YORK HAVEN, Pa. – As a special, emotional night honoring a Pennsylvania sprint car legend concluded, and after he toppled his nearest competitor by five seconds, Lance Dewease stood in the back of his trailer and just stared at his latest prize.
Dewease led all 27 laps to win the Greg Hodnett Foundation race on Sunday night at BAPS Motor Speedway, and in front of him sat the trophy commemorating the late Hodnett, with some of the National Sprint Car Hall of Famer’s best moments plastered around the base.
Nearly two years ago, a freak incident took Hodnett’s life at that very same race track. His memory now lives on through nights and moments like Sunday, highlighting the foundation that aims to ease the financial burden of a driver’s family after a fatal accident.
Dewease and Hodnett put on some shows for the ages through the years, stimulating a fierce, but congenial on-track rivalry and inseparable bond.
On Sunday, Dewease appropriately tied Hodnett in all-time wins in a winged 410 sprint car at BAPS with 21 triumphs, good enough for 10th most in the track’s history.
“That’s pretty cool, on his night, on his race, to tie him. That’s pretty cool,” said Dewease, who earned $4,000 for his victory at the four-tenths-mile oval. “It means a good bit. Greg and I were really hard racers and really good friends. We got along really, really good. For how hard of competitors we were we got along really good and you don’t see that too often in motorsports. When he passed, it hit me a lot harder than people realized.
“It’s just been fun to win some special shows for him.”
Whenever the memory of Hodnett is the talk of the night, Dewease seems to deliver for his old racing buddy. In 2018, just two weeks after Hodnett passed, Dewease won the World of Outlaws-sanctioned National Open at Williams Grove Speedway.
On Sunday night, even when Dewease revealed his car “wasn’t great” and just “OK” in victory lane, the wheelman of the legendary No. 69K still blitzed the field of 33 entrants by a full five seconds.
“After the heat race we changed everything on the whole race car, so I had no idea what it was going to do,” said Hall of Fame crew chief Davey Brown, the mechanic of the No. 69k.
Dewease started the feature second, outside of pole-sitter Dwight Leppo, and powered around Leppo for good by the exit of turn two on the opening lap.
He jumped out to a 1.5-second lead on eventual runner-up Steve Buckwalter through five laps, until a caution flew for Ryan Smith, who stopped on the frontstretch.
On the race’s only restart, Buckwalter, who restarted on the bottom since Dewease selected the top lane, threw his No. 17B hard into turn one, attempting a potential race-changing slide job on Dewease.
But Dewease squeaked by Buckwalter along the fence and was off to the races from there.
“In open track, there’s no way I was catching [Lance],” Buckwalter noted. “We got that restart and Lance never picks the top, so I’m like, ‘Man, I might have a shot at this sweeparound.’ Didn’t quite clear him, so feel back in line behind him. And he started pulling away from there. Was hoping for another yellow to get another shot at it.”
While Buckwalter felt like that was his best shot at the point, Dewease turned around and ran his quickest lap of the race on that restart, blowing open the remaining 22 laps even after a few hold-ups with lapped cars.
“I wasn’t worried about the restart, but I was worried about the lapped cars,” Dewease said. “I wasn’t good in [turns] three and four. And I just didn’t know where [the lapped cars] were running.”
By lap 11, Dewease had opened up a four-second cushion but on the following circuit, Dewease got stuck behind the lapped cars of Jared Esh, who ran the bottom, and Brett Michalski, who operated the top.
Five laps later, on lap 17, Dewease finally cleared the tandem that raced hard for position, and Buckwalter had pulled to within 2.5 seconds.
But if there was ever any doubt, Dewease ended it thereafter, extending the lead to over three seconds once more with five laps to go.
It was Dewease’s night, but in the grand scheme, it was all about the foundation in Hodnett’s name. In just a few weeks, during Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek, the Greg Hodnett Foundation is set to auction a plethora of racing memorabilia.
One of those items is a blown-up image of Dewease and Hodnett that captures the enjoyment and bond the two shared with one another.
Additionally, it’s autographed by Dewease.
“I normally don’t like my picture taken. I don’t like myself in pictures,” Dewease started, “but this is a really good picture of him and I. We were just laughing, having a good old time.
“I miss him dearly. It’s an honor to have this trophy honoring him.”
1. Lance Dewease, 2. Steve Buckwalter, 3. Mark Smith, 4. Lucas Wolfe, 5. J.J. Grasso, 6. Tyler Ross, 7. Chase Dietz, 8. Billy Dietrich, 9. Freddie Rahmer, 10. Dwight Leppo, 11. Kyle Reinhardt, 12. Justin Barger, 13. Gerard McIntyre, 14. Dylan Cisney, 15. Michael Walter, 16. Brent Shearer, 17. Doug Hammaker, 18. Brett Michalski, 19. Jared Esh, 20. Aaron Bollinger, 21. Brian Montieth, 22. Chad Trout, 23. Dylan Norris, 24. Ryan Smith.