The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series invades Central Pennsylvania for the first time this season, with the series regulars preparing to face the formidable PA Posse Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway.
Among the Pennsylvania drivers looking to defend their home dirt, one stands alone atop The Grove’s finest — Lance Dewease.
Aboard the famed powdered blue No. 69k for Kreitz Racing, the 57-year-old put on a clinic in the latter part of last season, scoring three feature wins against the Outlaws in five races at the legendary half-mile oval.
The secret to Dewease and team owner Don Kreitz Jr.’s recent success? It’s easier than you’d think.
“The car was fast, Lance was doing a good job, and the car was fast when we got on that roll there toward the end of the year every time out,” Kreitz told SPEED SPORT. “But also, things went our way.
“We had good on the draw shows, and when we were fast enough to get in the dash, we had good draws in the dash where we were starting in the first couple rows, rather than draw an eight and being back there.”
For Dewease, the key to success in events such as the National Open at The Grove revolved around qualifying.
“You can have the fastest race car at a racetrack at any given racetrack, and you don’t get in a dash, or you don’t draw good, it’s hard to win these races,” Dewease said. “It don’t matter who you are. We just really had a lot of speed, but we had a lot of things go our way.”
The Art Of Racing At The Grove
Everything going a team’s way is just the beginning of mastering a unique dirt track like Williams Grove.
Kreitz, a National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Inductee, had his fair share of triumphs at the Mechanicsburg, Pa., track. Competing against the likes of Dewease and Fred Rahmer, Kreitz totaled a massive 61 410 sprint car wins, the fourth most in track history.
Though conquering a track like The Grove is no easy feat.
“Well, just because of the long straightaways, that’s almost the hardest part at Williams Grove,” Kreitz admitted. “Sprint cars don’t drive very good on the straightaways. Most tracks, the straightaways aren’t that long, so it’s not really that big of a deal, but at Williams Grove they are.”
As if the straightaways weren’t challenging enough, the corners bring another wrinkle in setting up the race car.
“The corners are tight. So, it’s hard to set the car up to go around a tight corner. Normally that would be on a small track, and then you don’t have to worry about the straightaway as much,” Kreitz said. “But, if you totally set it up for the tight corner, now, you won’t go down the straightaway either.”
Along with finding the right balance, Dewease, who is the all-time leading winner at Williams Grove with 111 victories, stressed the importance of not fighting the car, even if it’s uncomfortable inside the cockpit.
“You have to have finesse. The car will do a certain thing all the time, and if you try to stop it from doing it, your car is no good,” Dewease explained. “So you have to have a certain thing that, ‘Yeah, I don’t like this, but we have to let it go, we have to let it do it.’”
Despite an advantage of racing in their backyard for much of the year, Kreitz believes the advantage over the Outlaws at tracks such as Williams Grove and nearby Lincoln Speedway, where the series is scheduled to race on Saturday, has diminished.
“Most of the better Outlaw guys have been there tons of time, so they’re good at it and they know by now,” Kreitz said. “But usually with the newer guys, they’ll struggle a little bit just until they find that comfort of being able to drive it on the straightaway, keeping your foot on the throttle.
“The car just wants to go to the left going down the straightaway, and you can’t stop it. You got to set up a little bit for the straightaway and a little bit for the corner.”
The Biggest Rivalry In Dirt Racing
Dating back decades, the Greatest Show On Dirt has dueled with the posse for bragging rights at The Grove and other Central Pennsylvania race tracks.
While the rivalry comes with respect from each side, the Pennsylvania drivers don’t give an inch when the Outlaws come to town.
“Our area has always had a strong will to try to beat them,” Dewease said. “There’s no area in the country that has beat them as much as we have. That was like that before I started racing sprint cars. So, it’s a rivalry that’s been going on for a long time.
“It just seems like when it looks like they get the upper hand, all of a sudden we start running really good for a while. It goes in cycles, just like anything else, but it’s a very strong rivalry,” Dewease continued.
“To me, it’s a friendly rivalry to a certain point. I respect everybody that races the World of Outlaws. I know how hard it is to win races, period. When they show up, they want to beat us as bad as we want to beat them. It’s just something that’s been going on a long time, even before I started racing.”
What To Expect On Friday Night
After a rule in the World of Outlaws was implemented on March 10, new rear Hoosier tires will be put to the test for the first time on Friday night in the Low-E Insulation Spring Showdown at The Grove.
Without much testing on the driver’s side, it’ll be a large unknown as to how the rear tires will impact the car’s balance.
“It’s quite a different tire than what we’ve had in the past, both rear tires are,” Kreitz said. “No one’s going to really know. I think maybe a couple of the Outlaw guys might have tested them, I’m not sure. But most of the guys have not been on the track at all with these new tires.
“I’m sure it’s going to take a different setup. Normally when you go out in warm-ups at a track, you can’t get a good read on the car, because the track’s usually not really there yet in warm-ups. Now you’re gonna have to go out in warm-ups, and you’re not going to get a good read on the car with the new tires.”
Along with the new tires implemented, an added wrinkle in Friday’s Williams Grove opener are the weather and track conditions.
“This Friday is gonna be a question mark for everybody,” Dewease said. “Williams Grove didn’t get to race any yet this year. It’s supposed to be wet on and off all week, temperatures are not gonna be very warm.
“We got new tires that nobody’s ran yet. It’s a crapshoot right now and what Friday will be like. Everybody’s kind of starting from scratch with the tires, except for the guy that tested them. Opening day at a racetrack is not the same as what it is during the summer and the end of the year.”
While plenty is yet to be seen until Friday night, it’s a safe bet that the Kreitz Racing machine will be a contender, as they look to continue their momentum from last season.Follow @DHoffmanMedia22