By MIKE LEONE
EAST SMETHPORT, PA – The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series presented by Pace Performance participated in the Fall Invitational wrapping up the 2018 season at McKean County Family Raceway- the first ever the promotional efforts by the Bigley Family. After a rainout in August, the Sweeney Late Model Tour made their first visit of the season with a strong 38-car field for race #15 of the season as Max Blair picked up the win; meanwhile the new RUSH Sprint Cars were a late addition to the show in their 22nd Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series event of 2018 with Chad Ruhlman winning.
Making his first Sweeney Tour start since June 10, Max Blair went unchallenged leading all 25 laps of the RUSH Late Model feature. Blair became the Tour’s first three-time winner of the season despite only competing in six of the 15 events. Blair started off the night setting fast time in $100 FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying, won his $25 FK Rod Ends heat race, the dash, and the $1,500 feature. Blair also won Friday night’s $1,000 Sweeney Weekly Series feature, and captured both ULMS Super Late Model events for the weekend bringing his weekend total to more than $9,100!
“It’s been an awesome weekend,” expressed the 27-year-old Centerville, Pa. winner, who also earned the $5,000 Sweeney Weekly Series Championship for the fourth time in six years. “We’ve been up here for years for this event and it’s literally my favorite weekend of the entire year. I love this whole Fall Classic deal. I have to thank these guys for putting it on and all the fans for sticking it out- it’s cold! You always look at the (score) board and I was wondering where Mike (Pegher) was. I seen he got into second there at the end and was just hoping for no more cautions because he’s good at hitting those starts. I have to thank my dad- I couldn’t do this without him, all my sponsors, along with Mike (Leone) and Vicki (Emig) for everything they do for crate racing around here. It sure is a lot of fun.”
Blair quickly jumped out to the early lead over Jason Genco, Sam Pennacchio, Mike Pegher, Jr., and Jeremy Wonderling. By lap four, Blair stretched out his lead, while Genco was trying to fend off Pennacchio and Pegher for runner-up. Blair increased his lead to a straightaway on lap seven when he caught lapped traffic, but would get a clear track when the provisional starters of Adam Ferri and Scott Dellahoy tangled.
When racing resumed on lap eight, Pegher passed Pennacchio for third, while Waters moved into the top five. Jeremy Wonderling would slow to bring out the caution with nine laps completed as his brother Brady had advanced from 16th to eighth. He would later get as high up as sixth before exiting the event. A big melee took place in turn three on the ensuing restart that collected 11 cars including Damian Bidwell, Darrell Bossard, and Scott Gurdak; most just received minor damage and would restart at the tail.
Back under green, Blair resumed his lead, while the big battle was taking place for fourth between Pennacchio and Waters. Waters found a nice line around the middle of the track and after a side-by-side battle for two laps, made the pass of Pennacchio stick coming off turn four on the 15th circuit. The event’s final caution took place with 15 laps scored when it was three-wide at the end of the frontstretch as Andy Proper was the meat in the sandwich and got squeezed as he slammed the wall hard. He was shaken, but okay.
When racing resumed on lap 16, Pegher disposed of Genco for second, while Eric Wilson moved into the top five from 12th. Waters then went to work on Genco and drove around him on the outside on lap 20 for third. As the final 10 laps went caution-free, Pegher was unable to get a chance alongside Blair as Blair went on to win his 21st career Sweeney Tour victory by a commanding 3.019 seconds in his Murphy’s Logging/C&J Dairy/Upstate Auto Group/Moody & Son Welding/Previty’s Auto Wrecking/Specialty Products/Niemeyer Garage-sponsored #111.
Pegher would back up his first Sweeney Tour win at the last event on August 19 at Tri-City Raceway Park with a fine runner-up. Waters had a strong run in third for the 2016 champion’s fifth top five of the season. Genco held on to fourth, but was able to extend his points lead with just two events remaining. Wilson, a former Tour regular, made just his third start of the season and recorded his third top seven finish in fifth.
Canadian Sam Pennacchio was sixth in his first Tour start since May 22, 2017 at Merrittville Speedway when he finished ninth. After pitting on lap nine, Jeremy Wonderling was able to come all the way back to finish seventh to salvage his night. After qualifying only 32nd fastest out of 38, Andy Michael worked his way into the feature then went 22nd to eighth to earn the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card. Paul Grigsby also was able to move forward going 20th to ninth in his first Tour start since last year’s event. Jimmy Johnson, Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Despite going out 36th out of the 38 qualifiers on a daytime surface, Blair was still able to set fast time by just 0.037 of a second over Pegher- his third $100 FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” honor of the year. In addition to Blair, also winning $25 FK Rod Ends heat races were Pegher, Bidwell, and Genco. Kyle Murray and Michael copped the last chance B mains. The 38-car field was the highest for the event since the 2014 “Fall Classic” that drew 45 cars.
