Weller flies to Big-Block Mod win; Schneider takes $1000 Penn-Ohio Stocks; Watson goes 2-for-2 in Mods; 1st ever for Ritchey in RUSH Mods; Lambert & Walker capture Econos & Minis
By Mike Leone
May 7, 2016
(Hartford, OH)…After two straight rain outs, Sharon Speedway was bound and determined to not let a third one happen. Off and on light showers fell throughout the late afternoon and early evening hours, but it didn’t stop the action on a fast and racey track as 121 cars filled the pit area for the “Steel Valley Thunder” opener. Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Jim Weller, Jr.-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Chris Schneider-Penn-Ohio Mini Series for the Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Joel Watson-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Brandon Ritchey-Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Butch Lambert-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Steve Walker II-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. Four of the six feature winners were from Pennsylvania.
With Rex King, Jr. starting on the outside pole of the 20-lap Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modified feature, most figured he’d be the guy to beat, but veteran Jim Weller, Jr. had something to say about that. Sixth starting Weller made an impressive move on lap eight following a restart and kept King at bay over the final 12 laps for his first win of the season on the circuit.
“I’m not real sure what happened there to be honest,” deadpanned the Hubbard, Ohio racer when asked about taking the lead. “A couple times I closed my eyes! When you have the Kings chasing you you’ve got to go. We were pretty good, but weren’t great as I couldn’t turn the car in the corners. I screwed up once in turn three- it wasn’t that good of a race for me. I have to thank John Corbin. He’s not working with us this year. He put a lot of time and energy into our cars. Chris Shockey took over for him and is doing a great job.”
Rob Kristyak would actually lead the opening lap, but his lead was short lived as King, Jr. took over following a restart on lap two. A caution for Jimmy Weller III slowed action with three laps scored. When racing resumed, it was three-wide for second with Weller and Rex King moving by Kristyak into second and third. A caution for Rick Richner slowed action for the third and final time. The New York racer pitted ending his night and was awarded the hard luck, which was worth two complimentary pit passes for next week courtesy of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply.
King, Jr. chose the inside on the restart and looked like he was going to have the advantage, but Weller used a cross over move and found bite off the bottom of turn two to power into the lead. King, Jr. remained within striking distance over the final 12 laps, but never mounted a serious challenge as Weller took the win by a margin of 1.371 seconds in his Liberty Steel Products #31. The victory for Weller was his 34th career Big-Block win and milestone 40th overall at Sharon.
King was third over eighth starting Garrett Krummert. Mike Maresca, Jr. went from 10th to fifth and earned an extra $50 from an anonymous donor. Completing the top 10 were Kevin Bolland, Kristyak, Jim Rasey, Skip Moore, and Dave Murdick. Heat winners were Kristyak and King, Jr.
Chris Schneider may not have had the fastest car amongst the 45 on hand Saturday night in the Penn-Ohio Mini Series opener for the Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, but has a knack for being where he needs to be at the finish in “open” competition special events. Schneider benefited from a tangle between the top two cars of Jackson Humanic and Curt Bish to score the $1,000 victory in the 20-lap main event.
“I had to get my brain functioning not to spin the tires, but others gave me the race,” explained the 37-year-old Lower Burrell, Pa. resident. “People made mistakes in front of me, hit the cushion, and the leader got taken out. I don’t like to see that- I’d rather race door-to-door to get the win, but hey I’ll take it. This Series is really cool and a dream come true for Stock Car guys. We’ve needed this for years, and it’s the best thing going right now. I have to thank my family, everyone that helps, and Bob Walters who got the motor to us at 11 o’clock last night.”
Tremendous racing took place up front between Bish and Humanic over the first 10 laps. Bish led lap one taking the top spot from Mike Miller. Fourth starting Humanic used the outside to lead lap two past Bish; however, Humanic slipped high on lap four jumping the cushion allowing Bish to regain the lead, but Humanic grabbed it back one lap later. Following the event’s first caution for Rod Laskey with seven laps completed Bish took charge again for the fifth lead change in the first eight laps!
