Lou Strohl wins King of the Green Tom Wanick Jr. Memorial…Blake Barney wins championship: Mike Sweeney caps off Late Model season with a win and the title
By DINO OBERTO
Lou Strohl has been having quite the late season surge. The veteran racer from Palmerton is coming fresh off a big win at Mahoning Valley Speedway in the Greg and Rich Long Tribute race, a 97-lap feature and capped off the year there with his first ever driving title.
Then on Saturday he and his Matt Higgins owned No. 88 headed to Evergreen Raceway for the 22nd annual King of the Green which was the Tom Wanick Jr. Memorial and keeping in sync with his fast moving momentum, Strohl captured the 111-lap contest, his first win here since 2007.
“What a hell of a race car I got and this LFR, if you don’t have one you need to get one,” said Strohl after his $3500 victory.
“I want to thank Tommy Wanick for having this race and all he’s done. My car owner Matt Higgins made a deal with me on the way up here that if we win the King of the Green then we’re going to run the Islip 300 at Riverhead and I said okay but if I win that then we’re going to the Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium so let’s see what happens.”
Strohl time trialed fourth then bided his time there until 29 laps to go which at that point he maneuvered by then leader Brian Sones. Afterwards Strohl focused on staying out front and would do so to the finish, taking the popular victory over Austin Beers, Sones, Blake Barney and Anthony Sesely.
Time trials would set the starting grid and Beers, who was the last car on the clock, snagged the pole over Roger Coss. At the outset he set out ahead of the pack while fifth starting Sones worked up to second within the first dozen laps.
A very strong running Sones then closed in on Beers and would take over the lead with 22 laps complete. Under a stretch of green flag laps Sones used that to extend his lead, pulling securely ahead of Beers until the race was halted on lap 53 for debris.
On the restart Sones remained in command but Sesely, Strohl and Brian DeFebo each got by Beers. That also began another stint of green flag laps and although Sones was showing the way he now had Strohl, who had got by Sesely on lap 61, hot on his heels.
With insistent pressure, Strohl would make his race winning move off Turn 2 on lap 81. With so many nonstop laps Strohl felt he couldn’t risk waiting much longer to make his advancement.
“Prior to the start of the race we talked and planned to wait until around lap 70 to start making our moves but I didn’t want to go that long, I wanted to get to the front and set the pace and that’s just what I did and man she was just solid all the way through,” explained Strohl.
“We ran nonstop a couple times and that’s when I felt I couldn’t wait no more because what if it goes green until 10 (laps) to go and I’m stuck sitting there in say fifth or sixth spot. Once I got to the front, like I said it was just phenomenal,” he continued.
“My son (Jesse) is on the radio and he don’t talk much and neither do I and honestly I don’t need to, I’ve been doing this long enough and I know what I’m doing out there. If I knew I was pushing it to hard I would have backed it down.”
In the waning laps Beers rebounded back up to second but time was not his side and would have to settle for runner-up as Strohl was just out of reach.
“I just lost too many spots on that restart and got freight trained on the top. Louie (Strohl) had a great car all day and a better one at the end. Maybe a yellow would have helped but he was really quick,” Beers said.
“When I got back to second I was still half a straightaway behind and didn’t really have anything.
Early on I let the 12 (Sones) go by and I think that really is what cost a shot at the win. Had I stayed in front of him I would have had the track position. We still got second and we’re happy with that.”
Sones was impressive throughout the race. Tracking down Beers and taking the lead, staying out front for a race high 59 laps then coming home a solid third. Not bad considering it was just his second race of the year with the Modified.
“I may have used a little too much at the beginning but I was just cruising, you live and learn. Last year at this race we got lapped a couple times so to come in third we made a lot of improvements on the car and I have to thank my whole crew who came and supported me,” said Sones.
Barney’s fourth place tally netted the New Jersey talent a track championship. Coming into the race Barney was just a few markers ahead of Coss. At one point he looked in jeopardy of giving it up to Coss who was enough spots ahead in his quest to repeat at champ.
But on lap 82 Coss pitted for an adjustment after running in sixth. Thereafter Barney began working his way up the running order and came across the line fourth which netted him the crown.