In his first Tour start in more than two years, Zach Wiech held off a hard by Wendell Pinckney to claim the final feature transfer spot in the second last chance B main, and was named the Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night” recipient. Canadian Michael Goudie was selected as the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”. The Brighton Speedway racer made the five-hour tow for his first ever RUSH race, but his night ended early in the opening heat race.
2014 RUSH Late Model Weekly Series Champion, Chad Ruhlman, will go down in the history books as the very first winner of the RUSH Sprint Cars at McKean. The 41-year-old Bemus Point, NY driver’s 20-lap feature victory was worth $600 as he currently leads the $5,000 to-win Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series Championship. Ruhlman’s mandated sealed, spec $135 Bilstein Shocks were confiscated in post-race tech for further testing. The event was timed non-stop in 5:44.732
Ruhlman started second, but fell back to third on the start as Arnie Kent led the opening lap over Brian Woodhall. It was three-wide in turn four on lap two with Woodhall moving to the lead. Lap three saw Ruhlman get under Kent for second. Ruhlman made the winning pass on lap four when he drove around Woodhall on the top of turn four.
The top three of Ruhlman, Woodhall, and Kent pulled away from the field on lap six and by lap eight Ruhlman stretched out his advantage as Woodhall and Kent battled for second. Woodhall slowed and exited the event on lap nine moving Kent back to second and Brad Blackshear up to third.
Kent, who was fresh off a runner-up finish on September 19 at Lernerville Speedway to earn the $1,000 “Wednesday Night Lightning” Series title, was no match for Ruhlman, who took the checkered flag first for his season’s 14th win by 5.580 seconds in his North Star Unlimited/Rand Machining/Premier Communications/Ruhlman Race Cars/Close Racing Supply-sponsored #87R.
Heat winner, Dave Hawkins, and his son Scott both used the outside to pass Blackshear for third and four on laps 14 and 15 respectively. For Dave Hawkins, his third was his best finish of the season eclipsing a pair of fourth place efforts back in May and June. Scott Hawkins recorded his sixth top five of the season in fourth. Blackshear dropped to fifth.
The Sweeney Late Model Tour resumes action in a big way this weekend (October 5-6) part of the 30th annual “Pittsburgher” as the “Bill Hendren Memorial” presented by FK Rods Ends will take place. On Friday, FK Rods Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying and heat races will kick-off the weekend in addition to the $500 to-win “One to Remember” non-winners event presented by Pace Performance. Saturday will get started with the last chance B mains and dash to set the line-up for the 40-lap, $4,000 to-win, $300 to-start feature. A $250 to-win non-qualifier will also be held.
The RUSH Sprints will be off until the “Steel City Stampede” on October 12-13, which will feature an $800 to-win Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series special event.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series Race #15 (25 laps, $1,500 to-win): 1. MAX BLAIR (111) 2. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Geisler 1c) 3. John Waters (LeBarron 11) 4. Jason Genco (Badgley/Craig 29J) 5. Eric Wilson (27W) 6. Sam Pennacchio (311) 7. Jeremy Wonderling (3J) 8. Andy Michael (17x) 9. Paul Grigsby (24) 10. Jimmy Johnson, Jr. (39J) 11. Damian Bidwell (1/2-Pint) 12. Brian Knowles (7) 13. Scott Gurdak (5G) 14. Ward Schell (61s) 15. Kyle Murray (21) 16. Paul Norman, Jr. (6) 17. Steve LeBarron (29) 18. Darrell Bossard (Winans 213) 19. Andy Proper (17) 20. Adam Ferri (66) 21. C.J. Irons (80JR) 22. Brady Wonderling (Ralyea z1) 23. Jamie Freeman (8) 24. Khole Wanzer (01W) 25. Scott Dellahoy (27) 26. Zach Wiech (6X). (Note: Adam Ferri took a Series provisional and Scott Dellahoy a Track provisional.)
DNQ for the feature: Wendell Pinckney (11), Jason Harmon (521), D.J. Krug (83), Jason McGregor (67J), Bill Kessler (09), T.J. Downs (1), Clayton Tarabori (18$), Ed Coast (43), Randy Ralyea (2R), Jason Knowles (4), Eli Mayhew (15), Michael Goudie (38).
