Norris shines in opener taking $3000 ULMS Super Late Model win; Hess dominates UMP Mods; Bish fends off McGuire in Stocks; Lunger from 8th to win 1st ever in Econo Mods
By Mike Leone
April 24, 2021
(Hartford, OH)…After losing all but five races in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharon Speedway kicked off the 92nd anniversary season as planned on Saturday night completing the earliest season opener since the 2017 season. Cool conditions with drizzle and sprinkles falling from late afternoon throughout the evening didn’t slow the action on the red clay as Pennsylvania racers Michael Norris (ULMS Super Late Models), Dave Hess, Jr. (Hovis Auto & Truck Supply UMP Modifieds), Curt J. Bish (Gibson Insurance Agency Pro Stocks), and Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Gibson Insurance Agency Econo Mods) celebrated in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane at the eastern Ohio oval on Glunt Industries Night.
Twenty-eight time Lernerville Speedway winner and two-time track champion, Michael Norris, came out on top of an exciting 30-lap ULMS Super Late Model feature. Norris swapped the lead with Jared Miley before taking the lead for good with a turn four slider on lap 23 to capture his first victory of 2021 and first of his career at Sharon, worth $3,000.
“The track was awesome,” stated the 28-year-old Sarver, Pa. winner. “The last time I was here it was a little rough, but this place is really, really cool. I wish we could race here more. I thought I did myself in when I got into a lapped car; it pushed the fender down on the tire and I figured that was it. We put a harder tire on and I was really cussing those cautions out, but once we got rolling I felt pretty good. I’m just glad to get one. We’ve been close all year with a lot of speed, but just haven’t been able to capitalize. (Jared) Miley is a class act. He always runs me clean and I try to do the same. I know I bumped into (Max) Blair down here. I didn’t really see him, but that’s racing. Thanks to all the fans for coming out in the rain and hopefully we put on a good show for you.”
Norris started from the pole and took off in the lead over Miley, Boom Briggs, Max Blair, and Dave Hess, Jr; however, Norris lost the lead to Miley following a restart on lap two with Blair moving to third. Doug Drown got into the fence to bring out the caution with four laps scored ending the Ohio racer’s night. When racing resumed, it was three-wide for second with Norris maintaining the spot, while Hess grabbed third from Blair. Hess held on to the third spot for only two laps as Blair took it back on lap seven.
Up front, Miley caught lapped traffic on lap 11, which allowed Norris to close in, while Blair joined the battle for the lead on lap 12. It was three-wide for the lead on lap 14, but a caution for second year racer Levi Yetter slowed action for the final time of the event.
When green replaced yellow, Miley continued to lead clicking the laps off, but Norris wasn’t about to go away. Norris pulled even with Miley and the two raced side-by-side for the lead on laps 22 and 23 with Norris making the winning move in turn four on lap 23 as his slider stuck. Miley and Blair made one last bid on lap 24 as it was three-wide again for the lead, but Norris maintained and pulled away in the closing laps to take the Todd Cerenzia-owned, Rocket Chassis on Integra Shocks, Durham Ford-powered #02 to victory by 2.204 seconds.
Miley and Blair battled down to the wire for second with Miley edging out the Series points leader. Hess was fourth with Alex Ferree in fifth. Completing the top 10 were Chub Frank, Matt Lux, Briggs, Ryan Scott, and Will Thomas from 24th. Briggs set fast time in qualifying over the 26-car field with a lap of 15.738. Heat winners were Briggs, Norris, and Blair.
Dave Hess, Jr. hopped out of his Super Late Model and into his UMP Modified and went uncontested for the 25-lap feature win. Hess started third, had the lead on lap two, and cruised to the $1,000 victory for his first win at Sharon since June 12, 2013. It was the first of five E-Mod races at Sharon in 2021 under the UMP banner. Sharon is part of the East Region that offers $2,000 to the champion with the top 10 receiving point fund monies, while the national champion will take home $20,000.
“The track was just great tonight,” acknowledged the 36-year-old Waterford, Pa. winner. “A little bit of Mother Nature tonight kept it from drying out. It got a little bit slick, but you still had the high groove and could run around the bottom. The top was getting a little treacherous, so I decided to move a little down the track and it felt even better down there. I just love these types of race tracks. It was a blast running the Late Model; I wish I could have got up there a little further, but we were able to pull it off with this one.”
Brent Rhebergen led the opening lap, while Hess passed Mike Potosky for second. Rhebergen and Hess raced side-by-side for nearly the entire lap two with Hess edging ahead out of turn four. By lap six, Hess stretched his lead out to a comfortable margin while the battle was on for second. Rhebergen had his hands full with fifth starting Joel Watson, seventh starting Dennis Lunger, Jr., Troy Johnson, and hard charging Ty Rhoades.
