Latest News:   Millstream Opener a Big Success

Posted 7/7/15  By LARRY ALTER    
FINDLAY COURIER STAFF WRITER

Cody Darrah walked away with the big prize Sunday night at the grand re-opening of Millstream Motorsports Complex.

But a whole lot of racing diehards, estimated at 4,000-plus, were rewarded with an outstanding night of action at the 3/8-mile speed plant as engines roared for the first time since June of 2011 at Millstream Speedway.

Fans attended a clean, well-groomed facility, prepared superbly by Randy and Lisa Hammer, who signed a contract last October with Millstream owners Greg and Mary Beth Roe to operate the track for the next three seasons.

“I thought it was a great crowd,” Lisa Hammer said Monday via email. “The race fans were so appreciative and genuine “¦ that was a little overwhelming. We were really touched.

“This is an emotional time for our family because of the feelings we have for this track,” she told the public address announcer before the event. “This has a lot to do with our roots in racing here. My father (Harold McGilton) would have gotten a real kick out of all this.”

A lot of people in attendance had to feel the same way.  It was a night to behold.  Racing rigs, drivers, support personnel and fans jammed the pit area, while another two to three thousand filled the bleachers and surrounding hillsides on a warm, windless July night.

Parking was at a premium by the time hot laps began at 6:38 p.m. A half hour later, there was still a line at the ticket window as the 30-car field lined up for the Tony Stewart UNOH All Star Circuit of Champions time trials.

People reportedly were laying claim to their seating areas in the bleachers and side hills and purchasing tickets as early at 1 p.m.

“It went better than I thought and it could have gone better than I thought, if that makes sense,” Randy Hammer said Monday as he pulled out of the pit area with a portable lights unit in tow. “We had a couple of hiccups. We had never done anything like this before. We were thinking we’d be four races into it and it ends up being our first one.”

The Hammers had planned a season opener on May 31, but lost that show and events on June 14 and 28 to heavy rains.

“(Lisa and I) have a lot of money and time invested here. You look up the grandstand and think for a minute, ‘Am I going to take a bath with this?’ Then all of a sudden it’s pretty full.

“But it will take me a day or two to crunch numbers. It will be interesting to see where we ended up.”

When it came time to race, the All Stars and 305 sprints didn’t disappoint. A dusty 410 feature was the lone negative on the night.

Darrah, who pocketed $5,000 for the win, dominated the 410 field despite a tremendous run by upstart Sheldon Haudenschild.  Chad Kemenah led the “locals” charge, Bobby Clark claimed the 305 feature and four times races were red-flagged because of flips and/or rollovers.

In the All Stars’ first race at Millstream since 2010, pole-sitter Travis Philo and Tim Shaffer tangled on lap nine coming out of turn two after a torrid beginning to the 24-car, 30-lap feature. Both Philo and Shaffer got upside down, walked away unhurt and Darrah inherited the lead.

Darrah, 25, who was the top qualifier at 13.799, led Kemenah and veteran Lee Jacobs over the next seven laps. James McFadden lost a rear wheel and slammed into the wall in turn two bringing out another red flag. Haudenschild, who started 19th in the feature, had climbed 16 spots to third by lap 20.

Darrah, Kemenah and Haudenschild rode the top side of the track for five laps but two cautions left the trio with a two-lap shootout. Darrah, out of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, hung on to win with Haudenschild completing a strong run for second and Kemenah third.

“This is a tough racetrack” Darrah said. “It’s a little rough right now so you have to be up on the wheel. This is my first time here and it feels great to get a win. This is a beautiful facility, and I can’t wait to come back.”

Greg Wilson, of Benton Ridge and a local fan favorite, was presented his top prize for winning the All Star Sprint Speedweek title a week earlier, but retired to the pits because of mechanical issues and finished a disappointing 17th. Caleb Helms, of Findlay and a fourth generation driver following his grandfather (Larry) and father (Shane) at Millstream, finished ninth, one spot ahead of All Star points leader Dale Blaney. Helms was the top qualifier Saturday in an All Star program at Mercer Raceway in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

Blaney has a 3,026-2,879 points lead over Darrah. Kemenah moved to third (2,819) and Wilson fell back to fourth (2,805).

In 305 action, Clark got to the winner’s circle by getting the lead on a lap seven restart and then held off longtime challenger John Ivy as the pair of Fremont drivers finished 1-2.

“We had a really good race track to begin with,” Randy Hammer said. “We learned a lot from it. I’ve never done anything like that in my life. I’ve been around dirt a little bit but not to the extent of preparing something like this.”

“We got our feet wet,” Lisa Hammer said. “Now we will be in the ‘how can we do things better’ mode and meeting with people to get their ideas.”The Hammers’ next scheduled race will be Aug. 2 when Millstream hosts the Boss non-wing sprints and mini-sprints. Other events scheduled include a return of the All Stars and 305 sprints on Aug. 23; late models, modifieds and stocks on Aug. 30; All Stars and 305 sprints in a rescheduled race from May 31; and 410 sprints and late models on Oct. 11.