By MIKE LEONE
SARVER, PA – The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series powered by Pace Performance were part of the ninth annual “Steel City Stampede” this past weekend at Lernerville Speedway featuring the Sweeney RUSH Late Model Touring Series and the Bicknell Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified Touring Series in their season finale events. Series regulars John Waters (Late Models) and Steve Slater (Modifieds) cashed in with feature victories on Saturday night. It was Sweeney Late Model Tour race #15 of the season, which attracted 39 drivers from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and West Virginia.
Congratulations to the 2017 Touring Series champions Bryce Davis (Late Models) and Kyle Martell (Modifieds). Also, Rocky Kugel earned the Bicknell Weekly Series Championship with the Modifieds pending an engine teardown by a protest from a fellow competitor and the confiscation of his MSD box. In addition, Andy Michael was the lucky recipient of the $7,995 gift certificate toward the purchase of a 2018 Rocket Stage 2 Rocket XR1 Late Model Chassis from eligible Pace Performance “Summer Chase” drivers.
Last season, Bryce Davis and John Waters battled down to the wire for the Sweeney Late Model Touring Series Championship with Waters overtaking Davis on the final night at Lernerville. This year, Davis had the championship wrapped up as the best Waters could do was come up one point shy. While last Saturday night at Pittsburgh was a disappointing end for Waters crashing out in the lead, Waters redeemed himself on Saturday night overtaking a smoking Russ King with five laps to go then ironically had to hold off Davis to win his third Sweeney Tour feature of 2017. The victory was worth $2,000 for Waters, who was also named as the Maxima Racing Oils “Maximum Performance” award winner.
“I could take off better than him (King) on the restarts, but he has a little more experience here than me,” acknowledged the 36-year-old Whitesville, NY winner. “I didn’t want to roll in there and hit him. I was happy where we were and running good. I probably got that win for us too because I fixed his radiator earlier today and I don’t think I did a good enough job! I seen him drop water halfway through the race and figured ‘oh man I’m never going to hear the end of this’.”
“These guys (crew) worked hard and pulled out this car,” continued Waters. “We had to get the new one clipped after hitting the wall last week. This car is just as good. I have to thank my car owner Dale LeBarron. He puts me in this stuff. Not too many guys can wreck a car one week and pull out another car. We’re unfortunate enough. I also have to thank my sponsors and crew, who won this tonight. These last three straight two-day weekends have been putting them down. Thanks to all the fans for coming out. If it wasn’t for you guys we wouldn’t be able to do what we love to do- we appreciate all of you.”
King earned the feature pole following his third K&N Dash win in four tries and raced to the early lead over Waters, Davis, Chad Wright, and Mike Pegher, Jr. Eighth starting Jason Knowles made a great move on lap four to pass both Pegher and Wright for the fourth spot. The top three then began to distance themselves from the field. Tenth starting Garret Paugh cracked the top five on lap five dropping Pegher and Wright back another spot.
King caught traffic on lap seven and two laps later, Waters began to close in. Just as thing were about to possibly get interesting, Brian Swank spun to bring out the caution with 10 laps scored. Back under green, Paugh continued to move forward taking fourth from the four of Knowles. Jeremy Wonderling started in seventh and worked his way into the top five on lap 14 getting by Knowles.
Back up front, King began to pull away from Waters on lap 15, while Davis and Paugh closed in on Waters in the battle for second. Lapped traffic came into play on lap 17 as King had a half-straightaway lead built up; however, smoke began to billow from the leader’s ride. A caution for Bill Kessler slowed action for the final time with 20 laps completed.
When green replaced yellow, Waters got a great restart to overtake King, who temporarily fell back to fourth, but made a great move to regain second and was right back on Waters to complete lap 21. King’s motor though wouldn’t make it to the finish as he dropped out on lap 23. It was the second straight race King failed to finish while running in the runner-up spot, and was named the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night” recipient.
Davis inherited second, but was unable to mount a challenge on Waters, who took the checkered flag first by 1.892 seconds. The win was Waters’ eighth career Sweeney Tour victory in the Dale LeBarron-owned, Troups Creek Heating/Bernie’s Place/Accu-Force/Close Racing Supply/Insinger Performance/Sunoco Race Fuel/Fox Shocks/Otis Division/Fastline Performance/Troups Creek Heating/Regenerage, Forestry Management/Atkins Appraisal/TCAP/Stan’s Transmissions-sponsored #11.
Davis earned $1,000 for his third runner-up finish of the year and 11th top five in 15 Series races. One week after Paugh had an impressive performance racing from the 18th starting spot to finish sixth at Pittsburgh in his first Tour start since April 18, 2015 at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex, he was able to improve on that going from 10th to a career best third! Wonderling was fourth as he completed his first season on the Tour finishing third in points. Knowles, who was fourth in points, was fifth at the finish for his fourth top five of the season.
