SHARON CELEBRATES 2011 SEASON AT YANKEE LAKE; KING, DOUBLE, MCKINNEY, D’APOLITO, MECHLING & FUCHS CROWNED CHAMPS AT AWARDS BANQUET
By Mike Leone
February 4, 2012
(Yankee Lake, OH)…Sharon Speedway wrapped up a very successful 2011 season on Saturday night honoring the top racers and achievers from this past year at the annual awards banquet and dinner at the Yankee Lake Ballroom. Jim Pollock emceed the affair, which is drew 400 attendees. The top 10 drivers in each of the six divisions received hardware and point fund monies.
Celebrating championships and sitting at the head table were Rex King-Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds, Josh Double-Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Carl McKinney-Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling E-Mods, Steve D’Apolito-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Junior Mechling-Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods, and Bill Fuchs-Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks. All of the champions also received a championship jacket and a complimentary pit pass for the 2012 season.
Several companies provided contingencies and certificates to the top racers. Frankland Racing Supply gave $75 certificates to each of the top 10 racers in the Big-Block Modified, FASTRAK, and E-Mod divisions. Wrisco Aluminum and Wedge Motorsports gave a sheet of aluminum to four racers each of the top five divisions. Hovis Auto & Truck Supply provided $25 certificates for each of the top 10 drivers in the Mini Stocks. Aero Wheels gave $40 gift certificates to two racers in each of the E-Mod, Stock Car, and Econo Mod divisions. Two drivers in each of the Econo Mod and Mini Stock divisions received certificates from Summit Racing Equipment.
Two more former racers were inducted into the Sharon Speedway Hall of Fame on Saturday night. Bob Kraus of Erie, Pa. was the first inductee. The Big-Block Modified great captured 39 victories in the famous yellow Stan’s Garden Center #83, which is still a tie for second on the all-time win list despite retiring in 1996. Kraus won the Modified track titles in 1983, 1984 and 1990 along with winning three Russ King Memorials.
The late Connie Allen formerly of Warren, Ohio was the second driver inducted to the Sharon Speedway Hall of Fame. Connie son’s George accepted the award for his father, who was long respected as one of the nicest and cleanest drivers by his fellow competitors and fans. Allen drove the George Snider-owned Modified for many years up until retiring after the 2004 season at 70 years of age. Allen was a 19-time winner in the Stock division and also picked up four wins in the Semi-Late class. He was also the 1962 Semi-Late Champion.
Several special awards were given out. FASTRAK Late Model racer Eric Wilson was the track’s Rookie-of-the-Year. Wilson, just 14 years of age won his first career race and finished 11th in points. The Cortland, Ohio go-kart graduate became the youngest winner in the track’s illustrious 83-year-old history. On that special August 21 night, Wilson held off FASTRAK Touring Series greats Max Blair, George Kowatic, Josh Holtgraver, and Joe Martin along with track champion Josh Double, who were all over the youngster.
The Stock Car division had two of its racers take special honors. Mike Clark won the Most Improved Award, while Brian Carothers received the dubious Hard Luck Award. Clark, a former drag racer, competed 15 years in various divisions like Super Late Models, Big-Block Modifieds, and Stock Cars before winning his first two races in 2011 and finished a career best second in points.
Carothers, a career two-time winner, had a year he’d like to forget with just 5 top 5s in 18 starts and no wins. Carothers seemed like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time getting caught up in several accidents and suffering numerous mechanical failures.
The Bill Kirila Award is in memory of the late speedway owner and is given to someone part of the Sharon Speedway staff. This year’s honor was bestowed to several teenage members of the track crew that work tirelessly at the speedway. Those recognized were Jeff Burns, Cody Burns, Tyler Burns, Clay Ruffo, and Derek Dellinger.
For the second straight year and fourth time of his career, Rex King was the Sharon Speedway Big-Block Modified Champion. King was also the champion in 1985 and 1996. The Bristolville, Ohio veteran led the division with five victories and an impressive 12 top 5s in 16 starts in his King’s Bristol Disposal/Midway Garage Door/RD Banks Chevrolet/Hunyady Auction/Cedar Steel/Auntie V’s Pizza/GS Engine Power-sponsored #65. King now sits in a tie for second on the overall win list at 39 career victories.
While King more than doubled all other racers’ win totals for the season, oddly enough positions two through sixth in points all had two wins including runner-up Kevin Bolland, Jim, Rasey, Rex King, Jr., Dean Pearson, and Rob Kristyak. Finishing seventh through 10th without a victory were Jim Weller, Jr., Mike Turner, Carl Murdick, and Brad Rapp. Dave Murdick was the only driver outside of the top 10 to score a win.
Josh Double will go down in the history books as the inaugural FASTRAK Late Model champion. The recently turned 19-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver won two features and came out on top of a season long battle with John Volpe to secure the title. Double’s first ever championship came in his Glunt Industries/Wedge Motorsports/Cortland Auto Repair/King Bros./Mahan Fab & Welding/Thomas Heating & AC/Williams Excavating-sponsored #38.
