The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

July 13, 2014

CORY ISENBERG | Jennerstown making its way back

Generally, every other year, I spend part of my summer vacation time at Ocean City, Maryland with my nephew, Mikey, and nieces, Jessica and Amanda.

When you don’t go to a place all the time, you find that changes take place, and we are always surprised about what is still there and what has disappeared.

Jennerstown Speedway finds itself in the position of making up for lost time and finding out what’s still out there and what is gone.

The half-mile Laurel Highlands oval had been closed since 2009 when the current owners John Taylor, Rob Beck and Bryan Smith took the reins this season.

The trio has done an admirable job of getting Jennerstown up and running again, especially faced with some of the adversity they have encountered.

There seems to be plenty of fan support at the track. Jennerstown has gotten its youngest attendees actively involved, allowing them to choose the invert numbers for the drivers and to get down in the pits to meet their favorite drivers.

This past Saturday’s ARCA Truck Series race drew the track’s largest crowd of the season, an encouraging sign for the track.

But it is in the pits that the long layoff seems to have been the toughest on Jennerstown.

Car numbers are down in every class and there appear to be several reasons for that.

The biggest problem is that gas is priced higher than it was in 2009 so drivers are less likely to travel as far as they once did to compete.

Perhaps an even bigger factor is that there are not nearly as many cars around as there used to be.

Because it has become such an expensive hobby, younger drivers are not gravitating toward racing the way they used to less than a decade ago.

There was also uncertainty for such a long time about whether to build a car or not. Would there be a place to race if you did build a car?

Despite just six cars in the late model race, young driver Matt Sever and veteran Barry Awtey put on a show, with close bumper-to-bumper racing just like in the old days.

Hopefully, the drivers will respond to the continuing upswing at Jennerstown and want to make the trip to race at the oval which has such a rich history.

I hope that Jennerstown can continue to thrive during this transition period because these new owners certainly deserve to be rewarded for their perseverance, but only time will tell.

It’s still exciting to see Jennerstown Speedway as a beehive of activity on a Saturday night the way it used to be rather than have the place shuttered the way it has been.

Final statistics: In the Cambria County American Legion League, Somerset’s Ethan Keefer finished with the best batting average of the regular season.

With a minimum of 32 at-bats, the Rockwood graduate had a .448 average to earn the league batting title.

Claysburg’s Zach Cox had a .439 average followed by Bedford’s Luke Waugerman with a .436. Richland’s Ryan Onderko (.431) and St. Michael’s Joe Donoughe (.409) round out the top five.

Keefer also had the leading slugging percentage with a .862 followed by Patton’s Tyler Crawford with a .842. Donoughe (.818), Nico Pecora of Richland (.727) and Cox (.719) were third through fifth, respectively.

The Somerset standout was also the home run leader with three while Bedford’s Austin Montgomery was second with two. Crawford was the doubles’ leader with 11 with Claysburg’s Jay Stern right behind with seven.

Crawford took home the RBI crown with 22, followed by Stern with 20 and Keefer with 19. Cox had 17 RBI and Claysburg teammate Ryan Leonard had 15.

In a minimum of 24 innings pitched, Bedford’s Dylan Downs was the ERA leader with a 0.93. St. Michael’s Gavin Oswalt had a 1.00 while Bedford’s Braden Hengst was at 1.35. St. Michael’s Collin Smay (1.66) and Lilly’s Zane Itle (1.83) finished out the top five.

Oswalt had the most wins with five, followed by Itle and Keefer, both with four.

Richland’s Carlo Kazmierczyk was the strikeout king with 65. Oswalt finished with 43 while Cernic’s Blake Furman had 36, Itle had 33 and Stoystown’s Brian Spangler, 32.

 

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