By Mike Leone
Hartford, OH May 4, 2013 For the second straight week, Sharon Speedway was blessed with a beautiful sunny, 70-degree spring day. Celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane on Saturday night were Jim Weller, Jr.-Governor Insurance DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Dennis Lunger, Jr.-Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Joel Watson-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Bryan Wagner-Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Jeremy Double-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Ken Koby II-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. Sam Kavala of Titusville, Pa. and Paige Skelton of Niles, Ohio were the two winners of the bike giveaways courtesy of King Bros. and Sharon Speedway.
Despite two track championships, sitting fourth on the division’s all-time win list and being a front-runner week in and week out, Jim Weller, Jr. hadn’t won a feature at Sharon Speedway since the 2010 season. Fresh off a near win and runner-up finish the night before at Lernerville Speedway, Weller passed Dave Murdick and held off Jeremiah Shingledecker for the 20-lap Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modified victory.
“We had to switch cars, switch motors,” explained the Hubbard, Ohio veteran about his absence from victory lane. “We bought a new Troyer car this year. Billy Colton was here tonight and he has been wonderful and has really helped us out a lot. I gave last night away. I have to thank all of my crew.”
Murdick took off in the lead hoping to get his 2013 season going with Skip Moore, Weller, and Shingledecker in tow. Following a caution for opening night winner Rex King, Jr., Weller made the pass of Moore for second before the event’s second and final caution slowed action for a spin by Jeff Monoskey with two laps scored.
When racing resumed, Weller and Murdick made contact in turn two with Weller taking command as Shingledecker, Moore, Ricky Richner, and Eric Gabany were all able to get by Murdick before he gathered his #61 up. Weller and Shingledecker began to distance themselves from the field while the battle was on for third with Moore trying to fend off Richner, Gabany, and Murdick.
Gabany passed Richner for fourth on lap eight using the outside. Gabany then went to work on Moore. The two racers ran side-by-side from laps 9-11 with Moore holding on; meanwhile, Murdick worked his way by Richner on lap 12 for fifth and joined Gabany trying to get by Moore. Finally on lap 14, Gabany had enough momentum off the bottom in turn four to pass Moore for third.
By now Gabany had more than a straightaway deficit to make-up behind the leaders. Weller continued to keep a few car-length lead on Shingledecker as they caught traffic on lap 16. Weller did a great job through lapped traffic as Shingledecker was unable to mount a serious challenge for the lead. Weller’s victory in the Zip Motorsports-owned, Liberty Steel Products #31 was the 24th of his career at Sharon and gave him the point lead.
Shingledecker was 1.015 seconds behind in runner-up. Gabany had a great run in his “358” small-block to take third over Murdick. Richner was fifth for his third top six finish in as many starts. The Niagara Falls, New York racer had quite the experience coming down and just made it in time to draw a pill as turkey came through their windshield. Sixth through 10th were Moore, Rex King, Rob Kristyak, Bob Warren, and rookie Rick Regalski, Jr. Heat victors over the 18-car field were Shingledecker and Weller.
After winning his first ever Sharon race in the 2012 season finale, Dennis Lunger, Jr. kept the momentum right through the offseason as he won for the second time in three races this season in the RUSH Late Models. Lunger, who also won the night before at Raceway 7, got past race-long leader Will Thomas III in the closing laps in the 20-lap Barris Supply feature as he extended his point lead as well.
“I thought it’s all or nothing- checkers or wreckers,” exclaimed the 45-year-old Albion, Pa. driver. “I figure I work on it all week so what’s the difference! I timed the last one (restart) better than the previous one. I did jump the one restart and he (flagman) was right for calling it back then Will jumped the next one. The last one was a nice, clean start. This is a totally different car than what we’ve been running here. We won with it last night and I figured I’d try it tonight.”
Thomas, the defending track champ champion, bolted into the lead with Lunger following. Fifth starting 2011 champion, Josh Double, passed Matt Latta on the opening lap for fourth then took over third the following lap from Eric Wilson. Double looked strong as he ran down Lunger on lap five and was all over him in a good battle for second.
Double was unable to make the pass before the event’s first caution when Canadian newcomer Jorden Peters spun with 12 laps scored. On the restart, Wilson got back by Double for third. Lunger, Wilson, and Double really went at it for second over the next several laps with Double regaining the third spot on lap 16. Thomas appeared headed for his first win of the season, but a spin by Jamie Wrightsman with 18 laps scored slowed action.
Things certainly got interesting from here on out. On the ensuing restart, Lunger was called for a jump. The second try was then called back as Thomas fired too early. Finally the third go-around was a clean restart, which Lunger timed perfectly. Lunger was strong down the frontstretch and had the advantage going into turn one. Lunger came out ahead coming off turn two and then was able to nose ahead entering turn three and kept the lead to the finish. Lunger’s victory came in the Schwartz Construction-owned, Schwartz Trucking/Choices Restaurant/English Tire/State Farm Insurance Chris Brecht-sponsored #71L and gave him important points toward the $5,000 to-win Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC Weekly Series Championship.
