Swartzlander stops the Kings in Big-Block Mods; Watson, Ritchey & Clark capture 1st wins in E-Mods, RUSH Mods & Stocks; Bowers repeats in Econos; Proper invades & wins Minis
By Mike Leone
June 20, 2015
(Hartford, OH)…After losing four of the first eight scheduled events to open the 2015 season, Sharon Speedway was bound and determined to beat Mother Nature on Saturday night. Despite once again just about every regional speedway cancelling their programs, Sharon stuck with it and outlasted late afternoon and early evening showers to complete the fifth program of the 86th anniversary season. Exactly 100 race cars were in the pit area.
Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Brian Swartzlander-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Joel Watson-Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds, Nick Ritchey-Weller Hughes Contracting & Developing RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Mike Clark-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Casey Bowers-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Andy Proper-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. Brian Hardman picked up the victory in the UTV Side-by-Sides.
It took an appearance by Lernerville Speedway’s all-time Big-Block Modified feature winner, Brian Swartzlander, to end the reign by the Kings this season. Swartzlander led all 30 laps of the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply feature holding off both Rex King and his son Rex, Jr. for the victory. Ironically, Swartzlander won on the very same weekend last year ending the run by the King and Weller families!
“I didn’t want any more cautions,” acknowledged the 55-year-old Leechburg, Pa. veteran. “Rex is just so good. We got to the outside- that’s where we needed to be. If I didn’t get to the top I don’t know if we could have won it. The car was really good and the track was beautiful. I commend the track crew and the people at Sharon for getting this race in. We towed for two hours through rain and had our doubts so we’re really glad we made it here, and I have to thank all of the fans for coming out. I owe it to my crew. They made a good call before the feature, and worked real hard after Lernerville last night. They worked all day washing the car and getting it ready.”
Three cautions slowed action in the first two laps including a hard hit by Tiffany Williams, who was awarded the hard charger and she’ll receive a pair of pit passes from Hovis Auto & Truck Supply for next weekend. The final 28 laps went green-to-checkered with hard racing up front by three of the region’s best. King, Jr. started sixth and took over third from Jim Weller, Jr. on lap three.
Swartzlander had a half-straightaway lead on lap 14 when he caught lapped traffic. King began to close in on lap 16 as Swartzlander was stuck behind Rob Kristyak and Carl Murdick, who were battling side-by-side for position. With King all over the leader, Swartzlander knew he had to go as he went to the extreme outside of the speedway in turns three and four, while King went to the bottom. It was four-wide racing off turn four with Swartzlander making the move stick that maintained his lead.
Swartzlander opened up his lead after that, but the two Kings closed in late. Swartzlander had just enough to hold on and win by just 0.607 of a second for his 14th career win in his McCutcheon Enterprises/Precise Tool & Die/Fox Shocks/Peace Contracting-sponsored #83. King held off “Cooter” for second. Ricky Richner and Jim Rasey moved to fourth and fifth at the finish after Jim Weller, Jr. exited the event on lap 22. Sixth through 10th were Kevin Hoffman, Tom Glenn, Kristyak, Murdick, and Dave Reges. Rex King, Jr. set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 16.070.
It hasn’t been the best start to the 2015 season for Modified standout Joel Watson, but on Saturday night he found a bright spot on a dreary day capturing his season’s first victory in the 25-lap Summit Racing Equipment feature. Watson out-dueled several of the top runners in a great race for the win despite a caution-plagued event.
“We’ve had a real tough year,” stated the 36-year-old Conneaut, Ohio star. “I’ve clipped my chassis twice and blew a motor last time we were here. I had a tree fall on my garage- nothing has been going good until now so I’m loving it! I can’t thank the guys that work on my car enough. There’s a lot of people that have helped me out. It feels like there’s more traction down on the bottom and there is, but you’ve got to slow down more to get into it, and when you get that momentum coming down the frontstretch on the restart it’s hard to carry that momentum like you can on the outside. I really wasn’t sure if everyone could do that or it was just me, but Will (Thomas) definitely showed me he was capable of doing it. My car was really good on the top lane. As the race went on I kept moving up and the car kept getting better.”
Watson started fifth, but was already up to second after one lap; however, two-time winner Will Thomas grabbed the runner-up spot on lap five, and then powered past race-long leader Steve Dixon for the lead on lap six. Watson regained second when he got by Dixon for second on a restart on lap seven. Watson’s winning pass then came on lap eight when made the outside work on a restart.
Watson survived five more restarts to capture his 20th career win in his Northwest Restoration/Zimmer’s Service Center/Close Racing Supply-sponsored #92 by 0.960 of a second over Thomas. Mike Kinney, who had dropped back as far as sixth at one point, came on late to finish a close third. Bruce Powell, who started 12th, finished fourth over Dixon, who faded to fifth. Brandon Blackshear was sixth in his season debut ahead of Joe Gabrielson, Dwayne Clay, Jamie Duncan, and Carl McKinney. Duncan advanced nine spots to earn the $25 Summit Racing Equipment Hard Charger certificate. Watson set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 17.230 over the 19-car field.
