From Mike Leone, image courtesy of Rick Rarer
Hartford, OH — (July 12, 2011) — Spectacular weather provided the backdrop for the third annual Lou Blaney Memorial on Tuesday night at Sharon Speedway as the O’Reilly Auto Parts Midwest All Star Sprint Cars and the Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds took part in the prestigious event. Another huge crowd honored the late legend, who amassed over 600 wins in his racing career before passing away in 2009.
While a final total has yet to been calculated for the Alzheimer’s Association in this benefit event, the 50/50 share of over $2,600 went to the cause as well as $1,000 from event sponsor Tom’s Sewer & Septic Service. NASCAR Sprint Cup stars Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Dave Blaney competed in the Sprint Car portion of the event, which was won by Sam Hafertepe, Jr., while Rob Kristyak took top honors in the Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modified main.
After coming up just short less than three weeks ago to Dale Blaney in the Ohio All Star Sprint Speedweek event, Sam Hafertepe, Jr. left little doubt he’s figured out Sharon Speedway. Hafertepe won the dash to earn the pole position and then went out and dominated the 30-lap Midwest All Star Sprint Car feature leading from start-to-finish in a race that saw that final 27 laps go green-to-checkered. Hafertepe’s $3,000 victory was the first of his career at Sharon and became the third different winner in the event.
“We approached the track like we do every race,” described the 25-year-old Sunnyvale, Texas racer. “Kind of give the car what it needs and we just happened to guess right that night (June 22). Our stuff that night kind of correlated to tonight, and we had an awesome car. I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted. I ran the top for awhile then moved to the bottom. Lapped traffic was good for us. I know we were good on the bottom and I don’t know if anyone else was as good as we were. We could scoot right along down there and get through the lapped cars without any problems.”
Hafertepe jumped to the early lead, while Dave Blaney put a slider on his brother in turn four to take second on the first circuit. The younger Blaney came back on lap two to nip the former World of Outlaw champion for runner-up. The duo ran side-by-side for second on laps three and four before the first and caution was displayed for a spin by Brian Steinman with three laps completed.
When racing resumed, fifth starting Brad Sweet ducked under Dale for third on lap four. Dave ran the top side of the speedway as he slowly chewed into Hafertepe’s lead. Seventh starting Danny Smith was on the move as he became a factor on lap six when he dropped Dale back to fifth. Back up front, Hafertepe caught lapped traffic on lap 12 allowing Dave to close back in for a second time.
Hafertepe made a nice move on lap 16 to clear the lapped cars of Steinman and Brandon Spithaler as he began to pull away; meanwhile, Sweet and Smith closed in on Dave as the battle heated up for second. With 10 laps to go, Hafertepe stretched his lead to a straightaway advantage. On lap 21, Smith finally was able to clear Sweet for third with an inside move in turn two.
Smith ran down Dave as those two would battle over the remaining laps, but up front Hafertepe went unchallenged as he took the checkered flag by a margin of 5.48 seconds in his LoneStar Speedway #15H. “It’s a pleasure to be on the list of winners in a race like this,” expressed Hafertepe. “It means a lot to have all of these fans come out and support us. This is a pretty cool deal!”
Smith snuck by Dave on the final lap to steal the runner-up position. “The bottom kind of came to us,” explained the Danville, Indiana veteran, who now calls Chillicothe, Ohio home. “We setup for it. I kind of putted around the bottom and kept my left side tires in the moisture. I think if we had a yellow in the middle of the race to catch back up, I might have had something for the winner, but we’ll take second and go on down the road.”
Dave Blaney, who owns 29 career wins at Sharon, was third in his first Sprint Car race of 2011. “I think the driver went away more than anything,” joked Blaney, who led the NASACR contingent in the finishing order. “It was a fun race. I haven’t been that competitive in this race, and for this to be my first Sprint race, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I was really hoping Dale (Blaney) or I could get one of these. Sam (Hafertepe) did a great job. He runs really good and to be running with him, Dale, Kahne, Sweet, Danny Smith, and all of those guys, it’s a good night for us. I want to thank everyone for coming out, Rick Glass and his family at Tom’s for sponsoring this event. It went well!”
Sweet was the top finishing Kasey Kahne Racing entry in fourth. Dale Blaney dropped to fifth. Last year’s Lou Blaney Memorial winner, Mike Lutz, was sixth after starting 10th. Australian Marty Perovich was seventh in his first ever visit to Sharon. Danny Holtgraver, who has scored recent wins at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway and Mercer Raceway Park, was eighth after starting 12th. Inaugural Lou Blaney Memorial winner, Tony Stewart, came from 14th to finish ninth. Local Dan Kuriger had a solid run in 10th.