Volpe, who also scored two victories, was 20 points back in second. Despite only winning one race, three-time National Weekly and Northeast Touring Series Champion Max Blair, was third. Joe Martin came out the gates swinging winning the first two features and three of his first four starts, but wasn’t able to return to victory lane the rest of the season as he finished fourth in points. FASTRAK “Futures Cup” racer Chad Wright was fifth and won his first career feature event in 2011.
Sixth through 10th with wins in parentheses were Rocky Kugel, Bill Cunningham (1), Billy Cunningham, Damian Bidwell, and Josh Holtgraver (1). Other winners were Mike Pegher, Jr. (4), Eric Wilson (1), George Kowatic (1), Tom Snyder, Jr. (1), Robbie Blair (1), and Ryan Montgomery (1).
In a duel that saw the top four drivers go at it for much of the season, Carl McKinney emerged as the 2011 E-Mod Champion. The Cranberry Township, Pa. smooth and consistent racer was the titleholder for three straight years at Sharon from 2002-2004. McKinney though didn’t even win a feature at Sharon between those championship years until ending a seven-year drought on August 21, 2011.
McKinney powered the Mike Hendrickson-owned, Townsend Gas & Oil/Whitehills Garage/The Galley/Brad Penn Oil/All Star Performance/Holden Oil & Gas/Hoosier Tire-sponsored #6M to an impressive 11 top 5s and 16 top 10 finishes propelling him to his fourth crown!
Mike Kinney was another consistent racer all season long knocking down 12 top 5s in 17 starts including a victory to finish second. Leading the division in wins was Joel Watson with five, who finished third in points despite missing several events. Alan Dellinger was the other championship contender for much of the year as he picked up three wins to finish fourth.
Completing the top 10 were Scott Jones, Dwayne Clay, Jeff Hassay, Paul Phillips, Ronnie Kahler, and a tie between Jeff Johnson and Jim Turley. Johnson was the only other driver in the top 10 to pick up a win. Drivers outside of the top 10 in points capturing feature wins included Scott Stiffler (2), Clayton Kennedy (1), Richard Michael, Jr. (1), Mike Eschrich (1), and Robbie Blair (1).
Steve D’Apolito returned to Sharon after three years of competing at Mercer Raceway Park that included a title there in 2010 to nail down his fourth career Sharon Speedway Stock Car Championship. D’Apolito won the nip and tuck season long fight with Mike Clark by 20 points in a race that was much closer than that all season long.
The 34-year-old Boardman, Ohio driver, who also won titles in 2004, 2005, and 2007, collected three feature wins, which moved him to third on the division’s all-time win list at 31. D’Apolito utilized a $3,000 GM 602 crate engine D’Apolito Christmas Tree Farm/Utsinger’s Towing/Race 1-sponsored #84 and never finished worse than sixth (April 9) all season long!
Clark, who won two features, just missed becoming the third driver from Bristolville, Ohio to be a 2011 Sharon Speedway Champion. Clark acknowledged he’ll be switching to a GM 602 crate engine in 2012. Paul Davis had a strong season with four wins to finish third. It was Davis’ first wins at Sharon in 20 years since last winning in the Limited Late Model division in 1991! Jamie Scharba was a one-time winner in fourth as Alan Dellinger was fifth with four wins.
Rounding out the top 10 were Brian Carothers, Steve Burns, Jr., Charlie Jasinski, female racer Jamie Gibbs, and Tyler Nicely. Tim Burns won the opening and closing open Stock Car events, while Bruce Redman and Shaun Hooks were also victorious.
The two-barrel Econo Mod division moved over to Saturday nights in August after the “Friday Night Thunder” program ended. The second-year division continued to grow producing 23 different cars and an average of more than 14 per night. When the division moved to Saturday nights, the car count was a record 17 for the first two weeks! Over 30 cars are expected for the upcoming season.
In 2010, Junior Mechling ended a 16-year winless drought with a victory in the new division. This past season, the 60-year-old wasn’t able to find victory lane, but he was consistent enough in his #89 to secure his first ever track championship. The Warren, Ohio veteran never finished worse than fourth all season long until the final race, which was a non-point event. In fact, Mechling finished third for six straight races at one point during the season!
Jim Turley, another veteran of racing was second in points. Former Mod Lite ace, Todd Canter, was third with two wins. Rounding out the top 10 with wins in parentheses were Larry Root, Jeff Christy, Brad Blackshear, Derek Dellinger (1), Kevin Robinson, Charles Campbell, and Brandon Blackshear (5). All of the top 10 racers were on hand to accept their awards except Brandon Blackshear, who was represented by his father Don. Drivers outside of the top 10 victorious were Jamie Scharba (2), Alan Dellinger (2), Steve Haefke, and 14-year-old Clay Ruffo.
