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STARS Report: Pittsburgher 100 at Pennsylvania Motor Speedway

23 September 1997

Pittsburgh, PA - Rick Aukland, of Fargo, ND, took the lead with 46 laps left and led the rest of the way to pocket the $21,000 winner's share of the purse in the "Pittsburgher 100" at Pennsylvania Motor Speedway in Pittsburgh, PA. The win, although only Aukland's second on the STARS Dirt Racing Series in 1997 was yet another "Big Purse" win for the North Dakota driver who has won just about every big purse he has gone after this year. Aukland kept the Rayburn/Malcuit/E-Z Crusher Camaro in the lead despite heavy pressure from three-time Pittsburgher winner Scott Bloomquist over the closing laps and crossed the finish line just one car length ahead. Following Aukland and Bloomquist across the line were Gary Stuhler, Donnie Moran and Tim Hitt.

Pole sitter Todd Andrews emerged with the lead after the first lap with Steve Francis, Jack Boggs, Rick Eckert and Rod Conley in trail. As Andrews pulled away from his pursuers, Bart Hartman mover into the top five and on the 10th lap he moved up to third at the same time that Aukland moved into fifth. As Andrews continued to widen his lead on lap 11 Hartman worked his way around Francis for second. Aukland passed Boggs for fourth on lap 15 but the fastest car on the track was likely John Mason who started the race 25th and by this point was already up to sixth spot. Mason tried to take the outside line around Boggs as the two cars exited turn two on lap 16, but there was contact and Boggs spun into the inside guard rail ending his race early.

On the ensuing restart Hartman shot past Andrews to take the point and Aukland made a similar move on Francis to take third. Mason and Eckert began to battle for fifth, a war that continued until lap 25 until Mason took the spot. On lap 27 Aukland got past Andrews for second and set off in pursuit of Hartman. Mason continued to work the high side of the slippery track and on lap 28 he too was able to work his way around both Andrews and Aukland into second on lap 28. Coming from his 21st starting position, Bloomquist now entered the fight as he took fifth and also working the high side of the track was into fourth on lap 33. Mason took the lead on lap 40 and Moran worked his way into fifth as the race neared the 50 lap mandatory fuel stop. At the halfway point Mason was the leader with Aukland second, Hartman third, Bloomquist fourth, and Moran rounding out the top five.

Bloomquist fired the first shot of the second half as he moved into third on lap 51 and then quickly got around Aukland and tracked down Mason. With Bloomquist looking for a way around Mason, Aukland shot past the both of them on the low side and took the point on lap 54. Aukland quickly pulled away and opened a big lead until a caution came out on lap 90 bunching the field up. Hitt had worked his way into the top five and after taking over third on lap 81 he was able to get around Bloomquist for second just after the restart on lap 93. When another caution came out with just four laps left, Hitt was right on Aukland's bumper with Bloomquist sitting in third. On the restart Bloomquist took second and still running the high line began to challenge Aukland for the lead. Aukland maintained his preferred low groove and the two cars battled it out for the final laps with Aukland taking the win, one car length ahead of Bloomquist. Stuhler worked his way into third over the closing laps after starting in 26th and Moran was able to get by Hitt on the final lap.

A record 90 cars were on hand for the race with Rick Eckert setting the fast time in qualifying at 18.875 seconds around the high banked 1/2 mile oval. Hitt, R.J. Conley, Hartman Aukland, Moran and Skip Arp took the heat wins while Andrews won the ISKY Racing Cams Fast Dash to gain the pole. Three 'B' Mains were held due to the large car count with Ronnie Johnson, Bob Salathe and Bloomquist taking the wins.

John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel

Pos Srt Car  Driver                     Laps    Purse  Reason out
1.  10  12   Rick Aukland               100    $21000  Running
2.  21   0   Scott Bloomquist           100      6040     "
3.  26   19  Gary Stuhler               100      4040     "
4.  11   99  Donnie Moran               100      3500     "
5.   7   68  Tim Hitt                   100      3000     "
6.   9   75  Bart Hartman               100      2500     "
7.  12   31  Skip Arp                   100      2000     "
8.  17   1J  Davey Johnson              100      1500     "
9.  25   72  John Mason                 100      1340     "
10.  2   15  Steve Francis              100      1225     "
11.  1   42  Todd Andrews               100      1190     "
12. 19    5  Ronnie Johnson              99      1240     "
13.  6   71R Rod Conley                  99      1170     "
14. 14   2J  Mike Johnson                99      1160     "
15. 18   84  Steve Baker                 99      1150     "
16. 24   E1  Mike Balzano                99      1180     "
17. 20   RG3 Bob Salathe                 99      1170     "
18. 27   5L  Steve Lucas                 98      1160     "
19.  5   24  Rick Eckert                 98      1200     "
20. 28   25  Mike Benedum                97      1040     "
21. 16   30  Steve Shaver                97      1000     "
22.  3   77  Barry Bragdon               96      1000     "
23. 30   79  B. A. Malcuit               67      1000  Handling
24. 29   32  Scott Hartley               64      1040  Handling
25. 15   71  Delmas Conley               51      1000  Accident
26. 22   28B Dick Barton                 42      1040  Handling
27. 13   1*  Chub Frank                  31      1000  Handling
28. 31   48J John Johnson                31      1000  Handling
29.  4   B4  Jack Boggs                  15      1050  Accident
30. 23   99T Ricky Thomas                15      1040  Driveshaft
31.  8   71C R.J. Conley                 99      1000  DQ-Light

Time of Race: 1Hr 20 mins
Cautions:     9
Lap Leaders:  Andrews, Hartman, Mason, Bloomquist, Aukland
Rookie of Race: Benedum

1997 STARS Racing Series Points
1.  Steve Francis        8070
2.  Tim Hitt             6910
3.  Rick Eckert          6650
4.  Mike Balzano         6580
5.  Steve Shaver         5670
6.  Rod Conley           5660
7.  Bart Hartman         4610
8.  Delmas Conley        3810
9.  Todd Andrews         3800
10. Barry Bragdon        3780