By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – Sharon Speedway survived some morning rain then barely missed thunderstorms that developed south of the speedway during the late afternoon to complete the fourth straight “Steel Valley Thunder” program on Saturday night. Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were John Mollick-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds, Andrew Gordon-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Kole Holden-HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, and Kyle Miller-Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods. Trevor McCann won the non-qualifier for the Stock Cars giving Pennsylvania drivers four of the five wins. Holden was the only feature winner that had ever won before at Sharon.
Just over a month ago, Super Late Model veteran, John Mollick, decided to move over to the Big-Block Modified division. Mollick though normally competes at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway on Saturday night driving a RUSH Crate Late Model for Bob Bentz. With Pittsburgh off on Saturday night, the 46-year-old Toronto, Ohio driver made his first ever Modified appearance at Sharon a winning one. The strange event saw the first and fourth place cars of Jim Rasey and Garrett Krummert get tangled up in an accident battling lapped traffic, and apparent winner, Rex King, disqualified for a body infraction. Mollick then inherited the $1,100 Hovis Auto & Truck Supply feature win.
Jim Rasey jumped to the early lead from the pole position, while King passed Jeremiah Shingledecker for second on the opening lap. Shingledecker, who was making his return since winning the July 8 “Lou Blaney Memorial”, battled with Big-Block Modified rookie, Will Thomas III, trading third back and forth on laps three and four. Meanwhile, back up front, King closed on Rasey on lap six and was all over the leader on lap seven. Rasey though was able to hold off the two-time winner as the laps ticked off caution-free.
Rasey caught lapped traffic on lap 14 allowing King and Shingledecker to close back in. King pulled alongside Rasey and the two battled side-by-side for the lead on laps 15 and 16. Going down the backstretch on lap 16, King appeared to be ready to take the lead entering turn three as Rasey was caught behind Bob Warren. Rasey made contact with Warren entering turn three with both drivers crashing. The fourth place car of Krummert had nowhere to go and made heavy contact ending the night for all three drivers.
The final 10 laps went green-to-checkered as King, Shingledecker, and Mollick pulled away from the rest of the field. On lap 21, Shingledecker got too high running the cushion in turns three and four. Mollick was following and had to get off the gas, but was able to drive under and past Shingledecker for second, which would prove to be the winning pass. Mollick ran down King in the final laps in his Stan’s Transmission-sponsored #4J, and would inherit the win in post-race tech after King’s disqualification. Mollick became the 91st different winner in the history of Big-Block Modified racing at Sharon.
Shingledecker was credited with second. Jim Weller, Jr. raced from 10th to third. After two straight wins, Rex King, Jr. was forced to start 12th and made his way to fourth at the finish to maintain his point lead. Lernerville regular, Steve Feder, made a rare Sharon start and was fifth after starting eighth. Completing the top 10 were Dave Murdick, Rob Kristyak, Thomas, Justin Rasey, and Tom Glenn. Heat wins went to Krummert and Thomas.
After getting disqualified in post-race tech following an apparent victory on July 29, Andrew Gordon redeemed himself on Saturday night. Gordon charged from the eighth starting spot to win the 20-lap Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Car feature as he became the season’s sixth different winner in seven races. A big field of 32 cars were on hand- the highest for a weekly show this season, which allowed Gordon to earn $700 with the increased payoff.
“We’re still trying some things on this car,” explained the DuBois, Pa. standout. “Unfortunately I didn’t feel as comfortable tonight as the other nights. I want to apologize to everyone for the disqualification. It was a malfunction that we really didn’t know what to do. We ran with it and got in trouble with it, but got it fixed and came back, and are going to come back every week. We love this track. The racing and people are awesome here. The track was patchy. You have to search around and find where the mud is to hook it up. There’s bite in spots and it was slick in the middle and places where you have to feather it. It’s awesome to come here on a regular night and have over 30 cars. You don’t see that very often in any class so that’s awesome.”
Jamie Scharba used the outside to take the early lead from pole-sitter Brian Carothers. Gordon wasted little time moving forward as he was halfway to the front after one lap, took third on lap two then, passed point leader Paul Davis for second before a caution for Jamie Duncan’s spin. When racing resumed on lap four, Gordon powered into the lead past Scharba, while sixth starting Curt J. Bish followed in second one lap later.
