Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cloverleaf Speedway Memories

Early '60s action at Cloverleaf Speedway.
Cleveland, OH was home to a great paved, quarter-mile track from 1960-1990.  Friday, July 20 is the annual Cloverleaf Speedway Reunion and Hall of Fame.  Here are some memories.......
The legendary Tony DeLillo.  Being inducted into this year's Cloverleaf Speedway Hall of Fame.

This is probably my favorite photo of Jack Chambers.  Always brings a smile to my face.  Being inducted into this year's Cloverleaf Speedway Hall of Fame


Scott Baker leads Walt Ellis (an inductee in this year's Hall of Fame), around turns three and four on the 'Leaf's tricky quarter mile in the early '80s.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cloverleaf Speedway Hall Of Fame and Reunion

Cloverleaf Speedway, the famed quarter-mile  Cleveland paved oval, will be having their annual reunion and Hall Of Fame this Friday evening, July 20.

Hundreds of drivers, officials, and fans have fond memories of the track, which was in operation from 1960-1990.  A Sunday night mainstay, Cloverleaf also raced on Wednesday nights for several years.

Cloverleaf operated in what I consider The Golden Age of local stock car racing.  Drivers raced two, three or more times a week.  Dirt or asphalt.  Some would run the quarter-mile dirt at Canfield on Saturday, then Cloverleaf's paved quarter on Sunday.  Others ran the big paved half-mile of Heidelberg on Saturday, then go to the tight quarter-mile at Cloverleaf.

"The Leaf" was also part of the three track partnership of Cloverleaf-Lorain-Painesville, of which it was the crown jewel.  It's peak seemed to be in the ORA (Ohio Racing Association) days, with the watchful eyes of Shaver-Eisenhart-Giurukis.  The ORA (an organization, idea, ruling body, that today's paved tracks in Ohio and W. PA could sorely use now), expanded to several Ohio paved tracks in the mid 70s, but Cloverleaf seemed its anchor.

I have many memories of the track, and I would say all of them are good.  The great racing, huge crowds, modern facilities, great food.  One night - I believe in '75 - Sharon Speedway rained out early, and it seemed everyone headed to Cloverleaf to watch.  The stands were full of 'Leaf and Sharon fans, packed to the max.

Relive memories, look at photos and memorabilia, visit with old friends - this Friday evening at the Good Old Daze Tavern, 6001 State Rd., Parma, OH from 5-11 pm.  It is across the street from Shymski's Automotive, where free hot dogs, pizza, and soft drinks will be available. 

This year's inductees into the Hall Of Fame are an impressive group, many bringing bittersweet memories. 

Honored this year are:  Jim Bickerstaff, Jack Chambers, Gene Clark, Tony DeLillo, Walt Ellis, Bobby Giachetti, Nick Giurukis, Wimpy May, and Lew Zane.

Can anyone ever forget the words, "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Cloverleaf Speedway!  I'm Bobby Conklin!" ?!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

FASTRAK NE Touring Speedweek

FASTRAK NE Touring Series just completed a very succesful "Cross The Borders" Speedweek in Ohio and Pennsylvania, that was dubbed by some as the "Hotter Than Hell" Speedweek, as temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s for four of the five straight days of racing.  The relentless heat caused some concern with overheating, but still could not deter the successful series, as record car counts were seen at Expo (Wed.), McKean (Thur.) and Eriez (Sun).  Only on Sunday did temperatures become comfortable for the show at Eriez.  Raceway 7 and Pittsburgh Motor Speedway rounded out the participating tracks for the Speedweek on Friday and Saturday, respectiviely. 

An incredible 89 Late Models participated at some point in the marathon, that saw some intense racing on a variety of track sizes.  Current Touring point leader, Max Blair picked up two of the feature wins, at McKean and Raceway 7.  Current Sharon point leader, Will Thomas took the checkered flag at Expo's huge track for his first Touring win, with two more drivers also claiming their first Touring victories - Chad Ruhlman at Pittsburgh and Matt Latta at Eriez. 

Claiming the overall Speedweek Point title was Max Blair, barely edging Will Thomas in a five day point race that showed how close and compeitive this series is. 

