By MIKE LEONE
SARVER, PA – The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series powered by Pace Performance were part of the 10th annual “Steel City Stampede” this past weekend at Lernerville Speedway featuring the Sweeney RUSH Late Model Touring Series, the Bicknell Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified Touring Series, and the Bonnell’s Rod Shop RUSH Sprint Car Weekly Series in their season finale events. Capturing feature wins were Colton Flinner (Late Models), Blaze Myers (Sportsman Modifieds), and Chad Ruhlman (Sprint Cars), while Ricky Steigerwald ended the night winning the Late Model Non-Qualifier. The RUSH Pro Stock “Manufacturers Night” presented by MSD Performance took place on Saturday with product giveaways for all 20 Lernerville competitors.
Sixth starting Colton Flinner passed a determined Jeremy Wonderling on lap 16 and held him off to the finish to become the 12th different Sweeney Tour winner in 17 races during the 2018 campaign, worth $2,000. Wonderling charged from sixth to win the dash to earn the feature pole then dominated the first half of the event before settling in and finished second to overtake eighth place finishing Jason Genco in the standings to win the $5,000 Tour title.
“That was awesome- this is my first ever win at Lernerville,” revealed the emotional 24-year-old Allison Park, Pa. racer. “I don’t even know what to say. It means the world to me. I have to thank my dad for sure with everything he does for me and John Johnson for believing in me with the Super Late Model. Also thanks to all of my sponsors and the fans that stayed out here for today and braving the cold.”
Wonderling flew into the early lead, while fourth starting Michael Duritsky, Jr. went from fourth to second over Brady Wonderling, Chad Homan, and Flinner. Lap two saw Flinner and eighth starting Mike Pegher, Jr. take over fourth and fifth from Homan. Wonderling caught lapped traffic on lap eight as he had a sizable straightaway lead. Wonderling was in heavy lapped traffic on the ninth circuit as the battle for second raged between Duritsky, Brady Wonderling, Flinner, and Pegher. On lap 11 and 12, Flinner and Pegher continued to move forward as they disposed of Brady Wonderling for third and fourth respectively.
Flinner continued his charge as he drove around Duritsky off turn two for second on lap 13 then got the break he needed when Justin Lamb spun to bring out the event’s first caution. Flinner would make the winning pass putting a slider on Wonderling on lap 16. Pegher continued his run to the front sliding Duritsky for third on lap 18 before back-to-back cautions with 18 laps scored.
When racing resumed, Pegher would lose third to last Sunday’s $4,000 “Bill Hendren Memorial” Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway winner, Daryl Charlier, who had quietly worked his way forward from the 10th starting spot. Flinner pulled away and appeared headed to the win and Wonderling the championship, but one more caution for a spin by Chad Sines would bunch up the field for the final time setting up a two-lap dash to the checkered.
Flinner held off Wonderling over the final two laps by a margin of 1.066 seconds to capture his second career Sweeney Tour win, but first since September 13, 2014 at Pittsburgh in his John’s Towing/All American Framers/Randig Towing/Bellisarios Lounge/K&B Auto-sponsored #75. Flinner also became the sixth new winner of the season in the past seven races!
After falling behind by 12 points to Genco heading into the final two races, Wonderling recorded a fourth and a second place finish compared to Genco’s 10th and eight to capture the title in his Terry Prince Contracting/Close Racing Supply/Wonderling Pit Stop/The Store/Pine Grove Collision/Dynamic Driveline-sponsored #3J. Wonderling ended the season with 14 straight top nine finishes!
“This means a lot,” expressed the 38-year-old Wellsville, NY champion, who earned $1,000 for his runner-up finish. “To support this and to be announced the champion with everything Vicki (Emig) and RUSH does is pretty cool. It’s a pretty good deal to come down and run as good as I was at Pittsburgh and here with people like Colton and Pegher. We came here Thursday to practice in effort to seal the deal. The car just kept getting better and better. I told my wife I don’t care about points, I just want to win the race. I’m sure Colton learned a lot racing his Super Late Model here and I knew when he came sliding across me down here he obviously came off the top. There were a couple times on restarts I came sliding across the bottom and I so badly wanted to come down in front of him but I knew he’d be coming. Then that one time Colton, Pegher, and I were all bumping coming down the backstretch I had to stop and start thinking about the big picture- it was getting crazy.”
