Princeton – A fleck of dust couldn’t separate the gap between the winner and the runner-up in the closest race of Princeton Speedway’s start to August.
For the second week in a row the Mod 4 division brought the thrill of a side-by-side finish as the record-holder for division wins, Mitch Hribar, crossed .011 seconds behind first-time winner in 2017 Justin Pogones, on Friday, Aug. 4.
“I have no idea how that even worked out, Pogones said. “It was awesome.”
Pogones started in the fourth spot, but moved up quickly for an early lead. Hribar was also making his way to the front, but got into the back of Abby Garin, sending her spinning down turn one and moved to the back.
With most of the race remaining, Hribar didn’t give up. As Pogones drove away from the field, Hribar gunned through traffic, pulling into third place before a caution tightened things with five laps to go.
“When there was that caution I could barely breathe, Pogones said. “I knew he was [right behind me].”
On a single-file restart Hribar ran right past Dean Shaver and, with four laps to go, ran right up to Pogones’ bumper.
Running the high side to Pogones’ low, Hribar couldn’t get by. Pogones leapt in front of Hribar on the straightaways, killing Hribar’s momentum off the corner. In the final turn, Hribar cut low and looked like he might slingshot to another victory.
“I kind of drifted a little too high and he had my preferred line,” Pogones said, “I looked over and was like, ‘Dang it!”.
But, he held on, barely.
Pogones looked strong in the track’s first street stock feature of the season, as well.
He used the bottom to speed through traffic, battling with Kevin Schmidt for the lead. Just as their battle heated up Jim Gullickson seemed to shoot out of a rocket. He emerged from his sixth-place start and drove right underneath Pogones as if he was motionless, then battled with Schmidt. Once he got by, there was no catching the fellow first-time 2017 Princeton winner.
Following the inaugural trend, Dave Maas put together one of the most impressive performances of the year, Friday night, during his first laps around the half-mile dirt, this season. After an early wreck sent Jared Zimpel, Austin Niemeyer and Chris West home and Dustin Nelson to the back, Maas cruised past pole-sitter Mike Loomis and proceeded to open up nearly a half-track advantage over the entire field.
Only until he hit lap traffic did the distance quell. Maas still reached victory lane easily, while just seven cars finished on the lead lap.
A veteran to the Princeton winner’s circle provided the pace in the IMCA Sport Modified Feature race.
Kevin Kirk was building a sizeable advantage in the early-going as David Siercks, Jacob Schultz Kierstad, David Slovick and Erik Gruhlke battled for second, but a spin in turn four brought him back to the field and Siercks took full advantage.
He passed Kirk to for first heading into a caution that sent Slovick’s car limping from the race. With the once leader in points gone, Siercks escaped the fray and grabbed a sizeable lead in the standings.
Fellow mainstay, Alex Dostal captured another win during a rather uncompetitive Sport Compacts feature. Dostal sped up from his fourth place starting spot to grab an early lead, ahead of Dan Rick.
He sped off in a clean race that left the field strung out. At the end, the only competitive racing was between Curt Derichs and Lexi Kastner for third. Kastner took it.
Shawn Fletcher defended his points lead admirably in the night’s final race. He galloped from his ninth-place starting spot, the longest march of the night. To grab a convincing 1.64 second win over Toby Patchen. Post-race Patchen was disqualified for illegal engine parts, so Josh Beaulieu and Larry Zeller found podium spots.