KING DOMINATES SHARON OPENING NIGHT BIG-BLOCK MODS; DELLINGER HOLDS OFF LUNGER IN RUSH LM; WATSON CHARGES TO MOD WIN; DEFENDING CHAMPS CLARK, DOUBLE & CREECH WIN STOCKS, ECONOS & MINIS
By Mike Leone
Hartford, OH Aprril 19, 2014 Sharon Speedway kicked off the 85th anniversary season on a clear and cool Saturday evening. Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Rex King-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Alan Dellinger-Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Joel Watson-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Mike Clark-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Jeremy Double-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Travis Creech-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks.
Last year, Rex King, Jr. won the opening night DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature and went on to win the $1,010 Lou Blaney Memorial “Drive be a Champion” honors, while just missing out on the championship. On Saturday night’s 2014 opener it was the elder statesman, Rex, Sr., dominating the 20-lap Hovis Auto & Truck Supply feature.
“There were a lot of tough things happen over the offseason and we just had to come back here tonight and make a statement,” said the Bristolville, Ohio veteran. “I’m glad to have Hovis Auto & Truck Supply on board. We actually use them a lot in our business and it’s great to have a local business helping us out. I have to thank all of my great sponsors, the fans, and Sharon Speedway. I’d like to dedicate this to John Zdelar and also Bill Thomas- two great men we have lost.”
Starting fourth, King powered by last year’s “Russ King Memorial” winner Ricky Richner along with Rick Regalski, Jr., and pole-sitter Jim Rasey to lead the opening lap. Sixth starting defending champion, Jim Weller, Jr., was on the move cracking the top five after one lap then getting by Richner for fourth and driving under Regalski to take over third on lap five.
After 11 non-stop laps, the caution was displayed for a slowing Jeremiah Shingledecker erasing King’s comfortable lead. When racing resumed, King and Rasey took off, while a big scramble ensued from positions three through seven. Weller, Jr. and Regalski got shuffled out as Richner, King, Jr., and Jimmy Weller III took over spots three through five.
Up front, King was never challenged as he took his 47th career win in his Midway Garage Door/University Hospital/RD Banks Chevrolet/Campbell Gardening Supply/Hunyady Auction/Cintas Uniforms-sponsored #65 by a margin of 2.099 seconds over Rasey. King, Jr. was able to pass Richner on lap 18 to secure third after starting ninth. Richner was fourth over Weller III.
Completing the top 10 were Weller, Jr., Regalski, Rob Kristyak, Tom Glenn, and Erik Martin. Heat race winners were Bob Warren and Weller, Jr. Tommy Kristyak was awarded the Hard Luck and received a pair of pit passes for next week’s event compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply.
When Crate Late Models debuted in the Northeast in 2007, Alan Dellinger drove Bob Williams’ car to the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC Touring Series Championship. Seven years later, the duo has reunited and on Saturday night they picked up where they left off winning the Barris Supply RUSH Late Model 20-lap feature in Sweeney Weekly Series action. Dellinger held off defending champion and five-time 2013 winner Dennis Lunger, Jr. for his second career win in the division at the Speedway, but impressively did it utilizing $135 Bilstein “sealed” spec shocks with a total package cost of $540!
“These are basically the same shocks that the new RUSH Sportsman Modifieds with the (GM) 602 motors are going to have to run,” explained the 50-year-old Hermitage, Pa. racer. “They are a sealed shock and you can’t tear them apart for $135 apiece. I remember when Bob (Williams) asked me if these shocks would work. I told him shocks are the biggest scam going in dirt racing today, and it shows that these work just fine. If we give an old fat guy like me a couple more laps with this car, we’ll be better!”
An invert six put “Futures Cup” racer Clay Ruffo and Dellinger on the front-row of the main event. Dellinger used the outside to take the lead and quickly pulled away by lap two; meanwhile, the battle was on for second as Ruffo had his hands full with Russ Byler, Lunger, Matt Latta, and Will Thomas III. While Byler was trying to find a way by Ruffo, Lunger slipped past Byler in turn four for third on lap three.
After taking a year off from Late Model racing, Jason Stanke was back in competition, but spun to bring out the caution with three laps scored. When green replaced yellow, seventh starting Lunger continued moving forward passing Ruffo for second. By lap five, Dellinger and Lunger distanced themselves from the field.
On lap eight, the battle heated up for third with Ruffo trying to fight off Byler, Latta, and Thomas. After lots of side-by-side battling for positions three through six, Latta moved by Byler for fourth on lap 12. On lap 17, Latta slipped under Ruffo in turn two for third. Thomas, who was also able to pass Byler, followed Latta past Ruffo with an identical move on lap later to take fourth.
