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Bright Scores Second Consecutive Gallagher Memorial at Williams Grove

Bright Scores Second Consecutive Gallagher Memorial at Williams Grove

Mechanicsburg, PA. June 2nd, 2023, Nick Fillman, USAC ECSC

For the second year in a row, Alex Bright collected the biggest paycheck of the season in the “Bill Gallagher 5G Memorial” at the Williams Grove Speedway, pocketing a cool $5,000. This time however, the win came in his first start aboard the Heffner Racing Enterprises 27 Machine.

Tommy Kunsman and Christian Bruno were scheduled to bring the field to green for the 30 lap feature event, but, with an unfortunate mechanical error on pole sitter Tommy Kunsmans entry that saw him exit the speedway just prior to the green flag, Carmen Perigo Jr lead the field to green along side Bruno.

Christian Bruno jumped out to the early feature event lead, heading to the high side of the speedway where only a handful of drivers were running early on in the feature event, with Chris Allen getting a great start and moving into second over Perigo.

With a number of drivers having issues, the line up was left jumbled with Alex Bright starting a bit higher up than his scheduled 13th place position, with Bright quickly moving into the top three of the event by the completion of lap three.

Speaking of line up changes, Briggs Danner and the Hogue Racing team appeared to have an engine failure or at least significant issue in their heat race, leaving the car un-able to start the feature event. After some strenuous talks between owners Tim and Fran Hogue, Ed Aikin gave up the seat, and starting position of his number seven entry, to Danner for the feature event, leading to Danner starting dead last in the feature event.

Aside from Bruno, and Joey Amantea, Briggs Danner was the only driver that was truly making the high side of the speedway work. Two, three, and even four wheels above the cushion was the norm for the defending series champion as he picked up cars left and right early in the feature event. Danner quickly moved from 21st to 13th in the first six laps of the feature, and cracking into the top ten on lap ten.

Meanwhile up front, Bruno continued to lead, but was starting to fall back to runner up Alex Bright. Bright was slowly gaining on the leader, with Bruno making slight contact with the outside wall around the lap eleven mark. From there, unfortunately for the second time in as many events, Bruno suffered engine woes, that allowed Bright to catch and pass Bruno for the lead off of turn four to complete lap thirteen.

The feature events first caution flag flew on lap thirteen as well for Brian Nornhold who slowed to a stop on the back stretch, trying to enter the pit area. Bright was the new leader over Chris Allen, Carmen Perigo, Austin Graby, and Steven Drevicki.
The restart went will for Bright who began to put distance between himself and Allen for the top spot, while Briggs Danner continued to run the top better, faster, and harder than anyone else in the field, making his way into sixth by lap seventeen.

In another spirited battle, Austin Graby and Steven Drevicki battled side by side, lap after lap, with Graby continuing to get the best of Drevicki on corner exit, but only slightly. The two were locked in a fierce battle for most of the nights feature event, but it was allowing drivers like Allen and Perigo to pull away, while drawing Bruce Buckwalter ever closer into the mix.

As the leaders all continued to run the bottom, Danner continued to blast away on the high side, dispatching of Amantea, Thompson, Buckwalter, and Drevicki, moving into the top five by lap twenty-one.

On lap 21 the night second caution flag flew as, Tim Stallings pulled a 360 on the bottom side of the speedway in turns three and four.

Unaware of the speed and pace that Danner was setting on the high side, the leaders all continued to run the bottom of the speedway, which was equal with Danner for a number of laps. Austin Graby and Danner would run side by side for multiple laps, with Drevicki drawing in almost three wide with them. Eventually the high side of the speedway, and the speed with which Danner could enter the corner proved to be too much for Graby, as Danner would take fourth on lap 25.

The yellow flag again flew on lap 25 as Troy Fraker slowed to a stop on the exit of corner two with a flat right rear tire, ending a solid top 15 run for the veteran driver.

A five lap dash to the finish was up next with Bright continuing to lead the way over Allen, Perigo, Danner, Graby and Drevicki.

Bright was able to secure yet another great restart and pull away from Allen and Perigo, with Danner now battling side by side with Perigo for the number three spot. Meanwhile, Drevicki had finally worked his way by Graby and brought close friend Bruce Buckwalter along with him into the top five.

Danner maneuvered his way to the high side around Perigo on lap 26, and began to try and hustle his way toward the lead duo as they had amassed a quarter straightaway lead.

Drevicki and Perigo continued to battle, with both drivers missing the bottom side of the speedway, but only slightly, which allowed Bruce Buckwalter to have a massive run on the bottom side and pick off both drivers for fourth with only a handful of laps left to go.

Just as it seemed that Bright would be able to close out his feature event after taking the white flag, Austin Graby shredded a right rear tire in turns one and two, bringing out the caution flag and a one lap dash to the finish.

On the restart, Bright was able to get away from Allen who could not pose a threat to Bright for the race lead, with Danner trying to get around Allen on the high side in turns one and two, but dropping to the bottom in three and four, Drevicki tried as he could to get around Buckwalter for the fourth spot, as the checkers flew for Alex Bright picking up his second win of the season, second and Williams Grove, and second straight Bill Gallagher Memorial.

