Last Sunday’s twin 20 lap Modified features at Evergreen Raceway Park were everything short track racing was meant to be. A pair of flat out dashes loaded with some intensely close action from start to finish. The short jaunts brought out the best in everyone as an equally matched field of drivers fought hard throughout each respective main.
In race one Donny Hartzell went toe-to-toe with Brian Sones for his first win since August 12, 2005 and in the second race Jim BoJohnny held off perennial track kingpin Brian DeFebo for his career first victory.
At the start of feature one Hartzell and Randall Richard shared the front row. As the field headed into turn one Sones went by Richard and immediately started a side-by-side battle with Hartzell. They would then remain in that formation over the first half dozen laps with both going back and forth for the lead.
Lap one it was Hartzell. The next time by was scored by Sones. Lap three and the lead went back to Hartzell with Sones eking ahead with six complete.
Hartzell then nosed out front at the completion of lap seven but was far from in the clear. Sones was still hanging on him and now in the mix were Richard and DeFebo.
Under intense pressure the foursome ran lap after lap under a blanket until finally catching a slight breather seven laps from the finish when DeFebo spun while attempting to gain a spot.
When the action resumed Hartzell was again in command but still being hounded by Sones. Also coming on strong was Todd Baer. In the closing laps it was an all out dogfight between Hartzell and Sones with Baer ready to strike at the slightest miscue.
On the final lap Sones went for broke and pulled to the outside of Hartzell. The pair raced two-wide into the final two corners. Heading to the checkers Sones got swirly as he came off the last turn and nearly lost control. Hartzell went on the claim the exciting win with Richard holding on for second by inches over Sones and Baer. Brandon Oltra completed the top five.
“That was a good short race and that’s how I like them,” said Hartzell. “We’ve been fighting this car since opening day and we got closer today as you can see.
“We were lucky this was a short race because once you get pinched down on the low groove then you can’t come off the corners as well so luckily for us this was just a 20 lapper and we pulled it off at the end.”
The second feature started with BoJohnny and Matt Higgins on the front row and with the race commencing green BoJohnny took the lead. Slipping into second was track standouts Jerry Hildebrand and DeFebo. Despite the combined years of experience on his tail, BoJohnny handled himself well over the opening laps.
However, DeFebo, who is the defending track champion and all-time winner at the 1/3-mile paved oval, began an determined assault on the leader. By lap six they went bumper-to-bumper and at the same time Hildebrand continued to loom directly behind them.
On lap six DeFebo tried to go to the outside of BoJohnny, getting a good run down the back straight, but the upstart kept a solid foothold and turned away his repeated attempts. With the outside lane not working, DeFebo then took to the low line and this time he was able to pull even with the leader.
Keeping in mind that all this was taking place under extreme close quarters, it all came to a head when DeFebo tried to take the lead from inside turn three. Unfortunately he touched wheels with BoJohnny and spun, bringing out a caution.
On the restart Hildebrand put his bumper out front and was credited with leading lap 14. That would be the only time though as BoJohnny came right back on the ensuing circuit.
Although only a few laps remained there was plenty of action still to come. DeFebo was on a mission as he hustled his way back through the pack and once again was attacking BoJohnny.
The final few laps contested in a two-wide duel. DeFebo even had a brief stint at the lead on lap 17. But just as he did with Hildebrand, BoJohnny fought back. He took the lead with two to go and drove to his elusive first win, beating the best there is in the process.
“That was fantastic. I can’t quite explain the emotions I’m feeling right now,” an elated BoJohnny said from victory lane. “It was so intense out there. I got into Brian (DeFebo) a little bit but it wasn’t intentional. I apologize but it was coming down to the last lap and I didn’t have any brakes and I wanted to race him for it (win).
“I lost brakes about halfway through the feature and I radioed to my dad I didn’t know what to do. He said just keep at it and that’s what I did. This is huge to get our first win.”
Richard came home third with Scott Adams and Hildebrand rounding out the top five.
Jack Ely was no match for the rest of the pack as he scored a rousing victory in the 25-lap Dirt Mod feature. It was his first win at Evergreen, coming in only his second start. Two weeks earlier he won for the first time at Mahoning Valley Speedway.
Randy Schlenker notched his second straight Street Stock win. Although he led all 30 laps he had to fend off 2012 track champion Chip Wanamaker for a very close finish.
Nick Baer remains the hot hand in the Four Cylinder class as the 16-year old made it back to back wins.
Stephanie Moyer is getting to like the Mother’s Day Sunday shows as for the second time in as many years she took the win in the Factory Stock main.