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September 18, 2013

THE CHECKERED FLAG: Blaney is all-time All-Star Sprint winner

OPINION — THE ALL-STAR Sprint Cars were at Fremont (Ohio) Speedway for a two-day program last weekend.  Several local racers made the trip out including Adam Kekich (Hermitage), Jack Sodeman, Jr. (North Jackson, Ohio), Brandon and Brent Matus (Wampum), and Brandon Spithaler (Evans City). 

While our local racers didn’t fare to well, a local resident sure did as Hartford, Ohio’s Dale Blaney became the Series’ all-time winner via his $10,000 victory on Saturday night.  Blaney sixth win of the season broke the tie of 98 with him and the retired Kenny Jacobs for the most all-time on the Series.  Blaney will look for milestone win #100 and his fourth Series championship in the October 12 finale at Eldora Speedway! 

Aliquippa’s Tim Shaffer tried to stop Blaney from getting to the record as he came from 16th to finish a close second.  Central Pa. racer Alan Krimes headed west to Fremont for the first time in his career and finished third on Saturday night after struggling on Friday night, which was won by Byron Reed. 

New Castle’s Andy Feil made his first ever trip to Fremont to race with the “305” Sprints on Saturday night and finished 16th out of 24 cars.

Sharon Speedway held the annual “Apple Festival Nationals” on a chilly fall weekend.  Friday featured preliminary events on a dreary night with drizzle falling throughout much of the late afternoon and evening, while Saturday brought clear and cool. A season-high 163 cars participated in the successful event.

Ricky Richner has been making the long drive down to Sharon Speedway every week this season from his home in Niagara Falls, New York. He’s been close to victory on several occasions this year including a few weeks ago when Rex King, Jr. stole one away from him in lapped traffic at the finish. On Saturday night, the DIRTcar “358” Modified standout picked a perfect night for his first career Sharon win capturing the 35-lap $3,500 to-win “Russ King Memorial” BRP Tour big-block win.

Even though Richner started from the pole, it was fellow “358” racer Eric Gabany leading the opening lap. Following a caution for Carl Murdick, King passed both Richner and Gabany for the lead on lap two as Jeremiah Shingledecker, Tom Glenn, and Dave Murdick were all able to get by Richner for third, fourth, and fifth respectively.

Shingledecker, who started sixth and won his first Sharon feature of the season last week, looked strong again as he passed Gabany for second on lap four, but following a restart on lap six lost second and third to Gabany and Murdick. Shingledecker would then spin in turn four on lap seven collecting four other racers and ended his night.

Back under green, Murdick passed Gabany for second. Richner got himself back in contention when he passed Gabany for third on lap nine.

Murdick closed in on King on lap 10 and then by lap 17 Richner joined in making it a three-car race for the lead.

Lapped traffic came into play on lap 19 as action really heated up. Richner was able to make the move on Murdick for second lap 20.

One more caution slowed the event with 25 laps scored setting up a 10-lap shootout to the finish.

Richner hounded King every lap and eventually found a nice line on the top in turns one and two. Lap after lap Richner would get closer and closer and finally had enough momentum to make the pass stick racing off the outside of turn four on lap 33.

Richner led the final three laps to becomes the 15th different winner in the 28 “Russ King Memorial” events.

King missed out on his first win in the event as he had to settle for second. Gabany matched his best career Sharon finish from May 4 in third. BRP Tour point leader Chad Brachmann was fourth after starting 11th leading a trio of New York racers across the line as 17th starting Randy Chrysler was fifth and Justin Wright sixth.

After running around the fourth and fifth positions for much of the race, Centerville’s Max Blair stole the $2,000 RUSH Late Model Tour win away from nemesis Mike Pegher, Jr. on a late race restart for his third Sweeney Tour win of the season. Blair was the final leader in a race that featured five lead changes amongst four drivers.

The race got off to a bad start when Russell King broke when the green flag was displayed and caught up six other competitors ending the night for Andrew Wylie, Russ Byler, and Jamie Wrightsman. Via his dash win, defending Sharon Champion Will Thomas III took the early lead when racing got underway. Thomas, who owns nine career wins at the speedway in a little over two years of racing, had never won a tour race at his home track.

Ryan Montgomery moved past Josh Double for second on the opening lap, but Double pulled back even on lap two to grab the spot; however, one lap later, Montgomery regained the runner-up position. The race was slowed when Jeremy Adamik spun with seven laps completed. Back under green, Montgomery used the outside on the restart to lead lap eight. The race was slowed again due to a four-car accident with nine laps scored.

