Mark Bitner, of Columbus, NJ, took home his first win of the 2017 season on Saturday at Bridgeport Speedway by only 0.003 of a second over fifth place starting Rick Stief. Bitner led wire to wire without any challenge, until a late race caution bunched the field back together, allowing Stief to work his magic in the final five laps, creating another exhilarating and crowd-pleasing occasion for the Mid-Atlantic Sprint Series.
“When we took the green back again, my car prior to that started hanging a little bit in the corners, so I figured I’d just go down to the bottom where the car is driving off straight, and just do the best that I could do,” Bitner said post-race. “I just want to thank my guys Mr. Mo, Roger, Ricky, especially my car owner Brian Nixon, and everyone thats involved in this for giving me a great car that lasted all the way until the end of race”.
With Bitner and Tim Tanner Jr. starting two by two on the pole for the twenty-lap feature event, it would be the Nixon Motorsports #202 winning the drag race into turn one with Tanner, Jeff Geiges, Scott Frack and Stefanie Carberry falling in line behind him. For the first five laps, most of the field was running single file, but it was Eddie Wagner making moves early in the race, advancing to eighth place from his thirteenth starting spot.
By the seventh circuit, Bitner had caught up to lapped traffic, while maintaining a straight away lead over Tim Tanner Jr., who began tracking Bitner down while the leader struggled a bit maneuvering through the slower cars.
“You have to pick and choose a little bit, or you’re going to end up getting wrecked”, Bitner commented about his battle with lapped traffic. “The track was in really good shape though. In the beginning I think there was a little too much water, but once we ran it in, it was really fast and racy where I was able to run where ever, so it was great all around”.
Meanwhile, Rick Stief, who had just swapped positions with Scott Frack, taking fourth, was looking pretty strong in the second half of the race.
“We had a really good hold of the track the entire time, there was just a whole lot of cars just blocking the momentum we had that you need to run fast here at Bridgeport,” Stief recalled. “They weren’t doing it on purpose, not at all, it’s just the nature of the beast when racing with lapped traffic”.
The first and only caution occurred on lap fifteen due to rookie Bobby Scherff coming to a stop after suffering from engine failure.
On the restart, it was Bitner, Tanner, Stief, Geiges and Frack, with Stefanie Carberry and Eddie Wagner looking to crack into the top five. Bitner would once again resume the lead after the green flag was displayed, and Stief quickly inherited second place from Tanner the next time around.
“When we had the restart with five to go, we were driving into the sun, and the cars behind me must have gotten really low and threw water on the track in turns three and four, and when I went in there, hitting the same marks that I’ve been hitting all race long, there was nothing but water in that lane, and my car broke free and I was just sliding sideways,” Tanner recollected. “Rick has something figured out here, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s something good, so he’s been pretty fast so far this year”.
With two laps remaining Stief began working the outside lane, edging closer to Bitner in the final moments. As they exited turns three and four, Stief and Bitner gave it all they had running inches away from each other side by side to cross the finish line first. In the end, officials referred back to photographs to name “Mr. Twister” Mark Bitner the victor, with Rick Stief coming home a very close second.
“I’ll take it,” Stief said after the race. “We had a third going at Grandview before we got took out of that deal, and we ended up finishing thirteenth, so a second here, almost winning, is good considering we pulled aforty-two out of fifty pills earlier tonight, which set us back in qualifying. I just have to thank my crew, Chas and my buddies that come by and help me during the week, Bruce Davis and Bruce Davis (no relation, just happen to have the same name!)”.
Twenty-three cars made the ticket for the Diversified Machine, Inc. / DMI / BullDog Rears (DMI) sponsored event, with three $25 DMI gift certificates going to Mark Bitner, Keith Andersen, and Bryant Davis. Ten raffle tickets for the DMI and Engler Machine and Tool end of the year giveaways were distributed to the top five feature finishers and five randomly chosen drivers, and the three heat race wins, sponsored by Competition Suspension Inc., Freiberger Excavating and Professional Design Services went to Mark Bitner, Tim Tanner Jr, and Brendon Poff.
Eddie Wagner collected the $25 Bruce's Auto Body award for advancing nine positions (13th-4th) and well as $25 for the worst pill draw, courtesy of Professional Design Services. Jeff Geiges took home the $25 Bitner Automotive “Lightning Fast Time of the Night” award for turning a 19.464 second lap time during his heat race. Other contingencies handed out on Saturday were $50 to Bobby Bulter for being the last car on the lead lap, a $25 gift certificate to Tom Carberry courtesy of Todd's Performance and 5 gallons of FREE fuel to the feature winner Mark Bitner provided by Kelly Racing Fuels.
The Mid-Atlantic Sprint Series returns on Friday, July 21st at Bridgeport Speedway for a double feature event. The Sprints will be completing their make-up feature from June 17th, and also a full night’s program. For more information on MASS, visit www.masprintseries.com and be sure to follow us on Facebook at Mid-Atlantic Sprint Series.
Feature (20 LAPS): Mark Bitner, Rick Stief, Tim Tanner Jr., Eddie Wagner, Jeff Geiges, Tommy Carberry, Scott Frack, Brendon Poff, Jamie Kostic, Samantha Lieberman, Bryant Davis, Zack Burd, Bobby Butler, David Bonner, Tom Carberry, Dean Conk Jr., Larry McVay, Craig Pellegrini Jr. DNF: Stefanie Palmai Carberry, Bobby Scherff, Austin Bishop, John C Webster, Keith C Andersen
*Photos courtesy of Sean N. Case and Mike Calla*
Sean Case Graphics