CUNNINGHAM WINS 1ST EVER IN FASTRAK LATE MODELS; 2ND CAREER WIN FOR KING, JR. IN MODS; CAREER 1ST WIN FOR KENNEDY IN E-MODS; D’APOLITO & SCHARBA KEEP ON WINNING IN STOCKS & MINIS
By Mike Leone
July 30, 2011
(Hartford, OH)…Stellar weather conditions provided the backdrop for an exciting night of racing at Sharon Speedway on Saturday night. The “Steel Valley Thunder” program was presented by The Globe Restaurant at Truck World in Hubbard, Ohio. Some of the season’s best racing was witnessed with the 102 cars that were on hand, as two drivers captured their first career wins in their respected divisions
Celebrating with wins in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Bill Cunningham-Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Rex King, Jr.-Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds, Clayton Kennedy-Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling E-Mods, Steve D’Apolito-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, and Mike Scharba-Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks.
Bill Cunningham was an accomplished Stock Car and Super Late Model racer throughout the region. The veteran racer moved into the FASTRAK Late Model division last season and has been unable to get back to his winning form. Cunningham has struggled mightily in 2011 competing weekly at Sharon and Raceway 7. In fact at Sharon, Cunningham entered Saturday night with just two top 10 finishes and had seven finishes of 20th or worse as he’s suffered through mechanical woes and has been caught up in several accidents.
That all changed on Saturday night as Cunningham put together a complete performance capturing his career first FASTRAK Late Model feature win after going from third to first on a late race restart, and held off 17th starting Mike Pegher, Jr. for the popular win. Cunningham’s 20-lap Barris Supply win was worth $700 and became the amazing 10th different winner of the season in 13 races!
“I’ll tell you what I absolutely wanted this races,” expressed the happy soon-to-be 44-year-old Jefferson, Ohio racer. “It was just pure determination. Mike (Pegher) is tough. He’s won a lot of races. He had me concerned, but I wasn’t going to give it to him! I’m just real glad to be here. I’ve had a monkey on my back all season long. Tonight is my 23rd anniversary so that makes it extra special.”
Cunningham started on the pole, but on lap one it was three-wide for the lead with third starting Double coming out on top. Ben Black was running third, but got high on lap four allowing Michael Mitchell and ninth starting Joe Martin by for third and fourth. By lap seven, Double had opened up a straightaway lead on Cunningham looking for his second win in the past three races.
After pressuring Mitchell, Martin made the pass for third on lap eight. Double had just caught lapped traffic on lap 10 when the caution slowed action for a tangle between Jason Stanke and Eric Wilson. When racing resumed, the fifth, sixth, and seventh place cars of point leader John Volpe, National Weekly Series point leader Max Blair, and Black tangled to bring out another caution. Mitchell would exit the event under caution yielding fourth to Josh Holtgraver with Pegher now in the top five.
Pegher got an excellent restart using the outside to pass both Holtgraver and Martin for third. Following a caution for a Shane Weaver spin with 15 laps completed, Pegher overtook Cunningham for second. Blair’s rough night ended when he slammed the fence in turn four causing another caution with 16 laps completed.
On the ensuing Delaware restart, Cunningham used the outside to fly past both Pegher and Double for the lead. Pegher made the pass of Double for second on lap 19. Pegher pressured Cunningham, but Cunningham was able to hold on by 0.320 seconds in his Cunningham Enterprises #59.
“I love this class,” acknowledged Cunningham. “I’m going to tell you what, I underestimated this class. I thought we’d just get an old car and put a little engine in there and go have some fun, but it’s a lot tougher than that! My crew has been amazing this year. We’ve blown motors, put on clips. They’ve stuck with me and worked real hard.”
Holtgraver passed Double on the final lap to finish third. Double, who looked untouchable the first half of the race, dropped to a disappointing fourth. Martin was fifth. “Futures Cup” racer Chad Wright came from 14th to finish sixth over Mark Moats, Jr., Billy Cunningham, Tom Copeland, and a season’s best finish by Stanke. Heat winners over the 22-car field were Double, Blair, and Bill Cunningham.
