Story By: MIKE LEONE / SHARON SPEEDWAY – HARTFORD, OH – While just about every track to the east rained out, Sharon Speedway was blessed with a dry day on Saturday as night two of the “Apple Festival Nationals” presented by Stackhouse Construction was completed.
Fans were treated to excellent racing as the following drivers celebrated in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane: Dale Blaney-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply “410” Sprint Cars, Will Thomas III-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds, Chad Ruhlman-Terry Bowser Excavating RUSH Sprint Cars, Ayden Cipriano-HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, and Jeremy Double-Whelen Econo Mods. There were 113 cars in the pit area as 147 participated in the seven divisions over the two nights.
Just when it appeared Dale Blaney’s hall of fame career may be coming to a close, the 59-year-old has had a rejuvenating season aboard Tiger Barris’ #32B. After winning two features earlier this season at Sharon in addition to a $6,300 recent victory at Clinton County Speedway, the hometown racer passed Dan Kuriger on lap seven and kept his brother Dave at bay to win Saturday night’s 30-lap “410” Sprint Car feature. The victory was milestone Sharon win #20 for the youngest of the Blaney brothers and was worth $3,000 in the final tune-up before the September 23 World of Outlaws event.
“I didn’t know how close Dave (Blaney) was when the yellow came out on lap 15,” explained the Hartford, Ohio winner. “I was kind of up through the middle a little bit. I figured it was time to get to where I needed to be. I had an idea where he was running, but didn’t know for sure. I beat it off the wall in turn four a bit. That didn’t help me at all, but it made me move to the middle a little bit. It didn’t feel the same; I felt like I was rolled over and maybe I had my wing too far back. I got it done and it’s awesome. Leah, Hayden and the grandkids are here so it makes it pretty cool to win a race with them here. We’ve made great strides with this new car and I can’t thank Tiger, Tyler, and Scooter enough for the opportunity to run it.”
Kuriger sped off into the early lead over Brandon Matus, while sixth starting Dale Blaney was halfway to the front after the opening lap. Dale Blaney would pass Matus for second on lap three and faced a 2.522 second deficit, while seventh starting Dave Blaney followed in third on lap four. Dale Blaney quickly tracked down Kuriger and used a slider in turn four on lap seven for what would be the winning pass.
The top three began to distance themselves from the field when lapped traffic came into play on lap nine. Dave Blaney ducked under Kuriger for second on lap 11. A pair of cautions slowed action at the halfway point; one for veteran Andy Priest and the other for rookie Dusty Larson.
When racing resumed, Dale was able to maintain his lead over Dave. Lapped traffic came into play again on lap 21. Dave closed in on lap 24, but was never able to get close enough to make a bid at the lead. In fact, Dale was able to pull away in the closing laps and took the checkered flag first by a commanding 3.340 seconds in the Barris Truck Service/Atwell-Perrine Excavating/Top Shelf Trucking-sponsored #32B.
After dropping to eighth early on, George Hobaugh came on strong to finish third after getting by Kuriger on lap 29. A.J. Flick also snuck by Kuriger on the final lap for fourth. Kuriger dropped to fifth after running in the top three for the first 28 laps. Jeremy Weaver was sixth. Matus dropped to seventh after starting on the pole. Adam Kekich was eighth. After mechanical woes in qualifying set Bob Felmlee back, the 61-year-old charged from 17th to 9th in the feature. Jeremy Kornbau completed the top 10 after starting 18th. Cody Bova set fast time overall against the 29-car field in qualifying with a lap of 15.250. Heat winners were Matus, Flick, and Dave Blaney, while Jacob Begenwald won the last chance B main in his first Sharon “410” start.
In the race of the night, Will Thomas III captured his first career Big-Block Modified feature win by out-dueling teammate Garrett Krummert in the 25 lapper. Thomas, who had dropped back to seventh on lap nine, came charging forward and passed Dave Murdick for the lead on lap 15. Thomas earned $2,500, but more impressively was his milestone 30th career Sharon win, which have come in five different divisions!