“2023 champion here at Evergreen feels pretty good. We race at Wall (Stadium) on Saturday’s and this worked out for us on Sunday’s. The track has been great to us, the fans are awesome, all the staff and especially the owner Jason (Makarewicz). We love coming here, it’s always good racing and clean racing,” said Barney.
“Obviously coming in I knew where I had to be in comparison to Roger (Coss). I knew that if I just went out there and ran a good race then I would have him. If I wasn’t good enough to get up there and get to him then he would have deserved the championship,” he went on the say.
“We didn’t get a good qualifying run and started P12 so then I tried to save my tires and maybe waited a little bit too long but we had a really good race car and I do wish there were a few more cautions at the end that I feel would have helped us.”
In the Late Model main the season ended the same way it began for Mike Sweeney, in Victory Lane. Sweeney would start pole and then several times had to fend off Nick Ross on restarts as well as dealing with Travis Fisher but in the end there was no denying the fast Ford of Sweeney who would lead every lap and score his first King of the Green since 2017.
“There was a great field of cars here today and I was glad to see it wasn’t fiberglass follies and we didn’t have many yellows,” said Sweeney.
“Nick (Ross) and Travis (Fisher) were right there up front with us and it don’t get any better that with those two. They always keep me on my toes and we just tried to save tires as much as we could, save, ride and keep distance and the game plan worked out.”
For Sweeney it was especially challenging at times with Ross who tried time and again on restarts to overtake him.
“That’s Morgantini power there and we just have a crate motor in our car. It runs good but you just have to take a little bit longer to going,” noted Sweeney.
Sweeney not only booked ended the season with wins but also won twice more in-between and never finished lower than third. That in turn netted the Nesquehoning ace his fourth Evergreen Late Model title and sixth of his career.
“My guys never stop working in the shop. We have great sponsors and are always out looking for more and just trying to grow our program as much as we can. Hats off to Dennis Wenner for sponsoring the class and to Jason (Makarewicz) for giving us such a great place to race,” he said.
The Street Stock race was held in honor of the late George Wambold with an 81-lap distance making up the event.
And keeping his car out front the entire time was Mike Pollack who would close out the year with not only his second win but second straight class title as well.
Pollack’s biggest challenge would come from Jason Harman who tried time and again to get around him, mostly on the many restarts that took place as cautions plagued the race.
Harman’s last attempt to get the lead failed when he spun while trying to work by on a lap 40 re-go and wound up with a flat.
With Harman out of the way Pollack wasn’t quite home free just yet. Jacob Christman was now second and would stay close to him the rest of the way but Pollack wasn’t letting him nor all the slow-downs deter him from taking his first King of the Green.
The East Coast TQ Midgets where on the card and leading all the way in the 25-lapper was Matt Janisch in Alan Mollet’s No. 51.
Janisch fended off 2023 club champ Josh Patterson for his first Evergreen win since 2011. That was also a King of the Green event.
Alex McCullum proved no match with a flag to flag run with the Legends cars. From the pole position McCullum took the lead from the get-go and left everyone battle for second on back
Kaitlyn Stradley was uncontested in winning the Bandolero feature. Stradley took the lead at the outset and never looked back in what was nothing short of a perfect run to the checkers.
