By MIKE LEONE
ERIE, PA – The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series powered by Pace Performance returned to action on Sunday for the first of two appearances at Kathy Rohrer’s Eriez Speedway located just outside of Erie, Pa. in Hammett. Race #6 of the 2018 season was a rescheduled event from the May 20 rain out. Eriez was miraculously able to complete the program despite all day rains just south and west of the speedway. The track only received very light showers throughout the day even though it sprinkled and drizzled throughout the entire night. The result was an excellent racey surface and provided great racing for the fans.
Max Blair opened the 2018 Sweeney Touring Series season winning night one of the “Battle of the Bay” Speedweek presented by Pancho’s Racing Products back on April 18 at Delaware International Speedway. On Sunday, Blair emerged victorious after a spirited side-by-side battle with Jeremy Wonderling that lasted for 12 laps before getting by for good on lap 21 to earn the $2,000 victory. Max has now won five of the six Sweeney Tour events held at Eriez in the past four seasons with his father Rob winning the other in a substitution role in 2016!
“That was a lot of fun racing with Jeremy- that’s how you should be able to race with someone,” described the 28-year-old Centerville, Pa. driver, who would then go on to win the Super Late Model feature. “We gave each other a lot of room. We caught that lapped car and I knew that was my best shot to get back by him. He was real good so I’m not sure if we would have gotten back by him otherwise. The race track is awesome. I can’t believe how nice it is with the weather we’ve had. I should have learned by lesson from the dash. I race here every week, but the track is a little different than it normally is. Tonight it seemed like the top is where you wanted to be at least in these crate cars.”
Jason Knowles earned the pole position for the 30-lap feature after passing Blair to win the dash, but it was Blair using the top this time to take the early lead with Knowles, Wonderling, John Waters, and Darrell Bossard in tow. Blair began to open up his lead on lap on lap four, while Wonderling was trying to fend off Waters in the battle for third. A caution for a spin by Andy Proper slowed action with six laps completed.
When racing resumed, Wonderling dove under Knowles to take second. Once again, Blair began to stretch out his lead by lap nine, while Waters went to work on Knowles before the events second caution when Khole Wanzer, Bill Kessler, and Proper tangled. Proper, who was making his Sweeney Tour debut, would be credited with last place and awarded the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”.
When green replaced yellow on lap 10, Wonderling powered around the cushion to take over the top spot. The two then engaged in a side-by-side battle that thrilled the fans. Wonderling ran his usual outside line and was perfect hitting his marks on the cushion, while Blair ran his traditional bottom line. The two were even across the line on lap 16 with Wonderling opening up a slight margin on lap 17.
The lapped car of Chad Sines came into play on lap 21. Wonderling was unable to get to the bottom before Blair as Blair got by both Wonderling and Sines for the winning move. By the time Wonderling cleared Sines, Blair was able to stretch out his lead. Seventh starting Jason Genco cracked the top five on lap 25 passing J.J. Mazur before the event’s final caution for a spin by Scott Gurdak.
This time Blair chose the top for the double file restart and Wonderling wasn’t able to make any move to regain the lead. Bossard made a late charge as he had gotten by Waters for fourth before the caution then passed Knowles on the restart for third. Bossard closed in on Wonderling on lap 27, while Blair got away and went on for his 20th career Sweeney Tour victory in his Murphy’s Logging/C&J Dairy/Upstate Auto Group/Moody & Son Welding/Previty’s Auto Wrecking/Specialty Products/Niemeyer Garage-sponsored #111.
Wonderling was barely able to fend off Bossard in a near photo finish for second that earned him the Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night” award. Wonderling’s second runner-up in the last three races was worth $1,000 and allowed him to extend his points lead to 20.
“I thought we might be able to beat him then we came to lapped traffic,” stated the 38-year-old Wellsville, NY driver. “I knew Max was underneath me and the lapped car was on top so there was nothing I could do. It was fun racing with him (Blair). He raced me clean. You’re racing hard and he actually made me better racing with him because I knew I had to race that hard just to stay in front of him. I would get ahead of him then I eased up a little bit, then I’d see him so I had to race harder and harder and harder. I thought to myself ‘he’s not going away’ then we got to lapped traffic and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I saw Bossard at the end and thought maybe I was going to finish third so I ran pretty hard in (turns) one and two. The car worked really good though.”
