By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – Beautiful fall-like weather graced Sharon Speedway on Saturday allowing the fifth straight and final “Steel Valley Thunder” program of 2017 to be completed. Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Peter Britten-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds, Steve Slater-HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds Bicknell Touring Series, Chris Schneider-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, and Jacob Eucker-Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods. Over $19,000 of products were distributed to the RUSH Sportsman Modified racers for their “Manufacturers Night”. Congratulations to the 2017 track champions: Rex King, Jr.-Big-Block Mods, Paul Davis-Stocks, Kole Holden-RUSH Mods, and Steve Haefke-Econo Mods.
Making his return since winning his first career Super DIRTcar Series race on July 20, Peter Britten put on a dominating performance to win the 25-lap Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modified feature. Britten led wire-to-wire with four cautions being the only thing to slow his run. This time, Britten won in a substitution role for Jim Weller, Jr. making for the third different car he’s raced this season at Sharon.
“I think this track was pretty damn close to how it was back in July,” acknowledged the 29-year-old Australian native who now calls Weedsport, NY home. “I haven’t been down here in a few weeks, but we pretty much did the same thing we did then and had the same results. It’s hard when you’re out in front sometimes- you don’t know where the track is going or where the lines are so you just have to work and feel your way around. We ended up here so we must have found the right line. I can’t say enough about the Wellers. They got me involved in their program and gave me the opportunity to drive tonight. I’m really glad to get this car in victory lane for them. They’ve been getting better all year and I’ve been trying to help them out. I think we’re on the right path now.”
An invert four from the heat races put Britten on the pole and he immediately charged into the lead over Rex King and Rex King, Jr. Following a caution for Tom Mattocks, it was three-wide for third with sixth starting Jeremiah Shingledecker and Jim Rasey getting by King, Jr. on lap two. Shingledecker had the bottom working as he passed King for second on lap six. Rasey then worked on King before making the pass for third with a slider in turn four on lap 12.
The event’s fourth and final caution slowed action when Justin Rasey spun in turn three. This erased a near five-second lead for Britten. The caution put Shingledecker, the “Lou Blaney Memorial” winner, alongside Britten for the restart, but Shingledecker wouldn’t have anything for the professional racer as Britten won by 4.482 seconds in the Zip Motorsports #31 for his second career win.
Shingledecker was second for the second straight week. Rasey was third. King, Jr. dropped to fourth, but easily earned his second straight championship and third in four seasons. King was fifth. Completing the top 10 were Garrett Krummert, Will Thomas III, Chris Haines, Dave Murdick from the tail after getting caught up in an opening lap accident, and Erik Martin. Heat winners over the 18-car field were King, Jr. and Rasey.
In the race of the night and one of the best of the season, Steve Slater worked the top side of the track to perfection stealing a win away from race long leader Justin Shea coming down for the white flag. Slater, a former crew chief for Big-Block Modified racer Dave Murdick, earned his first career win coming in the 25-lap $600 to-win Bicknell Racing Products Touring Series special for the HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds.
“Wow; second year- I’ve dreamed of this,” expressed the jubilant 52-year-old Butler, Pa. winner. “This is exciting and wonderful- I love this. I have to thank Vicki (Emig) for making this all possible. She’s putting on a great show for these RUSH Crate Modifieds. I kept thinking of the money! He (Shea) kept pulling me and I was breaking traction a little bit coming out of turn four, but that last time I didn’t and was close enough to him. I kept it floored the whole way around (turns) one and two and three and four and thought I got this this time. I’d like to thank my pit crew Dale Stephenson and Donny Graham; they were both here tonight and it really helped out. I was crew chief for 15 years with Dave Murdick and wanted to do this. I couldn’t afford the Big-Block Modifieds.”
Shea and Slater lined up together on the front row with Shea taking the early lead, while Kyle Martell passed Slater for second. Slater though came back on lap two to reclaim the position. Nick Ritchey spun on lap four and a seven-car pileup ensued in turn one. Back under green, Martell moved back by Slater for second, but one-lap later it was three-wide for the runner-up spot with Slater and Wolbert getting by Martell. Wolbert, who won the $800 to-win “Apple Festival Nationals” Tour make-up feature three weeks ago, appeared as if he had the fastest car. Wolbert passed Slater for second on lap seven and closed in on Shea one lap later.
After junking his car one week ago, Rocky Kugel was behind the wheel of Billy Myers’ #43Sr. Kugel started eighth and made the pass of Slater for third on lap 14. Kugel and Slater really went at it trading the position back and forth with Slater getting it back on lap 15, Kugel on lap 19, but Slater took it back for good on the 20th circuit. Wolbert’s run would end when the lapped car of Chad Gump forced Wolbert low into a yuke tire bringing out the caution.
