LL Raceway, Fairmount City, PA – May 9, 2021
Author: Joshua Schucker
Photos: Nora Hergenroeder, Brett Reichart & Becky Schreckengost
Last year, LL Raceway served as the unexpected season opener of the Mid-Atlantic region’s cross-country schedule due to delays caused by the early intervention efforts to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. It was certainly a unique time in individual and collective history, as we all managed to do the best we could with the given situation.
Generally, that event was a milestone in our vintage racing mindset as we were able to break free from the locked down nature of society in that moment in time and make a group effort to regain some normalcy in a responsible and thoughtful manner. The event generated equal measures of excitement and uncertainty, as well as a touch of surreal. Intent to put another exclamation point on the challenges of 2020 and attempt to strip away the excitement of a return to racing, Mother Nature pounded the area with a week of rain and a race day downpour.
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In 2021, racing returns to Fairmount City’s LL Raceway in its typical early-May spot on the calendar. And, it is once again round three rather than one. That in itself is a small indication of the fact that we are all in a better place than a year ago. Although certainly not completely past the pandemic’s curse, we are progressing. Set to further distance our thoughts from the surreal of 2020 and seek redemption from its mud fest, trial-boss Jim Reitz set foot on Preston Cypher’s LL Raceway property months ahead of the event to prepare an excellent and vintage friendly course. Jim, along with his “A-Team” of helpers, sons Jamie and Mike, and Wally Naletko, worked diligently to avoid most of the low-lying areas that were most impacted by rain in 2020. Assuredly, the intent was to prepare for rain but expect clear blue skies and lovely spring weather. Despite the good expectations about weather, the long-term forecasts were telling a different story leading up to the event, and unfortunately all the reports were consistent…rain coming, and lots of it. There was a sense of dread being fomented by the weather reports, in a similar way to seeing the new trailer for this summer’s blockbuster sequel to whichever horror film was most recently popular. New movie…same place, same victims, same slasher, same outcome. Of course, for us the “slasher” is rain, and thankfully no one is truly a victim of any harm, but the result was looking to be “Quagmire 2” regardless.
However, this sequel looked to set itself apart from the pack by unveiling a completely unexpected plot twist. The meteorologists said it was going to rain, and in that respect, those reports were accurate. It rained often leading up to the event, and by the start of the first race, a steady rain had settled into the area. The plot twist took hold just after the morning’s vintage race. Temperatures, which were expected in the mid-50s, took a plunge into the 30s. Is that snow? It won’t last, after all it is May, right? Well, in 2021’s version of surreal, the rain changed to a steady snow throughout race two and was even beginning to accumulate, turning the course itself white at spots. Even though the precipitation eventually returned to liquid form, the temperatures remained downright frigid for the remainder of the event. There is no denying that these weather events dramatically impacted the course and traction, but all told, the course held up remarkably well. The effort put in by Jim and crew to avoid lower elevations was a resounding success in mitigating trouble areas. The layout, combined with the terrain and soil composition, led to more water flow and standing water than outright mud. If you were able to ignore the cold and wet, the course was extremely enjoyable and far less demanding than one would expect given the conditions. Certainly, there were slick spots and exposed roots that would cause a bit of challenge to most. The course meandered its way around the LL property using a combination of dirt roads, existing two-track, and some fresh single track. The nature of the terrain affords some extreme elevations changes throughout the duration of a four-mile lap. Variety is exceptional and the contrast between woods and historical coal mining spoils is dramatic and entertaining.
Logan Holley raced to a pair of wins on the day.
Race One (Vintage)
While attendance was down, as is expected with the forewarning provided by the forecast, a surprising group of thirty-two brave souls took their place on the starting line for the morning vintage race. They say it’s lonely at the top, and it sure looked that way as Brian Grove took the rain-drenched green flag. Brian was the only AA rider to make the start and had the front row all to himself. Typically, few can challenge the Husqvarna rider when starting in the same row, so with a clear track ahead and everyone else at least thirty seconds behind, Grove took the easy overall victory. Logan Holley’s lap times were right in the hunt, but he would have to settle for second on his DT360 followed by the Puch of Brett Reichart. Holley and Reichart took the victories in Vintage Open Expert and Vintage 200 Expert respectively. Vintage 60+ Experts Mark Schwab, Randy Marshall, and Marty Strouse would follow each other head-to-tail past the checkers to fill out the class podium in that order, as well as claiming top-ten overall positions. Schwab was challenged early and often as both Marshall and Strouse were within seconds of the lead for several laps before Mark opened some breathing room on the last lap while the Husqvarna duo of Marshall and Strouse battled to the end where Randy would clear Marty by one second for runner-up. Dave Light made his entrance into the Vintage Open Intermediate class in style as he pushed his MX360 Yamaha through the muck to a solid victory over fellow Yamaha MX rider Mike Reitz. Emily Reichart also debuted in the vintage race at LL and followed Dave’s lead by taking the top spot in Vintage Women’s Intermediate with Jenn Smith close behind in the runner-up spot.
