Weller III wins Big-Block Mods for 2nd time in 3 weeks; Blackshear & Campbell repeat in Econo Mods & Minis; Stiffler, Kugel & Clark capture season’s first wins in Mods, RUSH Mods & Stocks
By Mike Leone
June 11, 2016
(Hartford, OH)…For the eighth straight week rain was in the forecast at Sharon Speedway; however, blue skies and hot weather prevailed as it turned out to be the nicest Saturday of the year allowing the track to take a 5-4 lead on Mother Nature. Capturing wins on Pittsburgh Circle Track Club Night were Jimmy Weller III-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Scott Stiffler-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Rocky Kugel-Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Mike Clark-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Brandon Blackshear-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Joe Campbell-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. All six winners were from Buckeye State.
Jimmy Weller III entered the 2016 with two career DIRTcar Big-Block Modified wins. The 2016 season has been a return to 100% focus on dirt racing after splitting his time between dirt and asphalt, NASCAR racing in the south the last several years. Thus far on the dirt side it’s paid off as Weller III has been fast at both Lernerville and Sharon Speedways this year. On Saturday night, Weller III won for the second time in three weeks at Sharon in the 20-lap Hovis Auto & Truck Supply feature and has already doubled his career win total.
“I thank Sharon Speedway because every night you see a red come out you think about your dad, son, brother, or whoever is out there and worry, but they told me real quick he (Jim Weller, Jr.) was okay so I thank them for that,” explained the 30-year-old Hubbard, Ohio driver. “There were some prayers said real quick to make sure dad was okay. It’s sad it ended that way, but him and Chris have been doing an awesome job on the cars along with Josh and Johnny. It’s fun and I thank God. On that first restart Jim (Rasey) slid up into me. I know what he did. The next restart I knew it was fair game, but he gave me the thumbs up so I knew it was okay there.”
For the second straight week, Jim Rasey jumped out to the early lead- this time behind the wheel of his son Justin’s #21 leading Weller III; meanwhile, it was three-wide for second with Dave Murdick, Rick Regalski, Jr., and Rex King, Jr. A scary accident took place on lap three when Jim Weller, Jr. hopped a wheel and took a nasty end over end flip in turn two. He was okay. He was awarded a free tire from Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic.
While it was certainly a scary moment for Weller III as well until he was relieved to hear his father was okay, the restart allowed him to power into the lead past Rasey. Murdick raced hard side-by-side with Rasey for the second spot on laps five and six, but couldn’t make the move as he then lost third to eighth starting Michael Maresca, Jr.
After falling out of the top five, King, Jr. was on the charge getting by both Murdick and Maresca for third on lap seven before the event’s second and final caution when Murdick lost the handle in turn four. The final 12 laps would go green-to-checkered. After failing to scale and being disqualified in his heat race, Rick Richner had to start 15th and made it into contention at the halfway point taking fourth from Maresca.
Up front, no changes took place in the second half of the event as Weller III raced on to win his fourth career Big-Block Modified win at Sharon and fifth overall at the track in his Hughes Construction/Integrated Metal Products/Speed Energy Drink/Genmak-Steel/Geneva Liberty/Liberty Steel Industries-sponsored #23. Rasey was 1.522 seconds back in second for his best finish in several seasons.
Despite being winless this season, King, Jr. maintains the point lead with his third place finish. New York racers Richner and Maresca were fourth and fifth as Maresca earned an extra $50 from an anonymous donor. Completing the top 10 were Regalski, Murdick, who came back from his early spin, last week’s winner Chris Haines, Skip Moore, and Rex King. King, Jr. and Eric Gabany, who made his first “Steel Valley Thunder” start of the season, won the heat races.
Despite just eight Modifieds starting the feature, the 20-lap non-stop Summit Racing Equipment main was a good one with Scott Stiffler out-dueling Joe Gabrielson for his first win in nearly three years! The non-stop event time was 6:09.592. “I had no brakes,” revealed the 46-year-old Farmdale, Ohio driver. “I couldn’t stop. As soon as I took the lead I went to hit the brakes and it went to the pedal. I didn’t go to the top by choice. If Joe had known that he probably would have pushed it a little more and I’d have had to give it up.”
