By Mike Leone
(Hartford, OH)…Sharon Speedway brought down the curtain on the 92nd anniversary racing season on Saturday with night two of the annual “Apple Festival Nationals”. A total of 172 cars competed over the two nights amongst the seven divisions. Capturing victories on Saturday night and celebrating in the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply victory lane were Dave Blaney-Hovis Auto & Truck Supply “410” Sprint Cars, Joe Martin-RUSH Late Model Flynn’s Tire/Born2Run Lubricants Touring Series presented by Zarin Truck & Auto, Will Thomas III-Whelen Econo Mods presented by BACA, Chris McGuire-Gibson Insurance Agency Pro Stocks for the Penn-Ohio Series, and Chas Wolbert-HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modified Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Touring Series. The 92nd anniversary season ended with eight straight events being completed.
After thrilling the hometown crowd on May 22 beating the World of Outlaws for the first time in nearly 24 years, Dave Blaney returned to victory lane on Saturday night winning the $3,000 “410” Sprint Car finale to join Carl Bowser as the only repeat winners in 2021. Blaney started eighth and made the winning pass on Adam Kekich, who won his first career Sharon race on July 24, on lap 12 and kept May 15 winner George Hobaugh at bay in the closing laps for his 34th career Sharon “410” win.
“This feels great to win here,” acknowledged the 58-year-old Hartford, Ohio native who now calls Concord, North Carolina home. “I love coming up here and racing. This falls on September 11; that’s big for everyone. It’s great to see a great crowd on this day; I want to thank everyone for coming out and hope you had a good time. For awhile I thought I was pretty equal to them (Bowser and Kekich). I was trying to get some momentum and runs going to be able to do something with them and was able to slip by. Ryan Blaney Foundation is on this thing. It’s kind of a throwback to a 60s car paint job of my dad’s so that’s pretty cool with Ryan being on it. I have Rick Bates and Doug Kekich with me tonight so it’s a good night.”
Kekich jumped into the early lead in the 30-lap feature over Darin Gallagher, Bob Felmlee, Bowser, and Hobaugh. Bowser passed Felmlee for third on lap two. Blaney was halfway to the front in three laps when he dropped Felmlee back to fifth. Gallagher got into the fence on lap four allowing Bowser and Blaney to move into second and third respectively. By lap seven, the top three of Kekich, Bowser, and Blaney distanced themselves from the field. Blaney then put a big slider on Bowser in turns three and four on lap nine for second. Three laps later, Blaney made a similar move in turn four for the winning pass.
Kekich and Bowser went at it for second running side-by-side on lap 14 with Bowser making the pass. Bowser began to close in on Blaney on lap 17, while Hobaugh passed Kekich for third. Bowser stayed in Blaney’s tracks in traffic until a caution for a Steve Bright spin with 23 laps completed. Under caution, Bowser had a tire go down and went pit side handing second to Hobaugh.
Hobaugh stayed within striking distance over the final seven laps, but was unable to make a serious bid at the lead as Blaney’s #10 took the checkered flag first for his 37th overall win at Sharon by 0.570 seconds. Hobaugh was second after starting sixth. Kekich and 10th starting Caleb Griffith went at it over the final seven laps trading third back and forth with Kekich getting the spot for good on lap 25. Griffith was fourth, while Gallagher dropped to fifth. Dan Kuriger went 11th to sixth as Jack Sodeman, Jr., 23rd starting Brandon Spithaler, Felmlee, and Bowser completed the top 10. Blaney set fast time overall against the 26-car field in qualifying with a lap of 14.491. Heat winners were Kekich, Felmlee, and Hobaugh.
Two weeks after losing a heartbreaker on the final lap to hall of famer Chub Frank, Joe Martin turned the tables and passed three-time RUSH Late Model Touring Series Champion Jeremy Wonderling with one lap to go and went on to win the “Cider Jug 40” presented by Zarin Truck & Auto along with an anonymous donor in support of Autism Awareness. The $4,000 victory ended a more than seven-year winless drought on the Tour for Martin, whose last and only victory came on August 30, 2014 at McKean County Raceway. Martin became the sixth different Touring Series winner of 2021.