After 13 caution-free laps, a trio of cautions between laps 13-15 slowed action. When racing resumed, Hess took back off over Rhebergen as positions three through five were really swapping back and forth. Thirteenth starting Rhoades was really on the move as he took fourth from Johnson on lap 18, third from Watson on lap 22, then drove around Rhebergen for second on lap 24.
The laps though would run out for Rhoades to make any bid for the lead as Hess went on for his fourth career Sharon win taking the checkered flag first in the Hess Garage & Salvage/Plyer Entry Systems/Everhart Asphalt/Frankland Racing Supply/Martin Dynamics-sponsored #44 by a margin of 1.974 seconds. Rhebergen was third over Watson and Johnson. After getting up to third on lap 14, Lunger faded to sixth at the finish over Mike Kinney, 15th starting Carl McKinney, Dustin DeMattia, and 16th starting Jim Plance. Rhebergen and Potosky won the heat races over the 17-car field.
The 2018 and 2019 Pro Stock track champions started on the front row and battled it out in the 20-lap Gibson Insurance Agency feature with 2019 champ Curt J. Bish fending off 2018 titlist Chris McGuire for the season opening win. Bish, who also won the $10,000 Penn-Ohio “Steel Valley Pro Stock Nationals” in 2019, earned $700 for the victory.
“I hope the fans enjoyed that,” expressed the 37-year-old Oil City, Pa. racer. “Chris is very good on the top and consistent; he’s a good driver. Anytime you can run with him and the rest of the guys it’s so much fun. It’s also fun to being able to race with my brother and ultimately beat him. The track is phenomenal. The entire crew at Sharon Speedway does a great job on the race track. There’s tons of work and time put into these places, and they definitely put the time and money into this place.”
After slipping back to fifth, Curt Bish, Jr. took fourth from Brent McDonald on lap two, third from Paul Davis on lap four, and snuck under McGuire for second on lap six before four cautions slowed action between laps 9-14. McGuire, who was powering around the fence, struggled on the restarts and had actually fell clear back to fifth on lap 13 before getting back to fourth prior to the final caution on lap 14. That caution put McGuire on the outside for the restart and he was able to make a three-wide move on lap 15 to regain second.
McGuire rim rode the fence leaving a trail of sparks and bent body panels as he closed in on Bish in the final laps; however, Bish had enough to hold on by 0.994 of a second for his fifth career win in the Bob Tarr-owned, Pioneer Electric/Double E Landscaping & Fencing/RK Virgile Scrap Metals/CMFS/HD Power Clean-sponsored #29.
Rob Shook drove Jim Fosnaught’s #20J from 10th to third. Curt Bish, Jr. fell back to fourth at the finish. Eleventh starting Chase Lambert was a career best Sharon fifth. Coleton Longwell raced from 17th to sixth as Larry Kugel, McDonald, Hunter Exley, and Bobby Whitling completed the top 10. Bish, McGuire, McDonald, and Bish, Jr. won the heat races over the 31-car field. Jamie Scharba won the last chance B main.
While Dennis Lunger, Jr. faded late to a sixth place finish in the UMP Modifieds, the opposite was true in the 20-lap Whelen Econo Mod feature. Lunger started eighth, had the lead in three laps, and other than three cauti
ons went unchallenged for his first career Sharon Econo Mod win. Lunger, a 12-time Sharon Crate Late Model winner, became the 33rd different driver to win an Econo Mod feature at Sharon since the division debuted in 2010.
“It was getting kind of iffy without brakes,” revealed the 53-year-old Albion, Pa. winner. “That lapped car spun and Mike came over the raceceiver and said ‘Dennis don’t hit him’. I lost the brakes the lap before so I ran the las
t of that race without them. I don’t know what happened, but I was just trying to hold on. The track was slick, but I just let the motor slow the car down and the gear was slowing it down s
o that helped. I couldn’t do it without all of the support from the sponsors.”
Butch Lambert went third to first to lead the opening lap, while Lunger had already made his way to second on lap two. Lunger made quick work of Lambert driving around the fellow multi-division veteran on lap three. While Lunger pulled away, the battle raged for second with Lambert trying to hold off Jeremy Double, Garrett Calvert, and Jarrett Young. Those racers traded the positions numerous times, while Lunger checked out.
