Lap after lap, Nik Welshans tried in vain to use the outside groove to unseat Tommy Wentland from the lead of the 25-lap Street Stock season opener Saturday afternoon at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway. Finally, on the last lap, Welshans utilized the lapped car of Frank Prell as a pick to get around Wentland and execute the winning pass just two turns from the end of the race for a dramatic victory.
Welshans, a veteran campaigner in the NASCAR Chargers at Holland Motorsports Complex, scored his first career Lancaster victory.
Other class winners at Lancaster on Saturday were: John Barber, Sportsman; Andy Nye, NYPA TQ Midgets, and Jason Anasiewicz, 4-Cylinders.
Patrick Emerling crossed the line first in the Sportsman main event but was later disqualified in post race tech for utilizing an illegal carburetor, elevating Barber to the victory.
Welshans was elated in victory lane following his Street Stock triumph.
"This feels good," he said. "This is only my second time running here. This is a brand new car. It got a little beat up today but you're going to have that, you know."
On an afternoon where tire grip was tough due to the cold and wind, Welshans found himself repeatedly trying to overhaul Wentland in the waning laps but lacked enough bite to complete the pass. Wentland appeared to be poised for the victory, but then the seas parted for Welshans.
On the final lap as the lead duo traveled down the backstretch, Wentland was running hard in the inside lane with Welshans to the outside. As they approached the third turn they encountered the lapped car of Prell, who was occupying the inside lane and was trying to stay low so that he would not interfere with the lead battle.
Unfortunately for Wentland, he got pinned behind Prell and underneath Welshans, allowing Welshans to go by unimpeded in the decisive move. From there Welshans sped to the checkered flag.
"I was trying to stay with Tommy and drive in the turns deeper but I couldn't hold it and then we got to lapped traffic," Welshans said. "I got to the third turn and the lapped car was there and I just had it all work out."
Wentland settled for second.
It was a good day overall for the Welshans family as Nik's brother Tim Welshans placed third in Saturday's Street Stock affair.
Also at Lancaster Saturday, Nye claimed his second consecutive Lancaster NYPA TQ Midget Series victory dating back to last year's season closing U.S. Open. Nye passed Tommy Catalano on lap five of the 20-lap NYPA main event and held off a fast closing Bobby Holmes by five car lengths to earn the win. Although the day ended well for Nye, it did not begin that way.
"We kept racing indoors this past winter," Nye said. "I came out here for practice last week. It was real fast. I had a real horrible day today because I bent a right front shock in the first practice. So the castor was messed up for the heat race and I didn't know why. Then we fixed it and once I got by Catalano early I figured maybe Holmes or the No. 88 (Kyle Hutchinson) could touch me but they didn't. I got real tired at the end. If the race went another five laps I don't know if I could have held on. My arms are done."
Anasiewicz collected his first career Lancaster 4-Cylinder win in dominating fashion by leading every lap of the 25-lap caution-free race from the outside pole. Anasiewicz changed his car number this season from No. 89 to No. 3 and perhaps changed his luck as well.
"I've been trying for this win for four years and finally it got it," said Anasiewicz. "I knew everybody was pretty far behind me because I lapped a lot of cars today."
The 35-lap Sportsman race was a caution-plagued affair with the yellow laundry flying 11 times in the first 32 laps. Contributing somewhat to the frequent caution periods was a very green race track due to the heavy rains last week as well as the colder air and track temperatures that made grip sometimes hard to find. During midday practice the track surface temperature was only 50 degrees, according to Sportsman competitor Tony Hanbury.
A stellar field of 70 cars encompassing four divisions, including 24 Sportsman, competed at Lancaster Saturday despite the cold conditions. A good crowd turned out as well.
Lancaster management has added two additional stock car race announcers to the staff for 2017. Assisting longtime stock car announcer Dave Buchanan is Bobby Weber III, the son of Late Model racer Bobby Weber. Shauna Greene serves as a roaming grandstand announcer.
Sportsman driver Andy Lewis damaged the back of his car in a practice accident Saturday but was able to make repairs before heat competition began.
For the first time in recent memory, the Vince Christiano Sr.-owned NYPA team was absent from competition Saturday. Drivers Vince Christiano Jr., Vince Christiano III and Dave Wollaber were absent due to work, hockey and vacation commitments.
For this season, NYPA competitors are allowed to use fuel-injected engines as an option if they wish at any speedway that hosts an NYPA-sanctioned event. In prior years this option was legal at Lancaster only.
Lancaster will showcase the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series 75 on Saturday at 2 p.m. following Friday's 6 p.m. IHRA Drag Racing Test and Tune Night.