FASTRAK NE Touring "Cross The Borders" Speedweek Points:
  1. Max Blair 155
  2. Will Thomas 152
  3. Dan Angelicchio 145
  4. Mike Pegher Jr. 142
  5. Chad Ruhlman 138
  6. Matt Latta 138
  7. Chad Wright 137
  8. Ryan Montgomery 133
  9. John Over 110
  10. Shane Weaver 94
FASTRAK NE Touring Season Points:
  1. Max Blair 443
  2. Mike Pegher Jr. 387
  3. Chad Ruhlman 384
  4. Ryan Montgomery 370
  5. Butch Lambert 325
  6. Dan Angelicchio 325
  7. John Over 322
  8. Will Thomas 295
  9. Chad Wright 252
  10. Joe Martin 237
  11. Shane Weaver 235
  12. Matt Latta 231
FASTRAK NE Touring returns to Mercer Raceway Park for the first time in two years this Saturday, July 14.  Mercer was a mainstay of FASTRAK, competing 41 times at the track.  The drivers have been wanting to come back, and by working together, FASTRAK NE co-directors Vicki Emig and Mike Leone; Sharon Speedway; and Mercer owner Bill Altman and Mercer General Manager Frank Benic; an agreement was reached to bring the Touring Series back "home".  Should be a great show.

FASTRAK NE Touring on the four-wide parade lap at the mammoth Expo Speedway in Warren, OH for stop #1 of the "Cross The Borders" Speedweek

Expo FASTRAK NE winner Will Thomas (center), with runner-up Matt Long to the right and third pace finisher Butch Lambert to the left.

Matt Long made the trek from Concord, NC to compete in the FASTRAK NE Speedweek.  Here he is in the tech line at Raceway 7, Conneaut, OH.

Raceway 7 FASTRAK NE Touring winner Max Blair's #111 in victory lane following his win, joined by runner-up Dan Angelicchio's #14, during Speedweek.

Start of the FASTRAK NE Touring feature at Eriez Speedway, Erie, PA, the final leg of the "Cross The Borders" Speedweek.

Matt Latta made his first FASTRAK NE Touring win a big won, claiming the $2000 prize money for the 30 lap Eriez Speedway feature on the tight track. 

Claiming the overall FASTRAK NE Speedweek point Title was Max Blair.

Main Event / Midvale Speedway

The Main Event Racing Series made their annual stop at Midvale Speedway, Tuesday,
July 3rd.  It was a memorable night all around.

First, greeting the Main Event racers and fans is a facility that continues major improvements every year since Randy Smith has assumed ownership of the one-third mile speedplant.  It is truly an amazing sight, seeing what has transpired at Midvale the last few years.  Cement and asphalt cover the pits, new cement sidewalks and steps, and bleachers are reaching out everywhere.  And if that isn't enough, on the drawing boards within two years, are more new bleachers to replace those on the front stretch, and new restrooms and concessions.  The Smith family is truly making Midvale one of the nicest tracks anywhere.

A pit area covered in cement and asphalt greet the Main Event Outlaw Super Late Models at Midvale

Wide expanses of asphalt and cement make the Midvale Speedway pit area first rate

Another concourse of the Midvale Speedway pits

It was a beautiful sunny day Tuesday, July 3, and it appeared to be a record crowd on on for the Midvale program, headed up by the 100 lap Main Event feature for $2500 to win. 
A packed crowd at Midvale for the Main Event Series Outlaw Super Late Models

Twenty-Four Outlaw Super Late Models signed into the pits, with multi-time main Event Champion, Gary Whipkey setting fast time in the Taylor Racing Cadillac.  When all was said and done though, it was a happy homecoming for Midvale favorite, Rich Rohrer, as he powered his Esber Beverage/Miller Lite/Port City Racecars #7 to a convinging win, from his eighth starting slot.  Point leader Bud Perry claimed second, but the the drive of the night was third place finisher Jimmy Carter moving up from 14th starting slot.  
Rich Rohrer, following his big 100 lap victory at Midvale Speedway in the Main Event Racing Seri:es 100 lapper
Main Event Racing Series Point Standing: 
  1. Bud Perry 971
  2. Jack Varney Jr. 918
  3. Harold Fair jr. 830
  4. Scott Drake 821
  5. Marcus Malcuit 815
  6. Nick Grodi 798
  7. John Flynn 760
  8. Justin Schroeder 628
  9. Jeremy Dennis 609
  10. Donnie Hill 596 
Midvale Speedway Late Model Point Standings:
  1. Rick Sibila 744
  2. Bryant Smith 705
  3. Bubba Smith 692
  4. Jonathan Reitter 652
  5. Ron Jaberg, Jr. 643 
Up next on the Main Event calendar in Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run, MI, this Friday, July 13 for a 100 lap test.  The MERS returns to Sandusky Speedway Saturday, July 21 for 75 laps/$2000 to win, then takes a trip to Shadybowl Speedway Saturday, Aug. 4 for another 75 lap/$2000 to win run.  