Modified feature finish (111 laps): 1. Lou Strohl, 2. Austin Beers, 3. Brian Sones, 4. Blake Barney, 5. Anthony Sesely, 6. Matt Swanson, 7. Brian DeFebo, 8. Jaden Brown, 9. Zane Zeiner, 10. Randal Richard, 11. Roger Coss, 12. Jayden Harman, 13. James Pritchard, 14. Nick Baer, 15. Evan Rygielski, 16. Jacob Kerstetter, 17. Micah Adams, 18. Thomas Flanagan, 19. Joey Merlino, 20. Todd Cooper, 21. Rich Cooper, 22. Gunnar Zeiner
Late Model feature finish (50 laps): 1. Mike Sweeney, 2. Nick Ross, 3. Travis Fisher, 4. Jarred Barclay, 5. Evan Berretta, 6. Dennis Wenner, 7. Roger Maynor, 8. Micah Adams, 9. Marc Aigeldinger, 10. Brandon Turbush, 11. Gene Steigerwalt, 12. Tyler Johnson, 13. Seth VanFossen, 15. Brooks Smith
Street Stock feature finish (81 laps): 1. Mike Pollack, 2. Jacob Christman, 3. Bobby Kibler Jr., 4. Jacob Boehm. 5. Jason Harman, 6. Abe Romanik, 7. Lorin Arthofer II, 8. Dan Pawlicki, 9. Cody Geist, 10. Brian Wozniak, 11. Brandon Christman, 12. Mike Erney, 13. Dennis Buss, 14. Tommy Flanagan, 15. Maggie Yeakel, 17. Gordie Buchman Jr., 18. Blaine Barry, 18. Mike Nichols, 19. Bobby Kibler Sr. 20. Randy Green, 21. Johnny Better, 22. Mitch Hawk, 23. Cory Derr DNS: Ralph Davis
ECTQM feature finish (25 laps): 1. Matt Janisch, 2. Josh Patterson, 3. Tyler Wagner, 4. Don Zirinski, 5. Robert Boss, 6. Mark Czerwinski, 7. Brian Rygielski, 8. Lexi Przybylinski, 9. Ozzy Carlino, 10. Chester Haywood, 11. Chris Hirt
Legends feature finish (40 laps): 1. Alex McCullum, 2. Anthony March, 3. Ryan Lutz, 4. Chris Sintro, 5. Tanner Jones, 6. Jeffery Farruggia, 7. Patrick Moore, 8. Charlie Hodge, 9. Brad Lowmaster. 10. Jayden Glennerser, 11. Chris Gall, 12. Mike Metcalf, 13. AJ Wright, 14. Chris Piasecki, 15. Raymond Stulz
Bandolero feature finish (25 laps): 1. Kaitlyn Stradley, 2. Michael Simagra, 3. Nick Hodge, 4. Madison White, 5. Kamden Wheeler
Jerry Hildebrand earns second Evergreen Mod title at season finale on Sunday
By DINO OBERTO
(Butler Township, Pa. 11-5-23) Evergreen Raceway put the punctuation mark on the 2023 season with day #3 of the 22nd Annual King of the Green held Sunday afternoon and the highlight was a pair of twin-30 lap features for the Evergreen Mods that would determine this year’s champion.
Coming into the day four drivers, Jerry Hildebrand, Paulie Hartwig III, Steve Shultz and Jayden Harman all had a shot at the title. But with Hartwig not present it would come down to the other three to fight it out and indeed they did as it turned into a nail bitter in deciding the championship outcome.
In the opening feature Shultz out ran pole sitter Micah Adams at the initial start and then kept Harman at bay the rest of the way as the pair ran closely together.
Only two laps into the race Hildebrand gave everyone a scare when he almost spun and narrowly escaped being clipped by oncoming traffic. The problem turned out to be a flat tire which he was able to replace and return to the action.
However, with Shultz and Harman still running one-two it left Hildebrand hustling to gain spots and more importantly points.
Leading to the finish Shultz would earn his first victory with a Modified and more so head into the second main just one point behind Hildebrand who notched fourth. Harman’s runner-up had him still very much in the hunt at just 10 points out of first.
“It feels great to win with a Modified and it was just a matter of getting more time under my belt. We don’t have it dialed in just yet but we’ll keep on trying things and make the best of it,” said Shultz after achieving his 36th career win.
“It was definetley hooked up on that (initial) start and from there we just continued to hit the marks and it worked out. We’ll have to come out and just find a good balance with the car and try to stay consistent in the next one. The end of that feature is what’s going to win the championship.”
Shultz couldn’t have been more right about that last statement. Picking the five pill as the invert, it would see Adams and Hildebrand on the front row for the finale. And, as soon as the green flag dropped Hildebrand blasted to the lead with Mike Pollack settling into second.
Thanks to a nonstop race Hildebrand was able set a good pace, keep just enough ahead of Pollack and steadily cruise his way to the win and ultimately the championship.
