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Penalty call helps Skora's Late Model win

For several laps early in Dunn Tire Raceway Park's John Freundschuh Memorial Late Model 50 Saturday, eventual winner George Skora was trying to figure out a way to pass the frontrunners including leader Bobby Weber.

A few laps later a key penalty call made by raceway officials changed the complexion of the race and answered that question allowing Skora to get by Weber and go on to victory without having to make a green flag pass. Also, Skora did have a very fast car.

The race was the marquee race of track's stock car season opening card.

Weber was leading the race early but penalized two positions during a caution period on lap 20 for not lining up in his proper starting spot when the race began. The drama unfolded at the dropping of the initial green flag. Jeff Brown started from the pole with Weber's teammate Don Irving on the outside of the front row. Weber started third and Skora fourth. Weber and Irving have identically appearing cars with the only noticeable difference being their respective car numbers. Weber is No. 11 while Irving sports No. 11X.

When the field came to take the original green flag to start the race, officials deemed that the start was not proper so they brought out the caution flag and after realigning the field prepared to throw a second green flag in an attempt to have a proper start.

It was noticed by many that on the second attempt to get the race started as the field came to the green flag Weber and Irving were not in their correct starting spots as originally assigned. Weber was lined up on the outside pole where Irving should have been. Irving was sitting in the third position where Weber should have been.

The race was allowed to go green anyway with many wondering why race officials let the race restart happen with the field not in the correct order.

When a caution flag waved on lap 20, Weber was informed that he was being penalized two spots for not lining up in the correct spot earlier in the race.

Following the penalty, the race resumed with Skora and Brown engaging in a battle for the lead in which Skora would prevail with the win. Brown, Scott Skora and Weber completed the top four.

After the race, Weber was very angry about the call and said that it is the officials responsibility to make sure a field is lined-up correctly for a race restart, not the drivers. Weber says that during the race he did not know whether the caution flag thrown following the original green flag was for an improper restart or rather for another problem on the track.

"We got two way radios and one way radios," said Weber of the key moment. "I haven't found anybody that told me it was a total restart. Nobody knew why it was a restart or why there was a caution. We were all single file under caution and the official in the corner flagged me into the second spot. I took the spot. The next caution came out (lap 20) later and they penalized me two spots and I have no idea why.

"Absolutely it is the track officials job to get us in the right spot for restarts. It's their track official who waved me into that spot."

Todd Hannon is the park's new race director and has been on the staff at the Lancaster facility for 33 years. He explained why he accessed Weber the penalty.

"As they were lining back up just before the second attempt to get the race going, they were lined up right and then they came around the next time and they were lined up wrong and we were going white flag meaning that we were going to restart the race the next lap and there's no time to stop so when the caution flag came out later on lap 20 that's when we took care of it. The penalty is two positions for every spot jumped."

Skora acknowledged that the penalty was a big help.

"We had a very strong car and I knew that," said Skora. "When they gave Weber that penalty that helped because it took the fastest guy out of the lead for us. But I think we really had the fastest car. Once we got out front, we beat Jeff. Jeff drove one heck of a race, too."

Opening night produced somewhat smaller car counts in the top two classes with 11 Late Models and 14 Sportsman. The Street Stocks had 13. The TQ Midgets with 19 cars and Four-Cylinders with 20 produced more cars.

Before the race a new elevated wooden observation deck designed for handicapped fans was unveiled and named "Richie's Roost" in honor of former driver Rich Warden who has been in a wheelchair the last several years suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would be named after me," Warden said. "I raced a Street Stock here in the mid 1990s and then I got diagnosed with MS. Since then I've been watching the races from the ground level until now on this nice new deck. This is awesome. Thanks to everyone who made it a reality for people with handicaps who now can enjoy the races a lot better."