Murdick & Hooks garner 3rd wins with last lap passes at Sharon; Latta charges to win #2 in FASTRAK LM; 1st for Johnson in E-Mods; Dellinger & Fuchs return to victory lane in Econos & Minis
By Mike Leone
August 25, 2012
(Hartford, OH)…After a rainout and a special event for the FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Series, Sharon Speedway hosted the first “Steel Valley Thunder” program since the beginning of the month as the month of August was closed out on a warm and sunny Saturday evening. It was Lincoln Electric Corporate Night as the Cleveland, Ohio company gave away a Power Mig 140C machine & utility cart valued at $700, which was won by FASTRAK racer Rusty Cade of New Castle, Pa.
Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Dave Murdick -Governor Insurance DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Matt Latta-Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Jeff Johnson-Summit Racing Equipment E-Mods, Shaun Hooks-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Jim Dellinger-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Bill Fuchs-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks.
After using the bottom for 14 laps to try to get past Rex King, Jr., Dave Murdick snookered the youngster on the final lap going to the outside in turns one and two and rode the cushion past King into the lead and to victory lane in the 20-lap Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature. It’s been quite the season for Murdick, whose third win has now doubled his career win total and propelled him into the point lead past King, Sr.
“I couldn’t get him on the bottom,” acknowledged the 49-year-old Butler, Pa. resident. “I tried and tried. I just figured I’d Hail Mary him on the outside and it worked! At the beginning of the race, I didn’t think we had the car to beat, but the longer the race went the better our car got. I have to thank the whole crew. Last night we had motor problems and fixed those up. I’m not really sure if we’re done with them, but it was good enough for tonight!”
King, Jr. powered by New Yorker invader Randy Chrysler at the start for the early lead. Following a caution with two laps scored for Carl Murdick and Jeff Monoskey at separate ends of the speedway, fourth starting Murdick took over second from Chrysler. On lap six, Murdick caught “Cooter” for the lead; meanwhile, the elder King was pressuring Chrysler for second. The two ran side-by-side on laps seven and eight as they made it a four-car race for the lead.
Jim Rasey’s mount went up and smoke and put fluids down on the speedway necessitating the caution with 11 laps completed. King exited the event with a flat tire yielding fourth to seventh starting Jim Weller, Jr. Three more laps were run off before the final caution for a spin by Rick Ryder with 14 laps in.
When racing resumed, Murdick and “Cooter” raced side-by-side for the final six laps. Murdick tried every way possible on the bottom to get by, but “Cooter” had the momentum to lead each lap through the white flag. Murdick decided to go to the outside on the final laps in turns one and two and it paid off. Murdick blasted around the cushion surprising “Cooter” as he went by off turn two and immediately pulled away to win the sixth of his career by 1.152 seconds in his Steve’s Auto Body-sponsored #61.
Chrysler was third over Weller as Kevin Hoffman finished fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Rob Curtis, Skip Moore, 17th starting Tom Mattocks, Dean Pearson, and Jeff Monoskey. Heat winners over the 18-car field were Pearson and Mattocks.
Matt Latta scored an emotional first ever victory for car owner Scott Bidwell in the Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models. Earlier this season, Latta captured his first career win at Sharon and also a Northeast Touring Series victory at Eriez Speedway driving the family-owned #21, but on Saturday night Latta was in the #B1D and charged from the seventh starting spot for the win.
“The past five weeks or so we’ve been struggling with this thing,” stated the 20-year Conneaut Lake, Pa. driver. “We’d get a good night then we’d get bad luck. We try something different and we’re complete crap. Between my brother and I and all my family, the main goal was to get a win for Scott- and we did! Hopefully the right front is alright. We’ve been battling this steering rack and fixing it every once in awhile, but hopefully this win will help us get a new one.”
