Defending champ King Jr off to fast start in Big-Block Mods; Winning Mod debut for Thomas; Martin continues domination of RUSH Mods; 1st ever wins for Haines & Lambert; Minis to Blazczak
By Mike Leone
May 2, 2015
(Hartford, OH)…It was probably one of the latest starts to the season in many years, but the gates finally swung open on a warm and sunny Saturday for the 2015 season opener. The 86th anniversary season kicked off with many changes including a new surface, new format, reduced $10 adult admission, and elimination of driver registration fees. A strong crowd watched 97 cars compete on a very racey, tacky, and smooth surface.
Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Rex King, Jr.-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Will Thomas III-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Greg Martin-Weller Hughes Contracting & Developing RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Chris Haines-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Butch Lambert-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Pete Blazczak-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks.
After winning a division-high six features in route to his first track championship in addition to the $1,010 Lou Blaney Memorial “Drive to be a Champion” crown, Rex King, Jr. is already off to a fast start in 2015. The defending Lernerville Speedway Champion already has a win at the Sarver, Pa. oval, and started the new season off on Saturday night at Sharon in victory lane. King, Jr. passed his father for the 30-lap Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature win in a race that saw four different leaders.
“I have to watch getting dad too upset, he owns my car,” joked the 24-year-old Bristolville, Ohio racer when asked about beating his father. “I have to thank all of my sponsors, crew, family, Sharon Speedway. Everybody on this car is a big part of our success. I also have to thank all of the fans that came out. With this new format, everyone was a little questionable. It worked out good for us tonight.”
Jim Weller, Jr. took command at the start. On lap two it was three-wide for the lead with Weller maintaining the top spot over Ricky Richner and sixth starting King, Sr. Lap three saw New York’s Richner and King, Sr. overtake Weller for the top two spots. Richner’s lead was short-lived as King, Sr. raced ahead to lead lap four before the event’s first caution.
King, Jr. had made his way to third before the caution then when racing resumed took second from Richner. Several cautions plagued the middle stages of the event. Following a restart, King, Jr. made the winning pass on lap 12 driving around his father in turn three. King, Jr. led the final 19 laps for his 15th career win, all of which have come in less than four years. “Cooter” crossed the finish line in the KMB Inc.-owned, Jim Brown Seed Sales/Bristol Disposal/Reese Services/Professional Heating Systems/Jet Inc/Cedar Steel/Mahan Welding & Fab/Schaeffer Oil/Cintas Uniform/Cleer Excavation-sponsored #165 by 0.680 of a second over his father.
Brian Swartzlander and Dave Murdick had fast cars. The two started seventh and tenth respectively and worked their way into third and fourth. The two battled hard, but would suffer overheating issues late in the race. Richner would place third at the finish over 11th starting Rick Regalski, Jr. Completing the top 10 were Weller, 13th starting Eric Gabany with his “358” small-block, Tom Glenn, Jimmy Weller III, Jim Rasey, and Rob Kristyak. Weller III set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 16.499 over the 22-car field.
With the RUSH Late Models not competing weekly at Sharon in 2015, two-time track champion and 13-time feature winner, Will Thomas III, decided to add a Modified to his stable so he could continue to run weekly at his home track. Thomas just missed out on a RUSH Late Model win Friday night at Lernerville finishing a close second to Jared Miley. He’d do one spot better on Saturday night with a winning Modified debut in the 30-lap Summit Racing Equipment feature.
“It means a ton to win here at Sharon Speedway,” expressed the 39-year-old Sharpsville, Pa. resident. “I grew up as a kid coming here. I can’t say enough about the surface and this class. These guys worked hard here at the track. This is a really, really hard class. I got lucky tonight. You have guys like Joel Watson, Mike Kinney, and Steve Dixon had bad luck. To come in here and win on the first night running this car means a lot. These are a ball of fun to drive. They have a ton of power and not a lot of tire. Jason Ore at 955 Automotive built us an unbelievable motor in this thing.”
