By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – Despite some unexpected showers that stayed just south of the facility during the evening hours, Sharon Speedway was able to complete its second straight “Steel Valley Thunder” program for the first time since the first two weeks of June. Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane as part of the “Bill Kirila Memorial” were Rex King, Jr.-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds, Dan Davies-A&MP Electric E-Mods, Rocky Kugel & Chas Wolbert-HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, and Tyler Frankenberry-Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods. The all Modified four-division program attracted 89 cars.
Defending two-time Big-Block Modified champion, Rex King, Jr., won the second race of the season then went two months without a victory until winning last week. On Saturday night, King took the lead on lap five then beat Garrett Krummert to the finish for the second consecutive week as he closes in on his third Hovis Auto & Truck Supply title in four years.
“I was watching and taking it easy through lapped traffic,” explained the 26-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver. “I didn’t want to run right into it. I’m good for doing dumb stuff and I didn’t want to do that tonight. I knew we had to have a good lead because the car felt so good. I could have pushed it a little harder, but Garrett has been fast. He’s got a new Bicknell race car so he could have been right there, but I thought we had the car to beat tonight. I’m happy with it. The track was great tonight. I want to thank everyone for coming out, my crew, and everyone for making this happen.”
Dave Murdick snuck from third to first using the bottom on the opening lap to lead over Jim Weller, Jr., King, Jr., Brad Rapp, and Jim Rasey. King and Weller raced side-by-side for second with King making the pass on lap three using the inside before a caution for Will Thomas III and Shawn Kozar. Back under green, King pulled even with Murdick and the two raced side-by-side for the lead on laps four and five with King making the outside in turn four stick to lead the fifth circuit.
King immediately pulled away from the field, while Murdick had his hands full with Rapp. After racing side-by-side for two laps, Rapp made the pass for second on lap 13, but found himself a straightaway behind King. The man on the move was Krummert. Despite starting fourth, Krummert fell out of the top five early on, but had the top working as he drove around Murdick for third on lap 15 and quickly ran down Rapp. After a two-lap battle, Krummert made the pass for the runner-up spot on lap 18.
Even though Krummert was running anywhere from three to six tenths per lap quicker as the race wound down and did close on King, King had too much of a lead built up and took the checkered flag by a 1.757 margin in the #165 for his 23rd career win. Rapp was a strong third in his 2017 debut. Murdick dropped to fourth over Rasey. Completing the top 10 were Weller, Justin Rasey, Rex King, Bob Warren, and Erik Martin. Heat victors were Jim Rasey and Krummert.
Dan Davies rode the cushion and powered to the 25-lap $1,000 E-Mod feature win presented by A&MP Electric. Davies became the fourth different winner in as many races this season and did it without brakes over the final 10 laps!
“They have this track slicked up with a big old cushion you can lean on,” described the 32-year-old Warren, Pa. winner. “This place was awesome before, but now it’s really awesome. You don’t have many tracks like this where you can race top or bottom. I saw Rhebergen on the bottom there on that last restart- you can race all over and can’t ask for anything better. When you lose your brakes with 10 laps to go that’s even more fun. You can’t pull off when you’re leading!”
Davies started in fourth, but quickly flew into the lead on the opening lap using the outside. While Davies set the pace out front, the battle was on for second and on back throughout the 25-lap affair. Five cautions bunched up the field and positions changed on every restart. Brent Rhebergen made his way to second on lap seven getting by Mike Potosky. Bud Watson had raced from the 13th starting spot to take third from Potosky on lap 10. Potosky though came back to regain third on lap 14 then powered around Rhebergen for second on lap 15.
Potosky then faded as Rhebergen took back second on lap 16 and Watson wasn’t done yet moving back to third on lap 21; however, Watson’s night would end two laps shy of the finish when he lost the driveshaft bringing out the event’s final caution. Davies wouldn’t be denied over the final two laps as he garnered his third career win by 1.151 seconds in his Lethal Chassis #71D sponsored by King Fab, Hutchison Coventry, Willbank Energy, Close Racing Supply, and Hoosier Tire.
Rhebergen edged out ninth starting Shawn Shingledecker for second at the finish. Potosky dropped back to fourth. Scott Stiffler made his way from 16th to finish fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Jacob Eucker, Josh Ferry, Jeremy Double, Ken Zimmer, and Mike Kinney. Heat winners over the 23-car field were Zimmer, Eucker, and Potosky.
Opening night winner, Rocky Kugel, returned to prominence in the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds charging from the eighth starting spot to take the lead just past the halfway point of the 20-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products feature for his season’s second win. With 29 cars on hand, the high purse structure was used meaning Kugel earned $500 for his efforts.
“My car was toast; it wouldn’t roll to the right front,” explained the 41-year-old East Liverpool, Ohio resident. “I had to sling it in there and aim it. It was tight on me. The bar was bent on the bottom. Everyone is equal in this class. It all depends on the driver and setup. It’s 90% car and 10% driver for me because I suck as a driver. I want to thank the fans for coming out. You guys do a good job. The track was good, the flagman does good, and everyone does great.”
