Weller holds off King to win Big-Block Mods; Lunger from 11th to 1st in RUSH LM; Kinney stops Watson in Mods; Clark repeats in Stocks; Deutsch & Gilliland are new Econo Mod & Mini Stock winners
By Mike Leone
May 10, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Hartford, OH)…After a rain out, Sharon Speedway resumed action with week three of “Steel Valley Thunder” on Saturday night as part of the 85th anniversary season. Despite rain in many areas to the south and east that washed out other speedways, it was dry at Sharon all day and night after lots of rain fell on Friday night.
Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Jim Weller, Jr.-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Dennis Lunger, Jr.-Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Mike Kinney-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Mike Clark-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Tim Deutsch-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Scott Gilliland-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. It was a night when the veterans and defending champions reigned supreme. Four of the six winners were the 2013 champions in their respective divisions, and the youngest winner was 39.
With a pole position start, it looked like Rex King may be able to keep the Kings a perfect three-for-three in the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds this season, but defending champion Jim Weller, Jr. had other ideas as he held off King for his first win of the 2014 in the non-stop 20-lap Hovis Auto & Truck Supply feature.
“The track was getting a little slick- you’re tight, you’re loose; it’s tricky tonight,” acknowledged the Hubbard, Ohio veteran. “We were good, but we weren’t great. If you get on the gas too quick and you hit the slick stuff the rear-end slides out from under you. I have to thank John Corbin and my son Johnny, Chris, Bill, and my other son Jimbo.”
Weller used the outside of the tacky track to get around King at the start, while Jim Rasey was able to get by Jimmy Weller III for third. Rex King, Jr. started sixth and cracked the top five on lap two when he passed Tom Glenn. The top two quickly pulled away over Rasey; meanwhile, the battle was on fourth as Weller III tried to keep King, Jr. at bay. The two battled hard over the ensuing laps, but Weller III was able to hang on until the 17th circuit when King, Jr. finally made the pass.
Ironically back up front it was the elder King and Weller going at it, King closed on lap 14 then pulled even three laps later. The two veterans ran side-by-side on laps 17-19. Weller made a couple moves in lapped traffic to hold off King in the final laps for his 27th career win in his Zip Motorsports-owned, Liberty Steel Products-sponsored #31. The margin of victory was 0.492 of a second in the event that was timed in 5:40.645.
Rasey was a solid third for his second top three finish in three races. King, Jr. and Weller III rounded out the top five. Sixth through 10th were Glenn, Ricky Richner, Erik Martin, newcomer Eric Gabany, and Rick Regalski, Jr. King and Weller, Jr. won the heat races. Rob Kristyak was awarded the hard luck and will receive two free pit passes for next Saturday compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply as will Glenn, who was randomly selected.
Well it’s been said you can’t pass and the track is hard on tires in the RUSH Late Models, but Dennis Lunger, Jr. proved both of those theories wrong on Saturday night. The defending champion came from the 11th starting spot on uncut tires that he never hurt to win the 20-lap Barris Supply feature for the second straight race! Lunger was also victorious last Sunday evening in his maiden voyage to Canada’s Humberstone Speedway in Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Weekly Series action.
“The car was good,” said the 46-year-old Albion, Pa. racer. “I just can’t seem to figure the heats out here and ever be able to win. The track is always fast and everyone is equal. (Clay) Ruffo and I got together in the heat race and tore the sheet metal up. I wasn’t too happy with him, I pulled up alongside of him and I shouldn’t have. I used the top on some of the starts and got by a lot of cars. I saw everyone move up so then I went back to my traditional lane here on the bottom and it was good.”
Pole-sitter Russ Byler led the opening lap, while fourth starting Will Thomas III passed both Eric Andrus and Bobby Whitling for second before the caution was displayed for Billy Henry, Jr., who stopped on the backstretch with one lap scored. When racing resumed, Thomas took over from Byler, while fifth starting Matt Latta moved into third.
