By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – One of the season’s biggest events is mere days away as Sharon Speedway is set to host the ninth annual “Lou Blaney Memorial” presented by Ollie’s Bargain Outlet this Saturday night (July 8) featuring Tony Stewart’s Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars and the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds. Activities to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association will begin after the gates open at 3 p.m. leading up to warm-ups at 6:30. Though a rain date of Sunday has been secured, the forecast is calling for dry weather Saturday.
For the third straight year, Saturday’s “Lou Blaney Memorial” will be under the All Stars’ sanction. There has yet to be a repeat winner in the eight prior “Lou Blaney Memorial” Sprint Car events! Series owner, Tony Stewart, won the inaugural event in 2009. Mike Lutz was the first local winner taking the 2010 version for Jim Chappel. Texan Sam Hafertepe, Jr. won in 2011, while Californian Brad Sweet, who now races with the World of Outlaws, was victorious in 2012. Jack Sodeman, Jr. became the second local driver to win the prestigious event in 2013, while Dave Blaney won his father’s memorial for the first time in 2014. Sheldon Haudenschild, who is in his rookie season with the WoO, won the 2015 event, while Pittsburgh’s Danny Holtgraver won the biggest race of his career last year.
Chad Kemenah leads the All Stars to Hartford, Ohio on Saturday for the Series’ 100th race in their storied history at Sharon. Kemenah has three victories in 2017 and a 260-point lead over Ryan Smith, who is still looking for his first win of the season. The All Stars were at Sharon just over two weeks ago for Ohio Speedweek when Kyle Larson topped a 48-car field. The All Stars are boasting one of their largest rosters in many years.
Though he’s not running the All Stars full-time this season, Tim Shaffer has two Series wins and has been strong whenever and wherever he races. Shaffer owns 58 career All Star wins and has four career wins at Sharon. Dave Blaney will look to score his second event victory and add to his 28 career Sharon “410” Sprint Car wins and 47 with the All Stars. Blaney will be behind the wheel of the Dan Motter #71M.
Leading the local contingent is Jack Sodeman, Jr. The North Jackson, Ohio driver won the last two championships when the Sprints last ran weekly in 2009 and 2010. Sodeman has 12 “410” wins at Sharon. Dan Shetler, the 2008 track champion, has been fast throughout the region this year and has stated he’ll be on hand. Several other local talent as well as Ohio regional racers and others will be on hand to take on the All Stars.
The Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds will round out the show in a $2,000 to-win points-paying event. Jim Rasey became the first driver to repeat in the “Lou Blaney Memorial” with his $2,000 win last year! New York legend Jack Johnson captured the 2009 race, while local Ohio drivers Rasey and Rob Kristyak stole the thunder in 2010 and 2011. Kevin Bolland won the prestigious event in 2012 and fellow western Pa. racer Dave Murdick joined him in 2013. In 2014, Rex King, Jr. won the event part of his dream season, while in 2016 Jim Weller, Jr. added his name to the win list. The locals have won seven straight “Lou Blaney Memorials”. Will an outsider end that trend or will we get an eighth different winner!?
One-time 2017 winner and defending champion, Rex King, Jr., enters the night as the point leader by just six points over the consistent Dave Murdick, who will be looking for his season’s first win. Jim Weller, Jr. is only another three points back of Murdick, and owns a feature win this season. Two-time winner, Rex King, is fourth in points ahead of Rasey. Will Thomas III, who has championships at Sharon in the RUSH Late Models and E-Mods, has been struggling in his first season of Big-Block Modified racing. He sits 10th in points. Will’s father Bill was a longtime sponsor and car owner of the late Lou Blaney and would love to have a good run on Saturday.
Friends of Lou Blaney will again attend the Memorial event to help celebrate the life and accomplishments of the Hall of Fame driver, who won more than 600 feature victories during a five-decade career. The legend has at least 121 Modified wins and another 11 documented in a Sprint Car at Sharon alone. Blaney passed away in 2009 after battling Alzheimer’s.
A silent auction of many, varied baskets will be available for everyone to bid on and then a live auction of race memorabilia and sports related items will be sold off to the highest bidders. The silent auction will be during the afternoon with the live auction beginning at approximately 4:30-4:45 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. There is a complete list of live auction items listed on the Lou Blaney Memorial Facebook page as well as Sharon’s website at www.sharonspeedway.com.
Pit passes will go on sale at 3 p.m. A drivers meeting is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. with Sprint engine starts at 6:15, warm-ups at 6:30 with qualifying and racing to follow. Adult admission is $25. Advanced and reserved tickets are on sale by visiting SharonSpeedway.com. Pit passes are $35. As always, children under 14, parking, and camping is always 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.