“This is great- I love coming to Sharon Speedway,” expressed the 47-year-old Sharpsville, Pa. resident. “Most people don’t know when we fired it to put heat in it the fuel pump went out. I have to thank Uncle Denny and Tommy for being here with me, Jeremy Holbrook and Jamie helped change the fuel pump; Garrett Krummert, Russ King were there. That’s what racing is about. All of the guys I was going to race the hardest with to win were there helping. Garrett and I work together- he’s a great friend of mine. There’s no way he’d ever let me win nor would I ever let him win. We’ve struggled in these cars over the years. I sold the Econo Mod this week and am going to focus on this so it feels really good to get a win in it.”
Steve Feder led the first seven laps withstanding Murdick’s challenges, but would lose the lead on a restart on lap eight to his fellow Butler, Pa. counterpart. Krummert started in seventh and worked his way forward into second on lap 10. Krummert was all over Murdick on laps 10-12 before a caution for Ayden Cipriano, who smacked the fence with 12 laps completed.
When racing resumed on lap 13, Thomas, who started fourth before fading to seventh, made his move to grab second. It was a four-car race for the lead on lap 15 between Murdick, Thomas, Krummert, and 11th starting Rex King, Jr. Thomas made the winning move when he snuck under Murdick with 10 laps to go, while Krummert followed in second one lap later.
While King would take third from Murdick on lap 18, the top two of Thomas and Krummert pulled away. Thomas and Krummert battled the rest of the way even running side-by-side. Krummert kept trying to get runs off the top, but Thomas had just enough to hold on by just 0.224 seconds in his Colonial Companies/Hallman Originals-sponsored #9. Thomas’ 30 career wins are made up of 15 in the RUSH Late Models, 9 in the Econo Mods, 4 in the UMP Mods, 1 in the Pro Stocks, and now 1 in the Big-Block Modifieds. The only division Thomas has competed in at Sharon that he hasn’t been victorious in was the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds.
Krummert earned $1,500 for second, while King pocketed $1,000 for third. Brad Rapp went 15th to 4th to earn the $100 Summit Racing Equipment Hard Charger gift card. Murdick dropped to fifth after leading laps 8-14. Chas Wolbert was sixth over New York invader Marshall Hurd in his first ever appearance. Feder faded to eighth after leading the first seven laps. Jim Rasey was ninth as Rick Regalski, Jr. completed the top 10. Friday night’s heat race winners were Thomas and Murdick.
After Blaze Myers stopped Chad Ruhlman’s four-race win streak in the RUSH Sprint Cars at the last event, it appeared John Mollick may etch his name in the division’s win list for the first time at Sharon. Ruhlman though had other ideas. Ruhlman fended off Arnie Kent’s challenges for second then snuck around Mollick off turn four on lap 14 for the winning move in the 20-lap Terry Bowser Excavating feature. Ruhlman earned $1,000 for his milestone 50th career Series win with 14 of them coming at Sharon, and also clinched his fifth $5,000 RUSH Sunbelt Rentals Weekly Series Championship in six years.
“This whole championship thing has been eating at me so I figured I’d just win and put it in the bag so that’s another one for this team so now we can just go racing and have fun the rest of the year,” expressed the 46-year-old veteran. “That was a little stressful. There was only about four inches of cushion, but I mustered up the energy to do it. It was another great night here. The track was just impeccable- what a ball to run this place. I don’t have the self control to do the bottom here. It looks fun; Mollick and Fraley are super fast on the bottom.”
It was three-wide for the lead on the opening lap between Ryan Fraley, Ruhlman and Mollick with Fraley taking the early advantage. Fraley led the first two circuits before fourth starting Mollick took charge. Ruhlman drove around Fraley for second on lap seven. Myers was on the charge on the outside, but got into fence to bring out the caution with eight laps completed.
Back under green, Kent was on the move from 14th as he was running the middle and took third from Fraley. It was a three-car race for the lead. Kent nearly had Ruhlman passed on a couple occasions, but Mollick blocked Kent’s advances, which allowed Ruhlman to maintain second. Ruhlman didn’t give up on the outside and finally made it work with six laps to go. Ruhlman took the checkered flag first in the Tim Engles-owned, Dirt Road Logistics/LINC Products/Billy @ Suppa Racing/Dynamic Machine/Cre8ions by Maddie-sponsored #68 by 0.492 seconds to win the richest RUSH Sprint Car race at Sharon in the six-year history of the division.
