LATE RACE PASS NABS BLAIR $4,000 IN ALL STAR SUPER LATES; KOWATIC WINS 1ST IN FASTRAK NE LATE MODEL TOUR MAKE-UP; PEGHER WINS 3RD IN REGULAR FASTRAK; DELLINGER CREDITED WITH CAREER 1ST ECONO MOD WIN; CAREER 1ST FOR WRIGHTSMAN IN MINIS
By Mike Leone
August 13, 2011
(Hartford, OH)…For the second straight week, thunderstorms were predicted at a greater than 60% chance, but sunshine graced Sharon Speedway as the storms held off until well after midnight. Celebrating with wins in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Robbie Blair-All Star Super Late Models, George Kowatic (7/23/11 Touring Series make-up) & Mike Pegher, Jr.-Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Derek Dellinger-Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods, and Jamie Wrightsman-Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks. FASTRAK driver Ben Black won the GM 604 crate engine compliments of Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, which was valued at $5,090.
Robbie Blair bided his time and was there when it counted. The defending All Star Super Late Model champion wasn’t a factor for the first half of the race, but found himself third after a mid-race accident that took out the second, third, and fourth place cars. Blair then went on to pass Matt Lux and race-long leader Dave Hess, Jr. with two laps to go to win the 40-lap feature worth $4,000.
“Hess’ car was wheelie’ing up there pretty good,” described the Centerville, Pa. standout. “It made him have traction, but his corner speed was kind of screwed up. I was just hanging on at the beginning hoping the track and my car would come to me. My car got better there at the end. We had harder tires on than probably anyone else and it took awhile for them to go. There was quite a bit of rubber there at the end and my car was pretty good. If Hess’ car was going straight in the corners, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pass him. Half of racing is luck. Everything has to come together to win nowadays.”
A pair of cautions for Bryan Casey and Derek Frank slowed action before a lap was completed, but once green flag racing got underway, the first 21 laps went non-stop. Hess took off in the lead with Jared Miley, Donnie Moran, Matt Lux, and Russell King filling the top five. King drove under Lux to take fourth on lap two.
Hess caught traffic on lap nine as the top four broke away from the field. On lap 10, the lapped car of Russ Frohnapfel allowed Miley to really put the pressure on Hess, while King tried everything to get past Moran. Miley pulled alongside Hess for the first time on lap 14 as he dove low, while Hess fought the lapped car of Brent Rhebergen.
Hess continued to lead, but Miley once again pulled even with the leader on lap 15, but was unable to lead the lap. Hess got a little breathing room, but on lap 18 caught a swarm of lapped cars that included Garrett Krummert, George Lee, and Mike Blose. Miley tried to make the pass on lap 21 as he again raced side-by-side with Hess, but just couldn’t make it stick.
On lap 22, King made a dive bomb move through the bottom of turns three and four to get past Moran for third, but drove into Miley forcing all three cars to spin. It was a heartbreaker for Miley, who was fresh off his first Lernerville Speedway win in dominating fashion the night prior. Miley and Moran would restart at the tail, while King was done for the night.
The accident moved Lux to second, Blair to third with Ryan Markham and Dennis Lunger, Jr. now into the top five. Lunger’s strong run ended on lap 26 when he brought out the race’s fourth caution. At this point, everyone noticed Hess’ car appeared to have an issue. At first, Hess thought he had a right rear tire going down, but would later realize he broke the right rear shock.
Six more laps were run before the race’s final caution was displayed for Miley. Back under green flag racing, Blair passed Lux for second with an inside move in turn three. Blair then caught Hess on lap 35. Blair ducked under Hess in turn four on lap 37, but Hess had the momentum to lead the lap; however, one lap later Blair made the pass stick with the slider in turn four.
Blair immediately pulled away and stretched his lead and margin of victory to a straightaway in his Specialty Products/Bossard’s Used Auto-sponsored #W11. Hess was second after leading the first 37 laps. Lux was a solid third with Markham fourth and John Garvin, Jr. coming from 11th to finish fifth. Krummert came from 15th to finish sixth over Rick “Boom” Briggs, Moran, John Mollick, and George Lee II. Heat winners Blair, Moran, and King, who set fast time over the 21-car field with a lap of 15.587.
