With their season championships already in the bank, Lancaster Motorsports Park drivers Kirk Rutherford and Brett Scherrer will be looking for the icing on the cake at this weekend's 10th NAPA U.S. Open Weekend at Lancaster.
Rutherford is the Sportsman champion for the second straight year and Scherrer earned his first title in the track's Late Model division.
As both come into this weekend as the defending winners of their respective classes in the 1997 U.S. Open, it may not be wise to bet against them. Rutherford, in fact, has won the last two U.S. Open Sportsman features.
"We had a pretty good year," Rutherford summarized. "We took the points lead about the third week and never looked back. We started all the features and had problems only a couple of nights but still finished.
"We had a good lead in points by the beginning of August and just kind of hung back a little bit the rest of the way and played it safe."
Rutherford, a Barker resident, has won four times in 1998 at Lancaster. He won nine times in 1996 and was victorious on six occasions last year.
Good news for most Sportsman competitors for next year is that Rutherford plans on moving up to the 358 Modifieds, Lancaster's top level of stock car competition.
"We are about 90 percent positive we'll be in Modifieds next year," Rutherford said. He's in the process of selling his Sportsman car to help with the finances.
"The Sportsman class is similar to the Modifieds so it's a good learning division. Driving a Sportsman is like going through the motions of driving a Modified but with less horsepower to handle," he said.
Scherrer captured two Lancaster Late Model wins this year.
"We had a lot of seconds and thirds to help us out. It was consistency that did it, along with what I called my old experienced crew," laughed Scherrer, referring to his crew chief, Dave Whitacre, a former driver who has been in racing for more than 20 years; his father, Ron Scherrer; and Clyde Snyder.
Scherrer says not damaging his car this year gave the team a consistent mechanical basis to improve upon as the weeks rolled on.
"The biggest difference in our car this year was the chassis," he said. "Dave does all the chassis set-up and he really stepped it up this year. He has been a man working in the background for us for a lot of years and deserves so much credit.
"My dad is our motor man and Clyde handles the front-end set-up. This experience helped."
Scherrer started his career at Lancaster in 1985 and in 1988 transferred to the NASCAR Late Models at Holland. Following a bad wreck at Holland that year -- Scherrer hyperextended his neck -- he left race driving on the recommendation of doctors.
With full medical clearance obtained, Scherrer returned to race driving at Lancaster in 1996. He intends to defend his championship in 1999.
Mark Krupczyk will try for his first US Open win. He won Lancaster's Street Stock championship he first captured in 1992.
"We had two wins this year," the Pendelton driver said. "We got hit by someone else the second week of the season and didn't finish that race. The rest of the way we did all right.
"We got the points lead at the halfway point but in August fell into a tie with Mike Davis. We had a late-season win over Mike that eventually made the difference."
Wayne Stevens, the 1998 Lancaster Strictly Stock champion, will not be in competition in the U.S. Open.
"We sold our Strictly Stock and are moving up to Street Stock next season," Stevens, a five-time 1998 winner, said. "Our new Street Stock has been built by Trey Hoddick. We're proud of the fact we never wrecked our Strictly Stock all year."
Saturday: Practice, 1 p.m. Qualifying, 6:30 p.m., followed by MBNA Cup Lite Racing Series and Strictly Stocks. Tickets: Adults $10, students and seniors $7, prices vary for younger fans; families, $25.
Sunday: Practice, 10:30 a.m. Non-qualifiers, noon. New York State Modified championship Series heats, 1 p.m., followed by Late Models (75 laps), NYS Modifieds (50); Holland Late Models (35); Street Stocks (30); Sportsman (30); Pro-Trucks (20); Casey TQ Midgets (20). Tickets: Adults $18, students and seniors $13, prices vary for younger fans; families, $50.