National Open photos are posted... 
Sorry for the delay, everyone. I've been super busy at work and I'm also getting over a cold. Now that I'm better, my pictures from my PA trip (plus other places I've visited) are up. I hope to see y'all next year!

http://s113.photobucket.com/albums/n205 ... er%202012/

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Some other thoughts on my trip... 
Here are some other things that I want to share with everybody…

Wednesday: An elderly couple that sat in front of me on the plane from Portland to Atlanta were on their way to Rome. They were also going to visit Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt along the way.

Thursday: Shortly after I took a picture of the entrance of Hershey’s Chocolate World, four girls from Thailand asked me to take a group photo of them and I graciously accepted. There was another girl at the cocoa and coffee counter that was working her next-to-last day there, but she had some huge plans in her life. She was going to get married. The frozen mocha and the chocolate chip cookies hit the spot! I also purchased a T-shirt for my dad, a couple of shot glasses for my mom, and some keychains for a couple of my co-workers.

Friday: I bumped into Shawn Miller and Brandon Bere (Live_Updates on Twitter) at the kickball game. If you haven’t visited Brandon’s page yet, please do so. He does an incredible job on updating everyone at the races he goes to. Before the races started up, I talked to three guys that lived near the park where the kickball game was held. I was given a crash course on the atmosphere of Williams Grove, Lincoln, and Port Royal. I gave Greg Hodnett a diecast model of the #11H car he drove back in the late 1990’s. His first words were, “I had more hair back then!” He thanked me and I wonder if he used it as his good luck charm on his way to a second-place finish. When I was turning for my hotel in Dillsburg, Greg’s hauler passed by me.

Saturday: At the funnel cake stand at the track, I was behind a guy wearing a Zimbardi Electric jacket. I asked him, “As in sprint car racer Jared Zimbardi?” It turned out to be his father, Tim.

Sunday: Before my flight from Harrisburg to Detroit, I was talking to a man who was going to Taipei, Taiwan. Since he goes there so much on business, Taipei has been his place of residence for a year!

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Time to Review: National Open notes 
Four-time World of Outlaws champion and current points leader Donny Schatz made history at Williams Grove Speedway Saturday night, as he became the first ever five-time champion of the Morgan Hughes National Open. He inherited the lead on lap 24 when Craig Dollansky crashed into Alan Krimes in turn three. On the restart, Brian Leppo took the lead from Schatz on the backstretch before Donny powered back by out of turn four to complete the 25th lap. The crowd was on their feet, as Leppo stayed close behind Schatz. Last year’s World of Outlaws “Rookie of the Year” Cody Darrah wanted to be a part of the action when he tried a slide job on Leppo for second out of turn four on the next-to-last lap, but Leppo got back by at the stripe. No one could catch Schatz as he scored his 11th WoO win of ‘12 and a $50,000 payday. Leppo, Darrah, Daryn Pittman, and Paul McMahan finished in positions two through five.

Kerry Madsen led the first 16 laps in Friday’s main event before the yellow lights flashed for Doug Esh, who stopped in turn three. McMahan took the lead from Madsen on the backstretch on the 17th lap on his way to his second WoO win of the season. Greg Hodnett made the pass stick on Madsen at the line on lap number 19 to advance to second, while “The Madman” settled for third.

My first trip to Williams Grove and the state of Pennsylvania was nothing but amazing. The entire field was filled with talent. 55 cars were in attendance Friday and 54 showed up Saturday. I met a lot of friendly fans, drivers, and pit crew members. Everyone was very surprised on how far I’ve come to an Outlaws race. I had some thunder and lightning late Thursday night, and the forecast for Friday was iffy at best. Luckily, the sun was out for the kickball game and everything would be all right for the races. Was it a huge gamble to go nearly coast-to-coast for a race? Sure. Was it rewarding? You bet!