Even though Montgomery had the advantage on the restart as the leader, Thomas recaptured the lead on the bottom to lead lap 10. The following lap it was three-wide for the lead with Thomas holding on over Montgomery, and seventh starting Pegher. In was a short-lived lead for Thomas as Montgomery powered to the outside once again to lead the 12th circuit. Pegher snuck past Thomas on lap 13 for second and in consecutive laps Thomas lost third to Double and fourth to Blair.

The complexity of the event really changed in the second 15 laps. Pegher seemed to come out of nowhere as he found his way battling the lead as he closed up Montgomery on lap 16 and made the pass off the bottom of turn four. The top three of Pegher, Montgomery, and Double began to pull away from the field. But as the laps ticked off, the leaders caught traffic on lap 23 and all of a sudden Blair closed on the front trio making it a four-car race for the lead with seven laps to go!

Jeremy Adamik brought out the caution with 24 laps scored.When green replaced yellow, Double passed Montgomery for second. A pair of cautions slowed action with 25 laps scored and was just what Blair needed. He used the outside to pass both Montgomery and Double for second and then got a much needed caution with 27 laps completed when Butch Lambert ran out of room and spun in turn two ruining what may have been his best run of the season.

Pegher chose the bottom and had the advantage off turn four down the frontstretch, but Blair found the perfect line through turn one as he powered off the top into the lead.

Once in front, Blair pulled away for his second $2,000 Tour win of the season at Sharon and the seventh of his career at the Hartford, Ohio oval.

After dropping back to fifth with four laps to go, the much needed cautions allowed Thomas to rebound as he passed Montgomery for fourth on lap 27, then both Double and Pegher for second on lap 28. The runner-up was worth $1,000 for Thomas.  Pegher came home third to extend his point lead to 22 over Montgomery with seven events remaining. Montgomery dropped to fourth. Double crossed the line in fifth, but was disqualified for coming up light at the scales moving Chad Ruhlman into the top five.

After not competing for nearly a month and a half, Mercer’s Clay Ruffo returned to Sharon on Friday night to capture the second of three “Futures Cup” Trifecta races.  The 17-year-old passed Matt Glanden on the start of the 12-lap event and held on to-win a four-car race down to the finish to earn the $200.

Jeff Johnson was the benefactor of a terrible misfortunate by Vic Vena to capture the biggest victory of his career in the $2,000 UEMS Modified feature. Vena totally dominated the first 28 laps of the event before crashing trying to get past a lapped car. The 30-lap win was Johnson’s third victory of the season.

Vena clearly had the race in control and looked primed for his first career Sharon win, but got tangled up with Drotar in turns one and two with less than two laps to go.  Johnson was handed the lead and he held off Dixon in the final two-lap run to the finish for his 18th career Sharon win moving him into sole possession of second place on the track’s all-time win list!

It’s been quite a season for Bristolville, Ohio’s Mike Clark. On Saturday night, the Stock Car point leader won the biggest race of his career, which began in the mid-1990s, capturing the 25-lap $1,500 to-win “open rules” event. Clark’s fourth win of the season has now doubled his career total since winning his first race in 2011.

Tim Deutsch also picked great night to win his first career feature at Sharon. The veteran Stock Car and Modified racer was making just his third start in the Econo Mod division after purchasing the car from Bob Williams. Deutsch came out on top of a caution-filled 20-lap feature for the $500 win.  Deutsch beat Jason Longwell, Butch Lambert, and Steve Haefke- all of which are also newcomers to the growing division that matched a record high with 27 cars.

Greenville’s Bill Fuchs won one of the biggest races of his career holding off Mercer Raceway Park invader Alex Paden in the 15-lap $300 to-win Mini Stock main. The victory was the third of the season for the 2011 track champion.

It was a pretty quiet weekend locally as both Lernerville and Mercer Raceway Park were off as well as several other regional speedways.  Lernerville will host the second and final visit by the World of Outlaw Sprints on Saturday, while Mercer holds the two-day “Little Guy Nationals” on Friday and Saturday. Sharon will have their next to last regular event.  Tom’s Sewer and Drain has posted a $500 bonus to each of the Big-Block Modified, E-Mod, and Econo Mod winners!

Pittsburgh was one of the other few local speedways in action this past weekend.  With Mercer off, the Sprint Cars were added to the program and it was Sarver’s Carl Bowser winning his second of the season at “The Monster Half-Mile”.

It was one of Bowser’s biggest career wins as he earned $2,000.  Valencia’s Alex Ferree won his fourth of the year in the Super Late Models, while Pittsburgh’s Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr. bagged his third straight RUSH Late Model win and fifth of the year!

Mike Leone is a motorsports columnist for the Allied News. Follow his updates on Twitter @mikevleone.

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