Charlier was third over Pegher. After joining up with the Tour on August 12 at Pittsburgh, Pegher reeled off four straight top four finishes to end the season. Duritsky matched his best career Tour finish of fifth from way back on October 9, 2015 at McKean County Raceway. Brady Wonderling, who finished third in Tour points in his first season, dropped to sixth at the finish, but was selected as the Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night” for holding off Chad Homan in the dash to earn a front row starting spot with his brother Brady. Ironically Homan followed him across the feature finish in seventh as Genco, Brian Knowles, and Logan Zarin completed the top 10.
Knowles raced from 18th to ninth to earn the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card. After a solid performance one week ago at Pittsburgh, Josh Stoica got caught up in an accident and was selected as the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night” recipient.
Driving for Paul “Jabo” Jablonski for just the third time, Ricky Steigerwald led all eight laps of the non-qualifier to close out the “Steel City Stampede”. The 22-year-old Stock Car racer hopes to move into the RUSH Late Model division in 2019. The Pittsburgh, Pa. driver earned $175 in Jablonski’s Classic Landscaping/Side Lines Trees Service-sponsored #3. Steigerwald became the 34th different winner in 38 races run all-time in the “Wheelman” Bonus Event Challenge Series, which saw Bill Kessler capture the 2018 title. Collin Burke was a close second in his Tour debut. Zach Gunn was third for his third top four non-qualifier finish. Brandon Lott was another driver making his Tour debut and finished fourth over Jared Kane.
Pegher set fast time in $100 FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying on Friday night by just 0.006 of a second over Duritsky with a lap 17.906. Pegher then went on to win the first $25 FK Rod End heat race, while Duritsky, Jeremy Wonderling, and Brady Wonderling also picked up $25 heat wins over the 33-car field. Khole Wanzer, who paced the four-wide salute with his pink October breast cancer awareness wrap, won the first last chance B main on Saturday, while Chad Sines won the second.
Fourteen-year-old Blaze Myers pulled off a stunning upset to win his first career Bicknell Racing Products Tour feature for the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, worth $800. Myers won the last chance B main from the third starting spot then charged from 19th in the feature to pull off a last lap pass of 2018 Bicknell Tour and Weekly Series Champion, Garrett Krummert. To make things even more impressive, Myers did a 360-spin with five laps to go losing at least five positions. The victory also propelled Myers to the “Futures Cup” Championship! Myers also picked up a pair of contingencies with the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card and the Sherwood Wheels “Man of Steel” free steel wheel.
“I drove a heck of a race after spinning out there,” explained the Franklin, Pa. teenager. “I knew I just had to hug that bottom or I wouldn’t have gotten by anyone. I just to have to thank Chip Ritchey, the Weavers, my dad, and my whole family for allowing me to do this. I couldn’t do any of this without them. Everyone on this car just did a hell of a job- thank you! I just love this and it’s such a grateful thing. My dad is my number one hero.”
Bicknell Tour Championship contenders Chas Wolbert and Garrett Krummert led the field to green for the 20-lap feature. Wolbert had a four-point lead on Krummert and six-point lead on fourth starting Brandon Ritchey. Wolbert grabbed the early lead over Krummert and fifth starting Tony Tatgenhorst. Josh Deems started ninth and was already to fourth after two laps taking the spot from Jessica Kriegisch. On lap four, Tatgenhorst closed in making it a three-car race for the lead before a caution for debris with four laps scored.
When racing resumed, Krummert took the lead on lap five before a caution for a spin by Steve Slater. Back under green, Tatgenhorst slid Wolbert for second. It was three-wide for second on lap seven as Tatgenhorst held the spot over Wolbert and Deems. After a caution for a Kevin Long spin, Deems, Jacob Jordan, and Kole Holden overtook Wolbert for positions three through five on lap eight.
Myers meanwhile was working his way forward and cracked the top five on lap 12. Myers though lost the handle in turn four on lap 15 spinning, but was able to do a 360 spin and keep going, while Brian Sadler spun to bring out the caution. Myers though lost at least five spots and had just five laps to get to the front. When racing resumed, Deems passed Tatgenhorst for second and went after Krummert running the bottom. They were side-side for the lead on lap 17 when the event’s final caution was displayed for Steve Slater’s spin, which proved crucial for Myers.