Now that Williams Grove is crossed off my bucket list, what’s next for me? Could it be Eldora, Knoxville, the World Finals at Charlotte, or the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Ohsweken Speedway up in Ontario? Even I don’t know the answer. I’m sure that some other places will be added on down the road. For now, it’s time again to open up my notebook…

Ride Hopping: Leppo has been driving for numerous different car owners in 2012. He has been racing for the late Jesse Keen, Scott and Chris Dietz, John Zemaitis (won the O’Reilly Auto Parts All-Star Circuit of Champions race at Williams Grove on June 2 in a one-race deal), Kathy and Pat Palladino (made his first ever 360 start at Selinsgrove Speedway on September 1), and Chad and Jenn Clemens. Brian was driving a second Clemens #51 car in the National Open and ran as a teammate to McMahan. Leppo qualified sixth on Friday and went on to an 11th-place run in the A-Main. He was the first driver to qualify on Saturday and his time stayed on top until the very last car (which happened to be McMahan). Brian briefly led lap number 25 of the feature before Schatz passed him back out of turn four and held on for second just ahead of Darrah. That finish netted Leppo a well-deserved $12,000.

Paulie’s the Man: Staying with Chad and Jenn Clemens, McMahan has been an asset for them in the #51 car. For the first race with them at Williams Grove on September 21, he turned in the fastest time in qualifying and a fifth-place finish in the A. The only bad finish for Paul was on the following night at the WoO race at Lernerville Speedway, where he was 17th in the finishing order after going to the pits late in the race with mechanical problems while running second. Along with Friday’s wins in heat five and the A-Main, he won an extra $300 from Fast Tees for setting quick time on Saturday before moving up eight spots to fifth in the A. With the success Paul already has had driving the #51 sprinter in a short amount of time, it’s already lining up to be very promising.

Serious Passing: Jac Haudenschild was definitely the driver to watch in the National Open. He qualified a so-so 30th out of 55 drivers on Friday and was very exciting in the fifth and final heat. He started sixth and passed Lucas Wolfe for third out of turn four on the second lap before performing a slide job on Steve Kinser in turns one and two on the next lap for second. “The Wild Child” nearly passed McMahan for the win at the finish line, and came just a car length short! Jac would finish tenth in the A. He didn’t do very well in Saturday’s qualifying either, where he was 43rd out of 54 competitors and ended up in the C-Main. That didn’t keep the 54-year-old from being his usual, as he soared from sixth to second on a lap four restart and he was looking to do more. He took the lead from Tim Shaffer in turn three with two laps to go and earned a transfer spot to the B. Jac started the Last Chance Showdown in the 17th spot and even though he didn’t advance to the A, he provided more excitement when he did a slider on Steve Buckwalter on the final lap out of turn four to wind up seventh.

Crazy for Kickball: The first ever National Open Kick-It For Kids Cancer Kickball Tournament took place at Upper Allen Township Community Park on Friday, just north of the speedway. It was a huge success and $16,900 was raised. The fields were packed with people and a total of twelve teams participated in an elimination-style game. The NSCBBA Brew Crew (one of the players was McMahan) was the winning team and didn’t allow any runs in the tournament.

Racking Up the Points: Schatz continues to pour it on as the WoO’s season winds down. Since his victory at Cornwall Motor Speedway in Ontario on July 29, Donny has been very consistent and went from fifth to first in points in that period of time. He has won seven times (including the Knoxville Nationals for the sixth time in the last seven years) and has finished outside of the top ten just once (11th at Skagit Speedway on August 31). Schatz extends his point lead to 158 over Dollansky and well on his way to his fifth championship.

Time Trial Trouble: If you look at Saturday’s time trials results, you’ll find 20-time WoO champion Steve Kinser towards the bottom of the order at 51st out of 53 drivers who qualified. “The King” started and finished last in heat one and only got up to sixth in the C-Main! He got into the A by using a provisional and finished 19th, one spot ahead of his son Kraig (who also took a provisional). It’s rare to see Steve in a lower main event and seeing him in a C-Main is almost unheard of.

Hello Again, Nicole: Nicole Bower raced for the first time at Williams Grove last weekend since her nasty crash there on July 27 in the B-Main. The crash and her practice laps at Susquehanna Speedway Park were featured in the news on Harrisburg’s CBS affiliate WHP-TV. You can check it out at http://www.whptv.com/content/LocalRacin ... yQ5Mg.cspx. Nicole was in the C both nights, as she was eighth Friday and ninth Saturday. She plans to race at Williams Grove again this Friday, which happens to be her 22nd birthday.