At Midvale Speedway, Christmas in July is set for this Saturday, July 14 with the weekly program of Late Models, Modifieds, Pure Stocks and Compacts.  July 21 sees Trucks added to the show.  On Saturday, July 28, 50 lap features are on tap for the Late Models and Modifieds.  If you haven't been to Midvale in a few years, you won't recognize the place. You need to check it out. 
Midvale Modified racer, Doug Meyer, sports a retro Tony Diano paint scheme
Main Event Outlaw Super Late Models lining up on the front stretch at Midvale Speedway

Monday, July 2, 2012

Main Event Racing Series to Midvale

The Main Event Racing Series sends its Outlaw Super Late Models to Midvale Speedway this week, on Tuesday, July 3 for a big 100 lap feature race.  A large field of racers are expected at the first class facility for the $2,500 to win test.  Every year more improvements are evident at the Randy Smith owned one third mile speedplant, and this year is no exception, with a slightly wider frontstretch, new cememt lane pit access from the grandstands along turn four, and new pit-side bleachers, being just some of this year's additions. 

The thunderous, low slung Outlaw Super Late Models should put on quite a show at the track, as the 2012 season looks to be one of the best for MERS of recent years.  So far, in four races, there have been four different winners.  Most recent to visit victory lane was Don Harvey, Jr., who took the win at tricky Barberton Raceway Park.  BRP is now Harvey's weekly home stomping grounds, but it was still a hard fought win, with Bud Perry, Jimmy Carter and Gary Whipkey all leading before Harvey took the top spot on lap 89 of the 100 lap race, from the brake-weary Taylor Racing #39 wheeled by Whipkey.  Following Harvey at the finish were Tim Ice in the Francis Engineering #33, Marcus Malcuit, Scott Drake and defending MERS Champion, Bud Perry.
Don Harvey, Jr., Main Event winner at Barberton Raceway Park
With birthday parties, trips to Aruba and possibly a fear of the Barberton track keeping some competitors away from the tight little quarter mile, the Main Event Racing Series Point Standings got an all-new look following Barberton.  The top ten:
  1. Bud Perry 777
  2. Jack Varney, Jr. 772
  3. Marcus Malcuit 685
  4. Nick Grodi 658
  5. Scott Drake 656
  6. Harold Fair, Jr. 641
  7. John Flynn 622
  8. Shawn Stroble 497
  9. Donnie Hill 471
  10. Justin Schroeder 446
Marcus Malcuit, second from right, discussing race set-up at Barberton Raceway Park with his crew prior to the 100 lap Main Event Racing Series feature

Jack Varney, Jr., leans against his #116 Outlaw Super Late Model, pondering his first trip to the unique track.  Varney finished sixth, for a good outing on the unforgiving track.  Varney is currently second to Bud Perry in the MERS point standings.

Also making his first appearance at Barberton was Scott Drake.  Drake was very impressive, starting the century grind in eleventh slot, and moving up and around the tight track to finish fourth, in his #81 Cadillac Outlaw Super Late Model.  Drake now finds himself fifth in the point standings.

FASTRAK NE Speedweek

The FASTRAK NE Touring Series is gearing up for it's busiest week of the season.  It's "Cross The Border" Speedweek gets underway on Wednesday, July 4, and continues daily through Sunday, July 8.  A $3,000 point fund is set for the five night test.

The marathon gets underway at Expo Speedway on July 4, with a $2,000 to win feature for the mammoth half mile track.  Expo has a long and colorful history, but now only races twice during the season, during the Trumbull County Fair.  Fair admission gets you into the grandstand race show, and on July 4, admission is only $4.00.  Not bad for the impressive FASTRAK NE Touring Series. 

On Thursday, the tour moves to McKean County Speedway in East Smithport, PA, the first of three $1,200 to win affairs.  Friday, the FASTRAK NE Touring Series makes it's only stop of the season at Raceway 7 in Conneaut, OH before moving to the big half mile at Pittsburgh Motor Speedway on Saturday.  

Speedweek concludes with a $2,000 to win feature at Eriez Spedway in Erie, PA on Sunday, July 8.   

After reeling off four straight wins, current point leader Max Blair has been shut out of victory lane the last two events, as Ryan Montgomery won at McKean on 6/16 and Joe Martin took the Gary Knollinger Memorial win at Sharon 6/23.  Points have since been shaken up a bit , and things have tightened up, especially for the top six spots. 