Thomas was just 0.631 seconds behind in runner-up. Wilson edged out Double for third as he maintained runner-up in points as he also contends for the “Futures Cup” title. Latta was fifth. Completing the top 10 were Bill Cunningham, Bobby Whitling, Butch Lambert, Clay Ruffo, and Brian Booher. Latta and Wilson were heat winners.
Joel Watson came from seventh to become the season’s fourth different winner in as many races picking up the Modified victory in another great 15-lap Summit Racing Equipment feature. “We built a brand new car from scratch,” explained the 33-year-old Conneaut, Ohio standout. “This car is 100% homemade. It’s taken me a few weeks to work the bugs out and figure out what’s good and what’s bad with it. I think we have it working good now and I like it! I could tell how the car was pulling other cars it was going to the front with no problem. I can’t thank my wife, crew and sponsors enough.”
Opening night victor, Joe Gabrielson, raced to the early lead with Shawn Shingledecker and Mike Kinney in pursuit. Watson was up to fourth after one lap then joined a great battle for second. Shingledecker, Kinney, and Watson ran three-wide on laps three and four as Watson moved ahead of Kinney for third on lap three.
Following a restart on lap four for a three-car tangle, Watson took over second from Shingledecker. Watson went after Gabrielson and didn’t waste any time driving under and past the leader racing off turn four on lap five. Kinney and last week’s winner, Alan Dellinger, passed Shingledecker for third and fourth on laps five and six respectively. Kinney and Dellinger continued to move forward overtaking Gabrielson for second and third respectively with five laps to go.
Watson though was too strong as he powered on to his 12th career by a 1.243 second advantage in his Northwest Restoration/Zimmer’s Service Center/Racecar Fabrication/Hoosier Tire-sponsored #92. Watson’s good friend Kinney was second over point leader Dellinger, Jonathan Taylor, and 17th starting Clayton Kennedy. Rounding out the top 10 were Gabrielson, Bob Diver, Wayne Tessean, Larry Kugel, and Andy Buckley. Dellinger and Gabrielson topped the heat races over the 19-car field.
Bryan Wagner led wire-to-wire to become the third different Stock Car winner in as many 15-lap Gibson Insurance Agency feature events this season. The victory was the second of Wagner’s career at Sharon, but first since winning the 2010 “Apple Festival Nationals” in an “open” competition event.
“This feels good,” stated the 25-year-old New Castle, Pa. racer. “There was a lot of work and time in this car. Everything on this car is brand-spanking new. I want to thank Greg Cizmar for putting this car together for us. I’ll tell you what- it’s quick! I really like it here- it seems to fit my driving style. Hopefully you’ll see us more here. You could put at least six cars over a blanket and see who would come out the winner here. I also have to thank my wife and my parents.”
Wagner was never seriously challenged throughout the affair, but did have four cautions that set-up double file restarts. Wagner though was golden on every one as Charlie Jasinski could only follow the Whitling Family Foods/Michael Dorr Lawn Service/Schwartzmiller Ground Maintenance/Wilson Lumber/Cizmar Racing-sponsored #56.
The last 10 laps went green-to-checkered as Jasinski came home in a season best runner-up 2.708 seconds behind Wagner. Fifth starting opening night winner, Mike Clark, passed Tim Burns on lap five to finish third and maintain the point lead by one over Wagner. Last week’s winner, Paul Davis, was fourth after starting 14th. Jamie Duncan was fifth. Duncan and Clark won the heat races over the season-high 15-car field.
For the fourth straight event, 12-year-old Jacob Eucker has led feature laps, but once again just couldn’t close the deal in the HTMA/Precise Racing Products. This time Jeremy Double passed Eucker with two to go to capture his second Econo Mod win of the season.
“I went through this with Brandon (Blackshear) last year trying to get our first win,” explained the 17-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver. “I noticed the topside going away. Every time I went up there the frontend started sliding off. I found that brown down low and I could get a good drive off. He (Eucker) kept pushing up the track. I think if he would have found that he would have been hard to pass. I have to thank all of my family and sponsors.”
Ryan Fraley overtook Brian Hathaway for the early lead. Eucker drove under and past Hathaway in turn four for second on lap two. Eucker caught Fraley and made the pass for the lead entering turn three with an inside move on lap three. Double started fifth and got by Fraley for second on lap four. The top three of Eucker, Double and Fraley distanced themselves from the field before three cautions slowed action with five laps scored.
When racing resumed, Double pressured Eucker. The two ran side-by-side just about every lap until a caution for a spin by Gina Thompson with 11 laps recorded. Back under green flag conditions, Eucker continued to narrowly lead every lap. It wasn’t until turn four on lap 13 that Double finally eeked his way by on the inside. Double held on for his fourth career win by 1.302 seconds in his Cortland Auto Repair/Wedge Motorsports/Thomas Heating & Cooling/King Bros./Russ King Racing-sponsored #83.
After leading all four of his first career races at Sharon, Eucker now has two runner-ups, broke in the lead, and spun while leading, but nonetheless is fourth in points. Last week’s winner, Steve Burns, Jr., was third over Fraley and rookie Tyler Rhoades. Burns and Eucker captured the heat races over the 17-car field.
