2024 Ice Breaker at Lincoln Speedway

Troy Wagaman Jr. Shows He's Got Next With The PA Posse In Ice Breaker Win

Troy Wagaman Jr. Shows He's Got Next With The PA Posse In Ice Breaker Win

Troy Wagaman Jr. outran the PA Posse's finest in Danny Dietrich and Freddie Rahmer to win Sunday's Ice Breaker at Lincoln Speedway.

Feb 26, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Danny Dietrich and Freddie Rahmer, the drivers who've won the lion's share of races at Lincoln Speedway these past two years, are preparing to have regular company at the top of the leaderboard this season.

Troy Wagaman Jr.'s convincing victory in Lincoln Speedway's Ice Breaker on Sunday to open another Central Pennsylvania Sprint Car season serves as a virtual preview of what's to come at the 3/8-mile oval in the Pigeon Hills.

After defeating Dietrich and Rahmer — winners of 28 of the last 52 features at Lincoln — the 27-year-old, in pickup basketball slang, made his statement why he's got next as one of Pennsylvania Posse's top contenders.

The $6,000 victory not only ties the richest of his career (with last Sept. 15's Billy Kimmel Memorial at Williams Grove Speedway), but it's now his most meaningful to date, especially coming in front of a packed grandstands and it being Sunday's only dirt-track race streamed across the nation on FloRacing.

"It's No. 1 so far for me, other than winning at the Grove (in the Kimmel Memorial)," said Wagaman, who led all 30 laps from the outside pole. "I didn't know what to expect (down the stretch Sunday at Lincoln). I was expecting (to race) Freddie, but they were telling me Danny is there at the end. Having both there is pretty hard. Glad to have come out with a W."

Troy Wagaman in victory lane after winning Feb. 25's Ice Breaker 30 at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pa. (Kyle McFadden)

Following the fuel stop on lap 13, Wagaman went the distance not knowing who challenged directly behind — Rahmer or Dietrich — because both scoreboards in turn two and turns three and four had weren't working.Before the stoppage, it'd been Rahmer. But down the stretch, Dietrich made the right open-red adjustments and turned it up a notch, powering into second and putting the pressure on Wagaman the final 10 laps.

With five laps remaining and amid traffic that scattered slower cars all over the 3/8-mile, Dietrich closed to the bumper of Wagaman's Heffner Racing Enterprises No. 27 machine. At that point, the 140-time career winner in Central PA had been in position to strike — until he didn't.

Wagaman, who for a split second could look left at the big screen in the infield racing down the frontstretch, saw Dietrich lurking and seemed to know exactly what to do. Wagaman's poise and response to being in the most difficult spot in all of dirt racing — the leader amid tricky lapped traffic in the closing laps — earned Dietrich's praise.

"He did an awesome job in traffic," Dietrich said. "He passed them when he needed to, and didn't really allow me to make a big move on him. (He) made it to where he was pretty much side-by-side with somebody going into the corner, which only let me follow someone. I might've made the wrong move coming with two to go or the white, I'm not sure, but at that point in time, I'm running out of time and I wasn't going to win what I was doing."

Wagaman did receive boosts when he drew the pole for the opening heat race and going onto win that, which put him in the redraw where he selected the outside pole of the main event. But the victory wasn't handed to him. Having to adjust to the dirty air on the fly, something he hadn't faced all day until Dietrich's hot pursuit, is no small task.

"First 20 laps I felt really good ... clean air. We hadn't been in dirty air all day," Wagaman said. "I just tried to pace myself. I wasn't trying to go too fast (nor) too slow. Had to hit the right move, commit, and get it all done. I felt good, pretty much. I started struggling a little bit toward the end. I had the wing back and was good enough. It started to lay rubber down here in one and two. Maybe not quite rubber, but it was pretty sticky. It was enough to get the job done."

The list of winners Wagaman puts himself on is special, too. Lincoln Speedway has been operating since 1953, and it's only been since '95 they've attempted to start their seasons in February. Eleven of 22 season-openers at Lincoln Speedway from 1995 through 2016 were won by National Sprint Car Hall of Fame drivers Fred Rahmer, Lance Dewease, and Greg Hodnett.

Since then, Dietrich and Freddie Rahmer have won four of the last seven Ice Breakers. It's also Wagaman's third win and fifth podium finish his last nine races dating back to the Kimmel Memorial on Sept. 15, evidence that this season could be a breakout one for the driver possessing the keys of the very ride made famous by the late Hodnett.

Of course, being entrusted as the driver to keep Heffner's venerated race program toward the top of leaderboards and relevant in the cyclical world of dirt racing is a responsbility Wagaman doesn't treat lightly. 

"I never knew Greg personally, but I always respected his craft," Wagaman said. "To be able to drive this car and make it look, hopefully one day, as good as he made it, is a blessing to have that opportunity to be able to do that."

From 2017 through May 2023, Wagaman made do — and very much succeeded — with his frugal, one-car family operation. Let's put it this way: He's never underperformed by his standards or the standards that have been placed on him at large. In 2018, he won Lincoln Speeday's 358 championship. 

Five races into his 410 Sprint Car career in 2020, he finished in the top five. In 2021, he finished on Lincoln's 410 podium for the first time. A year later, he broke through for his first 410 win in his family-owned No. 19. And last June, he made all those years of pinching metaphorical pennies absolutely worth it when Mike Heffner offered him one of — if not, the most — coveted full-time ride in Central Pennsylvania.

"I just try to be humble about it and respect what I've been given," Wagaman said. "And do the best I can for these guys."

Rahmer, who pretty much destroyed the competition last year at Lincoln where he won 14 of his nation-leading 17 features last year, expects closer contests this year. Wagaman is serious about wanting to win a points title at the famed Williams Grove and Lincoln Speedways, honors that Rahmer swept last year.

"Everybody's going to pick it up," Rahmer said. "They're trying. But we're trying, too. We just focus on ourselves and I think we'll be fine. It makes you better."

With High Limit Racing going national and pulling PA Posse megastar Brent Marks onto the tour full-time, as well as Jacob Allen, and with Anthony Macri racing on the road more than ever this year, more checkered flags are up for grabs in Central PA this season. Wagaman's hoping he's the one that can continue Sunday's winning trend.

"We definitely put in a lot of hours. Running one night a week, you can get good, but when you run two to three nights a week, it's such a difference just as a driver just for me to learn," Wagaman said reflecting on all his years cutting his teeth racing for his underfunded family team.

"Like these situations: Leading the Ice Breaker with eight to go and it's slick to the fence, and you have Dietrich and Rahmer behind you. It's different situations I've put myself in now (that) I never had (the chance) to. It's a blessing to be able to run this much and get better."