MERCER, Pa. – Chandler Leiby made the long tow to Western Pennsylvania pay off, taking his first victory in the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series at Michaels Mercer Raceway Saturday evening.
The driver from Carlisle, Pa., dominated the 25 lapper, as he took the lead when the green flag waved and never faced a serious challenge.
Leiby, who graduated from Micros to 358 winged sprints before taking the wings off to race with the USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series when it was created two years ago, was pleased with his performance. His only concern was dealing with lapped traffic.
“That was my big fear, getting into traffic,” Leiby admitted. “I won down at Lincoln, back home, a couple of years back, but I didn’t have any problems in lapped traffic. But, I have never led a wingless race and had to run into so much lapped traffic while in the lead. So, that was my concern. But, I did pretty well with that and I didn’t have to mess around behind the guys.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Leiby explained that he and his team were going to dash off to New York and run with USAC on Sunday night.
“It’s going to be a long night, but we’re looking forward to it,” he said enthusiastically.
Leiby was paired with Cody Gardner for the start of the event. Mercer favorite Arnie Kent was in row two with another eastern invader, Carmen Perigo. Justin Owen and Matt Westfall were in row three, and Bob McMillin rolled off in the fourth row, with John Stenham beside him.
Leiby entered turn one on the inside, and Gardner tried to make an outside move, to no avail. Perigo and Kent were battling for third on the opening lap, with Owen and Westfall within striking distance. A little further back, Cory Crabtree, Andy Feil, and Brandon Spithaler were dicing in the top ten.
Leiby had his car on cruise control as he reached the rear of the field and started putting competitors a lap down. Garner still had second, but he already lost contact with the point man. Westfall started to advance as the leaders were working their way through the traffic.
Soon after Westfall overtook Gardner for the distant second spot, the first caution of the feature was displayed. Dustin Webber was the victim of a minor spin on lap 19.
Perhaps the pressure was mounting for several drivers in the top ten after the racing resumed. There was a significant incident in between turns three and four on lap 20, with six cars involved, including those of top ten runners Kent, Spithaler, Owen, Perigo, and Feil. Spithaler got the worst of the wreck, turning over his machine. Fortunately, none of the racers were injured.
The third and final caution came out on lap 21 for yet another minor spin.
Leiby had a cushion of five or six lapped cars separating himself from second place Westfall after the final caution. Gardner still held the third position. Parker Frederickson gained several positions due to these incidents and he was now a member of the top five, as was Steve Little.
Leiby ran off the final four laps without further ado. Westfall was 5.751 seconds behind at the finish. Frederickson crossed in third, followed by Gardner and Little. Dustin Ingle, Kent, Perigo, and Feil completed the entire 25 laps. Korbyn Hayslett was tenth, but a lap down at the checkers.
Chandler Leiby, Matt Westfall, Parker Frederickson, Cody Gardner, Steve Little, Dustin Ingle, Arnie Kent, Carmen Perigo, Andy Feil, Korbyn Hayslett, John Stenham, Zach Morrow, Bob McMillin, Dustin Webber, Joe McEwen, Bobby Distel, Rick Holley, Jeremy Kornbau, Justin Owen, Brandon Spithaler, Kory Crabtree, Gale Ruth, Sr., Micheal Lutz, Buddy Lowther.