INAUGURAL SEASON FOR RUSH PRO MODS AT STATELINE A SUCCESS; JUSTIN CARLSON WINS $3500 SWEENEY WEEKLY SERIES TITLE; MORE GROWTH EXPECTED FOR 2017
By DOUG KENNEDY
PULASKI, PA – Can we deem the 2016 inaugural Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Pro Mod powered by Pace Performance season at the New Stateline Speedway a success? The answer is a resounding yes as the inaugural class of RUSH Pro Mod competitors will share in over $20,000 of cash and products at the completion of their first season of competition.
Fifteen Pro Mod events were run at the 1/3-mile track located in Busti, New York as Scott Gurdak of Bear Lake, Pennsylvania won the track title, while Panama, New York’s Justin Carlson won the $3,500 Sweeney Weekly Series championship. The Series points was based on the drivers’ 12 best finishes. Series official feel strongly that they will be able to add an additional 8-10 events throughout the region for the Pro Mod competitors around their base at Stateline Speedway in 2017.
Nine drivers became members and won money in the season’s point fund that ranged in payouts from $3,500 to $500. In addition to those winnings, over $7,000 in products were distributed at the inaugural “Manufacturers Night” presented by MSD Performance back in August.
During the season, Carlson took eight checkered flags, while other winners included Jason Covey of Clymer, New York with three, Kelly Frederes of Russell, Pennsylvania with two and Gurdak with one.
“I was pretty ecstatic about it,” said the 33-year-old Carlson regarding his Weekly Series point championship. “With what the Series is paying now, I’ll be able to fix my cars in the offseason. Usually you’re robbing the piggy bank, but this year I will have enough money to pay them off. It was definitely a fun class and I think overall it’s a pretty cool deal.”
Carlson said the main reason he bought the Pro Mod for this past season was because of the points fund. “I wasn’t a big fan of the crate motors, but I had a lot of fun running the Pro Mods this year.”
And even though he wasn’t enthralled with the actual outcome, Gurdak believes in the RUSH racing program. “I like the tires and shock packages with the Pro Mods,” said Gurdak, the winner of better than 200 career feature wins and a number of track titles.
Gurdak races both his RUSH Late Model and his Pro Mod at Stateline and plans to do it again for 2017. Now 58 years old, Scott started his career in 1975 racing a Spectator Stock.
“We’re all pretty much equal so that somebody doesn’t have to spend $5,000 on a shock package,” said Gurdak regarding the Pro Mods. “We also didn’t go through as much money for tires. I enjoy the class. There are five or six of us there at the end where anyone one of us could win. I know we have a few more cars coming next year. I just wish we could get the series to race at another track.”
Thirty-six year old Kelly Frederes has been racing since he was 20. His first car was a Spectator Stock car that he purchased for $1,500. Frederes finished third last year in the Sweeney Pro Mod Weekly Series points and feels the class is a great one to race.
“I like the class because of the inexpensive fuel, shocks, and tires,” said Frederes. “I hope they keep the rules the same and I will continue to race the class. “The Manufacturers Night and the super points fund are added bonuses to run in the RUSH Series.”
Jason Covey, who finished 4th in points, had this to day about the Series, “Special thanks go out to Vicki Emig and the RUSH Racing Series. It’s amazing what you do to give back and promote for all of our teams.”
Covey didn’t go away empty handed as he won a 3-gauge panel assembly and a $50 gift certificate courtesy of Quick Car Performance. Covey went onto say, “We all need to support the ones that are making this all possible-they’re a great group of promoters and businesses.”
“I think they do a nice job promoting for us and giving things back to the drivers and making it more affordable,” said Covey. “It was our first year in the class and I think it was a lot of fun.”
“With the shock and tires rules and the crate motors, it keeps everyone on a level playing field and makes it more important for the setup and the driver. I’m really looking forward to next season. For now, I am content with this class. It’s the best thing I have found in racing yet. We actually made money this year. The weekly pay was higher than the weekly costs to maintain the car and we actually had more than $1,000 left over.”
“Manufacturers Night” at Stateline Speedway was held on Saturday night, August 6at Stateline. Ten of the 12 Pro Mods were eligible for product giveaways for having the GM 604 or 602 Crate engine, the sealed RUSH Bilstein Bandits Shocks, and the RUSH 91 pump gas. Eight of those drivers then received two prize packages that started with a minimum value of $200.