Myers got a great restart flying into second on lap 18 as he continued to find the moisture around the bottom. Myers caught Krummert and the two were side-by-side and literally a dead heat according to AMB scoring as they crossed the line with the white flag waving. Myers hit the moisture around the bottom perfect and was able to fend off Krummert’s last chance turn four run off the cushion coming to the checkered to win by just 0.161 of a second in the Brady Myers-owned, R.H. Construction/R.K. Virgile Scrap Metals/Billy’s Garage/R&R Enterprises-sponsored #43JR. Myers became the 14th different Bicknell Tour winner in 26 races run all-time. The victory was Myers’ second of his career as he won the season opener at Sharon Speedway on June 2 over a 31-car field in Bicknell Weekly Series competition.
Deems’ third was his best Tour finish of the season beating out a pair of seventh place finishes. Holden’s fourth and Tatgenhorst’s fifth were also their best Tour finishes of the season. Wolbert dropped to sixth to collect second in points. Jordan was seventh after starting 16th. Kyle Martell was eighth. After coming from 12th to second in the last chance B main, Rocky Kugel made his way up to ninth at the finish after starting 20th in the feature. Rob Kristyak completed the top 10 after starting 18th.
Jim Bryce was chosen as the Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night” for holding off Billy Myers for the final transfer spot in the B main. Ritchey was awarded the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night” after dropping out of the feature while having a shot at the title. Deems, Tatgenhorst, and Wolbert won the heat races over the 30-car field, which was an all-time division Lernerville record beating the previous high of 29 from two years ago at the “Steel City Stampede”.
Back on May 20, Chad Ruhlman made his Sprint Car debut and came out on top as a winner at Old Bradford Speedway. On Saturday, Ruhlman closed out his rookie Sprint Car campaign in victory lane by leading all 20 laps over his brother Brian for the $800 victory and inaugural $5,000 Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series Championship for the RUSH Sprint Cars. It was Ruhlman’s third win in three tries at Lernerville.
“What a fun place this was,” expressed the 41-year-old Bemus Point, NY standout. “Whoever did this race track deserves a steak dinner. This was probably the most technical cushion I’ve ever had to run. Amazing race surface right now. I would put this against Earl Baltes’ Eldora (Speedway). I’m glad we got the (RUSH) Crate Late Model and now the Sprint Steel City Stampede win. I was glad to see Brian (Ruhlman) in second, but glad I didn’t see his nose. I’m so happy we did this deal. My son (Kevin) has worked hard with me. We had no idea what Sprint Cars even were when we ran our first night out. I’m pretty certain Kevin will be in a car next year if we can talk mother into it. I think I’m going to do some USAC stuff. I have to thank RUSH for giving us this opportunity so we could learn without going broke doing it.”
Chad Ruhlman jumped to the early lead, while brother Brian made some great moves going from fifth to second on the opening lap. The third position was very sought after as Brandon Hawkins had it on the opening lap until seventh starting John Mollick moved to the position on lap two. Shawn Smith then made his way from sixth to third on lap six. Zach Morrow would then be the final third place runner after him and Smith traded the spot between laps 13-16. Meanwhile, it was all Chad Ruhlman out front as he captured his 15th win of the season by 6.230 seconds in his North Star Unlimited/Rand Machining/Premier Communications/Ruhlman Race Cars/Close Racing Supply/Callahan Weber Hydraulics-sponsored #87R.
Brian Ruhlman’s second was his best finish of the season after debuting with a third on August 25 at Pittsburgh. Morrow’s third place was enough to overtake Lernerville “Wednesday Night Lightning” Champion, Arnie Kent, for third in points. Kent had worked his way from 15th to fifth before getting caught up in an accident at the halfway point. Shawn Smith continued his strong conclusion to the end of the season with his eighth straight top five finish after coming home fourth over Brandon Hawkins. Heat winners on Friday over the 16-car field were Scott Hawkins and Chad Ruhlman.
