CAREER 1ST WIN FOR RUFFO IN ECONO MOD DEBUT; #4 FOR KNEPPER IN MOD LITES; HAEFKE WINS #3 IN MICROS WALKER WINS 1ST IN DWARFS ON FINAL FRIDAY NIGHT THUNDER PROGRAM
By Mike Leone
July 29, 2011
(Hartford, OH)…It was the typical threatening Friday as has been the case nearly ever Friday all season long, but after only a few morning sprinkles, the rains stayed south as Sharon Speedway was able to complete the “Friday Night Thunder” program. It was announced that this would be the final “Friday Night Thunder” program of the year, and that the Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods will be moved to the Saturday night “Steel Valley Thunder” program beginning August 6.
Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Clay Ruffo-Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods, Alan Knepper -Joe’s Radiator & Uni-Tech Frame Straightening Mod Lites, Jeff Haefke, Jr.-Micro Sprints, and Todd Walker-Uni-Tech Frame Straightening & Joe’s Radiator Sportsman Dwarf Cars. Kyle Fink was the only “358” Modified to show and no Mini Late Models were on hand.
Last season, Clay Ruffo was close on several occasions to scoring his first win in Stock Car competition at Mercer Raceway Park. At just 13 years of age, Ruffo recorded seven top five finishes including a pair of thirds and finished third in points in his rookie season. In 2011, Ruffo made the jump up to the FASTRAK Late Models and is currently eighth in the “Futures Cup” points for the entire Northeast Region.
Last week, the Ruffos traded their Stock Car for Chad Stevenson’s E-Mod. Ruffo put his Stock Car engine in the E-Mod and made his debut in the Econo Mod division on Friday night. And what a debut it was! If it wasn’t for a last lap slip in his heat race, Ruffo would have made a clean sweep of the night as he went out and led the final 14 laps of the Summit Racing Equipment feature for his career first win at just 14 years of age!
“This felt awesome,” expressed the Mercer, Pa. racer. “I’d like to thank my dad, mom, brother, my grandpa, and all my crew for helping me.”
Brian Hathaway led the opening lap before a five-car melee ensued in turn three on lap two. Ruffo, who started third, inherited the lead on lap two and survived three more cautions and pressure from two-time winner Todd Canter for the victory. Ruffo’s win came in the Corey Ruffo-owned, Integra Fabricating/Wedge Motorsports-sponsored #21c.
Canter started eighth and was in the top five on lap four after passing Jim Turley. Canter lined up third after Brandon Blackshear and Junior Mechling tangled on lap six. On the ensuing restart, Canter passed Derek Dellinger for second. Canter would pressure Ruffo over the final nine laps, but was unable to make the pass. Mechling and Blackshear came back to finish a close third and fourth. Keith Felicetty finished fifth in his first ever race driving a second Junior Mechling entry. Heat winners were Blackshear and Hathaway over the 15-car field.
The score sheets show Alan Knepper leading all 15 laps of the Joe’s Radiator/Uni-Tech Frame Straightening Mod Lite feature, but it was far from an easy victory. Knepper survived pressure from Mark Marcucci early on and a late charge by his father Lynn for his division-leading fourth win of the season and will go down as the abbreviated champion.
“That was my fault,” acknowledged the 18-year-old Somerset, Pa. driver. “I ended up getting into Mark (Marcucci) after I pushed up and then someone hit me from the rear, and I spun him the rest of the way out. We would have had a good race. I didn’t see my dad at all, but that was the first night for him out in that car. I’m sure he likes it now!”
Knepper passed newcomer Beau Newlon on the opening lap with fourth starting Chris Logan and eighth starting Marcucci already up to third after one lap. On lap two, Marcucci and Jeff Teeters overtook Logan for second and third. Following a caution for Newlon with three laps scored, Marcucci put a slider on Knepper for the apparent lead. Knepper came back with a similar slide job in turn four, but the two made contact with Marcucci spinning and then being struck by Jim Gump.
When racing resumed, Lynn Knepper was now up to fourth and inherited third when Teeters exited the event. Lynn would pass Logan for second on lap five. Lynn chased his son over the final 10 non-stop laps, but came up short to Alan in his Kneppers Repair/TSM Enhanced Shocks/EMD Wraps/Bilstein Shocks/Evolution Race Cars-sponsored #20. Lynn was second in his #27 car normally driven by Matt Hay. Kenny Meadows, who started 12th, finished third after passing Logan for the position on lap seven. Logan dropped to fourth over Angie Grzelak. Anthony Gillespie and Marcucci won the heat races.