Bossard, who won Friday’s Sweeney Weekly Series event at Raceway 7 for the second time this season, earned his season’s best Tour finish in third. It was Bossard’s fourth top 10 in five Tour starts this season. Genco’s late rally to fourth allowed him to take over sole possession of second place in points in his first season on the Tour. Knowles dropped to fifth, but did record his season’s best finish beating last Saturday’s prior best sixth at Genesee.
Brady Wonderling was sixth to tie Knowles for fourth in points. Waters dropped to seventh with Damian Bidwell eighth. J.J. Mazur had raced his way into the top five late in the race before fading to ninth. A special call goes out to “Futures Cup” racer, Cory Lawler. The 16-year-old is in his first year on the Sweeney Tour and has now recorded back-to-back career 10th place finishes. Lawler, whose father owns Series sponsor Pancho’s Racing Products, has traveled approximately 12 hours roundtrip each of the last two races to Genesee Speedway last Saturday and then Eriez Sunday.
Blair set fast time in FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying and established a new track record with a lap of 15.655 and went out and won the first FK Rod Ends heat race to add an additional $125 to his $2,000 feature win. Wonderling and Bossard picked up the other two $25 to-win FK Rod Ends heat races. Unfortunately the weather kept away many teams that had planned on participating on Sunday. The car count of 21 was well under the 33 average at Eriez for Sweeney Tour events.
The Sweeney Tour will resume action this Sunday (June 17) for the “Bill Emig Memorial” at Tri-City Raceway Park in Franklin, Pa., where numerous loads of red clay was put down. The $2,000 to-win Marquee Event will be race #7 of the 2018 season.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series Race #6 (30 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. MAX BLAIR (111) 2. Jeremy Wonderling (3J) 3. Darrell Bossard (Winans 213) 4. Jason Genco (Craig/Badgley 29J) 5. Jason Knowles (4) 6. Brady Wonderling (Ralyea z1) 7. John Waters (LeBarron 11) 8. Damian Bidwell (1/2-Pint) 9. J.J. Mazur (13) 10. Cory Lawler (93) 11. Paul Norman (6) 12. Kyle Murray (21) 13. Scott Gurdak (5G) 14. Adam Ferri (66) 15. Matt Sipes (25) 16. Chad Sines (15) 17. Bill Kessler (09) 18. Cory Sines (9s) 19. Tony White (27T) 20. Khole Wanzer (01W) 21. Andy Proper (17).
Car Count: 21
Feature Lap Leaders: Blair (1-9, 21-30), Wonderling (10-20)
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Chad Sines (+4)
Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night”: Jeremy Wonderling
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Andy Proper
FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying ($100 for fast time): 1.Max Blair 15.655 (NTR) 2. Jeremy Wonderling 15.936 3. Darrell Bossard 16.160 4. Jason Knowles 16.299 5. J.J. Mazur 16.322 6. John Waters 16.334 7. Jason Genco 16.403 8. Brady Wonderling 16.432 9. Cory Lawler 16.643 10. Damian Bidwell 16.814 11. Adam Ferri 16.818 12. Khole Wanzer 16.888 13. Andy Proper 16.889 14. Scott Gurdak 16.890 15. Tony White 17.024 16. Bill Kessler 17.029 17. Matt Sipes 17.090 18. Cory Sines 17.130 19. Paul Norman 17.175 20. Chad Sines 17.241 21. Kyle Murray 17.248.
FK Rod Ends Heat 1 (8 laps, $25 to-win) 1. Blair 2. Knowles 3. Genco 4. Bidwell 5. Norman 6. Kessler 7. Proper.
FK Rod Ends Heat 2 (8 laps, $25 to-win): 1. J. Wonderling 2. Mazur 3. B. Wonderling 4. Gurdak 5. Ferri 6. Sipes 7. C. Sines.
FK Rod Ends Heat 3 (8 laps, $25 to-win): 1. Bossard 2. Waters 3. Lawler 4. Wanzer 5. Murray 6. C. Sines 7. White.
Dash (6 laps): 1. Knowles 2. Blair 3. J. Wonderling 4. Waters 5. Bossard 6. Mazur.
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, Holley Performance Products, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, Quick Fuel Technology, FK Rod Ends, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Racing Electronics, Dirt Defender, Dynamic Drivelines, Wrisco Industries, Frankland Racing Supply, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Pancho’s Racing Products, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Landrum Performance Spring, Schwartzmiller Ground Maintenance, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
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.