“Steel Valley Thunder” returns Saturday as just 2 events remain to decide 2014 championships; UTV SxS also in action
By Mike Leone
September 16, 2014
(Hartford, OH)…After being off for Labor Day Weekend, a rain out, and the two-day “Apple Festival Nationals” last weekend, Sharon Speedway looks forward to returning to a full program of “Steel Valley Thunder” racing this Saturday night (September 20) for the first time since August 23. On the card as part of the 85th anniversary season will be the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and the Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. Race time is 7 p.m.
With several regional speedways either closed for the year or off this weekend, a strong field of racers is expected in all divisions. Also on the agenda Saturday is Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) Side-by-Side (SxS) competition. The UTV SxS made their debut during the “Circle Track Showdown” Snowmobile and ATV races back on January 25. Eight of them were in competition as Ed Mueller and Lee Luchette captured the feature victories. Helmets are required and no passengers will be allowed.
With just two nights remaining, it’s down to a family duel in the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds as Rex King, Jr. will try to hold off his father Rex, Sr. for his first championship. The youngest member of the racing King Family already captured his first ever track championship this season at Lernerville in addition to the BRP Tour title last Saturday at Sharon.
“Cooter” has five wins this season at Sharon, but hasn’t won since the “Lou Blaney Memorial” on July 30. He leads his father by 14 points in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply standings. “Cooter” is tied for most wins in the division with Jim Weller, Jr., who sits third 61 points back despite missing one night. Weller has been on fire with wins in his last three starts including both the Johnny Zdelar and Russ King Memorial events for over $5,000! Jim Rasey, who continues to search for his season’s first victory, is fourth in points over two-time winner Jimmy Weller III.
The RUSH Late Models are coming off a season high 35 cars at last Friday’s Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC Touring Series event in night one of the “Apple Festival Nationals” won by Russell King, who was driving for Bob Diver. A total of 58 different drivers have competed in the class this year, but atop the Barris Supply standings is Will Thomas III, who looks to clinch his second championship in three years. The Sharpsville, Pa. driver is tied with defending champion Dennis Lunger, Jr. with a division-high four wins, but leads Lunger in the standings by 78. Thomas simply needs to start the feature to claim the title. Russ Byler, Jamie Wrightsman, and three-time winner Alan Dellinger are third through fifth in points.
The Modifieds are coming off a successful two-day “Apple Festival Nationals” where 28 cars were on hand Friday and 25 on Saturday; in fact, the Modifieds have had at least 21 cars in the last five events! If 24 or more cars are on hand Saturday, the Summit Racing Equipment-sponsored division will again compete for $700 to-win, $100 to-start!
Steve Dixon and Joel Watson split last weekend’s non-point special event victories as the duo is currently one-two in points. Dixon of Smethport, Pa. leads Watson of Conneaut, Ohio by 21 points. While Watson won the 2012 title, neither Dixon nor his car owner Tim Engles have ever captured a title at the Speedway. Russ Dunn, Mike Kinney, and Carl McKinney are third through fifth in points.
The Stock Cars have seen a rise in car count at the last five completed events. It’s a tight championship race as four drivers are still in the hunt, though it appears like it’ll come down to Mike Clark and Paul Davis, who have been the division’s hotshoes again. Both Clark and Davis are tied with four wins, and in the Gibson Insurance Agency standings it’s defending champion Clark with a nine-point advantage. Brian Carothers and Bryan Wagner are still alive in third and fourth respectively. Brent Coleman is a distant fifth. The Homak Penn-Ohio Series was part of last weekend’s “Apple Festival Nationals” that saw Chris Schneider sweep the $3,000 weekend as 37 cars battled on Friday night and 27 on Saturday night.
Like Clark in the Stocks, Jeremy Double is also vying for his second consecutive track championship in the Econo Mods. Double’s point lead though is a little more secure as he holds a 39-point lead over the division’s all-time winner Brandon Blackshear, who swept last weekend’s “Apple Festival Nationals” for a $900 payday. Blackshear has now won three of the last four events, five on the season, and 15 for his career!
Teenager Casey Bowers won back-to-back events in the first two races of his career at the “Apple Festival Nationals” two years ago, but hasn’t been able to win since. Bowers has been consistent though as he’s third in the HTMA/Precise Racing Products points, but just two up on Ty Rhoades and three on Jason Longwell. A season-high 21 cars were on hand last Friday night.
Travis Creech ended a two-month drought winning the Mini Stocks on August 23 then won last Saturday’s non-point $200 special. It was Creech’s track-leading eighth win of the season, but trails the division’s all-time winner, Bill Fuchs, by 31 in the Deforest Used Parts points. Jamie Maxwell, who is third in points, continues to chase after his first career win. Jim Haefke, Jr. and Tim McAninch are fourth and fifth in points respectively. A record 28 cars were on hand last Friday night as newcomer Doug Hensel won his first career feature at the Speedway. Hensel then finished second to Creech on Saturday as 20 cars took part.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply will again award six complimentary pit passes for the following week; a pair going to the hard luck driver in DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, a pair to a lucky driver in the division that competes first, and a pair to a lucky fan. Summit Racing Equipment will award $25 gift cards to the hard charger in the Modified, Stock Car, and Econo Mod divisions. Sweeney Chevrolet/Pace Performance will award $50, $25, and $25 certificates to the top three GM 602 crates in the Econo Mods that have been purchased through them or have secondary seals. HTMA will award a free Hoosier tire to the hard charger in the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds.
NOTE: The “Apple Festival Nationals” parade will be taking place on Saturday in Hartford, Ohio. Road closure will take place from approximately 5:30 p.m. to 7 at State Route 7 and Bushnell-Campbell Road (C.H. 185).
Pit gates open at 4 p.m., grandstands at 5 with racing at 7. Admission for those 14 and over is $13. Pit passes are $30. As always, children under 13, parking, and camping is always FREE!
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 @SharonSpdwy.