Newcomer Bruce Powell led the field to green, but it was third starting Stiffler flying into the lead over Josh Ferry, Powell, and Gabrielson. Gabrielson moved past Powell on lap two as the top three quickly distanced themselves from the field. On lap six, Gabrielson made the pass for second slipping under and past Ferry in turn four.
Gabrielson caught Stiffler as they now pulled away from the pack. Gabrielson got under Stiffler on lap eight, but Stiffler maintained the lead. Gabrielson continued to work on Stiffler as the two raced side-by-side for the lead on laps 11 and 12. Gabrielson couldn’t make the pass stick, but stayed right with Stiffler in the ensuing laps until Stiffler got some breathing room at the end to win by 1.359 seconds in his Integra Fabricating/Sam’s Construction/Forty Nine Designs/Afco Shocks/HRE/Three Wide Media-sponsored #14. Though it was Stiffler’s first win since August 10, 2013, Stiffler now has 18 career wins at the track tying him for third all-time with Jeff Johnson.
Behind the lead duo, a great race was taking place for third between Ferry, Powell, and eighth starting Joel Watson. Ferry would prevail as he continues to impress in his rookie “open” Modified season as he trails Gabrielson by just four points in the championship race. Watson got by Powell for good on lap 14 for fourth as he saw his three race win streak at Sharon end. Powell dropped to fifth. Gabrielson won the lone heat race.
After finishing the 2015 season as one of the three fastest cars on the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modified circuit, the 2016 season hasn’t gotten off to the best start for Rocky Kugel. That changed on Saturday night as Kugel ran the cushion from his eighth starting spot to pass Jeremy Weaver for the lead on a restart just past the halfway point to capture the 15-lap Lyden/Red Line Oil-sponsored feature win. Kugel became the fourth different winner in five races this season.
“I was hooked up on the top,” stated the 39-year-old East Liverpool, Ohio driver. “We watched every race before ours. Hats off to Dave (Willoughby)- they prepare a nice race track for us to race on. It seems like this is the only race track that’s doing any good. Keep on coming fans. We enjoy you- if it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t be here racing. I built a couple of these cars over the winter for guys and have one to finish up tomorrow. He’ll be out next week. This class has taken off- it’s cost efficient and everyone wants to do it. I bet I don’t have $10,000 in this car.”
Second year racer Jeremy Weaver took off in the lead over Josh Deems and May 28 winner, Kole Holden. Kugel was quickly halfway to the front after two laps taking fourth from Chelsie Kriegisch. Kugel went to the top to drive by Holden on lap four for third. Kugel was all over Deems before making the pass off turn four on lap seven. The event’s only caution was when Mike Sparks slowed with a flat tire after eight laps scored.
On the ensuing restart, Kugel used the cushion to race pass Weaver. Once in front, Kugel quickly pulled away and went on to his fifth career win in his Paper Services/Myers Service Center/Sunset Whitetails/Brooks Custom Graphicx-sponsored #6 by 3.464 seconds. Weaver, who will turn 15 next month, ran a tremendous race to record his career best finish. Deems, who had yet to crack the top five this season, also recorded his career best finish in third. Holden was fourth over Jerry Schaffer, who received an extra $50 from an anonymous donor. Chas Wolbert, Kugel, and Schaffer won the heat races over the 23-car field, which was actually believe it or not the lowest of the season.
Mike Clark is on a mission this season to win an unprecedented fourth straight Stock Car title. The earlier events this season hasn’t gone Clark’s way, but on a Saturday night he led all 15 laps of the Gibson Insurance Agency feature for his season’s first win that propelled him to fifth in points- just four out of third place. Clark became the fourth different winner in as many events this season as he earned $700 due to the high car count.
“The oil temperature was going up,” stated the 50-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver. “The water temp was pretty good, but I wanted to bring it down while we had a chance under caution. The first lap I was really tight. There was no turning it down on the bottom so I moved up to the top tonight. I beat (Andy) Buckley several times on those restarts and I said just one more time baby on the final one. I’d like to thank the Lord Jesus Christ first along with my wife, dad, my daughter Bethany and son Anthony, all of my sponsors, and Sharon Speedway for giving us a beautiful facility to race at.”
