The gates at Mt. Lawn Speedway in New Castle swung open last Saturday and Sunday for the final time in 2021 on the first weekend of fall, as the 3/10th-mile track presented its inaugural Autumn Bash on “The Lawn.”
The two-day event saw seven different classes in action, and some of the season’s best qualifying car counts with 29 Claborn Motors Modifieds, 18 Sunnyside Motors Crown Vics, and 20 Marcum Welding and Steel Pro Compacts all tying or besting the previous season high and 122 cars recording laps during the two-day event.
Saturday’s action consisted of practice and qualifying for all divisions, trophy dashes and heat races.
In qualifications Phil Jenkins of Greenfield, Kevin Claborn of Cambridge City, Derek Morris of New Castle, Chris Gray of Indianapolis, Tony Stewart of Straughn, and Frank Hardcastle of Indianapolis set the fastest times for the Modifieds, Late Models, Pro Compacts, Stock Compacts, Thunder Cars, and Crown Vics, respectively.
In the divisional trophy dashes and heat races, Stephen Cox of Indianapolis won the Pro Compact trophy dash while Devon Thomas of Muncie (Stock Compacts,) Owen Aaron of Noblesville (Crown Vics,) Phil Jenkins (Thunder Roadsters,) Jeff Marcum of Morristown (Late Models,) Randy Owen of Anderson and Frankie Oakes of Cambridge City (Thunder Cars) all recorded victories during Saturday’s festivities.
To make the 22-car field for Sunday’s 76-lap Wayne Chew Memorial, nine cars vied for the final four spots on Saturday in the Last Chance Race, and early on it looked as if Randy Anderson of Knightstown, a longtime racer at Mt. Lawn, would make the field for the event.
However, a red flag that flew when Bobby Walker of Muncie and Eddie Richardson of Greenfield crashed into the backstretch wall during the caution period saw Anderson unable to restart his modified when the race returned to the caution period due to a broken crankshaft.
The race was abandoned when the fifth-place car dropped out of the event, leaving Brian Reeser of Union City, Ohio, Chris Jennings of Richmond, Brent Butler of Sandusky, Ohio, and Tyler DeHart of Alexandria as the four remaining to make the field.
Saturday’s feature action saw the Owens Electric Stock Compacts, Marcum Welding Pro Compacts, and the Sunnyside Motors Crown Vics all in competition.
Derek Morris and TJ Fannin, both of New Castle, started on the front row for the 25-lap feature in the Marcum Welding and Steel Pro Compacts, and early on Morris had the advantage through the first half of the event before lap traffic allowed Fannin to catch Morris on lap 15.
Morris and Fannin made contact and Fannin spun in turn 1, bringing out the first caution of the event.
On lap 16, Trent Gossar took the lead on the restart, only to see the caution fly again when Zachary Morris of New Castle lost the brakes in his No. 7 and slid off the track in Mt. Lawn’s infamous short turn.
Gossar maintained the lead on the restart and took the checkered flag in the Pro Compact feature. Derek Morris finished second with Chris Jennings finishing third.
In the Stock Compact feature, Aaron Brown Jr. of Fortville, Brad Miller of New Castle, and Jim Meeks of Indianapolis all went under the 19.90 quickest time allowed in qualifications, requiring they start on the tail of the field.
It made little difference to Brown Jr., however, as he charged through the field to take the lead from Chris Gray on lap 15 and then led the final five laps of Saturday’s 20-lap Stock Compact feature. Terrill Willhoite of Anderson finished second with Robert Bryan of Indianapolis finishing third.
In the Sunnyside Motors Crown Vics, Trent Gossar recorded his second feature win of the night with a victory in the 20-lap feature event. Frank Hardcastle of Indianapolis started on the pole for the event and pulled away to a slight lead over Gossar.
Lap traffic, however, came into play, forcing Hardcastle to slow allowing Gossar to pull close to him.
On lap 15, Gossar made contact with Hardcastle, sending him into the infield. Gossar then led the final five laps to take the victory. Tom Pitcher of Cambridge City finished second with Randy Hoppes of Markleville placing third.
Sunday saw seven big features on a gorgeous day for racing in Henry County.
The opening feature for the Marcum Welding and Steel Pro Compacts saw Gossar win his third feature in two days with a last lap, last turn pass on TJ Fannin coming to the checkered flag.
Fannin finished second by a few thousandths of a second with Derek Morris placing third.
Chris Gray of Indianapolis got his first feature victory at Mt. Lawn with a command performance. The race was red-flagged on lap 11 when Darrell Thompson II of New Castle, Brandon Kindler of Knightstown, and Terrill Willhoite collided in turn one, sending Willhoite in the wall to the right of the pit entrance.
Willhoite was extracted from the car by Henry County EMS and Greensboro Fire Rescue and transported to a local hospital, where he was released after further examination.
In the Wayne Chew Memorial 76, Austin Coe of Ft. Wayne was dominant, taking the lead from pole-sitter Phil Jenkins on the event’s green flag and never relinquishing it in a race that had no caution periods.
Ryan Amonett of New Castle delivered a valiant effort to catch Coe, but fell just short in second position. Terry Fisher Jr. of Ft. Wayne finished third in his second modified start at Mt. Lawn.
Following the finish, tire samples were taken from the top three finishers and will be sent to an independent laboratory to check for solvents applied to the tires, with official results expected back soon.
In the evening’s other racing action, Jeff Marcum of Morristown won the 75-lap late model feature from the inside of the last row. Double-duty drivers and temporary teammates Ryan Amonett and Austin Coe finished second and third, respectively, in the event.
Phil Jenkins won the Thunder Roadster feature with Doug Dugger of Greenfield and Brad Kendall of Noblesville finishing second and third, respectively.
Jared Keller of Anderson took the lead early in the Sunnyside Motors Crown Vics feature and dominated, leading by 10+ car lengths at the checkered flag. Randy Hoppes finished second with Trent Gossar placing third.
In the Thunder Car feature, Kevin Claborn secured the victory over Tony Stewart of Straughn and Alan Lambert of Kennard.
The schedule and information for the 2022 season will be released at a later date.
The staff at Mt. Lawn Speedway would like to thank all drivers, crews, and fans for their patronage in 2021.