They always say the first one is the toughest. It took Rex King, Jr. four years to find victory lane in the Big-Block Modifieds, but only six weeks to win his second! The youngest member of the King Family led all 20 laps of the Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modified feature holding off his eighth starting father and a wild five-car scramble behind him for the $1,100 win.
The Bristolville, Ohio racer took off in the lead, while Brad Rapp passed Carl Murdick for second on the opening lap. Fifth starting Kevin Hoffman had passed Donny Minor on the first lap for fourth then grabbed third from Murdick on lap three. Hoffman was all over Rapp as the two raced side-by-side for second and made the pass on lap five; meanwhile while, King, Sr. was on the move as he took over fourth from two-time winner Rob Kristyak.
Hoffman looked like the fastest car as he was using the inside to perfection. Hoffman was all over King, Jr., while an intense battle was taking place behind. Kristyak was able to pass both King, Sr. and Rapp to take over third, while 12th starting Kevin Bolland joined the mix getting by King, Sr. for fourth.
A caution for a spin by Tom Shaffer, Jr. tightened the field with nine laps scored. When green replaced yellow, Kristyak and Bolland took second and third away from Hoffman. While King, Jr. continued to click off the laps on front, the positions two through five were seemingly changing every lap. Bolland and King, Sr. re-passed Kristyak for second and third on lap 17. Bolland tried to get a run on King, Jr., but King, Sr. wasn’t about to let that happen as he shot past Bolland to claim second on the 18th circuit.
The elder King charged hard at his son, but got in a little too hard allowing “Cooter” to hold on by 0.542 seconds in the Jim Brown Seed Sales/Arrowhead/Cintas/Schaeffer Oil/Reese Services/Mahan Welding & Fab-sponsored #165. Behind the King duo were Bolland, Kristyak, and Hoffman. Rounding out the top 10 were Tommy Kristyak, Rapp, Jim Rasey, Mike Turner, and Jim Weller, Jr. Heat wins went to Weller and King, Sr.
Clayton Kennedy made a surprise appearance and the decision to come to Sharon paid off as the youngster captured his career first E-Mod victory in the 15-lap Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling feature. After a race-long duel, Kennedy passed Andy Buckley with two laps to go to become the ninth different E-Mod winner of the season! It was just his third start of the season at Sharon as he improved on his eighth and fifth place efforts.
“I’ll tell you what, that’s probably the most fun I ever had,” expressed the ecstatic 20-year-old Mars, Pa. winner. “Holy crap! I was glad to get out front and have my chance to start the race. I knew how my car was coming off the bottom good. That’s what I went for and it looks like it paid off in the end. Now I don’t have to listen to my dad’s (Chuck Kennedy) grief about doing better than me all the time. Now I’m starting to show him up!”
Buckley shot into the lead with Alan Dellinger and Kennedy in pursuit. Carl McKinney passed Jeff Johnson for fourth on lap two. Dellinger, who entered the feature as the point leader, exited the event on lap three moving Kennedy and McKinney up to second and third.
Kennedy began to put the heat on Buckley on lap five, while McKinney slipped high in turn four allowing Johnson and Stiffler to get by for third and fourth. Kennedy pulled alongside Buckley on lap six running the low line, but the event’s first caution slowed action with seven laps completed and was a breather for Buckley, who would start out in front on the Delaware restart.
When green replaced yellow, Johnson dropped Kennedy back to third on lap nine, but a caution with 11 laps completed was just what Kennedy needed. Kennedy used the outside to sneak past Johnson to reclaim second. Kennedy then resumed his battle with Buckley. The duo ran side-by-side for the lead on lap 13. Kennedy used to the low line and got a great bite off the inside of turn four to lead the lap. Buckley didn’t go away as he pulled even on lap 14, but Kennedy was able to lead the lap before the race’s final caution when Johnson, Stiffler, and Bill Johnson tangled.