On lap 12, Humanic got into the back of Bish dumping the leader in turn two. Humanic was sent to the rear with Bish. Pole-sitter Miller inherited the lead for the restart, but seventh starting Schneider was now alongside. When racing resumed for the final time, Schneider powered around the cushion and pulled away to win by 5.491 seconds in his SS Chassis & Supply/Nick Chevrolet/It’s All Clean-sponsored #55. The victory was Schneider’s fourth of his career at Sharon.
Veteran Stock Car racers Rusty Martz and Andy Buckley started alongside each other in row three and raced together pretty much for the duration. The two really went at it over the final nine non-stop laps with Buckley getting by on the final lap for third. Joey Zambotti led the RUSH Pro Stock GM 604 crate racers with a strong effort in fifth after starting 20th and earned a $50 bonus from an anonymous donor. Jamie Scharba, Andy Thompson, Corey McPherson, Wayne Carbo, and Brian Rhed completed the top 10. Heat winners were Buckley, Humanic, Scharba, Bish, and Miller, while Bob McCann and Bobby Whitling split the last chance B mains.
Joel Watson wasn’t sure how much he was going to race at Sharon Speedway this year; in fact, he wasn’t even planning on being at the $2,000 to-win 2015 make-up feature for the Modifieds on April 16, but decided to come home a night early from a road trip and it paid off as he took the victory. On Saturday night, Watson made it two-for-two on the season capturing the 20-lap Summit Racing Equipment feature victory.
“I was surprised Mike (Potosky) took the bottom,” stated the soon-to-be 37-year-old Conneaut, Ohio driver. “I think he seen how I came off the bottom on the last restart and thought maybe there was better drive for the launch. I seen he went right back to the top once he took off. Those guys were really good tonight- the m20 (Potosky) and the 14 (Scott Stiffler). They were probably better cars than we were and should have won the race. I don’t know what happened to Scott. It’s unfortunate he broke. The race was his tonight. The m20 was real good. I’ve been waiting on him to show us how good that new car is and tonight was our first glimpse.”
Pole-sitter Scott Stiffler took over at the start with Watson going from fifth to second after the first lap. Watson ran the high line and began to close in on Stiffler on lap six before Amanda Stiffler spun to bring out the first caution with six laps completed. After six more green flag laps, the caution was displayed again when Econo Mod graduate Casey Bowers spun.
Back under racing conditions, Mike Potosky used the bottom to sneak past Watson for second. With less than four laps to go, Stiffler slowed in the lead and wasn’t able to make it back to the pits. Potosky inherited the lead and led lap 17, but Watson rode the cushion in turns three and four and into the lead on lap 18. Watson led the rest of the way for his 23rd career win in his Northwest Restoration/Zimmer’s Service Center/Close Racing Supply-sponsored #92.
Potosky, who was fast all night long, was second after winning his heat race. Josh Ferry, who won his first career Sharon race on April 16 in the Econo Mod make-up feature, was impressive in the Modified division going from 10th to a fine third place effort. Twelfth starting Joe Gabrielson made it up to fourth at the finish over Russ Dunn. Completing the top 10 were Jeremy Double, Jeff Johnson, Bowers, Daryl Charlier, and Amanda Stiffler, who won her first career heat race.
Like Schneider and Watson in their respective features, Brandon Ritchey may not have had the fastest car in his division either, but he made the most of the situation as he led the final three laps of the Lyden/Red Line Oil feature holding off veteran Jerry Schaffer and his cousin Nick Ritchey for his first career RUSH Sportsman Modified victory. The win was worth $500 due to a full field of 24 racers being on hand matching the division’s all-time high set on April 16.
“I knew I had Jerry a veteran alongside of me and Nick behind me,” explained the 22-year-old Seneca, Pa. racer. “I had to hit my marks, I never lifted, and never looked back as I wanted the checkered flag. I love this class- it’s only going to grow. The sky is the limit with all the support we have. I have to thank my dad and grandfather. If it wasn’t for them none of this would be possible along with my sponsors. Boy am I shaking. I have to thank Sharon Speedway. The track had a lot of bite in it and was awesome. It was a fast track.”