The caution put Slater alongside Shea for the first time since back on lap four. Slater stayed with Shea and appeared like he’d have a shot as he was getting a good run off the topside of the racey track. On lap 23, Slater had a run off turn two, but Shea stopped his advances moving up and taking his line. The following lap though Slater’s momentum off two carried him alongside Shea as he powered ahead to lead lap 24. Slater ran a perfect final lap to win by 0.790 of a second in his Steve’s Auto Body & Repair #29.
Shea was second in his first Sharon start since May 29. A wild last lap, turn four scramble after the third place running car of Kugel knocked down his front end saw 11th starting Josh Deems claim third. Chelsie Kriegisch had an excellent run from 17th to take fourth over Sharon first time champion, Kole Holden. Kugel was still able to cross the line in sixth as Tour point leader, Martell, dropped to seventh over Shayne Izzo, 19th starting Brandon Ritchey and Jeremy Weaver. Holden, Wolbert, and Izzo captured heat wins over the 29-car field. Brandon Ritchey won the last chance B main, while Brian Schaffer won the dash.
Chris Schneider has never been a weekly competitor at Sharon over the years in the Stock Car division, but when the #55 pulls in the pit area he’s certainly going to be one of the drivers to beat. Schneider won the $2,000 2016 “Apple Festival Nationals” make-up feature on July 29 and returned to victory lane on Saturday night to become just the second repeat winner of the season in the competitive Gibson Insurance Agency-sponsored division.
“I was really confused what to do- Paul Davis really knows how to get around this place so I king of tried to do what he does,” explained the 38-year-old Lower Burrell, Pa. driver. “This place is really awesome. This clay is the coolest thing I’ve ever been on at a circle track this size. The groove moves so you just have to follow it. We might be the premier division someday. This is really awesome what Sharon is doing to get the drivers to follow it. You never know what’s going to happen with this $10,000 to-win show next year. Congrats to Paul Davis on his track championship.”
From the pole position, Brian Carothers led the opening lap, while third starting Schneider moved into second past Mike Miller. Following a caution for newcomer Dustin Adams, Schneider made the outside work to lead lap two. Seventh starting Paul Davis was looking strong as he drove under and past two-time winner, Chris McGuire, for third on lap three then did the identical move in turn four one lap later to take second from Carothers.
The event was plagued by seven cautions, which gave Davis numerous chances on the restart alongside Schneider, but Schneider was simply too strong winning the final two-lap dash to the finish by 0.809 seconds as his SS Chassis & Supply #55 captured his seventh career win. Davis’ runner-up though was good enough to capture his second straight championship. McGuire was third. Seven-time Sharon “410” Sprint Car Champion, Jarod Larson, returned to his roots in the Stock Car division in recent weeks and had his best run finishing fourth after starting 14th. Curt J. Bish was fifth as Michael Hudzik, Miller, Charlie Baptiste, Hunter Exley, and Bobby Robinson completed the top 10. Bish, Andy Thompson, and Davis won the heat races over the 23-car field.
Jacob Eucker has been competing in the E-Mod division in recent years, but with Sharon dropping the class from weekly competition in 2017, the nearby Hartford, Ohio decided to return to the Econo Mod division back on August 5. Making his fourth consecutive start, Eucker led all 20 laps of the Summit Racing Equipment feature for his first win in the division since September 28, 2013.
“It’s been a long time,” stated the 16-year-old. “We decided to come back here and do this because Sharon dropped the class and we didn’t have anywhere to go on Saturday nights. I’d like to thank my dad, my mom, and all of my sponsors along with Blue Devil Block sealer for the four-inch crack in our block.”
An invert eight placed Eucker on the pole as he raced to the lead over Ryan Fraley. Track champion, Steve Haefke, started in seventh and by lap two was up to fourth getting by Ty Rhoades. Following a caution for Tyler Frankenberry with three laps scored, Haefke went from fourth to second on the restart. After dropping back to fifth, Rhoades made his way by Mitchell Wright then Fraley for third on lap seven.
Eucker had pulled away from Haefke, but Fraley would get into the fence running fourth with nine laps completed. The caution put Haefke alongside Eucker for the first time, but Eucker again stretched his lead two laps later. A pair of cautions on laps 17 and 18 gave Haefke two more shots at Eucker, but “Kid Smooth” was too strong winning by 1.154 seconds in the Matt Eucker-owned, Ohio Commerce Center/Buck’s Ground Maintenance/Danski Dyno/Harrison Tool/Dr. John Eucker/Lees Excavating/Afco Shocks/Close Racing Supply-sponsored #64. The victory was Eucker’s seventh of his career in the Econo Mods and eighth overall at the track including an E-Mod win.