Bruce Hordusky, Jr. had a solid run in sixth as he completed his second year on the Tour. Last week’s Pittsburgh first career Tour winner, Daryl Charlier, came from 17th to seventh to earn the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card. Fifth place point man, Brian Knowles, was eighth for his eighth top 10 of the season. Pegher faded to a disappointing ninth as Eric Wilson completed the top 10.
Wendell Pinckney made his first Tour start since the 2015 “Steel City Stampede” and finished 15th as the last car on the lead lap to receive a $25 CrateInsider.com gift certificate. On Friday night, Pinckney took the American flag out during the national anthem in his patriotic-themed car, while all drivers saluted the flag in turn four.
For the second straight year, Clinton Hersh ended the night at Lernerville winning the non-qualifier. The 18-year-old Somerset, Pa. driver led all 10 laps holding off Zach Kane for the 10-lap, $175 victory in his father Tony’s Clearwater Construction/Fred Spangler Water Conditioning & Plumbing/Jet Racing Engines/Laurel Machinery-sponsored #16. Kyle Zimmerman, Chad Sines, and Bob Schwartzmiller completed the top five. Jamie Wrightsman, who won two non-qualifier events this season, finished 10th, which earned him the 2017 “Wheelman” Bonus Event Challenge Series Championship by two points.
On Friday, Pegher set fast time in $100 KF Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying with a lap of 17.670. Picking up $25 FK Rod Ends heat races on Friday were Davis, King, Waters, and Brian Knowles. Khole Wanzer and Swank won Saturday’s twin last chance B mains. King received $100 K&N certificate for winning the dash over Waters, who received a $50 K&N certificate. Wright and Davis added $25 cash for finishing third and fourth in the dash.
Steve Slater came out on top of a wild 20-lap Bicknell Touring Series feature for the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds. Slater emerged victorious after a spirited three-wide last lap battle between veteran racers Rocky Kugel and Alan Dellinger for the $800 victory- his second of the season. Ironically, both of Slater’s wins this year, the only two of his career, have come in Tour competition.
“That was a lot of work,” expressed the 52-year-old Butler, Pa. driver. “It was a fantastic battle with Jeremy (Weaver). I raced him clean and he raced me clean and I really want to thank him. I was big time worried about Dellinger. He’s one of the best. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, and then there’s Rocky- congratulations to him. It means a lot to win at Lernerville. I’ve been coming here every Friday night and all of the specials for 18 years with Dave Murdick (Big-Block Modified racer). He couldn’t be here tonight, but I want to thank him. Everything I learned he’s taught me and it paid off tonight- be patient. I have to thank everyone that’s helped me. This is Garrett Krummert’s car from last year.”
In a race amongst a race, Kugel came from 22nd to finish second, which he had to do to overtake Kole Holden to win the $3,000 Bicknell Weekly Series Championship. Kugel’s championship is unofficial as a fellow competitor filed a protest for an engine teardown, and his MSD box was confiscated. Meanwhile, after winning the first two Bicknell Tour events of the season, Kyle Martell captured the Bicknell Tour Championship leading the points for the entire season.
The race got off to a sluggish start as four cautions plagued the event in the first four laps including spins by top runners Brandon Ritchey and Chas Wolbert. Sixth starting, Jeremy Weaver, who was fresh off his first career win last Saturday night at Mercer Raceway Park in Bicknell Weekly Series competition, raced by Slater to lead lap four. Slater and Weaver battled hard for the lead with Slater regaining the top spot two laps later.
Kugel, after being light on Friday night, was making his way through the field and passed Brian Sadler for fourth on lap eight. It was then a four-car race for the lead on lap 11. Weaver stayed with Slater and tried a move on lap 14 to regain the lead, but made contact with Slater and spun to bring out the event’s final caution. Weaver was named the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night” recipient.
This moved eighth starting Alan Dellinger to second and Kugel to third for the restart. Kugel had been running the bottom and waited for the final lap to make his move with a slider. Slater, Dellinger, and Kugel were three-wide on the final lap as Slater’s Steve’s Auto Body & Repair #29 crossed the finish line first by 0.383 of a second over Kugel with Dellinger a close third in his first Tour start. After advancing 20 positions in the feature, Kugel not only received the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card, but was named the Maxima Racing Oils “Maximum Performance” award winner.