Pole-sitter Dwayne Clay raced out to the early lead. Thomas started fourth, but was on the charge taking third from Mike Kinney on lap two and second from Jeff Johnson on lap four. Clay got a little sideways on lap six allowing Thomas to close in. The two ran side-by-side for the lead over the next two laps with Thomas making the winning move with an inside pass in turns one and two on lap eight. Clay would spin the following lap bringing out the caution and moved Johnson to second over Kinney. After a caution for Matt Lux without another lap completed, the final 22 laps went green-to-checkered.
Thomas was never challenged taking the checkered flag first by a margin of 4.574 seconds for his 14th career overall win at the track in his Colonial Metal Products/Barris Supply/King Sanitary/Sweet Manufacturing/All Star Performance/Motorstate/Five Star Bodies/Russ King Racing/Wedge Motorsports-sponsored #9. Thomas became the 49th different driver to win a Modified feature in the history of the division at the Speedway.
Behind Thomas, a great race took place. Johnson and Kinney raced side-by-side for second on laps 14-18 then again on laps 21-23 with Kinney finally getting by with an inside pass on lap 23. Kinney crossed the line in second. Johnson slowed on lap 29 allowing sixth starting Joel Watson to take third at the finish. Ninth starting Mike Potosky was fourth ahead of Clay, who came back for fifth after his early spin. Rounding out the top 10 were Shawn Shingledecker, Gary Sullivan, Johnson, newcomer J.J. Bametzrieder, and Jacob Eucker. Thomas, who was quickest in warm-ups, also set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 17.135.
The RUSH Sportsman Modifieds made eight appearances in their inaugural season in 2014 drawing car counts between 10-13. The division features GM 602 crate engines and $135 Bilstein sealed, spec shocks was added as a full-time weekly division in 2015 and on Saturday night attracted a record 15 racers with still at least another eight not ready for competition yet. Greg Martin made the long tow down from Wilson, New York in 2014 for all eight shows winning four features and finishing runner-up in the other four. On Saturday night, Martin dominated the 20-lap Weller Hughes Contracting & Developing feature event.
“This facility is great- we love coming down here,” stated the happy 33-year-old winner who tows three and a half hours from Wilson, New York. “The track crew did a great job. You’d have never known they trucked in all of that clay. That was a lot of hard work. It was smooth, it was beautiful with tons of bite. It was great all night and just makes it so fun coming down here. We have something figured out here and hope it continues throughout the season. I have to thank my crew. We changed the car over from running Ransomville (Speedway) last night.”
An invert four from qualifying lined Martin up fourth, but he was able to maneuver past Andy Paden, Steve Burns, Jr., and pole-sitter Chelsie Kriegisch for the lead on the opening lap. Fifth starting Rocky Kugel passed Kriegisch for third on lap two. A caution for newcomer Brandon Ritchey slowed action at the halfway point erasing Martin’s 9.5-second lead.
Back under green, Kugel continued his way forward passing Burns for second; however, Kugel would lose power off and on over the remainder of the event. Sixth starting Kyle Martell got by the slowing Kugel for third on lap 16 then inherited second on the final lap when Burns slowed.
Up front, it was all Martin taking his fifth career win by 10.301 seconds in his NYKDS/Jeffery Machine/Atwel Eye Care/Race 1-sponsored #4. Martell, a 15-year-old, was runner-up in his first ever Sharon race. Kriegisch, who finished third on Friday night at Lernerville, recorded another podium finish as she takes over the early lead in the $3,000 to-win Bicknell Racing Products Weekly Series Championship points. Kugel dropped to fourth over 16-year-old Kole Holden, who also made his Sharon debut. Martin’s 17.270 in qualifying set a new track record.
Chris Haines has competed in the RUSH Late Models and DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds over recent years, but returned to his roots on Saturday night capturing the season opening 20-lap Stock Car feature presented by Gibson Insurance Agency. Haines’ victory was his first ever at the Speedway.