After winning his first career feature at the last RUSH Sportsman Modified Bicknell Racing Products Weekly Series event at Sportsman’s Speedway, Nick Ritchey made it back-to-back wins with his first career Sharon win in the 20-lap Weller Hughes Contracting & Developing feature. Ritchey had to hold off the division’s only winners to date in Rocky Kugel and point leader Greg Martin.
“This is my Father’s Day present to my dad,” expressed the 32-year-old Oil City, Pa. driver. “When that caution came out I thought ‘oh come on’. The track was nice and tacky tonight, but got a little loose at the end- I liked it. I have to thank my mom and dad, my crew, and all of my sponsors. I just had my first win two weeks ago and now this one comes. I love this class and it’s very affordable.”
Ritchey took over from pole-sitter Kole Holden on the start while Kugel and sixth starting Martin followed in second and third on lap two. The top three pulled away by lap five. Martin was all over Kugel in the battle for second on lap nine before the event’s only caution was displayed when Kyle Martell slowed in fourth. The final 11 laps went non-stop with Ritchey holding on by 1.244 seconds in his E&R Motorsports/DRK/Jeff Aiken/Kings Landscaping-sponsored #77N. Kugel edged out Martin for second. Martin’s third place finish was his worst in his 13 career starts at Sharon. Holden dropped to fourth over Chelsie Kriegisch. Martin set fast time for the fourth time in five races with a lap of 17.435.
Defending two-time champion Mike Clark made a late race pass of Mike Miller to win his first Stock Car feature of the season and become the fourth different winner in as many events this season. Clark’s victory in the 20-lap Gibson Insurance Agency feature also allowed him to maintain his point lead by just four over Miller. Clark also received a $25 gift certificate from Summit Racing Equipment for being the event’s hard charger.
“The track was real good tonight and my car could go anywhere I wanted it to- I just had to focus on what I needed to do. Sometimes when you come up on lapped traffic you try a little harder. It looked like he (Miller) just got in there too hard and slid up and I got down to turn one before he did. I have to thank the Lord Jesus Christ, all of the fans for coming out, my one and only pit crew- my dad, my wife, my son, and all of my sponsors.”
Gary Robinson set the pace out front for the first six laps, but under caution he headed pit side due to overheating issues handing the lead to Miller with fifth starting Clark now in second. The final 14 laps went green-to-checkered. Clark was all over Miller on lap 11 as they raced side-by-side. Miller ran the top as he had the preferred line and maintained the lead. On lap 17, Miller slipped high off four allowing Clark to get alongside of the leader. Miller come back down across the track and the two made contact in turn one with Clark coming out in the lead.
Clark would lead the final two laps holding off Miller by just 0.944 of a second for his 14th career win in his Martuccio Eye Care/Champion Supply/Son’s of Italy of Warren/Wedge Motorsports/May’s Towing/Trumbull County Auto Parts/Minor’s Performance/Hoosier Tire-sponsored #7. Curt J. Bish and Chris Withers finished third and fourth in their season debuts. Brian Carothers was fifth. Troy DeZarn received a pair of pit passes for next Saturday compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply for finishing in the randomly drawn 15th position. Clark set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 17.759 over the 17-car field.
It looked like Jason Longwell was going to become the season’s fifth different Econo Mod winner in five events, but Casey Bowers had other plans. Bowers made a late race pass for his second straight win and took over the point lead in the HTMA/Precise Racing Products-sponsored division.
“I found some bite down there,” revealed the 16-year-old Cranesville, Pa. racer. “I really didn’t have anything up top and kept spinning so I decided to keep rolling the bottom and it worked it out. Hopefully we can find our way through next Saturday and get a top three. We wanted to finish ahead of Ryan (Fraley) and get ahead of him in the point lead. I have to thank my parents, sponsors, and crew as without them I couldn’t do this.”
Friday night’s Raceway 7 winner, Steve Haefke, led the first six laps before Longwell took over following a restart on lap seven. Longwell looked fast powering around the cushion, but as the laps wore on his car kept slipping higher and higher in turns two and four. Bowers, who started sixth, had passed Haefke for second on lap 10 and began closing in on Longwell.
Finally on lap 16, Bowers drove right by Longwell off the bottom of turn two and sped away to win by 1.409 seconds. Bowers fifth career win came in the Jody Bowers-owned, Baycrete Ready Mix/Clingerbuilt E-Mods/BSI/955 Automotive/Lath Rop Electric-sponsored #20. Longwell held off ninth and tenth starting Ryan Fraley and Brad Blackshear for second. Haefke dropped to fifth. Fraley received a $25 gift certificate from Summit Racing Equipment for being the hard charger. Bowers also set fast time in qualifying with a 17.960 over the 16-car field.
For the second straight race an invader came out on top of the Mini Stocks. Last time it was Doug Hensel towing 100 miles from central Ohio to win, this time it was Andy Proper making the 100-mile tow from northwest Pennsylvania to nail down the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts feature win, which was again worth $150 due to there being over 17 cars. “My home track Stateline (Speedway) rained out and I wanted to come down Tuesday so I figured this would be a great opportunity to do a test and find out how the car was,” explained the 43-year-old Tidioute, Pa. resident.
