By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – On a hot and sultry Thursday evening, Sharon Speedway was able to complete the second annual “Buckeye Ground Pounder 100” featuring the Super DIRTcar Series. Despite storms in the forecast initially throughout the day and night, a line of storms in the afternoon split the speedway and skies cleared for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. Capturing wins and celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Peter Britten-Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series and Isaac Paden-Mini Stocks.
Peter Britten has been chasing the Super DIRTcar Series since 2011. On Thursday night, many, including Britten himself, didn’t expect the Australian to find victory lane after lining up 20th for the 100 lapper. But Britten did just that. Britten, who used some experience from racing at Sharon four times this season, picked off cars throughout the first half of the event and then made his winning move on lap 55 taking the lead from Matt Sheppard. Britten would lead the final 46 laps for the $6,000 payday.
“It’s pretty amazing,” expressed the 29-year-old Brisbane, Queensland, Australia driver. “This is our first win, and words can’t describe the feeling. I really had to earn this one, but we had a great race car. We passed pretty much every good car there is to pass, so it feels amazing and hopefully we can get some more too. Starting on the pole and winning one of these things is damn near impossible, but having to pass all of those good guys, well I never would have imagined that I’d end up here. We had a bad-ass car, but we were off in time-trials a bit and that’s what put us down the order.”
From the pole position, Brett Hearn jumped out to the early lead. Stewart Friesen battled from the ninth starting spot into second past Billy Whittaker, on lap 13. Friesen closed in on Hearn on lap 17 and was on the leader on lap 21. Friesen raced side-by-side with Hearn for the lead and momentarily took over the top spot on lap 24 before a caution for Larry Wight and Frank Cozze. Under caution, Friesen exited with a flat tire after contact from the fence after running out of room in the battle for the lead.
Back under green on lap 34, Erick Rudolph and Matt Sheppard both passed Hearn for the top two spots. Rudolph’s lead was short-lived as one lap later 10th starting Sheppard made the pass for the lead. Hearn would slow to bring out the caution with a flat tire and several laps later a caution for Tim Fuller would bunch up the field again. Back under green on lap 47, Britten made the pass of Rudolph for second and got a caution when Keith Flach and Kevin Bolland made contact on the backstretch.
When racing resumed on lap 55, Britten made the winning pass of Sheppard in turn four; meanwhile, all eyes were on Friesen as he worked his way back into contention from the tail getting by Jimmy Phelps for fourth on lap 63. Lapped traffic came into play on lap 66 and by lap 71, Sheppard closed back in on Britten. The two race side-by-side for the lead on lap 72 with Britten holding on and may have gotten a caution he needed when Jim Rasey stopped.
On lap 82, Friesen continued to move forward getting past Rudolph for third then got a huge break when Sheppard slowed with a flat tire with 88 laps scored. While many probably thought Friesen would now deny Britten of his first win, that wasn’t the case as Britten pulled away over the final 12 caution-free laps to win by 2.485 seconds in his own #21A. Britten became the 90th different driver to win a Big-Block Modified feature in the history of Sharon Speedway!
Rudolph would pass Friesen for second on lap 96 to earn $4,000. Friesen was a disappointed third, but earned $2,500. Billy Decker came from 22nd to place fourth over Pat Ward. Completing the top 10 were Larry Wight, Max McLaughlin, Whittaker, Sheppard from the tail in the final 12 laps, and Hearn. Brian Swartzlander of Leechburg, Pa. was the top finishing local racer in 13th.
Fuller set fast time overall with a lap of 16.866 as he was the only driver amongst the 38 to run a sub 17-second lap. Heat winners were Fuller, Wight, Ward, and Sheppard, while Maresca and Decker won the last chance B mains.
Isaac Paden joined Peter Britten as first career Sharon Speedway winners as Paden copped the victory in the 12-lap Mini Stock feature. Paden took the lead on lap three and held off defending champion, Steve Walker II, for the $300 victory. “I was getting a little worried I was going to lose it there,” acknowledged the 18-year-old New Castle, Pa. driver. “I really enjoyed the track tonight- it was really nice. The speed made it a lot more fun. I’d like thank my parents and grandparents.”
Rick and Terry Feely led the field to green as it was three-wide with Rick leading over Terry and Paden. Paden passed Terry Feely on lap two using the outside and then stayed on the top to pass Rick Feely racing off turn four on lap three. Walker, who started fourth, then passed Rick Feely for second on lap four. Walker closed in on Paden on lap seven and was right on the leader on lap nine. Walker tried everything over the final laps, but was unable to overtake Paden, who held on by a little more than a car-length to become the 28th different winner in the history of the division. Rick and Terry Feely finished third and fourth respectively after winning the heat races. Shane Shook was fifth after starting 13th.
Super DIRTcar Series for the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds (100 laps, $6,000 to-win): 1. PETER BRITTEN (21A) 2. Erick Rudolph (25R) 3. Stewart Friesen (44) 4. Billy Decker (91) 5. Pat Ward (42P) 6. Larry Wight (99L) 7. Max McLaughlin (6H) 8. Billy Whittaker (109) 9. Matt Sheppard (9s) 10. Brett Hearn (20) 11. Tim Fuller (19) 12. Jimmy Phelps (98H) 13. Brian Swartzlander (83) 14. Brandon Walters (22) 15. Rich Scagliotta (8) 16. Rex King, Jr. (165) 17. C.G. Morey (14) 18. Will Thomas III (9) 19. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 20. Erik Martin (29E) 21. Jim Rasey (32) 22. Ryan Watt (14w) 23. Rob Kristyak (00) 24. Mike Maresca (7M) 25. Dave Blaney (18B) 26. Keith Flach (43) 27. Kevin Bolland (777) 28. Rex King (65) 29. Frank Cozze (35) 30. Mat Williamson (6M) 31. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD).
Did not qualify: Jeremy Smith (46), Tom Mattocks (69), Jim Weller, Jr. (31), Justin Rasey (21), Skip Moore (17M), Bob Warren (96B), Steve Barr (25B).
Mini Stocks (12 laps, $300 to-win): 1. ISAAC PADEN (24) 2. Steve Walker II (4M) 3. Rick Feely (28) 4. Terry Feely (971) 5. Shane Shook (17s) 6. Pat Hanlon II (26K) 7. Logan Keney (16) 8. Jim Jones (16) 9. Ed Roberts (6s) 10. Michael Porterfield (23MP) 11. Joe Campbell (40C) 12. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 13. Dillon Speer (07) 14. Dan McEwen (44)-DNS.
Sharon returns to action on Saturday night (July 22) for “Steel Valley Thunder” featuring the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds, E-Mods, Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods plus the Penn-Ohio Pro Stock Series for $1,000 to-win event plus their $2,000 to-win 2016 “Apple Festival Nationals” make-up feature. Pit gates open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5. Racing is at 7. Admission for those 14 and over is $10, while children 13 and under are free. Pit passes are $30. 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.