“You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first one,” expressed the 44-year-old Sandy Lake, Pa. driver. “I wish Andy wouldn’t have broke. He’s going to tell me if he wouldn’t have had to pull off the track or whatever happened to him he would have won. I’ve been in everything and still going to run the big-block. They started that Stock series last year and some of the old guys built cars and came back. I couldn’t let them have all of the fun. I had a ball tonight.”
Newcomer Christian Schneider led the opening lap before Andy Buckley took the top spot on lap two. Eighth starting Haines was already up to third after one lap and then nipped Schneider at the line for second on lap three. Haines began to close on Buckley on lap five and caught the leader on lap nine. Lapped traffic loomed ahead of Buckley on lap 10. Buckley tried to go around Charlie Jasinski on the outside of turn three, but contact was made sending Buckley around.
Haines was handed the lead and he’d lead the final 11 non-stop laps in his Lakeview Fertilizer/Jerry Lucas Auto/Garage Bar & Grill/Buckley Trucking-sponsored #35H for the victory by 2.754 seconds. The 18-year-old Schneider was an impressive runner-up in his maiden voyage to the Hartford, Ohio oval beating out defending two-time track champion Mike Clark. Michael Miller and Jesse Brock were fourth and fifth. Haines also set the standard in qualifying with a lap of 17.971.
As was written in Saturday’s preview of the Econo Mods, the division would be wide open with standouts Brandon Blackshear, Jeremy Double, and Jacob Eucker moving up to the Modified division over the past two years. Those three had won 39 of the 75 features run all-time and three of the five track championships. Saturday night’s 20-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products feature saw four lead changes with Butch Lambert picking up his first career win at the Speedway.
“I can’t thank Mike (Hendrickson) enough for giving me this opportunity,” said the 41-year-old Valencia, Pa. racer. “We’ve been close so many times. Last year we led almost the whole thing and the driver kind of screwed up towards the end and over-drove the car. Mike gave me a little pep talk before the feature and said don’t over drive the car. I love what they did with the track. You could race anywhere you went. It’ll probably only get better.”
Pole-sitter Josh Mueller led the first three laps before Lambert made the pass racing off the inside of turn four on lap four for the lead. By lap eight, it was a four-car race for the lead with Lambert trying to fend off Mueller, Ryan Fraley, and Casey Bowers. Two cautions slowed action on laps nine and eleven. Fraley had taken second from Mueller before the final caution and then took the lead from Lambert off the outside of turn four when racing resumed on lap 12. Lambert though returned the favor sneaking back under and past Fraley in turn four for the lead on lap 13.
Lambert was able to withstand the heavy pressure over the final laps to become the 23rd different all-time winner in the division in the Mike Hendrickson-owned, Townsend Gas & Oil/Whitehill’s Garage/Leisure Time Power Sports/Brad Penn Oil/Hoosier Tires/VP Fuels-sponsored #19. Lambert’s margin of victory was 0.475 of a second over Mueller, who got back by Fraley on lap 16. Fraley dropped back to third over Bowers and Jamie Scharba. Keith Felicetty had the fastest lap in qualifying with a 18.623.
Pete Blazczak is generally one of the last cars to arrive to the speedway when he makes his periodic visits in the Mini Stocks. Saturday night, Blazczak missed the heat race pill draw as he was the next-to-last to arrive, but that didn’t stop him from capturing the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts Mini Stock feature.
“I love this track,” expressed the 43-year-old driver from an hour and a half away in Gibsonia, Pa. “It was beautiful with a little too much grip and was heating the car up a little bit. I’ll be here every week. I have so many people that I have to thank. Barry comes up here with me and Joe Campbell’s dad helped me all night. I hope Joe wins next week.”