Tenth starting Bill Cunningham snuck by Kent on lap 16 to finish third, which was his first career top five in the division! Cunningham’s prior best finishes were a pair of sevenths this season. Kent was fourth. Brian Cressley went 15th to 5th. Fraley dropped to sixth after leading the first two laps. Zach Morrow was seventh. Charlie Utisnger started 13th and finished a career best 8th as Zack Wilson and Gale Ruth, Jr. completed the top 10. Friday night’s heat race winners were Mollick and Myers over the 20-car field.
Ayden Cipriano stole a first career Sharon win away from Doug Rutana by passing the race-long leader in lapped traffic on lap 18 to win an exciting 20-lap HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified feature. Cipriano earned $800 for his third win of the season.
“I saw lapped traffic coming and knew it was going to get congested on the backstretch,” explained the 17-year-old Hermitage, Pa. racer. “I was hoping no one would slide up into my line and I’d be able to get around JC (Boyer) and Doug (Rutana). I’m glad we could come out and get it done. After the first couple laps, I felt like the track was coming in so that helped out a lot, but the car was really good tonight. I can’t thank Russ King and everyone else enough that works on it because they can’t do a better job.”
Rutana used the outside to take the early lead from pole-sitter Bill Cunningham. JC Boyer moved past Cunningham for second on lap two, while fourth starting Cipriano followed in third on lap three. The top three of Rutana, Boyer, and Cipriano pulled away by lap six. Sixth starting Ben Easler joined the battle making it a four-car race for the lead on lap 13. Rutana and Boyer were running the bottom, while Cipriano was ripping the fence. Lapped traffic came into play on lap 16 and that would benefit Cipriano. Cipriano made the pass of Boyer for second on lap 17 and one lap later made the right moves in traffic for the winning move on Rutana.
Easler made a three-wide pass to grab second on lap 19, but it was too little too late as Cipriano powered on by 1.844 seconds at the finish. Cipriano’s fifth career win came in the William Cipriano-owned, Wheatland Steel Processing/Novus Mortgage of Hermitage/Rudy’s Tavern/RKR/Fin & Bear It/Stainless Steel Engineering/Grossman’s Garage-sponsored #5c.
Easler’s second place was important as he was able to hold on to win his second straight Wedge Motorsports “Route 7 Rumble” Series Championship by just two points over Cipriano! Boyer got by Rutana on the last lap for third. Rutana dropped to a disappointing fourth after leading the first 17 laps. Brandon Ritchey went eighth to fifth for his second straight top five finish. Kole Holden, Jacob Rutana, Jordan Ehrenberg, Rob Kristyak, and 15th starting Chelsie Kriegisch completed the top 10. Easler, Kristyak, and Cipriano won Friday night’s heat races over the 25-car field. For the third time in the past five events there were 25 or more cars.
Jeremy Double brought down the curtain on the 2023 “Apple Festival Nationals” by leading all 20 laps of the Whelen Econo Mod feature. Double’s third victory of the season was worth $800 as he tied Brandon Blackshear as the division’s all-time winningest driver with 21 victories.
“It’s cool to finally get there but part of me thinks it’s overdue,” stated the 27-year-old Bristolville, Ohio driver. “Hopefully we can get one more in two weeks and pass the total up. I just made sure I hit my marks and stayed on the bottom. I was getting a little tight in the center, but I knew as long as I could keep rolling pretty well down there the middle and outside was going to be tough to pass.”
The front row starters of Double and Garrett Calvert pulled away from the field on lap three. Calvert though exited the event on lap five moving Zack Eller into second. After a caution with six laps completed, Josalyn Hibbard overtook Eller for second. Four more cautions over the next five laps slowed action before the final nine went green-to-checkered.
When green replaced yellow on lap 12, sixth starting Jacob Eucker overtook Hibbard for second. Eucker though was unable to challenge Double who took the checkered flag first by a margin of 2.275 seconds in the T-N-T Motorsports LLC-owned, Malone Diesel/Competition Products/Bala Management-sponsored, Elite Chassis #83. After not winning since May 27, Double has now won two straight and will look for a third on September 23 to try and become the division’s all-time winner.
