By Mike Leone
August 20, 2016
(Hartford, OH)…After losing two of the past three events to Mother Nature, Sharon Speedway was able to complete the entire program on Saturday night before the rain moved in. Celebrating with wins in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane on Mark Thomas Ford Night were Rick Richner-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Chris Schneider-Penn-Ohio Mini Series for the Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, Jacob Eucker-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Rocky Kugel-Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, Josh Ferry-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Joe Campbell-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. A total of 105 cars were in the pit area.
Rick Richner spends his Friday nights competing close to home at Ransomville Speedway with the “358” Small-Block Modifieds and then makes three hour plus tow on Saturday nights to race at Sharon with the Big-Block Modifieds. Though Richner has been close at times this season, he hadn’t gotten over the hump and broke into victory lane this season. That changed on Saturday night as Richner battled his way by three-time winner, Jimmy Weller III, in the second half of the 20-lap non-stop feature and went on for his first win since July 18, 2015 in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply-sponsored division. The event was completed in just 6:34.825.
“Last night we were really close- had the lead and got passed on the last lap,” stated the 56-year-old Niagara Falls, New York veteran. “I’m sure glad to get my first win of the season. We’ve been struggling here this year, but I love the track. You had it perfect tonight. It’s a great facility and I love running here. I have to thank all of my sponsors for making it possible.”
After taking the lead at the start, Weller was considered to be the favorite to pick up his fourth win, but Richner stayed with the leader throughout the first half of the caution-free event. Richner wasn’t able to seriously challenge Weller until he began to close in on lap 12. Richner then pulled even with Weller in the battle for the lead on laps 13 and 14. Richner’s winning move came on the 14th circuit as he made the bottom work and had the lead racing off turn four.
After starting fourth and getting by Skip Moore on the start, Brad Rapp was able to stay within striking distance of front two and began to close in during the battle for the lead. On lap 16, Rapp closed in on Weller and made the bottom work like Richner taking second racing off turn four on lap 18. Rapp was a half-straightaway behind Richner at this point and would never be able to challenge for the lead as Richner took the checkered flag first by 0.801 of a second. Richner’s third career Sharon win came in his Jet Port Lounge/Lazy Lakes Camping Resort/Frontier Auto Wrecking/National Vacuum-sponsored #26.
Rapp’s runner-up was a career best at Sharon in just his sixth start of the season, and was his 11th straight top 10 finish dating back to last season. Weller dropped to third. Point leader Rex King, Jr. beat out his father for fourth. The elder King received an extra $ 50 from an anonymous donor. Jim Rasey, Rob Kristyak, Moore, Rick Regalski, Jr., and Kevin Bolland completed the top 10. In his first race back in five weeks after motor problems, Tom Mattocks was awarded the hard luck and received two pit passes for next Saturday compliments of Hovis. Heat wins went to Regalski and Rapp.
The Penn-Ohio Mini Series competed in their fourth of five events during the 2016 season and it was Chris Schneider joining Paul Davis with his second Stock Car win. Schneider led all 20 laps and survived six cautions for the $ 1,000 win in the Gibson Insurance Agency event.
“We had some distributor cap issues last time but everything was firing on eight cylinders tonight,” expressed the 37-year-old Lower Burrell, Pa. standout. “You have to watch the professionals like Jonathan Davenport on how to run the outside. That was the first time I was ever able to do that here. Normally there’s not a cushion like that and only a little grip, but this really had a nice outside. I have to thank my dad, all of my sponsors, and Bob Walters for piecing this engine together.”
Schneider rode the cushion past pole-sitter Rob Bates on the start with Andy Buckley following in second. Buckley maintained second throughout the caution periods, while the third position changed hands numerous times with Bates, Brian Carothers, Rod Laskey, and Shaun Fawcett all having their fair share of the position until lap 11 when Paul Davis made the pass for good. The event’s final caution was displayed for Jamie Duncan’s spin with 14 laps scored.