Current FASTRAK NE Touring Points:
  1. Max Blair 288
  2. Chad Ruhlman 246
  3. Mike Pegher, Jr. 245
  4. Ryan Montgomery 237
  5. Butch Lambert 232
  6. John Over 212
  7. Joe Martin 187
  8. Dan Angelicchio 180
  9. Bobby Rohrer 150
  10. Will Thomas 143


Friday, June 29, 2012

Rick Sibila - Blast From The Past

My new hero in Ohio asphalt racing is quickly becoming Rick Sibila.  Sibila (and his brother Bobby for that matter, who runs in Western OH and IN) possesses the race ethic of days gone by: hands-on involvement in car prep, a willingness to attack any track, and not afraid to run two or more tracks a week.  In a day where it is increasingly common - especially in the asphalt ranks - to run only once a week, Sibila is but a handful of racers seemingly running as often as he can. 

And Sibila is having the kind of year that careers are made of, tearing up the tracks at Barberton on Friday, and Midvale on Saturday. He has closed the gap in Barberton points, in third, and has three feature wins at the tricky track that so many are afraid of.  He is currently leading points at the Smith family showcase, Midvale Speedway, and just recorded his second feature win there last Saturday, a day after winning at Barberton. 

Sibila's penchant for good driving and hard work come naturally, a combination of his parents, driving legend dad Bob Sibila and mom Rindi.

Catch his driving talents weekly at Barberton, Midvale, or quite possibly, a track near you.

Sibila's Skulltastic Spoiler

A common sight this year, Rick Sibila and Victory Lane

FASTRAK NE's storybook night

It was kind of like a Hollywood script.  One of FASTRAK NE Touring's most prestigious races is the Gary Knollinger Memorial, this year at Sharon Speedway on June 25, topped by a 30 lap, $2,000 to win feature.  Knollinger was a tough FASTRAK competitor who loved the series and was the epitome of sportsmanship and professionalism.  When Knollinger lost his life the result of a traffic accident in December, 2010, the loss was felt across the racing community. 

Such was Knollinger's impact and persona a force at FASTRAK NE, a special award was instituted to be given at thier annual Award Banquets, the Gary Knollinger Memorial Golden Award.  Recipient of the innaugural award was Joe Martin, a competitor who mirrors Knollinger's qualities.  No matter the situation, Martin's low key demeanor and integrity are front and center.  Martin said the award meant more to him than any other award he had received. 

The 2012 season had been anything but kind to Martin entering Sharon's Memorial race, having only one top five Touring finish out of seven events, an unusual state of affairs for the driver of the black and yellow Wylie Chassis #55.  Things were to change for him on this special night, as he promptly dominated his qualifying heat, then proceeded to a flag to flag win in the feature.  After a side by side duel with Andrew Satterlee in the early going, Martin regrouped and cruised to a convincing win, being met in victory lane by Gary Knollinger's parents, Gary Sr. and Bev. 

As if that wasn't enough, Knollinger's longtime friend and fellow competitor, Joel Prosser showed up at Sharon with a special paint job on his #77.  The right side was emblazened with the look and number - 38K - of his friend Gary's racer.  Prosser led the four-wide salute at the start of the feature.  Prosser's night, however, looked dim as he failed to qualify for the main event.  Things turned around though, as Prosser went on to win the Non-Qualifiers feature, and over some stout competition including a couple of New Jersey front runners.
Prosser met Gary's parents in victory lane, in what was another emotional moment at the track that evening.

The starting line-up for the FASTRAK NE Gary Knolinger Memorial at Sharon Speedway

Joe Martin holding the special Gary Knollinger Memorial trophy following his FASTRAK NE Touring win at Sharon Speedway

Joel Prosser celebrates his Non-Qualifier Feature win in style at the FASTRAK NE Gary Knollinger Memorial at Sharon, as FASTRAK NE/Sharon flagman Todd Beichner looks on approvingly.  Prosser's graphics on his racer pay tribute to his friend's #38K.

Joining Joel Prosser in victory lane following his Gary Knollinger Memorial NQ feature win are Gary's parents, Bev and Gary Sr. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Main Event Rolls Into Barberton Friday, June 15

I'm not afraid to admit it, one of my favorite races is when the Main Event Racing Series comes rolling into Barberton Raceway Park.  The tight confines of the quarter mile track is a challenge to any driver, while also producing some of the best drivers around who honed their skills on the unforgiving paperclip. 

Freshly paved and preened this year, with about 15 extra feet of width on the backstretch, the track looks deserving of it's new NASCAR pedigree.  That 15 feet will be welcome space for many, but the infamous turn four will still be waiting to snatch whatever dreams are in sight. 

I've seen out-of-state drivers seem to be in shock at their first look of the legendary track.  Some have taken to it quickly and with success, while others never seem to get used to the tight turns.  When the Outlaw Super Late Models of the touring Main Event Series comes to the town, magic hits the Magic City track.  The thunderous noise of the low slung chariots cause earthquake-like shuddering in the bleachers.  The lightning fast speeds down the straighaways which come to an almost sudden halt as the tight corners approach, cause the red glow of brake systems often and early. 