Bob Diver took off in the early lead with Tom Copeland in tow. Rocky Kugel made his way from sixth to third on the opening lap. Latta and Dennis Lunger, Jr. started back in seventh and ninth, and were on the charge. Latta drove under Kugel for third on lap six with Lunger following in fourth. One lap later, the duo passed Copeland for second and third respectively.
Lunger and Latta then raced side-by-side for second on lap eight before a spin by Clay Ruffo with eight laps scored. On the restart, Copeland got into Kugel spinning him and also collected Rusty Cade. When racing resumed, Diver continued to lead, but had a stiff challenge from Latta. The two battled side-by-side with Latta making the winning move with a slider on lap 11. Lunger continued to follow Latta forward using the outside to go around Diver for second one lap later.
Latta had opened up a two and a half second lead on Lunger as it appeared like he was going to cruise to the victory, but in the closing laps Latta struggled to get by the lapped car of rookie Lonnie Emerick. Lunger ran down Latta and was right on the leader on the last lap, but newcomer Toby Massie brought out the caution with 19 laps scored.
Latta would hold off Lunger on the last lap shootout by 0.919 seconds for the win in the Ball & Auto Scrap/Fame RV Center/Maloney Tool & Mold/Springs Body Shop Supplies/Saegertown Hardware/Building Innovations/Dr. Lisa Phelps/BRA-VOR Tool & Die/Crawford Custom Consulting/Fatboy’s Saloon-sponsored #B1D.
Lunger’s runner-up was his best ever Sharon finish. Eric Wilson came from eighth to place third and also took over third place in points. Point leader Will Thomas III was fourth after starting 10th. After leading the first half of the race, Diver dropped to fifth for his best FASTRAK finish. Completing the top 10 were Ben Black, Emerick, Brian Booher, Massie, and Kugel. Heat winners were Dave Airgood, Jr. and Booher.
With a trail of smoke and down on power, Jeff Johnson still managed to lead all but the first lap of the E-Mod feature for his first win since May 28, 2011. Johnson became the seventh different winner of the season in the Summit Racing Equipment-sponsored division.
“I wanted to load it up, but my dad said you’re starting on the outside pole so let’s give a shot” revealed the 36-year-old Mineral Ridge, Ohio 2010 track champion. “It ran good for five laps, but I don’t know if it dropped a cylinder or what as it had no power there at the end. It was missing, sputtering, and popping. I didn’t think it was going to make it. I was getting nervous with all those cautions. I just wanted it over with.”
Carl McKinney led the opening lap, but Johnson made the winning move on the second circuit. Johnson immediately pulled away from the pack and stretched his lead to a straightaway by lap six, while the battle was on for second with McKinney trying to hold off Joe Gabrielson. After eight non-stop laps, point leader Jack Young slowed with a flat tire to bring out the first caution. The stoppage was a sign of things to come as four more cautions slowed action over the next four laps.
Finally the final three laps ran off caution-free as Johnson held on by 0.905 seconds for his 15th career win in his Klaben Ford Lincoln/Warren Harley Davidson/Tub’s Automotive/Mag Body Shop/Close Racing Supply/A1 Concrete Leveling-sponsored #27.
McKinney, the defending champion, edged out Gabrielson for second. Mike Kinney charged from 15th to finish fourth for the fourth time this season over 14th starting Joel Watson. Sixth through 10th were Young, Clayton Kennedy, Jeff Hassay, Dustin Fraley, and Shawn Shingledecker. Heat victors were Young and newcomer Al Brewer.
Shaun Hooks stole a win away from point leader Tim Burns on the final lap of the Stock Car feature. After hounding him over the second-half of the 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency event, Hooks powered by Burns for his division-leading third victory of the season.
“All or nothing,” expressed the 42-year-old New Castle, Pa. racer. “Sometimes you have to do what you’ve got to do. I was thinking the outside, but I just couldn’t get there. The top was faster. I have to thank my pit crew because we were actually were going to Mercer (Raceway Park) tonight, but they made me come here.”
