East Smethport, PA (September 30, 2017):
Stephanie Eckl and Corporal Jason Dunham were remembered at McKean County Raceway Saturday night in the season-ending events encompassing eight divisions of racing. The evening’s activities were started with announcer Ken Leet reading of the bravery Corporal Jason Dunham, who gave his life in Iraq in April 2004. Every summer MCR remembers this act of unselfish bravery to save the lives of his unit. Also remembered was Stephanie Eckl, who tragically passed from this life as the result of a highway accident in 2004. The first Stephanie Eckl Memorial was held in 2005.
Mike Pegher and Greg Oakes were the front row for the Race Fan 30/Stephanie Eckl Memorial with points leader Dave Hess Jr and Chad Ruhlman in row two. All 26 cars started the event. Pegher and Oakes ran side by side for lap one with Oakes slightly ahead at the stripe then opening a three length lead at the end of two laps with Hess, Ruhlman, and Brady Wonderling filling out the top five. At six laps Oakes was lapping the back markers and Pegher was again challenging for the lead. Dave DuBois spun in turn one at eleven laps, slowing the field and eliminating the heavy traffic for the leaders. Oakes started opening a lead after green with Pegher, Hess, Max Blair, and Brady Wonderling following. At thirteen laps Mike Lupfer clipped a tractor tire in turn one, got sideways, causing a “chain reaction” that eventually involved seven cars stopped on the track. At 14 laps Blair was third as Oakes continued to extend his lead after green, again starting to lap the rear of the field at eighteen circuits complete. Blair got by Pegher in traffic at twenty then slid high, allowing Pegher to gat back to second. At lap 25 Pegher went high in turn one allowing Blair to advance to second. At 26 laps Rob Middleton spun out on the back straight, putting Blair right on Oakes’ rear bumper for the restart. Oakes opened a three length lead on Blair at green and added to it but five cars piled up in turn four, including Garrett Mott, Brent Rhebergen, John Myer, John Rohacevich, and Rich Gardner. With two laps left Blair chose the outside for the start behind Oakes. Another caution set up a one lap dash for cash. Oakes went on to the win over Blair, Pegher, Hess, and Charlie Powell. In Victory Lane ceremonies point champion Dave Hess Jr and 42-year veteran Rich Gardner were also honored. Gardner had been a McKean County regular in 1986 through 1988 and was one of the most popular drivers ever to race in the area. He had announced earlier in the week that this race would be the final event of his career. McKean County Raceway was the site of four wins (including the 2012 Fall Classic) for the Waterford, PA native of his 78 total feature wins. His first-ever Late Model feature win came at McKean County Raceway in 1985 in a Mopar-powered Dodge Daytona.
The 25 lap E-Mod finale started with Kirk Bradley and Greg Johnson scheduled for row one but Bradley was unable to answer the call, elevating Gary Eicher to the pole position. Eicher led from green with third starting Joel Watson coming to second at one lap. Eicher led Watson, Greg Johnson, Dennis Lunger Jr, and Darren Tarabori for three laps when Dave Lamphere spun in turn four, drawing the first caution. Eicher then pulled away from Watson, who was putting distance on Johnson with Brewer and Tarabori holding fourth and fifth at ten laps. At halfway Eicher had a half straight lead over Watson, who in turn had a half lap on Johnson. In heavy traffic Eicher was able to maintain a near half straight lead until two laps from the finish when Eicher got into a lapped car and spun out of the lead, advancing Watson to the front spot. Johnson restarted second with Lunger, Carl McKinney, and Mike McGee filling out the top five. With the white flag in the air Brent Rhebergen came to a stop on the back straight, setting up a one lap dash to the win. Watson, Johnson, Lunger, McGee, and McKinney brought the field back to green. Darren Tarabori wound up taking fifth from McKinney on the final lap.
The Thursday night UEMS E-Mod feature started with Carl McKinney and Vic Vena up front. At the end of one lap it was McKinney leading Joel Watson and Mike McGee with Vena back to fourth and Brent Rhebergen fifth. At Lap eight Watson came around McKinney and a lapped car to take over at the front. The order was still the same at halfway with heavy traffic coming into play. On the back straight on lap fifteen Tim Peterson got sideways and rolled hard, stopping the race under the red flag. He was ok but the car suffered extensive damage. With eleven laps left Watson, McKinney, McGee, Vena, and Rhebergen brought the race back to green. Darren Tarabori spun in turn one with eight to go. At twenty complete McGee was next to McKinney for second but McKinney pulled back ahead a lap later. The top five at the checkers was Watson, McKinney, McGee, Vena, and Rhebergen.
ULMS Super Late Models:
Heat 1: Mike Pegher, Dave Hess Jr, Max Blair, Rich Gardner, Bobby Rohrer, John Rohacevich, Rob Middleton
Heat 2: Dan Stone, Chris Hackett, Garrett Mott, Bob Dorman, John Weaver, Dan Boyd, Breyton Santee
Heat 3: Greg Oakes, Brady Wonderling, Bump Hedman, Al Brewer, Dave DuBois, Ken Shaeffer, John Oakes
Heat 4: Chad Ruhlman, Charles Powell Jr, Brent Rhebergen, Mike Lupfer, Jason Dobson, Matthew Wilson, John Myers
Zimmer’s Service Center/ULMS/Stephanie Eckl Memorial Feature: Greg Oakes, Max Blair, Mike Pegher, Dave Hess Jr, Charlie Powell, Chad Ruhlman, Dan Stone, Brady Wonderling, Chris Hackett, Rich Gardner, Mike Lupfer, Bump Hedman, Brent Rhebergen, Bob Dorman, John Weaver, Garrett Mott, 75x, David DuBois, John Rohacevich, John Myer, Rob Middleton, Matthew Wilson, Al Brewer, Bobby Rohrer, Dan Boyd, Breyton Santee
Heat 1: Joel Watson, Gary Eicher, Greg Johnson, Mike McGee, Ken Zimmer, Brent Rhebergen, David Lamphere
Heat 2: Darren Tarabori, Dennis Lunger Jr, Kirk Bradley, Carl McKinney, John Boyd, Bob Connor, Al Brewer
Heat 3: Vic Vena, Steve Rex, Randy Hall, Josh Ferry, Alan Atkinson, Mike Eschrich
Feature: Joel Watson, Greg Johnson, Dennis Lunger Jr, Mike McGee, Darren Tarabori Carl McKinney, Vic Vena, Ken Zimmer, Randy Hall, Steve Rex, Gary Eicher, John Boyd, Al Brewer, Brent Rhebergen, David Lamphere, Bob Connor, Kirk Bradley (DNS), Mike Eschrich (DNS)