By Mike Leone
Hartford, OH May 11, 2013 While just about every race track in the region cancelled due to the inclement weather on Saturday, Sharon forged on with the “Steel Valley Thunder” program on Speed Energy Drink Night. Heavy rains Friday night and overcast, cool conditions led to a fast track and the show was completed just before the rains came again.
Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Brian Swartzlander-Governor Insurance DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Josh Double-Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Joel Watson-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Paul Davis-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Ryan Fraley-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Scott Gilliland-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. Hunter Zilhauer and Emily Clemens were the two winners of the bike giveaways courtesy of King Bros. and Sharon Speedway.
Making just his second appearance of the season, Brian Swartzlander led all 25 laps of the Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature to become the fourth different winner in as many events this season! Swartzlander drove a great race through lapped traffic in the closing stages of the event to hold off Rex King, Jr. for the headlining win.
“I’m a little tired,” acknowledged the 53-year-old Leechburg, Pa. great. “We were planning on running here tonight. I saw all of the other tracks cancelling this morning and I’m glad we made the trip! He’s (King, Jr.) doing a really good job and getting better and better. We were fortunate to start up front. I don’t know if we could have come from the back. It was sure nice seeing open track, but lapped cars made it a little tough at the end.”
King, Jr. and Swartzlander led the field to green with Swartzlander riding the cushion into the lead. Fourth and sixth starting Ricky Richner and Dave Murdick, used the cushion as well to move into third and fourth respectively after one lap. The event’s only caution occurred when Dave Reges did a 360-spin in turn four on the first lap. While Reges kept going, Kevin Green, Erik Martin, and Steve Feder got tangled up and all received heavy damage.
Back under green conditions, Swartzlander continued to set the pace over King, Jr. After starting third and falling to fifth on the opening lap, Dave Murdick was able to get around Jimmy Weller III for fourth on lap three. Weller III, who was making his season debut, then had his hands full trying to hold off Rex King in a torrid battle for the fifth spot. Swartzlander caught lapped traffic on lap 13 and his lead began to shrink as both King, Jr. and Richner closed in.
Not far behind the lead trio was Murdick, who began to get closer to the leaders on lap 14. With Richner boxed in by lapped cars, Murdick went to the cushion and drove around Richner in turns one and two for third on lap 16. It was now a four-car race for third on lap 18 with Murdick trying to catch the lead duo, while having his hands full with Richner, Weller III, and King in hot pursuit.
Back up front, Swartzlander made all of the right moves as King, Jr. shadowed him for the duration, but couldn’t find a way by coming up 0.887 of a second shy. Swartzlander’s 12th career Sharon win came in his McCutcheon Enterprises, Inc.-sponsored #83. Murdick was third. Weller III and point leader King were able to drive around Richner on the final lap in traffic to secure the fourth and fifth spots respectively.
It was a tough break for New Yorker Richner, who ran a close third for 15 laps, only to finish sixth. Richner though has been able to finish in the top six all four starts this season as he sits fourth in points. Seventh through 10th were Skip Moore, Jeremiah Shingledecker, Eric Gabany, and Bob Warren. Heat winners were Murdick, Swartzlander, and King, Jr. over the season-high 21-car field.
2011 track champion, Josh Double, returned to form leading all 20 laps of the Barris Supply RUSH Late Model feature for his first win of the season. Double had a bevy of competitors hot on his heels, but was able to get the job done as he joined his younger brother Jeremy as 2013 feature winners at Sharon.
“I sure didn’t want to see those caution,” expressed the 20-year-old Bristolville, Ohio racer. “I knew whoever got out front, it was going to be hard for someone to pass them back. Restarts were definitely not what we wanted to see. I saw (Dennis) Lunger coming up on the scoreboard, but it’s hard when you start back when the track is this fast. I have to thank all of my friends, family- mom and dad, girlfriend, and everyone that sponsors the car.”