2011 champion, Josh Double, was making his season debut. Double started seventh and was working his way forward. Double passed Whitling on lap four for fourth, but three laps later exited the event moving Whitling back to fourth and Lunger into the top five. The caution came at the right time for Lunger, but at the wrong time for Latta, who appeared to be making the pass on Byler for second.
When racing resumed on lap 11, Lunger passed Latta for third before a caution for a spin by Emerick. Back under green again, Lunger disposed of Byler for second then went after Thomas. Lunger made the pass in turn two on lap 13 and Thomas lost the handle trying to get back by with some contact. Another caution two laps later for a spin by Emerick was the event’s final stoppage.
When green replaced yellow, Latta was trying to get by Byler for second, but exited the event on lap 15. Up front, it was all Lunger, who raced on to win by 1.284 seconds in the Reuben Schwartz-owned, Schwartz Construction/English Tire/Carter Lumber/State Farm/Edward Jones Financial Advisor/Beacon Lubricants/Kabanatime.com/Ron and Don North-sponsored #71L. Lunger’s eighth career win, which have all come since the 2012 finale, moved him into a tie for second place with Mike Pegher, Jr. on the division’s all-time win list.
It’s been a good start to the season for Byler, who at the last event matched his career best Late Model finish of fifth improved on that with a runner-up. Byler has recorded three top seven finishes in his first full season driving the Terry Hoover-owned #00H. Nico Dabecco had a solid run in third after starting 13th in his first appearance of the season. Thomas was able to get back to fourth at the finish over Bobby Pifer III. Completing the top 10 were newcomers Andrus and Dave Lyon along with Jamie Wrightsman, Latta, and Emerick. Heat winners over the season-high 16-car field were the #21’s of Wrightsman and Latta.
Defending champion Mike Kinney held off good friend and hard charging Joel Watson, who had to start 12th after winning the first two features, to garner his first win of the season in the 20-lap Summit Racing Equipment feature.
“I saw Joel there when we restarted and I knew I was in trouble,” expressed the 39-year-old Ashtabula, Ohio resident. “He’s my good buddy and not one to mess around with. He was going to be pushing me pretty hard. I chose the outside I thought I’d be okay because there was so much bite up there. This is great! We worked pretty hard on the car the last couple weeks. We had some things that were off and boy what a difference. You win races in the garage. I have to thank all of these guys that help me. I also have to thank Sharon Speedway for another great track.”
Kinney took charge at the start of the event from pole-sitter Larry Holbrook. Jeff Johnson, seventh starting Dwayne Clay, and Russ Dunn filled the top five after the opening lap. Watson was on the move and cracked the top five on lap six getting past Dunn. By lap seven, the top three of Kinney, Holbrook and Johnson pulled away. Johnson had the heat on Holbrook trying to get by for second on lap 10. Holbrook was able to get away from Johnson. Clay then was able to make the pass of Johnson for third on lap 13 as it was a three-car race for third.
Watson drove under Johnson in turn two for fourth on lap 15. A caution for a spin by Amanda Stiffler with 16 laps scored was just what Watson needed. On the ensuing restart, he passed both Clay and Holbrook for second then got another caution after a spin by Larry Kugel with 17 laps scored. This gave Watson a shot alongside Kinney for the restart. Kinney chose the outside and was able to hold off Watson in the final three laps by a margin of 0.461 of a second. Kinney’s fifth career win came in his FliNbiU Graphics/Watson Fabrication/TJ Racing Transmission/Close Racing Supply/Handi4u Home Improvements-sponsored #3.
Watson’s gain of 10 positions from his initial starting spot gave him the $25 Summit Racing Equipment hard charger certificate. Clay passed Holbrook on the final restart to place third. Holbrook, who at one point in the race appeared to be ready to make a pass of Kinney for the lead, faded to fourth in his first ever appearance. Carl McKinney was fifth. Sixth through 10th were Johnson, Dunn, Clayton Kennedy, Jacob Eucker, and Stiffler. Johnson and Kinney won the heat races.
