PORT ROYAL, Pa. – Steve Buckwalter found traction on the bottom groove before anyone else Saturday evening at Port Royal Speedway, and it led to pay dirt.
Buckwalter led the final 18 of 25 laps at the Juniata Valley half mile to score his first sprint car win of the year during the track’s weekly $4,000-to-win 410 sprint car feature.
It was the 43-year-old’s sixth career 410 win at Port Royal and first since April 2, 2016.
In slick racing conditions, Buckwalter kept his No. 17b rolling on the bottom and coasted to a .700-second victory from sixth over Dylan Cisney, who started eighth.
“It gets so slick, there are like four or five guys who can get grip down the straightaways,” Buckwalter said. “We’ve had some motor issues there the last few weeks. We were having some trouble getting off the corners. … We’ve got it running now.”
Buckwalter made sure to get to the front quickly on Saturday. He raced to third by lap five and joined a three-car breakaway along with pole-sitter Tyler Reeser and Justin Whittall in clean air.
On lap seven, Buckwalter skirted by Whittall on the bottom of turns one and two for second. The next circuit, he again got through turns one and two smoothly, which set up the go-ahead move on the following corner.
Buckwalter buried it under Reeser, who ran two grooves off the fence, in turns three and four to seal the deal. He did have to get through lapped traffic the remaining 12 laps, and since the feature ran nonstop, things got tricky toward the end.
With three laps to go, everyone moved to the bottom and Buckwalter couldn’t advance through traffic anymore. Cisney started to slowly close in, but time ran out.
Prior to Saturday, Buckwalter posted just one top-five and two top-10 finishes in 14 sprint car races this year.
Thanks to special circumstances, Buckwalter enjoyed his first sprint car win since last July, when he won at Williams Grove Speedway. His initial plan was to race at Lincoln Speedway, but the track moved up the start time to 4 p.m. to try to beat potential precipitation.
Port Royal moved its start time up, too, and Buckwalter decided to change his plan.
“I guess it was the right move,” Buckwalter said. “This is why I was hired: to win races. I feel like I should be winning a lot more than we are but it’s just so tough up here. It’s just so damn slick, you can’t get enough speed up the straightaways to get this thing stuck in the corners.
“Four or five guys got it figured out and we’ll keep working.”
Whittall finished third. Tyler Bear and Danny Dietrich, who started 11th, completed the top five. Anthony Macri raced to sixth from 14th and earned hard charger honors.
Blane Heimbach, Logan Wagner, Gerard McIntyre, and Kody Lehman closed the top 10.
Reeser, who led the first seven laps, faded to 18th.
Jason Shultz won the accompanying United Racing Club feature over Ryan Smith and Macri.
1. 17b-Steve Buckwalter, 2. 2c-Dylan Cisney, 3. 67-Justin Whittall, 4. 25-Tyler Bear, 5. 48-Danny Dietrich, 6. 39m-Anthony Macri, 7. 12-Blane Heimbach, 8. 1-Logan Wagner, 9. 33-Gerard McIntyre, 10. 47k-Kody Lehman, 11. 55-Mike Wagner, 12. 2-A.J. Flick, 13. 5w-Lucas Wolfe, 14. 45-Jeff Halligan, 15. 13-Justin Peck, 16. 98-Jared Esh, 17. 33w-Mike Walter II, 18. 35-Tyler Reeser, 19. 19m-Brent Marks, 20. 19-Curt Stroup, 21. 57j-Jeff Miller, 22. 0-Rick Lafferty, 23. 29-Michael Bauer, 24. 6-Ryan Smith.