By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – Sharon Speedway officially wrapped up the 87th anniversary season on Saturday night as the Yankee Lake (OH) Ballroom played host to the annual awards banquet and dinner. Celebrating as 2016 champions were Rex King, Jr.-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds, Joe Gabrielson-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Brandon Ritchey-Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Paul Davis-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Steve Haefke-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Steve Walker II-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. The top 10 drivers in each division received point fund monies and hardware.
For the second time in three years, Rex King, Jr. was the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modified Champion. Despite just two wins, the recently turned 28-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver recorded 12 top 5s and 14 top 10s in 15 starts in the KMB, Inc.-owned, Jim Brown Specialty Seed/University Hospitals/Reese Services/Professional Heating Systems/Cedar Steel/Mahan Welding & Fab/Schaeffer’s Oil/Cintas Uniform/Arrowhead Transport-sponsored #165. King’s second win on August 6 was his milestone 20th of his career at Sharon. In the 2015 title race, King Jr. came up just eight points shy to his father. The Kings have now won five of the last seven track championships at Sharon and own seven total.
King, Jr. also captured his amazing fourth straight “Drive to be a Champion” title honoring Lou Blaney and earned another $1,010. The system takes into account drivers’ best 10 finishes throughout the season in addition to 10 bonus points for supporting the “Lou Blaney Memorial”. Jimmy Weller III ironically finished runner-up to King, Jr. in both the weekly and “Drive to be a Champion” points.
Joe Gabrielson etched his name into the Sharon Speedway history books as a first time champion. The recently turned 29-year-old was able to outgain 2010 champion, Jeff Johnson, by just nine points in the Summit Racing Equipment championship battle. The Bristolville, Ohio resident had just one victory, but led the way with 12 top 10s in 13 races driving his Wedge Motorsports/Awesome Signs & Shirts/Hinchman Racewear-sponsored #58.
The Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds campaigned in their third year of existence and second year as a weekly division. Car counts have grown each year with over 22 the average for the 2016 season. Brandon Ritchey started off the season on fire winning two of the first three points events and even though he didn’t win again the rest of the season, he kept the Clair Ritchey-owned, Casey’s Restaurant & Lounge/Eakin Concrete/The Nickle Bar/Kings Landscaping/American Auto Pride-sponsored #17 near the front with 8 top 10s and 10 top 10s in 12 starts. Ritchey, 23 of Seneca, Pa., won a tight battle down to the wire edging out Kyle Martell by eight points and Kole Holden by nine. Martell was RUSH’s 2016 “Futures Cup” Champion and Holden won the Series’ crown for teenage racers in 2015.
After losing out on the 2015 championship by a tiebreaker to Mike Clark, veteran racer Paul Davis finally captured his first ever track championship in 37 years of trying! Davis capped off a stellar season by winning on the final night of points- his fourth victory of the season as he won the Gibson Insurance Agency title by a big 42 points (45 is the maximum point score per night). The 56-year-old Fowler, Ohio driver drove the Hover Racing/Collins Heating & Cooling/Ocala Restaurant Supply/Don Williams Trucking/Tub’s Automotive-sponsored #3 to 9 top 5s and 10 top 10s in 11 races. Davis also stopped Clark from an unprecedented fourth straight track championship.
Steve Haefke was another veteran racer to earn his first track championship. The former Stock Car and Modified racer has really found a home in recent years in the Econo Mods and Haefke left little doubt about his championship. Haefke won six of the 12 features and never finished worse than second; in fact, Haefke has an incredible streak of 17 straight top two feature finishes dating back to the 2015 season. The 51-year-old Austintown, Ohio driver became the sixth different champion in the division’s seven-year history. Haefke outgained his nearest competitor, Brandon Blackshear, by an amazing 102 points in his Tub’s Automotive/Wedge Motorsports/212 Chiropractic/O’Reilly Auto Parts/Integra Shocks/Hoosier Tires-sponsored #41.
Steve Walker II won the 2010 track championship in the Mini Stocks. Since then, the 37-year-old Greenville, Pa driver had never even won a feature let alone another championship. The 2016 season though was good to Walker as he captured four wins in route to the Deforest Used Parts title. Walker’s Hittles Auto Supply-sponsored #4M beat out Joe Campbell by just nine points. Walker led the way in the division with 11 top 5s and 12 top 10s.