After finishing runner-up to Paul Davis in week two, opening night winner and defending champion Mike Clark returned to victory lane beating Davis again in the 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars. “The track was pretty good all the way around,” stated the 48-year-old Bristolville, Ohio racer. “I’d like to thank my wife Sonia, my son Anthony, my dad- he’s my only pit crew member and does a heck of a job, and all of my sponsors.”
After an opening lap spin by newcomer Shaun Hooks, the 15 lapper went green-to-checkered. A heads up start from the heat race put Clark on the pole and it was a lead he’d never relinquish. Davis started sixth and was halfway to the front when he passed Bryan Wagner for third on lap five. Davis then drove around Jamie Duncan for second off turn two on lap 13.
By now it was too late for Davis, who trailed Clark by a big 3.114 margin. Clark’s 10th career victory came in his King’s Sanitary Service/Champion Auto Supply/Martuccio Eye Care/Sons of Italy of Warren, Ohio-sponsored #7. Davis has yet to finish worse than second in any heat or feature this season and trails Clark by just one point in the standings! Duncan, Brian Carothers, and Brent Coleman rounded out the top five. Clark was the heat race winner.
Making his season debut, Tim Deutsch became the third different winner in as many Econo Mod features this season! Deutsch’s 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products win netted him an additional $200 bonus from Buzzy Utsinger of Utsinger’s Towing!
“That’s awesome- Buzzy is a good dude,” expressed the 46-year-old Niles, Ohio winner. “I have to thank Dave Bass. He worked on this car all week with me. This car was in pieces earlier this week. If it wasn’t for him and his brother Ron I couldn’t do this. He came down this morning and put the setup on it. We scaled it and it was spot on. I screwed up there in the feature. I was missing my marks, but it was good enough I guess!”
Deutsch raced to the lead from his pole position starting spot. Brandon Blackshear passed Jason Longwell on lap one for second, but one lap later spun on his own to bring out the first caution. This moved Longwell back to second with sixth starting Steve Burns, Jr. up to third. Longwell lost power on lap nine yielding second to Burns. A four-car accident slowed action with 11 laps completed.
Deutsch was able to hold off week two winner Burns in the final four laps for his second career win in his May’s Towing/Elite Coleman Auto Sales-sponsored #8. Blackshear came from the tail and passed Josh Mueller on lap 14 to finish third. Mueller was fourth in just his second ever race at Sharon. Point leader Jeremy Double was fifth after starting 11th. Ty Rhoades was awarded the Summit Racing Equipment $25 hard charger certificate after advancing from 19th to 10th. Burns and Double were heat winners over the 19-car field.
After coming up shy on the 2013 championship, Scott Gilliland improved on his runner-up finish from week two with his season’s first win in the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts Mini Stock feature. It was far from an easy win as a season high 21 cars were on hand and Gilliland had to start eighth.
“I’ll tell you what this is a big win,” expressed the 47-year-old Warren, Ohio racer. “There were a lot of good cars out there tonight and the #299 and #14 cars were quick. I have to thank William, my dad, my beautiful wife, and I’d be remised if I didn’t wish my mom a happy Mother’s Day. She was a divorced mom with four kids, struggled, made me the man I am to today, and I want to thank her very much. We won on Mother’s Day last year- happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms!”
Gilliland was fifth after one lap, third after lap two then passed both Jamie Maxwell and Steve Morse for the lead on lap three following a restart. The final 10 laps went green-to-checkered. Shane Smith started ninth and worked his way to second past Morse on lap four. Smith though was unable to mount a challenge on Gilliland, who collected his 12th career win tying him for second on the all-time win list in his Lawn Wizard/NRC Management/VP&R/Inventive Sigh & Design/Howland Pizza Works/VXI Global Solutions-sponsored #27.