Car Count: 38
Margin of Victory: 3.019 seconds
Feature Lap Leaders: Max Blair (1-25)
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Andy Michael (+14)
Dirt Defender “Defensive Drive of the Night”: Zach Wiech
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Michael Goudie
FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying ($100 for fast time): 1. Max Blair 15.847 2. Mike Pegher, Jr. 15.884 3. Damian Bidwell 16.073 4. Eric Wilson 16.093 5. Jeremy Wonderling 16.108 6. Randy Ralyea 16.151 7. Sam Pennacchio 16.172 8. Darrell Bossard 16.206 9. Scott Gurdak 16.250 10. John Waters 16.253 11. Andy Proper 16.264 12. Jason Genco 16.265 13. Jimmy Johnson, Jr. 16.293 14. C.J. Irons 16.295 15. Adam Ferri 16.318 16. Brady Wonderling 16.356 17. Brian Knowles 16.459 18. Steve LeBarron 16.459 19. Jason Knowles 16.501 20. Paul Grigsby 16.515 21. Kyle Murray 16.528 22. Paul Norman 16.537 23. Khole Wanzer 16.585 24. D.J. Krug 16.644 25. Jason McGregor 16.666 26. Eli Mayhew 16.801 27. Ward Schell 16.815 28. Bill Kessler 16.867 29. T.J. Downs 16.892 30. Clayton Tarabori 17.010 31. Jamie Freeman 17.052 32. Andy Michael 17.137 33. Michael Goudie 17.160 34. Wendell Pinckney 17.226 35. Scott Dellahoy 17.646 36. Ed Coast 17.707 37. Jason Harmon 17.717 38. Zach Wiech 18.417.
FK Rod Ends Heat 1 (8 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $25 to-win): 1. Blair 2. J. Wonderling 3. Gurdak 4. Johnson 5. B. Knowles 6. Harmon 7. Murray 8. McGregor 9. Downs 10. Goudie.
FK Rod Ends Heat 2 (8 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $25 to-win): 1. Pegher 2. Waters 3. LeBarron 4. Norman 5. Irons 6. Wiech 7. Pinckney 8. Tarabori 9. Mayhew 10. Ralyea.
FK Rod Ends Heat 3 (8 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $25 to-win): 1. Bidwell 2. Pennacchio 3. Proper 4. Wanzer 5. Schell 6. Freeman 7. Dellahoy 8. J. Knowles 9. Ferri.
FK Rod Ends Heat 4 (8 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $25 to-win): 1. Genco 2. Bossard 3. Wilson 4. B. Wonderling 5. Grigsby 6. Michael 7. Krug 8. Kessler 9. Coast.
Last Chance B Main 1 (8 laps, Top 2 transfer to A): 1. Murray 2. Freeman 3. Dellahoy 4. Harmon 5. McGregor 6. Downs 7. J. Knowles-DNS 8. Ferri-DNS 9. Goudie-DNS.
Last Chance B Main 2 (8 laps, Top 2 transfer to A): 1.Michael 2. Wiech 3. Pinckney 4. Krug 5. Kessler 6. Tarabori 7. Coast 8. Ralyea 9. Mayhew-DNS.
Dash (6 laps): 1. Blair 2. Genco 3. Pennacchio 4. Pegher 5. Waters 6. Wonderling 7. Bidwell 8. Bossard.
RUSH Sprint Cars Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series Race #22(20 laps, $600 to-win):1. CHAD RUHLMAN (87R) 2. Arnie Kent (18) 3. Dave Hawkins (27) 4. Scott Hawkins (37) 5. Brad Blackshear (19) 6. Steve Cousins (56) 7. Steve Pedley (21) 8. Brian Woodhall (8B) 9. Jim Kurpakus (72B).
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, Lincoln Electric, Pancho’s Racing Products Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Landrum Performance Spring, Schwartzmiller Ground Maintenance, Close Racing Supply, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, Valley Fashions, Dirt Late Model Magazine, and Three Rivers Karting.
RUSH Sprint Car marketing partners include partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bonnell’s Rod Shop, Bilstein Shocks, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Holley Performance Products, Racing Electronics, Dirt Defender, Frankland Racing Supply, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, FK Rod Ends, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Precise Racing Products, TBM Brakes, Lincoln Electric, Pancho’s Racing Products, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Landrum Performance Spring, 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.