Bolland & Kowatic hold off challengers for DIRTcar Mod & FASTRAK LM wins at opener; Rhebergen & Blackshear win over big fields of E-Mods & Econo Mods; Davis & Haefke win Stocks & Minis
By Mike Leone
April 7, 2012
(Hartford, OH)…Sharon Speedway officially began the 83rd anniversary season of auto racing at the famed facility on a sunny and cool Saturday evening. A great crowd watched 117 cars battle it out for the opening night accolades with the following drivers in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane: Kevin Bolland-Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, George Kowatic-Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Brent Rhebergen-Summit Racing Equipment E-Mods, Paul Davis-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Brad Blackshear-HTMA/Precise Racing Equipment Econo Mods, and Jim Haefke, Jr.-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks.
Kevin Bolland led all 20 laps of the Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature, but had to withstand a late charge by 10th starting Jeremiah Shingledecker for his 19th career win.
“The track was great,” stated the 52-year-old New Brighton, Pa. veteran. “I looked at it earlier and thought it was going to chunk out. Whatever was in it was binding and it worked out. Last night we were just bolting the heads on this thing. You’d think we would have had all winter, but winter never came! We thought we’d get snow and we never did so we figured we better get this back together. The car worked great. This one goes out to everyone that’s with us and helped us get here.”
Bolland started on the pole as Dave Murdick moved into second on the opening lap past Rex King, Jr. Murdick and the youngest King battled hard for second as King pulled even on lap seven, but Murdick maintained the position. Shingledecker became a factor when he cracked the top five taking the spot from Chris Haines just before halfway. King once again pulled alongside of Murdick on lap 10, but to no avail. The first and only caution of the event slowed competition with 13 laps scored when Dean Pearson broke while running fourth.
Shingledecker lined up fourth on the restart and made a great move to get by King for third and nearly took second from Murdick on lap 14. Shingledecker and Murdick put on a great side-by-side battle between laps 16-18. Finally on lap 18, Shingledecker made the bottom work in turns one and two for runner-up.
Shingledecker went after Bolland and was right there at the finish, but just couldn’t make the move as Bolland held on by 0.665 seconds for the $1,100 victory in the Bol-Tech Motorsports-owned, Boundary/CREO Systems/Bolland Machine/Cintas/Cranberry Coin & Currency-sponsored #777. Bolland now moves into sole possession of sixth place on the all-time win list just three wins behind the retired John Braymer.
Murdick held off King, Jr. for third. Haines was fifth. Completing the top 10 were Jim Weller, Jr., 13th starting Rex King, Mark Frankhouser, Carl Murdick, and Steve Feder. Pearson and Murdick captured the heat race wins.
Last August, George Kowatic held off a stout field of competitors to win the FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Touring Series event for his first career win. Fast forward about eight months and Kowatic once again led every lap holding off Will Thomas III and Joe Martin for the 20-lap Barris Supply victory.
“It was getting pretty hectic in lapped traffic,” expressed the 29-year-old Aliquippa, Pa. racer. “I know I got into the 44 car pretty hard in turn four. Between the ruts and just knowing who was behind me it was time to go! Will had to remind me before the race how I got past him a little tight last week on the last lap at the Touring show at Roaring Knob, so I had that in mind. This is the best way to start the year! This is the first race I’ve won when none of my family here. They were home getting ready for Easter so I get to call home and let them know.”
Kowatic took off in the lead past Thomas, who sat on the pole. Fourth starting Matt Latta had a great start as he passed Max Blair and Thomas for second on lap one. Following a restart with three laps completed, it was three-wide for second as Thomas reclaimed the spot and sixth starting Joe Martin moved to fourth.
Blair and Martin swapped fourth and fifth on laps five and six before Martin took the position for good. Martin then drove under Latta in turn four to grab third on lap seven. By lap eight, Kowatic and Thomas pulled away. At the halfway point, Thomas began pressuring Kowatic, while Blair exited the event as his Sharon woes continued.
With five laps to go, Martin caught the leaders making it a three-car race for the win. Thomas pulled even with Kowatic on lap 16 as the leader struggled to get by the lapped car of rookie Randy Wilson. Kowatic would sustain a couple close calls in lapped traffic to hold on by 0.905 seconds for his second Sharon win in the MCB Motorsports, High Gear Speed Shop-sponsored Warrior Chassis #5.
Thomas, a former asphalt standout, just missed out on his first career dirt win, but edged Martin for runner-up. Latta held on to fourth. Bobby Rohrer was a solid fifth in his first ever Sharon start. Sixth through 10th were Shane Weaver, 13th starting Chad Wright, Billy Henry, Jr., Jason Genco, and 19th starting Damian Bidwell. Heat victors over the 23-car field were Thomas, Kowatic, and Blair.
The 15-lap Summit Racing Equipment E-Mod feature was a hard fought victory by Brent Rhebergen in a race that saw the top finishers duel it out every lap right down to the wire. Rhebergen made a three-wide winning move on lap 12 to get the job done. The star-studded field included 31 of some of the best E-Mods from all over western Pa., eastern Ohio, and western New York.