Carlson not only won the Series title, but also won the $600 to-win special for the division and also received another $620 in products that included two Sherwood 8″ steel wheels and two spec Bilstein Shocks. Gurdak was the big winner as he took home four GM metric brake calipers and three bottles of brake fluid from TBM Brakes that was valued at $1,115. He also received a complete set of 4150 black FK Rod Ends worth another $500!
Dennis Asel, Jr. of Kane, Pa., won the MSD 6ALN Ignition Control, the MSD Blaster HVC Ignition coil and the MSD 8.5mm Super Spark Plug Wire Set valued at $630. Asel, Jr. also won a GM 602/604 tune-up package valued at $200 and compliments of 955 Automotive.
“I think it’s a good thing for the lower dollar racer,” said the 42 year-old Asel. “It makes guys more competitive who otherwise wouldn’t be. The majority of the drivers have respect for each other and there isn’t a lot of torn up equipment.”
Brian Mohawk, who finished ninth in the Sweeney Weekly points, won the third top prize which was a 48-piece Quick Crew apparel package valued at $600, compliments of Classic Ink and two Sherwood 8″ steel wheels valued at another $350.
The 18-year-old Mohawk finished second in Futures Cup points to Zach Johnson. Mohawk of Gowanda, New York is in his first year of college University of Northwestern Ohio where he is majoring in Automotive High Performance Technology.
“They have two E-Mod teams four Street Stock teams and race at places like Eldora. “I should know what I’m doing by the end of October, but I would like to do the motorsports thing so I can get my foot in the door for the future.”
“It was a good Series,” said Mohawk regarding the Pro Mods. “It was really competitive and close all year.”
Fourteen year old Zach Johnson, who is in ninth grade at SouthwesternHigh School in Lakewood, New York, really liked the Pro Mod Series.
“I liked the competition, the giveaways, and racing against other guys like Brian (Mohawk) and Kevin (Ruhlman), “said Johnson. “They are good competition. I hope I’ll be racing with them for a long time to come.”
Johnson, who also wrestles and plays football has goals for next season. “I would like to win a heat race and be in the top five in a feature,” Johnson said.
His dad, Greg Johnson, also a racer with the Open E-Mods had a tough season in 2016. After flipping a car at Stateline, he was able to get it back together, only to blow an engine on Thursday night. Two nights later, after putting in a new motor, he blew that one up as well at Stateline.
“I had more fun watching Zach race rather than me,” Greg laughed.
Zach’s car, which is owned by Greg, was put together with spare parts from his Modified. As for the Series, he said, “I’ve been racing for 25 years and I never saw anything like the giveaways that RUSH has. That helped us a lot.”
Watching his son progress throughout the season was special for Greg. “The first part of the year was a little scary for me to watch, but he adjusted well and by the end of the year he was doing well. He raced Go-Karts for a year and a half and then got right into the Pro Mod.”
Another Future Cup driver for 2017 will be 14-year-old Kevin Ruhlman, the son of Late Model and E-Mod driver, Chad Ruhlman of Bemus Point, New York.
“We are going to sign him up as a full-time member for next year,” said Chad. As for the Series overall, he said, “I think it’s a great series and a great starter class. I don’t know if it’s for the older generation to come down as much as it is for the younger kids to come up and use it as a stepping stone. As long as they are enforcing the rules, it’s a great thing.”
Chad will take off next year and concentrate on Kevin’s racing program and then get back into racing, possibly by 2018, once his son’s racing program is up and running.
Even though the 2016 is just ending, Series officials are already aware of more cars being prepared for the 2017 season. 52-year-old Chad Carlson of Lakewood, New York, already has his Pro Mod ready to go. “I’m so excited for next year I can’t wait, especially when you have a car ready to go. It’s lettered and ready to go.”
Living 10 minutes from Stateline was the first thing that enticed him to join the Series for next season. “I really like the tire and shock rules. Actually, I like everything about it.”
Carlson took a two-year hiatus from racing, so it makes 2017 something he is really looking forward to doing. “I tried to find other things but I don’t hunt, fish, or golf, so I figured this is what I was meant to do and I will continue to do it until I get too old.”
His 30-year-old business, Chad’s Ring and Pinion, is located in Jamestown, New York and is a specialty shop. “We specialize in front differentials and it is unique because it’s a one-day service. You bring your car in by 8 and it’s out the door by 5. I can’t wait for the winter to be over and go racing,” he added.
Scott Hollabaugh, owner of Rusted Nutz, in Garland, PA is expected to field one if not two cars in the division next year. He was the division’s sponsor at State Line.