Alex Bright scored the win in his second Bill Gallagher Memorial event, driving for car owner Mike Heffner, who was responsible for purchasing the entire Gallagher team following his passing in 2021. While last year crew chief, series owner, and former Gallagher driver Curt Michael did not pick up the win, this years victory was very important to Curt and the entire Heffner team. The new pairing of Bright and Heffner has been seen before in prior years of ARDC competition, and is now back for the remainder of the USAC East Coast season, and the upcoming Eastern Storm events. The pairing seemed to struggle in the heat race with Bright missing out on the points inversion, but they were able to have a good enough set up to get the job done in the feature.

The runner up with yet another great run this season was New Jersey’s Chris Allen. Allen is a former runner up in points with the series, and has been fast in every event the team has entered this season. While missing the last two events due to work commitments, Allen and team did not skip a beat on Friday at The Grove and picked up a solid runner up effort.

Without a doubt the story of the night was Briggs Danner and his incredible run through the field aboard Ed Aikin’s No. 7 entry. Driving a car he has never sat in before, and had no laps in prior to the feature event. Danner drove the car like he’s been in it for years and stormed through the field to an incredible top three run. Had there been a bit more time, and perhaps a bit more moisture in the track, who knows what the ending of the feature event could have been. While Danner will accumulate season long driver points for the night, the Hogue Racing team will not. But as the team explained, they still do not plan to run full time for points in 2023.

Fourth place with another great run was Bruce Buckwalter Jr. The Mechanicsburg, PA driver had a great run on the bottom side of the speedway, and showed plenty of speed over our last few events. Buckwalter made some late charges to pick off a handful of cars that were in front of him, to come home with an impressive fourth place effort. Buckwalter also put up $100 of hard charger money along with Joey Amantea Racing crew chief, Brian Zyck. Buckwalter is also integral to the series in his providing of all signs and checks for victory lane celebrations, and is a welcomed driver to the USAC East Coast pit area.

Rounding out the top five, continuing his bounce back season was Steven Drevicki. A former two time winner at Williams Grove, Drevicki had a solid heat race nearing tracking down and passing Briggs Danner with the teams engine woes. Drevicki ran a smart and patient race battling hard with Austin Graby and Carmen Perigo for lap after lap. Drevicki is a smart and clean driver, who with the position he was put in for multiple laps decided against making contact with the other drivers for position. The three time series champion continues to keep Danner within striking distance for the series point title as the season rolls on.

While thankfully the series stopped our string of bad crashes and wrecks for now, the night was unfortunately plagued with engine issues for multiple drivers. Unfortunately coming to the checkered flag in his heat race, last weeks winner Preston Lattomus saw an engine go up in smoke down the front straightaway with a small oil fire that was quickly extinguished.

Briggs Danner and team suffered their engine issues while leading heat one that lead to the pairing of Danner and Aikin, while Tommy Kunsman Jr may have had a broken rocker under pace laps for the feature event leading to a DNS. For the second time in as many races as the team competed in, Christian Bruno suffered engine issues, this time while leading the event. While it did not look like the issues were visibly as bad as at the Grandview Speedway, it was still a tough break for the driver looking for his first career win.

Up next for the Rapid Tire Services, USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series, presented by Capitol Renegade is the first trip of the season to the historic Bedford Fairgrounds on Friday June 9th, before the USAC National Sprint series begins their “Eastern Storm” for the middle of the month.

USAC East Coast at Williams Grove Results:

Heat 1 (8 Laps, 5 Qualify, 3 Invert): 1. 39 Briggs Danner, 2. 19 Steven Drevicki, 3. 21K Tommy Kunsman Jr, 4. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 5. 27 Alex Bright, 6. 5B Bobby Butler, 7. 12w Troy Fraker, 8. 67 Jason Cherry.

Heat 2 (8 Laps, 5 Qualify, 3 Invert): 1. 17B Christian Bruno, 2. 7 Ed Aikin, 3. 71 Chris Allen Jr, 4. 87 Austin Graby, 5. 83s Billy Ney, 6. 117 David Swanson, 7. 23B Preston Lattomus.

Heat 3 (8 Laps, 5 Qualify, 3 Invert): 1. 11 Mike Thompson, 2. 21 Carmen Perigo Jr, 3. 88J Joey Amantea, 4. 18J JT Ferry, 5. 28 Tim Stallings, 6. 29 Dalton Herrick, 7. 35 Brian Nornhold.

Feature Event (30 Laps) 1. 27 Alex Bright, 2. 71 Chris Allen Jr, 3. 7A Briggs Danner, 4. 83 Bruce Buckwalter Jr, 5. 19 Steven Drevicki, 6. 88J Joey Amantea, 7. 21 Carmen Perigo Jr, 8. 18J JT Ferry, 9. 29 Dalton Herrick, 10. 117 David Swanson, 11. 67 Jason Cherry, 12. 11 Mike Thompson, 13. 5B Bobby Butler, 14. 28 Tim Stallings, 15. 83s Billy Ney, 16. 87 Austin Graby, 17. 12W Troy Fraker, 18. 17B Christian Bruno, 19. 35 Brian Nornhold. DNS: 21K Tommy Kunsman, 7 Ed Aikin, 23B Preston Lattomus.

Lap Leaders: Christian Bruno (1-12), Alex Bright (13-30)

$200 Hard Charger: Briggs Danner +18 (21st-3rd)
$200 Hard Luck Award: Tommy Kunsman Jr
$225 Last Car Running: Billy Ney
$100 Heat Win: Briggs Danner
$100 Heat Win: Christian Bruno
$100 Heat Win: Mike Thompson

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