A caution on the final lap gave everyone one last shot at Lunger, but Lunger quickly pulled away and in one lap took the checkered flag by a margin of 1.010 seconds in the Jack & Connie Rickard/Hull Enterprises/Ron & Don North/English Tire/Hess Technology/Schaeffer’s Oil/Paul’s Trading Post-sponsored #71L for his 13th career Sharon win. Double, a 14-time Econo Mod winner, charged from 17th to second! Calvert’s third was a career best Sharon finish. Cousins Nate and Jarrett Young were fourth and fifth. Lunger, Nate Young, and Scott Burk won the heat races over the 21-car field.
Coming up this Saturday night (May 1) will be the first of four appearances by the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars racing in the “Buckeye Cup” with $6,000 on the line. The HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds will also be on the card racing for $600 to-win. Race time is 7 p.m. Advanced general admission and reserved seats are on sale at the following link https://sharonspeedway.simpletix.com.
ULMS Super Late Models (30 laps, $3,000 to-win): 1. MICHAEL NORRIS (Cerenzia 02) 2. Jared Miley (Corrado 10) 3. Max Blair (Martin 111) 4. Dave Hess, Jr. (44) 5. Alex Ferree (Geisler 1c) 6. Chub Frank (Briggs 99L) 7. Matt Lux (Detman 111) 8. Boom Briggs (99B) 9. Ryan Scott (0) 10. Will Thomas (9) 11. J.R. Gentry (14) 12. Wyatt Scott (X) 13. Logan Jaquay (Briggs 99*) 14. Deshawn Gingerich (0) 15. Chris Schneider (55) 16. Jon Lee (Lake 27) 17. Chris Hackett (33) 18. Rich Wicker (2T) 19. Clay Ruffo (14R) 20. Damian Bidwell (8) 21. Doug Eck (20) 22. Logan Zarin (1z) 23. Khole Wanzer (01W) 24. Levi Yetter (9) 25. Doug Drown (12) 26. Dutch Davies (40).
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply UMP Mods (25 laps, $1,000 to-win): 1. DAVE HESS, JR. (44) 2. Ty Rhoades (12R) 3. Brent Rhebergen (07R) 4. Joel Watson (92) 5. Troy Johnson (2J) 6. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (71L) 7. Mike Kinney (Porter 20P) 8. Carl McKinney (6M) 9. Dustin DeMattia (77D) 10. Jim Plance (4J) 11. Casey Bowers (20) 12. Mark Titus (25) 13. Brandon Grossman (17G) 14. Garrett Rons (9) 15. Shane Crotty (4) 16. Jeff Johnson (27) 17. Mike Potosky (m20).
Gibson Insurance Agency Pro Stocks (20 laps, $700 to-win): 1. CURT J. BISH (Tarr 29) 2. Chris McGuire (63) 3. Rob Shook (Fosnaught 20J) 4. Curt Bish, Jr. (Leibold 00) 5. Chase Lambert (22) 6. Coleton Longwell (7) 7. Larry Kugel (Petsko 00) 8. Brett McDonald (25) 9. Hunter Exley (23H) 10. Bobby Whitling (7W) 11. Tim Bish (11B) 12. Billy Myers (43M) 13. Mike T. Miller (T6) 14. Matt Bernard (7B) 15. Jason Jones (81) 16. Troy DeZarn (21) 17. Bruce Hartzfeld (101) 18. Duke Davidson (81) 19. Jamie Barber (1776) 20. Jamie Scharba (11S) 21. Jonathan Davis (8) 22. Scott Malone (12M) 23. Paul Davis (3) 24. Alan Dellinger (Duncan (67J). DNQ: Jamie Maxwell (6), Mike Kerr (25K), Brian Carothers (02c), Jordan Perkins (13J), Joe Gillespie (41), Douglas Eck (4*), Tom Cantola (30:2).
Whelen Econo Mods (20 laps): 1. DENNIS LUNGER, JR. (71L) 2. Jeremy Double (83) 3. Garrett Calvert (7G) 4. Nate Young (42) 5. Jarrett Young (21) 6. Butch Lambert (Hendrickson 19) 7. Andy Buckley (Leamer 965) 8. Jr. Mechling (89) 9. Scott Burk (2) 10. Jason Gracey (17) 11. Vinny DiPizzo (1) 12. Branden Porter (2) 13. Travis Creech (75) 14. Jordan Simmons (13) 15. Rick Wilson, Jr. (35) 16. Troy Pinch (12) 17. Stone Lapcevich (22) 18. Kasey Lam (12) 19. Dale Reiser (262) 20. Gary Olson (23). DNS: Dylan Morando (27x).
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.