Smith and Morse finished second and third respectively in their season debuts. Bill Fuchs came from 16th to finish fourth and took over the point lead despite the division’s all-time winner being unable to win yet this season. Maxwell completed the top five. Travis Creech, Jim Haefke, Jr., and Smith were heat race victors.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. JIM WELLER, JR. (31) 2. Rex King, Jr. (65) 3. Jim Rasey (32) 4. Rex King, Jr. (165) 5. Jimmy Weller III (23) 6. Tom Glenn (83T) 7. Ricky Richner (26) 8. Erik Martin (29E) 9. Eric Gabany (3E) 10. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 11. Bob Warren (96B) 12. Rob Kristyak (00) 13. Tommy Kristyak (26z) 14. Kevin Green (74).
Barris Supply RUSH Late Models (20 laps): 1. DENNIS LUNGER, JR. (Schwartz 71L) 2. Russ Byler (Hoover 00H) 3. Nico Dabecco (Karalagas F1) 4. Will Thomas III (9) 5. Bobby Pifer III (6P) 6. Eric Andrus (54) 7. Dave Lyon (Badgley 1X) 8. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 9. Matt Latta (21) 10. Lon Emerick (3) 11. Bobby Whitling (7W) 12. Billy Henry, Jr. (McGee 21*) 13. Clay Ruffo (14R) 14. Wendell Pinckney (11) 15. Josh Double (32) 16. Mark Tatlovic (32)-DNS.
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (20 laps): 1. MIKE KINNEY (3) 2. Joel Watson (92) 3. Dwayne Clay (007) 4. Larry Holbrook (L19) 5. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 6. Jeff Johnson (27) 7. Russ Dunn (White 53) 8. Clayton Kennedy (9) 9. Jacob Eucker (64) 10. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 11. Larry Kugel (0) 12. Howard Fraley (217) 13. Paul Davis (3D) 14. Jim Plance (4J) 15. Steve Dixon (Engles 68) 16. Scott Stiffler (14)-DNS.
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. MIKE CLARK (7) 2. Paul Davis (3) 3. Jamie Duncan (67J) 4. Brian Carothers (02c) 5. Brent Coleman (01) 6. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 7. Shaun Hooks (68) 8. Dan Fedorchak (Bruno x7) 9. Bryan Wagner (56).
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. TIM DEUTSCH (8) 2. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 3. Brandon Blackshear (10) 4. Josh Mueller (01) 5. Jeremy Double (83) 6. Jamie Scharba (Petsko 00) 7. Casey Bowers (20) 8. Josh Ferry (33) 9. Steve Haefke (41) 10. Ty Rhoades (12R) 11. Junior Mechling (89) 12. Devin Henry (21*JR) 13. George Vestal IV (4) 14. Alan Atkinson (32) 15. Kayla Adams (39) 16. Adam Babcock (67) 17. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR) 18. Jason Longwell (7s) 19. Jeff Webber (25).
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. SCOTT GILLILAND (27) 2. Shane Smith (299) 3. Steve Morse (14) 4. Bill Fuchs (10) 5. Jamie Maxwell (6) 6. Adam Little (99) 7. Joe Campbell (40c) 8. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 9. Pat Drennan (24) 10. Pete Blazczak (77) 11. Steve Walker II (4M) 12. Anthony Jasinski (300) 13. Jeff Little (42) 14. Alex Siekkinen (20) 15. Travis Creech (75T) 16. Geof Pinch (36) 17. Scott Gill (11) 18. Tim McAninch (43) 19. Thomas Brenkert (11B) 20. Rick Wilson, Jr. (55)-DNS 21. Greg Schmied (97)-DNS.
Coming up this Saturday night, May 17 is Fan Appreciation Night with FREE general admission in the grandstands plus it’s Autograph Night with all cars and drivers on the speedway during intermission. It’ll be another “Steel Valley Thunder” program featuring the six weekly divisions Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and 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.