By MIKE LEONE
EDINBURG, PA – While the 2017 racing season is only a few months away, Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series Directors Vicki Emig and Mike Leone put a final wrap on the 2016 racing season with the annual awards banquet and dinner on Saturday night at the Gatherings Banquet & Event Center in Edinburg, Pa. Spring like conditions in the 60s prevailed as a record number of attendees filled the beautiful banquet hall as over $115,000 in cash and thousands in contingencies were distributed to Sweeney RUSH Late Model, Sportsman Modified, Pro Mod, and Pro Stock racers.
The Sweeney RUSH Late Models scheduled events at 22 different speedways in 2016 with over 350 different racers participating in either a weekly-sanctioned and/or touring series event! Year three for the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified season saw six different speedways hold events with a record 43 different drivers competing in 36 different cars with a record turnout of 29 cars at the season ending “Steel City Stampede”. The Sweeney Pro Stocks continued in year two of their Weekly Series, while the new Sweeney Pro Mods debuted with weekly competition at Stateline.
Crowned 2016 Late Model champions were John Waters-Sweeney Touring Series, Max Blair-Sweeney Weekly Series and Pace “Summer Chase”, Kris Eaton-“Bilstein Bandits”, Wyatt Scott-“Futures Cup”, and Greg Beach-Wheelman Bonus Event Challenge Series. In the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, it was Brian Schaffer-Bicknell Racing Products Weekly & Touring Series and Kyle Martell-Bicknell “Futures Cup”. Corey McPherson captured the Sweeney Pro Stock title. Justin Carlson won the inaugural Sweeney Pro Mod Weekly Series crown, while Zach Johnson earned the “Futures Cup”. All of the champions received their point fund monies, laser etched championship marble awards, inscribed RUSH championship leather jackets, and Hoosier championship jackets
For the first time in his career, John Waters is a RUSH Champion. After waging a battle with good friend and fellow New Yorker Bryce Davis throughout the season, the Whitesville, NY driver would earn the $5,000 Sweeney Tour championship by just seven points. Waters started the year off red hot winning the opening two events at Humberstone and Merrittville Speedway, added another win at Expo Speedway, and ended the season with just one finish outside the top 10. Waters ironically tied for sixth with Davis in Sweeney Weekly Series. Overall, Waters earned $6,350 in RUSH point fund monies to Davis’ $4,900. Waters also received a special marble award inscribed for his amazing accomplishment of winning four of the last five Touring Series events in Canada including three straight at Humberstone!
Max Blair left Saturday’s banquet as RUSH’s top point fund earner once again by garnering $8,150- much in part from his third Sweeney Weekly Series Championship ($5,000) in four years and his second Pace Summer Chase title ($3,000). The Centerville, Pa. 27-year-old focused more on Super Late Model racing in 2016 rather than following the Sweeney Tour, but did win in both starts in addition to his father Rob winning in his car.
The third top earner was Kris Eaton at $5,700. The Winchester, Virginia racer won year two of the “Bilstein Bandits” program for the $5,000 paycheck. Eaton won twice at newly-sanctioned Path Valley Speedway Park and added a win at his home track, Winchester, but impressively recorded 22 top 10 finishes in 24 starts. Eaton won’t look to defend his title as he plans to get his daughter started in go-kart racing.
Third generation racer Wyatt Scott became the latest to enshrine his name as a “Futures Cup” Champion. The recently-turned 18-year-old won two feature events at his home track, Stateline, which is owned by grandparents, and ended the year with seven top 5s and 24 top 10s in 33 races. Scott earned $1,000 joining past champs Ryan Montgomery, Nico Dabecco, Michael Lake, Eric Wilson, and Clinton Hersh.
Greg Beach ended Tony White’s run at two consecutive “Wheelman” Bonus Event Challenge Series titles. The Chicora, Pa. driver won the non-qualifier at Lernerville, the track he grew up racing Stocks at, and had two other top 5s. Beach received $200 cash and $200 in K&N gift cards in addition to his championship jacket and hardware.
The top five in RUSH member points at each RUSH Late Model weekly-sanctioned track shared in $800 cash ($300,200,100,50) with positions six through eight receiving contingencies that will be mailed out as part of the new “Track Pack” Weekly Bonus Program.
