Pennsylvania Half Mile
Story and Photos by Len Breech and Ben Breech
GRATZ, PA, APR. 18, 2015
Jamison Minor and Chad Cose scored wins in two of the three featured Expert finals at the sixth annual Baer Motor Sports-sponsored Half Mile at the Gratz Fairgrounds. For the first time since the revival of racing at this pea-gravel half-mile track, they ran in mid-April to draw more riders, since New York and Ohio were still thawing or still under snow, and the earlier date would be a little cooler and maybe cut down on water-truck laps.
Well, they got it half-right!
There was a very large field of riders, requiring three or four heats and a semi in five classes (including Open Vintage!?). However, as has become ‘traditional’ for this event, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and the thermometer hit 80 after a winter of record cold temperatures. This caused some delays as the water truck had to make extra laps. And that led to two of the larger finals – the 450cc Sportsman B and 450cc Sportsman A – being paid from the heat-race results.
In the Open A contest, Cory Texter jumped in front of Minor, Dalton Gauthier, Tristan Avery and Brandon Price. Price went into fourth off turn two on the second lap. Texter and Minor had put some distance on the hotly contested battle for third that by now been joined by Jeremy Higgins and Jake Shoemaker.
On the fifth lap, Minor shot by Texter off turn two, and he then started to gradually pull away.
“When he went by me,” Texter said later, “at first I tried to stay with him, he was hooked up and I had nothing for him.”
Gauthier drifted slightly high on the seventh lap, letting Price and Higgins by. Higgins took third on the final lap off turn two.
Cose led the Open Twin final off turn two, followed by Higgins, Roy Miller, Jarod Vanderkooi, Shoemaker and Kevin Varnes. Vanderkooi got by Miller on the back stretch on lap four, while Varnes took fourth as they started the seventh lap. Miller’s backward slide continued as Shoemaker took fifth going into turn three on the final lap.
Miller had earlier taken the 250cc Sportsman win on his screaming Suzuki two-stroke, winning the event by half a lap. Damon Ream initially led the battle for second, ahead of Nathan Reichert, Chris Leviness and Josh Shear. With Miller steadily increasing his lead, Leviness jumped into second down the back straight on the second lap, with Reichert taking third on the fourth lap.
Miller finished second, behind Shane Livingston, in the Over 30 match, with Rich Mellinger and Jason Cunningham following.
Livingston easily topped the 500cc Two-Valve class.
Former National number holder Kevin Varnes “borrowed” his son’s machine and led the Over 40 final from the get-go. Shawn Tambe, Rich Mellinger and Dallas Baer were in the lead pack. Mellinger briefly took second on lap two, only to have Tambe retake it shortly afterward. After the third lap, the order stayed the same.
Shear led Leviness, Ream, Kyle Tambe and Robert Wheatley at the start of the 250cc B final. As they entered turn one on the fourth lap, Leviness took the lead and started to gradually pull away. Tambe took third on the next lap.
Devon Gerhart led Matt Trout, Dalton Brisbois and Chris Thomas as the Open B final took off. Trout gradually worked his way by Gerhart, taking the lead off turn four on the fourth lap. After that, the order stayed the same.
The little guys provided some close racing, as opposed to the “Mother’s Force Field” bubble that usually seems to envelope each rider during a race.
The 50cc Chain Drive contest saw Brandon Pfanders taking the lead from Jack Rutledge on the second lap, but Rutledge kept fighting back. Rutledge would catch him in the turns and, on several laps, lead off the turn, but Pfanders would blow by before they reached the midpoint of the straightaway. This lasted until there were about two laps left, when Pfanders built up a slight comfort margin.
As he has done in most of the 50cc Shaft Drive races this year, Rutledge emerged in the lead off turn two and started to pull away. On this day, though, he had company, as Benjamin Holmes stayed right with him. When Rutledge’s Yamaha broke for the third time this day, in almost the same spot, Holmes was there to capitalize on it and take his first win, with Pfanders, Aiden Hawthorne and Gabriel Mazza trailing.
