By Mike Leone
Hartford, OH May 31, 2014 After miserable weather throughout the month of April and most of May, Sharon Speedway was blessed with the second straight warm and sunny Saturday. A great crowd watched the following drivers celebrate in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane: Jim Weller, Jr.-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Will Thomas III-Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Carl McKinney-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Greg Martin-Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Brandon Blackshear-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Travis Creech-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks.

For the second time in three events, Jim Weller, Jr. stopped the Kings from another victory in the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds. Weller stormed into the lead on the opening lap and was never challenged throughout the 20-lap Hovis Auto & Truck Supply event. It marked the second straight week the feature went caution free, and the non-stop time was 5:59.713. After five events this season, there has yet to be anyone other than the Kings or Weller to record a feature win.

“We were pretty good,” chuckled the Hubbard, Ohio veteran. “You have to just go for it on the start. That’s the best time to pass three or four cars real quick. The green-to-checkered is good when you’re leading, but last week I didn’t like it so much. I think this is third feature we’ve had go non-stop this year. This is a great division and you have good drivers. The guys that are learning are out of the way and hold their line. It’s a lot of fun.”

Starting fourth, Weller powered past Jim Rasey, his son Jimmy III, and pole-sitter Tom Glenn for the lead. Rex King started fifth alongside his son Rex, Jr. (“Cooter”) and didn’t waste any time passing four cars to grab second after the first lap. “Cooter” filled out the top five after the opening lap then three laps later followed Rasey past Glenn for fourth. “Cooter” used the inside of turns one and two to slip past Rasey for third on lap eight.

Up front it was all Weller as even the lapped cars didn’t slow him from taking the checkered flag first by a margin of 2.420 seconds for his 28th career win in his Zip Motorsports-owned, Liberty Steel Products-sponsored #31. King’s runner-up left him tied with Weller atop the standings, while “Cooter” third place finish keeps the youngest King just one-point out of the top spot in third!

Rasey’s fourth place was his fourth top four finish in five events! After getting involved in a heat race accident, Ricky Richner charged from 14th to finish fifth after passing Glenn on lap 13 without the help of a caution. Sixth through 10th were Glenn, Rick Regalski, Jr., Tom Mattocks, Ralph McBride, and Ronnie Kahler. Heat winners were King and Weller. Bob Warren, who failed to start the feature, was awarded two pit passes for next Saturday compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply for being the hard luck recipient.

Will Thomas III has been on a mission the past two weeks in the RUSH Late Models. Last week, Thomas charged back through his heat from the tail after a pit stop to make the invert then ran down Super Late veteran Mark Banal and drove off for a convincing win. On Saturday night, Thomas started in seventh, drove to the front, and left the pack for a second straight dominating win in the 20-lap Barris Supply feature.

“It’s been a really tough year,” acknowledged the 38-year-old Sharpsville, Pa. resident. “We lost my dad in April. We’ve had a great car all year, but just haven’t been able to get it done until last week. My racing was such a big part of mine and my dad’s life and it was something we always did together. When I lost my dad, I worried if I’d ever win again without him, but I think we’ll probably win more now that he’s up there looking out after us. It feels great to come to Sharon Speedway. I grew up here as a kid living seven miles away. It’s great to see the fans here supporting short-track racing. Sharon does a great job.”

Clay Ruffo took off in the lead, while Russ Byler and fifth starting Alan Dellinger passed Bobby Pifer III for positions two and three respectively on the opening lap. Thomas worked his way to fifth after lap one then passed Pifer for fourth on lap two. Following a spin for Eric Andrus, leader Ruffo exited the event moving Byler, Dellinger, and Thomas into the top three spots. An accident on the ensuing restart collected Jamie Wrightsman, Andrus, and Pifer.

Back under green, Thomas passed Dellinger for third on lap three and only one more lap was completed before the event’s final caution with four laps scored. When green replaced yellow, Thomas made the outside pass of Byler stick, while Dellinger slipped under Byler for second. Thomas quickly pulled away from Dellinger, while the battle was on for third between Byler, Dennis Lunger, Jr., and Bob Diver. Diver got past Lunger on lap 11 then two laps later Lunger got sideways in turn four and dropped out of the top 10. This allowed Bobby Whitling to move into the top five before he drove past Diver down the backstretch for fourth on lap 19.

Up front, Thomas increased his lead every lap and took the checkered flag first by a huge margin of 6.794 seconds in his Colonial Metal Products/Barris Supply/King Sanitary/All Star Performance/Motorstate/Sweet Manufacturing/Russ King Racing-sponsored #9. The win was Thomas’ 11th of his career, which is tops all-time in the division.

Dellinger gave car owner Bob Williams his second straight runner-up finish after Banal subbed for him last Saturday night. Byler was third and continues to be impressive in the Terry Hoover #00H with his fifth top seven finish in as many races. Whitling was fourth over Diver, who was randomly selected for two pit passes for next Saturday night compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply. Completing the top 10 were Wendell Pinckney, newcomer Chris Reid from Mississippi, Pifer, Wrightsman, and Lunger. Topping the heats were Thomas and Lunger.