Cautions with seven and eight laps completed slowed action. Two-time winner, Chris McGuire, worked his way through the field from the 15th starting spot and passed Davis for third on lap 10. McGuire was all over Bish in the battle for second on laps 14 and 15, while Steve D’Apolito cracked the top five passing three-time champion, Mike Clark.
Gordon had a straightaway lead when he caught lapped traffic for the first time on lap 16. McGuire used the lapped car of Troy Norman to get by Bish for second on lap 18. McGuire ran out of laps to mount any challenge on Gordon, who won by 4.313 seconds in the Todd Gordon-owned, Pizza Hut/Joel’s Auto-sponsored #25. Bish was third. Point leader, Paul Davis, tangled with a lapped car on the final lap giving up fourth spot to D’Apolito. Chris Schneider came all the way from 21st to fifth.
Completing the top 10 were Clark, Hunter Exley, Carothers, Tim Deutsch, and Andy Thompson. Trevor McCann led all eight non-stop laps of the first ever non-qualifier event holding off seventh starting Michael Hudzik for the $100 win. Heat winners were Gordon, D’Apolito, Bish, and Clark, while Mike Miller won the last chance B main.
Kole Holden led all but one lap of the non-stop 20-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified feature for the victory; however, it was far from easy. Holden had to regain the lead by passing the hard charging Brian Sadler on the final lap for his third win, which closed him closer to clinching his first track championship. The event’s non-stop time was 6:36.341.
“It’s great to get to victory lane,” acknowledged the 18-year-old Tiona, Pa. driver. “I have to thank my dad Dana Holden and Chris Carter that works on the car. I also have to thank my mom Connie Holden and all of my sponsors.”
An invert six from the heat races put Holden on the pole as he set the early pace. Sadler passed Anthony Gillespie for third on the opening lap and then raced side-by-side with Jeremy Weaver on laps three through five before making the pass for second off the outside of turn four. Seventh starting Kyle Martell passed Weaver for third.
As the laps ticked off caution-free, Holden caught lapped traffic for the first time on lap 14, which allowed Sadler to close in. By lap 15, Sadler was right on Holden. The two battled hard for the lead with Sadler making the outside in turn four work to lead lap 19; however, on the final lap, Holden came back strong and Sadler slipped too high in turn three hitting the fence. Holden would capture his fourth career win by 0.714 of a second in the Dana Holden-owned, D&D Oil/DAH Oil/Russ King Racing/Baker Motorsports/Dave Lyon Racing-sponsored #2.
Sadler was second in his first ever Sharon start in the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds. Martell held on to third over ninth starting Josh Deems. Weaver dropped to fifth. Seventh place finisher, Rocky Kugel, made heavy contact with the turn one fence following the event. Kugel elected to be transported to Saint E’s Hospital for further evaluation. Steve Slater and Brandon Ritchey won the heat races over the 21-car field.
Two weeks ago 2016 rookie-of-the-year, Kyle Miller, captured his first career win at Eriez Speedway. Last Saturday night at Sharon it was heartbreak for Miller after blowing an engine. On Saturday night, Miller had a fresh engine and drove the race of his life to pass six-time winner, Steve Haefke, on the outside with two laps to go to win his first ever at Sharon in the 20-lap Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods.
“I’ve never drove a race car as hard in my life,” stated the 22-year-old East Hickory, Pa. driver. “I knew I was so close. I moved up a little bit and just poured it to it. It started to hook up and I started to gain on them. I saw that lapped car down there and thought ‘what am I going to do’. I wasn’t sure if there enough room between him and the wall. I decided to go for it. I was either going to be sitting over there on the wrecker or standing here! It worked out; I’m speechless. You can pass anywhere here. It’s really good. We finally got the car where it needed to be. We were disappointed we lost a motor last week, but were able to scratch one together and it worked out!”
Wayne Daniels led the opening lap before Ty Rhoades and fourth starting Miller took over the top two spots on lap two. Eric Wilson spun running fourth to bring out the event’s only caution with four laps scored. This moved Haefke to fourth on the restart, and then he passed Gary Robinson for third on lap seven. Haefke caught Miller and the two raced side-by-side on laps nine and 10 with Haefke making the pass on the inside of turn four on lap 10 for second.
Haefke caught Rhoades and made the pass for the lead on lap 12. Most probably thought at this time the race was over as Haefke would check out for his seventh win; however, Miller closed in and made it a three-car race for the lead on lap 13. Miller found the outside to his liking taking second from Rhoades on lap 15. Miller stayed on the top and after working Haefke over made the pass stick off turn two on lap 18. Miller then immediately pulled away over the final two laps to win by 2.039 seconds in the Francis Engineering/Hickory Run Inn/S&W Auto/Wedge Motorsports #15 to become the 28th different winner in the history of the division.