Former Super Late Model racer George Kowatic made the move to the FASTRAK Late Models in 2011. Kowatic won a Weekly Series event earlier this season at Tri-City Speedway for his first ever FASTRAK win, but outside of a fourth on the Touring Series opener on April 30 at Roaring Knob, Kowatic hadn’t finished better than 12th in Touring Series competition.
That all changed on Saturday night, as he took full advantage of his pole position starting spot and went out and led all 30 laps of the July 23 make-up feature for the $2,000 victory! The win was from easy as he had to hold off fifth starting Josh Holtgraver (a two-time Sharon Touring Series winner) and 23rd starting Doug Horton for the victory. Kowatic became the eighth different Northeast Touring Series winner of the season and amazing 11th different Sharon winner this season!
“I was ready to run this race weeks ago,” exclaimed the 28-year-old Aliquippa, Pa. driver. “We were having a little bit of motor issues that night, but I think we would have been alright. We came back tonight and we were still having some motor issues, but it’s a big thing to start up front here and on the Touring shows. I didn’t know (Doug) Horton got to third. He could have got behind me and held everyone back! That would have worked out better! I’m glad my family is here- that doesn’t always happen and they make everything possible.”
Kowatic took off in the lead with Kyle Lukon, Damian Bidwell, Sharon point leader Josh Volpe, and Holtgraver trailing. Rookie Matt Latta got into the fence bringing out the first caution with one lap scored. On the ensuing restart, Holtgraver powered by Volpe for the fourth spot. As the laps ticked off caution-free, Holtgraver pressured Bidwell before making the pass for third in turn four on lap nine.
By lap 10, Kowatic and Lukon distanced themselves from the field, while Bidwell worked his way back past Holtgraver for third. Lukon was really turning the heat up on Kowatic on lap 14 before the second and final caution of the event was displayed for Billy Cunningham with 14 laps scored. Holtgraver got a great restart taking back third from Bidwell then dove under Lukon to take second in turn four.
Horton, who came from the back of the B main to transfer to the feature, had been picking off cars left and right running the extreme bottom of the speedway. After starting 23rd, Horton had made it up to seventh for the restart. When green replaced yellow, Horton advanced three more spots and was running fourth on lap 15. On lap 19, Lukon slipped high in turn four allowing Horton to take third allowing Bidwell to gain fourth back and 14th starting Mike Pegher, Jr. into the top five.
Kowatic continued to lead, but in turn four on lap 23 got high allowing Holtgraver and Horton to close. Holtgraver and Horton were all over Kowatic looking for a way by, but without the help of traffic or cautions just couldn’t find a way by as all 19 finishing cars were on the lead lap with only two cautions! Kowatic’s margin of victory was 0.591 seconds in the MCB Motorsports, High Gear Speed-sponsored #5 Warrior Chassis.
After two top three finishes to start the season off, Holtgraver had been unable to return to the top five since in Touring Series action. On Saturday night though, Holtgraver turned in a fine second at the track where he owns his only two career Touring Series wins one day shy of his 23rd birthday. Horton was another half-second back in third in his first Touring Series start since in the National Event at Mercer Raceway Park on July 3, 2010. Bidwell matched his career best Touring Series effort in fourth. It was actually his third fourth place finish in the past six races! Pegher, who won the night’s regularly scheduled Weekly Series event, was fifth over Volpe.
Touring Series point leader Max Blair came from 22nd to finish seventh, which was actually his worst finish of the season. Despite being outgained by Pegher now for the last four races, Blair still holds down a 27-point lead. Lukon was eighth for his third top 10 finish in four Touring starts. Dan Angelicchio, who came from the back of the B main to transfer to the feature, was another big gainer in ninth after starting 24th. Joe Martin was 10th after starting 18th.
After leading the first 13 laps of the night’s regularly scheduled Weekly Series event only to finish third, Rocky Kugel ended the night in victory lane picking up the 10-lap non-qualifier as part of the “Wheelman” Bonus Event Challenge Series. Kugel’s first win was worth $175 as he led all 10 laps with only one caution to slow him in his Paper Service Co.-sponsored #21KRT.