Debuting a new motor, Carl McKinney was fast out of the box on Saturday night and was rewarded with his first win at Sharon since September 14, 2012. McKinney passed Mike Kinney on lap eight and held off a hungry pack of Modified racers for the 20-lap Summit Racing Equipment victory.

“Mike was running the top and I figured I’d move up to see what it did and man it took off and I was like ‘we have something going on here,” explained the 42-year-old Mars, Pa. racer. “I just can’t thank Mike Hendrickson enough for sticking it out with this new car. We struggled so bad last year and it’s good to get it squared away and something working. We ended up blowing a motor last week and put this one in. This was a freshened motor and I think that may have been an issue too. I think the old one was laying down way earlier than we thought it was, but man this thing just lit on fire tonight!”

Kinney, who prior to Saturday night was the only driver to beat Joel Watson this season, took advantage of his pole position starting spot to take the early lead. McKinney started third and passed Dwayne Clay for second on the opening lap, while Jeff Johnson followed in third on lap three. Clay continued to back-pedal as Steve Dixon and Watson dropped him out of the top five by lap four.

A caution for newcomer Jesse Gould slowed the event with five laps scored. On the restart, Johnson made the pass of McKinney for second, but on the following lap McKinney regained the runner-up spot before a caution for Jacob Eucker. Lined up alongside Kinney, McKinney made the outside work driving around Kinney in turn four to lead lap eight. A pair of cautions for Amanda Stiffler were the last stoppages of the race as the final 11 went caution-free.

Kinney kept McKinney in his sights, but never mounted a challenge as McKinney took the win by 1.473 seconds for his eighth career win in the Mike Hendrickson-owned, Townsend Gas & Oil/Whitehills Garage/Leisure Time Power Sports/Brad Penn Oil/Hoosier Tires-sponsored #6M. Dixon was third over Watson, who recorded his season’s worst finish on the circuit. Bruce Powell had a strong fifth in just his second night out this season. Rounding out the top 10 were Johnson, Russ Dunn, Paul Davis, Clayton Kennedy, and Larry Kugel. Kennedy was awarded the Summit Racing Equipment $25 hard charger certificate for advancing seven positions. Dixon and Johnson copped the heats.

After a head-up start from the heat race finish, Greg Martin led from start-to-finish in the 15-lap RUSH Sportsman Modified feature for his first ever Sharon Speedway victory. The appearance was the second by the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC-sponsored division and marked the third winner in four events in the debut of the Series.

“This is a beautiful facility with a lot of history,” expressed the 32-year-old Wilson, New York driver. “It’s really nice to win here in front of a nice crowd. I believe this class will take off. It’s an excellent starter class for the Big-Block Modifieds. It’s a great idea because you guys need a feeder system to keep the big-block class alive down here. We have a nice Sportsman class in New York that draws a full field. We started to price ourselves out with the open motors in the Sportsman class as it started to get up to $15,000-$20,000. We then switched over to the crate motor program and that really helped revive us. I really like this class.”

Martin quickly took off in the lead with Rocky Kugel in tow. Sixth starting Adam Siegel passed Jeremy Zufall on the opening lap to crack the top five then got by Jamie Duncan for fourth on lap three. Martin began to pull away on lap three, while Jeremy Paup pressured Kugel for second, but slipped high on lap five allowing Siegel to close in.

The race’s only caution came with 12 laps scored when Ken Moy, Jr. spun to avoid the slowing Marty Kristyak. Kugel had one more shot at Martin, but Martin would keep a steady margin to win by 1.234 seconds in his Jeffrey Machine/NYDKS Go-Kart Series/Atwell Eye Care-sponsored #4. Kugel backed up his runner-up last Saturday night at Pittsburgh with an second place finish. Paup edged out Siegel for third. Moy battled back up to finish fifth in his season debut. Martin also won the heat race.

Brandon Blackshear became the fourth different winner in as many Econo Mod races this year holding off Jamie Scharba in the 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products feature. “We’re just out here trying to get the rust knocked off,” said the 23-year-old Brookfield, Ohio racer. “The driver is slacking a little bit. Tubby (Tessean) is back helping me so I knew it wouldn’t take long and we’d be standing back here again. Besides my dad, he’s the only other person I trust. We missed the first night because we didn’t have a motor. My dad builds motor, but says I don’t pay so I go back to the end of the line. Once we got the motor we were back in business!”

Following his heat race win and a heads up start, Blackshear earned the feature pole and took charge over Scharba. The event was slowed six times for cautions. Josh Ferry, who has won the last two Friday nights at Raceway 7, passed Casey Bowers for fourth on lap two then got past Jeremy Double on lap 14 for third. The top four cars were close for the entire event, but it was Blackshear over Scharba by just 0.757 of a second. It was Blackshear’s all-time division leading 12th career victory in his Tubs Automotive/Clay Bros. Trucking/Deforest Used Parts/Intense Fabricating-sponsored, Blackshear Racing Engines-powered #10.