This concludes the 2018 season for the Sweeney Late Model Tour, Bicknell Sportsman Modified Tour, and RUSH Sprint Cars. The 2018 RUSH Racing Series Awards Banquet & Dinner will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2018 at Gatherings Banquet & Event Center located just west of New Castle, Pa. on Route 422 in Edinburg, Pa.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series Race #17 (25 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. COLTON FLINNER (75) 2. Jeremy Wonderling (3J) 3. Daryl Charlier (12) 4. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Geisler 1c) 5. Michael Duritsky, Jr. (90J) 6. Brady Wonderling (Ralyea z1) 7. Chad Homan (91) 8. Jason Genco (Craig/Badgley 29J) 9. Brian Knowles (7) 10. Logan Zarin (1z) 11. Joey Zambotti III (948) 12. Jason Fosnaught (J19) 13. Justin Lamb (93x) 14. Eric Wilson (27W) 15. Ryan Frazee (11F) 16. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 17. Bill Kessler (09) 18. Cory Sines (25) 19. Chad Sines (15) 20. Andy Spooner (3A) 21. Christian Schneider (Maniecki 1ST) 22. Matt Dobnak (42) 23. Braeden Dillinger (14) 24. Josh Stoica (22J) 25. Khole Wanzer (01W). (Note: Bill Kessler took a Tour provisional.)
Non-Qualifier ($175 to-win):1. Ricky Steigerwald (3) 2. Collin Burke (41B) 3. Zach Gunn (114G) 4. Brandon Lott (47) 5. Jared Kane (7) 6. Stanley Spooner (3)-DNS 7. Chuck Recker (6R)-DNS 8. Jake Gunn (14G)-DNS.
Car Count: 33
Feature Margin of Victory: 1.066 seconds
Feature Lap Leaders: Jeremy Wonderling (1-15), Colton Flinner (16-25)
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Brian Knowles (+9)
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Josh Stoica
Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night”: Brady Wonderling
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock Qualifying” ($100 for fast time): 1. Mike Pegher, Jr. 17.906 2. Michael Duritsky, Jr. 17.912 3. Jeremy Wonderling 17.975 4. Braeden Dillinger 18.126 5. Cory Sines 18.281 6. Daryl Charlier 18.283 7. Logan Zarin 18.312 8. Ryan Frazee 18.349 9. Jason Genco 18.355 10. Colton Flinner 18.391 11. Eric Wilson 18.456 12. Brady Wonderling 18.472 13. Josh Stoica 18.499 14. Christian Schneider 18.549 15. Justin Lamb 18.576 16. Matt Dobnak 18.587 17. Khole Wanzer 18.589 18. Collin Burke 18.682 19. Joey Zambotti III 18.702 20. Chad Sines 18.738 21. Chad Homan 18.765 22. Jake Gunn 18.867 23. Andy Spooner 18.886 24. Jared Kane 18.947 25. Bill Kessler 18.965 26. Brian Knowles 18.987 27. Stanley Spooner 19.060 28. Jason Fosnaught 19.104 29. Jamie Wrightsman 19.264 30. Brandon Lott 19.449 31. Zach Gunn 19.472 32. Chuck Recker 19.606 33. Ricky Steigerwald 19.733.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 1 (8 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A): 1. Pegher 2. Homan 3. Genco 4. Stoica 5. Wrightsman 6. Wanzer 7. Steigerwald 8. Co. Sines 9. Kane.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 2 (8 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A): 1. Duritsky 2. Flinner 3. Charlier 4. Schneider 5. Knowles 6. Burke 7. J. Gunn 8. Lott.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 3 (8 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A): 1. J. Wonderling 2. Zarin 3. Zambotti 4. Lamb 5. Wilson 6. A. Spooner 7. S. Spooner 8. Z. Gunn.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 4 (8 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A): 1. B. Wonderling 2. Dillinger 3. Dobnak 4. Frazee 5. Fosnaught 6. Kessler 7. Ch. Sines 8. Recker.
RUSH Late Model Last Chance B Main 1 (8 laps, top 2 transfer to A): 1. Wanzer 2. Co. Sines 3. Steigerwald 4. Burke 5. Kane 6. Lott 7. J. Gunn.
