FRANKLIN, PA – A three-day event closed out the 2020 racing season at the Tri-City Raceway Park, with the Sunday, September 19th finale awarding huge paychecks to the winners in seven races for seven different divisions of race cars. A first time winner collected a $5,000 paycheck in the “Applefest Race Weekend” feature event for Shawgo Real Estate Sprint Cars, presented by Krill Recycling. Darin Gallagher earned his first career victory, at the top-level Sprint Car racing. In other action, New York resident Erik Rudolph won both the Big Block-engine Modifieds’ 30-lap feature race, and the Small Block-engine Modifieds’ feature race, taking a total of $8,000 back the Empire State. The Hovis Auto and Truck Supply Pro-Stock cars battled for 50 laps, with Chris Schneider earning another Tri-City win. The RUSH non-wing Sprint Cars competed in the Bruce Smith Construction 20-lap feature race, with Zach Morrow claiming the victory. The Crate-engine Modifieds’ 20-lap feature race was dominated by Jeff Schaffer, Jr., who was racing for the first time in two years. Pat Hanlon, II finished off a tough luck season with a big win the 4-Your-Car-Connection Mini Stock division of racing.
The Shawgo Real Estate Sprint Cars’ 30 lap race was led early on by pole position starter Jack Sodeman, Jr. Sodeman was carrying a six point advantage in the year-long point standings into the final race of the year. Sodeman, seeking a first Tri-City victory of the season, was leading the race over recent winner A.J. Flick. Darin Gallagher was holding the third position, as championship contender Brandon Spithaler was advancing through the field, after starting in seventh spot. Spithaler, second in the point standings to Sodeman, needed to finish four positions higher than Sodeman to tie for the Championship. But on lap nine, two-time winner Spithaler spun in turn one, while racing in second position to Sodeman. Spithaler had to restart from the tail of the field, as Sodeman remained in the top spot. On the restart, Gallagher darted from third place into the lead, with an impressive low-groove “slide job” pass in turn two. As Sodeman was falling back in the field, Spithaler was again marching toward the front. Spithaler climbed back into the top five, passing Sodeman among others. At one point in the race, Spithaler was ahead of Sodeman by just enough positions to earn the title. But, at the conclusion, Spithaler placed fifth, and Sodeman clinched the Championship with a seventh place finish. The title is Sodeman’s tenth-career track championship, but his first at Tri-City. In the closing laps, race leader Gallagher was challenged by Dan Shetler, repeatedly. Shetler, a former Sharon Speedway Champion, started in fourth place and caught, then passed Gallagher on lap 25. After a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle for multiple laps, Gallagher re-claimed the lead with three laps remaining. Gallagher, a successful 305 Sprint Car division winner and Champion, moved up to (top level) 410 Sprint Car racing last year. After his Applefest preliminary heat race victory the night before, Gallagher started in third place and finished first, claiming the largest paycheck of the year, for his first-ever Sprint Car feature victory. Shetler crossed the finish line just four-tenths-of-a-second behind the young winner. Flick, two-time 2020 winner Carl Bowser, and Spithaler completed the top five in the official finish order. Gallagher was overcome with emotion, while standing next to his family-owned, Texas Roadhouse/Kozminski Auto Body/Shaner Automotive #12 car.
A pair of Champion New York racers started the 30-lap Big Block Modified division feature race, from the front row. Chad Brachman, a top five finisher in the previous Big Block Mod event at Tri-City last month, surrendered the lead from his pole position starting spot, on lap one. His front-row starting mate Erik Rudolph became the leader. Rudolph then opened up a comfortable margin over the rest of the field. Early in the event, a red flag incident between two of the biggest winners in the region shuffled the top five in the order. Ohio’s Rex King, Sr. and home track favorite Jeremiah Shingledecker made side-by-side contact, causing Shingledecker to slide into the infield and flip onto his roof. Shingledecker was uninjured but was eliminated from the third place battle with King. Jim Rasey, of Southington, Ohio, was the winner of the only other Modified race this season at Tri-City, and he started in seventh place for the 2020 finale. Rasey climbed into a “podium position,” but then spun in turn four on the final lap. When the checkered flag waved, Rudolph scored his second win at Tri-City this season; his first victory of the year was in a Small Block Modified, however. Rudolph, one of the biggest winners in Northeastern United States each year, pocketed $4,000 for the Big Block Modified triumph. Brachman finished second, after slipping back in the order on multiple restarts. Garrett Krummert made an early race pit stop, and rallied from the back of the pack to place third, as the only Pennsylvanian in the top five. Rex King, Jr. started in 15th position, made a pit stop to change his right rear tire, yet still finished in fourth place. Rex King, Sr. powered from the tail of the field, to claim fifth spot.
