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Laurel Highlands Sprint Series…..

September 11th, 2013
The RaceSaver concept in sprint car racing is new to this part of Western PA. Attempts to start a series in this area goes back several years ago but the idea did not take root. It wasn’t until 2011 when the Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown, PA. hosted several exhibition sessions with the RaceSaver 305’s  in an effort to show the fans what these limited sprint cars could do. A RaceSaver sanction was given to Dog Hollow with track promoter Jim Michny named the Regional Director with Rob Bartchy, a driver with the 305’s also being named as a Director. In Sept. of 2011 the Thunder Valley Raceway in Central City also hosted an exhibition for their fans.. The first official race for the RaceSavers at Dog Hollow Speedway was held on October 9, 2011 with 21 sprint cars taking part. The race was hosted by the PA Sprint Series, which is the Central Pa region for RaceSavers. The three heat races were won by Dan Shetler, Brian Walker and Roger Irvine. The 20-lap feature went to Brian Walker of Somerset, with second place going to Western PA 410 sprint car driver, Carl Bowser who was wheeling the Precise Racing Products #1. The first ever race was deemed an overwhelming success as the RaceSaver 305 sprint cars would be a weekly division for the 2012 racing season.    
Building any new division in auto racing takes time thus the Dog Hollow RaceSaver 305’s series experienced some growing pains,  however the car counts most of the time averaged around 11 on race night. Some of the feature winners that year included Brian Walker, Roger Irvine, Steve Kenawell, Ryan Lynn, Jeff Taylor and newcomer Bryce Stephens. A Facebook page was created by Bud Horner which enabled the sharing of race results, photos and information about the new limited sprint car division. The page was named Dog Hollow Race Saver 305’s. There were no “special races” held this year as the emphasis was placed on gaining new cars and drivers to the series. Overall the year showed promise to build on going into the 2013 season. The racing season started off slow with track improvements and the weather causing a brief delay to the start of the new season. A couple practice days allowed teams to try out the track and get ready for opening day,May 3. On this night 11 sprint cars came to race with Bryce Stephens of Huntingdon winning the opener in his Wild 1 sprinter. Rain on May 10 forced cancellation of race activity. The following week, May 17saw just 9 cars on hand with several regulars going to the RaceSaver Nationals which were held at the Fork Mountain Speedway in Bassett, VA. Back at Dog Hollow Bryce Stephens again won the 20-lap main event. Also on this night a new car was there to race, Brian Wright of New Bethlehem, PA. was fulfilling a life long dream to race sprint cars. His good looking orange and white #28 did well for the first outing..Brian formerly was a competitor in the limited modified’s in Western Pa.
Poor weather conditions on May 24 forced another cancellation. Racing returned on May 31 with a strong field of 13 cars taking part in the program including newcomer Corey Thornton of Lewistown driving the #3J owned by his Father, Jack. The teenager also competed in micro-sprint racing and was now trying the 305’s. Making his first start of the 2013 season was Rick Leonard of Williamsburg in his red #70B. Heat race winners were Roger Irvine and Bryce Stephens with Irvine in his yellow #12 taking the 20-lap feature with a solid run. The month of June began with a cancellation on the 7th due to rain and cold. Friday June 14 saw another strong field of 13 sprint cars signing in to race. Heat race winners were Justin Zap and Roger Irvine with Bryce Stephens winning his 3rd feature of the year, Steve Kenawell finished second and Jeff Bacha getting third. Rumors had been circulating about the future of Dog Hollow Speedway and a few days after this program concluded, owner/promoter Jim Michny announced that he was closing the track. This decision affected all the weekly divisions but the RaceSavers got together at the track on Sunday June 23 to discuss the future of the series now that the weekly racing option on Friday was gone. A nice sized group attended the meeting with everyone stating the series should continue and build for next year. Four races had been scheduled on Saturday nights at Jeff Taylor’s America’s Motorsport Park in Clearfield before the season began, May, June, July and August which gave the racers somewhere to compete. During the meeting on June 23, a new name was chosen for the local RaceSavers and since Dog Hollow was gone the new name was now the Laurel Highlands Sprint Car Series. The name reflects in a way the region where most of the races will occur, with some of the drivers hailing from the region as well.
