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Start of Susice's title defense put on hold

When Ryan Susice arrived at Ransomville Speedway for the track's planned 60th season opener last Friday night he had a few objectives. When  rain washed away the night's 358 Modified feature race, Susice had to set them aside for another week.

As Ransomville's defending 358 Modified champion, Susice had wished to not only get his title defense started in victorious style but in doing so hoped to offer heartfelt Victory Lane dedications to two people close to him, his late uncle John Susice, 75, who died recently of  cancer as well as his longtime and current crew chief Ricky Blech. Blech was married this past Saturday to 4-Banger division driver Ashley Harbison.

While Ransomville was able to complete Friday's warm-ups, time trials, heats races, consolation races and the 4-Banger feature race, which was won by Anthony Guthrie, the remainder of the opening night card was postponed after rain arrived at 10:35 p.m. The Street Stock, Sportsman, Novice Sportsman and 358 Modified feature races  will be made up in the coming weeks.

While Harbison was a bride on Saturday, she was a bridesmaid on Friday, finishing a strong second to Guthrie in the 4-Banger 15-lap headliner.

During the 358 Modified time trials, Susice timed ninth fasted then finished a close second to Pete Bicknell in his heat race.

Following the rain postponement Susice took the time to remember his late uncle.

"He's been the driving force behind my success as long as I've been racing," said Ryan. "He was my engine tuner, my carb guy and was a big help in the shop figuring out whatever problems we had whether it be electrical, engine, tranny or other problems he was the guy who could fix anything. He would drop whatever he was dong to help anybody out. He built things for other guys in the pits, too. Obviously we miss him. Hopefully I'm going to win a lot of races for him this year.

"He found out two years before he actually passed away that he had the cancer but even after that he still lived his life the way he wanted to live."

Susice mentioned that Ransomville will host the John Susice Memorial Street Stock race July 28.

Then Ryan turned his attention to the anticipated fun he was expecting to enjoy at Blech's wedding the next day.

"That will be nice to celebrate," Susice said. "He's been a great crew chief. I will have to miss the race at Merrittville but I want to celebrate Ricky and Ashley's big day with them."

Susice drives his family owned car at Ransomville as well as piloting the Randy and Bob Slack owned car at Merrittville Speedway. Susice did get his Merrittville season off to a great start this season, winning his first 358 Modified feature race at the track two weeks ago in the Slack machine.

Rain was not the only problem that plagued Ransomville's program Friday. A large hole and ruts in Turn One as well as additional ruts in Turn Four wreaked havoc with the cars.   Ransomville officials halted activity about midway through the program and spent nearly an hour grading the track in the problem areas. Ransomville suffered multiple track surface issues last season after it had laid down a new surface just prior to the start of the season.

In fairness, Ransomville's officials have been working very hard ever since to improve the conditions and certainly the heavy and frequent rains of this spring have not helped.

"Unfortunately with the spring we've had the track conditions are what they are," said Susice. "I don't know anything about working a track so I can't give them any feedback on what to do differently. They did rework it tonight before our heat races and it seemed like it made it a little bit better. I was able to get up top in the heat races and make some passes.

"Tonight the way the track was, if we ran the feature it would have been all about track position. Chad (Brachmann) was real fast in time trials and he was going to be  starting up front on a track that was probably going to be hard to pass on. So, now with the rainout they're going to have a week to work on the track and I think its going to even out the playing field quite a bit when they get some of the bumps worked out of it. The rainout was probably the best case scenario for tonight."

Also Friday, Susice was still savoring his early season triumph he enjoyed at Merrittville with his new Slack team.

"So far it's been a lot of fun," said Susice. " There's a lot of really smart guys on that crew and for me as a driver it's probably the best situation that I can be in because I just show up with my helmet bag and race".

Ransomville enjoyed great car counts Friday with 25 Modified and 30 Sportsman on hand in addition to the other classes. The race program was delayed a half hour at the start due to an early evening shower but track officials got the program going quickly following the delay.

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