“I shouldn’t be this emotional; it’s a crate race but it’s hard to win these races,” expressed the 36-year-old Punxsutawney, Pa. standout. “I feel like we’ve been good all year, but can’t win these races; look at these winners Jeremy (Wonderling), Kyle (Hardy), Chub (Frank), Michael Norris and Mark Whitener. It means so much to me to give all these guys what they deserve. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I thought I gave it away for sure. With the restarts at the end, it’s hard to beat these guys. My brother moved me down and I slowed down because I thought it was rubbered up. I got in traffic and moved up to see what I could do and it was just as good; it wasn’t rubbered up. I had to pick the bottom on the restart and we run a different gear than everyone else, and I almost lost it. I knew I could run it in wide open like I did all weekend once he (Wonderling) got clear of me, and that’s what I did. He squeezed me down the backstretch, but I wasn’t lifting; I was either going to wreck or win it.”
After a side-by-side battle for the lead on the opening lap of the 40-lap feature, Martin took control over Logan Zarin with Wonderling, Will Thomas III and Kyle Hardy in tow. A great battle for third developed on lap five as Wonderling was trying to fend off Thomas and Hardy. The trio went three-wide with Thomas taking the spot, while Martin and Zarin began to distance themselves from the field.
While Thomas took control of third, Wonderling and Hardy continued their battle for fourth. Hardy nosed ahead on lap seven, but Wonderling regained the spot one lap later. Hardy didn’t back down and put a big slider on Wonderling in turns three and four on lap 10 to take the spot. Back up front, Zarin began to close in on Martin before Martin caught traffic on lap 13. Three laps later, Zarin caught the leader, while Thomas also closed the margin. Hardy was making ground on Thomas as well and it appeared he was about to rip around Thomas for third, but got hung up in traffic on lap 19 allowing Wonderling to make the pass once again.
After 26 caution-free laps, Dan Lepro wasn’t able to clear the track necessitating the caution. When racing resumed, Zarin didn’t have a good restart, which allowed Wonderling to pass both Thomas and Zarin for runner-up. Zarin’s struggles also shuffled Thomas out of the top five and moved eighth starting Russ King into fourth past Hardy. King and Hardy really went at it in the ensuing laps. Hardy worked on King for many laps before finally getting under King in turn three on lap 37; contact was made between the two, which resulted in a flat tire for King. King’s unsportsmanlike actions under caution resulted in a black flag from the event.
When racing resumed on lap 38, Wonderling was able to make the outside work taking the lead away from Martin. While everyone was having flashbacks of two weeks ago when Martin lost the race on the final lap, Martin wasn’t about to let another race slip away. This time Martin charged back around Wonderling one lap later and fended off Wonderling on the final lap to win by 0.430 seconds in the Tom Snyder-owned, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/T&D Performance/Tuff Nuts/Weather Capital Sales/Kevin Martin Trucking-sponsored #10s. The victory was Martin’s sixth of his career at Sharon.
“When I raced before I didn’t this kind of stuff but Tommy (Snyder) has the best of the best,” explained Martin. “To know what I used to race against with my own stuff to what I got now; we got a piece of equipment. It’s all credit to him. He puts in a lot of time and effort. This is dead serious stuff these two guys I’m racing with (Wonderling and Hardy). It takes a lot of work. The more we race, the better we get. I want to thank the fans. I’m disappointed with the car count, but you fans got to see another good race. The Sprints put on a good show too. The track is awesome. Sharon Speedway from top-to-bottom has their stuff together and the safety crew is second to none. We appreciate the track prep, the safety crew everything they do, Vicki (Emig) and Mike (Leone) giving us big money to race for and getting these good guys to race with us- it’s a lot of fun.”
After three straight finishes of seventh or worse on the Tour, Wonderling returned to the podium for the sixth time this season. His runner-up finish was worth $2,000. Hardy was able to pass Zarin in the final laps to finish third for the second straight race at Sharon and his 12th podium finish in 13 Tour races this season. Zarin’s fourth place was easily his best finish Tour finish of the season. Matt Latta went ninth to fifth for his first top five Tour finish of the season.
Thomas dropped to sixth at the finish. After a career best Tour finish of fifth two weeks ago at Sharon, Cory Sines had another strong effort in seventh after starting 10th. Daryl Charlier and Bud Watson finished eighth and ninth. Michael Duritsky, Jr. earned the $100 Precise Racing Products “Hard Charger” gift card for his run from 17th to 10th. On Friday night, Wonderling earned his third $100 FK Rod Ends fast time award with a lap of 17.996. Wonderling and Martin added $25 for winning FK Rod Ends heat races. Martin received a $100 Sunoco gift card for winning the dash.
