By T.J. Buffenbarger
HARTFORD, Mi. (July 6, 2017) – Ryan Ruhl made his first victory of the 2018 extra special Friday night during the Engine Pro Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP event at Hartford Motor Speedway. Not only did Ruhl hold off Chad Blonde for the win but followed up the winner performance by dropping one knee and proposed to his longtime girlfriend Courtney, which she accepted.
The storybook ending though was not without some anxious moments for Ruhl. After taking the lead on a lap 11 from Chad Blonde restart Ruhl had to endure a caution at the end of the feature that setup a green-white-checkered finish with Blonde and the rest of the field on his back bumper.
“That was probably one of the most never restarts ever,” said Ruhl after the event. “This was the first race I brought the ring to. I gave the ring to Terry (Stewart). When I got in the lead and the laps were clicking off I thought, ‘This is going to be a great story’. Then the caution comes out. I thought I was going to run out fuel, a tire going to go down, someone is going to jump the gun at the start, all this stuff was going through my head. I just tried to tune it all out and wait until the race got going. Thankfully it all worked out.”
Ruhl, from Coldwater, Michigan, picked up his first win of the season and first driving for Smith Motorsports. After some early seasons struggles, the Ruhl/Smith combination put together a solid performance Friday at Hartford.
“I’m super thankful Steve has stuck it out with me. It’s felt like we’ve gotten better every time we’ve gone to the track.”
Blonde and Shane Valenti started on the front row for the 25-lap main event. The initial start only lasted half a lap when the red flag appeared when Brett Mann had a bleeder on a tire fail, causing him to spin in front of a majority the field. The incident collected Eli Lakin and Dustin Shriver with Mann and Lakin’s cars suffering considerable damage. Shriver was able to restart a the tail of the field.
The second attempt Blonde took the lead with Valenti and Ruhl in two when the caution appeared again after a single lap for Mike Schumacher getting into the wall in turn three and coming to a stop, ending his night.
Blonde pulled away as Ruhl passed Valenti for second during the restart. Blonde continued to maintain about a half a straightaway distance or more between himself and Ruhl through slower traffic.
With 10 laps complete the caution flag waved for debris in turn four and setup the eventual pass for the win. Ruhl was able to use the bottom of the track to pull alongside Blonde for the lead during the restart. The par race side by side for two laps before Ruhl drove away with the lead.
“I was keeping up with Chad (Blonde), but I didn’t think I really had anything for him,” said Ruhl about his run early in the feature. “Then we had that caution and I bumped the wing back a little and it was really good. I got beside (Blonde) and I figured I raced with him it would work better for me. Once I got past him I never really heard any more motors. I felt like I was slowing down a ton to run the bottom, but I moved up and it just seemed so dusty that I figured someone would really have to have that figured out to get around me.”
Ruhl continued to put more distance between himself and Blonde through slower traffic when the last caution of the even occurred on the final lap when Michael Summers rolled to a stop in turn three.
With two laps to decide the outcome Ruhl was up for the challenge and drove away for the victory. Blonde held on for second while Gregg Dalman used a late race surge to drive up to the final podium position. Andy Teunessen and Boston Mead rounded out the top five.
Ruhl had a good feeling going into the feature and mentioned to his crew chief, Terry Stewart, that he had a plan if he won the feature.
“I must thank my crew chief Terry for carrying the cargo for me. I told them him I don’t want to jinx it, but if we win this can you bring this to victory lane? This was the first night I brought the ring to the race track. Thankfully the stars all aligned and it all worked out.”
Engine Pro Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP
Hartford Motor Speedway
Friday July 6, 2018
Qualifying Group A: 1. 5B – Chad Blonde, 14.851; 2. 10S – Jay Steinebach, 15.408; 3. 7 – Shawn Valenti, 15.577; 4. 27B – Boston Mead, 15.699; 5. 4 – Tyler Fitzpatrick, 15.815; 6. 8 – Justin Ward, 16.268.
Qualifying Group B: 1. 7J – Joe Swanson, 15.815; 2. 5 – Andy Teunessen, 15.792; 3. 18 – Michael Summers, 16.301; 4. 3 – Dusty Shriver, 16.578; 5. 1A – Mark Aldrich, 16.652; 6. 24 – Eric Smith, 17.226; 7. 52 – Zac Broughman, 17.844.
Qualifying Group C: 1. 71H – Ryan Ruhl, 15.882; 2. 49T – Gregg Dalman, 15.899; 3, 24+ – Mike Schumacher, 16.564; 4. 19 – Brett Mann, 16.606; 5. 0 – Ricky Ferkel, 17.140; 6. 11 – Trey Smith, 17.262; 7. 8W – Josh Ward, 17.663.
Heat Race #1 (8 Laps): 1. 5B – Chad Blonde, 2. 7 – Shawn Valenti, 3. 27B – Boston Mean, 4. 10S – Jay Steinebach, 5. 4 – Tyler Fitzpatrick, 6. 8 – Justin Ward, 7. 70 – Eli Lakin
Heat Race #2 (8 Laps): 1. 7J – Joe Swanson, 2. 5 – Andy Teunessen, 3. 18 – Michael Summers, 4. 1A – Mark Aldrich, 5. 3 – Dustin Shriver, 6. 24 – Eric Smith, 7. 52 – Zac Broughman.
Heat Race #3 (8 Laps): 1. 71H – Ryan Ruhl, 2. 19 – Brett Mann, 3. 49T – Gregg Dalman, 4. 0 – Ricky Ferkel, 5. 11 – Trey Smith, 6. 8 – Josh Ward, 7. 24 – Michael Schumaker.
Feature (25 Laps): 1. 71H – Ryan Ruhl, 2. 5B – Chad Blonde, 3. 49T – Gregg Dalman, 4. 5 – Andy Teunessen, 5. 27B – Boston Mead, 6. 7J – Joe Swanson, 7. 4 – Tyler Fitpatrick, 8. 7 – Shawn Valenti, 9. 1A – Mark Aldrich, 10. 0 – Ricky Ferrell, 11. 3 – Dusty Shriver, 12. 8 – Justin Ward, 13. 24 – Eric Smith, 14. 18 – Michael Summers, 15. 10S – Jay Steinebach, 16. 8W – Josh Ward, 17. 11 – Trey Smith, 18. 19 – Brett Mann, 19. 70 – Eli Lakin, 20. 24+ – Mike Schumacher, 21. 52 – Zac Broughman.