By MIKE LEONE
HARTFOFD, OH – The “410” Sprint Cars will be making their first of four appearances of the 2017 season at Sharon Speedway coming this Tuesday (June 20) when Tony Stewart’s Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions come to town for the 35th annual Ohio Sprint Speedweek presented by Cometic Gasket. The Mini Stocks will also be in action. Warm-ups for Sprints will get underway at 6:20 p.m. followed by qualifying and racing. Reserved and advanced tickets are on sale at SharonSpeedway.com.
The All Stars will return two and a half weeks later on Saturday, July 8 for the “Lou Blaney Memorial” along with the Big-Block Modifieds. The “410” Sprint Cars final two appearances will be non-sanctioned events on August 12 then again September 8-9 for the “Apple Festival Nationals”.
The 2017 Ohio Sprint Speedweek will feature eight nights of racing at eight different speedways over nine nights beginning at Attica Raceway Park on Friday night with the Sharon event being stop #5 of the popular summer tradition. Sharon’s race will pay $5,000 to-win. The All Stars continue to flourish under the third year of ownership by Tony Stewart. Cometic Gasket is again presenting Ohio Speedweek, and will offer a $3,000 point fund. In addition, multiple win bonuses will also be up for grabs on behalf of Cometic Gasket. The total bonus for any one team winning two events: $500; three events: $3,500, four events: $7,500; five events: $12,500.
“Sprint Car racers and fans alike look forward to Speedweek each and every year. “It’s grueling. It’s long. It takes a lot of sweat, hard work and dedication, but I’m sure the racers wouldn’t have it any other way,” Tony Stewart said, owner of the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions. “I want to thank all of the tracks and other organizations for helping us put this together, especially Cometic Gasket. The amount of support Ohio Sprint Speedweek attracts is overwhelming. I’m confident this will be around for another 35 years.”
After a five-year absence, Ohio Speedweek returned to Sharon in 2010 as Tim Shaffer topped a 42-car field for the victory. In 2011, it was hometown favorite Dale Blaney winning the Sharon leg of Speedweek over a 45-car field. In 2012, in a stunning turn of events, local racer Brandon Matus came out victorious for his first career win with both the All Stars and at Sharon. Another strong field of 43 cars was on hand. The 2013 event was rained out before a car ever hit the speedway, and the 2014 event fell victim to Mother Nature before the gates ever opened. In 2015, Blaney won his second Speedweek race in three events at Sharon over another strong 42-car field. Last year, Bryan Clauson topped a huge 51-car field winning his first career All Star race before tragically losing his life in a racing accident later in the summer
“Sharon has always played an important part in Ohio Speedweek history,” explained eighth year GM Dave Willoughby. “Sharon was there at the beginning, and we’re happy once again to be part of this long-running tradition. The early outlook is calling for great weather. We hope that trend continues so the fans and racers come out and support this great event so we can continue to host this event for years to come. We’re really excited about having Sprints on the new red clay surface.”
Ohio Speedweek always draws in top talent from the Midwest, along with the strong core of All Star regulars, several Australians, the best from western Pa., usually a couple from central Pa., and always some surprises. Currently Rico Abreu has the Sharon event on his schedule before he heads back to California to race.
Chad Kemenah enters Speedweek as not only the defending Speedweek Champion, but the five-time Series defending champion and current point leader. The Alveda, Ohio driver is fresh off his third victory of the season last weekend and currently has a commanding 180-point lead over Caleb Armstrong. Kemenah also owns five career All Star victories at Sharon. The All Stars have one of its largest followings with 17 member drivers. The saying “you never know who’s going to win an All Stars race” continues to be true as there’s been 12 different winners in 17 events this season entering Speedweek.
Ed Lynch, Jr. is the all-time winningest Sprint Car driver at Sharon with 50 victories. Brothers Dave and Dale Blaney own 28 and 14 Sprint Car wins respectively at their home track. The top active local Sprint Car winner at Sharon is Jack Sodeman, Jr. The North Jackson, Ohio racer has 12 victories along with the 2010 track championship- the last year Sprints ran weekly.
One driver that has local ties that’s expected to challenge for victory every night of Speedweek is Tim Shaffer. The “Steel City Outlaw”, who calls Aliquippa, Pa. home, has been running a true ‘outlaw’ schedule in 2017 for the locally-based Demyan/Rudzik team. Shaffer, who has four career Sharon wins, has found success all over the country this season including most recent wins at Attica Raceway Park and Fremont Speedway.
The Mini Stocks will be the only support division at the event on Tuesday. They’ll race for $300 to-win, $50 to-start. Past champions Steve Walker II and Bill Fuchs have been victorious in the only two Mini Stock events to date this season. The Mini Stocks will return on Thursday, July 20 for the Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series invasion.
Grandstand admission tickets are $25. Reserved and advanced tickets are available online at SharonSpeedway.com. Children 13 and under are FREE. Pit passes are $35. Pits open at 3 p.m. with grandstands at 4. Parking and camping are free. Sharon has a no carry-in cooler policy.
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