Some abhor the place, some choose to ignore it.  But more - the brave, the fearless, the skilled - choose to conquer it.  I embrace it.

This Friday, June 15.  100 laps, $2500 to win.  MERS.  Barberton Raceway Park.

The view most competitors have gotten of Harold Fair, Jr. this year in the Main Event Series.  Winner last week at Shady Bowl, and current point leader.  Barberton awaits.

Consistency has paid off for Jack Varney, Jr. this year in the Main Event Series.  Second last week at Shady Bowl, Varney is also currently second in point standings. 

Current MERS Points

  1. Harold Fair Jr. 591
  2. Jack Varney Jr. 550
  3. Bud Perry 544
  4. Shawn Stroble 497
  5. Donnie Hill 471
  6. Nick Grodi 469
  7. Marcus Malcuit 446
  8. Jeremy Dennis 444
  9. Scott Drake 426
  10. John Stoble 414



Max Blair in his #111 has always been one of the drivers to beat in the FASTRAK NE Touring Series, but this season Blair has been making a shambles of the competition.  Last Friday the 8th, Dog Hollow Speedway was the sixth stop on the 2012 Tour, and it was Blair winning his fifth Tour race of the year, his fourth in a row.  The 22 year old from Centerville, PA has overwhelmed his competition, and it is certainly not a group to be taken lightly.  Despite extremely strong fields this year, with proven winners throughout, Blair is amassing what could become a magical season.  In racing, things can change abruptly, but so far Blair has done no wrong. 

His latest victory was over rival Mike Pegher, Jr., with Andrew Satterlee, Ryan Montgomery and Dan Angelicchio the impressive names following. 

Blair is building his point lead over Butch Lambert and Chad Ruhlman, now 228 to 189, as Lambert and Ruhlman are tied in second.  Rounding out the top five, and tied for fourth, are Pegher and Montgomery with 178 each. 

This weekend the FASTRAK NE Touring Series heads to McKean County Speedway on Saturday, the 16th.  You can be sure, all eyes will be on Blair. 

Andrew Satterlee in post race tech following his third place finish at Dog Hollow in the FASTRAK NE Touring race
Ryan Montgomery also in post race tech.  Montgomery came home fourth at Dog Hollow, and his currently tied with Mike Pegher Jr., for fourth place in FASTRAK NE  Touring points

Max Blair in vicory lane at Dog Hollow, where he picked up his fifth FASTRAK NE Touring race of the season, his fourth in a row


Racing Updates

Some quick notes from around the area....

  • Rick Sibila is having quite the season so far, and last weekend notched his second feature win at Barberton Friday, while finishing in the runner-up spot at Midvale on Saturday where he is the current Late Model point leader. 
  • It was Jeff Taylor following Sibila at Barberton with Mike Mazzagatti and Gary Whipkey in third and fourth.  Late Model point standings show Don Harvey Jr. still leading the way with 559, as Taylor Racing 541, Sibila 442, Mazzagatti 379 and Dave Martin 318 round out the top five.  The Modifieds returned to Barberton's tricky quarter mile for stop number two of the track's Ohio State 500 for the division.  Car count increased last week from their first appearance, but was still low.  Not sure what these guys want, but I thought they wanted to race.  Guess I was wrong.  Twin 35's were held rather than the 100 lapper, and Matt Marlowe won both rounds.  John White and Foster Mackey followed in the first, while it was Tigh Shaffer and Mike Bowers rounding the top three in the second.  Modified points see Mackey leading with 73 over Stephen Klinect 71, Joe Shannon 70 and Roger Miller 67. 
  • At Midvale, it was Jimmy Carter getting the Late Model win over Sibila and two time winner Mark Willison.  Sibila's 450 points lead the Smith brothers, Bryant with 408 and Bubba at 401, while Jonathan Reitter 384 and Ron Jaberg Jr. 379 complete the top five. 
  • Raceway 7 had a large field of FASTRAK NE Late Models on hand last Friday, warranting three heats.  Dave Airgood claimed his second feature win, over Bryan Salisbury, Josh Double, Will Thomas, Mike Mitchell, Matt Latta, Billy Henry and Josh Holtgraver.  Henry is leading points with 278, followed by Latta 251, Mitchell 239, Kyle Zimmerman 238 and Bill Cunningham Sr. 236.  This Friday, the 15th, Raceway 7 has Super Late Models added to the program for a $2000 to win feature. 
  • At Sharon on Saturday, Will Thomas cruised to his third feature of the year at the track, singing the track's praises in victory lane.  Thomas has made the transition from asphalt to dirt look easy, and in quick fashion.  Thomas took the win over Matt Latta, and the two head up the point standings with 236 and 209 respectively.  Bobby Whitling, Jr. 153, Josh Double 144 and George Kowatic 144 round the top five. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Main Event Racing Series