All-Stars in Town: Six drivers in the top ten in points for the O’Reilly Auto Parts All-Star Circuit of Champions (Shaffer, Dale Blaney, David Gravel, McMahan, Stevie Smith, and Pittman) came to the National Open. McMahan, Smith, and Pittman made the A-Main both nights. Shaffer was the top-finishing All-Star on Friday, as he wound up fourth. Saturday’s honor went to Pittman, as he crossed the line fourth as well and also won the KSE Hard Charger Award after starting 17th.

Number for the Weekend: 5,262. That’s how many airline miles this weary traveler racked up on this long, long trip. I went to five airports: Portland, Atlanta, Harrisburg, Detroit, and Salt Lake City.

Consistency Award: Smith, Lucas Wolfe, and Hodnett (tie). New Oxford native Smith had back-to-back sixth-place finishes, plus a $300 Fast Tees bonus for being the top qualifier on Friday and also won Saturday’s first heat. WoO regular Wolfe was very strong in front of his hometown fans, as he had a fifth and a seventh. Hodnett was second to McMahan on Friday, and had a shaky start in Saturday’s feature when he flipped in turn three on the opening lap. In fact, it took six tries to get just one lap in. Fortunately for Greg, there was only minor damage and he would bounce back to end up tenth.

Hard Luck Award: Kyle Larson. After finishing fifth in Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dover International Raceway, Kyle flew to Williams Grove in time for his heat race. He didn’t make it to the green flag, as he spun in turn three and broke his front end in warm-ups. He had to go to the C-Main, where he was fourth. Kyle timed in a disappointing 46th in Saturday’s qualifying session, was ninth in the first heat, and was a DNS in the C.

“Never Say Die” Award: Hodnett. His car wasn’t badly damaged after his rollover in Saturday’s A-Main. All the crew did was change the top wing and Greg was good to go. He motored to a top ten finish and has clinched the track championship at Williams Grove. He’s looking to add on to his 15 wins this year with only a few dates left on his schedule.

Next race: ???

Pictures: http://s113.photobucket.com/albums/n205/Racer4u_2006/

Blog: http://www.shauninthedirt.com/bensblog/

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Jumping the Start: Morgan Hughes National Open 
The 50th annual Morgan Hughes National Open is next for the World of Outlaws, as they take on the Pennsylvania Posse Friday and Saturday at the famed half-mile known as Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg.

The first ever National Open was held in 1963 and the winner was Gordon Johncock. That’s right, the same Gordon Johncock who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1973 and 1982. Two-time Outlaws champion Jason Meyers won both nights last year (with the finale being rained out and rescheduled on the following Friday) to collect the $50,000 check.

The top five drivers in points look like this:
1. Donny Schatz 8,944
2. Craig Dollansky 8,830
3. Sammy Swindell 8,817
4. Joey Saldana 8,789
5. Steve Kinser 8,701

After a rain delay that lasted for almost three hours at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania last night, the Commonwealth Clash (or the Midnight Bash) did get in and the 35-lap A-Main had a few twists and turns. In just his second night driving Chad and Jenn Clemens’ #51 car, Paul McMahan was running in second before pulling into the pits with five laps to go. It was a real shame, because McMahan was the top qualifier and he had a great car all night long. He was right behind Dollansky when he went pitside. Dollansky had engine problems after leading the first 32 laps, and dropped to 11th. That gave the win to Dale Blaney. Schatz finished second and was followed by Jason Sides, Saldana, and 15th-starting Jac Haudenschild. Swindell was sixth, with Kinser finishing 13th.

Will an Outlaw or a Posse driver take home the 50 grand? Schatz is looking for his fifth National Open win, and also trying to lock up his fifth WoO title. For the Posse, will it be a veteran like Fred Rahmer, Greg Hodnett, Lance Dewease, or Don Kreitz, Jr.? Or will it be someone younger like Brian Montieth, Chad Layton, Danny Dietrich, or Daryn Pittman?