Brian Schaffer had a stellar first season competing in the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds joining his cousin Will and uncle Jerry Schaffer in competition. The Boyers, Pa. driver competed in all 27 events and finished the year with only two finishes outside the top 10! He won twice at Sharon and once each at Lernerville and Thunder Mountain, which propelled him to the $3,000 Bicknell Weekly Series championship. Though he failed to win a Bicknell Tour event, his consistency led him to the $800 title beating Chas Wolbert by a mere three points.
Second year RUSH racer Kyle Martell had a tremendous season. The 16-year-old Rootstown, Ohio driver finished in the top five 17 times including at least one at all six tracks the RUSH Sportsman Mods raced at. His first career win came at Sharon on June 18 that started a strong of an impressive seven straight top four finishes. Martell finished in the top five in all three of the Bicknell RUSH Sportsman Modified point funds including the “Futures Cup” title, a tie for third in Weekly, and fourth in Touring. All six “Futures Cup” racers were in attendance at the banquet that also included Jeremy Weaver, 12-year-old Blaze Myers, Preston Cope, Amelia Clay, and Jacob Jordan. Fourteen-year-old David Kalb, Jr., who took in the banquet, will be a new racer becoming part of the 2017 “Futures Cup”.
Justin Carlson will go down in the history books as the inaugural champion of the Sweeney RUSH Pro Mods. The Sherman, New York veteran E-Mod racer was attracted to the affordable class due to the point fund that he capitalized on taking the $3,500 Weekly Series crown by winning eight features. During the homestretch he failed to finish worse than third after July 2 including a run of four straight wins! Carlson beat out veteran Scott Gurdak, who won the Stateline track championship, by 15 points. Gurdak did double duty and also collected point fund monies from the RUSH Late Models. Fourteen-year-old Zach Johnson of Busti, NY finished eighth in Weekly Series points, but more importantly captured the first ever “Futures Cup” honors and earned $300.
After finishing runner-up to inaugural Canadian champion Justin Ramsay in 2015, Corey McPherson left little doubt about his $1,000 Sweeney RUSH Pro Stock Championship. The Tarentum, Pa. driver won seven features at Lernerville and after a season worst sixth on April 23, McPherson rattled off 16 straight top five finishes in route to his fourth track championship in five years.
The highlight of the program was the special awards ceremony. The Series’ major sponsor, Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC/Pace Performance, was recognized with a special appreciation plaque for their continued support of the Series as was Bicknell Racing Products for their second year presenting the Touring, Weekly, and “Futures Cup” programs in the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds.
The new “Legacy” Award was started to honor historical significance as RUSH directors Vicki Emig and Mike Leone have completed their 10th year of directing crate engine racing in the Northeast. The inaugural award winners were the former promoters of Raceway 7 (Ron Nielson) and McKean County Raceway (Rich Yeager, Ken Leet, Tom Gleason & Rod Biehler) as they were two of the first four tracks to commit to running Crate Late Models in the 2007 season.
Tony White was presented the prestigious Gary Knollinger Memorial “Golden Award”. The Aliquippa, Pa. driver reminded Series Officials much like the Knollinger Family with the late Gary, Jr. White completed his first season Touring finishing ninth in points and did it much like Knollinger did- with a limited crew featuring just his father and wife, and in a quiet and unassuming way.
The “Majestic” was awarded to RUSH’s pit steward and point keeper, Rich Yeager. The Little Valley, NY resident was coming off his run at promoting McKean County Raceway and joined the staff in 2013. His duties have increased becoming point keeper in 2014 and that task has grown year with the addition of new divisions and championship programs.
The “Car Owner of the Year” Award was won by Dale LeBarron. The Troupsburg, NY resident rarely attended those races run by his driver John Waters as he was back home working, but gave Waters everything he needed to have a tremendous season highlighted by the Sweeney RUSH Late Model Touring Series Championship along with several other wins and accomplishments. LeBarron joked, “If you need a tax deduction, hire John Waters!”