The Main Event Racing Series got their second race into the record books last Saturday at Columbus Motor Speedway, as the Series conitinued it's successful start of the season.  Another full field of competitve Asphalt Outlaw Super Late Models showed up to do battle on the almost circular Columbus third mile.  Last year's Champion, Bud Perry took the win over Harold Fair, Jr., Jack Varney, Jr., Justin Schroeder, Jamie Hunt, Marcus Malcuit and Shawn Stroble. 

The MERS rolls into Shady Bowl Speedway this Saturday, June 9 for another 75 lap, $2000 to win affair.  Then another hang-on-to-your-hat track comes but six days later, as the thundering, rumbling, low slung chariots take on the quarter mile paperclip of Barberton Raceway Park for a 100 lap fest worth $2500 to the winner.  Don't miss it.

Current Point Standings in the Main Event Racing Series:
  1. Justin Schroeder 396
  2. Harold Fair, Jr. 389
  3. Bud Perry 386
  4. Shawn Stroble 353
  5. Jack Varney, Jr. 350
  6. Donnie Hill 326
  7. Marcus Malcuit 296
  8. Nick Grodi 291
  9. Jimmy Carter 285
  10. Jeremy Dennis 266
Bud Perry, Main Event Racing Series winner at Columbus, 6/2/12

Current Main Event Racing Series point leader, Justin Schroeder


The FASTRAK NE Touring Series continues its ambitious schedule this Friday, June 8 at Dog Hollow Speedway.  The Strongstown, PA oval will be making up the Touring stop that was rained out on May 4.  Expect another impressive field of the Crate-engined Late Models that have been putting on some of the best racing around.  Co-directors Vicki Emig and Mike Leone run a tight ship and it shows, with full fields of competitve racers and for the most part, a pit full of satisfied customers. 

The most recent stop for the Touring Series was at Sharon Speedway for the Bill Emig Memorial Wild Card Weekend.  Max Blair continued his winning ways picking up the feature win on the opening night of the double-header, while rains came to the Hartford, OH facitlity the following evening, after the preliminaries were run.  The race will be made up when the Touring Series returns to the first class speedplant on August 18 for a rare double feature night of Touring races, making for a high-stakes night of strategy.

Current FASTRAK NE Touring Series points:
  1. Max Blair 193
  2. Butch Lambert 166
  3. Chad Ruhlman 163
  4. Ryan Montgomery 146
  5. John Over 146
  6. Mike Pegher, Jr. 144
  7. Nolan Dalton 130
  8. Dan Angelicchio 121
  9. Will Thomas 114
  10. Joe Martin 112
Bill Emig Memorial Victory Lane, Night One at Sharon Speedway, 5/26

Barberton Raceway Park

This Friday evening June 8, Barberton Raceway Park presents the second leg of their Ohio State 500 Modified Series.  The opener had a low car count, but the racing was second to none - a thrilling event that went down to the last lap, and had its share of controversy.

Looking to bolster the car count, Barberton management headed by Jake Francis and Jim Ripley, has tweaked the rules a bit, in hopes of appeasing drivers' concerns.  I certainly hope this helps, and that the drivers return the favor by supporting the track.  In today's world, it is rare indeed that you see so much money and improvements put into a track, and it certainly seems in the interest of all, that the efforts are supported.  In the future, I don't think anyone wants to be complaining that there is no place to race. 

Tires approved for the Modified Series  are now Hoosier 970 or 980, or Goodyear Tires from Midvale or Lorain.  Crate engined cars go with 2300 lbs and an 8" spoiler.  There is no entry fee, but all drivers must have a NASCAR license.  Let's hope this brings a serious field to the tricky quarter-mile for the $1000 to win 100 lapper.

One of my favorite races is when the Main Event Series rolls into the tight confines of Barberton.  The MERS appears to be off to a great start this year, and the Barberton stop is just over a week away.  The don't-miss-it event is set for Friday, June 15. 

Current Late Model Point Leader at Barberton Raceway Park is Don Harvey, Jr.


Area Tracks Early Season Point Standings

Checking out some area Late Model Point Standings so far this season....