Scharba’s runner-up was his best finish since getting in Bootie Petsko’s #00 last year. Ferry’s third place was his career best Sharon effort. Double, the defending champion and current point leader, was fourth ahead of Bowers. Josh Mueller advanced from 15th to seventh to earn the Summit Racing Equipment $25 hard charger certificate. Blackshear and Tim Deutsch won the heat races.

Defending champion Travis Creech continued his dominance of the Mini Stocks. Creech charged from sixth to win his fourth feature in five starts this season in the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts feature. “(Bill) Fuchs is tough,” stated the 25-year-old Niles, Ohio driver. “I try to do everything I can to race him clean. He always races me clean, and it’s a blast to beat him. What a win- that was fun! I have to thank everyone that helps out.”

Creech moved into the top five after one lap and passed Dan Nagy for fourth on lap two before the event’s only caution for a spin by Rick Wilson, Jr. with two laps scored. On the ensuing restart, Creech passed both Jamie Maxwell and Shane Smith for second. Creech was all over race-long leader Fuchs on laps four, five, and six before finally taking the lead by driving under and past Fuchs in turns three and four on the sixth circuit.

Once in front, Creech went unchallenged for his 10th career win in the May’s Towing/Elite Coleman/JLB Trucking-sponsored #75T. Fuchs was second for the second straight week and third time this season as he’s yet to finish worse than fourth; however, is still looking for his season’s first win. Maxwell and Pete Blazczak were fourth and fifth respectively. Heat winners were Creech and Blazczak.

Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. JIM WELLER, JR. (31) 2. Rex King (65) 3. Rex King, Jr. (165) 4. Jim Rasey (32) 5. Ricky Richner (26) 6. Tom Glenn (83T) 7. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 8. Tom Mattocks (69) 9. Ralph McBride (R13) 10. Ronnie Kahler (75) 11. Jimmy Weller III (23) 12. Carl Murdick (6) 13. Kevin Green (74) 14. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 15. Erik Martin (29E)-DNS 16. Bob Warren (96B)-DNS.

Barris Supply RUSH Late Models (20 laps): 1. WILL THOMAS III (9) 2. Alan Dellinger (Williams 8) 3. Russ Byler (Hoover 00H) 4. Bobby Whitling (7W) 5. Bob Diver (23) 6. Wendell Pinckney (11) 7. Chris Reid (c4) 8. Bobby Pifer III (6P) 9. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 10. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (71L) 11. Jason Stanke (44) 12. Eric Andrus (54) 13. Lon Emerick (3) 14. Clay Ruffo (14R).

Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (20 laps): 1. CARL MCKINNEY (6M) 2. Mike Kinney (3) 3. Steve Dixon (Engles 68) 4. Joel Watson (92) 5. Bruce Powell (35) 6. Jeff Johnson (27) 7. Russ Dunn (White 53) 8. Paul Davis (3D) 9. Clayton Kennedy (9) 10. Larry Kugel (0) 11. Mike Bambarger (B2) 12. Jacob Eucker (64) 13. Joe Gabrielson (58) 14. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 15. Jesse Gould (2G) 16. Dwayne Clay (007) 17. Rich Jaeger (5)-DNS 18. Brian Douglas (214)-DNS.

Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (15 laps): 1. GREG MARTIN (4) 2. Rocky Kugel (1) 3. Jeremy Paup (X) 4. Adam Siegel (91) 5. Ken Moy, Jr. (34) 6. Jeremy Zufall (20) 7. Jamie Duncan (18) 8. Will Schaffer (4) 9. Marty Kristyak (404) 10. Chelsie Kriegisch (Schaffer 4C)-DNS.

HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. BRANDON BLACKSHEAR (10) 2. Jamie Scharba (Petsko 00) 3. Josh Ferry (33) 4. Jeremy Double (83) 5. Casey Bowers (20 6. Ty Rhoades (12R) 7. Josh Mueller (01) 8. George Vestal IV (4) 9. Jason Longwell (7s) 10. Tim Deutsch (8) 11. Steve Haefke (41) 12. Junior Mechling (89) 13. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR) 14. Ryan Fraley (12) 15. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 16. Kayla Adams (39)-DNS.

Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. TRAVIS CREECH (75T) 2. Bill Fuchs (10) 3. Shane Smith (299) 4. Jamie Maxwell (6) 5. Pete Blazczak (77) 6. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 7. Dan Nagy (17B) 8. Pat Drennan (Sirrine 24) 9. Geof Pinch (36) 10. Tim McAninch (43) 11. Ray Kennedy (18) 12. Tom Brenkert (11B) 13. Steve Walker II (4M) 14. Greg Schmied (97) 15. Rick Wilson, Jr. (55).

Coming up this Saturday night, June 7 is another “Steel Valley Thunder” program featuring the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, RUSH Late Models, Modifieds, Stock Cars, Econo Mods, and Mini Stocks plus kids bike races. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and racing at 7.

Don’t forget, Saturday, June 14 is the rescheduled Fan Appreciation Night with FREE general admission plus autograph night for a full “Steel Valley Thunder” program.

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.