Kahne set fast time over the 27-car field with a lap of 13.193, about two tenths off the track record of 12.844 set by Danny Lasoski back in July 2003. Kahne also won his heat, but did a 360-spin early in the feature wasting his fourth place starting position and managed to finish 12th, which improved on his 17th place finish at the June 22 All Star event.
Other heat winners were Lutz and Kuriger. Rob Chaney, who won the opener at Wayne County Speedway last Friday night, won the B main after crashing in his heat and worked his way to 13th at the finish.
Rob Kristyak won the biggest race of his 14-year racing career taking home the $2,000 top prize in the Big-Block Modified portion of the Lou Blaney Memorial. Kristyak held off 20th and 21st starting New York drivers Jerry Higbie, Jr. and Chad Brachmann for his popular second win of the season in the 30-lap Governor Insurance feature.
“This is the biggest race I’ve ever won,” stated the 33-year-old Bristolville, Ohio racer. “The Lou Blaney Memorial is awesome. My goal was to win a big race and I couldn’t ask for a better race to win! I was worried about everyone- they’re fast! This is a real old Hine motor in this thing. It’s made for the old-style racing. I babied it and it really worked well that way.”
The race got off to a rough start when pole-sitter Brad Rapp lost the handle in turn one and collected the top big blocks of Jim Weller, Jr. and two-time winner Jim Rasey along with the top running “358s” of Eric Gabany and Lonny Riggs.
When green flag racing got underway, Kristyak set the pace with Brian Swartzlander and Saturday’s winner Kevin Bolland taking second and third from Mike Turner. Dean Pearson was on the move from his 12th starting spot as he passed Mark Flick for fifth on lap three then drove around Turner off turn two for fourth on lap five.
All eyes began to focus on the Del Rougeux #20D, which was being driven by New Yorker Jerry Higbie, Jr. Higbie started way back in 20th, but cracked the top five when he used the highline to fly around both Jeremiah Shingledecker and Mike Turner on lap 10.
Higbie’s next victim was Pearson as he blew by the veteran for fourth on the backstretch on lap 15. One lap later, Higbie powered by Bolland with an inside move off turn four just before the second caution of the event slowed action with 16 laps completed for a spin by Turner.
When green replaced yellow, Higbie snatched second from Swartzlander before Chris Haines’ spin brought action to a halt with 17 laps scored. Back under green flag conditions, Higbie went to work on Kristyak, while the battle heated up for fourth with Shingledecker taking the spot from Pearson and Bolland. Higbie pulled even with Kristyak with 10 laps to go and the twosome raced side-by-side on laps 20-22, but Kristyak continued to hold on.
Another New York racer was on the prowl as Brachmann made his presence known when he cracked the top five on lap 20 then drove under Shingledecker for fourth on lap 23. Kristyak had gotten away from Higbie on lap 23, but Higbie came back to muscle by Kristyak to lead 24 with a good run off the bottom of turn four. Kristyak wasn’t about to go away as he drove hard into turn one and had the momentum off the top side to charge back ahead to lead lap 25.
The race’s final caution waved with 27 laps scored when John Buchanan looped his mount. On the final restart, Brachmann got under Swartzlander to take third. Brachmann, who started 21st, caught up to Higbie and Kristyak. Kristyak though was somehow able to hold off the New York tandem by 0.39 seconds for his 11th career win in the Gallo’s Auto Sales/Mark Thomas Ford/Gold Connection/Gwinn Brothers Construction/Wedge Motorsports/Dave’s Towing/Bristol Disposing-sponsored #00. The victory moved Kristyak past the greats of Dale Johnson, Ron Crash, Swartzlander, and Rougeux on the track’s all-time win list.
Higbie edged Brachmann to earn the $1,200 runner-up take. Swartzlander was fourth with Shingledecker having a great run in fifth after starting 16th. Rex King, Jr. beat his father Rex, Sr. across the finish line to take sixth. Bolland was a disappointing eighth. Rob Curtis came from 22nd to finish ninth as Mark Flick rounded out the top 10. Weller, King, Sr., and Swartzlander won the heat races over the season high 28-car field, while King, Jr. won the B main.
Midwest All Star Sprints
Qualifying – 1. Kasey Kahne (4) 13.193 2. Brad Sweet (Kahne 49) 13.267 3. Dave Blaney (10) 13.327 4. Sam Hafertepe, Jr. (15H) 13.334 5. Rob Chaney (Grove 45) 13.341 6. Dale Blaney (Ti22 Performance 2) 13.348 7. Marty Perovich (17) 13.360 8. Danny Smith (4) 13.417 9. Dan Kuriger (08) 13.483 10. Cody Darrah (Kahne 91) 13.560 11. Mike Lutz (Chappel 8) 13.614 12. Danny Holtgraver (D4) 13.568 13. Jimmy Light (23) 13.638 14. Jared Ridge (12) 13.662 15. Tony Stewart (14) 13.673 16. Kyle Sauder (Jessup 7K) 13.686 17. Adam Kekich (5K) 13.712 18. Andy McKisson (0) 13.720 19. Davey Sammons (747) 13.726 20. Brandon Matus (13) 14.039 21. Lindsay Enscoe (96) 14.203 22. Eric Williams (7) 14.257 23. Brandon Spithaler (22) 14.363 24. A.J. Albrecht (7X) 14.485 25. Brian Steinman (24s) 14.532 26. Brent Matus (33) 14.788 27. Gale Ruth, Jr. (1R) 14.958.