The caution gave Buckley and Davis a shot with the field bunched up, but Schneider was too strong as he pulled away over the final six non-stop laps to win by 2.158 seconds. Schneider’s fifth career win came in his SS Chassis & Supply/Nick Chevrolet/It’s All Clean-sponsored #55. Buckley’s second was his third runner-up of the season as he continues to look for his first win. Point leader Davis came all the way from the 19th starting spot and earned the $ 25 Summit Racing Equipment gift certificate.
Fawcett was fourth over Rod Laskey, who earned an extra $ 50 from an anonymous donor. Steve D’Apolito was sixth in his GM 604 crate engine as Jackson Humanic, Bates, Jacob Billyk, and Carothers completed the top 10. Heat winners over the 24-car field were Bates, Schneider, and Buckley. Michael Hudzik won the dash.
Fifteen-year-old Jacob Eucker had won six times in the Econo Mod division at Sharon, but has struggled over the past two seasons since moving up to the Modifieds. On Saturday night though, Eucker led all 15 laps of the Summit Racing Equipment feature and was never challenged for the popular win. Eucker also won last month at McKean County Raceway.
“We’ve been struggling a bit over the season,” said the hometown Hartford, Ohio driver. “It’s been coming around though now as we’ve been changing the setup. The top was working tonight. I’d like to thank my dad and all of my sponsors.”
Eucker used the outside to power ahead of point leader Joe Gabrielson on the start. Two cautions in the first five laps kept the field bunched up. The final 10 non-stop laps saw Eucker pull away to the dominating win as he took the checkered flag first by a comfortable 4.233 second margin over Gabrielson. Eucker became the 51st different driver to win in the history of the Modified division at Sharon. His seventh career win at the track came in the Ohio Commerce Center/Dr. Jon Eucker/Damon Race Engines/Danski Dyno & Performance/Lees Excavating/Close Racing Supply/Harrison Tool Co./Afco Shocks/Bob Harris/Wenrs Machine-sponsored #64.
Gabrielson beat out Johnson for the runner-up position and leads him in the championship chase now by 16 points with two events remaining. Johnson came from seventh and received a $ 25 Summit Racing Equipment gift certificate for being the hard charger, and was also selected in the random draw for a pair of pit passes for next Saturday compliments of Hovis. Brandon Blackshear beat out newcomer David Pangrazio for fourth. Heats went to Gabrielson and Eucker.
Making just his second start since a crash that destroyed his car at Tri-City Raceway Park on June 19, Rocky Kugel picked up the victory in a former Tom Glenn Big-Block Modified car. Kugel led all but the opening lap for his second Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modified of the season.
“I got turned at Tri-City and got clobbered,” acknowledged the 40-year-old East Liverpool, Ohio driver. “Tom Glenn gave me an awesome deal on this and I couldn’t refuse it. I have to thank my dad. I was done for the year and as you probably know he sold his race car. He spent day, night, and more time on this to put it together by himself- I don’t know where he got it. This is the second night out for it and it’s pretty good. Everything is new on this- it’s a good car.”
Kyle Martell and Steve Slater led the 20-car field to green. The two made contact with Slater grabbing the lead over Kugel as Martell dropped to third. Following a caution for Jessica Kriegisch and Preston Cope, Kugel would make what would turn out to be the winning pass on lap two as he brought fourth starting Brandon Ritchey with him past Slater. Brandon’s cousin Nick started in seventh and made his way to third getting by Slater for fourth on lap four then took third from Martell on lap six.
A caution for two-time winner Chas Wolbert, who smacked the backstretch wall and slowed, brought out the event’s final caution with eight laps scored. The two Ritcheys battled for runner-up over the final seven laps, but were unable to make a serious bid at Kugel, who took the win by a margin of 2.289 seconds in his Paper Services/Brooks Graphicx/Myers Service Center/Sunset Whitetails-sponsored #83.
Brandon beat out Nick Ritchey for second and has a 16-point lead with just one night of points remaining for the division. Martell dropped to fourth over 12th starting Jeremy Weaver, who earned a $ 50 bonus from an anonymous donor. Wolbert and Martell won the heat races.
