Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Sweet Sets Blistering Pace to Become Fourth Different Sprint Winner in Lou Blaney Memorial
by Mike Leone
HARTFORD, Ohio -- A huge crowd turned out on a beautiful Tuesday evening at Sharon Speedway to remember the legacy of the great Lou Blaney, who amassed more than 600 victories in his five-decade career of racing. The fourth annual "Lou Blaney Memorial" Alzheimer's Association Benefit presented by Ollie's Bargain Outlet saw Brad Sweet (410 Sprint Cars) and Kevin Bolland (DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds) win their first features in this prestigious event. Lou's wife Kate gathered over $10,000 in contingencies for the racers.
Many of Lou's former racers, family, and friends gathered before the races for a time of fellowship. WFMJ TV21's Mike Ackelson interviewed NASCAR Sprint Cup racers Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Dave Blaney on stage at 5:45 p.m. before the trio competed on the speedway in their Sprint Cars.
Though many fans came hoping to see Kasey Kahne pull of his first career Sharon Speedway win, it was instead one of his Kasey Kahne Racing drivers in Brad Sweet capturing the victory. Sweet set a blistering pace around the 3/8-mile speedway and held off Lou's youngest son, Dale Blaney, to become the fourth different Sprint Car winner in as many events. The 30-lap victory was worth $5,000 plus an additional $100 for earning a spot in the Tom's Sewer & Drain Dash.
"This is really cool," expressed the 26-year-old Grass Valley, California native. "This car was fast all night. We did struggle in qualifying, but made some changes and it really took off in the dash. The main event was treacherous. The track was rough on the high side, and the lapped cars made it difficult timing them. I'm just glad I was able to hold off Dale (Blaney)- he was charging, and I know he really wants to win this race bad."
An invert five from qualifying put Sweet on the pole of the dash, which he led all six laps to earn the feature pole position starting spot. Sweet took off in the lead, while Dale Blaney was trying to fend off Saturday's Daytona NASCAR Sprint Cup winner Tony Stewart, brother Dave Blaney, and last year's winner Sam Hafertepe, Jr.
Stewart was all over Dale Blaney looking for a way by. On lap three, Stewart drove hard to the bottom of turns one and two and pulled even down the backstretch with Blaney. The two made contact in the middle of the backstretch with Stewart flipping wildly and collecting Hafertepe. Though both drivers were okay, the accident took out the event's first and third winners before three laps were even completed. It was another heartbreaking end for Stewart, who led the first 26 laps at last month's Ohio Speedweek All Star event at Sharon before blowing a right rear tire.
Back under green flag conditions, Sweet opened up a half-straightaway lead by the time he caught lapped traffic on lap seven. Traffic was short-lived as Adam Anderson got high in turn three, catching the fence and flipping. Jack Sodeman, Jr had nowhere to go slamming the fence as the track's former champion and 10-time winner's night came to a disappointing end. Both drivers were okay.
When racing resumed, Dave Blaney was trying to get around his brother Dale, but slipped high in turn four on lap 11 allowing sixth starting Kahne to move into third. Lapped traffic again came into play on lap 13 as Sweet has stretched his lead to a half-straightaway. Five laps later, Sweet had his hands full in heavy lapped traffic and on lap 20, Kahne and Dave Blaney were able to catch up making it a four-car race for the lead.
Sweet's bobble slipping high in turn four on lap 25 allowed Dale Blaney to really close in; however, Sweet was back on the hammer and was never seriously challenged. Sweet's margin of victory was 1.030 seconds in the Kasey Kahne Racing-owned, Ollie's Bargain Outlet/Factory Kahne Shocks/Speedway Engines-sponsored #49 as he became the track's 151st different all-time Sprint Car winner.
"Hats off to my guys," continued Sweet. "They gave me a great car and I was just along for the ride. It's an awesome feeling as I haven't raced a Sprint Car in about a month. To come out here in front of all of these awesome fans and to win the Lou Blaney Memorial is pretty special. It's a different shape running these Sprint Cars. They're pretty rough and wild. It's always good to get back in these things, but it takes a few races to get back going. I have to thank all of my guys; Ollie's, who has been with me for three years now; plus all of these great fans because without them we wouldn't have this cool race."