  1. Rick Sibila 372
  2. Bryant Smith 337
  3. Bubba Smith 334
  4. Rich Dessecker 317
  5. Jonathon Reitter 313
  1. Don Harvery Jr. 490
  2. Taylor Racing 462
  3. Rick Sibila 356
  4. Mike Mazzagatti 303
  5. Dave Martin 258
  1. Will Thomas 191
  2. Matt Latta 166
  3. George Kowatic 144
  4. Bobby Rohrer 143
  5. Chad Wright 134
  1. Billy Henry 225
  2. Kyle Zimmerman 207
  3. Matt Latta 200
  4. Bill Cunningham Sr. 189
  5. Mike Mitchell 180
  1. Brian Short 71
  2. Norm Taylor 67
  3. John Sandquist, Jr. 63
  4. Ryan Kirkpatrick 56
  5. Dustin Hayes 54
  1. George Skora III 197
  2. Sam Fullone 178
  3. Matt Brandt 170
  4. Matt Sever 170
  5. Bob Weber 164
  6. Garry Wiltrout 164
  7. Wade Miniea 164
  8. Bobby Henry 164

Friday, May 25, 2012

John Buzzard Remembered

John, in the Emig Mustang, 1974
In conjunction with the Bill Emig Memorial Weekend at Sharon Speedway will be the John Buzzard Memorial Dashes, and how appropriate that will be. Buzzard raced for Emig in the early and mid '70s, before an accident at Expo Speedway in 1975 took his life. The Emig/Buzzard combo produced some great wins and memories. Behind the famous Emig 6-cylinder Comet, Buzzard was a force to be reckoned with - in the Super Six class at Canfield on the dirt, and pitted against the V-8 Semi-Lates on Sharon's asphalt. In 1973, John finished second in the Canfield Super Six points by a scant five markers to rival Jerry Rydarowicz. And at Sharon, John was named Co-Champion with Jim Lewis - in his V-8 #300 Chevy Semi-Late - as the duo were part of the "David and Goliath" Show.

  Those were special times back in the early '70s. Canfield was my "home" track, I was in high school, and I was just starting to do some writing on the sport. I became friends with John - and his wife Diane and some of their friends. Looking back, I think part of what made it special was that I was a kid making his first adult friendships. John was six years older than me and I was just getting out of high school, and I wasn't a kid anymore.

  When Emig came calling in 1973, things kept rolling along. Not sure how many people know this - FASTRAK NE Co-Director Vicki Emig and I have known each other since she was in grade school and I was in high school. It was a heady time back then, with enough innocence around for everyone. In '73, John's rivalry with Jerry Rydarowicz heated up, and those Saturday nights at Canfield Speedway are legendary. We were all wrapped up in the moment, and I can really say it was magical.

But time marches on. Things change. And 1973 was the final year for Canfield Speedway. And Butler. And Heidelburg. And the changes continued as the Emig/Buzzard team made the move to Late Models in 1974.

  Time was split between dirt and asphalt, eventually settling on an all dirt schedule. My brother and I started following the Ohio asphalt circuit more closely. I was seeing my friend John a little less.

Then came April of 1975. My favorite aunt passed away unexpectedly and John met his fate at Expo, all within a week of each other. Life was looking, suddenly, very different.    
My column in Mid-American Auto Racing News, May 9, 1975

Stock Car Racing - Last Week and This

A few quick updates of some action around area ovals:

  • Barberton, 5/1/8 - Don Harvery, Jr. over Rick Sibila, Gary Whipkey, Doug Sommers.  Fields continue to grow, two heats in Late Models.  Tonight, Kid's Night, under six, free.  Late Model points:  1. Harvey 402, 2. Taylor Racing 384, 3. Sibila 268, 4. Mike Mazzagatti 237.
  • Raceway 7 - Chad Wright made it two Late Model features in a row last Friday, the 18th.  Regular show tonight.  Can Wright do a three-peat?
  • TBRA - Neil Brown over George Skora III, Jeff Amsdell, Bobby Henry and Matt Sever in the series opener at Motordrome.  Next on the schedule, this Saturday, the 26th at the Lake Erie Speedway opener - 100 laps, $2000 to win.
  • Midvale - Mark Willison pulled off an upset of sorts, over Bryant Smith and point leader Rick Sibila.  This Saturday, 50 lap features for both the Late Models and Modifieds at the Smith family showplace. 
  • Sharon - Bobby Whitling took his first career Late Model win since moving up to the class in 2008, after a successful and impressive run in the Stock Car class, with over 80 wins to his credit.  Whitling held off current Sharon FASTRAK point leader Will Thomas for the win, who was hoping to make it three feature wins in a row. It will be one of Sharon's biggest weekends of the season this Saturday and Sunday with the Bill Emig Memorial "Wild Card Weekend". The FASTRAK NE Touring Late Models go for $1500 to win each night, plus point money.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stock Car Racing at it's Best

Two of my favorite racing series - the Main Event Racing Series and FASTRAK NE Touring - could not be more different, with the Main Event being on asphalt and FASTRAK NE on dirt being the most obvious, but not the only points of difference. 