An invert 10 put Burns on the pole as he raced to the early lead over Brian Carothers and fourth starting Hooks. On lap five, Hooks drove under and by Carothers for second and then caught Burns on lap seven before a caution for a spin by Ron Yarab, Jr. The final nine laps would go caution-free and it was a six-car race for the win.
Fifth starting Rod Laskey passed Carothers for third on lap 10. Hooks continued to hound Burns as the two ran side-by-side. It looked like Hooks had made the pass on lap 12, but Burns regained control on lap 13. Hooks went for it on the final lap driving hard into turn one and made the pass stick. Hooks went on for his seventh career win by a margin of 0.917 seconds in the Richard Janovick-owned, Doran Concrete/Hooks Cycle/Benny Lombardo Auto Sales/Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic/Precise Racing Products/Genesis Shocks/Hyperco/Brake Man-sponsored #65.
Burns was a dejected runner-up, but now leads Steve D’Apolito, who finished sixth, by four points after entering the night tied. Laskey was third over Carothers and 10th starting Paul Davis. Just 1.833 seconds separated winner Hooks from the sixth place of D’Apolito after nine non-stop laps. Heat winners were D’Apolito and Davis.
Jim Dellinger was the recipient of more bad luck for Brandon Blackshear as he inherited the lead on lap 13 after the point leader was in charge for the first 12 circuits to capture his third victory in the 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods.
“First thing this morning there wasn’t a motor or tranny in this car,” revealed the recently turned 47-year-old Farmdale, Ohio veteran. “It broke last week when I went for the lead and dropped a valve. I raced Jim Turley’s stuff at Raceway 7 last night and we didn’t get home until 3:30 AM. We got up at 6 this morning and here we are! I have to thank Sharon Speedway for having us. The track was fast. This is a pretty fun class. It’s very competitive and not a whole lot of follow the leader. We race hard.”
Dellinger started third and passed pole-sitter Keith Felicetty in turn four on lap two. Last week’s winner, Derek Dellinger, was moving forward from his sixth starting spot. Derek drove under and past Felicetty for third lap three. Blackshear extended his lead to a straightaway at the halfway point. Derek’s night ended when he got hard into the fence hard after apparently blowing a tire with 11 laps scored.
The caution may have cost Blackshear the victory as he exited the race two laps later. Jim Dellinger was the new leader and he cruised over the final two+ laps to win by 2.068 seconds. Dellinger also cut Blackshear’s point lead down to 26. Amanda Stiffler held on for a hard fought career best second after a torrid battle edging out 16th starting Steve Burns, Jr., 10th starting Jeremy Double, and ninth starting Corey Skully. Heat winners were Jim Dellinger and Blackshear.
Most racers would consider four wins and being second in points a stellar season, but after a career best 2011 season which included 10 wins and the track championship, 2012 hasn’t went the way Bill Fuchs would have hoped. But on Saturday night, Fuchs regained his winning form to end a two and a half month winless drought to capture the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts Mini Stock feature.
Pole-sitter Ken Koby II raced out to the early advantage as Fuchs passed Rob McElhaney on lap one for second. Point leader Jim Haefke, Jr. was forced to start 12th after two consecutive wins, but quickly moved forward and grabbed third on lap two when he passed both Jimmy Davis and Ray Gregory. Haefke then instantly slowed and exited the event.
Meanwhile, Fuchs and Koby were racing hard for the lead. The two were side-by-side with Fuchs making the winning move on lap five. Fuchs would survive two cautions for his all-time division-leading 17th career win in his RTW Industrial Contracting/Hittles Auto Supply/Chatfield Well Drilling/Kreider Tire/McCray & Haag Automotive/Headliners & Stilettos Gentlemen’s Club/Veados Mini Mart-sponsored #10.
Seventh starting Gregory, who has competed in three divisions this year as well as others in years past, recorded his second straight runner-up finish- the best of his career. Davis was third for his third top four finish in just five starts. Dave McMurray, Jr. was fourth. Jamie Wrightsman piloted his father Jim’s #12J from 14th to finish fifth. Koby and Haefke copped heat race wins.
Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. DAVE MURDICK (61) 2. Rex King, Jr. (165) 3. Randy Chrysler (21K) 4. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 5. Kevin Hoffman (17H) 6. Rob Curtis (McElhaney 6 7/8) 7. Skip Moore (17M) 8. Tom Mattocks (69) 9. Dean Pearson (8J) 10. Jeff Monoskey (22) 11. Bob Warren (96B) 12. Rick Ryder (Snider 189) 13. Rex King (65) 14. Jim Rasey (32) 15. Eric Gabany (3E) 16. Carl Murdick (6) 17. Rodney Beltz (64) 18. Rob Kristyak (00)-DNS.
Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models (20 laps): 1. MATT LATTA (Bidwell B1D) 2. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Schwartz 71L) 3. Eric Wilson (27W) 4. Will Thomas III (9) 5. Bob Diver (23) 6. Ben Black (27B) 7. Lonnie Emerick (3) 8. Brian Booher (Hoover 00H) 9. Toby Massie (2M) 10. Rocky Kugel (21KRT) 11. Clay Ruffo (14R) 12. Tom Copeland (98) 13. Dave Airgood, Jr. (42) 14. Rusty Cade (47).
Summit Racing Equipment E-Mods (15 laps): 1. JEFF JOHNSON (27) 2. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 3. Joe Gabrielson (58) 4. Mike Kinney (3) 5. Joel Watson (92) 6. Jack Young (Hamilton 67) 7. Clayton Kennedy (9) 8. Jeff Hassay (10) 9. Dustin Fraley (127) 10. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 11. Bruce Powell (35) 12. Bob Williamson (93) 13. Al Brewer (71) 14. Alan Dellinger (Petsko 00) 15. Bud Watson (White 53) 16. Jim Turley (117).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. SHAUN HOOKS (Janovick 65) 2. Tim Burns (66) 3. Rod Laskey (Sloss 44s) 4. Brian Carothers (02c) 5. Paul Davis (3) 6. Steve D’Apolito (84) 7. Gary Robinson (44R) 8. Charlie Jasinski (5J) 9. Ray Yarab, Jr. (Burns 70B) 10. Jesse Brock (22B) 11. Pat Adams (93) 12. Mike Clark (7) 13. Jamie Scharba (00s) 14. Gary McGregor (79) 15. Jamie Duncan (67J).
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (12 laps): 1. JIM DELLINGER (Turley 1) 2. Amanda Stiffler (14) 3. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 4. Jeremy Double (83) 5. Corey Skully (21) 6. Larry Root (22x) 7. George Vestal IV (4) 8. Jace Ferringer (02) 9. Dennis Dellinger, Jr. (Turley 17) 10. Brandon Blackshear (10) 11. Kevin Robinson (24R) 12. Derek Dellinger (119) 13. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR) 14. Levi Flesher (72) 15. Keith Felicetty (Mechling 98) 16. Bob Williams (8) 17. Junior Mechling (89).
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. BILL FUCHS (10) 2. Ray Gregory (Doyle 37) 3. Jimmy Davis (32) 4. Dave McMurray, Jr. (8) 5. Jamie Wrightsman (12J) 6. Mike Hillman (29) 7. Steve Walker II (4M) 8. Greg Schmied (97) 9. Ray Kennedy (18) 10. Rob McElhaney (7R) 11. Ken Koby II (11) 12. Gina Thompson (25) 13. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 14. Jim Wrightsman (21J)-DNS.
There will be an open practice from 5 p.m. until dark this Wednesday, August 29. Pits open at 4. Pit passes are $20. Coming up on Saturday (September 1) will be the Russ King Memorial for the BRP Modified Tour plus E-Mods, Stock Cars, Econo Mods, and Mini Stocks. Race time is 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.