Emily Reichart races to the win in Vintage Womens Intermediate
Race Two (Post Vintage)
Logan Holley saved some speed for the post vintage race as he hustled his IT200 to the front of the Post Vintage 200 Expert class to take the class win while also making up the time from row two to take the overall victory in front of twenty-nine other riders. Rylin Pacella took the class and overall runner up to Holley on his CR125 followed by Eric Weiland in third overall. Weiland claimed victory on his Yamaha YZ in Post Vintage 50+ Expert. Josh Horvath would not only take the Post Vintage Open class, but also claim top intermediate rider in a solid fourth place overall just in front of AA class winner Mike Blackwell’s Yamaha IT. Geoff Kemp was faster than anyone has a right to be on a disco-era Yamaha DT175 as he became the third winner in as many rounds in Post Vintage 200 Intermediate action. Round one winner Mike McCullough took the runner-up followed by Kurt Kilby making his debut with a yellow helmet stripe. New to the series for 2021, John Brant is making his mark in Post Vintage 50+ Intermediate claiming his second win in as many attempts. Kawasaki rider Kevin Marshall set the pace early as he tried his best to keep Brant’s Yamaha behind him but had to settle for the runner-up spot when Brant made a move on the last lap. Rick Klingensmith and his Husqvarna captured first place in the Post Vintage 60+ Novice class and knocked down top novice rider honors in the tough conditions.
Mike Blackwell takes a AA class win.
Race Three (Disc Brake)
Fifteen riders hung around all day to get their shot at the course, and despite the continued cold, the course was holding up better than anticipated making for some competitive racing. Three AA riders took off from row one and remained out in front of the pack for four laps. Mike Blackwell and Brett Reichart, both riding Kawasaki KXs, were one-two with the KTM of Blade Schmidt rounding out the class and overall podium. Timothy Brendlinger and Cameron Pennington were trading fast lap times (nearly AA fast!) in Early Modern Open Intermediate, but trouble on lap one for Pennington was all that Brendlinger needed to put his RMX250 out front for the win. Josh Folmar was also turning some quick lap times on his XR250 on his way to the Pre-Modern Open Intermediate class win over Grant Reichart and his father, Keith Folmar, all Honda-mounted. Anthony Lowery was not able to beat his father, falling one second shy of Craig, the elder Lowery, in the overall standings as the two waged an epic battle to the checkered flag. Anthony was able to take solace in his victory over rivals Joey Spayd II and Dave Light in Pre-2K 200 Intermediate, while Craig secured the Pre-2K Open Intermediate crown. Joe Wallace parlayed consistent lap times into an easy win in Pre-Modern 200 Expert.
Tim Brendlinger wins Early Modern Open Intermediate
Despite difficult conditions yet again, everyone involved made the absolute best effort to make the event as successful as possible. As is typical when this group of riders, families, and volunteers puts their best foot forward in a difficult position, a better time was had than could have been expected. It is a shame for the Reitz family and their cohorts that weather continues to interfere with this event, as you can clearly tell they take great pride in the work put into the planning of this event. Thankfully that hard work paid some noticeable dividends this weekend with the thoughtfulness put into avoiding wet “problem” areas. Hopefully the future holds better weather for the LL Raceway round, because this venue possesses remarkable terrain that deserves to be unburdened by foul weather. Cross your fingers that next spring is the beginning of a streak of good fortune!
As always, thanks to the Mid-Atlantic’s ever-willing team of volunteers, thank you to Preston Cypher for continuing to let the series call LL Raceway home for a weekend, and special thanks to the sponsors that make these events possible; Potomac Vintage Riders, Preston Petty Products, Stainless Cycle, Vee Rubber, Grove Printing, KMI Printing, Horizon Homes, and Works Enduro Riders. The 2021 schedule and complete results from this event can be found at https://www.ahrma.org/ahrma-mid-atlantic-region. Follow the series’ Facebook page @ AHRMA Mid Atlantic Cross Country for updates and news throughout the year.