The race got off to a rough start when third place Brandon Ritchey lost the handle in turn four; Steve Slater had nowhere to go as the contact sent Slater upside down. Slater would pit and actually return to the event and finished 15th! When racing resumed, Tiffany Williams set the pace out front, while all eyes were on Kugel making his way forward. Kugel passed Ritchey for third on lap seven then joined Gary Haupt as the two closed in on Williams for the battle for the lead on lap eight. A caution for a spin by Amelia Clay probably wasn’t what Williams wanted to see with nine laps completed.
Back under green, Kugel snuck under Haupt for second then made the winning pass one lap later on the inside of turns one and two from Williams. Sixth starting Chas Wolbert made his way by Haupt and then followed Kugel past Williams on lap 11 as well before a caution for a three-car accident. When racing resumed, Jeff Schaffer passed both Kole Holden and Williams for third. Schaffer then drove under Wolbert for second on lap 15, and by lap 18 closed on Kugel.
Kugel though would break back away on the final lap to win by 1.066 seconds over Schaffer in his Classic Landscaping-sponsored #83x for his eighth career win. Wolbert was third. Holden and Kyle Martell got by Williams to finish fourth and fifth. Topping the heat races were Josh Seippel, Kugel, and Jessica Kriegisch. Michael Kristyak won the last chance B main. Kugel established a new track record in his heat race with a lap of 17.216.
After several failed attempts thanks to Mother Nature, the 2016 “Apple Festival Nationals” make-up feature for the RUSH Sportsman Modified Touring Series was finally put in the record books. After his father finished second in the regular program, Jeff Schaffer, Jr. was the scheduled driver in the make-up feature. After making his way through the pack from the 16th starting spot to the lead, Schaffer, Jr. appeared on cruise control for his first career win. A spin though by Jessica Kriegisch on the final lap gave Schaffer two flat tires and it was Chas Wolbert inheriting the lead and the $800 victory.
“I’m telling you this car is always good in and out,” described the 22-year-old Warren, Ohio racer. “We were fighting it a little bit tight and on that one restart we went from first to third. The right front brake hung up, but somehow we got it figured out. It was unfortunate for the 14 (Schaffer), but we were right there in second. Things happen. We used the same car as we did last year. I have to thank God; without him none of this would be possible.”
Wolbert started on the pole and led the first two laps before a caution for Chelsie Kriegisch. When racing resumed, it was three-wide for the lead with Kyle Martell taking over followed by Brian Schaffer and then Wolbert. Schaffer, Jr. was already up to third on lap six when he got by Brian Schaffer. Following a caution for a spin by Kristyak, it was three-wide again for the lead this time with Schaffer, Jr. taking charge over Wolbert and Martell.
A long green flag run occurred allowing Schaffer, Jr. to pull away from the field. He caught lapped traffic on lap 23, which would turn out to doom him. Schaffer, Jr. had been running the bottom perfectly, but when the lapped car of Jessica Kriegisch spun directly in front of him, he had nowhere to go. Though he would continue without stopping, the two flat tires would force him to pit and relinquished the lead to Wolbert.
Wolbert then led the final lap and won by 0.311 of a second in his C.T. Wolbert Trucking/Russ King Racing/Ohio Intra Express/Kings Ready Mix Concrete/Crooked Pine Woodworking/955 Automotive/Kings Sanitary-sponsored #c3. The victory was Wolbert’s second in as many weeks at Sharon and the fourth of his career. It was also Wolbert’s second career RUSH Touring Series win. Holden came all the way from 19th to finish second after getting by Martell on the final lap. Shayne Izzo had a good run in fourth after starting 10th. Brian Schaffer faded to fifth.
The streak is over. After winning five straight Econo Mod features, Steve Haefke’s run from the 23rd starting spot for his bid for six in a row ended when he spun on lap 12 after charging clear up to the third position. In a strange race that saw five of the frontrunners have some sort of issue, the benefactor on this night was Tyler Frankenberry, who kept his nose clean to capture his first career Sharon win in the 20-lap Summit Racing Equipment-sponsored feature.
“You have to run where they’re not,” stated the 18-year-old Painesville, Ohio driver, who kept his car planted on the bottom throughout the event. “I ran where my car was good. They have to do their own thing. I have to thank all of my sponsors, my mom and dad, and pit guy David- they all do a great job.”
Josh Ferry was doing double duty running his E-Mod and also subbing for Jace Ferringer in Gerald Leamer’s #02. Ferry led the first three laps before Frankenberry would make what would turn out to be the winning pass on lap four driving to the inside and past Ferry in turns one and two. After the first five laps went caution-free, seven cautions would slow action over the next 14 laps. Eighth starting Ty Rhoades missed the spins and troubles suffered by most of the frontrunners as he made his way to second getting by Mike Hillman on lap 15. Rhoades actually pulled alongside Frankenberry on lap 19, but Frankenberry maintained the lead before the final caution.
