Halligan’s Tuscarora 50 Weekend: If It Could Go Wrong, It Did
Team Remains Positive and Determined Entering Final Month of 2022 Season
Port Royal, PA – September 14, 2022
by Addicted2Dirt PR & Media Management
Feature Photo Credit: Chris Hockley / WRT Speedwerx
It was finally the weekend Jeff Halligan had been waiting for, and preparing for, all season. It was Tuscarora 50 weekend at Port Royal Speedway. Every lap he had made this season and every wrench the crew turned was for the end goal of having a shot at the big pot of gold at the end of the Tuscarora 50 rainbow.
They certainly seemed to be doing the right things and be on track to have a legitimate shot. Halligan sat third in the speedway’s championship season point standings and had two victories to his name in 2022.
September 8: Port Royal Speedway / Port Royal, PA
[49 cars, Qualifying 2nd in Group E, Heat 1st (1), Dash 7th (6), A-main 27th (7)]
Opening night of the three day event saw 49 teams register for the Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) sanctioned show, triggering the five group/five heat format for the series.
Halligan laid down the 2nd best lap in the fifth and final qualifying group, giving him the pole for the heat race, alongside Brian Brown. Jeff used the low line off turn four at the drop of the green to beat Brown to turn one. Using the high side, he wound up his No.45, beating the Missouri driver off turn two and he never looked back. He went on to win heat race number five by 1.832 seconds.
The heat win put Halligan in the dash, assuring him of a top ten starting spot in the $6,000 to win main event. The Ephrata, PA driver pulled the number six pill in the redraw, putting him outside row three for the 6-lap race.
Halligan held the 6th spot until the final lap when a large lump of clay impacted the front end of his machine, crushing the radiator and oil tank, breaking lines in the process. With smoke trailing off the left side headers, he managed to get to the finish line but slipped back to 7th.
The Risser Motorsports crew went to work immediately upon Halligan’s return pit-side. Dislodging the clay and crumpled sheet metal was a chore on its own. Once those were out of the way, the damage to lines and connections for the oil tank and radiator was determined to be extensive enough that an engine change was necessary.
In the short window of time between the dash and the A-main, the team managed to pull the motor and prepare its replacement but ran out of time to drop it between the rails of Halligan’s Panther Chassis.
Instead of taking the green for the 30-lap A-main from his rightful 7th spot, Halligan borrowed the 77k of BK Motorsports and dropped to the rear of the field per the rules. He took the green, then pulled off the racing surface, officially credited with a 27th place finish.
It was an unlucky and disappointing end to a night that had the makings of a top ten, or possibly top five run.
September 9: The Night Before the 50 / Port Royal Speedway / Port Royal, PA
[52 cars, Qualifying 3rd in Group A, Heat 11th (2)]
Friday’s car count grew to 52 for the $8,000 to win ‘Night Before the 50’ show. The five group/five heat format was once again in play.
Halligan’s night started off once again on a positive note when he logged the 3rd quickest lap in Group A. The lap placed him on the outside front row of the first heat race.
When the green flag dropped on the start of the heat race at the chalk line in turn four, Halligan’s mount stumbled slightly before it reached full song. It was enough to drop him to 4th by the end of lap one.
Halligan battled to recover the lost ground but was still sitting 4th with two laps remaining when disaster struck. He made contact with the outside wall between turns one and two. The resulting damage to the rear of the car was severe. The team went to work removing the destroyed axle and suspension parts. As they prepared to install a new rear end, frame damage was discovered that meant the Risser Motorsports / TheTreeCenter.com / Victory Auto of Lewistown / EMM Sales & Service / Jake’s Golf Carts / Pine Hill Trailers / Keystone Ag Spraying, No.45 was done for night.
September 10: 55th Annual Tuscarora 50 / Port Royal Speedway / Port Royal, PA
[55 cars, Qualifying 19th in Flight B, Heat 5th (7), B-main 5th (12), Non-Qualifiers Feature 2nd (1)]
Saturday’s program leveraged its own unique format (details below) to determine who got a piece of the lucrative pie known as the 55th Annual Tuscarora 50. The largest piece, the winner’s share, grew from its original $55,000 to $60,000 just hours before the finale thanks to a generous sponsor.
After spending a long night and morning preparing their second car for the task, Jeff Halligan and the Risser Motorsports team were ready to compete along with 54 other teams.
Halligan’s pill draw placed him next to last in the Flight 2 qualifying order. He ended his run ranked 19th of the 27 cars in the group.
From his 7th starting spot in the 8-lap heat race, from which only the top three would transfer directly to the 50-lap A-main, Halligan had his work cut out for him. He managed to grab 6th on the opening lap, then reached 5th with two laps remaining, but that was where the climb ended.
Rolling to the green flag for the 12-lap B-main from the 12th spot, Halligan once again had a tall order in front of him. Only the top four finishers would make the field for the prestigious Tuscarora 50.
Halligan nearly pulled it off. Charging his way through the field, he claimed the 5th spot on the final lap, but crossed the line one spot short of the goal. It was a valiant effort but a bitter disappointment for the team that had achieved so much success at Port Royal Speedway thus far in 2022.
There was some good news. For the 20th year in a row, the family and friends of the late Will Gamble of Port Royal presented the Will Gamble Determination Award. Jeff Halligan was the recipient of this year’s $500 award.
The final event of the evening provided Halligan with another unique opportunity. The 20-lap non-qualifiers feature not only offered $2,000 to the winner, it guaranteed them a starting spot in next year’s Tuscarora 50 which also carried a minimum $2,000 prize.
Halligan started on the pole of the non-qualifier’s feature but fell to 2nd on the opening lap. He chased down race-long leader Sye Lynch on lap ten and wrestled the lead away. Halligan’s car seemed to be much better on the long runs that it was on the start.
A late caution set up a short two lap sprint to the finish. Halligan held off Lynch to the white flag, but the No.42 was building momentum and challenged for the lead on the final lap. He managed to slip by, winning by just 0.683 seconds over Halligan.
At least this time the car was in one piece, but much like the rest of the weekend, the result fell short of the potential.
“That three days felt like three weeks.“, a mentally and physically exhausted Halligan said.
“Everyone worked so hard all weekend to try keep us going. I owe a lot to everyone who has helped me, not only this weekend but all season long. Thank you, Kyle Defibaugh, Jeff Defibaugh, John Simmons, Brian Mullen, Brent Risser and Roger Duttry.”
Halligan added, “We also want to give a huge shout out to Tom and Fran Chiappelli for lending us a motor from their Golden Flavor Sesame Sticks team to run Saturday. They are super people, and we truly appreciate what they did for us.”
“Last year we crashed on Thursday night and that was the end of our Tuscarora 50 attempt. We worked hard all year to build our program depth and be better prepared for the big shows. Even if nothing goes wrong, it’s not easy to run three straight days. When you have a weekend like we did, it’s really tough. It didn’t go how we envisioned, but we made it all the way through the weekend and we’re proud of that, as well as everything we have accomplished this season. We’re going the right direction with our program.”
Tentatively Halligan and the Risser Motorsports team will be in action Saturday night with the All Star Circuit of Champions at the Dirt Classic IX at Lincoln Speedway, however they will make a final decision later this week.
Port Royal Speedway will remain the primary focus for Halligan for the balance of 2022. The team will compete there with the World of Outlaws on October 7th & 8th, then again on October 14th as part of the Short Track Super Series Modified event.
40 races, 2 wins, 11 top 5’s, 18 top 10’s, 24 top 15’s
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