“I don’t know what to say,” expressed 41-year-old Kugel. “Built this car and it has two races on it. We’ve had a great year, but had a bad year at the same time. We destroyed two cars this year, but won eight races. I’m pumped up. Man we started 22nd on a race track that was smooth top to bottom. I just kept my cool and got up on the wheel like I said I was going to do and here I am. It’s awesome to win this. I’ve run this deal since it started, I don’t know what to say. I thought I had the race won too. I tried the old slide job down there from the Late Model days, and I just didn’t get up on the race track enough, but I wanted to race Steve clean- he races me clean. He got back by me and I tried it again down here in four. The fans had to be on their feet because I think we were three-wide coming to the finish. These cars are awesome and we have fun. I’m happy to get my guys a championship- I worked them to death.”
Martell simply had to start the feature on Saturday to earn the Bicknell Tour title, but that was easier said than done as mechanical issues on Friday forced him out of his heat race and he had to borrow parts for the Kriegischs to be able to run Saturday where he charged from 17th to fourth to earn the title. Martell was selected as the Sherwood Wheels “Man of Steel” recipient.
“This is great- I’m speechless,” said the 17-year-old Rootstown, Ohio champion. “I’d like to thank my sponsors and the Kriegisch Family for giving me parts to run tonight. It was a great season- we were very consistent and it worked out for us in the end.”
Josh Deems was fifth over Justin Shea, who had his worst finish in any event since an eighth on July 21 at Lernerville Speedway. Wolbert came back from his early spin to finish seventh over Holden, Sadler, and Rob Kristyak, who made his RUSH debut. Kevin Long was the final car on the lead lap in 18th to receive a $25 CrateInsider.com gift certificate.
Heat winners on Friday night were Tiffany Williams, Wolbert, and Brandon Ritchey. Jessica Kriegisch became the eighth different K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash winner in as many 2017 Bicknell Tour events! Kriegisch earned a $100 K&N certificate defeating Shea, who received a $50 K&N certificate. Kristyak and Will Schaffer were third and fourth and received an extra $25 cash.
This concludes the 2017 season for the Sweeney Late Model Tour and Bicknell Sportsman Modified Tour. The 2017 RUSH Racing Series Awards Banquet & Dinner will be held on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at Gatherings Banquet & Event Center located just west of New Castle, Pa. on Route 422 in Edinburg, Pa.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series Race #15 (25 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. JOHN WATERS (LeBarron 11) 2. Bryce Davis (94) 3. Garret Paugh (03) 4. Jeremy Wonderling (3J) 5. Jason Knowles (4) 6. Bruce Hordusky, Jr. (3) 7. Daryl Charlier (12) 8. Brian Knowles (7) 9. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Swank RJ1) 10. Eric Wilson (27W) 11. Chad Homan (91) 12. Wyatt Scott (x3) 13. Nico Dabecco (F1) 14. Joey Zambotti III (948) 15. Wendell Pinckney (11) 16. Greg Beach (33x) 17. Bill Kessler (09) 18. Tony White (27T) 19. Khole Wanzer (01W) 20. Russ King (56) 21. Brian Swank (12s) 22. Corey McPherson (c33) 23. Christian Schneider (Maniecki 1ST) 24. Chad Wright (6) 25. Pete Wearing (Kessler 09W). (Note: Tony White took a Series provisional)
Non-Qualifier ($175 to-win):1. Clinton Hersh (16) 2. Zach Kane (10) 3. Kyle Zimmerman (z17) 4. Chad Sines (15) 5. Bob Schwartzmiller (28s) 6. Cory Lawler (93) 7. Andy Spooner (3s) 8. Cory Sines (90) 9. Eric Reinwald (Hulley 09) 10. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 11. Michael Duritsky, Jr. (90). 12. Hunter Hulley (3H)-DNS 13. Michael Ott (Fields 21)-DNS 14. Zach Gunn (114G)-DNS.