Chelsie Kriegisch was awarded the “Outstanding Achievement”. The Ellwood City, Pa. former go-kart racer completed her second full season behind the wheel of a full size car and made history in several facets on July 13. She became the first female winner in the 46-year history of Expo Speedway; the first female to win a Crate Touring Series event in the 10-year history of the Northeast; and the first female to win a RUSH Sportsman Modified feature!
The “Miles Traveled” Award was given to driver Dave Lyon and his uncle and car owner, Gary Lyon. The Spring Creek, Pa. duo ran more RUSH-sanctioned races (43) than any driver in the four divisions. Not only did they race a lot, they traveled to do it as they completed their first season of following the RUSH Late Model Tour. They were also successful winning a weekly race at Stateline and recorded 20 top 5 finishes.
Steve Damon of Steve’s Auto & Truck Repair was awarded the second annual Bill Hendren Memorial RUSH Engine “Rebuilder of the Year”. The Little Valley, NY businessman has been part of crate engine rebuilding since the inception and has been a strong supporter of RUSH.
Top racers from the K&N “Air Induction” Dash Championship in both the RUSH Late Models and Sportsman Modifieds received K&N gift cards. Champions were Bryce Davis in the Late Models and Josh Seippel in the Sportsman Mods. Dash points were kept at all tour events.
Velocita-USA provided $100 gift cards to every “Futures Cup” racer in all four divisions. A 50% off gift card for a custom driver’s suit drawing was for all RUSH Pro Mod members, and the lucky recipient was Scott Gurdak.
RUSH Series announcer, Brian Spaid, emceed the affair and also previewed the upcoming 2017 season. The Touring Series schedules for both the Late Models and Sportsman Modifieds will be released on Monday night (January 23). While no Touring Series programs will be held for the Pro Mods or Pro Stocks, the Pro Mods will see weekly competition added at Bradford Speedway on Sunday nights and special events at McKean County Raceway, while Lernerville Speedway becomes the first track to fully sanction their Pro Stock division under RUSH. John and Christine Stivason photographed the event and the photo link will be posted as soon as it’s available.
2016 Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series Top 12 Driver Points: 1. John Waters 1052 2. Bryce Davis 1045 3. Jason Knowles 979 4. Brian Knowles 959 5. Dave Lyon 957 6. Will Thomas III 948 7. Bruce Hordusky, Jr. 903 8. Alan Dellinger 869 9. Tony White 780 10. Eric Wilson 771 11. Mike Pegher, Jr. 742 12. Clinton Hersh 690.
2016 Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Weekly Series Top 40 Points: 1. Max Blair 1341 2. Damian Bidwell 1332 3. Logan Roberson 1328 4. Dennis Lunger, Jr. 1319 5. Darrell Bossard 1317 6. Bryce Davis & John Waters 1316 8. Jason Genco 1314 9. Dave Lyon 1310 10. Chris Fleming & Rob Pietz 1298 12. Darin Henderson 1297 13. Kris Eaton 1294 14. Brad Mesler 1293 15. Andy Boozel & Mike Pegher, Jr. 1286 17. Brad McGinnis 1285 18. Kevan Cook 1282 19. Eric Wilson 1279 20. John Imler 1278 21. Jason Knowles 1276 22. Daryl Charlier 1275 23. Charlie Duncan 1271 24. Jeff Dayman 1269 25. Matt Latta 1266 26. Alan Dellinger & Brandon Ford 1265 28. Bruce Hordusky, Jr. & Justin Lamb 1264 30. Wyatt Scott 1262 31. Brian Knowles 1259 32. Mike Franklin 1251 33. Randy Hall 1249 34. Steve Lowery 1246 35. Tim Snare 1243 36. Kyle Zimmerman 1241 37. Jimmy Johnson, Jr. 1238 38. Scott Gurdak 1237 39. Timmy Booth 1234 40. Jennae Piper 1230.
2016 Pace Performance “Summer Chase” Late Model Top 10 Points: 1. Max Blair 110.67 2. Darrell Bossard 110.00 3. Dennis Lunger, Jr. 108.36 4. Brad McGinnis 108 5. Chris Fleming 106.89 6. Bryce Davis 106.57 7. Rob Pietz 106.36 8. Damian Bidwell 106.06 9. Logan Roberson 105.17 10. Daryl Charlier 104.75.