After a seven-car pileup in turn three on the opening lap, the race went clean and green for the first 10 laps as Clark took off in the lead over Andy Buckley. By lap three, Clark and Buckley pulled away from the field, while the battle was on for third as Russ Byler was trying to fend off Curt Bish and Bobby Whitling. Whitling got by Bish for fourth on lap five then passed Byler for third one lap later, but found himself a straightaway behind the lead duo.
Shane Smith slowed to bring out the caution with five laps to go. When racing resumed, Buckley and Clark raced side-by-side for the lead with Buckley on the bottom as Clark had just enough momentum off the cushion to maintain his lead as he’d survive a last lap restart to win by just 0.227 of a second. Clark’s 16th career win came in his Martuccio’s Eye Care/Ohio Inn/Son’s of Italy/Wedge Motorsports/May’s Towing/Trumbull County Auto Parts/Hoosier Tire/Russ King Racing-sponsored #7.
Buckley, Whitling, Bob McCann, and 13th starting Jackson Humanic rounded out the top five. Bish finished 13th and was selected as the lucky recipient of the pair of pit passes for next Saturday night compliments of Hovis Auto & Truck Supply. Heat winners over the 28-car field were Clark, Buckley, and McCann, while Paul Davis won the B main.
Brandon Blackshear edged out Steve Haefke to win for the second time in three weeks in the HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods. “I kind of crowded Haefke down the frontstretch, but I owed him one from the heat race,” revealed the 25-year-old Brookfield, Ohio racer. “Maybe those guys will look back in the video and see that. I wouldn’t dare take him out and he wouldn’t take me out. He was racing me pretty hard and ran me pretty clean. He was probably a little bit better than I was, but I just ran the line on the bottom and here we are. These guys in the grandstands pay for a show and we try and give it to them. I want to thank Sharon Speedway for this great, awesome facility. I have to thank Steve and Lisa for letting me drive this car. Dad worked on the car before the feature and got it tuned up.”
The Blackshear brothers led the 15-lap feature to green with Brandon leading over his younger brother Brad. Haefke started sixth, but was halfway to the front after one lap then passed Brad Blackshear in turn four for second on lap three. Haefke quickly cut into Brandon Blackshear’s lead as he closed in on lap six and was on the leader on lap eight. Haefke took a peek under Blackshear, but Blackshear moved down a line to protect the bottom.
A spin by Wayne Daniels bunched up the field with four laps to go. Blackshear chose the bottom for the restart and moved up to block Haefke’s advances. With Haefke’s momentum killed, he didn’t have enough laps to make a bid for the lead as Blackshear earned his all-time division-leading 19th career win in the Steve Burns, Sr.-owned #70B. Haefke was just 0.612 of a second back in runner-up as he maintained his point lead. Brad Blackshear, Chris Clay, and Buzz Seitz completed the first five. After coming off a season high car count one week ago, a season low 10 cars were on hand Saturday night as Brad Blackshear won the lone heat race.
Joe Campbell came out on top of a wild and wooly Mini Stock feature that saw several of the top runners not see the checkered flag as a car got upside down and separate incidents that left debris of a rub rail and an entire radiator that came flying out. An uncharacteristic five cautions slowed the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts main event as Campbell came all the way from the 14th starting spot to win his second in three weeks. Campbell earned $150 due to the higher car count.
“I’ll tell you that was the best race of my life right there,” expressed the 32-year-old Austintown, Ohio racer. “I started in the back and reeled them in one-by-one. I know there were a lot of wrecks and I got lucky, but still. In the heat race I hit the cushion and blew a tire off the rim and it took me right out.”
Pat Hanlon was making his first start of 2016 and was strong out front leading the first nine laps, but was forced to pit under caution as he had a tire go down. This handed the lead to Campbell, who led the final three laps holding off Isaac Paden for his fourth career win in his Custom Metal Works of Austintown/DCS Truck & Trailer Repair/Statton-Borowski Funeral Home/Henry’s Dynatorium/McGuire’s Coney Island/Tub’s Automotive/Utsinger’s Towing/Superior Auto Body/West Side Tire-sponsored #40c. Steve Walker II was third and took over the point lead. Newcomers Shane Heath and Jacob Rice were fourth and fifth. Heath started back in 15th, while Rice came from 12th. Bill Fuchs and Hanlon won the heat races over the 18-car field.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. JIMMY WELLER III (23) 2. Jim Rasey (21) 3. Rex King, Jr. (165) 4. Rick Richner (26) 5. Michael Maresca, Jr. (7) 6. Rick Reglaski, Jr. (13) 7. Dave Murdick (61) 8. Chris Haines (35H) 9. Skip Moore (17M) 10. Rex King (65) 11. Shawn Kozar (3K) 12. Kevin Green (74) 13. Eric Gabany (3E) 14. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 15. Rob Kristyak (7K).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (20 laps): 1. SCOTT STIFFLER (14) 2. Joe Gabrielson (58) 3. Josh Ferry (33) 4. Joel Watson (92) 5. Bruce Powell (35) 6. Jeff Johnson (27) 7. Russ Dunn (White 53) 8. Jacob Eucker (64) 9. Amanda Stiffler (14A)-DNS.
Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (15 laps): 1. ROCKY KUGEL (6) 2. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 3. Josh Deems (9D) 4. Kole Holden (2) 5. Jerry Schaffer (14) 6. Chas Wolbert (c3) 7. Nick Ritchey (77N) 8. Kyle Martell (8) 9. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 10. Brian Schaffer (41) 11. Justin Shea (14s) 12. Steve Slater (35) 13. Brandon Ritchey (17) 14. Jeremy Zufall (20) 15. Calvin Clay (21) 16. Blaze Myers (43JR) 17. Tiffany Williams (58) 18. Will Schaffer (4) 19. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 20. Amelia Clay (12) 21. Mike Sparks (Smith 3G) 22. Josh Seippel (84)-DNS 23. Preston Cope (24P)-DNS.
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps, $700 to-win): 1. MIKE CLARK (7) 2. Andy Buckley (965) 3. Bobby Whitling (7W) 4. Bob McCann (Fornataro USA1) 5. Jackson Humanic (Kellogg 17K) 6. Paul Davis (3) 7. Rusty Moore (17M) 8. Mike Miller (T6) 9. Brian Carothers (02c) 10. Jacob Billyk (4) 11. Shawn Smith (36) 12. Hunter Exley (23H) 13. Curt Bish (Tarr 29) 14. Dan Fedorchak (Bruno 67) 15. Jamie Maxwell (6) 16. Mike Kerr (25K) 17. Troy DeZarn (21D) 18. Shane Smith (299) 19. Jamie Duncan (67J) 20. Russ Byler (06R) 21. Bryan Wagner (56) 22. Michael Hudzik (31H) 23. Jamie Scharba (11S) 24. Gary Robinson (44R) 25. Andy Thompson (5)-DNS. DNQ: Richard Chess, Jr. (16c), Charlie Baptiste (28B), Chris Haines (35H).
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. BRANDON BLACKSHEAR (Burns 70B) 2. Steve Haefke (41) 3. Brad Blackshear (19) 4. Chris Clay (99) 5. Buzz Seitz (1) 6. Jeff Mundell (11) 7. Wayne Daniels (4) 8. Kyle Miller (15) 9. George Vestal IV (4) 10. Zach Myers (1MZ).
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps, $150 to-win): 1. JOE CAMPBELL (40C) 2. Isaac Paden (24) 3. Steve Walker II (4M) 4. Shane Heath (17s) 5. Jacob Rice (99R) 6. Matt Rubright (X) 7. Alan Perry (35) 8. Pat Hanlon (7H) 9. Logan Keney (16) 10. Summer Pitts (McCracken 64) 11. Pete Blazczak (77) 12. Bill Fuchs (10) 13. Will Aley (Maxwell 6) 14. Jimmy Morris III (Coleman 75) 15. Mitch Stokes (6M) 16. Pat Drennan (24) 17. Joe Keney (15K)-DNS 18. Karlee Longwell (14K)-DNS.
Six-division “Steel Valley Thunder” racing returns this Saturday night, June 18 as the Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars will run for $1,000 to-win as part of the Penn-Ohio Pro Stock Series. The Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks will also be on the card for the “Father’s Day Celebration”. Pits open at 4 p.m., grandstands at 5, and racing at 7.
Coming up on Tuesday, June 21 will be Ohio Sprint Speedweek featuring Tony Stewart’s Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions for $5,000 to-win plus the Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks racing for $300 to-win. Reserved and advanced tickets are on sale through SharonSpeedway.com. Pits open at 3 p.m., grandstands at 4, with warm-ups at 6 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.