Will Thomas III capped off a tremendous first season driving an Econo Mod winning his fifth feature in seven tries. Thomas took the lead on a restart on lap 17 from Ty Rhoades and went on to win the richest race in the 12-year history of the division. The ninth starting Thomas earned $2,500 in the 25-lap Whelen feature presented by Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) along with an eight-foot trophy. The event was coordinated with additional sponsorship from the Mitchell Wright Family, Young’s Family Trucking, Spencer’s Farm, and Spencer Motorsports.
“I can’t thank all of the BACA guys enough for stepping up and the Wright Family for doing this,” stated the 45-year-old Sharpsville, Pa. driver. “The Econo Mod class here is really, really tough, but we worked way harder on this car than we did the Late Model. I thought we had a good run in that going, but had a late race jingle on a restart. I feel very blessed to win this. I want to thank everyone for supporting Apple Fest this weekend; everyone knows I love it. Fortunately we got a late race restart alongside Ty (Rhoades). He’s a great driver and I knew he’d run me clean. Just fortunate enough to be here.”
Keith Felicetty led the first three laps before Rhoades took over on lap four. Thomas then moved into second past Felicetty following a restart on lap 15. A multi-car accident stopped action with 16 laps completed. When racing resumed on lap 17, Rhoades and Thomas raced side-by-side with Thomas making the winning pass off the outside of turn four. Thomas went on for his 24th career Sharon win by 2.266 seconds in the Hallman Originals/Colonial Metal Products/Colonial Slitting Industries/Motorstate Distributing/955 Automotive-sponsored #9.
Rhoades, who won the $1,000 UMP Mod feature on July 31 in his own #12R, earned $1,000 in Tom Sok’s #28 for second on Saturday night. Dustin DeMattia was third over Andy Buckley and Jeremy Double. Dennis Lunger, Jr., who won the opener on April 24, returned and ended the season going 15th to sixth. Mitchell Wright dropped to seventh over Jordan Simmons. Gary Olson earned the $100 hard charger by going 23rd to ninth. Felicetty dropped to 10th. Winning the heats on Friday night over the 28-car field were Double, Wright, and Felicetty. Felicetty then won the $100 dash to earn the feature pole. Gary Robinson won the last chance B main.
On July 24, Chris McGuire ended a more than two-year winless drought with his first victory since June 18, 2019. On Saturday night, the 2018 Gibson Insurance Agency Pro Stock track champion brought the curtain down on the 2021 season winning for the third time in the final five shows! McGuire’s 25-lap feature win was worth $2,000 with the Penn-Ohio Series.
“This car has been really good this year,” acknowledged the 30-year-old Erie, Pa. racer. “Hats off to Dave (Willoughby) and his crew. This track is the best in the tri-state area. Other tracks need to take note of this; they have it figured out. I knew I was good, but I got a little nervous when I felt the deck bar get ripped out a little bit. I slowed it down a bit, got my momentum back, and tried to be as smooth as I could up top. I gambled on tires a little bit and they fired back off after a lap or so and it was smooth sailing. Winning anything at Sharon is huge for me. This is such a historical place.”
Chris Schneider, who won the $10,000 “Steel Valley Pro Stock Nationals” and $1,000 special earlier this season, jumped to the early lead in search of his third big win; however, his lead was short-lived as McGuire took over on lap three. Fifth starting Coleton Longwell, who won his first career race on July 31, grabbed second from Schneider on lap five and took the lead from McGuire one lap later on a restart.
After a pair of cautions with seven laps completed, Longwell and McGuire ran side-by-side for the lead on laps 8-10 with Longwell on the bottom and McGuire on the top. McGuire nosed ahead on lap eight and would survive two more cautions and pulled away late to score his sixth career win by 3.488 in his Welders Supply/Tobber Racing/Ed’s Drywall-sponsored #63. Longwell was second to McGuire for the second straight race.
Jason Johns was third as Schneider dropped to fourth after leading the first two laps. Steve D’Apolito was fifth after starting 12th. Completing the top 10 were Jason Fosnaught, Bobby Whitling, Hunter Exley, Tyler Wyant, and Mike T. Miller. Johns, Schneider, McGuire, and Paul Davis won Friday night’s heat races over the 37-car field. Schneider picked up $250 from Razor Sharp Logistics for winning the dash. Last chance B mains went to Bruce Hartzfeld and Scott Stiffler.