Haefke’s second gave him his 25th top two finish in the past 28 events dating back to 2015. Rhoades was third. Brad Blackshear raced from the ninth starting spot to fourth over an impressive run by George Vestal IV coming all the way from 16th. Frankenberry and Haefke copped the heat race wins over the 18-car field.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds (25 laps): 1. PETER BRITTEN (Weller 31) 2. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 3. Jim Rasey (32) 4. Rex King, Jr. (165) 5. Rex King (65) 6. Garrett Krummert (29) 7. Will Thomas III (9) 8. Chris Haines (35H) 9. Dave Murdick (61) 10. Erik Martin (29E) 11. Tom Glenn (83T) 12. Mark Frankhouser (03) 13. Steve Barr (25B) 14. Rob Kristyak (00) 15. Justin Rasey (21) 16. Rodney Beltz (64) 17. Tom Mattocks (69) 18. Bob Warren (96B).
HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds Bicknell Touring Series (25 laps, $600 to-win): 1. STEVE SLATER (29) 2. Justin Shea (14s) 3. Josh Deems (9D) 4. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 5. Kole Holden (2) 6. Rocky Kugel (Myers 43Sr) 7. Kyle Martell (8) 8. Shayne Izzo (86) 9. Brandon Ritchey (17) 10. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 11. Anthony Gillespie (Smith 3G) 12. Gary Haupt (16) 13. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 14. Brian Schaffer (41) 15. Blaze Myers (43Jr) 16. Brandon Michaud (132) 17. Preston Cope (24P) 18. Chas Wolbert (c3) 19. Chad Gump (King 12) 20. Nick Ritchey (Eads 77N) 21. Brian Sadler (5) 22. Jim Bryce (Schaffer 14) 23. Jordan Ehrenberg (20J) 24. Tiffany Williams (58) 25. Jason Hufnagel (28)-DNS. DNQ: Jacob Jordan (28J), Jessica Shea (24s), Will Schaffer (4), Don Blaney (11B).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (20 laps): 1. CHRIS SCHNEIDER (55) 2. Paul Davis (3) 3. Chris McGuire (63) 4. Jarod Larson (47) 5. Curt Bish (Tarr 29) 6. Michael Hudzik (31H) 7. Mike Miller (T6) 8. Charlie Baptiste (28B) 9. Hunter Exley (23H) 10. Bobby Robinson (34R) 11. Troy Norman (Gower 19N) 12. Mike Kerr (25K) 13. Tim Deutsch (20) 14. Randy Wyant (11T) 15. Rusty Moore (17M) 16. Andy Thompson (5) 17. Jamie Scharba (11s) 18. Brian Carothers (02c) 19. Mike Clark (7) 20. Steve Allison (1BAD) 21. Dustin Adams (11) 22. Jamie Maxwell (6)-DNS 23. Andy Buckley (965)-DNS.
Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods (20 laps): 1. JACOB EUCKER (64) 2. Steve Haefke (41) 3. Ty Rhoades (12R) 4. Brad Blackshear (19) 5. George Vestal IV (4) 6. Gary Robinson (44R) 7. Mitchell Wright (m11) 8. Kyle Miller (15) 9. Wayne Daniels (4D) 10. Brian Toto (8B) 11. Jeff Mundell (11) 12. Mike Hillman (29) 13. Cameron Nastasi (99) 14. Tommy Davis (32) 15. Rick Wilson, Jr. (35) 16. Brandon Blackshear (Burns 70B) 17. Ryan Fraley (Lapcevich 77L) 18. Tyler Frankenberry (38).
There will be no racing over Labor Day Weekend. The 88th anniversary season will conclude on September 8-9 with the “Apple Festival Nationals” this year featuring a $3,000 to-win event for the “410” Sprints along with the Penn-Ohio Pro Stock Series for $2,000 to-win, E-Mods for $1,500 to-win, Big-Block Modified Non-Winners for $1,100 to-win, RUSH Sportsman Modified Touring Series for $800 to-win, Econo Mods for $500 to-win, and Mini Stocks for $300 to-win. The Mod Lites, Sportsman Dwarf Cars, and Junior Sprints for kids will run a complete program on Friday night. Racing begins at 6 p.m. both nights.
Sharon Speedway is owned by the Blaney, Weller, and Kirila Families and is a 3/8-mile dirt track located on Custer-Orangeville Road in Hartford, Ohio near the intersection of Routes 7 & 305. For more information, check out the website at www.sharonspeedway.com or call 330-772-5481. Become a fan of Sharon Speedway on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sharonspeedway and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sharonspdwy.