Double took off in the lead as Eric Wilson was able to pass Shaun Hooks for second on lap one. Hooks, who was making his Late Model debut, had his car pushing in the early laps as Will Thomas III made the pass for third on lap two and then Bill Cunningham and Dennis Lunger, Jr. did the same for fourth and fifth respectively on lap three.
By lap four, the top three of Double, Wilson, and Thomas distanced themselves from the field. On lap seven, Wilson and Thomas caught Double making it a three-car race for the lead. Thomas pulled alongside Wilson on lap 10 and as those two battled for second, Double opened up some ground. Matt Latta went up in smoke with 14 laps scored necessitating the first caution of the race.
After falling back to fifth at one point, Cunningham used the outside on the restart to power past Thomas and Wilson racing off turn two. While Wilson and Thomas nearly got together, two-time winner Dennis Lunger, Jr. was able to make the pass of Thomas for fourth. Rocky Kugel brought out the second and final caution of the event with 17 laps scored.
After making a winning pass with two laps to go last week, Lunger was on the charge again getting by Wilson for third on the restart. Double would hold off the hard charging Cunningham and Lunger to win by a mere 0.646 of a second. The victory was Double’s fourth of his career matching his brother’s win total in the Econo Mods, and came in his Cortland Auto Repair/Wedge Motorsports/King Bros. Ready Mix/Thomas Heating & AC/Glunt Industries-sponsored #38.
In his third start of the season, Cunningham recorded his third top six finish. Lunger’s third place finish maintained his point lead and gave him valuable points toward the $5,000 to-win Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC Weekly Series Championship! Wilson continues to have a strong third season finishing fourth as he contends for the “Futures Cup” championship. Thomas was fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Hooks, Canadian Jorden Peters, Ben Black, Rich Howell, and Kugel. Heat winners were Wilson and Hooks.
After missing the first two nights of competition, last year’s co-champion, Joel Watson, is quickly making up for lost ground. Watson flew from the sixth starting spot to win the Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds for the second consecutive week and has moved into sixth place in the standings.
“This car was tough to hang onto,” said the Conneaut, Ohio standout, who turns 34 on Wednesday. “The track was really patchy with traction. If you slid into the traction, the car would turn anyway it wanted to, and you could just barely hold onto the wheel. I couldn’t drive it hard enough to keep up with the traction in the track.”
Jack Young, who was the co-champion last year with Watson, raced to the early lead in search of his first win with opening night winner, Jeff Johnson, in tow. Watson wasted little time moving forward as passed veteran Larry Kugel for fourth on lap two. Johnson began pressuring Young for the lead before the first caution was displayed with six laps completed for a spin by Gary Sullivan.
When green replaced yellow, Watson’s preferred outside line allowed him to power past Joe Gabrielson for third. It was a three-car race for the lead on lap nine with Young trying to fend off Johnson and Watson. Johnson ducked under Young for the lead in turn four on lap 10 just as Young’s #67 went up in smoke bringing out the second caution.
Watson would make his winning move on the restart as he got great forward bite off the bottom of turn two to drive by Johnson for the lead. Seventh starting newcomer Evan Taylor was quietly moving forward. Taylor passed another newcomer in Greg Johnson for third on lap 11. A pair of cautions slowed action with 13 laps scored setting up a two-lap shootout to the finish.
Taylor was able to pass Jeff Johnson for runner-up on the restart. Watson though was too much as he went to win by just 0.947 of a second over Taylor in his Northwest Restoration/Zimmer’s Service Center/Racecar Fabrication/Hoosier Tire-sponsored #92. Like Swartzlander, Watson’s victory was the 12th of his career at Sharon.
Jeff Johnson dropped to third over Greg Johnson and Shawn Shingledecker. Kugel, Clayton Kennedy, Mike Kinney, Andy Buckley, and Sullivan completed the top 10. After four top five finishes to start the season, Alan Dellinger dropped from the event and was scored in 18th, but still was able to maintain his point lead. Kinney and Taylor picked up heat race victories over the 20-car field.
