By MIKE LEONE
Hartford, OH August 24, 2013 It was chamber of commerce weather Saturday as Sharon Speedway completed another “Steel Valley Thunder” program after a busy week of racing beginning Tuesday night with the successful fifth annual “Lou Blaney Memorial”.
Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane on YSU Night were Rex King, Jr.-Governor Insurance DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Will Thomas III-Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Joe Gabrielson-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Paul Davis-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Jeremy Double-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Travis Creech-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. A pair of bikes was given away to two lucky children thanks to King Bros. and Sharon Speedway.
After getting caught up in a bad heat race accident Tuesday night ending his night early, Ricky Richner looked like he was about to rebound in a big way on Saturday night in the 20-lap DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature, but Rex King, Jr. had other ideas. King, Jr. used a lapped car to his advantage to pass Richner at the checkered flag for his Governor Insurance Agency division-leading fourth of the season!
“Lapped traffic finally worked our way,” expressed the 23-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver. “He’s (Richner) a real good racer when the track slickens off. I was very fortunate how it played out. We had a good start and were in the right position and utilized it. That was a bad crash on Tuesday and I’m glad everyone walked away. I have to thank everyone that helps out and all of my sponsors. We’ve had a stellar year and I really appreciate everyone.”
Jim Rasey took off in the lead at the start of the event with Richner, King, and the father-son Weller duo in tow. Richner dove low in turn three and made the pass stick to lead lap two as the top three quickly pulled away. King drove under Rasey for second in turn two on lap four. The battle then was on for third with Rasey trying to hold off the Wellers. Weller, Jr. passed Rasey with an inside move in turn two for third before Rasey went up in smoke bringing out the event’s first and only caution with nine laps scored.
Back under green, Dave Murdick was on the move passing both Wellers to move into third at the halfway point. After Richner got away in the ensuing laps after the restart, King closed in on lap 14. The final five laps was a four-car race with Richner trying to hold off King, Murdick, and Weller, Jr. While King was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Richner, Murdick was the doing the same as one slight bobble by any of the top runners would prove costly.
Richner looked strong coming down for the white flag and got off turn two perfectly keeping his momentum up as he actually increased his lead; however, lapped traffic loomed ahead. Rick Ryder was running Richner’s line and just the slightest lift of the throttle by Richner allowed King, Jr. to make a move on the inside. It was a wild battle to the finish with King stealing a first career Sharon win away from Richner by just 0.085 of a second!
King’s seventh career win moved him ahead of his father for second in points as the elder King was still recovering from a second straight flip on Tuesday night and was not in action. The win came in the KMB, Inc.-owned, Jim Brown Seed Sales/Bristol Disposal/Cedar Steel/Professional Heating & Cooling/Reese Services/King Sanitary Service-sponsored #165.
Richner’s runner-up was his 10th top six finish this season, but was his best career Sharon finish for the New York “358” small-block standout. Murdick was third and was also able to overtake the elder King for third in points. Weller, Jr. edged out his son Weller III for fourth and leads the points by 44 heading into September. Completing the top 10 were Bob Warren, Rob Kristyak, Don Brown, Rick Regalski, Jr., and Carl Murdick. Both Wellers won the heat races.
Defending champion Will Thomas III kept pace with current point leader Dennis Lunger, Jr. matching him for his fourth win of the season and kept his faint championship hopes alive in the RUSH Late Models. Thomas put on one of the most dominating performances seen winning by nearly seven seconds over Lunger in the 20-lap Barris Supply feature.
“We were able to win the championship last year, but I’m kind of running out of time as we missed opening night,” acknowledged the 38-year-old Sharpsville, Pa. racer. “Dennis Lunger has had a really good year. This car is just a pleasure to drive. My guys do such a great job. Russ King gave me a different left rear shock to put on for the feature. I asked him what he thought and he said just run it. I said alright we’ll try it. I’d love to take the credit, but it’s all the people helping out that make this happen.”