A pair of cautions for newcomer Jordan Ehrenberg slowed action twice in the first six laps. Brandon Ritchey started fifth and passed Schaffer for third on lap six, which would prove to be key later on. Kyle Martell and Justin Shea were putting on a great race out in front as both racers were looking for their first career wins. Martell was fresh off a career best runner-up on opening night, while Shea was hoping to end a streak of bad luck that befell him at both Sharon and Lernerville Speedways’ openers.
On lap 13, Martell dropped to the bottom in turns three and four and caught an infield yuke tire sending it onto the track, which took out Shea as it was a heartbreaking end to both racers’ night. The benefactor was Brandon Ritchey as he inherited the lead and kept a pack of hungry racers eager for a win behind him over the final three laps taking the checkered flag by 0.809 of a second in the Clair Ritchey-owned, Casey’s Restaurant & Lounge/Eakin Concrete/The Nickle Bar/Kings Landscaping/American Auto Pride-sponsored #17.
Ritchey had won some Mini Stock races at some western Pa. tracks in the past, but Saturday’s win was not only his first ever in the division, but also first career at Sharon. In just his second race in a Modified, Chas Wolbert was fourth over Larry Kugel, who received a $50 bonus from an anonymous donor. Wolbert, Shea, and Martell won the heat races.
Steve Haefke led the first 11 laps of the Econo Mod feature, but it was fellow veteran Butch Lambert sneaking by on lap 12 to steal the 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products victory in his first start of the season on the circuit. “I was getting tired and my neck was getting sore- I was hoping for a caution,” revealed the 42-year-old Valencia, Pa. driver. “Whenever he took the inside I was looking at the cushion and thought I’m going to have to make a run at it, but then he went to the top and left the bottom open. I was catching him on the bottom before that caution and it ended up working out for us. I thank Sharon Speedway for giving it a whirl; everyone else around was cancelled and the track was awesome.”
A five-car pileup in turn one on the opening lap got the feature off to a rocky start, but the next 10 laps would go caution-free as Haefke took command over third starting Lambert. Following the race’s second restart, Lambert and Haefke raced side-by-side for the lead on laps 11 and 12. Haefke barely maintained the lead at the start-finish line on lap 11, but Lambert had enough bite off the bottom to lead lap 12 and the rest of the laps to finish.
Lambert’s third career win came in the Mike Hendrickson-owned, Townsend Gas & Oil/Whitehill’s Garage/Leisure Time Power Sports/Hoosier Tires/Brad Penn Oil/Eibach Springs-sponsored #19. Haefke was 0.600 of a second back in second as Brandon Blackshear, Josh Mueller, and Tyler Frankenberry rounded out the top five. Haefke and Wayne Daniels won the heat races.
Back in 2010 when the Mini Stocks debuted in the old Friday night bi-weekly program for support divisions, Steve Walker II won a feature on his way to the track championship. Fast forward six years, and Walker finally returned to victory lane winning a spirited battle with Bill Fuchs, the division’s all-time winningest driver, in the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts feature.
“When I seen it was Bill (Fuchs) I thought ‘oh shit’,” expressed the happy 36-year-old Greenville, Pa. winner. “Bill is a good guy and fun to race with- I knew he was going to race me clean. I have to thank my dad, my sponsors, my fiancé and daughter, and everyone else who helps on the car. Don Blackshear told me last year to put an alternator on it and voila!”
Walker started on the outside pole and took over on the start from 2015 rookie-of-the-year Matt Rubright. It took until lap four until Fuchs made the pass of Rubright for second. The event’s only caution slowed action on lap five when Rubright got into Isaac Paden battling for third. Back under green, Fuchs and Walker went at it for the lead. They raced side-by-side over the final four laps. Fuchs nosed ahead to lead lap nine and most figured that was all she wrote, but Walker wasn’t going to let this one slip away as he came back to lead lap 11 and edged out Fuchs at the finish in his Hittles Auto Supply-sponsored #4M. Sixth starting Michael DelliQuadri was third as Rubright and Greg Geibel completed the top five. Paden, who won the heat race, finished seventh and won the drawing for a pair of pit passes for next Saturday compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. JIM WELLER, JR. (31) 2. Rex King, Jr. (165) 3. Rex King (65) 4. Garrett Krummert (29) 5. Mike Maresca, Jr. (7) 6. Kevin Bolland (777) 7. Rob Kristyak (00) 8. Jim Rasey (32) 9. Skip Moore (17M) 10. Dave Murdick (61) 11. Jimmy Weller III (23) 12. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 13. Tom Mattocks (69) 14. Bob Warren (96B) 15. Rick Richner (26) 16. Erik Martin (29E)-DNS.