It looked like Dellinger was going to go uncontested for the win, but Bobby Pifer III spun in turn four on the final lap and Dellinger had to take evasive action to miss him. The caution set up a one-lap shootout to the finish. Dellinger surprised many when he chose the outside giving Lunger the bottom, but he was able to hold him off in the unsponsored #8 by 0.463 of a second for his amazing 161st win of his career at Sharon.
Thomas fought his way past Latta on the final lap to place third. Latta and Eric Wilson were fourth and fifth. Completing the top 10 were Kyle Lukon, Byler, Pifer, Jamie Brown, and Ruffo. Heat winners were Thomas and Latta.
When Joel Watson is on, it doesn’t seem to matter where he starts. On Saturday night, Watson charged from the seventh starting spot to the lead on lap eight and walked away with the 20-lap Summit Racing Equipment Modified opening night feature honors.
“The race track was awesome tonight,” expressed the 34-year-old Conneaut, Ohio driver. “I don’t think anyone can complain about the conditions we had tonight. Those guys were getting busy up there. I was going to run up and get busy with them, but I figured we better just be patient a little bit. I don’t know what those guys were doing. I let it single out a little bit and then went to work and did what we had to do. This is a brand new car. I didn’t expect to be so successful right out of the hole. I expected to spend the summer getting it dialed in, but I’d say we’re off to a good start!”
A six-car melee from mid-pack on halted action on the opening lap, and ended the night for Leonard Enos, who was so impressive in his heat race. After a spin for Amanda Stiffler on lap two, action settled down as Dwayne Clay took charge early on, while Scott Stiffler passed Clayton Kennedy for runner-up.
Watson cracked the top five on lap two when he passed Carl McKinney and Steve Dixon. Two laps later, Watson gained two more spots disposing of Jonathan Taylor and Kennedy for third. On lap five, Watson passed Stiffler for second. Watson quickly closed on Clay on lap six. The two ran side-by-side on laps seven and eight with Watson nosing ahead to lead the eighth circuit.
By the halfway point, Watson opened up a comfortable lead, while the battle was hot and heavy for runner-up. Three-wide action took place on lap 13 with Taylor getting by Stiffler and Clay before those two tangled in turn two bringing out the event’s final caution. The last seven laps went caution-free as Taylor was no match for Watson, who drove his Northwest Restoration/Zimmer’s Service Center/Lakeshore Auto Parts/Custom Automated Machine/BMS-sponsored #92 to his 15th career win by a margin of 2.401 seconds.
Dixon, McKinney, and Kennedy were third through fifth. After starting 15th, Russ Dunn finished sixth in his debut for Jim White and earned the $25 Summit Racing Equipment Hard Charge certificate. Completing the top 10 were Mike Kinney, Jason Fosnaught, Jacob Eucker, and Jeff Johnson. Heat winners were Kinney and Enos over the 20-car field.
Defending champion Mike Clark out-dueled Paul Davis to win the 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Car feature. Clark also received the $25 Summit Racing Equipment Hard Charger certificate.
“That was a lot of fun,” expressed the 48-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver. “Paul had a miss in his car. If he wouldn’t have that miss and we wouldn’t have had those restarts it probably would have been second place for me. With a guy like Paul- it’s great. Our cars were both handling well and you could do whatever you wanted with them. I have to thank all of my sponsors, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Gibson for sponsoring the division. The track was a little iffy in the heats, but boy there’s some stick out there now.”
Outside pole-sitter Brent Coleman spun in front of the field in turn two at the start of the event. Everyone was able to miss him except Jamie Duncan. Clark inherited third for the restart then passed Brian Carothers for second when green replaced yellow. Clark caught Davis on lap three and was all over the leader in the ensuing laps. Three slower cars loomed ahead of Davis and Clark. Rookie Dave Myers spun in front of Davis, but everyone was able to miss him necessitating the caution with nine laps scored.
After a caution one lap later for a spin by Jamie Gibbs, the final five laps ran off caution-free. Clark and Davis resumed their battle racing side-by-side for the lead. Clark made the winning move off the inside of turn four on lap 13 and went on for his ninth career win by a margin of 0.851 of a second in his King’s Sanitary Service/Champion Auto Supply/Martuccio Eye Care/Sons of Italy of Warren, Ohio-sponsored #7.
Davis was second. Lots of positions swapped in the final laps as Brent Coleman came back to cross the finish line in third, but was disqualified in post-race tech moving Carothers to third over Bryan Wagner, and Duncan. Davis and Clark copped heat race wins.
Defending champion and seven-time 2013 winner Jeremy Double picked up where he left off last season capturing the opening night honors in the 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods. “This makes winning so much better,” acknowledged the 18-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver, when asked about putting the car together himself. “I have to thank my mom and dad, uncle Skip, all of my sponsors, Integra Shocks for the new spec shocks, and Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic for sponsoring the class.”