“That was a lot of fun,” expressed the 43-year-old Clymer, New York standout. “Those guys running up front run so well. Hats off to 79.2 (John Boardman); he did a great job and of course Scott (Stiffler) runs regular here. He’s a really good racer. It’s really good to race with these guys. Scott was good up top. I didn’t think I could run up there early in the race. As the race went on, I felt we got going better at the end. This is a great race track. It’s a lot of fun to be here; good racers and a good program. I have to thank all of my sponsors and owner Tim Rater has put together a heck of a car.”
Pole-sitter John Boardman raced to the early lead, while Rhebergen shot from the fifth starting spot to second on the initial lap. Stiffler would regain second driving past Rhebergen down the backstretch on lap three. Stiffler went after Boardman and was all over the leader as it was a five-car race for the lead.
The first caution was displayed with six laps completed when Ronnie Kahler lost the handle. It was three-wide for runner-up on the backstretch when racing resumed as Rhebergen once again overtook Stiffler for second, but that would only last until lap nine when Stiffler again regained the position.
On lap 12, Rhebergen made a bold three-wide move racing past both Stiffler and Boardman for the lead, while Stiffler was finally able to clear Boardman. Russ Dunn made his move dropping Boardman back another spot on lap 14. Dunn and Joel Watson then raced hard past Stiffler for second and third on the final lap.
Rhebergen was able to hang on to his third career Sharon victory and first at the track by a margin of 0.829 seconds in the Tim Rater-owned, Z&M Ag & Turf/Wallace Farms/Ripley Machine-sponsored #RD1. Dunn edged Watson, Stiffler, and Boardman for the second position in the Jim Clinger #222. Jack Young, Dan Davies, Brian Douglas, Alan Dellinger, and Shawn Shingledecker completed a stellar top 10 field. The four heat race winners of Jeff Sharp, Steve Dixon, Davies, and Mike Eschrich were never a factor in the feature. Joe Gabrielson won the B main.
Coming off his best career season with four victories, Paul Davis made a statement Saturday night that he might be the driver to beat as he put on a strong performance to pick up the 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Car feature.
“It was getting to be a good race, but I feel bad for (Jamie) Scharba,” stated the 51-year-old Fowler, Ohio veteran. “I kept bumping into him so I figured he had a problem. I was looking for a caution because I couldn’t figure out why he was slowing in front of me. After about the fourth or fifth lap, this car really hooked up and started running better. I like what you did to the track. It has more grip so you can run it wide open down through there and I like doing that.”
Jamie Scharba jumped out to the early lead, while Bruce Redman passed Tim Burns for second. It was a five-car race for the lead as the laps clicked off under green flag conditions. On lap six, Davis made a three-wide move to go from fourth to second past Burns and Redman. The event’s only caution was displayed with six laps completed for debris on the speedway.
Under caution, Scharba exited the event as Davis inherited the lead. The last nine laps went caution-free as Davis pulled away to a convincing eighth career Sharon victory by 5.712 seconds in his Top Notch Diner/Hover Racing/Integra Fab-sponsored #3. Redman edged out Burns and a fast-closing Steve D’Apolito for second. D’Apolito, who is in search of his unprecedented fifth title, started seventh and passed both Clark and Rod Laskey on lap eight to secure fourth. Laskey was fifth. Davis and Redman picked up heat race wins.
On a night when the Econo Mods far surpassed their prior record high car count of 17 with 22 cars, it was the Blackshear brothers battling it out for the win with younger Brad capturing the 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products feature.
“We had a little talk before we came out on the track that were going to race each other like it was anyone else on the track,” revealed the 17-year-old Brookfield, Ohio resident. “Dad would have been mad if we tore up the race cars. I have to thank my dad for building the car and one heck of a motor, and my brother for all of the help he’s given me and the advice for driving.”
Brad raced past pole-sitter Brandon on the start with Brian Hathaway in tow. Action up front never changed much. The top three broke away from the pack on the longest green flag stretch of five non-stop laps between laps 6-11. A total of six cautions slowed action and made things interesting on the restarts, but Brad, the division’s inaugural champion in 2010, was able to hold off his brother Brandon for his third career win in the Don Blackshear-owned, Blackshear Automotive/CC Games & Music/Intense Fab/Steve Bible Insurance/Milk Barn-sponsored #19.
Hathaway and 10th starting Calvin Clay swapped third and fourth back and forth on laps 12 and 13, but Hathaway was able to nail down the show position. Clay was fourth. Sixteen-year-old Mini Stock graduate, Jeremy Double, ran a great race to finish fifth after starting 11th. Hathaway and the Blackshear brothers won the three heat races.
Jim Haefke, Jr. was the beneficiary of mechanical woes by early leaders Bill Fuchs and Scott Gilliland as he led only one lap, but it was the one that counted as he captured his first career victory in the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts Mini Stock feature.