Heat 1 – (8 Laps – Top 5 Transfer)
1. 91-Kasey Kahne 2. 15H-Sam Hafertepe, Jr. 3. 4-Kasey Kahne 4. 7K-Kyle Sauder 5. 17-Marty Perovich 6. 23-Jimmy Light 7. 747-Davey Sammons 8. 7-Eric Williams 9. 24s-Brian Steinman.
Heat 2 – (8 Laps – Top 5 Transfer)
1. 8-Mike Lutz 2. 4-Danny Smith 3. 49-Brad Sweet 4. 12-Jared Ridge 5. 22-Brandon Spithaler 6. 13-Brandon Matus 7. 45-Rob Chaney 8. 33-Brent Matus 9. 5K-Adam Kekich.
Heat 3 – (8 Laps – Top 5 Transfer)
1. 08-Dan Kuriger 2. D4-Danny Holtgraver 3. 10-Dave Blaney 4. 14-Tony Stewart 5. 2-Dale Blaney 6. 0-Andy McKisson 7. 7X-A.J. Albrecht 8. 96-Lindsay Enscoe 9. 1R-Gale Ruth, Jr.
Dash – (6 Laps)
1. 15H-Sam Hafertepe, Jr. 2. 2-Dale Blaney 3. 10-Dave Blaney 4. 4-Kasey Kahne 5. 49-Brad Sweet 6. 17-Marty Perovich.
B-Main – (12 Laps – Top 5 Transfer)
1. 45-Rob Chaney 2. 747-Davey Sammons 3. 7-Eric Williams 4. 24s-Brian Steinman 5. 13-Brandon Matus 6. 33-Brent Matus 7. 1R-Gale Ruth, Jr. 8. 23-Jimmy Light 9. 0-Andy McKisson 10. 5K-Adam Kekich 11. 7X-A.J. Albrecht 12. 96-Lindsay Enscoe-DNS.
A-Main – O’Reilly Auto Parts (30 Laps, $3,000 to-win) [#]-Starting Position
1. 15H-SAM HAFERTEPE, JR.  2. 4-Danny Smith  3. 10-Dave Blaney  4. 49-Brad Sweet  5. 2-Dale Blaney  6. 8-Mike Lutz  7. 17-Marty Perovich  8. D4-Danny Holtgraver  9. 14-Tony Stewart  10. 08-Dan Kuriger  11. 12-Jared Ridge  12. 4-Kasey Kahne  13. 45-Rob Chaney  14. Eric Williams  15. 7K-Kyle Sauder  16. 24s-Brian Steinman  17. 13-Brandon Matus  18. 91-Cody Darrah  19. 22-Brandon Spithaler  20. 747-Davey Sammons 
Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds (30 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. ROB KRISTYAK (00) 2. Jerry Higbie, Jr. (Rougeux 20D) 3. Chad Brachmann (3) 4. Brian Swartzlander (83) 5. Jeremiah Shingledecker (83) 6. Rex King, Jr. (165) 7. Rex King (65) 8. Kevin Bolland (777) 9. Rob Curtis (88R) 10. Mark Flick (Baker 2) 11. Jeff Schaffer (4) 12. Eric Gabany (3E) 13. Erik Martin (29E) 14. Dean Pearson (8J) 15. Carl Murdick (6) 16. Rod Jones (820) 17. Mike Turner (96) 18. Chris Haines (35H) 19. John Buchanan (44) 20. Scott Rodgers (55) 21. Lonny Riggs (Black 58) 22. Brad Rapp (11R) 23. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 24. Jim Rasey (32) DNQ: Justin Rasey (32X), Kevin Green (74), Skip Moore (17M), Rick Ryder (Snider 189).
Sharon will return to action this Saturday (July 16) for “Steel Valley Thunder” featuring the Governor Insurance Agency Big-Block Modifieds, Barris Supply FASTRAK Late Models, Ainsley 500 Heating & Cooling E-Mods, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, and the Presidential Lawn Care Mini Stocks. It’s Kids Gold Rush Night. Race time is 7 p.m. The rain date is Sunday.
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 www.twitter.com/sharonspdwy.