Car Count: 39
Feature Margin of Victory: 1.892 seconds
Feature Lap Leaders: Russ King (1-20), John Waters (21-25)
Maxima Racing Oils “Maximum Performance”: John Waters
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Daryl Charlier (+10)
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Russ King
CrateInsider.com “Last Car on Lead Lap”: Wendell Pinckney
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock Qualifying” ($100 for fast time): 1. Mike Pegher, Jr. 17.670 2. Michael Duritsky, Jr. 17.775 3. John Waters 17.782 4. Greg Beach 17.854 5. Bryce Davis 17.887 6. Russ King 17.966 7. Jamie Wrightsman 18.052 8. Jeremy Wonderling 18.203 9. Clinton Hersh 18.204 10. Jason Knowles 18.211 11. Chad Wright 18.355 12. Brian Knowles 18.371 13. Daryl Charlier 18.383 14. Eric Wilson 18.414 15. Nico Dabecco 18.426 16. Joey Zambotti III 18.428 17. Michael Ott 18.440 18. Tony White 18.482 19. Christian Schneider 18.487 20. Chad Sines 18.496 21. Bruce Hordusky, Jr. 18.539 22. Cory Sines 18.562 23. Corey McPherson 18.611 24. Brian Swank 18.758 25. Chad Homan 18.793 26. Wyatt Scott 18.816 27. Bob Schwartzmiller 18.823 28. Hunter Hulley 18.857 29. Kyle Zimmerman 18.944 30. Garret Paugh 18.976 31. Zach Gunn 19.054 32. Pete Wearing 19.220 33. Khole Wanzer 19.228 34. Eric Reinwald 19.261 35. Wendell Pinckney 19.367 36. Zach Kane 19.410 37. Andy Spooner 19.438 38. Bill Kessler 19.830 39. Cory Lawler 19.915.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 1 (10 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A) 1. Davis 2. Pegher 3. Hordusky 4. Homan 5. Charlier 6. Wanzer 7. Ott 8. Zimmerman 9. Spooner 10. Hersh.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 2 (10 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A): 1. King 2. J. Knowles 3. Paugh 4. Wilson 5. Scott 6. White 7. Kessler 8. Reinwald 9. Co. Sines 10. Duritsky.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 3 (10 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A): 1. Waters 2. Wright 3. Schneider 4. Dabecco 5. McPherson 6. Pinckney 7. Schwartzmiller 8. Lawler 9. Wrightsman 10. Gunn.
RUSH Late Model FK Rod Ends Heat 4 (10 laps, $25 to-win, top 5 transfer to A): 1. B. Knowles 2. Wonderling 3. Zambotti 4. Beach 5. Wearing 6. Swank 7. Kane 8. Ch. Sines 9. Hulley-DNS.
RUSH Late Model Last Chance B Main 1 (10 laps, top 2 transfer to A): 1. Wanzer 2. Kessler 3. Hersh 4. Zimmerman 5. Spooner 6. Duritsky 7. White 8. Ott 9. Co. Sines 10. Reinwald.
RUSH Late Model Last Chance B Main 2 (10 laps, top 2 transfer to A): 1. Swank 2. Pinckney 3. Kane 4. Ch. Sines 5. Lawler 6. Wrightsman 7. Schwartzmiller 8. Reinwald 9. Gunn-DNS.
RUSH Late Model K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash (6 laps, $100 K&N certificate to-win): 1. King 2. Waters 3. Wright 4. Davis 5. B. Knowles 6. Pegher 7. Wonderling 8. J. Knowles.
(UNOFFICIAL*) Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified Bicknell Touring Series Race #8 (20 laps, $800 to-win): 1. STEVE SLATER (29) 2. Rocky Kugel (83x) 3. Alan Dellinger (Williams 8) 4. Kyle Martell (8) 5. Josh Deems (9D) 6. Justin Shea (14s) 7. Chas Wolbert (c3) 8. Kole Holden (2) 9. Brian Sadler (5) 10. Rob Kristyak (00) 11. Shayne Izzo (86) 12. Brandon Ritchey (17) 13. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 14. Blaze Myers (43Sr) 15. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 16. Will Schaffer (4) 17. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 18. Kevin Long (22) 19. Tiffany Williams (58) 20. Jacob Jordan (28J) 21. Jason Hufnagel (28) 22. Brandon Michaud (132). (*Pending engine teardown of Rocky Kugel from a protest by a fellow competitor & confiscation of MSD box.)
Car Count: 22
Margin of Victory: 0.383 of a second
Feature Lap Leaders: Steve Slater (1-3), Jeremy Weaver (4-5), Slater (6-20)
Maxima Oil “Maximum Performance: Rocky Kugel
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Rocky Kugel (+20)
Sherwood Wheels “Man of Steel”: Kyle Martell
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night”: Jeremy Weaver
CrateInsider.com “Last Car on Lead Lap”: Kevin Long
RUSH Sportsman Mod Heat 1 (8 laps): 1. Williams 2. Dellinger 3. Deems 4. J. Kriegisch 5. Schaffer 6. Michaud 7. Jordan 8. Holden.
RUSH Sportsman Mod Heat 2 (8 laps): 1. Wolbert 2. Weaver 3. Sadler 4. Kristyak 5. Hufnagel 6. Martell 7. Kugel-DSQ (light).
RUSH Sportsman Mod Heat 3 (8 laps): 1. Ritchey 2. C. Kriegisch 3. Slater 4. Shea 5. Myers 6. Izzo 7. Long.
RUSH Sportsman Mod K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash (4 laps, $100 K&N certificate to-win): 1.
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, Maxima Racing Oil, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, Rocket Chassis, Landrum Performance Spring, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bicknell Racing Products, 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, Maxima Racing Oil, Sherwood Racing Wheels, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at email@example.com 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.