An extremely windy and cold day failed to dampen the excitement of Toledo Speedway's opening event for the 2010 season Saturday afternoon. Jesse Saunders scored his first win in the 125 lap ASA North Late Model Series feature, while Scott Hantz was the victor in the 75 lap ARCA Allegiant Air Gold Cup Late Model main event.
The ASA North Late Model fast time was set by Eric Jones with a lap of 15:834. 18 year old Derrick Griffin, making his first start at Toledo, blistered the ½ mile in ARCA Allegiant Gold Cup Late Model time trials, recording a new track record with a lap of 14:809, besting Jr. Hanley's 14:817 lap set in 2000. Steve Cronenwett Sr., rookie Nick Grodi and Jake Francis captured the heat race events for the ARCA Late Models.
The ASA North Late Model field took the green, with Josh Nelms darting into the lead. On lap 2, a wild pile-up in turn 2 took out Eric Jones and Trevor Dassow, with Eddie Hoffman also involved. Hoffman rejoined the field at the tail on the restart. Will Thomas took the lead on lap 3 and led a 6-8 car freight train up front, with Nelms tucked in on his bumper. The pack stayed in formation until Thomas got turned sideways on lap 32 to bring out the yellow, with several other cars involved in the skirmish. Hoffman bided his time and grabbed the lead at lap 47 and set sail. Jesse Saunders and Griffin McGrath were in tow with Hoffman and the battled heated up at lap 88 when Saunders nosed low coming out of turn 2, taking the lead briefly. Jesse had to back out of the throttle as the lead duo approached a lapped car. Hoffman steamed by in the outside lane to grab the point again, but Saunders was not done. On lap 92, Saunders repeated his move and made it stick, sailing by Hoffman and grabbing the lead. With 5 laps to go, McGrath dipped under Hoffman but had to settle for third at the stripe as Saunders sped to his big victory. Fourth was Brandon Wilson and fifth went to Phil Bozell, followed Seth Moody, Nelms and Pete Vanderwyst.
Andrew Hagen and 2009 Gold Cup champ Mike Root led the field to the green of the 75 lap ARCA Allegiant Air Gold Cup Late Model feature race. Hagan zipped out to a good-sized lead at the start, but that was quickly erased on lap 13 when Nick Grodi got into Steve Cronenwett Sr. going into turn 1, sending both cars hard into the wall. Both drivers were ok. Hagen led the field on the restart with Root and Scott Hantz right behind. Hantz went to work quickly, zipping by both Root and then Hagen to take the lead. Hagen would not let Scott get away as he stayed with the "Hurricane" lap after lap. Ron Allen spun in turn 1 on lap 29, slowing the field for the 2nd time. Hantz maintained his margin until the third yellow appeared when Harold Fair Jr. came to a stop in turn 4 on lap 61. With just 14 to go, Hantz sped away as Hagen slowed up, allowing Root and Griffin to slip by. Root had other ideas as he closed in on Scott with 7 laps to go. Mike worked the outside lane and with 2 to go, pulled alongside the leader. On the white, Root was determined to make his move stick, clipping the outside wall at the checkered flag as Hantz took the win over Root, Griffin, Brent Jack, Allen, Jay Sommers, Jake Francis, Steve Cronenwett Jr., Jack Varney Jr. and Hagen.
Toledo's weekly Friday night shows begin April 30, with race number 1 of the Valvoline Summer Racing Series presented by K-100. The ARCA Sportsman, Factory Stocks, Figure 8's and 4 Cylinders will provide the action. The pit area opens at 3:30, the front gates open at 5 p.m., time trials are set for 6:15 and racing begins at 7:30 p.m.
The track is located on Benore Road at the I-75/Alexis Road exit on the Michigan-Ohio border. The track phone number is 419-727-1100. For up-to-date information, log on to www.toledospeedway.com.