Tyler Scott again topped the 85cc and 65cc classes, showing no ill effects from falling off a standing bicycle in his driveway the day before.
Scott took the 85cc lead, ahead of Caydon Youngs, with Landon Kawczak and Nathan Peacock following. Kawczak took second on the next lap, but he couldn’t get close to the “Flyin’ Scott.”
In the 65cc class, Scott was more than half a lap in front of runner-up Jacob Peacock at the finish.
As darkness started to descend, the Vintage Heavyweight contest turned out to be the last final run of the day. This class had three heats and a semi to get the 14 starters for the main event.
Rich Mellinger was first out of turn two, followed by Nick Weimer, Warren Walters, Billy Applegate and Jay Maher. Weimer got rolling, getting by a tiring Mellinger (this was Mellinger’s third class of the day) as they came off turn four on the second lap. Applegate and Peter Wajda dropped Walters back during the next few laps.
Results: April 18, 2015
50 CHAIN DRIVE: 1. Brandon Pfanders (KTM); 2. Jack Rutledge (Hon); 3. Aaden Johnson (KTM); 4. Legend Erisman (KTM); 5. Aiden Hawthorne (Lem).
50 SHAFT DRIVE: 1. Benjamin Holmes (Yam); 2. Brandon Pfanders (Yam); 3. Aiden Hawthorne (Yam); 4. Gabriel Mazza (Yam); 5. Gabrielle Pfanders (Yam); 6. Jack Rutledge (Yam).
65: 1. Tyler Scott (Kaw); 2. Jacob Peacock (Hon); 3. Dominick Cooper (KTM); 4. Logan Eisenhard (Cob); 5. Dylan Cunningham (Kaw); 6. Reginald Holmes (KTM); 7. Tyler Cunningham (Kaw).
85 (7-11): 1. Tyler Scott (KTM); 2. Landen Kawczak (Hon); 3. Caydon Youngs (Kaw); 4. Cuyler Youngs (Hon); 5. Nathan Peacock (Kaw); 6. Kyle Lonnen (Hon); 7. Dominick Cooper (Yam); 8. Logan Eisenhard (Suz); 9. Brandon Newman (Hon).
85 (12-15): 1. Jared Florian (Suz).
90-150 4-STROKE AIR-COOLED (7-15): 1. Kyle Lonnen (Hon).
125 2-STROKE/150 4-STROKE: 1. Damon Ream (Hon); 2. Bronson Jackson (Suz); 3. Gary Bobb (Hon); 4. Justin Haag (Hon).
250 B: 1. Chris Leviness Jr. (Hon); 2. Josh Shear (Kaw); 3. Kyle Tambe (Hon); 4 Damon Ream (Hon); 5. Robert Wheatley (Kaw); 6. Tyler Rylee (Suz); 7. Austin Kellett (Hon); 8. Robert Ream (Hon); 9. Gary Bobb (Hon).
250 SPORTSMAN: 1. Roy Miller (Suz); 2. Chris Leviness Jr. (Hon); 3. Nathan Reichert (Kaw); 4. Damon Ream (Hon); 5 Josh Shear (Kaw); 6. Robert Wheatley (Kaw); 7. Austin Kellett (Hon); 8. Chris Johnson (Kaw).
450 A SPORTSMAN (paid from heats): 1. Brandon Price (Kaw); 2. Jeremy Higgins (Yam); 3. Cory Texter (Hon); 4. Jamison Minor (Hon); 5. Dan Bromley (KTM); 6. Jarod Vanderkooi (Kaw); 7. Jake Shoemaker (Hon); 8. Evan Baer (Kaw); 9. Austin Wherley (Kaw); 10. Tristan Avery (Hon); 11. Cameron Smith (Hon); 12. J.R. Addison (Hon); 13. Dalton Gauthier (Yam); 14. Kyle McGrane (Hon).
