By Mike Leone
Allied News Motorsports Columnist
THE RACING weekend was supposed to kick off on Wednesday at the Trumbull County Fair for two nights of racing; however, severe storms ripped through Ohio and in fact closed down the fair and of course racing at Expo Speedway. That event was rescheduled for Sunday afternoon. On Thursday at Expo, Slippery Rock’s Dave Murdick won the BRP Big-Block Modified event over the 25-car field. BRP will be in action at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio on Friday in the return of the big blocks for the first time in many years.
I headed to McKean County Raceway in East Smethport on Thursday as the weather finally cleared allowing for racing the rest of the weekend. I suffered nine rain outs from June 23 through July 10! The Blairs once again completed a sweep of racing. The father-son duo of Centerville both won at McKean on July 3, at Eriez on July 7 and nailed down their third straight sweep on Thursday night.
Father Robbie won the Super Late Model event, while Max bagged his first RUSH Late Model Touring Series victory for the crates that paid $1,200 to-win over the 32-car field. Robbie would go on for his fourth straight win Sunday in Super Late Model competition at Eriez.
Friday I was at Lernerville Speedway for their third straight event, but just my second regular “Fab Four” program. While the car counts were down slightly at 17 Sprints, 17 Late Models, 15 Big-Block Modifieds and 28 Stock Cars, the racing was tremendous with every feature going right down to the wire!
In the Sprints, Carl Bowser hounded Brandon Matus lap after lap until finally getting by in lapped traffic on lap 22 when Matus slipped off the backstretch trying to lap his good friend Bob McMillin. Bowser of Sarver went on for his first win since May of 2012 and eighth of his career. Matus was a season best second. Jack Sodeman, Jr. got by Scott Priester on the last lap to edge out Priester and Brandon Spithaler.
The Super Late Model race was probably the best Late Model feature I’ve seen all year as at times eight drivers were battling for the lead! Through it all, Jared Miley and Brian Swartzlander put on a side-by-side clinic lap after lap that had the fans on the edge of their seats. Miley of South Park got past Swartzlander on lap 23 and held on for the 25-lap win. It was Miley’s second win of the season as he became the division’s first repeat winner and 17th of his career. Though the Modified master Swartzlander has won over 100 races in his career, he’s yet to get one in the Late Models.
The Big-Block Modified feature was a three-car dogfight between Mat Williamson, Jeremiah Shingledecker, and Brian Swartzlander. The Canadian Williamson started off the year winning three of the first four, but had been shutout since May 31. That ended Friday night when he held off hard charging 10th starting Shingledecker and Swartzlander from the tail after changing cars.
Corey McPherson, the track’s top winner, captured his fourth of the season in the Stock Cars.
At Mercer Raceway Park on Saturday night, Jack Sodeman Jr. of North Jackson, Ohio continued his great season winning the Sprint Car feature over veteran Rod George. Young Kyle Fink of Strattanville beat out veterans Jeff Schaffer and Frank Guidace in the “358” Modifieds. C.J. Jones of Austintown, Ohio won his second in the Limited Sprint Cars. Jamestown’s Brandon Johnson won his career first in the Stock Cars after Dillion Kineston came up light at the scales. Struthers, Ohio’s Cody Bova continued his dominance of the Mod Lites. Other winners were Shane Smith in the Mini Stocks and Kelvin Kohan in the ? Mini Late Models.
Sharon Speedway was off on Saturday night due to the Trumbull County Fair, but will return to action Saturday night with a big show featuring a tripleheader of ULMS Super Late Models for $3,000 to-win, RUSH Late Model Touring Series for $2,000 to-win, and the UEMS E-Mods for $1,000 to-win. It doesn’t stop there as extra money will be on the line for the Stock Cars and Mini Stocks plus it’s the rescheduled Sweeney Chevrolet Night with one lucky RUSH driver winning a new GM 604 engine valued at over $5,500!
Though it was race #65 of the year for me, Saturday was my first visit of the season to Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway where a nice crowd and solid field of cars were present including a record 40 RUSH Late Model for the Touring event, 23 ULMS Super Late Models, and 29 UEMS E-Mods.
Brandon Burgoon was totally dominating the ULMS Super Late Models with nearly a half-lap lead; however, Alex Ferree made a march forward and simply ran down and passed Burgoon in the closing stages of the event then immediately pulled away for the $3,000 win. The Saxonburg racer is really looking forward to the 25th annual Pittsburgher in October, which will pay a whopping $25,000 to-win in the NDRL-sanctioned event!
Local racer Kyle Lukon led every lap of the RUSH Late Models for the $1,200 win. The Burgettstown racer held off a hard charge by sixth starting Ryan Montgomery for his fifth win overall at Pittsburgh. Not only was it Lukon’s first win, it was his first RUSH Tour start of the season. Finishing third was Mark Moats, Jr., who also made his first RUSH Tour start a successful one. Canadian Jorden Peters, who just missed out on qualifying for the feature, blew everyone away sweeping both the “Futures Cup” race and the non-qualifier event.
Steve Dixon had a pretty incredible weekend. The Smethport former Super Stock and Crate Late Model standout has been behind the wheel of Franklin resident Tim Engles’ #68. He had a lot of success last year, but has been even better this season. Dixon made it a clean sweep first winning in three different states- first Friday at Little Valley Speedway in New York, then Saturday at Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and finally Sunday at Expo in Ohio! Those wins were worth $2,750.
Speaking of Expo, a big crowd was on hand Sunday afternoon as the RUSH Late Model Touring Series visited. Despite the afternoon start and 90-degree weather, track conditions were the best I’ve seen it since racing resumed back in the mid 2000s.
Like Lukon Saturday at Pittsburgh, Russell King also made his first Touring start a successful one leading all 25 laps. King’s $2,000 win though was his first ever start in Bob Diver’s #23 and was also the first night out for the car. The nearby Bristolville, Ohio driver also won the event in 2011.
Ryan Montgomery was second for the second straight night with Blair taking third. At Eriez, the Blairs just missed out on another sweep as Robbie again won the Super Late Models, but Max came up short in third after beating it up to Eriez after finishing up at Expo.
Next time I’ll have a recap of World of Outlaw Sprint Car action on Tuesday (July 16) at Lernerville for the Don Martin Memorial/Silver Cup featuring twin 30s paying $15,000 to-win each!
The WoO were at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio this past weekend as California’s Brad Sweet captured the biggest win of his career taking the $50,000 30th annual Kings Royal on Saturday night in a car owned by Kasey Kahne. Apollo’s Ed Lynch, Jr. was the only local in the field, but failed to qualify for the feature. On Friday night, Aussie Kerry Madsen won his second WoO feature of the year as ironically both have come at The Big E.
Mike Leone is motorsports writer for the Allied News. Follow his updates on Twitter @mikevleone.