Eric Wilson took off in the early lead from the pole position over Bob Diver, Rocky Kugel, Thomas, and sixth starting Lunger. Thomas moved past both Kugel and Diver for second on lap two, while Lunger grabbed fourth from Kugel. Thomas quickly closed on Wilson and was on the leader on lap three. Thomas peeked inside Wilson on the bottom of turn four on lap four just before the event’s first and only caution for a spin by Lon Emerick.
When racing resumed, the last 16 laps would go green-to-checkered. Thomas grabbed the lead using the outside to power ahead, while Lunger got past Diver for third. On lap six, Lunger put a slider on Wilson in turn four to take over second. At this point, Thomas had a two-second lead on Lunger. Lunger kept the deficit about the same until the halfway point when Thomas began to pull away.
The second half of the event saw Thomas increase his lead every single lap and by the time the checkered flag waved his margin of victory was 6.933 seconds in his Colonial Metal Products/Barris Supply/All Star Motorstate/Sweet Mfg. Quarter Master/King Sanitary-sponsored #9. With just two years experience now on dirt, Thomas has tied Mike Pegher, Jr. for the most career wins in the division at eight.
Wilson, the Sweeney RUSH Series “Futures Cup” point leader, faded to a distant third. Josh Double came from 10th to finish fourth over Diver. Heat winner Kugel was sixth as Ben Black, Jamie Wrightsman, Russ Byler, and Emerick completed the top 10.
Joe Gabrielson became the fifth different driver to repeat this season in the Modifieds as still no one has been able to win more than a pair of events in the ultra-competitive Summit Racing Equipment division. The second place point man topped a season high 27-car field.
“This one is for my dad,” expressed the 25-year-old Bristolville, Ohio racer. “His birthday would have been yesterday and I went to see him at his gravesite. I told him it was about time we win one of these damned things- we’ve been struggling for awhile and sure as shit we win! The old man always said if you can make it work on the outside you can make it work anywhere. I have to thank my mom and dad for getting me started in this. It’s a dream and I’m glad she let me keep doing this. I’m thankful for Sharon Speedway. Some of these guys haven’t been to other places and don’t realize how good we have it here.”
The 15-lap feature got off to an ugly start with a pair of cautions before a lap was scored followed by a hard hit by Andy Buckley into the turn one fence after Bruce Powell led the opening lap. Clayton Kennedy started fourth and was up to second for the restart. Kennedy took over the top spot from Powell driving inside and past the lead in turn four to lead the second circuit.
Gabrielson started in seventh and was up to fourth after one lap. He passed last week’s winner, Scott Stiffler, for third on lap two then overtook Powell with an identical move that Gabrielson did one lap earlier for second. Brock Moskey brought out the caution with four laps completed. When green replaced yellow, Gabrielson made what would be the winning move on Kennedy. Gabrielson would go on pretty uncontested taking his sixth career win by 2.701 seconds in the Deborah Gabrielson-owned, Awesome Signs & Shirts/Integra Racing Shocks/Reese Services/X-10 Pavement Sealing/Wedge Motorsports/Willy’s Carb & Dyno Shop-sponsored #58.
The battle for second was intense the final six laps as the position changed hands numerous times. Stiffler came out on top for runner-up barely edging out 21st starting Alan Dellinger. Point leader Mike Kinney came from eighth to finish fourth as he now leads Gabrielson by 44 points. Kennedy dropped to fifth. Completing the top 10 were 22nd starting Joel Watson, Powell, Shawn Shingledecker, Bob Diver, and Wayne Tessean. Heat winners Brian Douglas, Jonathan Taylor, and Dwayne Clay all had issues in the feature.
Like the Modifieds, the Stock Cars also turned out a season high car count and it was veteran Paul Davis ending a dry spell. After winning two of the season’s first four features, Davis had been shutout of victory lane since May 11. That changed Saturday night when the veteran came out on top in the 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency feature over the 23-car field.