Back on April 16, Josh Ferry finally got the monkey off his back winning the $ 700 2015 “Apple Festival Nationals” Econo Mod make-up feature for his first career Sharon win. Ferry then moved up to the Modified division where he started fast with four straight top six finishes; however, Ferry’s luck went south as he could only muster an eighth place finish over the next five events along with a blown engine on August 6 that would derail his Modified efforts. On Saturday night, Ferry showed up in the Econo Mods and made it two-for-two in the division with the 15-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products victory.
“It might have been self-inflicted with a fuel issue that we may or may not have caused,” explained the 17-year-old Cochranton, Pa. driver on his motor problems. “We hurt that motor and this is the only spare we have so we figured we’d have some fun. You learn a lot in the class. It’s definitely car control with the smaller motor that you don’t have 800 horse under your foot that you spin yourself out. Throttle control is huge. I have to thank my parents for all the hard work and dedication they put in this car every week to get me here, and all of my sponsors.”
Ferry started on the pole, but it was Brad Blackshear with his GM 602 crate engine-powered car leading the opening lap before Ferry took charge on lap two. Blackshear had a good run going in second until spinning on lap six. This gave runner-up to fifth starting Butch Lambert, but on the ensuing restart Josh Mueller made the pass for runner-up. Lambert then yielded the third spot on lap seven when he exited the event. Meanwhile, back in the pack, Steve Haefke was fighting his way forward from the 12th starting spot. Haefke got around the #1 cars of Zach Myers and Buzz Seitz on laps eight and nine respectively to move into third.
The event’s sixth and final caution slowed action when Dan McEwen, Jeff Mundell, and George Vestal IV tangling with 11 laps scored. Ferry wasn’t challenged over the final laps for the win in the Dave Ferry-owned, French Creek Kayaks/Patterson Auto Wrecking/Zimmer’s Service Center/Cochran Auto Body/Close Racing Supply/AK Salon/955 Automotive/Hoosier Tires-sponsored #33.
Haefke edged ahead of Mueller on lap 14 to take the runner-up spot and upped his streak to 16 straight events finishing in the top two spots dating back to last season! Mueller has made just six starts this season, but has finished in the top four every night. Brad Blackshear came back from his early spin to finish fourth over his brother Brandon. Mueller and Chris Clay won the heat races over the 19-car field.
Joe Campbell didn’t have the fastest car on Saturday night, but he was the one standing in victory lane after the 12-lap Deforest Used Parts Mini Stock feature. Campbell inherited the lead on lap eight after problems for Pat Hanlon II and went on for his division-leading fifth win of the season. Campbell also closed to within nine points of Steve Walker II, who had problems all night long.
“There was some tough competition here tonight,” acknowledged the 32-year-old Austintown, Ohio driver. “I didn’t know if I had it or not until the end. I was pushing it as hard as I could into the turns. I didn’t want to push it too hard and end up into the wall. I don’t know if I could have gotten him (Hanlon) or not. I’m fortunate to be here. This is a great track. I have to thank my dad for helping me, Gene, Pete Blazczak for all his input, the fans, and all my sponsors.”
After a caution for Walker on the opening lap, the 12-lap feature went non-stop. Hanlon, who was making his first ever start, took the lead from pole-sitter Pat Drennan on the start. Hanlon set a fast pace out in front, while fourth starting Campbell made his way past Drennan on lap five for second. Hanlon’s night ended when he exited the event on lap eight handing the lead to Campbell. Campbell had a straightaway lead at this point and cruised to his seventh 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.
Jim Haefke, Jr. started back in 12th and raced his way forward to finish a season best second after getting past Drennan on lap 11. Drennan held on to third for his season’s best effort as well. Bill Fuchs was fourth over Pete Blazczak. Campbell and Logan Keney copped the heat race wins.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps): 1. RICH RICHNER (26) 2. Brad Rapp (11R) 3. Jimmy Weller III (23) 4. Rex King, Jr. (165) 5. Rex King (65) 6. Jim Rasey (32) 7. Rob Kristyak (00) 8. Skip Moore (17M) 9. Rick Regalski, Jr. (7z) 10. Kevin Bolland (777) 11. Dave Murdick (61) 12. Tom Mattocks (69) 13. Justin Rasey (21) 14. Bob Warren (96B).
