Craig Murto: Satterlee dominates Hagerstown

Gregg Satterlee dominated the “Salute to a Champion, Rodney Franklin” race at Hagerstown (Maryland) Speedway Saturday night.

The 30-year-old dirt Late Model racer from Indiana, Pa., started on the outside of fast qualifier Gary Stuhler and grabbed the lead on the first lap, never to look back.

The 33-lap event was a tribute to Rodney Franklin, who was in failing health. Franklin, known as “The Virginia Leadfoot,” ran his first race in 1972 in his own No. 33. Later he drove for Linda and Creed Calton in the familiar red No. 01, in which he won Hagerstown track titles in 1997 and ’98.

One of the nicest people at any racetrack, he ran his last race in 2003, but not before he etched the name Rodney Franklin into the Hagerstown Speedway record books. He’s second on the all-time win list with 114, and has wins at Winchester, Potomac, and many other dirt tracks in the region and around the country.

Franklin was unable to attend, but undoubtedly saw a film of the race the next day. Sadly, he died within days of the race.

The attending crowd reportedly was moved when the field ran some parade laps behind the car of Devin Friese, made to look identical to the Calton 01 with which Franklin had so much success.

Once the 33-car field took the green flag, it was Satterlee on the move, winning more than $12,000 in purse and lap money combined. He was followed by Gary Stuhler and Kyle Hardy.

This Saturday the Richmond International Raceway hosts NASCAR’s Cup Series, so many tracks in the commonwealth have the night off. But on Friday night Shenandoah Speedway hosts its biggest show of the year, a $6,000-to-win Late Model race that is expected to draw a full field of cars. Get there as early as you can so as not to miss anything.

The battle with the weather at Bristol last week actually benefited other racing on television. Viewers who turned to the live coverage of the MotoGP race from Argentina saw one of the most exciting races in a couple years for the series, and definitely the best race of the day. Valentino Rossi rode his Yamaha to victory after chasing down Marc Marquez’s Honda. With two laps to go Rossi made the pass. Marquez, attempting to retake the lead, ran into Rossi and crashed out.

The other race that benefited from Bristol’s rain was the IndyCar race at Long Beach, Calif. Scott Dixon scored the 36th win of his career over Helio Castroneves, but it was the battle for third that made the final laps exciting. Point leader Juan Pablo Montoya scored the final podium spot, followed by Simon Pagenaud in fourth and Tony Kanaan fifth.

The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finished first and third in the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain, but it was the runner-up finish of Kimi Raikkonen that excited the crowd. It was the first podium finish for the former world champion since rejoining Ferrari at the beginning of 2014.

Ryan Dungey hasn’t had performance issues, and rode his KTM to victory once again Saturday night in Supercross competition at Santa Clara, Calif. The 2015 Supercross champion was followed by Eli Tomac on a Honda. Cooper Webb won in the 250 West class.

Joey Logano led every lap of Saturday’s Xfinity race at Bristol, leaving some to wonder whether a rule change is in order to allow the cars to pass easier. But there was no such domination during the weather-plagued Cup race on Sunday.

Matt Kenseth won Sunday’s cup race, which ended in a green-white-checkered finish that followed a long caution period and a red flag for rain. During the long caution, Austin Dillon’s car ran out of fuel. The race had already gone past 500 laps at that point. A lot of criticism has been directed toward NASCAR for its handling of the final caution and the rain.

Weather is the most difficult thing for a sanction to work around. How long will the rain fall? How long will it take to dry the track? Radar doesn’t always present an accurate picture of what’s going to hit the ground. It seems unfair to Dillon that he ran out of gas prior to the eventual red flag. And there is no doubt that if a lot of cars got torn up on the final restart there would have been even more criticism of NASCAR.

But if they called the race at lap 500 due to the brief shower, there would be just as much criticism when five minutes later the rain stopped. NASCAR gets a pass on this one.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.