RUSH Late Model Last Chance B Main 2 (8 laps, top 2 transfer to A): 1. Ch. Sines 2. A. Spooner 3. Kessler 4. Z. Gunn 5. S. Spooner 6. Recker.
RUSH Late Model Dash (6 laps): 1. J. Wonderling 2. B. Wonderling 3. Homan 4. Duritsky 5. Dillinger 6. Flinner 7. Zarin 8. Pegher-DNS.
Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified Bicknell Touring Series Race #5 (20 laps, $800 to-win): 1. BLAZE MYERS (43JR) 2. Garrett Krummert (Schaffer 10s) 3. Josh Deems (9D) 4. Kole Holden (2) 5. Tony Tatgenhorst (63) 6. Chas Wolbert (c3) 7. Jacob Jordan (28J) 8. Kyle Martell (8) 9. Rocky Kugel (83) 10. Rob Kristyak (00) 11. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 12. Michael Kristyak (404) 13. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 14. Kevin Long (22) 15. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 16. Brian Schaffer (14) 17. David Kalb, Jr. (11J) 18. Steve Slater (29) 19. Jim Bryce (Schaffer 4) 20. Jordan Ehrenberg (JD57) 21. Preston Cope (24P) 22. Amelia Clay (4S) 23. Brian Sadler (5) 24. Brandon Ritchey (17).
Did not qualify for the feature: Billy Myers (43X), Greg Porter (25), Joe Gibson (19), Josh Hinchberger (5), Jason Hufnagel (048), Lexi Couch (51)
Car Count: 30
Margin of Victory: 0.161 of a second
Feature Lap Leaders: Garrett Krummert (1-19), Blaze Myers (20)
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Blaze Myers (+18)
Sherwood Wheels “Man of Steel”: Blaze Myers
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Brandon Ritchey
Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night”: Jim Bryce
RUSH Sportsman Mod Heat 1 (8 laps, Top 6 transfer to the A): 1. Deems 2. J. Kriegisch 3. Ritchey 4. Kalb 5. Cope 6. Jordan 7. Ehrenberg 8. Hufnagel 9. Gibson 10. Couch.
RUSH Sportsman Mod Heat 2 (8 laps, Top 6 transfer to the A): 1. Tatgenhorst 2. Sadler 3. C. Kriegisch 4. Slater 5. Long 6. Clay 7. Bi. Myers 8. Porter 9. Schaffer 10. Hinchberger.
RUSH Sportsman Mod Heat 3 (8 laps, Top 6 transfer to the A): 1. Wolbert 2. Krummert 3. Martell 4. Holden 5. Weaver 6. R. Kristyak 7. Bl. Myers 8. M. Kristyak 9. Bryce 10. Kugel-DNS.
RUSH Sportsman Mod Last Chance B Main (10 laps, top 6 transfer to the A): 1. Bl. Myers 2. Kugel 3. Schaffer 4. Ehrenberg 5. M. Kristyak 6. Bryce 7. Bi. Myers 8. Porter 9. Gibson 10. Hinchberger 11. Hufnagel 12. Couch.
RUSH Sprint Cars Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series Race #24(20 laps, $800 to-win):1. CHAD RUHLMAN (87R) 2. Brian Ruhlman (49) 3. Zach Morrow (27) 4. Shawn Smith (36) 5. Brandon Hawkins (27H) 6. John Mollick (Clever 4J) 7. Steve Cousins (56) 8. Dave Hawkins (27) 9. Brian Woodhall (8B) 10. Jim Kurpakus (72B) 11. Scott Hawkins (37) 12. Brad Blackshear (19) 13. Arnie Kent (18) 14. Phil Thornton (35) 15. Steve Pedley (21) 16. Gale Ruth, Jr. (Culver 1c)-DNS.
RUSH Late Model marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, 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, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Rocket Chassis, Landrum Performance Spring, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
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.
RUSH Sprint Car marketing partners include partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bonnell’s Rod Shop, Bilstein Shocks, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Holley Performance Products, Racing Electronics, Dirt Defender, Frankland Racing Supply, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, FK Rod Ends, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Precise Racing Products, TBM Brakes, Lincoln Electric, Pancho’s Racing Products, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Landrum Performance Spring, 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.