Blazczak started from sixth, but had the lead on the opening lap. A caution for Jamie Maxwell on lap seven was all that slowed Blazczak from his sixth career victory in his Blazczak’s Salvage #77. Bill Fuchs, a two-time champion and the division’s all-time winner, raced from seventh to finish second after getting by Michael DelliQuadri on lap nine. DelliQuadri dropped to third over Jim Haefke, Jr. and Joe Keney. DelliQuadri and Fuchs topped the heat races over the 17-car field.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (30 laps): 1. REX KING, JR. (165) 2. Rex King (65) 3. Ricky Richner (26) 4. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 5. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 6. Eric Gabany (3E) 7. Tom Glenn (83T) 8. Jimmy Weller III (23) 9. Jim Rasey (32) 10. Rob Kristyak (00) 11. Carl Murdick (6) 12. Don Brown (71B) 13. Bob Warren (96B) 14. Shayne Izzo (86) 15. Max Smoker (5) 16. Eric Beggs (29*) 17. Brian Swartzlander (83) 18. Dave Murdick (61) 19. Garrett Krummert (29) 20. Tom Mattocks (69) 21. Justin Rasey (21) 22. Dave Reges (27R).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (30 laps): 1. WILL THOMAS III (9) 2. Mike Kinney (3) 3. Joel Watson (92) 4. Mike Potosky (M20) 5. Dwayne Clay (007) 6. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 7. Gary Sullivan (47s) 8. Jeff Johnson (Smith 1) 9. J.J. Bametzrieder (74) 10. Jacob Eucker (64) 11. Paul Davis (3D) 12. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 13. Matt Lux (21) 14. Howard Fraley (217) 15. Steve Dixon (Engles 68)-DNS 16. Jeremy Double (83)-DNS.
Weller Hughes Contracting & Developing RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (20 laps): 1. GREG MARTIN (4) 2. Kyle Martell (8) 3. Chelsie Kriegisch (Schaffer 10) 4. Rocky Kugel (1) 5. Kole Holden (2) 6. Adam Hilton (Paden 24) 7. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 8. Josh Deems (9D) 9. Nick Ritchey (77N) 10. Will Schaffer (4) 11. Brandon Ritchey (17) 12. Larry Kugel (0) 13. Michael Kristyak (404) 14. Jeff Hughes (22) 15. Andy Paden (Hilton 3A)-DSQ.
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (20 laps): 1. CHRIS HAINES (35H) 2. Christian Schneider (Mach5) 3. Mike Clark (7) 4. Michael Miller (T6) 5. Jesse Brock (22B) 6. Andy Buckley (965) 7. Brian Carothers (02c) 8. Charlie Jasinski (5J) 9. Brian Mulichak (36D) 10. Travis Creech (75T) 11. Rusty Moore (17M) 12. Brent Coleman (01) 13. Shane Smith (299) 14. Dave Myers (Burns 70B)-DNS.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (20 laps): 1. BUTCH LAMBERT (Hendrickson 19) 2. Josh Mueller (01) 3. Ryan Fraley (12) 4. Casey Bowers (20) 5. Jamie Scharba (11S) 6. Brad Blackshear (19) 7. Ty Rhoades (12R) 8. Keith Felicetty (98) 9. Mike Hillman (29) 10. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR) 11. Robert Simmons (4RJ) 12. Wayne Daniels (4) 13. Chris Clay (99).
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. PETE BLAZCZAK (77) 2. Bill Fuchs (10) 3. Michael DelliQuadri (77) 4. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 5. Joe Keney (15K) 6. Matt Rubright (X) 7. Greg Geibel (Claypoole 13G) 8. Paul Claypoole (43) 9. Tim McAninch (43) 10. Geof Pinch (36) 11. Logan Keney (16) 12. Jamie Maxwell (6) 13. Jeff Little (42) 14. Jordan Ehrenberg (JD57) 15. Pat Drennan (Sirrine 24) 16. Roger Wigton (9) 17. Joe Campbell (40C)-DNS.
Next Saturday night with a full “Steel Valley Thunder” program plus the RUSH Late Models. If there are 24 or more RUSH Late Models, the feature will pay $1,000 to-win! Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and group qualifying 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.