It was a heartbreaker for one racer and a lucky break for another. Ray Gregory appeared headed for his first career Sharon Speedway victory in the Mini Stocks, but he missed a shift on a late race restart, which allowed Ken Koby II to celebrate his first career win in the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts feature.
“Thank you God I finally made it,” expressed the 47-year-old Austintown, Ohio driver. “Three years I’ve been trying for this! I have to thank my wife, and mom who is battling cancer- this win is for her. I want to thank Dave Willoughby for a hell of a track and all of my sponsors. This has been a hell of a night- I’m fired up!
Gregory passed Jim Edison on the start and pulled away to a big lead before the first caution when Travis Creech slowed with four laps scored. When racing resumed, fifth and sixth starting Bill Fuchs and Koby swapped runner-up back and forth. Three more cautions slowed action between laps six and seven. Fuchs began smoking mid-race and started slowing down. Jim Haefke, Jr. was able to get by for third on lap 10 before Fuchs when up in a big plume of smoke, which necessitated the event’s final caution with 10 laps recorded.
On the ensuing restart, Gregory missed a shift and was slow allowing Koby, Haefke, and Tim McAninch by. Koby would go on to become the 18th different winner since the division’s inception in his Presidential Lawncare/93.3 The Wolf/Harley Davidson Biketown/Quaker Steak & Lube/Island Tropic Tanning-sponsored #22. Haefke held on to second over McAninch, Gregory, and point leader Scott Gilliland. Heat races were won by Gilliland and Creech.
Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. JIM WELLER, JR. (31) 2. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 3. Eric Gabany (3E) 4. Dave Murdick (61) 5. Ricky Richner (26) 6. Skip Moore (17M) 7. Rex King (65) 8. Rob Kristyak (00) 9. Bob Warren (96B) 10. Rick Regalski, Jr. (13) 11. Carl Murdick (6) 12. Dave Reges (27R) 13. Kevin Green (74) 14. Tom Glenn (83T) 15. Erik Martin (29E) 16. Ronnie Kahler (7R) 17. Jeff Monoskey (22) 18. Rex King, Jr. (165).
Barris Supply RUSH Late Models (20 laps): 1. DENNIS LUNGER, JR. (Schwartz 71L) 2. Will Thomas III (9) 3. Eric Wilson (27W) 4. Josh Double (38) 5. Matt Latta (21) 6. Bill Cunningham (59) 7. Bobby Whitling (7W) 8. Butch Lambert (27) 9. Clay Ruffo (14R) 10. Brian Booher (Hoover 00H) 11. Jamie Wrightsman (21J) 12. Jorden Peters (11P) 13. Rusty Cade (47).
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (15 laps): 1. JOEL WATSON (92) 2. Mike Kinney (3) 3. Alan Dellinger (White 53) 4. Jonathan Taylor (5) 5. Clayton Kennedy (9) 6. Joe Gabrielson (58) 7. Bob Diver (23) 8. Wayne Tessean (10) 9. Larry Kugel (Petsko 00) 10. Andy Buckley (965) 11. Jim Dellinger (Turley 1) 12. Trevor Herr (32) 13. Bob Williamson (93) 14. Gary Sullivan (47s) 15. Jeff Hassay (10) 16. Shawn Shingledecker (54s) 17. Bruce Powell (35) 18. Jim Turley (117) 19. Steve Haefke (41).
Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (15 laps): 1. BRYAN WAGNER (56) 2. Charlie Jasinski (5J) 3. Mike Clark (7) 4. Paul Davis (3) 5. Jamie Duncan (67J) 6. Tim Burns (66) 7. Jesse Brock (22B) 8. Brian Carothers (02c) 9. Jamie Scharba (00s) 10. Dan McEwen (95) 11. Ron Yarab, Jr. (Burns 70B) 12. Jason Stanke (44) 13. Michael Lesky (5L) 14. Mark Hopkins (69H) 15. Troy DeZarn (22D)-DSQ.
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. JEREMY DOUBLE (83) 2. Jacob Eucker (64) 3. Steve Burns, Jr. (70B) 4. Ryan Fraley (12) 5. Tyler Rhoades (12R) 6. Alan Atkinson (30Too) 7. Larry Root (22x) 8. Bob Williams (8) 9. Gina Thompson (Webber 25) 10. Junior Mechling (89) 11. Dennis Dellinger, Jr. (17) 12. Keith Felicetty (98) 13. Bob Williamson (93) 14. Derek Dellinger (19) 15. Casey Bowers (20) 16. George Vestal IV (4)-DNS 17. Craig Scherrbaum (07c)-DNS.
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. KEN KOBY II (22) 2. Jim Haefke, Jr. (421) 3. Tim McAninch (43) 4. Ray Gregory (82R) 5. Scott Gilliland (27) 6. Bill Fuchs (10) 7. Jim Clay, Jr. (84J) 8. Travis Creech (75T) 9. Jim Edison (01) 10. Larry Ingram (14) 11. Geof Pinch (36) 12. Steve Walker II (4M)-DNS.
Sharon Speedway will be back in action this Saturday, May 11 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.