“That’s the race track I kind of like,” said the 53-year-old Fowler, Ohio native. “I hated seeing a lot of guys crash out as I wanted to see how this car would run, but hey I’ll take it. I’ve had some bad luck lately. I’ve had like three flat tires in the last three races and none of them were my fault.
And also like the Modifieds, the Stock Car main got off to a rough start with a five-car accident on the opening lap then on the restart defending champion Tim Burns got upside down in turn one ending his title hopes. He was okay. When action calmed down, Rod Laskey was the leader but his lead didn’t last long as he slowed on lap two and exited the event.
Jamie Duncan was the new leader with fifth starting Davis up to second. Davis made the winning pass of Duncan in turn two on lap four. Three cautions slowed action between laps six and eight. Finally the second half of the race went green-to-checkered. Despite getting passed, Duncan stayed right with Davis over the final seven laps, but would come up just 0.617 of a second shy to Davis’ 10th career win in his Advance Auto Parts/Hover Racing/Don Williams Excavating/GSM Enterprises/Tub’s Automotive-sponsored #3.
Bruce Redman was third. Bob McCann, who came back from an early race accident and pitting to finish fourth. Brent Coleman completed the top five after starting 12th. Heat victors were Davis, Redman, and point leader Mike Clark.
Jeremy Double came out on top of a caution-filled 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mod feature for his track-leading seventh win of the season. “The cautions are hard after we’ve lost a couple races because of them,” acknowledged the 17-year-old Bristolville, Ohio winner. “Cautions make it nerve-wracking. There was plenty of bite on the bottom. The top was still decent tonight. You could run pretty much top to bottom, anywhere- it was pretty good. I didn’t think we’d be this far with wins this year. I was hoping for maybe six.”
Alan Atkinson led the first three laps of the event, but slammed the turn two fence on lap four yielding the lead to Rusty Wheeler with seventh starting Double up to second. Double took the lead away from Wheeler when racing resumed and pulled away on lap five. Twelve-year-old phenom Jacob Eucker was on the move from his eighth starting spot. Eucker passed Jason Longwell for third on lap seven then drove to the inside and past Wheeler for second on lap nine.
By the time Eucker got to second, Double had a near five-second lead built up. Eucker got what he needed as four cautions slowed action in the final five laps. On two occasions this year, Eucker was able to steal wins away from Double on restarts, but not on this night as Double was too strong in his Cortland Auto Repair/Wedge Motorsports/Thomas Heating & Cooling/King Bros./Russ King Racing-sponsored #83 for his ninth career win.
Eucker was second over 14th starting Ryan Fraley, who now trails Double by 21 in the championship chase. Steve Haefke was a season best fourth over Wheeler, who dropped to fifth. Heat winners were Jamie Scharba, Tim Deutsch, and Jason Longwell over the 23-car field.
Travis Creech continued his impressive rookie season winning his fifth in the Mini Stocks. Creech battled it out with point leader Scott Gilliland then held off the division’s all-time winning driver in Bill Fuchs for the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts win. “I’ve been having a blast- this has been nothing but fun,” expressed the 25-year-old Niles, Ohio resident. “I never thought I’d be in a championship chase let alone have a win. This car is fast. I love it. I lost brakes on lap three that’s why I had to get up in the loose stuff to slow it down.”
A heads up start put heat winner Creech on the pole and he took off in the lead with Gilliland tailing. Last week’s winner, Jim Haefke, Jr., and Fuchs were both able to pass rookie Pat Drennan on lap two for third and fourth respectively. The event’s only caution was for Jeff Little with six laps scored.
When racing resumed, Gilliland took over the top spot, while Fuchs moved past Haefke for third. Gilliland’s lead would only last a lap as Creech regained the lead on lap eight. Creech’s win was his first since June 22 in his May’s Towing/Elite Coleman Sales/JLB Trucking-sponsored #75T and closed to within seven points of Gilliland. Fuchs and Haefke both were able to get past Gilliland on lap 10 to finish second and third respectively. Gilliland dropped to fourth over Drennan.
Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. REX KING, JR. (165) 2. Ricky Richner (26) 3. Dave Murdick (61) 4. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 5. Jimmy Weller III (23) 6. Bob Warren (96B) 7. Rob Kristyak (00) 8. Don Brown (71B) 9. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 10. Carl Murdick (6) 11. Rick Ryder (Snider 189) 12. Tom Glenn (83T) 13. Jim Rasey (32) 14. Dave Reges (27R)-DNS.
Barris Supply RUSH Late Models (20 laps): 1. WILL THOMAS III (9) 2. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Schwartz 71L) 3. Eric Wilson (27W) 4. Josh Double (38) 5. Bob Diver (23) 6. Rocky Kugel (21KRT) 7. Ben Black (27B) 8. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 9. Russ Byler (Hoover 00H) 10. Lon Emerick (3).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (15 laps): 1. JOE GABRIELSON (58) 2. Scott Stiffler (14) 3. Alan Dellinger (White 53) 4. Mike Kinney (3) 5. Clayton Kennedy (9) 6. Joel Watson (92) 7. Bruce Powell (35) 8. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 9. Bob Diver (23) 10. Wayne Tessean (10) 11. Rocky Kugel (Beck 357) 12. Brock Moskey (3M) 13. Arlan Coy (56) 14. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 15. Trevor Herr (32) 16. Bob Moskey (33) 17. Brian Douglas (214) 18. Rick Robinson (34R) 19. Andy Buckley (965) 20. Dwayne Clay (007) 21. Wayne Brugmann (79) 22. Jonathan Taylor (5) 23. Gary Sullivan (47s)-DNS 24. Jeff Johnson (27)-DNS 25. Mike Monreal (71M)-DNS 26. Bob Williamson (93)-DNS 27. Evan Taylor (7)-DNS.
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. PAUL DAVIS (3) 2. Jamie Duncan (67J) 3. Bruce Redman (27) 4. Bob McCann (Fornataro USA1) 5. Brent Coleman (01) 6. Jeff Buccella (Davis 915) 7. Ron Yarab, Jr. (Burns 70B) 8. Jason Stanke (44) 9. Tony Bruno (97) 10. Ron Kennedy (43) 11. Charlie Jasinski (5J) 12. Mike Clark (7) 13. Gary Robinson (44R) 14. Brian Carothers (02c) 15. Jamie Gibbs (98) 16. Jesse Brock (22B) 17. Bryan Wagner (56) 18. Mike Kerr (25K) 19. Rod Laskey (1R) 20. Tim Burns (66)-DSQ (unsportsmanlike conduct) 21. Brett McCarthy (33)-DNS 22. Mark Hopkins (69H)-DNS 23. Randy Miller (46M)-DNS.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. JEREMY DOUBLE (83) 2. Jacob Eucker (64) 3. Ryan Fraley (12) 4. Steve Haefke (41) 5. Rusty Wheeler (6) 6. Larry Root (22x) 7. Ty Rhoades (12R) 8. Jamie Scharba (Petsko 00s) 9. Kevin Robinson (24R) 10. Derek Dellinger (19) 11. Jason Longwell (7S) 12. Pat Adams (39) 13. Brian Lacey (51) 14. Tim Deutsch (8) 15. Jodi Woodworth, Jr. (07) 16. Jason Stanke (44) 17. Keith Felicetty (98) 18. Junior Mechling (89) 19. Adam Babcock (67) 20. George Vestal IV (4) 21. Alan Atkinson (30Too) 22. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 23. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR)-DNS.
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. TRAVIS CREECH (75T) 2. Bill Fuchs (10) 3. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 4. Scott Gilliland (27) 5. Pat Drennan (24) 6. Jake Monreal (32M) 7. Geof Pinch (36) 8. Jeff Little (42) 9. Christi Brugmann (19)-DNS.
There will no racing over Labor Day Weekend; racing returns on Saturday, September 7 for another six-division “Steel Valley Thunder” program at 7 p.m.
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.