The last lap shootout saw Kennedy hold on for the thrilling victory in his Mars Auto Electric/Tom Kennedy Racing Engines/Chuck Kennedy Auto Sales/Mars Lanes/Moody Sales/APS-sponsored #9. McKinney snuck past Buckley on the final lap to finish second. Buckley just missed his first career E-Mod win as he came home a solid third. Scott Jones had another nice run coming from 12th to finish fourth for the third time in the past four races!
After failing to transfer through his heat race, Mike Kinney won the B main and raced from 16th starting position to finish fifth for his 10th top five of the season, which propelled him past Dellinger for the point lead. Sixth through 10th were Bob Diver, Tim Deutsch in the Jim White #53, newcomer Tim Engles, Paul Phillips, and a career best finish by Jim Clay. Another strong field of 29 cars was on hand as Buckley, Jeff Hassay, McKinney, and Stiffler bagged the heat wins.
What a year it’s been for Steve D’Apolito! The former three-time Stock Car track champion is back at Sharon after a three-year absence, which saw him win the title at Mercer Raceway Park in 2010. D’Apolito passed Jamie Scharba on lap 11 and went on for his third 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Car win of the season, and extended his point lead over Mike Clark.
“This is just the way we like the race track,” explained the 33-year-old Boardman, Ohio driver. “This is the first night on this new GM 602 crate engine. It’s pretty good for a $3,000 motor. I had to pedal it some, but it worked pretty well. Everybody is so close. It seems like one guy wins, then the next guy wins, and it just goes back and forth.”
Making his return to Sharon after over two months, Jamie Duncan debuted a new race car and took off in the lead with Scharba and D’Apolito in pursuit. Scharba made the pass for the lead on lap two, while D’Apolito followed in second one lap later. D’Apolito was all over Scharba as the two raced side-by-side on laps six and seven. Scharba had the momentum off the top as he continued to lead. D’Apolito pulled back even with Scharba on lap 11 and made the winning move before Scharba slowed to bring out the event’s first and only caution with 11 laps scored.
When racing resumed, D’Apolito went unchallenged to his 32nd career win at the track in his D’Apolito Christmas Tree Farm/Utsinger’s Towing/Race 1-sponsored #84. D’Apolito, who has yet to finish worse than sixth in any heat or feature this season, now has a 17-point lead on Clark. Duncan matched his season’s best finish in second. Charlie Jasinski was third after starting eighth. Tenth starting Paul Davis made his way to fourth over Clark. D’Apolito and Davis won the heat races over the 18-car field.
Mike Scharba charged from the 10th starting spot and took a first win away from both Scott Gilliland and Lucas Sprouse, who were battling for the victory, in the final two laps of the 12-lap Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stock feature. Scharba now has regained the lead of the all-time Mini Stock win list at 12.
“I was smiling ear-to-ear inside my helmet when that last caution came out,” revealed the 23-year-old Masury, Ohio driver. “You keep pushing more and more toward the end of the race, but there’s about eight more feet of wall we can come closer to!”
Gilliland powered to the lead past pole-sitter Duane Westfall with fourth starting Sprouse taking second on lap one. Scharba was halfway to the front after one lap then passed Steve Walker III for fourth on lap two. It was a four-car race for the lead with Gilliland trying to hold off Sprouse, Wrightsman, and Scharba.
On lap six, Scharba made the pass of Wrightsman for third. Meanwhile at the front, Sprouse pulled alongside Gilliland and the two raced side-by-side for the lead on laps six, seven, and eight with Sprouse nosing ahead to lead lap eight. On lap nine, five cars were battling for the win when the event’s first and only caution was displayed for second year racer Jeremy Double with 10 laps completed.
On the ensuing restart, Scharba drove by both Gilliland and Sprouse for the lead and ending both drivers’ hopes at their first win. Scharba went on for his fourth win of the season in just eight starts in his Westhill Auto/Hilltop Pizza/J&C Towing-sponsored #30M. Sprouse edged Gilliland for second. Tim Gillette came on late to take fourth over Walker. Point leader Bill Fuchs and Sprouse won the heat races over the 18-car field.
Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models (20 laps): 1. BILL CUNNINGHAM (59) 2. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Geisler 1c) 3. Josh Holtgraver (00) 4. Josh Double (38) 5. Joe Martin (55) 6. Chad Wright (6) 7. Mark Moats, Jr. (15) 8. Billy Cunningham (44c) 9. Tom Copeland (98) 10. Jason Stanke (44) 11. Bobby Pifer III (6) 12. Shane Weaver (Ruffner 325x) 13. Rocky Kugel (21KRT) 14. Damian Bidwell (17) 15. Bob Diver (23) 16. Ben Black (27B) 17. Max Blair (111) 18. Michael Mitchell (19) 19. John Volpe (Bidwell B1D) 20. Eric Wilson (27) 21. Stan Woomer (2) 22. Clay Ruffo (14R)-DNS.
Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. REX KING, JR. (165) 2. Rex King (65) 3. Kevin Bolland (777) 4. Rob Kristyak (00) 5. Kevin Hoffman (17H) 6. Tommy Kristyak (26z) 7. Brad Rapp (11R) 8. Jim Rasey (32) 9. Mike Turner (96) 10. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 11. Tom Mattocks (69) 12. Dean Pearson (8J) 13. Donny Minor (22M) 14. Carl Murdick (6) 15. Tom Shaffer, Jr. (34)
Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling E-Mods (15 laps): 1. CLAYTON KENNEDY (9) 2. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 3. Andy Buckley (965) 4. Scott Jones (71J) 5. Mike Kinney (3) 6. Bob Diver (23) 7. Tim Deutsch (White 53) 8. Tim Engles (68) 9. Paul Phillips (11SS) 10. Jim Clay (31) 11. Bill Johnson (58) 12. Scott Stiffler (14) 13. Jeff Johnson (27) 14. Jim Weller, Jr. (Clay 007) 15. Ronnie Kahler (7R) 16. Jeff Hassay (10) 17. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 18. Bruce Powell (35) 19. Brandon Blackshear (Beck 357) 20. Alan Dellinger (Petsko 00) DNQ: Wayne Brugmann (79), Dale Monreal (711), Brian Foley, Jr. (7JSR), Jim Turley (117), Rob Mellinger (55), Vince Crisanti (221), John Upshire (97), Arlan Coy (56), Mike Monreal (071).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. STEVE D’APOLITO (84) 2. Jamie Duncan (67J) 3. Charlie Jasinski (11A) 4. Paul Davis (Schaefers 3) 5. Mike Clark (7) 6. Brian Carothers (02c) 7. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 8. Tim Burns (66) 9. Stan Woomer (2) 10. Buck Buchanan, Jr. (93B) 11. Dave Wagner (35) 12. Jamie Scharba (00s) 13. Jamie Gibbs (98) 14. Bob Pollock (70X) 15. Mike Hudzik (31H) 16. Tyler Nicely (72) 17. Al Herman (11) 18. Gary Robinson (44R).
Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. MIKE SCHARBA (30M) 2. Lucas Sprouse (24s) 3. Scott Gilliland (27) 4. Tim Gillette (43) 5. Steve Walker III (4M) 6. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 7. Dan McEwen (44M) 8. Rob McElhaney (7) 9. Duane Westfall (Spencer 0) 10. Stacy Neubecker (5) 11. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 12. Jeremy Double (83) 13. Bill Fuchs (10) 14. Jeff Little (42) 15. Randy Sprouse (23s) 16. Ken Koby II (22) 17. Jake Monreal (32)-DNS 18. Mike McElhaney (6)-DNS.
Sharon will have an open practice this Wednesday from 5 p.m. until dark. Pit passes are $20 and the grandstands are free. Gates open at 4 p.m.
Sharon will return to action next Saturday, August 6 for the Bill Kirila Memorial Fan Appreciation Night presented by Quaker Steak & Lube. The “Steel Valley Thunder” featuring the Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds, Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling E-Mods, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks, and the Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods. It’ll be driver autograph night for all divisions. Gates open at 5 p.m. with racing at 7. The rain date is Sunday at 5:30 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.