by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher
After hotlaps, qualifying, five heat races, a dash, B-Main, and 35 laps of a wild Feature, it all came down to .007 seconds as the checkers flew on opening night of Attica Raceway Park. The Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions were in town as they kicked off their points season and a stout field of 41 sprint cars took center stage. Little did anyone in the stands know how much of a treat they would be in for.
At the start of the 35 lap, $6,000-t0-win feature, we saw an All Star lockout of the front row as Hunter Schuerenberg and Zeb Wise took the field to green. Wise got the early jump on Schuerenberg but the yellow flew as they got into turn three as Cap Henry had a flat tire. Complete restart. This time, it was Schuerenberg who got the jump on Wise. The field completed a lap but the yellow would fly once again as Chris Andrews went for a spin and collected Tyler Street and Brandon Spithaler in the process.
Everyone got it right on the second restart of the race and would settle in for a long green flag run. Schuerenberg again got a jump on Wise on the single-file restart with Brent Marks in third. Marks took a peak under Wise on lap two, but Wise was able to fend the PA Posse invader off. Schuerenberg took advantage and gapped Wise and Marks by .946 seconds by lap five. At this point, Parker Price-Miller had his hands full with Craig Mintz for fourth, and Mintz took fourth from Price-Miller.
Schuerenberg was able to slowly extend his lead over Wise as he reeled in lapped traffic on lap eight. Schuerenberg got to lapped traffic on lap nine, but had a 1.753 second lead over Wise and Marks, and a lurking Mintz. Through lapped traffic, Schuerenberg didn’t lose any time to Wise. On lap 14, Mintz got by Marks for third and almost made it to second place as they started to cut into Schuerenberg’s lead. Marks took third back from Mintz on lap 15 and soon they were both all over Wise for second.
Schuerenberg faced heavy lapped traffic and even though Wise, Marks, and Mintz were battling, they managed to cut a half second out of Schuerenberg’s lead. Marks and Mintz would swap third place multiple times over laps 17, 18, and 19. Marks was solidly in third by the end of lap 19 and Schuerenberg’s lead was down to .792 seconds.
Wise kept chipping away and on lap 23, showed the leader his nose in turns one and two as Marks came in hot, but a yellow came out for Tim Shaffer. This got Schuerenberg out of lapped traffic and into clean air. Wise nailed the ensuing restart though, almost driving around the outside of Schuerenberg in turns one and two, and then completing the pass as they came to the line. Schuerenberg fought right back, though and took back the lead, briefly, as Wise made another pass for the lead on lap 28.
Enter Craig Mintz again. Mintz came alive around the lap 28 mark and was able to snag third from Marks and quickly set his sights on Schuerenberg for second. Mintz took control of second place, but Schuerenberg was quick to fight back and retake second. The following lap, Mintz made another move for second, and made it stick. But with only a handful of laps left, and a .816 second gap between himself and the leader Wise, could Mintz make up the gap?
Mintz took about a tenth of a second out of Wise’s lead for three laps, and then with two laps to go, Mintz got a whale of a run down the backstretch and threw a slider at Wise coming to the white flag. Mintz and Wise swapped the lead a couple times on the white flag lap. Coming into turns three and four, Mintz went high and Wise chose the bottom. As they came out of turn four and headed to the checkered flag, it was a drag race.
A drag race that Craig Mintz won by .007 seconds. His first All Star win in 11 years, and he couldn’t have done it in more exciting fashion.
“We had a really good battle with [Hunter] Schurenberg and Zeb [Wise] and I think [Brent] Marks was in there. We were back and forth, having some fun. It took me a while to get rolling, and in during that long green, we were struggling. The caution came out and it helped our bleeders catch up and it made it much better,” said the race winner Craig Mintz.
“You gotta go. I knew that when there was five to go or four to go we were still in third. Then we got into second, and I was doing everything I could to catch Zeb. Then Hunter would throw a slider at me and I would have to duck back underneath him– I just couldn’t get back into rhythm. It was plain, fun racing. When I saw two to go, I knew it was close. With one to go, I slid Zeb and I thought I showed my hand too early. Luckily we were able to have a really good one and two, and actually a really good three and four, too,” continued Mintz.
“We came here just trying to compete. We thought that making shows and finishing in the top ten should be a goal. Slowly the car would get better and better, and the track came to us tonight, which was of benefit to us. We’ll take it. Anytime you can win an All Star show, you’re never going to complain. We’ll move on to tomorrow and it all starts back over,” concluded Mintz.