“I’m tired right now,” stated the 35-year-old East Liverpool, Ohio driver. “I can hardly hold my arms up. We ate the right front tire completely off in the feature- it was bald. I could tell the last couple laps in that last race it was wanting to come around on me. We changed the tire for this race. We work on this car all the time to keep getting it faster and faster. We’re sure trying to get that first win. I think we’re getting real close.”
Ben Black, who won the engine giveaway earlier in the night, was second. “This absolutely will come in need,” said the 24-year-old driver. “I’ve already thanked Sweeneys a couple times and will have to do it again. That’s awesome! We’ve been struggling all year and finally are getting closer now. I hope to be in victory lane soon!”
Tom Copeland finished third over Jason Stanke and Brian Lessley, a two-time non-qualifier winner. Heat winners back on July 23 were Russ Dunn, Tom Snyder, Jr., Steve Dixon, Volpe, and Lukon. Saturday’s twin B main winners were Martin and Josh Double. A Sharon record 48 cars participated in the event!
Mike Pegher, Jr. made it two-in-a-row and three on the season in Weekly Series competition at Sharon in the night’s regularly scheduled 20-lap Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Model feature. Pegher showed you could still pass on the track as he came from 12th to pass race-long leader Rocky Kugel on lap 14 for his fourth career FASTRAK win at the track.
“We have something going on here,” acknowledged the 25-year-old Wexford, Pa. standout. “We finally got a setup that works pretty good. We missed a little bit in the first feature, but we made up for the second one. The track is a lot faster this way. There are three-car passing on the way it is tonight. It’s fun. Everybody has a good setup on the car and it makes for a good race. If it wasn’t for my crew and Lynn Geisler we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Most thought two-time National Weekly Series champion and current point leader would be the guy to beat as he lined up second, but would get into turn three and four too hard trying to pass Kugel and slammed the fence putting a quick halt to his feature.
When racing got underway, Kugel took charge with fourth starting Josh Double passing Billy Henry, Jr. for second. Double closed on Kugel on lap five and was all over the leader on lap six trying to get his second win and regain the track point lead. Bill Cunningham, who won his first feature on July 30, slipped high in turn two on lap seven allowing Damian Bidwell to take fourth. Cunningham then spun with seven laps completed.
When green replaced yellow, 10th starting Angelicchio and Pegher both got great restarts taking third and fourth. Angelicchio and Pegher raced side-by-side for third, while Double continued to try everything to get by Kugel. On lap 10, Pegher passed Angelicchio for third and began to close on the front two.
Cunningham brought out another caution with 13 laps completed. The caution was just what Pegher needed as he passed both Double and Kugel for the lead in turns one and two. Double would get by Kugel in turn two to regain second. Double stayed with Pegher until lap 17 when he slipped high allowing Pegher to pull away. Pegher went on for his fifth career overall win at Sharon in the Lynn Geisler-owned, #1 Cochran Automotive/Triple-S Auto Sales/Zero Wraps-sponsored #1c. Pegher tied Martin for the division’s top winner at three as Volpe is the only other driver to win multiple features at the track this season.
Double’s second allowed him to pull within one point of Volpe. Kugel, who is third in points, recorded his fifth top five of the season. Lukon continues to impress at Sharon. Lukon had never raced at Sharon prior to June 25 and has now recorded four top eight finishes including a pair of fourths. Lukon passed Angelicchio for the spot on lap 17. Angelicchio dropped to fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Martin, Russ Dunn, 16th starting Horton, Henry, and Holtgraver. Heat winners over the 36-car field were Bidwell, Henry, Lukon, and Kugel. Bob Diver and Rod Laskey won the two B mains.
Corey Skully led all 15 laps of the Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mod feature for his apparent first career win, but was disqualified in post-race tech due to an illegal carburetor. With the disqualification, 11th starting Derek Dellinger was credited with the victory- his first of his career in the division in just his seventh start. The victory was worth a division-record $350 for the 17-year-old Niles, Ohio driver.