2016 “Bilstein Bandits” Late Model Points: 1. Kris Eaton 1294 2. Alan Dellinger 1265 3. Justin Lamb 1264 4. Mike Franklin 1246 5. Joe Chamberlain 1229 6. Randy Ralyea 1173 7. Jared Kane 1106 8. Tony White 1103 9. Megan Mann 964 10. W.L. Stile 642 11. Jim Nicely 395 12. Charlie Sandercock 386 13. Bobby Pifer III 285 14. Chuck Recker 177.
2016 Late Model “Futures Cup” Points: 1. Wyatt Scott 1262 2. Hunter Hulley 1105 3. Megan Mann 864.
2016 K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash Late Model Champion: Bryce Davis
2016 “Wheelman” Bonus Event Challenge Series Late Model Champion: Greg Beach
2016 Bicknell Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified Weekly Series Top 15 Points: 1. Brian Schaffer 1318 2. Nick Ritchey 1301 3. Kyle Martell & Chas Wolbert 1299 5. Kole Holden 1294 6. Brandon Ritchey 1282 7. Chelsie Kriegisch 1278 8. Rocky Kugel 1263 9. Jeremy Weaver 1254 10. Jerry Schaffer 1247 11. Josh Deems 1235 12. Tiffany Williams 1205 13. Justin Shea 1195 14. Steve Slater 1189 15. Michael Sparks 1162.
2016 Bicknell Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified Touring Series Top 10 Driver Points: 1. Brian Schaffer 539 2. Chas Wolbert 536 3. Kole Holden 529 4. Kyle Martell 527 5. Brandon Ritchey & Jeremy Weaver 510 7. Tiffany Williams 507 8. Chelsie Kriegisch 504 9. Steve Slater 477 10. Michael Sparks 466.
2016 Bicknell Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified “Futures Cup” Points: 1. Kyle Martell 1299 2. Jeremy Weaver 1254 3. Blaze Myers 1101 4. Preston Cope 1085 5. Amelia Clay 1080 6. Jacob Jordan 1009.
2016 K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash RUSH Sportsman Modified Champion: Josh Seippel
2016 Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Pro Mod Weekly Series Points: 1. Justin Carlson 1327 2. Scott Gurdak 1312 3. Kelly Frederes 1308 4. Jason Covey 1291 5. Jeramy Williams 1248 6. Dennis Asel & Bill Silvis 1221 8. Zach Johnson 1184 9. Brian Mohawk 1182.
2016 RUSH Pro Mod “Futures Cup” Points: 1. Zach Johnson 1184 2. Brian Mohawk 1182.
2016 Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Pro Stock Weekly Series Points: 1. Corey McPherson 1332 2. Joey Zambotti 1296 3. Aaron Easler 1280 4. Terry Young 1278 5. Bob Egley 1272 6. Joe Kelley 1245 7. Jim Fosnaught 1242 8. Brett McDonald 1206 9. Brandon Wearing 1189 10. Jeff Miller 1188 11. Steve D’Apolito 1186 12. Scott Byers 1167 13. Noah Brunell 1159 14. Sadie Siegel 1134 15. Dave McManus 91.
Special Award Winners:
“Legacy”: Raceway 7 (Ron Nielson) & McKean County Raceway (Rich Yeager, Ken Leet, Tom Gleason & Rod Biehler)
Gary Knollinger Memorial “Golden Award”: Tony White
“Majestic”: Rich Yeager
“Car Owner of the Year”: Dale LeBarron
“Outstanding Achievement”: Chelsie Kriegisch
“Miles Traveled” Special Appreciation: Gary & Dave Lyons
Bill Hendren Memorial “Engine Rebuilder of the Year”: Steve’s Auto & Truck Repair
2016 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, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Beyea Headers, FK Rod Ends, Bobby Lake Motorsports, Velocita-USA, High Gear Speed Shop, CrateInsider.com, B.R.A.K.E.S., RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
2016 RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners: Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Bicknell Racing Products, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, MSD Ignition, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, VP Racing Fuels, FK Rod Ends, Sherwood Racing Wheels, Velocita-USA, Precise Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, K&N Filters, TBM Brakes, Lincoln Electric, CrateInsider.com, Rocket Racing, and B.R.A.K.E.S.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.