From Mike Leone
BATAVIA, N.Y. (September 14, 2019) — The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sprint Car Series powered by Pace Performance headed to Genesee Speedway on Saturday for their first appearance of the season. It was night one of the third annual “Topless Nationals”, which the RUSH Sprints have now been part of each of the last two years. Night two of the three-night “Empire State Classic” attracted 17 cars, which was a record for the state of New York for the second-year division.
Chad Ruhlman got by rookie Matt Sherlock III on the opening lap then withstood a side-by-side early race battle from fourth starting Brandon Blackshear before pulling away for the 20-lap feature win. The $800 victory was Ruhlman’s ninth of the season in Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series competition. Ruhlman is now three-for-three in the “Topless Nationals” events at Genesee and will look for the sweep for the second straight year on Sunday night.
“It turned out real racey tonight- hats off to the track crew,” acknowledged the 42-year-old Bemus Point, NY native who now calls Erie, Pa. home. “This is a fun place. It was a great night and this really helped out our championship efforts. We turn in our best 12 finishes and this is win number nine so I’d like to add a few more before the year is over. Hopefully we can do it again tomorrow. I couldn’t do this without Shawn and Jenny (Nielson), my girlfriend Jenn, Kevin’s mom Katrina for putting up with all the travel we do, and my daughter Katelyn out here pushing us around.”
Brad Blackshear spun on the bottom of turn one on the opening lap to bring out the only caution of the not only the feature, but the only caution in two nights of the “Empire State Classic” including warm-ups, four heat races, and two 20-lap features! Once racing got going, Brad’s brother Brandon made a nice move to go from fourth to second on the first lap. Blackshear had a good run on the bottom as he pulled even with Ruhlman, who was running the top. The two ran side-by-side for two laps before Ruhlman broke free on lap four.
Sixth starting Jeremy Weaver gained two spots on the first circuit then joined the battle for second as he got by Kevin Ruhlman for third on lap four. Weaver hounded Blackshear lap after lap before finally getting under and by the older Blackshear brother down the backstretch and entering turn three on lap 11. Two laps later, Kevin Ruhlman made the pass of Blackshear for third.
Once Weaver got clear of Blackshear, he was able to cut into Chad Ruhlman’s lead, but without any cautions he’d run out of laps as Ruhlman’s Callahan Water Hydraulics/Wicked Wrenches/Kelly Frederes Auto Repair/Close Racing Supply/North Star Unlimited/5th St. Sunoco/Jen’s Pink Zebra/Ruhlman Race Cars/Premier Communications-sponsored #87R took his 24th career RUSH Sprint victory by 2.226 seconds.
Weaver takes over the “Empire State Classic” points lead presented by CNC Specialties, Intense Fab & Design, and Pace Performance. Weaver has now finished second four time this season as he continues to be close at his first career Sprint win. Chad’s son Kevin Ruhlman, who won the opening heat race, was third for the third time this season matching his career best Sprint finish.
Blackshear held off a charging Steve Pedley and Zach Morrow for fourth. Pedley, who started eighth, recorded his first top five of the season as he entered the night with four seventh place finishes. Heat two winner, Shawn Smith, finished seventh. Pole-sitter Sherlock dropped to eighth at the finish. Friday night’s Ransomville winner, Brian Woodhall, advanced from 12th to ninth as Andy Feil completed the top 10.
The “Empire State Classic” will wrap up on Sunday with night three right back at Genesee. Racing is set for 4 p.m. Next weekend will be a doubleheader of Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series action with Friday night (September 20) at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio followed by Saturday night at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway in Imperial, Pa.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sprint Cars Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series Race #16 (20 laps, $800 to-win): 1. CHAD RUHLMAN (87R) 2. Jeremy Weaver (Hull 41) 3. Kevin Ruhlman (23) 4. Brandon Blackshear (10) 5. Steve Pedley (21) 6. Zach Morrow (27) 7. Shawn Smith (36) 8. Matt Sherlock III (55) 9. Brian Woodhall (8B) 10. Andy Feil (Mahoney/Eckart 9J) 11. Arnie Kent (18) 12. Brad Church (40) 13. Dave Hawkins (27) 14. Tyler Powell (35) 15. Nolan Groves (25) 16. Brian Hartzell (69) 17. Brad Blackshear (19).