Haefke was able to record his 24th top two finish in the past 27 events dating back to 2015 as he closes in on his second straight title. Rhoades was third. Brandon Blackshear raced from 16th to finish fourth driving his brother Brad’s #19. Wilson came back to finish fifth. Heat winners were Daniels and Rhoades over the 18-car field.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds (25 laps): 1. JOHN MOLLICK (4J) 2. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 3. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 4. Rex King, Jr. (165) 5. Steve Feder (45) 6. Dave Murdick (61) 7. Rob Kristyak (00) 8. Will Thomas III (9) 9. Justin Rasey (21) 10. Tom Glenn (83T) 11. Erik Martin (29E) 12. Jim Rasey (320 13. Garrett Krummert (29) 14. Bob Warren (96B) 15. Rex King (65)-DSQ (body).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (25 laps, $700 to-win): 1. ANDREW GORDON (25) 2. Chris McGuire (63) 3. Curt J. Bish (Tarr 29) 4. Steve D’Apolito (84) 5. Chris Schneider (55) 6. Mike Clark (7) 7. Hunter Exley (23H) 8. Brian Carothers (02c) 9. Tim Deutsch (20) 10. Andy Thompson (5) 11. Nick Kocuba (10) 12. Bob McCann (Fornataro USA1) 13. Paul Davis (3) 14. Brent Coleman (01) 15. Bobby Robinson (34R) 16. Troy DeZarn (21) 17. Troy Norman (Gower 19N) 18. Charlie Baptiste (28B) 19. Jamie Scharba (11s) 20. Jason Fosnaught (73) 21. Mike Miller (T6) 22. Jamie Duncan (67J) 23. Jake Billyk, Jr. (77) 24. Jacob Billyk (4).
Stock Car Non-Qualifier (8 laps, $100 to-win): 1. Trevor McCann (12M) 2. Michael Hudzik (31H) 3. Steve Allison (1BAD) 4. Bill Phillips, Jr. (23JR) 5. Jamie Maxwell (6) 6. Mike Kerr (25K) 7. Mark Hopkins (69H) 8. Jarod Larson (47)-DNS.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (20 laps): 1. KOLE HOLDEN (2) 2. Brian Sadler (5) 3. Kyle Martell (8) 4. Josh Deems (9D) 5. Jeremy Weaver (Schaffer 14) 6. Steve Slater (29) 7. Rocky Kugel (83x) 8. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 9. Anthony Gillespie (Smith 3G) 10. Brandon Ritchey (17) 11. Brian Schaffer (41) 12. Shayne Izzo (86) 13. David Kalb, Jr. (11J) 14. Gary Haupt (16) 15. Preston Cope (24P) 16. Clyde Gumpp (King 12) 17. Jacob Jordan (28J) 18. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 19. Mark Willman (562) 20. Don Blaney (11B) 21. Chas Wolbert (c3)-DNS.
Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods (20 laps): 1. KYLE MILLER (15) 2. Steve Haefke (41) 3. Ty Rhoades (12R) 4. Brandon Blackshear (19) 5. Eric Wilson (Christopher 2JR) 6. Gary Robinson (44R) 7. Keith Felicetty (98) 8. Brian Toto (8B) 9. George Vestal IV (4) 10. Jeff Mundell (11) 11. Mike Hillman (29) 12. Wayne Daniels (4D) 13. Tommy Davis (32) 14. Cameron Nastasi (99) 15. Ryan Fraley (Lapcevich 77L) 16. Rick Wilson, Jr. (35) 17. Jacob Eucker (64)-DNS 18. Brad Blackshear (Burns 70B)-DNS.
Next Saturday night, August 26 will be the final “Steel Valley Thunder” program of 2017 featuring the Big-Block Modifieds, Stock Cars, RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, and Econo Mods. The RUSH Modifieds will be competing in a $600 to-win Touring Series event for the twice rescheduled “Manufacturers Night”. Kids bike races will be held at intermission. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and racing at 7.
There will be no racing over Labor Day Weekend. The 88th anniversary season will conclude on September 8-9 with the “Apple Festival Nationals” this year featuring a $3,000 to-win event for the “410” Sprints along with most all of the regional divisions.
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.