Jeff Haefke, Jr. stole a first win away from point leader D.J. Furney by making the winning pass on lap 11 and went on to win his season’s third 15-lap Micro Sprint win. “I was being careful not to jump,” explained the 16-year-old Austintown, Ohio third generation racer. “I had a few fast cars in front of me so I tried to stay close, keep it cool and keep it clean. We came here to Sharon and had a pretty rough start. I cracked the wall back there last year and it’s nice to end Sharon Speedway on a good note. We’re really proud we did good this year.”
Tim Eakin, Sr. raced to the early lead as he and fourth starting Haefke passed pole-sitter Todd Reusser, who was subbing for Ryan Fredericks. Furney started back in ninth and became a factor when he passed Reusser for third on lap four. Following a caution for Dalton Daniels with eight laps completed, Furney got a great restart passing both Haefke and Eakin for the lead.
After lap nine was scored, Eakin slowed to bring out the caution moving Haefke back to second. Back under green flag conditions, Haefke used the outside to get alongside of Furney and passed the leader going down the backstretch with just over three laps to go. Haefke held on for the victory in his father Jeff’s #29 sponsored by J&M Machine.
Furney was second for third time in the past four races as he was able to finish in the top five of all seven starts this season claiming the abbreviated championship. Reusser was third with Mike Borawiec, Jr. and David Fleming completing the top five. Eakin won the heat race.
Todd Walker led all 15 laps of the Uni-Tech Frame Straightening/Joe’s Radiator Sportsman Dwarf Car feature for his first win of the season. “I was a little nervous on that final restart,” revealed the Lordstown, Ohio racer. “I’ve been up there before and spun myself out. I certainly didn’t want to do that again! I was just kind of taking it easy and cruising, but if I would have saw someone beside me I probably would have gave it a little more!”
Walker, Steve Mix, and Matt Berger overtook pole-sitter Art Williams, who was subbing for Joe Grzelak, Jr., on the initial lap. Teammates Mix and Berger were really going at it trying to stay with Walker, but the two made contact on lap seven with Berger spinning as Williams regained third. Mix put pressure on Walker on lap nine as the duo pulled away from the field.
Berger tangled with Josh Walker on the final lap setting up a one-lap shootout to the finish. Todd Walker though was able to hold on for his second career win in his Underwood’s Towing/Cerni Motors/Evans Racing Engines-sponsored #22. Mix was runner-up for the fourth time in seven races this season and finished second in points. Daniel Demyan passed Williams on the final lap to finish a career best third in his fourth start. Art Williams dropped to fourth over Tiffany Williams. Berger, who won the heat race, came back to finish sixth and was the abbreviated champion.
Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. CLAY RUFFO (21c) 2. Todd Canter (88) 3. Junior Mechling (89) 4. Brandon Blackshear (Scharba 1BS) 5. Keith Felicetty (Mechling 89M) 6. Charles Campbell, Jr. (99) 7. Derek Dellinger (119) 8. Jim Turley (117) 9. Jeff Christy (Berry 91) 10. Brian Hathaway (22) 11. Larry Root (22x) 12. Amanda Stiffler (14) 13. Corey Skully (21) 14. Kevin Robinson (24R) 15. Josh Haffa (5).
Joe’s Radiator/Uni-Tech Frame Straightening Mod Lites (15 laps): 1. ALAN KNEPPER (20) 2. Lynn Knepper (27) 3. Kenny Meadows (Teague 10T) 4. Chris Logan (21) 5. Angie Grzelak (57) 6. Andy Feil (08) 7. Anthony Gillespie (Williams 00) 8. Shane Pfeuffer (Lawson 717) 9. Breyton Santee (9) 10. Jeff Teeters (23) 11. Mark Marcucci (8M) 12. Jim Gump (71) 13. Beau Newlon (52).
Micro Sprints (15 laps): 1. JEFF HAEFKE, JR. (29) 2. D.J. Furney (Watson 12) 3. Todd Reusser (Fredericks 22R) 4. Mike Borawiec, Jr. (1) 5. David Fleming (79D) 6. Mike Kerr (Eastlick 23K) 7. Will Fleming III (79W) 8. Tim Eakin, Sr. (3) 9. Dalton Daniels (23) 10. Mike Burk (Brunkenhoefer 8) 11. C.J. Jones (10J)-DNS.
Uni-Tech Frame Straightening/Joe’s Radiator Sportsman Dwarf Cars (15 laps): 1. TODD WALKER (22) 2. Steve Mix, Jr. (85) 3. Daniel Demyan (8D) 4. Art Williams (Grzelak 888) 5. Tiffany Williams (Smith 58) 6. Matt Berger (322) 7. Jason Darocha (20) 8. Josh Walker (11) 9. Cody Dye (4T) 10. Brian Webber (777) 11. Kevin Sevacko (76)-DNS.
Sharon will be back in action tonight (July 30) for the Globe Restaurant @ Truck World Night with the Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds, Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling E-Mods, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, and the Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks with racing at 7 p.m.
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.