Skully raced to the lead with Brian Hathaway and Todd Canter in second and third. Canter and Hathaway went at it the next two laps with Canter taking the position. Sixth starting Brandon Blackshear made his way forward and passed Hathaway for third on lap three. Canter closed in on Skully on lap eight, while Skully battled lapped traffic; meanwhile, Blackshear was able to sneak past Canter for second on lap nine.
Hathaway regained third on lap 10 from Canter, who then slammed the fence bringing out the first caution after nine consecutive green flag laps. Cautions breed cautions and after nine non-stop laps, five cautions slowed action between laps nine and eleven. Dellinger wasn’t even a factor until passing Junior Mechling for third on a lap 12 restart then made what would be the winning move as he passed Blackshear on the final lap.
After Skully’s disqualification’s Dellinger’s earned his second career win as he picked up his first career win last season in the Mini Stocks. It was the #119’s third win of the season as his father Alan won two “Friday Night Thunder” events earlier this season. Blackshear was second. Point leader Mechling was third for the sixth straight feature and now has 10 straight top four finishes! Jim Turley was fourth after starting 16th with Larry Root completing the top five. For the second straight week, a record 17 cars were on hand for the second year division. Heat winners were Blackshear and J.B. Dellinger.
Rounding out the program were the Mini Stocks and for the fourth time in the past six races, there was a new winner. Rookie Jamie Wrightsman has been fast all season long, but just couldn’t quite find victory lane. He entered the night with nine top five finishes including runner-ups in two of the last four weeks. On Saturday night, Wrightsman earned his first career win passing eight-time winner Bill Fuchs for the $200 Presidential Lawn Care win!
“It all comes down to weekly maintenance,” stated the 21-year-old Cortland, Ohio winner. “There’s a lot of work you have to do to these things. You can’t just get in and drive it. You have to set them up. We’ve been working on it and it finally paid off tonight. My dad said we were running the same lap times as Bill (Fuchs) in the heats. We stayed right with him and made it work! It was tough, but I got it done”
Fuchs pulled the pole position and took command with Wrightsman passing another rookie in Jim Haefke, Jr. The race’s only caution occurred on lap two when Ken Koby II and Mike McElhaney tangled in turn one with McElhaney slamming the fence. Back under green flag conditions, Wrightsman was all over Fuchs. Wrightsman pulled alongside Fuchs on lap seven and made the pass on the outside of turn four.
Wrightsman held off Fuchs for the victory in his King Bros.-sponsored #21J. Point leader Fuchs held on to second with his hood flapping. Fuchs, who won eight of the first 13 races, has now been shutout of victory lane since July 9, but continues to close in on his first career championship as he now has a 104-point lead on Lucas Sprouse. Haefke matched his season best finish with his fourth third place finish. Rob McElhaney and Steve Walker II were fourth and fifth. Heat wins went to Fuchs and Wrightsman.