Special award winners were Jacob Billyk-Most Improved, Gary Robinson-Hard Luck, and Kyle Miller-Rookie of the Year. Billyk of New Castle, Pa. jumped from 10th in 2015 points to fifth this past season in the Stock Cars and also captured his first career win. The veteran Robinson of Greenville, Pa. finished just 15th in points and failed to record a top 10 finish as Murphy’s Law seemed to be in effect just about every night. Miller, 21 of East Hickory, Pa., finished sixth in points in the Econo Mods with 2 top 5s and 6 top 10s. Miller is also a leading contender for Walt Wimer’s prestigious Western PA “Rookie-of-the-Year” honors region-wide.
The 2017 season will begin on Friday, April 21 with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in a $10,000 to-win first ever appearance by the Series presented by Barris Truck Service. The following Saturday (April 29) will kick-off the weekly “Steel Valley Thunder” program featuring the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds, HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods along with the Mini Stocks and their “Apple Festival Nationals” make-up feature.
FINAL 2016 Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Top 10 Points: 1. Rex King, Jr. (165) 452 2. Jimmy Weller III (23) 426 3. Rex King (65) 404 4. Dave Murdick (61) 383 5. Rick Richner (26) 378 6. Jim Rasey (32/21) 341 7. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 338 8. Rob Kristyak (00/83T/7K) 272 9. Kevin Bolland (777) 265 10. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 254.
FINAL 2016 “Drive to be a Champion” DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Top 10 Points: 1. Rex King, Jr. (165) 276 2. Jimmy Weller III (23) 259 3. Rex King (65) 256 4. Rick Richner (26) 234 5. Dave Murdick (61) 230 6. Jim Rasey (32) 227 7. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 199 8. Kevin Bolland (777) 181 9. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 177 10. Rob Kristyak (00) 176.
FINAL 2016 Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds Top 10 Points: 1. Joe Gabrielson (58) 411 2. Jeff Johnson (27) 402 3. Scott Stiffler (14) 371 4. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 341 5. Joel Watson (92) 298 6. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 273 7. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 254 8. Josh Ferry (33) 248 9. Jacob Eucker (64) 241 10. Brandon Blackshear (10) 228.
FINAL 2016 Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modified Top 10 Points: 1. Brandon Ritchey (17) 402 2. Kyle Martell (8) 394 3. Kole Holden (2) 391 4. Brian Schaffer (41) 375 5. Chas Wolbert (c3) 362 6. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 330 7. Nick Ritchey (77N) 310 8. Josh Deems (9D) 302 9. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 301 10. Tiffany Williams (58) 296.
FINAL 2016 Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars Top 10 Points: 1. Paul Davis (3) 393 2. Andy Buckley (965) 351 3. Mike Miller (T6) 336 4. Mike Clark (7) 316 5. Jacob Billyk (4) 287 6. Jamie Scharba (11S) 266 7. Brian Carothers (02c) 259 8. Jamie Duncan (67J) 212 9. Jamie Maxwell (6) 201 10. Steve D’Apolito (84) 188.
FINAL 2016 HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods Top 10 Points: 1. Steve Haefke (41) 473 2. Brandon Blackshear (Burns 70B) 371 3. Brad Blackshear (19) 360 4. Wayne Daniels (4) 338 5. Jeff Mundell (11) 304 6. Kyle Miller (15) 303 7. Butch Lambert (Hendrickson 19) 287 8. Buzz Seitz (1) 273 9. Chris Clay (99) 269 10. Zach Myers (1M) 211.
FINAL 2016 Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks Top 10 Points: 1. Steve Walker II (4M) 437 2. Joe Campbell (40C) 428 3. Bill Fuchs (10) 406 4. Logan Keney (16/ Coleman 75) 348 5. Matt Rubright (X) 343 6. Will Aley (Maxwell 6/Root 17J) 305 7. Pat Drennan (24) 267 8. Joe Keney (15K/16) 223 9. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 182 10. Pete Blazczak (77) 164.
Sharon Speedway is owned by the Blaney, Weller, and Kirila Families and is a 3/8-mile dirt track located on Custer-Orangeville Road in Hartford, Ohio near the intersection of Routes 7 & 305. For more information, check out the website at www.sharonspeedway.com or call 330-772-5481. Become a fan of Sharon Speedway on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sharonspeedway and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sharonspdwy.