Steve Houser hails from Westfield, New York will be another new Pro Mod competitor. Houser grew up watching his father Larry race at State Line in the spectator stocks years ago and then got behind the wheel himself racing at Lake Erie Speedway on the asphalt in both the crazy compacts then street stocks. With the closing of Lake Erie and ironically Houser’s neighbor having an E-mod type car for sale things have fallen into place for him to join the dirt car wars in a RUSH Pro Mod for 2017.
Dale Applebee was a car owner and parts supplier for the RUSH Series, but the car ownership changed when his driver, Jeramy Williams, was diagnosed with two fractured vertebrae at season’s end.
“The young man is a mess,” said Applebee. “He’s probably done for at least four to five years. The doctors told him to get rid of his snowmobiles, his four wheelers, his race car, and maybe even his riding lawn mower. Anything that has fun on it, he won’t be able to do.”
Even with the broken vertebrae, Williams was able to finish the season in fifth place for the Sweeney Weekly points. Once the season ended, Applebee sold the race car and now will concentrate on building race cars and selling parts and tires to both Stateline and Eriez Speedways. He says that building cars depends on the year and the money that people have. “I can do as many as 30 and as few as five.”
As for the Series, Applebee said, “I like the Series because it’s basically economics and affordable.”
Series director, Vicki Emig, was quick to thank the Scott family for helping develop the RUSH Pro Mod division at Stateline Speedway. Emig sees nothing but positives for the future of the Pro Mod Division. Through the support of the corporate marketing partners, the Pro Mod racers will share in over $22,500 of value in the first year of the program via the point fund and “Manufacturers Night”.
David Scott, son of Stateline owners Jim and Jean Scott, is a huge proponent of the RUSH Racing Series. Being a car owner as well as a driver, has given him the perspective on what the series can bring to support drivers from a financial aspect.
“The crate program with the tires and the motor puts everybody on the same playing field,” said Scott. “It still takes a complete package to win and money doesn’t win races, but it makes a difference and you need to have that complete package.”
As for the Pro Mod program, Scott said, “There ended up being 10 full-time legal RUSH Pro Mods at Stateline- that was a little smaller than we expected. The track had growing pains this year and it took most of the year to get the surface racy. Now that it is where it needs to be, I think that will help make our program better next year. It’s a good class with some pretty good races and they are fun to watch. Guys were racing each other good and not beating and banging each other. I really think this class is going to take off and be a pretty good class.”
The Pro Mods will definitely return to Stateline for the 2017 season and the goal is to get the division some additional events at other race tracks that don’t conflict with the Stateline schedule. Scott said he expects 15 to 18 cars in the Pro Mod division for next season. And with as many as five to seven new faces for 2017, things are definitely looking up for the Pro Mod Series.
One change for the upcoming season is that “open motor” Econo Mods who were eligible to compete in 2016, won’t be in 2017 as all cars who compete must have a GM 604 or 602 Crate engine, the sealed $135 RUSH Bilstein Bandits Shocks, and use the RUSH 91 pump fuel.
FINAL Sweeney RUSH Pro Mod Weekly Series Points (only member drivers received points):1. JUSTIN CARLSON (16) 1327 2. Scott Gurdak (5G) 1312 3. Kelly Frederes (33K) 1308 4. Jason Covey (67) 1291 5. Jeramy Williams 1248 6. Dennis Asel (0) & Bill Silvis 1221 8. Zach Johnson (05J) 1184 9. Brian Mohawk (20) 1182.
FINAL RUSH Pro Mod “Futures Cup” Points: 1. ZACH JOHNSON (05J) 1184 2. Brian Mohawk (20) 1182
Sweeney RUSH Pro Mod Weekly Series Point Fund ($15,050): 1. $3,500 2. $2,000 3. $1,200 4. $1,000 5. $900 6. $800 7. $700 8. $600 9. $500 10. $400 11. $390 12. $380 13. $370 14. $360 15. $350 16. $340 17. $330 18. $320 19. $310 20. $300.
“Futures Cup” Point Fund ($600): 1. $300 2. $200 3. $100.
Stateline Speedway RUSH Pro Mod Purse Payoff: 1. $450 2. $300 3. $250 4. $200 5. $150 6. $135 7. $125 8. $120 9. $115 10. $110 11-14. $100 15-16. $85 17-20. $80.
For more information, contact the RUSH office at 724-964-9300 or e-mail email@example.com. The RUSH Pro Mod website is www.rushpromods.com. Like the RUSH Pro Mods on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rushpromods and follow us on Twitter @RUSHProMods