The Posse has the toughest group of drivers in the nation, and the National Open has had car counts between the low 50’s and the low 60’s over the past few years. With a strong combination of veterans and up and coming racers in Central PA this season, the 50th running of the National Open is going to be star-studded.

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Grays Harbor and Skagit pictures are up! 
I posted well over 100 pictures in two different folders on my photo page from my time at GHR and Skagit. The links are below. Check them out and enjoy!

http://s113.photobucket.com/albums/n205 ... st%202012/

http://s113.photobucket.com/albums/n205 ... er%202012/

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A question for Seahawks fans 
There are only five days left until the Seattle Seahawks start their regular season, as they take on NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals down in Glendale on Sunday.

The 'Hawks finished their preseason with a perfect 4-0 record and are looking to rack up more wins as the season kicks into high gear. Will they finish above .500, below .500, or exactly at .500?

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Time to Review: Outlaws in Washington notes 
If you were at Skagit Speedway Saturday night, you’ve witnessed something very, very special. Australia native Kerry Madsen was looking to complete a weekend sweep as the A-Main field took the green flag, but he was too early on the throttle and was penalized one row. That put Lake Stevens driver Travis Jacobson on the pole. The 2006 410 track champion raced mistake-free and led all 35 laps to get his first ever World of Outlaws victory over four-time series champion Donny Schatz and “Double Down” Jason Sides in front of a packed house. T-Jac adds his name to an illustrious list of drivers that have won a WoO main event and it’s the biggest win of his career. How cool was it to see a local driver win at his home track over the best drivers in the business?

Earlier in the week, Sammy Swindell won Wednesday’s WoO show at Grays Harbor Raceway and Kyle Miller won the Northwest Wingless Tour main event. Madsen won Friday’s preliminary A-Main at Skagit on Friday, while “Fast” Freddie Vela prevailed in the Outlaw Hornets feature. In Saturday’s USAC Northwest Ignite Midgets race, it was Jared Peterson chalking up yet another win. Without further delay, let’s dig in...

A Total Team Effort: Before Saturday’s huge victory, Jacobson’s best finish with the Outlaws was sixth on September 2 of last year and he was sixth again on Friday. T-Jac’s teammate was none other than “The Wild Child” Jac Haudenschild. Jac bounced back from a turn one spin on lap six at GHR on Wednesday to win the KSE Hard Charger Award with a 18th-to-ninth run. He gained nine spots again at Skagit on Friday by crossing the line fourth after starting 13th. After being as low as 16th in Saturday‘s A-Main, Jac once again pulled through to come home seventh. The Shaylen Raye Motorsports team was looking for enormous things from their two drivers on their home turf and they had that goal achieved...and more!

Three-Way Tie: Coming into Wednesday’s race at Elma, Craig Dollansky and Joey Saldana shared the track record of 11.915 seconds. Craig registered that time on August 27, 2004 and Joey duplicated that exactly three years later. Three-time WoO champion Swindell was the fastest driver in warm-ups at 11.982 seconds and was looking to beat that in time trials. His first lap was 11.917 seconds and the second was 11.915! To have two people tie the track record is rare, but having three people share that honor is even more so.

Check Out My New Ride: After driving Roger Henderson’s #7N car earlier this year, Everett native Jayme Barnes returned to Grays Harbor Raceway on Wednesday in a different hauler. The #17J car that he’s driving is owned by Rick Rogers from Williston, North Dakota and it’s a lot more colorful than Henderson’s car. He had a strong start at GHR with a victory in heat three and then finished tenth in the dash. However, he couldn’t avoid a flipping Tim Kaeding on the frontstretch on lap ten in the main event and dropped to 20th. Jayme did slightly better at Skagit on Friday with a 16th-place finish, but went to the pits before the green flag for Saturday’s B-Main.

