AFTER A LONG, COLD WINTER SHARON IS SET TO GO WITH 2014 OPENER SATURDAY; “STEEL VALLEY THUNDER” TO AGAIN FEATURE 6 DIVISIONS
By Mike Leone
Hartford, OH April 19, 2014 After one of the coldest and snowiest winters of all-time, all systems are a go for Saturday night’s 2014 season opener at Sharon Speedway. The 85th anniversary season will get underway at 7 p.m. on April 19 featuring Sharon’s “Steel Valley Thunder” program consisting of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and the Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks.
The Big-Block Modifieds have been one of the headlining divisions at Sharon since the Speedway switched back to dirt in 1981. For the third consecutive year, the ground-pounders will be under the DIRTcar banner teaming with Friday night’s Lernerville Speedway. This year, Hovis Auto & Truck Supply has come on board as the presenting sponsor.
The late Lou Blaney leads the division with five championships and 121 victories. Active racer Rex King has moved up the ladder and now sits second on both championships (4) and wins (46). The next nearest active competitor is Jim Weller, Jr. with 26 wins and three track titles, including last year’s.
A strong field of DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds is expected in 2014. Hovis will be giving away six pit passes nightly for the following week. A pair will go to the driver chosen as hard lock for the Big-Block Mods, a pair to a lucky fan, and a pair to a lucky driver in one of the other five divisions.
The Crate Late Model division has been an important part of the weekly Sharon program since 2011. Sharon is part of the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Weekly Series program again. Sharon’s racers will have the ability to win the $5,000 Weekly Series and $3,000 Summer Chase titles along with the $1,000 “Futures Cup” championship for those eligible racers. Sharon will host two Sweeney Tour events later this season including the “Bill Emig Memorial” and the “Gary Knollinger Memorial”.
Barris Supply is back once again to present the division that has featured three different champions in as many seasons. Josh Double was the inaugural champion in 2011 followed by Will Thomas III and Dennis Lunger, Jr. Lunger is coming off a career best season that included five feature wins at Sharon alone. He also won several other events regionally including the Sweeney Tour finale at Lernerville, and already has one win to his credit this season.
Currently Thomas leads the all-time win list with nine scores. Mike Pegher, Jr. and Max Blair, who both plan on competing primarily in Super Late Model competition, are second and third with eight and seven wins respectively. Lunger, who never won at Sharon until the 2012 season finale, now has sixth career wins good for fourth all-time.
The Modified division is coming off an ultra-competitive season in which 12 different drivers were victorious out of the 19 events run! Nearly a full field of cars was averaged in 2013; in fact, the car count never dropped below 22 cars from July on. Summit Racing Equipment is back as a sponsor. Alan Dellinger sits atop the all-time win list with 87 wins, but Dellinger has teamed with Bob Williams and will return to the Crate Late Model ranks under RUSH for the new seasons. Active racers Jeff Johnson, Scott Stiffler, and Joel Watson are second through fourth in wins with 18, 17, and 14 respectively. Four-time 2013 winner, Mike Kinney, is the defending champion.
Gibson Insurance Agency will again be the presenting sponsor of the Stock Car division in 2013. The division saw a surge in car counts from mid-season on. Mike Clark has really stepped up his program in recent years and enters as the defending champion. The Bristolville, Ohio driver was winless prior to the 2012 season, but now has eight wins, which is tied for 23rd all-time. Dellinger is also the all-time leader in the Stock Cars with 65 victories. Steve D’Apolito, who took the 2013 season off, is expected to be a part-time competitor in 2014 and currently is third with 32 wins.
The HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods have been a real success story as they begin their fifth season of existence and third as a full-time weekly division. The 2013 season saw the division average 21 cars per night, but more impressively never dipped below 22 cars from June 15 on! The Econo Mod’s all-time winner, Brandon Blackshear, will return to the division in 2014 after taking a year off from racing and will look to increase his win total from 11. Just two wins back is defending champion Jeremy Double. Jacob Eucker, who captured the hearts of many winning six features as a 12-year-old, will move up to the Modified division this season.
The Mini Stocks will round out the weekly “Steel Valley Thunder” program. For the third straight year, Deforest Used Parts will be the presenting sponsor. After getting beat out the last two seasons by Jim Haefke, Jr. and Travis Creech, Bill Fuchs looks to return to his 2011 championship form. The Greenville, Pa. driver easily is atop the division’s all-time win list with 22 victories. Mike Scharba, who didn’t compete last year, is still second with 12 wins, but closing quickly is last year’s runner-up Scott Gilliland at 11.
Summit Racing Equipment will be awarding $25 gift certificates nightly for the hard chargers in the Modified, Stock Car, and Econo Mod divisions! The top three GM 602 secondary Sweeney/Pace sealed engines will also receives bonuses of $50, $25, and $25 respectively from Pace Performance!
For the first time, the Econo Mods and Mini Stocks will have a bonus purse for bringing additional cars like each of the remainder of the weekly divisions have! And as a reminder, any division that brings 24 or more cars will receive a purse increase. Complete purses for all divisions are posted under the Drivers tab at www.sharonspeedway.com
Teams are urged to arrive early Saturday, if possible, to complete any necessary registrations as well as be ready for the drivers meeting at 6:15 p.m., warm-ups at 6:30. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and heat races slated for 7. Grandstand admission for those 14 and are over is $13, while children under 14 are always free. Pit passes are $30 for those 13 and over or $20 for kids 12 and under.
Coming up next Saturday, April 26 will be the debut of the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds! Also, don’t forget, coming up on Saturday, May 17 is FREE general admission night!
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 @SharonSpdwy.