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Plessinger, Crowl end dry spells at speedway

March 26, 2004

HAGERSTOWN, MD - According to the calendar, it was the second day of spring, but the bitter cold temperatures that produced snow showers all afternoon didn't keep the drivers away as 137 cars were signed into the competition area at the Hagerstown Speedway Sunday afternoon.

Frankie Plessinger of Big Tannery, Pa., and Paul Crowl of Upperco ended long dry spells in the late model features and Brett Hearn assured himself a guaranteed starting spot in the Octoberfest 350 with a win in the small-block modified feature. Eric McKinny of Dover, Del., won the 20-lap Team USA-sanctioned modified lite main event.

The 25-lap late model feature, postponed on the 10th lap the previous Sunday because of rain, picked up with Kirk Ryan on the pole for the restart and Gary Stuhler and Frankie Plessinger right behind. Stuhler went high in the second turn allowing Plessinger to move into second on the 11th lap. A lap later, Plessinger slipped underneath the leader when Ryan went high coming off the fourth turn to take the lead on lap 12, bringing Stuhler with him. Stuhler stayed with Plessinger, pulling even with the leader on lap 16, but Plessinger pulled back in front. Stuhler got alongside Plessinger again on lap 21 right before the caution was waved for Charlie Schaffer spinning on the front stretch when he lost his left rear wheel. Stuhler went right after Plessinger on the restart and on the final lap the two drivers raced side-by-side down the back stretch. But Plessinger came off the fourth turn ahead of Stuhler by a car length for his first win since August 2002. Stuhler settled for second with Ryan and Jeremy Miller next across the line. Brent Smith came from the 26th starting spot to round out the top five. Twenty-first starting Dan Stone was next with Jason Covert, Mike Lupfer, Devin Friese and Alan Brannon finishing out the top 10. Heat winners the previous week were Schaffer, Jim Bernheisel, Plessinger, Brannon and Ryan and Randy Stoudt and Drew Koteles were the consolation winners.

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"We were wondering how the car was going to work today with the track not as dry," said Plessinger after scoring his fourth career win. "I am real happy the way we are starting off the season and how the car is running."

In Sunday's scheduled 30-lap late model feature, Paul Crowl took the lead from the outside pole and quickly pulled away from the field. Dave Rice Jr. followed in second until giving way to Jason Covert on lap eight. Covert rolled to a stop on lap 12 turning second over to Frankie Plessinger for the restart. Cowl controlled the pace when the race resumed with Plessinger in second and Kirk Ryan and Gary Stuhler exchanging sheet metal battling for third. Crowl was never seriously threatened as he cruised to his first win since May 1995.

Plessinger was next, four car lengths back, with Kirk Ryan, Gary Stuhler and

Jeremy Miller rounding out the top five. Nineteenth-starting D.J. Myers was next with Brad Ritter, Devin Friese, Alan Brannon and Mike Lupfer completing the top 10. Heat winners for the 41 cars were Stuhler, Brannon, Miller and Ryan. Rick Whaler and Doug Eck won the consolations.

"This new Dirtrek car is good," said Crowl after his second career win. "It has been good right from the start and I really appreciated the help from Jerry Foster and his gang."

Brett Hearn started fifth in the 30-lap small block modified feature and wasted no time getting to the front. Ritchy Pratt Jr. grabbed the lead from the pole as Hearn went to the outside to move into the runner-up spot by the end of the second lap. Following a caution on lap two, Pratt was able to hold off Hearn on the restart, but Hearn tracked down Pratt to take the lead on lap four. Once in front, Hearn pulled away to score a easy win, his second of the year. Alan Johnson finished a distance second with Stewart Friesen coming from 16th for third. Keith Hoffman, Kenny Brightbill, Ricky Elliott, Lyle Sherwood, Dan Vauter, Mike Colsten and Doug Manmiller completed the top 10. Heat winners for the 50 small blocks were Hoffman, Brightbill, Johnson and Hearn. J.R. Heffner won the consolation.

"This is a new team, new car, it is a great way to start the season," said Hearn. "We are looking forward to Saturday night when we return with our big block. The night surface will be different from what we had today, but hopefully we can learn something from today."

In the 20-lap modified lite feature, Eric McKinny grabbed the lead from the front row and held off Matt Jester for the win. Following McKinny and Jester were Landis Musser, Ryan Walls and Shannon Buckingham. Heat winners for the 46 cars were John Mollick, McKinny, Tim White, Jester and Mike Hay. Walls won the consolation.

Racing will switch to Saturday night this week with the Advance Auto Parts DIRT Modified 100 with $6,000 going to the winner. Joining the DIRT big block modifieds will be the late models. Gates open at 4 p.m. with warm-ups at 5:30.

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