Alive and Kicking: A kickball game was held Saturday at the Erik Tesarik Ball Park in Sedro-Woolley to raise money for children‘s cancer research. The proceeds were split between The Jeff Gordon Foundation and The Big Al Kids & Motorsports Foundation. Over $4,500 was raised at the event. Later in the evening, car owner Kevin Rudeen and his dad pitched in to boost that total to more than $5,000! I was in the team that was led by Madsen, while Shane Stewart was the captain of the other team. World of Outlaws PR guy Shawn Miller was the play-by-play announcer and auctioneer. Other drivers that took part included Travis Rilat, Sam Hafertepe, Jr., Derek Roberts (who flattened the kickball in the first inning), Eric Fisher, Trey Starks, Henry Van Dam, Mack Brown, Ashley Lewellen, Victoria Cantu, Zach McCabe, Cam Smith, and Tyler Fox (who played barefoot). Huge thanks to Big Al for putting this event together and everyone for coming out for a great cause!

Going Wingless: Speaking of Cam Smith, he made his NWWT debut on Wednesday at Elma and was consistent all night long. He was third in qualifying, fifth in heat one after starting tenth, and sixth in the main event. Cam had a back and forth battle for fourth place in the early laps of the feature with another driver that usually races with a wing, Reece Goetz. Reece took that spot for good out of turn two on lap number six before going on to finish second.

On Cloud Nine: Vela’s victory on Friday was win number nine for 2012. He made the winning pass around Rick Young in turn one on lap eight. Freddie is the defending Outlaw Hornets champion and is looking for title number two. He and Young are locked in a very tight points race, as they just have the season finale left to go next Saturday night.

Perfect at Skagit: The USAC Northwest Ignite Midgets had four races at Skagit Speedway this year and Peterson was the winner of all four of them. Jared took the lead from Todd Hartmann out of turn four on lap four in Saturday’s show and finished ahead of tenth-place starter Chase Goetz (Reece's younger brother). This is Jared’s ninth win in the series and if you add that number to his victories at Deming Speedway in the Hoosier Speedmart 600 class, he has 15 for '12. The next race for the USAC Northwest Ignite Midgets is this Saturday at GHR, and Jared holds a 49-point lead over Chase.

Number for the Weekend: 18. T-Jac, you and your team deserved that win.

Consistency Award: Dollansky. “The Crowd Pleaser” had a second, a third, and a fifth during the Washington swing to maintain the WoO points lead in his quest for his first title. He leads Schatz by 44 markers before tonight’s race at Willamette Speedway.

Hard Luck Award: Jonathan Allard. JA had a miserable couple of A-Mains at Skagit. He was in the tenth position on Friday when he and Hafertepe got together on the frontstretch on a lap 12 restart and had his front end broken. He ended up 21st. Jonathan was supposed to start 15th in Saturday’s show, but went into the infield before the green flag. He started at the back, but pulled back into the infield again after racing just two laps and was dead last. JA gave me a 0 sticker before Friday’s racing and I placed it on my car yesterday morning. Thanks, Jon!

Next race: The 50th annual Morgan Hughes National Open at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania on September 28 and 29. I’ve been to Tulare, California for Trophy Cup the past two years and both years were a lot of fun. I’m ending my 2012 season with a different big money race, as I prepare for my biggest trip yet. I’ll be off to the other end of the United States and in the heart of “Posse Land”.

Pictures: http://s113.photobucket.com/albums/n205/Racer4u_2006/

Blog: http://www.shauninthedirt.com/bensblog/

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Jumping the Start: World of Outlaws at Grays Harbor and Skagit 
As the World of Outlaws return to the United States, the championship chase among the top five drivers is still very tight. The margin is just 97 points before Wednesday’s race at Grays Harbor Raceway and the two-night show at Skagit Speedway Friday and Saturday.

1. Craig Dollansky 7,142
2. Donny Schatz 7,110
3. Sammy Swindell 7,097
4. Steve Kinser 7,068
5. Joey Saldana 7,045

Swindell got his tenth WoO win of 2012 at Castrol Raceway just outside of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada last night and is looking to build on that momentum.

If you're a fan of wingless sprint cars, you're in luck. The Northwest Wingless Tour will also race at GHR. At Skagit, the WoO will be joined by the Outlaw Hornets on Friday and the USAC Northwest Ignite Midgets on Saturday.

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