“How about that, I get to come out and put a crown on my head for King of the Green and get the championship to boot, that’s pretty cool,” Hildebrand said.
“The track has changed a lot over the last couple weeks and I felt it would have been good on the high side because the Tour Modifieds where here yesterday and put down a lot of laps but that just wasn’t the case so it was big for us to start up front, it definitely helped.”
As Hildebrand was focusing on leading and Pollack holding down second, there was a very torrid battle for third between Adams, Harman, Shultz and Lou Strohl. The group ran under a blanket for most of the distance until late in the going when Harman got by and went on the take third at the checkers followed by Strohl and Shultz.
“I kept praying that it would stay green because my car was great on the long stints. We got to halfway and I thought good there are no cautions yet and let’s keep it going this way,” indicated Hildebrand.
“We did and it was a great race, a great day and I can’t thank the Ross gang enough for all they do for me. If it wasn’t for them I would be here.”
For Hildebrand, who has been racing at Evergreen since 1988, it was his second title in the last three years and also a repeat with a King of the Green win.
The Factory Stock cars where part of the action, running a 30-lap main which would also see a champion crowned.
For the race Jarrod Hayes made his first Evergreen start of the year and it would be well worth the trip from his Long Island home as he took the lead at the outset and never looked back. Hayes, a former track Late Model champ, was just too strong for anyone to keep pace with him as he cruised easily the whole way en route to his first Factory Stock win and third King of the Green verdict, the latter two with the Late Models.
Broc Brown was second while the third place finish by Brandon Cook gave him his record third consecutive class title.
The 4-Cylinder Stocks competed in a 2023 non-winners 25-lap feature and what a thriller it turned out to be.
After winning his very first heat race, Robert McNulty would then start the race from the pole and wasted little time in taking the early lead but not by much as Maggie Yeakel and Johnny Bennett ran side-by-side directly behind him.
Lap after lap the trio would stay that way with McNulty having to run just high and low enough in order to protect his lead as time and again Yeakel and Bennett each tried to work by him.
With less than a lap and half to go McNulty led the charge down the back straight and as they began entry into turn three Yeakel nipped his left rear that almost sent him spinning. He instead made an amazing save while Bennett, who was safely on the outside of both, shot into the lead and would go on the take the checkers.
McNulty held on for a career best second with Dave Imler Jr., third, Harry O’Neill fourth and Yeakel fifth.
The Rotten and Forgotten were part of the well-rounded program and as has been the case all season long the unique group of racers put on a great show.
Despite leading all 35 laps, winner Dan Jensen would have to fend off champion Noah Jensen over most of the waning laps. It would be D. Jensen’s second win of the season and solidify him as runner-up in the final standings behind champ N. Jensen.
1st Evergreen Mod feature (30 laps): 1. Steve Shultz, 2. Jayden Harman, 3. Micah Adams, 4. Jerry Hildebrand, 5. Mike Pollack, 6. Lou Strohl, 7. Justin Teresak, 8. MacKenzie Adams, 9. Brian Rygielski, 10. Gunner Zeiner DNS: Evan Rygielski
2st Evergreen Mod feature (30 laps): 1. Hildebrand, 2. Pollack, 3. Harman, 4. Strohl, 5. Shultz, 6. Micah Adams, 7. Tersak, 8. MacKenzie Adams, 9. Gunnar Zeiner, 10. Brian Rygielski DNS: Evan Rygielski
4-Cylinder Stock feature (25 laps): 1. Johnny Bennett, 2. Robert McNulty, 3. Dave Imler Jr., 4. Harry O’Neill, 5. Maggie Yeakel, 6. Michael Wambold, 7. Jarred Frye, 8. Payton Arthofer
Factory Stock feature finish (30 laps): 1. Jarrod Hayes, 2. Broc Brown, 3. Brandon Cook, 4. Blaine Barry, 5. Ryan Casagrande, 6. Scott Sipe DNS: Richard Carman
Rotten and Forgotten feature finish (35 laps): 1. Dan Jensen, 2, Noah Jensen, 3. Sam Jensen, 4. Tom Jensen, 5. Hunter Sterner, 6. Jon Jensen DNS: Tyler Huntsberger