Two-time winner and two-time champion Bill Fuchs took off in the lead. An invert eight had Proper starting back in eighth, but he quickly moved forward passing both Joe Keney and Michael DelliQuadri for second on lap two. At the halfway point, Proper began to cut into Fuch’s lead and by lap nine was right on the leader. The two ran side-by-side on lap 10 with Proper making the pass. Fuchs tried to come back after Proper in turn four later that lap; contact with Proper gave Proper a flat tire as Fuchs looped his #10 bringing out the caution.
Proper held on for the final two laps despite a flat tire to win in his first ever appearance in his Phillips Auto Care/Kunick Automotive/Cornfield 500-sponsored #17. DelliQuadri’s runner-up was a career best despite his trunk open in the closing laps. Rookie Matt Rubright charged from 11th to third for his best career finish. Tim McAninch was fourth ahead of Fuchs, who came from the tail in the final two laps to finish fifth. Mitch Stokes raced from 15th to sixth to earn the $25 Summit Racing Equipment Hard Charger certificate. Heat winners were Proper and Jordan Ehrenberg over the 19-car field, which matched a season high.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (30 laps): 1. BRIAN SWARTZLANDER (83) 2. Rex King (65) 3. Rex King, Jr. (165) 4. Ricky Richner (26) 5. Jim Rasey (32) 6. Kevin Hoffman (00) 7. Tom Glenn (83T) 8. Rob Kristyak (00) 9. Carl Murdick (6) 10. Dave Reges (27R) 11. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 12. Steve Barr (25B) 13. Garrett Krummert (29) 14. Tiffany Williams (58) 15. Bob Warren (96B).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (25 laps): 1. JOEL WATSON (92) 2. Will Thomas III (9) 3. Mike Kinney (3) 4. Bruce Powell (35) 5. Steve Dixon (68) 6. Brandon Blackshear (10) 7. Joe Gabrielson (58) 8. Dwayne Clay (007) 9. Jamie Duncan (67J) 10. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 11. Paul Davis (3D) 12. Clayton Kennedy (9) 13. Dale Charlier (11) 14. Jeff Johnson (Smith 1) 15. Rich Jaeger (5) 16. Dan Davies (71D) 17. Jacob Eucker (64) 18. J.J. Bametzrieder (74) 19. Matt Lux (21).
Weller Hughes Contracting & Developing RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (20 laps): 1. NICK RITCHEY (77N) 2. Rocky Kugel (1) 3. Greg Martin (4) 4. Kole Holden (2) 5. Chelsie Kriegisch (Schaffer 10) 6. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 7. Larry Kugel (0) 8. Justin Shea (14s) 9. Josh Deems (9D) 10. Brandon Ritchey (17) 11. Michael Kristyak (404) 12. Will Schaffer (4) 13. Jeff Hughes (22) 14. Kyle Martell (8).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (20 laps): 1. MIKE CLARK (7) 2. Mike Miller (T6) 3. Curt J. Bish (Tarr 29) 4. Chris Withers (21W) 5. Brian Carothers (02c) 6. Andy Thompson (5) 7. Brett McDonald (25) 8. Charlie Jasinski (5J) 9. Tony Bruno (97) 10. Brian Mulichak (36D) 11. Gary Robinson (44R) 12. Travis Creech (75T) 13. Dillon Kineston (19) 14. Gary Miller, Jr. (1M) 15. Troy DeZarn (21D) 16. Shane Smith (299)-DNS 17. Brent Coleman (01)-DNS.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (20 laps): 1. CASEY BOWERS (20) 2. Jason Longwell (7s) 3. Ryan Fraley (12) 4. Brad Blackshear (19) 5. Steve Haefke (41) 6. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR) 7. Jamie Scharba (11s) 8. Junior Mechling (89) 9. Wayne Daniels (4) 10. George Vestal IV (4) 11. Keith Felicetty (98) 12. Mike Hillman (29) 13. Robert Simmons (4RJ) 14. Ray Gregory (82R) 15. Chris Clay (99) 16. Kevin Sergeff (17s).
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps, $150 to-win): 1. ANDY PROPER (17) 2. Michael DelliQuadri (77D) 3. Matt Rubright (X) 4. Tim McAninch (43) 5. Bill Fuchs (10) 6. Mitch Stokes (X) 7. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 8. Jamie Maxwell (6) 9. Jeff Little (42) 10. Pat Drennan (Sirrine 24) 11. Joe Keney (15K) 12. Jason Pavlick (00) 13. Logan Keney (16) 14. Riley Ballentine (145R) 15. Jordan Ehrenberg (JD57) 16. Adam Reseigh (2) 17. Cole Brugmann (12) 18. Greg Schmied (97)-DNS 19. Joe Campbell (40C)-DNS.
Coming up this Tuesday night (June 23) is the 33rd annual Ohio Speedweek for Tony Stewart’s All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars paying $5,000 to-win plus the Mini Stocks racing for $300 to-win. Gates open at 4 p.m. There will be an autograph session with Tony Stewart and Dave Blaney from 5-5:40 p.m. Warm-ups are scheduled for 6:15 followed by time trials and racing.
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.