Penn-Ohio Mini Series for Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (20 laps, $1,000 to-win): 1. CHRIS SCHNEIDER (55) 2. Mike Miller (T6) 3. Andy Buckley (965) 4. Rusty Martz (16M) 5. Joey Zambotti (948) 6. Jamie Scharba (11S) 7. Andy Thompson (5) 8. Corey McPherson (c33) 9. Wayne Carbo (54) 10. Brian Rhed (69R) 11. Shaun Fawcett (224) 12. Paul Davis (3) 13. Tim Bish (1B) 14. Rusty Moore (17M) 15. Shaun Smith (36) 16. Curt J. Bish (Tarr 29) 17. Jackson Humanic (Kellogg 17K) 18. Bob McCann (Fornataro USA1) 19. Rob Bates (99B) 20. Bobby Heim (92) 21. Nate Smith (28N) 22. Mike Clark (7) 23. Rod Laskey (1R) 24. Bobby Whitling (7W). DNQ: Jacob Billyk (4), Steve D’Apolito (84), Brent Coleman (01), Bryan Wagner (56), Shaun Hooks (Janovick 65), Tony Spaghetti (97), Jesse Brock (22B), Jamie Duncan (67J), Hunter Exley (23H), Russ Byler (06R), Randy Wyant (11T), Jamie Colwell (54J), Rob Shook (64), Gary Robinson (44R), Brian Carothers (02c), Chris Haines (35H), Brett McDonald (25), Curt Bish, Jr. (00), Joe Stajnrajh, Jr. (04), Richard Chess, Jr. (16c), Shane Smith (299).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (20 laps): 1. JOEL WATSON (92) 2. Mike Potosky (m20) 3. Josh Ferry (33) 4. Joe Gabrielson (58) 5. Russ Dunn (53) 6. Jeremy Double (83) 7. Jeff Johnson (27) 8. Casey Bowers (20) 9. Daryl Charlier (11) 10. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 11. Will Thomas III (9) 12. Scott Stiffler (14) 13. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M) 14. Adam Babcock (67)-DNS.
Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (15 laps, $500 to-win): 1. BRANDON RITCHEY (17) 2. Jerry Schaffer (14) 3. Nick Ritchey (77N) 4. Chas Wolbert (c3) 5. Larry Kugel (0) 6. Tiffany Williams (58) 7. Kole Holden (2) 8. Rocky Kugel (6) 9. Josh Deems (9D) 10. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 11. Will Schaffer (4) 12. Jessica Shea (24s) 13. Blaze Myers (43JR) 14. Calvin Clay (21) 15. Michael Sparks (Smith 3G) 16. Amelia Clay (12) 17. Jonathan Myers (11) 18. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 19. Kyle Martell (8) 20. Justin Shea (14s) 21. Steve Slater (35) 22. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 23. Jordan Ehrenberg (JD57) 24. Brian Schaffer (41).
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. BUTCH LAMBERT (Hendrickson 19) 2. Steve Haefke (41) 3. Brandon Blackshear (Burns 70B) 4. Josh Mueller (01) 5. Tyler Frankenberry (38) 6. Gary Miller, Jr. (1M) 7. Wayne Daniels (4) 8. Zach Myers (1M) 9. Ty Rhoades (12R) 10. Chris Clay (99) 11. Kyle Miller (15) 12. Jeff Mundell (11) 13. Mitchell Wright (M11) 14. Brad Blackshear (19)-DNS.
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. STEVE WALKER II (4M) 2. Bill Fuchs (10) 3. Michael DelliQuadri (77D) 4. Matt Rubright (X) 5. Greg Geibel (13G) 6. Joe Keney (15K) 7. Isaac Paden (24) 8. Joe Campbell (40C)-DNS.
Sharon will return to action this Saturday night, May 14 for a “Steel Valley Thunder” program on Scout and Youth Sports Night featuring the weekly six 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.