The 358-cubic-inch-engined Small Block Modified feature race was a 25-lap contest, with Rex King, Jr. starting from the pole position. A previous winner in 2020, Greg Martin, started in second place but before a lap was completed, Erik Rudolph grabbed the lead after starting third. Just as he did in the Big Block Modified race, Rudolph ran away from all challengers. In spite of multiple restarts, Rudolph never surrendered the top spot. Ryan Susice started the race in ninth place, and climbed into second place, passing fellow New Yorkers Chad Brachmann and Martin among others. Jeremiah Shingledecker, a former Small Block Mod Champion at Tri-City started the race in eighth position. On the final lap, Shingledecker passed Susice for the runner up spot, but it was a distant second to Rudolph. At the conclusion the official top five finishers were: Rudolph, Shingledecker – representing the Keystone State, Susice, Ohio’s King, Jr. and Martin. Rudolph took another $4,000 back to New York, compiling three wins at Tri-City this year; two Small Block wins and a Big Block victory, sweeping both divisions on the same night of Applefest weekend. Kyle Fink was crowned 2020 Tri-City Small Block Modified Champion. Fink, who won the season opening race , and remained consistent all year long, joins his father on the list of Tri-City Champions. Kyle’s dad, Brian, was a Big Block Mod Champion in the 1990’s.
The longest distance event on Applefest Weekend was the 50-lap feature race for the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Pro Stock division race cars. Noah Brunell, a second generation driver, won the Saturday preliminary heat race and a special “dash” race, before starting Sunday’s big event from the pole position. Brunell led the early stages of the race, after winning a Pro-Stock special event just over a month ago at Tri-City. On a mid-race restart, Chris Schneider powered around Brunell into the lead. Brunell began to drop back, as Jackson Humanic advanced into a top five position. Humanic started the race in 25th spot. Eleventh place starter, Bobby Whitling climbed into second spot at his home track, and held the runner-up position for several laps. Schneider was briefly challenged by Whitling, but never lost the lead. Randy Wyant made a late race surge, and grabbed second place after starting in ninth place. At the end of the extra-distance event, Schneider claimed the big paycheck, with Wyant placing second, after a brief side-by-side threat to Schneider’s lead. Whitling was the third place finisher, while Jimmy Fosnaught placed fourth. Humanic held on to fifth place at the finish.
Bruce Smith Construction, of Franklin, PA sponsored the 20-lap feature race for the Pace Performance RUSH non-wing Sprint Cars.
The RUSH drivers were competing for Equipment Rental Options weekly series points. The race was completed without a caution flag, as Zach Morrow started from the pole position and grabbed the lead. Veteran Steve Pedley challenged Morrow early on – both drivers have been winners in 2020 at other tracks. Shawn Smith soon passed Pedley for second place. At times, Smith clocked lap times slightly faster than leader Morrow. Jeremy Weaver, the series points leader, took the green flag in seventh place and climbed into third position late in the race. When the event concluded the top five finishers were: Morrow, the series’ master of large tracks like Tri-City; Smith, a home track favorite; young Weaver; Pedley, and many time previous winner Gale Ruth, Jr.
The Crate-Engine Modifieds’ 20-lap feature race was dominated by a Champion driver who had “hung up the helmet,” not actively racing in the two years prior. Former Big Block Modified Champion Jeff Schaffer, Sr. drove a Jerry Schaffer-owned Crate Modified into the lead after starting outside of row one. Quickly, Schaffer’s teammate Garrett Krummert became the runner up. Even with multiple restart opportunities, Krummert never led a lap, and could not seriously challenge the un-retired Schaffer. The top five finishers were: Schaffer, Sr; double-duty driver Krummert; Kyle Martell, Kole Holden, and second generation racer D.J. Schrader.
The 4-Your-Car-Connection Mini Stocks’ 15-lap feature race began with 2020 dominator Dillon Speer on the pole position. Speer grabbed the lead and was soon challenged by fellow heat race winner Bill Fuchs. In a three-wide battle for top positions, multi-car contact send Fuchs hard into the outside wall, causing a red flag stoppage. All drivers were uninjured. When the race resumed, Speer’s challenger was Pat Hanlon, II. On a mid-race restart, Speer’s car would not shift and Hanlon grabbed the lead. In spite making a pit stop, Speer earned the 2020 Tri-City Championship. Hanlon went on to take home the largest paycheck of the season, turning around a year of on-track misfortunes. Remarkably, Hanlon started the race in 23rd position! The top five finishers were: Hanlon, Tri-City regular J.R. Shaner, Austin Fedder, Patrick Lane, and Justin Bailey.
Under the new ownership of Merle Black, the resurrected Tri-City Raceway Park had a successful 2020 racing season, after a late start due to pandemic restrictions. Plans are already underway for the 2021 season of “Sunday Thunder” dirt track racing action.