Andy Buckley matched his best finish of the season from May 27 in third after starting seventh and getting by Hibbard on lap 15. Hibbard, a Tyler County (WV) Speedway regular, was fourth in her first ever Sharon Econo Mod start. Eller was fifth also in his first ever Sharon start. Bryan Wagner was sixth over Gary Sullivan. Dennis Dellinger went 21st to 8th. Jacob McConnell, another newcomer to Sharon, was 9th after starting 17th. Don Watson completed the top 10. Friday night’s heat race winners were Double and Calvert over the 22-car field.
There will be no racing next weekend. The final event of the 2023 season will be Saturday, September 23 as the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars return for $10,000 to-win and will be joined by the Whelen Econo Mods.
410 Sprints – Winged
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 32B-Dale Blaney; 2. 10-Dave Blaney; 3. 40-George Hobaugh Jr; 4. 2-AJ Flick; 5. 08-Danny Kuriger; 6. 5-Jeremy Weaver; 7. 13-Brandon Matus; 8. 5K-Adam Kekich; 9. 6-Bob Felmlee; 10. 27K-Jeremy Kornbau; 11. 47-Brett Brunkenhoefer; 12. 11J-David Kalb; 13. 20B-Cody Bova; 14. 12-Darin Gallagher; 15. 99-Cameron Nastasi; 16. 3J-Jacob Begenwald; 17. 23-Darren Pifer; 18. 33-Brent Matus; 19. 25G-Nolan Groves; 20. 12J-Bill Jones Jr; 21. 4W-Eric L Williams; 22. 47L-Dusty Larson; 23. 21N-Andy Priest; 24. 23JR-Jack Sodeman Jr
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints B Main (10 Laps): 1. 3J-Jacob Begenwald; 2. 23JR-Jack Sodeman Jr; 3. 11J-David Kalb; 4. 25G-Nolan Groves; 5. 4W-Eric L Williams; 6. 47L-Dusty Larson; 7. 19M-Bodey McClintock; 8. 22C-Jon Carpenter; 9. M4-Louie Mattes; 10. 7T-Andy McKisson; 11. (DQ) 86-Michael Lutz Jr
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 13-Brandon Matus; 2. 12-Darin Gallagher; 3. 08-Danny Kuriger; 4. 47-Brett Brunkenhoefer; 5. 33-Brent Matus; 6. 99-Cameron Nastasi; 7. 86-Michael Lutz Jr; 8. 4W-Eric L Williams; 9. 47L-Dusty Larson; 10. M4-Louie Mattes
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 2-AJ Flick; 2. 5K-Adam Kekich; 3. 40-George Hobaugh Jr; 4. 23-Darren Pifer; 5. 20B-Cody Bova; 6. 6-Bob Felmlee; 7. 3J-Jacob Begenwald; 8. 11J-David Kalb; 9. 7T-Andy McKisson; 10. 19M-Bodey McClintock
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints Heat 3 (8 Laps): 1. 10-Dave Blaney; 2. 32B-Dale Blaney; 3. 5-Jeremy Weaver; 4. 21N-Andy Priest; 5. 12J-Bill Jones Jr; 6. 27K-Jeremy Kornbau; 7. 23JR-Jack Sodeman Jr; 8. 25G-Nolan Groves; 9. 22C-Jon Carpenter
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints TT Group #1 (8 Laps): 1. 12-Darin Gallagher, 00:15.364; 2. 08-Danny Kuriger, 00:15.905; 3. 13-Brandon Matus, 00:15.965; 4. 47-Brett Brunkenhoefer, 00:16.132; 5. 47L-Dusty Larson, 00:16.160; 6. 99-Cameron Nastasi, 00:16.327; 7. 33-Brent Matus, 00:16.673; 8. 4W-Eric L Williams, 00:17.156; 9. M4-Louie Mattes, 00:18.068; 10. (DQ) 86-Michael Lutz Jr, 00:16.104