Penn-Ohio Mini Series for the Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars (20 laps, $ 1,000 to-win): 1. CHRIS SCHNEIDER (55) 2.Andy Buckley (965) 3. Paul Davis (3) 4. Shaun Fawcett (224) 5. Rod Laskey (1R) 6. Steve D’Apolito (84) 7. Jackson Humanic (Kellogg 17K) 8. Rob Bates (99B) 9. Jacob Billyk (4) 10. Brian Carothers (02c) 11. Mike Clark (7) 12. Mike Miller (T6) 13. Gary Robinson (44R) 14. Jamie Duncan (67J) 15. Troy Norman (19N) 16. Jamie Maxwell (6) 17. Mike Kerr (25K) 18. Brent Coleman (01) 19. Michael Hudzik (31H) 20. Curt J. Bish (Tarr 29) 21. Jamie Scharba (11s) 22. Jason Longwell (Petsko 00)-DSQ (unsportsmanlike conduct) 23. Jesse Brock (22B)-DNS 24. Troy DeZarn (21)-DNS.
Summit Racing Equipment (E) Modifieds (15 laps): 1. JACOB EUCKER (64) 2. Joe Gabrielson (58) 3. Jeff Johnson (27) 4. Brandon Blackshear (10) 5. David Pangrazio (136) 6. Scott Stiffler (14) 7. Mike Kinney (Porter 20P) 8. Bob Diver (23) 9. Amanda Stiffler (14A) 10. Paul Phillips (44) 11. Carl McKinney (Hendrickson 6M)-DNS 12. Travis Creech (White 53)-DNS.
Lyden/ Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modifieds (15 laps): 1. ROCKY KUGEL (83) 2. Brandon Ritchey (17) 3. Nick Ritchey (77N) 4. Kyle Martell (8) 5. Jeremy Weaver (35W) 6. Justin Shea (14s) 7. Brian Schaffer (41) 8. Kole Holden (2) 9. Calvin Clay (21) 10. Tiffany Williams (58) 11. Mike Sparks (Smith 3G) 12. Will Schaffer (4) 13. Chelsie Kriegisch (10) 14. Amelia Clay (12) 15. Steve Slater (35) 16. Chas Wolbert (c3) 17. Jessica Shea (24s) 18. Josh Deems (9D) 19. Jessica Kriegisch (63) 20. Preston Cope (24P).
HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods (15 laps): 1. JOSH FERRY (33) 2. Steve Haefke (41) 3. Josh Mueller (01) 4. Brad Blackshear (19) 5. Brandon Blackshear (Burns 70B) 6. Kyle Miller (15) 7. George Vestal IV (4) 8. Jeff Mundell (11) 9. Bret McCarthy (33) 10. Buzz Seitz (1) 11. Zach Myers (1M) 12. Dan McEwen (44) 13. Wayne Daniels (4) 14. Butch Lambert (Hendrickson 19) 15. Chris Clay (99) 16. Brian Toto (8B) 17. Bob Burk (18) 18. Gary Davis (32) 19. James Myers (77M).
Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks (12 laps): 1. JOE CAMPBELL (40C) 2. Jim Haefke (421) 3. Pat Drennan (24) 4. Bill Fuchs (10) 5. Pete Blazczak (77) 6. Jason Pavlick (00) 7. Will Aley (Root 17J) 8. Mike Aley (Maxwell 6) 9. Ed Roberts (11) 10. Jim Jones (Keney 16) 11. Joe Keney (15K) 12. Steve Walker II (4M) 13. Pat Hanlon II (26K) 14. Logan Keney (Coleman 75) 15. Jeff Little (42) 16. Matt Rubright (X)-DNS.
Coming up this Saturday night (August 27), will be another “Steel Valley Thunder” program featuring the six weekly divisions plus kids bike races. It’ll be the final night of points for the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds and Stock Cars. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and racing at 7. Admission for those 14 and over is just $ 10, while those 13 and under are free. Pit passes are $ 30.
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.