The realization shook Lance Dewease like a hair-raising nightfall, as the chilling atmosphere of the 2018 Williams Grove National Open pointed the now 55-year-old sprint car racing legend in a lonely direction.
It was the first NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series race in central Pennsylvania since the death of Greg Hodnett 10 days earlier following a crash at BAPS Motor Speedway.
Dewease had always been a lead character in the Pennsylvania Posse’s quest to defeat the WoO travelers. But this time around when he stepped through the Williams Grove gates onto a scene draped with grief, he was the lone character.
For the first time since his racing career began in 1985, Dewease was the last driver from the Posse’s glory years.
“After (Greg’s) passing, I can tell you when I first showed up to the race track, it was weird,” Dewease said. “I felt old.
“There was nobody there that I raced with for any length of time.”
Since 2013, Posse drivers Fred Rahmer, Keith Kauffman, Todd Shaffer, Don Kreitz Jr., Stevie Smith and Doug Esh retired.
Add Brian Montieth’s departure from full-time racing and next in line to Dewease in the Posse hierarchy is Danny Dietrich at age 32. More than 200 wins and a generation stand between Dietrich and Dewease.
Three years have passed since Hodnett’s death, and the loneliness of being the last of an era awaits Dewease at every track. “You look around … it’s all young guys,” Dewease said. “There’s no one like Greg left.”
Dewease is the bridge from its glorious past to an uncertain future, which is lined with youth. A multitude of questions hang in the balance.
How many years does Dewease have left and will the Posse name remain relevant?
“Who is there to try to keep us on top of beating (the Outlaws)?” Dewease asked.
“When (the Outlaws) come in, you would have little Freddie (Rahmer), but he doesn’t have the experience to do it consistently yet, I don’t think,” Dewease added. “And other than Danny (Dietrich), who else has won Outlaws shows? That’s what I mean. Who else has proven they’ve done it?”
Dewease has 17 victories over the Outlaws during his long career. Dietrich has defeated the travelers five times and Rahmer has a single WoO victory on his budding résumé. No other current Posse driver has beaten the Outlaws.
“Greg (Hodnett), Donnie (Kreitz Jr.), Keith (Kauffman), myself, we all wanted to beat the Outlaws,” Dewease said. “Now, we need more with that same desire.”
Some might consider WoO winners Brent Marks, Lucas Wolfe, Logan Schuchart and Jacob Allen part of the Posse, but they race on the road now. Marks and Wolfe joined the All Star Circuit of Champions this year. Schuchart and Allen, meanwhile, are established World of Outlaws regulars.
Veterans Tim Shaffer and Kerry Madsen strengthened the circuit by joining Pennsylvania teams this season, but they’re not yet received as Posse drivers. As well, Shaffer turns 54 in June and Madsen will be 50 in December.
That puts the long-range focus on Dietrich, Rahmer and a largely unproven crop of drivers that includes Anthony Macri, Brandon Rahmer, Chase Dietz, Dylan Cisney, Jeff Halligan, Kyle Moody, Logan Wagner and Matt Campbell.
“When I sit and look at our younger generation, I look to see who improves year after year after year,” Dewease said. “Some guys are improving. Some guys don’t. Realistically, the guys that don’t, won’t be here real long, you know what I mean?”
The Posse legacy hinges on two things: Number of wins versus the World of Outlaws and dominance in the area. But the key to greatness isn’t mastery of race cars, channeled talent or even money. The blueprint is much deeper.
“Money helps,” Dewease started, “but you can’t buy talent. And talent is talent. You either have it or you don’t.
“To me, it’s how they go through those peaks and valleys,” Dewease added. “And do they come out the other side better? That’s what Fred Rahmer and I did when we had off years. We’d figure out what was missing and come out better.”