Rich Vleck, THOROLD, Ont., (June 18, 2011)- Bryan Howland was cruising along in the lead thinking that he had his first Patriot Sprint Tour Win of the season in the bag, but off the final corner when he saw the nose of Jared Zimbardi’s peak to the inside, he thought he might have given it away.
Howland, the four-time PST Champion from Auburn, NY, lead the final 22 laps for his 19th career series win. Even though he had stretched out his lead to over three seconds at points in the 25-lap A-Main, Zimbardi closed the game to make it a wild finish.
Despite redrawing the sixth spot for the A-Main, Howland quickly moved into third on the opening lap before a caution would slow the field with one lap complete when Dave Wickham got into Don Adamczyk in turn one. The ensuing restart would be the last one of the night as all 24 cars would complete the next 24 laps without issue.
Howland moved into second underneath local Jim Huppunen and set his sights on leader Brad Knab. Knab, who earlier in the night had scored his first PST heat win since 2007, was steady on the top of the track, but a bobble on lap four would open up the door for Howland to grab the top spot.
Zimbardi, who had won the Original Pizza Logs Four Laps of Fame to earn the ninth starting spot, meticulously picked off cars on the bottom of the track and moved into second place with 10 laps remaining. He was unable to cut much off Howland’s lead in lapped traffic until four laps to go, when he brought the deficit from 2.1 seconds to 1.3, and then down to a half-second at the completion of lap 24. “The Juice” looked underneath Howland’s No. 51 coming to the white flag, almost setting up the move he would need to make the following lap.
On the final circuit, Zimbardi tried to hit his mark too perfectly in turns one and two, which kept him from being close enough to complete the slidejob in turn three. Despite pulling even with the defending champion in turn four he did not have the momentum needed to out-drag Howland back to the line.
An underlying story on the night was the race the two had a night earlier at Ohsweken in their weekly Corr/Pak Sprint event. Zimbardi was leading when Howland ran him down and the two swapped the lead for a handful of laps, with Howland eventually claiming the win. Zimbardi wanted to get revenge, but wanted to do it respectfully.
“It’s kind of funny how for all the years we have raced, we have never had a deal where we have gone one-on-one,” noted Zimbardi after the event. “I think I could slid him off (turn) four and pushed him off the track but I knew he wouldn’t race me like that.”
Howland was ecstatic after he climbed out of his Filtrec Corporation/ Lasca’s Restaurant No. 51 Maxim, running over to Zimbardi’s Bundle of Warmth/ Kill Buck Outlet No. 35 J&J to quickly discuss the race with him.
“I knew I was getting slowed up in lapped traffic a little, and the top was going away a little bit. I kept jacking on the wing slider but I didn’t want to push it too hard and buzz off the tires,” recalled Howland in Victory Lane. “I had no idea anyone was that close though and then I saw the 35 flash underneath me and I actually thought of driving off the track to find some bite.”
With rainouts hampering the start of the 2011 season, coupled with a mechanical issue that knocked him out of the lead at Stateline, “Flyin’ Bryan” has been anxiously awaiting his chance to pick up a win; the fact that he scored two in one weekend was an extra bonus.
“We often don’t win two in a row on a weekend,” admitted Howland. “We are going to enjoy this while it lasts!”
Behind that battle for the lead was a spirited showdown for spots three through 24. Dain Naida would get the best of the scramble for third as he somewhat rid himself of the bad luck that had plagued him to start 2011.
Travis Cunningham would run up from 15th starting spot to finish in fourth in an event held in memorial for his father, Gary. A night after tumbling his No. 71, Cunningham used his “old modified experience” to putt around the bottom to move his way up the leaderboard.
Scott Kreutter was running in fifth at the site of his only career PST tour win on the final lap when his drive shaft broke in turn two, handing fifth back over to Brad Knab for his best finish of the year.
After thrashing all night to put his No. 7 back together after a hard crash at Ohsweken, Kyle Moffit would finish in sixth. Moffit got into the back of outside polesitter Tim Zack on the start, which damaged his nose wing and hindered his downforce the rest of the way.
Mikey Kruchka ran up 16th to seventh at the track where he nearly pulled off a win at in 2009. Fellow Canadians Jamie Collard, Heat 3 winner Jim Huppunen and Chris Steele completed the top-10.
A total of 28 sprints would help to fill the pits on a hot night in Southern Ontario. No major incidents occurred, however Glenn Styres did spin while leading Heat 3, as did Tim Kelly while leading the B-Main.
The PST returns to Southern Ontario next week with stops at Ohsweken and South Buxton to take part in the first two legs of the Northern Summer Nationals. For more information, visit www.PatriotSprintTour.com.
Patriot Sprint Tour Results: 6/18/11, Merrittville Speedway, Thorold, Ontario.
Fine Touch/Bonnell’s Collision A-Main (25 Laps)- 1. Bryan Howland (51), 2. Jared Zimbardi (35), 3. Dain Naida (07x), 4. Travis Cunningham (71), 5. Brad Knab (38), 6. Kyle Moffit (7), 7. Mikey Kruchka (01), 8. Jamie Collard (7x), 9. Jim Huppunen (14H), 10. Chris Steele (80x), 11. Keith Dempster (5k), 12. Tim Kelly (12), 13. Chris Durand (67D), 14. Vern Wasson (5), 15. Shayne Ely (v8), 16. Tim Zack (X), 17. Mitch Brown (10), 18. Dave Wickham (80), 19. Scott Kreutter (52), 20. Brad Malloy (5M), 21. Todd Hoddick (49), 22. Don Adamczyk (21), 23. Jamie Turner (11), 24. Steve Collins (67).
Lap Leaders- Knab 1-3, Howland 4-25.
Buy-In Provisionals: Kelly, Collins.
B-Main (Top 4 Transfer to A-Main)- 1. Chris Durand (67D), 2. Shayne Ely (V8), 3. Brad Malloy (5M), 4. Jamie Turner (11), 5. Glenn Styres (0), 6. Chris Jones (11J), 7. Brandan Warner (10B), 8. Steve Collins (67), 9. Brad Lodge (2), 10. Tim Kelly (12).
Original Pizza Logs Four Laps of Fame Dash (4 Laps)- 1. Zimbardi, 2. Kreutter, 3. Wickahm, 4. Dempster, 5. Collard, 6. Hoddick.
National Parts Peddler Heats (8 Laps Each, Top 6 Transfer to A-Main)-
Race 1: 1. Knab, 2. Naida, 3. Zimbardi, 4. Dempster, 5. Cunningham, 6. Wasson, 7. Durand, 8. Turner, 9. Jones, 10. Warner.
Race 2: 1. Howland, 2. Moffit, 3. Wickham, 4. Kreutter, 5. Hoddick, 6. Kruchka, 7. Lodge, 8. Kelly, 9. Collins.
Race 3: 1. Huppunen, 2. Steele, 3. Adamczyk, 4. Zack, 5. Collard, 6. Brown, 7. Ely, 8. Malloy, 9. Styres.