When the start of the show is delayed just a few minutes to allow all the arriving fans to move through the admission gate, you know it’s going to be a good night. With the afternoon rain, the track provided Facebook updates every 30 minutes. When it became clear there would be a complete night of racing, another full house of fans enjoyed a super evening of tribute to Kevin Ward. Jr. and the blistering speed of the cars from the visiting Empire Super Sprint Car series. The evening was sponsored by the Westward Painting Company and Caskinette Ford. The sprint cars were timing in the low 13 second mark, approximately 2 seconds faster than the heavier Caskinette Ford Modifieds that run at Evans Mills. The fastest lap of the evening was turned in by the #10H of Kelly Hebing at 13.06 which is just shy of 104 mph. Kelly won her heat race which put her on the pole for the 25 lap feature. During intermission, several T-shirts were shot out of an air-gun from the back of the Caskinette Ford F-150 pace truck into the crowd.
The first feature race of the evening was for the Fidelis Care INEX legends, who had bolstered their car count from earlier weeks. Unfortunately it would prove to be another slam bang affair with much contact throughout the race resulting a number of bent up race cars. Dalton Rombough started on the point in the #41 but got pushed out of the way on the very first lap. Josh Marchese in the #31 and Coleby Felber in the #14 put on a spirited battle for the lead, but they too would make contact. A multi-car tangle midway through the race took out a few more cars. Breanne Gilligan in the #33 had moved nicely through the field and held the lead till the end, with Brad Salatino finishing second in the #13, Marchese getting back to third, Zach Anderson fourth in the #46 and newcomer James Anderson fifth in the #25.
The Caskinette Ford Modifieds were not able to run side by side as effectively as previous weeks, but still provided a spirited battle for position on the track. Larry Welling Jr. in the #48 led the entire way from the pole position, but he received heavy pressure from both Mason Spencer in the #30 and Mike Ramos in the #09 for most of the race. Spencer had to be particularly alert as Ramos was making several moves and waiting to take over the second spot if Spencer got out of shape at all in trying to get by Welling. At the end, it was Welling over Spencer in second and Ramos in third. Casey Sykes had a fine race in the #1 and finished fourth, while Steve Fuchs finished fifth in the #4 and Geoff Sharkey had one of his better finishes in the #66 for sixth.
There was a break at this point as the ESS cars were wheeled on the track so fans could come down and get photos and autographs. A large number of fans descended to the track, each one greeted personally by Peggy Gill. The autograph session was followed by a special presentation of the Kevin Ward Jr. scholarship award by Peggy Gill. Orange rally towels were distributed to race fans in the bleachers. As the track was cleared of fans and the sprint cars pushed off, the ESS field of 12 drivers formed three rows for the famous four wide tribute that is commonly seen at sprint car venues. This special formation and the fans standing and waving the orange towels in tribute to the memory of Kevin Ward Jr. was a stunning moment of the evening, all under a rising orange tinted moon off the third turn.
With Kevin Ward Sr. grandson Tucker Cavanaugh waving the green flag, pole sitter Kelly Hebing got a poor start but got a second chance when the #2 of Dave Axton sailed off the first turn and had to be picked up on the hook and taken to the pits. Hebing got a better start the second time, but Scott Holcomb was a little better in the #91 and shot out into the early lead. Holcomb set a blistering pace and opened up a massive lead over the field, but a couple drivers starting hitting their groove and moving forward. The #90 of Matt Tanner was flying as was the #10 of Jeff Cook. They were starting to close the gap on Holcomb, and up till lap 23 Cook had the fastest lap of the race at just a little over 13.1 seconds. A yellow flag with two laps left bunched up the field but Holcomb was not to be denied and subsequently turned in the fastest lap of the race on his way to the win. Cook finished second and Dylan Swiernik in the #7c was able to get by Tanner for third. The Ward family joined winner Holcomb for the victory lane photo and it was a large group of happy people on the track.
The final race of the night was a green to checker affair with Josh Verne Sr. in the X car barely able to hold off Tim Dunn in the #96t for the win in the Sport Compact division. Trevor Halliday was third in the #61x followed by Chuck Powelczyk in the #17 and Amanda Dafoe in the #61. Josh Verne Jr. won the Serv Pro Thunder Stock class in a special tribute car numbered #200 in memory of his grandfather Niles Busler.
The large crowd and some extra prizes for the 50/50 drawing swelled the winning ticket amount to $1443, easily the largest jackpot of the season. Next week Aug. 24th, the track will honor all tickets that were purchased for the rained out Aug. 10 show and the amount from previously purchased 50/50 tickets will be added to the evening sales. Watertown Savings Bank will return as a sponsor for Autograph Night, kids are asked to make posters for their favorite racer and there will be a second round of spectator racing during intermission. Go to the Facebook page for a list of rules and entry requirements. Evans Mills Raceway Park continues its rise in the asphalt racing world as large crowds and great racing have become the norm. See you Aug. 24th!