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints TT Group #2 (8 Laps): 1. 20B-Cody Bova, 00:15.250; 2. 5K-Adam Kekich, 00:15.531; 3. 2-AJ Flick, 00:15.646; 4. 23-Darren Pifer, 00:15.892; 5. 11J-David Kalb, 00:15.936; 6. 40-George Hobaugh Jr, 00:15.991; 7. 3J-Jacob Begenwald, 00:16.250; 8. 19M-Bodey McClintock, 00:16.811; 9. 7T-Andy McKisson, 00:17.213; 10. 6-Bob Felmlee, 00:17.683
Hovis Auto Truck Supply 410 Sprints TT Group #3 (8 Laps): 1. 32B-Dale Blaney, 00:15.343; 2. 10-Dave Blaney, 00:15.496; 3. 21N-Andy Priest, 00:16.124; 4. 5-Jeremy Weaver, 00:16.165; 5. 27K-Jeremy Kornbau, 00:16.307; 6. 12J-Bill Jones Jr, 00:16.371; 7. 23JR-Jack Sodeman Jr, 00:16.435; 8. 25G-Nolan Groves, 00:16.651; 9. 22C-Jon Carpenter, 00:17.290
Dirt Big Block Modifieds
Hovis Auto Truck Supply A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 9-Will Thomas; 2. 29-Garrett Krummert; 3. 165-Rex King Jr; 4. 11R-Brad Rapp; 5. 61-Dave Murdick; 6. C3-Chas Wolbert; 7. 58M-Marshall Hurd; 8. 45-Steve Feder; 9. 32-Jim Rasey; 10. 13-Rick Regalski Jr; 11. 71P-Gage Priester; 12. 00-Rob Kristyak; 13. 96-JR McGinley; 14. 18JR-Mike Dougherty Jr; 15. 5C-Ayden Cipriano; 16. 20P-Mike Kinney; 17. 64-Rodney Beltz
A Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 83-Jeremy Double; 2. 64-Jacob Eucker; 3. 965-Andy Buckley; 4. 5J-Josalyn Hibbard; 5. 99-Zack Eller; 6. 56-Bryan Wagner; 7. 47S-Gary Sullivan; 8. 17-Dennis Dellinger; 9. 777-Jacob McConnell; 10. 71A-Don Watson; 11. 12-Troy Pinch; 12. 2P-Branden Porter; 13. 15-Eric Nellis II; 14. 26X-Carter Bidwell; 15. 89C-Travis Carothers; 16. 16C-Amelia Clay; 17. 9H-Jeremy Holbrook; 18. 44R-Rick Robinson; 19. 2-Scott Burk Jr; 20. 28L-Coleton Longwell; 21. 83E-Ed Vogel; 22. 7G-Garrett Calvert
RUSH Sportsman Modified
HTMA/Precise Racing Products A Feature (20 Laps): 1. 5C-Ayden Cipriano; 2. 02-Benjamin Easler; 3. 12-JC Boyer; 4. 46R-Doug Rutana; 5. 1R-Brandon Ritchey; 6. 2-Kole Holden; 7. 57R-Jacob Rutana; 8. JD57-Jordan Ehrenberg; 9. 00-Rob Kristyak; 10. 10-Chelsie Kriegisch; 11. 28J-Jacob Jordan; 12. 333G-Dalton Gabriel; 13. 01T-Todd English; 14. 59-Bill Cunningham; 15. 11-Wendell Pinckney; 16. 59C-Billy Cunningham Jr; 17. 2LC-Lucas Canon; 18. 55-Scott Kay; 19. 7K-Brenten Kay; 20. 58-Logen Lockhart; 21. 00K-Jackson Kristyak; 22. 0-Mike Smith; 23. N20-Brandon Tercho; 24. B4-Brayden Beatty; 25. 7P-Caden Petry
RUSH Wingless Sprints
Terry Bowser Excavating A Feature (20 Laps): 1. 68-Chad Ruhlman; 2. 4J-John Mollick; 3. 44C-Bill Cunningham; 4. 9-Arnie Kent; 5. 41-Brian Cressley; 6. 12-Ryan Fraley; 7. 6-Zach Morrow; 8. 23-Charlie Utsinger; 9. 1-Zack Wilson; 10. 24-Gale Ruth Jr; 11. 17-Trent Marshall; 12. 16C-Amelia Clay; 13. 1T-Ricky Tucker Jr; 14. 13K-Kevin Kaserman; 15. 43SR-Billy Myers; 16. 19-Brad Blackshear; 17. 17M-CJ McClintock; 18. 10-Brandon Blackshear; 19. 43JR-Blaze Myers; 20. 20-Jeff Metsger