Last year's Ohio Speedweek All Star winner, Dale Blaney, had to settle for second as he is still in search of his first victory in the event. Kahne's third in his Farmer's Insurance #5 was his best ever finish in the event. Dave Blaney beat out Carl Bowser, who fittingly had a strong run in his father Terry's #10, as he was the top local finisher in fifth. Mike Lutz, the 2010 event winner, was sixth over Dan Kuriger, Brandon Spithaler, Jason Dolick, and Roger Campbell. Spithaler earned the Hard Charger Award coming from 16th to finish eighth.
Hafertepe set fast time over the 22-car field with a lap of 13.103, while Sodeman, Spithaler, and Bowser gave the locals a clean sweep of the heat race action. Stewart was the fastest car in warm-ups with a lap 13.038 just less than two tenths off the track record of 12.844 set by Danny Lasoski on July 3, 2003.
After splitting the first four events at two a piece, Kevin Bolland and Rex King have been shutout of victory lane the last four races. On Tuesday night, it was King and Bolland battling for the 25-lap win with Bolland getting by in the closing stages of the Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modified event. Bolland's third win of the season at Sharon was his biggest anywhere on the 2012 circuit, worth $2,000.
"I raced a lot of years with Lou (Blaney)," explained the 52-year-old New Brighton, Pa. veteran. "He was the guy I always looked at. I'd always sneak around his cars to see how to go fast. I finally got to a point in my career where I could compete with him. We miss Lou- he was a great racer!"
King bolted from his third starting spot into the lead on the opening circuit with Tom Mattocks and Kevin Hoffman in pursuit. Hoffman and ninth starting Chad Brachmann dropped Mattocks back to fourth on lap two. Kyle Fink looked strong making a three-wide move on lap four to steal third, but Fink would spin one lap later collecting Brad Rapp, who was making his 2012 Sharon debut.
Bolland entered the mix from his eighth starting position driving under and by Brachmann for third on lap five. By lap seven, the top five of King, Kevin Hoffman, Bolland, Brachmann, and Shingledecker pulled away from the field. Fink slowed and brought out another caution with eight laps scored.
When green replaced yellow, Bolland's forward progress continued as he raced by Hoffman for second. A long green flag run took place from laps 9-23, which allowed King to distance himself from the field as the battle raged for second. Brachmann began to put the heat on Hoffman as he closed in on lap 17 and tried every move possible to get by on the 19th circuit.
King had his hands full with lapped traffic on lap 22. Bolland was right on King as the battle heated up for second. The two raced side-by-side on lap 22 racing off turn two. King held on until he got bottled up in lapped traffic on lap 23 as Bolland used the momentum on the outside to power into the lead. King really got blocked in on lap 24 due to his son "Cooter" slowing on the backstretch and getting caught behind traffic; this allowed Hoffman and Brachmann to blow by, but "Cooter" was unable to get off the track necessitating the caution with 23 laps completed.
Bolland survived a scary restart for his 21st career Sharon win by a margin of 1.34 seconds in the Bol-Tech Motorsports-owned, Boundary/CREO Systems/Bolland Machine/Cintas/Cranberry Coin & Currency-sponsored #777. "It seems like ever since I've left the winners' circle I've been coming from 12th," continued Bolland. "We're back here now. The track was great tonight. I got bumped on that last restart and nearly spun, and the first one they said I started too early, but I recovered and took the lead again. The third time was a charm and I took it to the flag."
King barley held off Hoffman for runner-up. Brachmann was fourth over Jim Weller. Eric Gabany was sixth ahead of Rapp. Jimmy Weller III was eighth after starting 24th to earn the Hard Charger Award. Chris Haines was ninth as Tom Glenn rounded out the top 10. Heat winners were Shingledecker, Pearson, and Chrysler. The B main was cancelled after just six of the 10 original starters reported to the speedway.