The four races at AMP in Clearfield were held on the first Saturday of each month except for the August race which was held on the second Saturday. The first race for the RaceSavers at Clearfield was still under the sanction of the Dog Hollow RaceSaver 305’s with the May race going to Roger Irvine. The June race went to 410 sprint car driver, Jimmy Seger. Both of these races saw small fields of cars competing. Races for the July 6 were now sanctioned by the Laurel Highlands Sprint Car Series with 11 sprint cars taking part in the program. Nicole Walker of Somerset and Jeff Bacha of Indiana were the heat race winners while Steve Kenawell became the first ever feature winner under the new name. The August race again saw 11 sprint cars on hand with several new cars competing at the Clearfield oval, Rick Leonard was there with a new #70B, Greg Bartchy and his #01 competed. Greg formerly competed with the RaceSavers down in the Louisiana region. Corey Thornton was on hand in a new #3J sprinter while Skip Dougherty made the tow over from Western PA. Heat winners this night went to the #14 of Brian Riddle and the #27 of Dougherty. This race evening was dedicated to Cancer Survivors so everyone in all divisions, the fans and track officials sported the color pink either on their person or on the race cars. Black and pink checkered flags were donated by the Laurel Highlands Sprint Car Series to be handed out  at random to the spectators. The 20-lap feature was exciting as Ed Mesaros of Winchester, VA. took the early lead and held the position for about 8 laps until Skip Dougherty in the 27 caught up to the #15, made the pass and went on to win the main event. In other activities for the series, on Sunday August 4 the RaceSaver 305’s held a special exhibition of 10 laps at the Marion Center Speedway with Ed Mesaros, Don Sotosky, Jeff Bacha and Rob Bartchy taking part. The next racing activity for the Laurel Highlands group is slated for Saturday September 28 at the Fabulous Bedford Speedway as the series will take part in the Bedford Fall Fest which will include several stock car divisions. This should be a big event for the series regulars along with other teams from the PA Sprint Series expected to participate.
  Along with the new Facebook page called Laurel Highlands Sprint Car Series there is also a new website for the group, the address is but be patient as the site is still under construction with many new additions to be added as time goes on. The webpage can also be linked via the Facebook page. The original FB page is still available as well, mostly for sentimental purposes. Rob Bartchy who drives the #29 sprint car with the Laurel Highlands group is also the new Regional Director as he receives help from Brian Walker, Bud Horner and Billy Horner. The latter two serve with Bartchy and Walker on the Competition Committee which means at the track it is their job to check the cars, look at the engines to visually see the required engine tags and to record the serial numbers of the tags on the heads. RaceSaver engines are built to a national set of rules, and the use of the RaceSaver heads are mandatory. All engines must be inspected by an appointed engine tech person chosen by series founder, French Grimes. Each engine is examined thoroughly to ensure that the engine is built to the guide lines of the national rules. If the engine passes inspection the engine is sealed at the water pump, the intake and both heads. The national rules can be seen and read by going to the website at or RaceSaver was created to be a cost effective way for the working man or woman to go sprint car racing with the emphasis on Fun, Affordability and Recreation. This is not a professional series. Aside from engine tech the sprint cars must weigh 1,550 pounds  minimum with driver and fuel after the heat races and the feature. The top three in the feature are required to weigh after the event. When Dog Hollow was still running the scales for the sprint cars were in the pits, all finishers after each heat were required to weigh after the event with just the top three after the main event. Having survived the unexpected closing of the weekly Friday night track, the RaceSaver series here is excited about the prospects for 2014. Anyone interested in the series or getting involved are encouraged to visit the Facebook page and the webpage. Contact names and numbers are listed. Once the schedule for next year is finalized it will be posted on both sources.
   Finally, the RaceSaver 305’s are not just another 305 racing division. The national rules set this series apart from all others. Feel free to read the website for the national series or contact the Laurel Highlands group to learn more. The success of the series is the spec engine and the spec heads and the racers are encouraged to be pro-active as well to insist that all the rules are followed and obeyed. The RaceSavers are like a family with everyone lending a helping hand to their fellow competitors. Each year series founder French Grimes holds a RaceSaver nationals at his track in Bassett, Va. with the event well attended by racers from most of the regional series. There are around 7 states with RaceSaver regions with two in PA. There is future growth expected nationally. With the economy and high costs in racing alternatives are needed, the RaceSaver is designed to help racers go racing without selling everything or going broke or raiding the kids college fund. Check out a race in your area, you will be amazed by the great racing of the RaceSaver 305’s.