Fifth starting Ken Koby II got into pole-sitter Gina Thompson on the first lap and collected Jeff Little. When racing got underway, seventh starting Fuchs took control with ninth starting Gilliland up to second. Fuchs exited the race on lap two handing the lead to Gilliland with Koby back up to second.
On lap six, eighth starting Haefke passed Stacy Neubecker for third then got around Koby for second on lap 10. Gilliland appeared headed for his third career win, but slowed on the final lap. Haefke then seized the opportunity and took the checkered flag first in his Diver Steel/AAMCO Transmission-sponsored #421. The 30-year-old Austintown, Ohio driver became the division’s 17th different winner overall in its 53rd race. Koby was second over Neubecker, 10th starting Carlos Aponte and Steve Walker II. Topping the heat races were Aponte and Gilliland.
Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. KEVIN BOLLAND (777) 2. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 3. Dave Murdick (61) 4. Rex King, Jr. (165) 5. Chris Haines (35H) 6. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 7. Rex King (65) 8. Mark Frankhouser (03) 9. Carl Murdick (6) 10. Steve Feder (45) 11. Bob Warren (96B) 12. Rob Kristyak (00) 13. Dean Pearson (8J) 14. Justin Rasey (21).
Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models (20 laps): 1. GEORGE KOWATIC (5) 2. Will Thomas III (9) 3. Joe Martin (55) 4. Matt Latta (21) 5. Bobby Rohrer (11) 6. Shane Weaver (Ruffner 325x) 7. Chad Wright (6) 8. Billy Henry, Jr. (McGee 21*) 9. Jason Genco (29J) 10. Damian Bidwell (17) 11. Butch Lambert (27) 12. Clay Ruffo (14R) 13. Bill Cunningham (44c) 14. Randy Wilson (McGee 13) 15. Andrew Satterlee (2) 16. Max Blair (111) 17. Justin Tatlow (Kratts 81) 18. Ben Black (27B) 19. Bobby Pifer III (6P) 20. Jason Stanke (44) 21. Rob Bates (99B) 22. Shane Bambarger (68B)-DNS 23. Eric Wilson (27)-DNS.
Summit Racing Equipment E-Mods (15 laps): 1. BRENT RHEBERGEN (Rater RD1) 2. Russ Dunn (Clinger 222) 3. Joel Watson (92) 4. Scott Stiffler (14) 5. John Boardman (79.2) 6. Jack Young (Hamilton 67) 7. Dan Davies (71D) 8. Brian Douglas (214) 9. Alan Dellinger (White 53) 10. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 11. Scott Jones (71J) 12. Nathan Hill (38H) 13. Jeff Hassay (10) 14. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 15. Mike McGee (11M) 16. Jeff Sharp (Coy 54) 17. Joe Gabrielson (58) 18. Mike Kinney (3) 19. Ronnie Kahler (7R) 20. Dwayne Clay (007) 21. Jeff Johnson (27) 22. Mike Eschrich (Larson 9E) 23. Richard Michael, Jr. (17x) 24. Steve Dixon (Engles 68) DNQ: Paul Phillips (11ss), Jim Turley (117), Shane Crotty (4), George Blaney (11B), Arlan Coy (56), Bob Williamson (93), Joe Crawford (25).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. PAUL DAVIS (3) 2. Bruce Redman (27) 3. Tim Burns (66) 4. Steve D’Apolito (84) 5. Rod Laskey (Sloss 44s) 6. Brian Carothers (02c) 7. Mike Clark (7) 8. Shaun Hooks (Janovick 65) 9. Charlie Jasinski (5J) 10. Ron Yarab (Burns 70B) 11. Eric Williams (4W) 12. Mike Hudzik (31H) 13. Jamie Scharba (00s) 14. Casey Harmon (23).
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. BRAD BLACKSHEAR (19) 2. Brandon Blackshear (10) 3. Brian Hathaway (93) 4. Calvin Clay (12c) 5. Jeremy Double (83) 6. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 7. Corey Skully (21) 8. Junior Mechling (89) 9. Mike Smith (81) 10. Larry Root (22x) 11. Amanda Stiffler (14) 12. Jace Ferringer (02) 13. Keith Felicetty (Mechling 98) 14. Kevin Sevacko (76) 15. Al Brewer (40) 16. Dennis Dellinger, Jr. (Turley 17) 17. Ryan Fraley (12SS) 18. Kevin Robinson (24R) 19. Todd Canter (88) 20. Charles Campbell, Jr. (99) 21. Jeff Christy (Berry 91)-DNS 22. Jim Dellinger (1)-DNS.
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. JIM HAEFKE, JR. (421) 2. Ken Koby II (22) 3. Stacy Neubecker (5) 4. Carlos Aponte (9) 5. Steve Walker II (4M) 6. Scott Gilliland (27) 7. Jim Siwula (711) 8. Bill Fuchs (10) 9. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 10. Gina Thompson (Webber 25) 11. Jeff Little (42) 12. Nick Groves (65)-DNS 13. Mike Wilson (51)-DNS.
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.