410 Sprint Cars Qualifying (Track record 12.844 Danny Lasoski 7/30/02): 1. Sam Hafertepe, Jr. (15H) 13.103 2. Dale Blaney (Ti22 2) 13.213 3. Dave Blaney (J&M 55) 13.233 4. Brad Sweet (Kahne 49) 13.423 5. Danny Holtgraver (D4) 13.440 6. Tony Stewart (14) 13.453 7. Kasey Kahne (5) 13.558 8. Mike Lutz (Chappel 8) 13.572 9. Carl Bowser (10) 13.634 10. Jack Sodeman, Jr. (23Jr) 13.700 11. Dan Kuriger (08) 13.794 12. Jason Dolick (D12) 13.825 13. Brandon Matus 13.887 14. Eric Williams (7) 14.022 15. Roger Campbell (51) 14.175 16. Adam Kekich (5K) 14.231 17. Brandon Spithaler (22) 14.247 18. Brent Matus (33) 14.391 19. Adam Anderson (5B) 14.750 20. Gary Edwards (Rudzik 57) 14.780 21. Jimmy Morris III (16) 15.679 22. Bob McMillin (5) NT.
410 Sprint Heat #1 (8 laps): 1. Sodeman 2. Kekich 3. Brandon Matus 4. Kahne 5. Sweet 6. Hafertepe 7. Anderson 8. McMillin.
410 Sprint Heat #2 (8 laps): 1. Spithaler 2. Williams 3. Kuriger 4. Lutz 5. Dale Blaney 6. Holtgraver 7. Edwards.
410 Sprint Heat #3 (8 laps): 1. Bowser 2. Dave Blaney 3. Dolick 4. Campbell 5. Morris 6. Stewart 7. Brent Matus.
Tom's Sewer & Drain 410 Sprint Car Dash (6 laps, $100 to everyone): 1. Sweet 2. Dale Blaney 3. Stewart 4. Dave Blaney 5. Hafertepe 6. Holtgraver.
410 Sprint Feature (30 laps, $5,000 to-win): 1. BRAD SWEET 2. Dale Blaney 3. Kasey Kahne 4. Dave Blaney 5. Carl Bowser 6. Mike Lutz 7. Dan Kuriger 8. Brandon Spithaler 9. Jason Dolick 10. Roger Campbell 11. Adam Kekich 12. Eric Williams 13. Brandon Matus 14. Gary Edwards 15. Brent Matus 16. Bob McMillin 17. Jimmy Morris III 18. Jack Sodeman, Jr. 19. Adam Anderson 20. Tony Stewart 21. Sam Hafertepe, Jr. 22. Danny Holtgraver-DNS.
Governor Insurance Agency DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds (20 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. KEVIN BOLLAND (777) 2. Rex King (65) 3. Kevin Hoffman (17H) 4. Chad Brachmann (3) 5. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 6. Eric Gabany (3E) 7. Brad Rapp (11R) 8. Jimmy Weller III (31W) 9. Chris Haines (35H) 10. Tom Glenn (83T) 11. Carl Murdick (6) 12. Tom Mattocks (69) 13. Dillion Barr (15B) 14. Don Brown (71B) 15. Bob Warren (96B) 16. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 17. Rob Curtis (McElhaney 6 7/8) 18. Rex King, Jr. (165) 19. Skip Moore (17M) 20. Justin Rasey (21) 21. Randy Chrysler (21K) 22. Dean Pearson (8J) 23. Steve Barr (25B) 24. Brian Fink DNQ: Rob Kristyak (00), Jim Rasey (32), Rick Ryder (Snider 189), Del Rougeux, Jr. (20D).
This Saturday night, July 14 the "410" Sprint Cars will be back, but will go wingless as the B.O.S.S. Series makes its first ever appearance and will be joined by the Summit Racing Equipment E-Mods, Gibson Insurance Agency Stock Cars, HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and the Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks. Gates open at 5 with racing at 7.
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.