter Nick Skias. With Kirn firmly planted on the top shelf in the corners, Skias had no choice but to dive under him and attempt to slide the No. 16P. Kirn was strong, though, and roared back around Skias each time.
At the finish, it was Ravel, from Reading, winning his second consecutive Memorial Race for the Sportsman (and his second win of the year) over Kirn, N. Skias, point leader Mike Kreiser, and Nate Gibble.
Victories in the two Sportsman heats went to Ravel and N. Skias.
Ephrata's Marty Brian notched his division-leading sixth win of the season in the 35-lapper for the 250cc Four-Strokes. It was Brian's first Memorial Race victory and, to show how popular he is among his competitors, Marty was hoisted in victory lane, while holding his Memorial trophy, by runner-up Tommy Phipps Jr. and third-place finisher Jim Harrington. Phipps even stated, "there's no one else I'd rather see win this race - other than me - than Marty."
Marty Brian slipped past early leader Alex Lukacs to grab the lead on the first trip around the clay. He simply checked out from that point on, and only two caution periods slowed his pace. Phipps, who came into the event riding a three-race win streak, swapped the third position with Harrington on several occasions before securing it for good, then going on to pass Alex Lukacs for second on a restart with ten to go. Harrington moved up to duel with Lukacs for third, and they ran side-by-side for the last bunch of laps until Harrington finally got by and raced home to a podium finish.
At the checkered, it was M. Brian over Phipps, with Harrington, Lukacs, and Riley Simmons completing the top five.
Four-Stroke heat winners were M. Brian and Lukacs.
Marty Brian's older brother, Cliff Jr., was not about to be out-shined by his younger sibling on Saturday. Cliff went from third to first on the opening lap of the 125cc feature, then just ran away to score his first Clyde Martin Memorial Race triumph and his fifth of the season in the 125cc Class. Cliff Jr. also has one win in the wingless 125cc/Four-Stroke Challenge, and a pair of winged Four-Stroke victories.
Mike Glass wrestled the runner-up position from Brandon Gibble on the seventh circuit, but Glass was no match for the four-stroke power plant in Brian's No. 99. At the finish, it was Cliff Brian Jr. handily winning over Glass, Gibble, Holden Eckman, and Kerry Lengle.
Eckman and Glass were heat race winners for the 125cc competitors.
This Saturday the Clyde will host the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Championship series and Hyper Racing 600 Speedweek presented by 600cc Performance. Pit passes will be sold beginning at 4 p.m., but pit gates will be open prior to that time. Advanced general admission tickets may be purchased from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the turn one ticket booth, and then again at 5:00. Advanced ticket holders will be admitted one hour before everyone else, at 4:00, so they can mark the seats of their choice and then head down to the pit area until 6 p.m.
Heat in the motors and warm-ups will begin at 6:00.
The fire breathing fury of the USAC National Midgets and 600 Speedweek means just one thing...you've gotta come out and LIVE the excitement that is Lanco!
Hyper Racing 600 Sprints, 35 Laps: 1.Aaron Bollinger, 2.Holden Eckman, 3.Jesse Snyder, 4.Heath Hehnly, 5.Brent Ely, 6.Jarid Kunkle, 7.Jesse Maurer, 8.Bradley Brown, 9.Ryan Groff, 10.Chris Gerhart, 11.Brian Kramer, 12.Mike Rutherford, 13.Zach Light, 14.Kassidy Michael, 15.Ryan Hook, 16.Jered Hook, 17.Don Hess, 18.Will Urkuski, 19.Chelsey Moore. DNS: Chris Panczner.
Viper Chassis 270 Sprints, 35 Laps: 1.Bradley Brown, 2.Mike Skias, 3.Jarrett Imler, 4.Patrick Kirn, 5.Corey Schmuck Jr., 6.Trent Eberhart, 7.Christi Sweigart, 8.Zak Vickers, 9.Mike Uhrich, 10.Nate Gibble, 11.Jonah Meck, 12.Josh Stoyer, 13.Heath Hehnly, 14.Nick Skias, 15.Mike Rutherford, 16.Andrew Dietrich, 17.Dan Lane Jr., 18.Billy Logeman, 19.Toby Blumenshine.
Sportsman Feature, 35 Laps: 1.David Ravel, 2.Patrick Kirn, 3.Nick Skias, 4.Mike Kreiser, 5.Nate Gibble, 6.Charles Hellinger, 7.Robert Shanaman, 8.Clinton Hauser, 9.Brittany Zeller, 10.Steve Smith Sr., 11.Sam Borger, 12.Jamie Flickinger, 13.Dennis Fenstermacher, 14.Noah Merkey, 15.Jeremy Eisenhour.
250cc Four-Stroke Feature, 35 Laps: 1.Marty Brian, 2.Tommy Phipps Jr., 3.Jim Harrington, 4.Alex Lukacs, 5.Riley Simmons, 6.Zachary Young, 7.Jessica Moore, 8.Eddie Nocera, 9.Ron Wechter, 10.Jenna Heagy, 11.Jared St. John, 12.Ron Young, 13.Dylan Yeingst.
125cc Feature, 35 Laps: 1.Cliff Brian Jr., 2.Mike Glass, 3.Brandon Gibble, 4.Holden Eckman, 5.Kerry Lengle, 6.Tyler Martin, 7.RJ Rossi, 8.Kenny Bushey, 9.Chase Layser, 10.Barbie Eichorn, 11.Shane Davis, 12.Jimmy Wampole.