450 B SPORTSMAN (paid from heats): 1. Matt Trout (Suz); 2. Devon Gerhart (Hon); 3. Kyle Tambe (Hon); 4. Dalton Brisbois (Hon); 5. Chris Thomas (Hon); 6. Brett Johnson (Suz); 7. Georgie Price (Suz); 8. Elizabeth Tinker (Hon); 9. Jeremy Orr (Kaw); 10. Ben Ludlow (Hon); 11. Justin Bender (Suz); 12. Nathan Reichert (Kaw); 13. Trevin Caruccio (Hon); 14. Jeff Slade (Kaw).
500 2-VALVE: 1. Shane Livingston (Yam); 2. Tim Jackson (Yam); 3. Jim Chapman (Yam); 4. Chris Abb (Yam); 5. Justin Johnson (Yam); 6. David Batts (Yam); 7. Mark Wills (Yam).
OPEN A SINGLE: 1. Jamison Minor (Hon); 2. Cory Texter (Hon.); 3. Jeremy Higgins (Yam); 4. Brandon Price (Kaw); 5. Jake Shoemaker (Hon); 6. Dalton Gauthier (Yam); 7. Tristan Avery (Hon); 8. Dan Bromley (KTM); 9. Cameron Smith (Hon); 10. J.R. Addison (Hon); 11. Ryan Varnes (Yam); 12. Evan Baer (Kaw); 13. Kyle McGrane (Hon); 14. Jordan Harris (KTM).
OPEN A TWINS: 1. Chad Cose (Kaw); 2. Jeremy Higgins (Kaw); 3. Jarod Vanderkooi (Kaw); 4. Kevin Varnes (Kaw); 5. Jake Shoemaker (Tri); 6. Roy Miller (Kaw); 7. Jamison Minor (Kaw); 8. Ryan Varnes (Kaw); 9. Evan Baer (Kaw); 10. Tristan Avery (Kaw); 11. Kyle McGrane (Kaw).
OPEN B: 1. Matt Trout (Suz); 2. Devon Gerhart (Hon); 3. Dalton Brisbois (Hon); 4. Chris Thomas (Hon); 5. Georgie Price (Suz); 6. Jeremy Orr (Kaw); 7. Justin Haag (KTM); 8. Tim Jackson (Kaw); 9. Elizabeth Tinker (Hon); 10. Justin Bender (Suz); 11. Brett Johnson (Suz).
30+: 1. Shane Livingston (Rtx); 2. Roy Miller (Suz); 3. Rich Mellinger (Rtx); 4. Jason Cunningham (Hon); 5. Ben Ludlow (Hon); 6. Billy Applegate (H-D); 7. Chris Johnson (Kaw).
40+: 1. Kevin Varnes (Yam); 2. Shawn Tambe (Hon); 3. Rich Mellinger (Rtx); 4. Dallas Baer (Rtx); 5. Todd Flynn (Hon); 6. Mike Rabold (Hon).
50+: 1. Buzzy Skiles (Rtx); 2 John Vanderkooi (Rtx); 3. Lowell Wherley (Kaw); 4. Scott Slade (Yam); 5. Jay Maher (Rtx); 6. Peter Wajda (Nor); 7. Peter Forbush (Hon); 8. Mike Rabold (Hon); 9. George MacNeill (KTM); 10 Jim Chapman (Rtx); 11. Tim Peters (Hon); 12. Frank Primrose (Hon).
VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHT: 1. Darryl Jakubowski (Rtx); 2. Ray Stillwell Jr. (BSA).
VINTAGE HEAVYWEIGHT: 1. Nick Weimer (Tri); 2. Rich Mellinger (Yam); 3. Billy Applegate (H-D); 4. Peter Wajda (Nor); 5. Warren Walters (Yam); 6. Bill Allen (Yam); 7. Craig Alcantara (Yam); 8. Devon Sixt (H-D); 9. Mike Persa (Tri); 10. Jim Gately (Tri); 11. Clayton Murin (H-D); 12. Joe Park (Tri); 13. Chris Abb (Yam); 14. Jay Maher (Tri).
4-WHEEL SPORTSMAN: 1. Brandon Shearer (Yam); 2. Justin Moyer (Hon).