When Paul Davis starts up front he’s pretty tough to beat. Davis though would have his hands full for the duration of the 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Car feature as he had to fend off defending track champion Tim Burns for his season’s second victory.
“I like these types of tracks too,” said the 52-year-old Fowler, Ohio veteran, who normally excels on dry, slick tracks. “I learned how to run this type of track back in my younger days at Raceway 7. I like the cushion and the slick tracks. I was really surprised to see him (Burns) there and figured I better step it up a little bit!”
After a caution on the opening lap, Davis led Burns, Charlie Jasinski, last week’s winner Bryan Wagner and point leader Mike Clark. Burns began to turn up the wick on lap four as he was all over the leader. The race would be slowed for the second and final time when Jason Stanke, Ron Yarab, Jr., and Jesse Brock tangled with five laps scored.
The last 10 laps went green-to-checkered. Clark passed Wagner for fourth on lap seven. Burns again put the heat on Davis on lap eight as he looked under the leader, but couldn’t make the pass stick. Clark grabbed another spot when he moved to third on lap 11 as he drove around Jasinski in turns one and two.
Burns would try everything and got a great run off turn four on the final lap, but came up just 0.253 of a second shy of Davis. For Davis, it was his ninth career win in his Advance Auto Parts/Hover Racing/Don Williams Excavating/GSM Enterprises-sponsored #3. Clark’s third was important as he was able to maintain his point lead by just two over Burns and three over Davis. Jasinski and Wagner were fourth and fifth. Heat winners were Jamie Scharba and Burns.
The 2013 season has been a major improvement for Ryan Fraley. So much so that he already has the first two wins of his career in the first five weeks of competition and is just two points out of the lead! Saturday’s win came in the 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mod feature.
“Brandon Blackshear has really helped me out to get this car running,” revealed the 24-year-old Wheatland, Pa. racer. “Don (Blackshear) sat down with us this week and told us different things we needed to look at and it’s been helping out. I have to thank my family, the Blackshears, Joel from Close Racing Supply, and everyone else that gives me a hand on this race car.”
Fraley survived five cautions and a lengthy delay of nearly 25 minutes when the cars of Dennis Dellinger, Jr. and Alan Atkinson got tangled up and hooked together on the opening lap. Fraley started from the pole and held off outside pole-sitter and point leader Steve Burns, Jr. for the duration to win by just 0.313 of a second in his Sunset Lanes/Eagle Soft Tees/Tri-State Trailer Sales/Blackshear Racing Engines-sponsored #12. Third through fifth were Derek Dellinger, Jeremy Double, and Junior Mechling. Heat winners over the 20-car field were Fraley and Burns.
Scott Gilliland has clearly shown he’s the driver to beat this season in the Mini Stocks. While Bill Fuchs dominated 2011 to win the points and Jim Haefke, Jr. did the same last season, Gilliland has come out the gates swinging as he became the track’s leading feature winner with his third win in five weeks! Gilliland’s latest win came in the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts feature just before the rains came.
“We were luck again,” stated the 46-year-old Warren, Ohio racer in a wet victory lane. “We probably have only been the fastest car in one of our three wins, but you have to finish and run all 12 laps. I have to thank my mother. She’s one of the greatest mothers that put up with me and I survived childhood. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms!”
Fuchs raced to the early lead from the outside pole with rookie Travis Creech, Gilliland, and Ray Gregory in pursuit. Fuch’s night came to an end early when he lost a wheel with five laps scored. This moved Creech into the lead on the restart. Creech’s lead didn’t last long as Gilliland and Gregory raced by for the top two spots. The last seven laps went green-to-checkered as Gilliland would win by a straightaway in the night’s only feature that wasn’t decided by less than one second.
Gilliland’s seventh career win came in his Lawn Wizard/NRC Management/VP&R/Inventive Sign & Design-sponsored #27 and moved him into sole possession of fourth place on the division’s all-time win list. Gilliland has opened up a big 36-point lead over Gregory, who finished second. Creech cut down a tire on lap eight, which allowed Haefke to take the third position. Jim Clay, Jr. was also able to get by Creech to finish fourth, while Creech limped home in fifth. Creech and Gilliland were the heat race winners.
Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. BRIAN SWARTZLANDER (83) 2. Rex King, Jr. (165) 3. Dave Murdick (61) 4. Jimmy Weller III (23) 5. Rex King (65) 6. Ricky Richner (26) 7. Skip Moore (17M) 8. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 9. Eric Gabany (3E) 10. Bob Warren (96B) 11. Carl Murdick (6) 12. Tom Glenn (83T) 13. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 14. Rob Kristyak (00) 15. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 16. Dave Reges (27R) 17. Steve Feder (45) 18. Erik Martin (29E) 19. Kevin Green (74) 20. Kevin Hoffman (17H)-DNS 21. Ronnie Kahler (7R)-DNS.
Barris Supply RUSH Late Models (20 laps): 1. JOSH DOUBLE (38) 2. Bill Cunningham (59) 3. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Schwartz 71L) 4. Eric Wilson (27W) 5. Will Thomas III (9) 6. Shaun Hooks (65) 7. Jorden Peters (11P) 8. Ben Black (27B) 9.Rich Howell (Cunningham 04) 10. Rock Kugel (21KRT) 11. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 12. Brian Booher (Hoover 00H) 13. Matt Latta (21) 14. Bobby Pifer III (6P).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (15 laps): 1. JOEL WATSON (92) 2. Even Taylor (7) 3. Jeff Johnson (27) 4. Greg Johnson (05) 5. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 6. Larry Kugel (Petsko 00) 7. Clayton Kennedy (9) 8. Mike Kinney (3) 9. Andy Buckley (965) 10. Gary Sullivan (47s) 11. Jim Plance (4J) 12. Jim Dellinger (1) 13. Jim Turley (117) 14. Jonathan Taylor (5) 15. Joe Gabrielson (58) 16. Jeff Hassay (10) 17. Jack Young (Hamilton 67) 18. Alan Dellinger (White 53) 19. Bob Williamson (93) 20. Trevor Herr (32).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. PAUL DAVIS (3) 2. Tim Burns (66) 3. Mike Clark (7) 4. Charlie Jasinski (5J) 5. Bryan Wagner (56) 6. Jamie Duncan (67J) 7. Brent Coleman (01) 8. Mark Hopkins (69H) 9. Jason Stanke (44) 10. Ron Yarab, Jr. (Burns 70B) 11. Jesse Brock (22B) 12. Jamie Scharba (00s) 13. Dan McEwen (95)-DNS 14. Brian Carothers (02c)-DNS.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. RYAN FRALEY (12) 2. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 3. Derek Dellinger (19) 4. Jeremy Double (83) 5. Junior Mechling (89) 6. Casey Bowers (20) 7. Jacob Eucker (64) 8. Dennis Dellinger, Jr. (17) 9. Keith Felicetty (98) 10. Alan Atkinson (30Too) 11. Brian Foley, Jr. (16JSR) 12. Larry Root (22x) 13. Joshua Ferry (33) 14. Kevin Robinson (24R) 15. Tyler Rhoades (12R) 16. Gina Thompson (Webber 25) 17. Bob Williams (8) 18. Brian Hathaway (93) 19. Bruce Redman (27) 20. Mike Hillman (29)-DNS.
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. SCOTT GILLILAND (27) 2. Ray Gregory (82R) 3. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 4. Jim Clay, Jr. (84) 5. Travis Creech (75T) 6. Brian Shay (3J) 7. Bill Fuchs (10) 8. Ken Koby II (22) 9. Steve Walker II (4M) 10. Jim Edison (Coleman 01) 11. Evan Kornbau (62)-DNS.
Sharon Speedway will be back in action this Saturday, May 18 with another “Steel Valley Thunder” program featuring the weekly six divisions. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and racing at 7. Grandstand admission is $13 for those 14 and up. Children 13 and under are always free. Pit passes are $25. Parking is always free.
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.