By Mike Leone
Hartford, OH April 6, 2013 Even with snow showers still scattered about and on the heels of a cold, wet winter, all systems are a go for Saturday’s 2013 opener at Sharon Speedway! The 84th anniversary season will get underway at 7 p.m. on April 6 featuring Sharon’s “Steel Valley Thunder” program consisting of Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds, Barris Supply RUSH Late Models, Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and the Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks.
The planned early season events at Sharon did not get off the ground as the lack of snow in January cancelled the “Circle Track Showdown” Snowmobile races three times and then wet grounds didn’t allow for the open practice and “Springduro 150″ Enduro to happen the past two weeks.
“Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to us, but the nonetheless we’re ready to go” stated fourth year General Manager Dave Willoughby. “We were finally able to get on the track late Saturday afternoon and thankfully didn’t get the heavy rain they were originally calling for Sunday and Monday. The grounds have begun to dry up and with dry weather forecasted the rest of the week we’ll be ready to go Saturday. The early outlook for Saturday looks good with sunshine and 50s.”
The Big-Block Modifieds have been one of the headlining divisions at Sharon since the Speedway switched back to dirt in 1981. For the second straight year, the Governor Insurance-sponsored class will be sanctioned by DIRTcar along with Friday night sister track, Lernerville Speedway. Saturday’s race will be the first Modified race in the region and the only one scheduled of the weekend.
The late Lou Blaney leads the divisions with five championships and 121 victories. Active racer Rex King has moved up the ladder and now sits second on both championships (4) and wins (39). The next nearest active competitor is Jim Weller, Jr. with 23 wins and two track titles. Defending champion, Dave Murdick, has now won two championships in the past five years to go along with six victories.
The newly formed Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Series will sanction weekly Barris Supply Crate Late Model racing weekly in 2013. The schedule will be highlighted by five Touring events with the first coming up over Memorial Day Weekend in the Saturday-Sunday Bill Emig Memorial “Wild Card Weekend”.
In addition to Sharon’s point fund, Sharon RUSH member racers will have the ability to compete for the $5,000 to-win Sweeney Weekly Series Championship that pays down 30 positions, the $3,000 to-win Pace Performance “Summer Chase” that pays down 10 positions, and eligible member teenage racers will be battling for the $1,000 to-win “Futures Cup”, which also pays 10 positions. Two of the “Futures Cup” racers include Eric Wilson and Clay Ruffo that compete weekly at Sharon.
Sharon has held 45 Crate Late Model events in the short history of the division with 21 different winners. Mike Pegher, Jr. leads the all-time win list at six followed by Joe Martin and Max Blair with five wins apiece. Josh Double won the division’s inaugural title in 2011, while Will Thomas III was last year’s champion. One driver to keep an eye on this year is third year racer Matt Latta. The Conneaut Lake, Pa. youngster captured two wins and contended for the title last year.
The Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds (formerly E-Mods) have boasted excellent car counts the past two seasons and led the way amongst the six divisions last year. Last season, Joel Watson and Jack Young were about as even as any two racers could possibly be and that resulted in a tie for the championship. What will happen this season!?
The (E) Modifieds joined the weekly card in 1996 and have been part of weekly action ever since. In that period, Alan Dellinger has won 86 features and three championships. No one is anywhere near those wins, but five active racers are in a close battle for second including Scott Stiffler (16), Jeff Johnson (15), Russ Dunn (11), and most recently Joe Watson (11).
The Modifieds have an impressive schedule in 2013 as the UEMS Series will make four appearances (April 20, June 12, July 20, & September 13-14). The first and third events will pay $1,000 to-win, while $2,000 will be up for grabs in the second and fourth shows. Modified racers on Hoosier Tires will not only be eligible for Sharon’s weekly point fund, but also the HTMA/Precise Racing Products point fund, which will be back for a second straight year.
Though not always the highest in number, the Stock Cars were one of the most competitive divisions night in and night out with generally eight to ten drivers battling for the win. Gibson Insurance Agency is back again as the divisional sponsor and Tim Burns is set to defend his title. The Greenville, Pa. driver is now a seven-time winner and is a past Sportsman’s Speedway Champion as well.
Atop the win list is still Alan Dellinger with 65 victories followed by Rick Prosser, Jr. at 50. Neither racer is a regular in the division in recent years. Third on the win list is four-time champion Steve D’Apolito with 32 wins.
After campaigning nearly two years on the bi-weekly Friday night programs, the Econo Mods moved over the Saturday night program in August 2010 when the Friday shows were dropped. The Econo Mods will be entering their third full season of competition in 2013 and the two-barrel division could easily have the highest count amongst the weekly divisions. Don’t even be surprised to see B mains being run once things get rolling!
HTMA/Precise Racing Products is back again to be the divisional sponsor. The Econo Mod purse also got boasted from positions 7-24 due to their continued growth. Look for some changes at the top though as 11-time winner and 2012 champion Brandon Blackshear has moved up to the Modified division and younger brother Brad, who was the 2010 champion and has the second most all-time wins at four, will be in a RUSH Late Model in 2013.
And finally the Mini Stock division is back once again with backing from Deforest Used Parts for the second straight year. Due to struggling car counts last season, the rules have been opened up a little more to allow racers from other speedways to compete including the six cylinders that run to the north. Bill Fuchs, the 2011 champion, leads the win list at 19 victories out of the 73 races run all-time. Six-time winner, Jamie Wrightsman, has moved up to the RUSH Late Models for 2013.
In conjunction with Sharon Speedway, at each event in 2013, one lucky child will win a bicycle presented by King Bros. More information will be released later this week.
Teams are urged to arrive early Saturday, if possible, to complete any necessary registrations as well as be ready for warm-ups slated to begin early at 6 p.m. Pits open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5 and heat races slated for 7. Grandstand admission for those 14 and are over is $13, while children under 14 are always free. Pit passes are $25.
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 @SharonSpdwy.