By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modified Series powered by Pace Performance headed to Sharon Speedway on Saturday night as part of the track’s “Steel Valley Thunder” finale. It marked the first of two appearances to the racey 3/8-mile Hartford, Ohio oval for the 2017 season and race #5 overall for the 2017 season.
The fourth annual “Manufacturers Night” presented by MSD Performance attracted a field of 29 cars turned out from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. Over $19,000 in product giveaways were distributed amongst the 29 drivers. A complete list of the prize winners will be posted in a future press release.
In what was probably the best of the season anywhere for the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, 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 feature event. Slater was also chosen as the Maxima Racing Oil “Maximum Performance” award winner.
“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. Wolbert was selected as the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night” recipient.
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, and became the ninth different Bicknell Tour winner in 16 races all-time.
Shea was second in his first Sharon start since May 29 and just his sixth overall of the season. “It was a good run- Steve came out of nowhere in the laps couple laps,” explained the 36-year-old Franklin, Pa. racer. “I was shocked to see him go by, but you can never tell how close anyone is. He was fast at the end. This track is a lot of fun. I didn’t have enough gear to run the top side. I was setup to run the middle and bottom so that’s where I ran the whole night. It was working, just didn’t hold out in the end.”
A wild last lap, turn four scramble ensued 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 to earn the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card. Sharon first time champion, Kole Holden, who also leads the Bicknell Weekly Series points was fifth.
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. Ritchey was chosen as the Sherwood Wheels “Man of Steel” for rebounding from his heat race spin to then win the last chance B main from fifth, and then advance 10 spots in the feature.
Holden, Wolbert, and Izzo captured heat wins over the 29-car field. Brian Schaffer won the his first K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash to become the season’s fifth different winner in as many races and earned a $100 K&N certificate. Deems received a $50 K&N certificate for second, while Weaver and Jordan Ehrenberg earned an extra $25 cash.
The Bicknell Tour returns to action with a big weekend of September 8-10. Friday night will be preliminary action at Sharon with the conclusion of the show on Saturday night featuring an $800 to-win event as part of the “Apple Festival Nationals. Then on Sunday, Tri-City Raceway Park in Franklin, Pa. hosts their “Apple Fest” with a $600 to-win event.
Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified Bicknell Touring Series Race #5 (25 laps, $600 to-win): 1. 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 for the feature: Jacob Jordan (28J), Jessica Shea (24s), Will Schaffer (4), Don Blaney (11B).
Car Count: 29
Margin of Victory: 0.790 of a second
Feature Lap Leaders: Justin Shea (1-23), Steve Slater (24-25)
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Chelsie Kriegisch (+13)
Maxima Oil “Maximum Performance: Steve Slater
Sherwood Wheels “Man of Steel”: Brandon Ritchey
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Chas Wolbert
CrateInsider.com “Last Car on Lead Lap”: Preston Cope
Heat 1 (8 laps, top 6 transfer to A): 1. Holden 2. Slater 3. J. Kriegisch 4. B. Schaffer 5. Deems 6. Myers 7. Hufnagel 8. Jordan 9. Je. Shea 10. W. Schaffer.
Heat 2 (8 laps, top 6 transfer to A): 1. Wolbert 2. Haupt 3. Martell 4. Weaver 5. Gillespie 6. C. Kriegisch 7. Bryce 8. B. Ritchey 9. Cope 10. Blaney.
Heat 3 (8 laps, top 6 transfer to A): 1. Izzo 2. Ju. Shea 3. Kugel 4. Ehrenberg 5. N. Ritchey 6. Sadler 7. Gump 8. Williams 9. Michaud.
Last Chance B Main (10 laps, top 6 transfer to A): 1. B. Ritchey 2. Bryce 3. Williams 4. Cope 5. Michaud 6. Hufnagel 7. Gump 8. Jordan 9. Shea.
K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash (4 laps, $100 K&N certificate to-win): 1. B. Schaffer 2. Deems 3. Weaver 4. Ehrenberg.
RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Holley Performance Products, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, Quick Fuel Technology, FK Rod Ends, Maxima Racing Oil, Sherwood Racing Wheels, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at email@example.com and snail mail to 4368 Route 422, Pulaski, PA 16143. Office phone is 724-964-9300 and fax is 724-964-0604. The RUSH Racing Series website is www.rushracingseries.com. Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rushlatemodels and follow us on Twitter @RUSHLM.