While all of the other divisions’ battles were close and came down to the wire, the exception was the Mini Stock division. The 35-year-old Greenville, Pa. racer won on opening night and never looked back winning a track high 10 feature events on his way to his first ever track championship. Fuchs now sits atop the division’s all-time win list at 13. Fuchs’ RTW Industrial Contracting/Hittles Auto Supply/Kreider Tire-sponsored #10 also led the way at the track with 18 top 5s and 20 top 10s along with earning 704 points.
Lucas Sprouse was 103 points back in second with his first career win at the track. Rookie Jamie Wrightsman captured two wins to finish third. Randy Sprouse was fourth and was another racer earning his first career win. Fifth through 10th in points with wins in parentheses were Steve Walker II, Rob McElhaney (2), Jim Haefke, Jr., Jeremy Double, divisional sponsor Ken Koby II, and Chris Roberts. Winners outside the top 10 in points included Mike Scharba (4), Scott Gilliland (1), and John Schenker, Jr, (1).
Western Pennsylvania racing historian, Walt Wimer, presented two of his annual Cavalcade of Champion Awards. Max Blair won the region’s Limited Late Model Championship for the fourth straight year in his #111 FASTRAK, while Joel Watson captured the region’s Limited Modified crown with his #92 E-Mod.
Cyndi Stiffler presented an American Flag to Sharon Speedway via Military Intelligence Battalion #373, which flew the flag at their base stationed in Iraq. On June 11, fans donated many personal items and supplies for our soldiers that are part of Operation New Dawn. These soldiers will be in remote areas for one year with very little personal items to help beat the heat and poor conditions.
Track general manager, Dave Willoughby, thanked the racers and their crews, sponsors, employees, safety personnel, and the fans for a very successful 2011 season. Willoughby noted how competitive the racing was, which featured 50 different drivers winning features amongst the six divisions. Turn two was widened in the fall and additional dirt will be trucked in in the coming weeks. All six divisions will be back on the weekly schedule.
The 2012 divisional sponsors were announced including Governor Insurance Agency in the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Barris Supply in the FASTRAK Late Models, Summit Racing Equipment in the E-Mods, Gibson Insurance Agency in the Stock Cars, Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic/Precise Racing Products in the Econo Mods, and DeForest Used Auto Parts in the Mini Stocks.
Willoughby reiterated that DIRTcar would be sanctioning the Big-Block Modified division for the upcoming season. In addition to the various additional point monies and bonus programs, a new “Lou Blaney Drive to be a Champion” will be created that will pay the champion $1,000 and possibly additional positions based on drivers’ best 10 finishes and show-up points. More on this program will be released in the coming weeks.
Weather permitting Sharon will hold the second “Circle Track Showdown” snowmobile races this Saturday, February 11. Gates open at 9 with racing at 11. The first auto racing event of 2012 will hit the track on Saturday, March 24 with open practice followed by the “Springduro 150” Enduro. Registration forms for these events are on our website at www.sharonspeedway.com. The first regular night of racing will be on Saturday, April 7.
Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds Top 10: 1. REX KING 550 2. Kevin Bolland 508 3. Jim Rasey 497 4. Rex King, Jr. 496 5. Dean Pearson 477 6. Rob Kristyak 463 7. Jim Weller, Jr. 352 8. Mike Turner 287 9. Carl Murdick 246 10. Brad Rapp 240.
Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models Top 10: 1. JOSH DOUBLE 560 2. John Volpe 540 3. Max Blair 455 4. Joe Martin 449 5. Chad Wright 435 6. Rocky Kugel 424 7. Bill Cunningham 393 8. Billy Cunningham 379 9. Damian Bidwell 352 10. Josh Holtgraver 348.
Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling E-Mods Top 10: 1. CARL MCKINNEY 564 2. Mike Kinney 549 3. Joel Watson & Alan Dellinger 428 5. Scott Jones 401 6. Dwayne Clay 372 7. Jeff Hassay 356 8. Paul Phillips 350 9. Ronnie Kahler 348 10. Jeff Johnson & Jim Turley 343.
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars Top 10: 1. STEVE D’APOLITO 634 2. Mike Clark 614 3. Paul Davis 512 4. Jamie Scharba 501 5. Alan Dellinger 496 6. Brian Carothers 483 7. Steve Burns, Jr. 475 8. Charlie Jasinski 395 9. Jamie Gibbs 367 10. Tyler Nicely 355.
Summit Racing Equipment Econo Mods Top 10: 1. JUNIOR MECHLING 446 2. Jim Turley 406 3. Todd Canter 403 4. Larry Root 393 5. Jeff Christy 337 6. Brad Blackshear 300 7. Derek Dellinger 299 8. Kevin Robinson 293 9. Charles Campbell 288 10. Brandon Blackshear 277.
Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks Top 10: 1. BILL FUCHS 704 2. Lucas Sprouse 601 3. Jamie Wrightsman 588 4. Randy Sprouse 587 5. Steve Walker II 526 6. Rob McElhaney 520 7. Jim Haefke, Jr. 516 8. Jeremy Double 469 9. Ken Koby II 374 10. Chris Roberts 314.
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.