Double started second and passed pole-sitter Junior Mechling on the start. Two cautions were all that slowed Double from his 10th career win in his Cortland Auto Repair/Wedge Motorsports/Thomas Heating & Cooling/King Bros/Russ King Racing/Mahan Welding & Fab/Pioneer Sports & Supply-sponsored #83. Double is now just one win behind Brandon Blackshear, who will be rejoining the class in the coming weeks, for the tops spot on the division’s all-time winner’s list.
After recording nine top five finishes in his rookie season, Ty Rhoades started off his sophomore season with a career best runner-up finish after starting fifth. George Vestal IV came from seventh to finish third and earned the $25 Summit Racing Equipment Hard Charger gift card. Brian Foley, Jr. and Jeff Webber completed the top five. Mechling and Double were heat race winners.
Like Double and Clark, defending champion Travis Creech also found opening night victory lane honors. Creech’s win came in the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts Mini Stock feature. “I haven’t touched this car all winter,” revealed the 26-year-old Niles, Ohio driver. “Three days ago we put this thing together. It’s been stripped and was sitting on the trailer all winter long under the tarp. This thing gets faster every time I drive it. I have to thank Darrell. He paid for all of this- I had no money this morning.”
Creech started third and had the lead on the opening lap after passing Jamie Maxwell and Bill Fuchs. A red for James Edison, who hit the backstretch fence head on, on lap two was the only thing that slowed Creech from his seventh career win in his May’s Towing/Elite Coleman/JLB Trucking-sponsored #75T. It was a good start to the season for both Creech and Rhoades, who shared the title for the prestigious Walt Wimer Western Pennsylvania Rookie-of-the-Year Award in 2013.
Fuchs was a straightaway back in second. Tim McAninch was third and won the drawing for two pit passes for next week’s event compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply. Maxwell dropped to fourth over Steve Walker II. Heat winners were McAninch and Creech.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. REX KING (65) 2. Jim Rasey (32) 3. Rex King, Jr. (165) 4. Ricky Richner (26) 5. Jimmy Weller III (23) 6. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 7. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 8. Rob Kristyak (00) 9. Tom Glenn (83T) 10. Erik Martin (29E) 11. Carl Murdick (6) 12. Bob Warren (96B) 13. Kevin Green (74) 14. Rodney Beltz (64) 15. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 16. Tommy Kristyak (26z).
Barris Supply RUSH Late Models (20 laps): 1. ALAN DELLINGER (Williams 8) 2. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Schwartz 71L) 3. Will Thomas III (9) 4. Matt Latta (B1D) 5. Eric Wilson (27W) 6. Kyle Lukon (1) 7. Russ Byler (Hoover 00H) 8. Bobby Pifer III (6P) 9. Jamie Brown (135) 10. Clay Ruffo (14R) 11. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 12. Lon Emerick (3) 13. Jason Stanke (44).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (20 laps): 1. JOEL WATSON (92) 2. Jonathan Taylor (5) 3. Steve Dixon (Engles 68) 4. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 5. Clayton Kennedy (9) 6. Russ Dunn (White 53) 7. Mike Kinney (3) 8. Jason Fosnaught (J19) 9. Jacob Eucker (64) 10. Jeff Johnson (27) 11. Scott Stiffler (14) 12. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 13. Greg Beach (33x) 14. Rusty Wheeler (Woodworth 4) 15. Dwayne Clay (007) 16. Jeff Hassay (10) 17. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 18. Leonard Enos (27E) 19. Ken Zimmer (62) 20. Paul Davis (3D).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. MIKE CLARK (7) 2. Paul Davis (3) 3. Brian Carothers (02c) 4. Bryan Wagner (56) 5. Jamie Duncan (67J) 6. Brian Mulichak (36D) 7. Jamie Gibbs (98) 8. Dave Myers (Burns 70B) 9. Randy Grimm (27K) 10. Brent Coleman (01)-DSQ.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. JEREMY DOUBLE (83) 2. Ty Rhoades (12R) 3. George Vestal IV (4) 4. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR) 5. Jeff Webber (25) 6. Kayla Adams (39) 7. Mike Scharba (Petsko 00) 8. Jason Longwell (7s) 9. Junior Mechling (89) 10. Alan Atkinson (32)-DNS 11. Ryan Fraley (12)-DNS 12. Adam Babcock (67)-DNS.
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. TRAVIS CREECH (75T) 2. Bill Fuchs (10) 3. Tim McAninch (43) 4. Jamie Maxwell (6) 5. Steve Walker II (4M) 6. Pat Drennan (Sirrine 24) 7. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 8. Geof Pinch (36) 9. Joe Campbell (40c) 10. Jeff Little (42) 11. Scott Gilliland (27) 12. James Edison (Coleman 01) 13. Adam Little (99).
Coming up this Saturday night, April 26 will be another “Steel Valley Thunder” program featuring the six weekly divisions plus the debut of the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and racing at 7.
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.