Frankenberry then held off Rhoades for the one-lap shootout by just 0.061 of a second to become the 27th different winner in the eight-year history of the division doing it in the Michael Frankenberry-owned, Shoreline Young Family Trucking/Danski Dyno Performance/Close Racing Supply/Deez Performance/MDR Motorsports-sponsored #38. Hillman, Kyle Miller, and 13th starting Gary Robinson were third through fifth. Frankenberry, Ferry, and Haefke won the heat races over the season-high 23-car field.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds (25 laps): 1. REX KING, JR. (165) 2. Garrett Krummert (29) 3. Brad Rapp (11R) 4. Dave Murdick (61) 5. Jim Rasey (32) 6. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 7. Justin Rasey (21) 8. Rex King (65) 9. Bob Warren (96B) 10. Erik Martin (29E) 11. Jeff Schaffer, Jr. (14) 12. Mark Frankhouser (03) 13. Will Thomas III (9) 14. Shawn Kozar (3K).
A&MP Electric E-Mods (25 laps, $1,000 to-win): 1. DAN DAVIES (71D) 2. Brent Rhebergen (07R) 3. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 4. Mike Potosky (m20) 5. Scott Stiffler (14) 6. Jacob Eucker (64) 7. Josh Ferry (33) 8. Josh Double (83) 9. Ken Zimmer (62) 10. Mike Kinney (Porter 20P) 11. Alan Atkinson (32) 12. Chris Rudolph (25) 13. Brock Moskey (3M) 14. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 15. Jim Plance (4J) 16. Bud Watson (25) 17. Jeff Johnson (27) 18. Joe Gabrielson (58) 19. Jeff Hassay (10) 20. Bob Moskey (33) 21. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 22. Bob Williamson (93) 23. Jack Young (67)-DNS.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (20 laps, $500 to-win): 1. ROCKY KUGEL (83x) 2. Jeff Schaffer (14) 3. Chas Wolbert (c3) 4. Kole Holden (2) 5. Kyle Martell (8) 6. Tiffany Williams (58) 7. Brandon Ritchey (17) 8. Brian Schaffer (41) 9. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 10. Anthony Gillespie (Smith 3G) 11. Gary Haupt (16) 12. Josh Seippel (84) 13. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 14. Shayne Izzo (86) 15. Steve Slater (35) 16. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 17. Jacob Jordan (28J) 18. Michael Kristyak (404) 19. Chad Gumpp (King 12) 20. Jordan Ehrenberg (20J) 21. Calvin Clay (21) 22. Amelia Clay (12) 23. Billy Myers (43Sr) 24. David Kalb, Jr. (11J). DNQ: Will Schaffer (4), John McMillen (6), Preston Cope (24P), Blaze Myers (43Jr), Don Blaney (11).
RUSH Sportsman Modified Touring Series “Apple Festival Nationals” 9/17/16 make-up (25 laps, $800 to-win): 1. CHAS WOLBERT (c3) 2. Kole Holden (2) 3. Kyle Martell (8) 4. Shayne Izzo (86) 5. Brian Schaffer (41) 6. Josh Seippel (84) 7. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 8. Steve Slater (35) 9. Preston Cope (24P) 10. Tiffany Williams (58) 11. Anthony Gillespie (Smith 3G) 12. Jacob Jordan (28J) 13. Jeff Schaffer, Jr. (14) 14. Brandon Ritchey (17) 15. Calvin Clay (21) 16. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 17. Don Blaney (11) 18. Michael Kristyak (404) 19. Rocky Kugel (83x) 20. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 21. Amelia Clay (12) 22. Josh Deems (9D)-DNS 23. Nick Ritchey (Eads 77N)-DNS 24. Will Schaffer (4)-DNS.
Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods (20 laps): 1. Tyler Frankenberry (38) 2. Ty Rhoades (12R) 3. Mike Hillman (29) 4. Kyle Miller (15) 5. Gary Robinson (44R) 6. Brandon Blackshear (Burns 70B) 7. Haley Lapcevich (77L) 8. Jacob Eucker (64) 9. Jeff Mundell (11) 10. Matt Alexander (77) 11. Mitchell Wright (M11) 12. Brian Toto (8B) 13. Buzz Seitz (1) 14. Tommy Davis (32) 15. Wayne Daniels (4D) 16. Eric Wilson (Christopher 2JR) 17. Steve Haefke (41) 18. Nate Young (67) 19. Mark Titus (25) 20. Zach Myers (1M) 21. Josh Ferry (Leamer 02) 22. Dan McEwen (44) 23. Rick Wilson, Jr. (35).
Coming up next Saturday (August 12) will be the “Simon Yoder Memorial” for “410” Sprint Cars paying $3,000 to-win, $250 to-start! There will also be a dash for cash that will determine the first three rows of the 30-lap feature. The Stock Cars will return and be joined by the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Econo Mods, and Junior Sprints for kids. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and racing at 7. Adult admission is just $10.
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