All Star Super Late Models (40 laps, $4,000 to-win): 1. ROBBIE BLAIR (W11) 2. Dave Hess, Jr. (44) 3. Matt Lux (21) 4. Ryan Markham (5M) 5. John Garvin, Jr. (J4) 6. Garrett Krummert (29) 7. Rick “Boom” Briggs (99B) 8. Donnie Moran (99) 9. John Mollick (4J) 10. George Lee II (G1) 11. Brent Rhebergen (07R) 12. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Schwartz 71L) 13. Terry Porter (32) 14. Jared Miley (H1) 15. Russell King (56) 16. Russ Frohnapfel (45) 17. Mike Bores (15B) 18. Mike Blose (5) 19. Derek Frank (16*) 20. Bryan Casey (25) 21. John Volpe (99V)-DNS.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Touring Series 7/23/11 make-up (30 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. GEORGE KOWATIC (5) 2. Josh Holtgraver (00) 3. Doug Horton (15c) 4. Damian Bidwell (17) 5. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Geisler 1c) 6. John Volpe (Bidwell (B1D) 7. Max Blair (111) 8. Kyle Lukon (1) 9. Dan Angelicchio (14) 10. Joe Martin (55) 11. Russ Dunn (47) 12. Steve Dixon (50) 13. Butch Lambert (27) 14. Chad Wright (6) 15. Billy Henry (McGee 21*) 16. Bobby Whitling (7W) 17. Laura Lukon (84) 18. Tony Tatgenhorst (Aguredakes 63) 19. Lauren Longbrake (27) 20. Josh Double (38) 21. Tom Snyder, Jr. (1F) 22. Kyle Zimmerman (z17) 23. Billy Cunningham (44c) 24. Matt Latta (21) Qualified, but did not return: Shane Hitt (2*), Robbie Blair (W11), Andrew Wylie (84)
FASTRAK Late Model Non-Qualifier 7/23/11 make-up (10 laps, $175 to-win): 1.Rocky Kugel (21KRT) 2. Ben Black (27B) 3. Tom Copeland (98) 4. Jason Stanke (44) 5. Brian Lessley (Powell 100) 6. Shane Weaver (Ruffner 325x) 7. Brian Booher (Hoover 00H) 8. Clay Ruffo (14R) 9. Rod Laskey (1R) 10. Stan Woomer (2) 11. Eric Wilson (27)-DNS 12. Bill Cunningham (59)-DNS Did not return: Joel Prosser (77), Wayne Robertson (20), Joe Long (71), Bobby Pifer III (6), Jason Dupont (Bidwell 17D), Junior Peters (00), Jamie Brown (135), Craig Dean (21), Luke Carleton (20).
Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models (20 laps): 1. MIKE PEGHER, JR. (Geisler 1c) 2. Josh Double (38) 3. Rocky Kugel (21KRT) 4. Kyle Lukon (1) 5. Dan Angelicchio (14) 6. Joe Martin (55) 7. Russ Dunn (47) 8. Doug Horton (15c) 9. Billy Henry, Jr. (McGee 21*) 10. Josh Holtgraver (00) 11. Kyle Zimmerman (z17) 12. Damian Bidwell (17) 13. Tom Snyder, Jr. (1F) 14. Bobby Whitling (7W) 15. John Volpe (Bidwell B1D) 16. Ben Black (27B) 17. Stan Woomer (2) 18. Lauren Longbrake (27) 19. Bob Diver (23) 20. Chad Wright (6) 21. Tony Tatgenhorst (Aguredakes 63) 22. Bill Cunningham (59) 23. Rod Laskey (1R) 24. Max Blair (111). DNQ: Billy Cunningham (44c), Butch Lambert (27), George Kowatic (5), Tom Copeland (98), Brian Lessley (Powell 100), Shane Weaver (Ruffner 325x), Laura Lukon (84), Jason Stanke (44), Steve Dixon (50), Brian Booher (Hoover 00H), Eric Wilson (27), Matt Latta (21).
Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods (15 laps, $350 to-win): 1. DEREK DELLINGER (119) 2. Brandon Blackshear (Scharba 1BS) 3. Junior Mechling (89) 4. Jim Turley (117) 5. Larry Root (22x) 6. Jeff Christy (Berry 91) 7. Charles Campbell, Jr. (99) 8. Kevin Robinson (24R) 9. Brian Hathaway (22) 10. Chad Felicetty (Mechling 89M) 11. J.B. Dellinger (1) 12. Todd Canter (88) 13. Brad Blackshear (19) 14. Amanda Stiffler (14) 15. Corey Skully (21)-DSQ (carburetor) 16. Mike Smith (81)-DNS 17. Clay Ruffo (21c)-DNS.
Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks (12 laps, $200 to-win): 1. JAMIE WRIGHTSMAN (21J) 2. Bill Fuchs (10) 3. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 4. Rob McElhaney (7) 5. Steve Walker II (4M) 6. Scott Gilliland (27) 7. Lucas Sprouse (24s) 8. Randy Sprouse (23s) 9. Dan McEwen (44M) 10. Jeremy Double (83) 11. Ken Koby II (22) 12. Duane Westfall (Spencer 0) 13. Mike McElhaney (6).
Sharon Speedway will return to action this Saturday night, August 20 with “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, Summit racing Equipment Econo Mods, and the Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks. It’ll be Lincoln Electric Night and Faster Pastor Night. Gates open at 5 with 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.