But while it may seem they have nothing in common, that couldn't be further from the truth.  Both series are well run and professional.  The racing and competition is off the charts.  And both are surrounded by great people - on the tracks, in the pits, up in the tower, and behind the scenes, as well as the fans that follow them. 

I always have a great time at either Series' races.  Great racing for all....

Below is a quick summary of their latest stops.

FASTRAK NE Touring Series' Winning Ways in Canada

The FASTRAK NE Touring Series continues to impress and put on thrilling races.  The latest on Sunday, May 20 was for the Canadian National Championship at Humberstone Speedway.  Humberstone is a racey little track, not much bigger than a quarter mile, and a record 26 cars - from PA, OH, WV, and NY - made the trek north of the border just 17 miles from Buffalo - joining local ONT, CAN racers for the $2000 to win 30 lapper. 

As is a FASTRAK NE Touring common sight, racing was close and thrilling.  When the dust settled, it was Series' hot shot, Max Blair, coming away with the win (after starting 9th).  Blair and arch-rival Mike Pegher, Jr. battled side by side for several laps before Blair finally got the advantage on lap 22.  Blair bested at least six other racers in a last lap shootout following a caution with one to go.  Chad Ruhlman made a frantic last lap charge that saw him move from fourth to second.  Darren Peters crossed the line third, but was disqualified in post-race tech for a modified oil pump.  In the wild one lap free-for-all to the checkered, Pegher, Jr. went from second to sixth (5th following Peters' DQ), Nolan Dalton seventh to fourth (now 3rd), and Butch Lambert eighth to fifth (now 4th, after starting 19th!).  Only three cautions slowed the frantic pace - two on the first lap, and the final with one to go. 

Both Blair and Ruhlman sang the praises of the Humberstone track in victory lane, and the largely Canadian filled grandstand enthusiastically embraced the Series. 

Max Blair won the thrilling FASTRAK NE Touring Canadian National Championship at Humberstone Speedway

FASTRAK NE Touring Top Ten Points following race number four at Humberstone:

  • Max Blair 148
  • Butch Lambert 132
  • Chad Ruhlman 127
  • Mike Pegher, Jr. 117
  • Ryan Montgomery 113
  • John Over 106
  • Justin Tatlow 104
  • Nolan Dalton 104
  • Dan Angelicchio 87
  • Chad Wright 87



Main Event Racing Series Successful Opener at Sandusky Speedway

The Main Event Series got underway Saturday, May 19 at Sandusky Speedway.  If that was any indication of things to come, the asphalt late model series is in store for a banner season.  Chris Tolloty and Kevin Jaycox expanded the series to 13 races this year and it seems interest is on the rise. 

Entering the pits at Sandusky were 27 immaculately prepared Outlaw Super Late Models.  The quality of the cars on hand was, well, staggering. 

Defending MERS Champion Bud Perry set a new Late Model track record during time trials on the half-mile track of 16.366.  The pill draw had an invert of eight at the start of the 75-lap, $2,000 to win feature. 

When the checkered flew on the fleet affair, it was Justin Schroeder taking the win.  Schroeder, of Canton, MI, has Flat Rock and Dixie credentials in his back pocket and looked impressive on the larger 1/2 mile Sandusky.

Justin Schroeder took the 2012 Main Event season opener at Sandusky 5/19

Shawn Stroble looked very impressive in his career best Main Event finish in second.  The busy Stroble looks to concentrate on the Main Event Series this year in his new Port City racer.  

Shawn Stroble recorded his best Main Event finish at Sandusky in second

Pit side lights shine on Stroble's sharp #4 Outlaw Super Late Model

Jimmy Carter, Harold Fair, Jr., and Don Hill closely followed Schroeder and Stroble in the closing laps and at times the five were under a blanket.  

It was great seeing and talking to many folks - Tolloty, Terry Meyer, Nick Guirukis of OLMS, Frank Oriti, the Sandquists, John Crumrine, - and meeting Jaycox for the first time.  

I left the track with a positive vibe for the track, and especially for the Main Event Series.  The MERS wastes no time getting started, and continues this weekend with a trip to Auto City Speedway in Flint, MI, closely followed by Columbus(6/2), Shady Bowl(6/9), Barberton(6/15) and Dixie, MI(6/22).  

Win, place and show at Sandusky's Main Event - Justin Schroeder, Shawn Stroble and Jimmy Carter
Don "Zero" Hill made a charge to fifth from his 10th starting berth

Brian Short finished eighth, after starting 17th