Track champion Chas Wolbert won his second consecutive RUSH Sportsman Modified Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Touring Series event at the Hartford, Ohio track. The 2021 $3,500 Hovis Weekly Series Champion led all 25 laps of the feature. Wolbert’s fifth Sharon win of the season was worth $800 and backed up his $600 Tour win on July 31 during “Manufacturers Night”. Wolbert upped his all-time leading Tour win total to seven.
“This is awesome,” expressed the 27-year-old Warren, Ohio driver. “We had some great runs this year. Thank you to RUSH and Sharon Speedway for allowing us to race here. Dave Willoughby and staff gives us a great facility and track surface to run on every week. We have great competition. Everyone works on their stuff and gets it to the front the best they can. I want to thank the fans for sticking it out to watch us. I’m really pushing to get a big-block for next year. I have everything I need except a motor, which is the main thing I need. We’ll be putting a for sale sign on this soon so if I get rid of this we’ll hopefully be making the move. You never know, Rob Kristyak may let me drive his car sometimes (jokingly)!”
Wolbert used the outside to pass his good friend J.C. Boyer at the start of the feature for the early lead, while Jacob Wolfe went sixth to third. After being light on Friday night, Caden Petry raced from ninth to win the last chance B main, but would bring out the first caution with front end damage with three laps completed.
When racing resumed on lap four, eighth starting Rob Kristyak was ripping the fence and moved into the top five past Clayton Deems. The event’s second and final caution was displayed for rookie Doug Rutana with five laps scored. The final 20 laps went non-stop. Back under green, Wolfe was all over Boyer in the race for second, while Kristyak drove around Tatgenhorst for fourth on lap nine.
Up front, Wolbert caught lapped traffic on lap 13 and made a three-wide move on Amelia Clay and Dave Price. As Wolfe and Boyer continued to battle, Boyer made contact with an infield tire on lap 21 and did a 360 spin, which allowed Kristyak to blow by both Boyer and Wolfe on the outside for second. With only four laps to go, the margin for Kristyak to run down Wolbert was insurmountable as Wolbert’s Alcon Mechanical/Dunkin Donuts of Warren, OH/C.T. Wolbert Trucking/Walters Building Co./Ohio Intra Express/Russ King Racing/BCT Construction-sponsored #c3 took the checkered flag first by 4.665 seconds. It was Wolbert’s milestone 20th career Sharon win and all-time leading 45th of his career in RUSH.
Kristyak earned $500 for a season best second place. Wolfe, who was leading the Tour points, crossed the finish line in third, but was disqualified in post-race tech for an ignition violation. That moved Boyer to third for his best career Tour finish. Tatgenhorst was fourth and moved into the Tour points lead. Clayton Deems was fifth over Kole Holden. Josh Deems went 10th to seventh. Jordan Ehrenberg dropped to eighth. Brandon Ritchey was ninth, which was good enough to secure the $1,000 Wedge Motorsports “Route 7 Rumble” Series championship. Cory Sines, who finished seventh in the RUSH Late Model feature, ran his first ever Modified race and finished 10th. On Friday night, Boyer, Ehrenberg, and Holden won the heat races over the 27-car field.
Coming up next Saturday (September 18) will be the final event of 2021 featuring the Renegade Monster Truck Tour with Monster Trucks, Mini Monster Trucks, and Renegade Road Rippers. In addition, there will be a Monster Ride Truck along with Track Party & Kids Fun Zone. For more information, check out www.MonstersATsharon.com
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply “410” Sprint Cars (30 laps, $3,000 to-win): 1. DAVE BLANEY (10) 2. George Hobaugh (40) 3. Adam Kekich (5K) 4. Caleb Griffith (Ward 33W) 5. Darin Gallagher (Peluso 12) 6. Dan Kuriger (08) 7. Jack Sodeman, Jr. (23Jr) 8. Brandon Spithaler (22) 9. Bob Felmlee (6) 10. Carl Bowser (11) 11. Dylan Norris (Gobrecht 44) 12. Dan Shetler (7K) 13. R.J. Jacobs (18J) 14. David Kalb, Jr. (11J) 15. Russ Sansosti (23s) 16. Jimmy Morris (16) 17. Bryan Salisbury (21) 18. Bob Lime (901) 19. Eric L. Williams (4w) 20. Brandon Matus (13) 21. Steve Bright (13B) 22. Cameron Nastasi (99) 23. Brent Matus (33). DNS: Michael Lutz (86), Frankie Nervo (21N), Darren Pifer (23).