CHEMUNG — During a patriotic nod to our active duty and military veterans, the stars and stripes were lifted high above the perfect blue Chemung skies and then lowered to half staff in memory of a Chemung Speedrome family member and friend — Kenny Ham.
Ham, brother of INEX Legends driver Gary Ham, was involved in a tragic accident earlier in the week in Las Vegas, losing his life.
Racers, officials and fans alike shared and comforted one another as the Ham family returned to the track Friday night. Sometimes racing can be the best medicine when we lose one of our own, but nobody knew just how powerful that medicine was going to be on this hot night at the races.
Chuck Lohmeyer led the INEX Legends field to green and led lap number one. Ham, who somehow found a way to race with a very heavy heart on this night, drove a spirited race to hold on to the second spot. Caution flew early on lap four as James Anderson spun sideways in the corner, which bunched the field back up for a restart.
Ham powered to the lead on the restart, utilizing the outside lane, but Lohmeyer stayed glued to Ham’s rear bumper to make it a great race. Kevin Youngs got to the inside of Lohmeyer and was scored second on lap 8 with Daniel Carter following him through as Louhmeyer got hung out to dry.
Carter tried making an outside move on lap 11 for second, but he and Youngs ran out of racing room- making contact and ending Carter’s night with a broken front end. Youngs pitted for repairs and was able to continue.
The restart would begin what was a battle royale for the lead with Ham driving the race of his life with some help from above. Lohmeyer was on Ham’s rear bumper for the remaining nine laps, looking high and low for a way to get by. The driver of the 5L even rapped on the back bumper several times to keep Ham honest — but Ham was more than up to the task.
“I just kept talking to him (Kenny) every lap,” said an emotional Ham in Victory Lane. “I just kept saying ‘stay with me buddy’ and he did every lap, every corner.”
Ham cruised on to the victory with the fans elevating to their feet to show their appreciation and support to the Ham family. Ham even cut a few donuts on the frontstretch post-race in honor of his late brother.
“The Lord needed Kenny more than we did. It’s a tough situation, but we will manage with the help of the Lord, our great family and our race family.”
The Sunoco Modifieds took to the track for their 40-lap feature event with Zack Curren snatching his third checkered flag in a row. Track veterans Gene Sharpsteen and Tim Gullo brought the field to Alan Mathews’ green flag. Sharpsteen led lap number one, but it would be Zack Curren who would wrestle the lead away with an impressive pass off of turn four to lead lap number two.
The restart was a bit messy as contact at the front of the pack, accordioned the field behind the leaders causing another caution on the restart. When racing resumed, Curren pulled away leaving Gullo to battle with Modified points leader Zack Knowlden for the second position.
It took points leader Zack Knowlden 12 laps to finally get a peek under Gullo, but he would get the position entering turn one on lap 23. Behind that battle, Charlie Sharpsteen and Bryan Sherwood raced side by side for the fourth position with Sherwood making the pass for the spot on lap 30.
Curren had quite a scare with just five laps to go as contact between he and a lapped machine in the first turn saw the No. 94 dead sideways in the apex of the corner. The winner of the previous two features at Chemung dirt-tracked the car on pavement to somehow save the car and maintain the lead even though Knowlden was able to close the gap for the lead.
Curren would secure his third victory in a row followed by Knowlden and Gullo finishing third. Sherwood made a great recovery coming from the back of the pack to score fourth with Keith Youngs completing the top five.
“Man, I wish we had figured out this thing a few weeks earlier,” noted Curren. “We had it rolling well the beginning of the year, made some changes and it just didn’t have the same speed for a few races.”
The driver of car No. 94 spoke to his help in the pits and reflected on the bigger story of the night within his racing community.
“This is the dream team right here, me and papa got it done tonight. But this race was for Kenny Ham, he was a fantastic man and we will miss seeing him at the track. I’m thinking of his son and new grandson.”
The Super Stocks had an event-filled race for their 25-lap feature, but the drama wasn’t done after the checkered flag on this night. It appeared as though former track champion Mike Nichols would grace Midstate Basement Authorities Victory Lane once more in 2019, but it would not come to be as Nichols was found to not have made minimum weight on the scales.
After the dust in post-race tech settled, it would be longtime veteran Frank Chapman who would conduct the victory lane interview with checkered flag in hand. It admittedly has not been a great season for Chapman as it has been a struggle for his brightly orange painted No. 89.
Chapman would be declared the winner over Nick Robinson, Jesse Hurley, Brian DeMark, and young Garrett Zacharias scoring a top five finish.
Four Cylinder competition saw Greg Moldt use the outside lane to hold off a hard charging DJ Shaw for the victory to increase his points lead. The queen of the Chemung Four Cylinders, Monica Green, led the opening four laps from her pole starting position.
Moldt took the lead on lap five by a front bumper cover from Green, with the two swapping the lead back and forth on laps 5, 6, 7 and 8 with a new race leader. Moldt secured the lead on lap 9 and survived a wild three-wide effort by Green and Shaw who saw an opportunity to pounce in slower traffic on lap 12.
Moldt held on for another Chemung victory in 2019 over Shaw. Joey Bevaqua put on a late race charge to get by Green for third, with Ricky Lane rounding out the top five finishers.
Chase Sinsabaugh and Derrick Vogler led the field to the green flag for their 10-lap feature event. Chase Sinsabaugh led lap number one in his blue No. 9, but Josh Duke in No. 13 swept around the outside of turn two to take the lead.
On the restart, Duke took the extreme outside lane off turn four to take the lead to put himself atop the scoreboard on lap two. Duke would not look back from that point, laying down some pretty impressive laps in the closing laps of the event to win the Outlaw division. Sinsabaugh made one last run to the inside in the final two corners for the Bandit win.
Rod Spaulding Memorial
‘reunion night’ Saturday
The next event at “The Drome” will take place on Saturday August 3 when the Race of Champions comes to town to compete in the Rod Spaulding Classic 75. It will be reunion night as drivers, owners and team members from Shangri-La and Chemung will converge on the property for the annual benefit night that supports the Spaulding Foundation for Injured Drivers.
The Race of Champions Super Stocks will compete in the ‘Tribute to Ed McGuire 51’ while they also share the card with the Race of Champions TQ Midgets. Gates will open at 5:00 with racing taking the green flag at 6:00.
Chemung Speedrome will be back in action for weekly Friday night racing on Friday August 16 at 7:00 with the New York Super Stock Series, Sunoco Modifieds, 4 Cylinders, INEX Legends and INEX Bandoleros.