NUMEROUS NEW RACERS SET TO INFLUX SWEENEY RUSH SPORTSMAN MODIFIEDS PRESENTED BY BICKNELL RACING PRODUCTS AS 2016 LOOKS TO BE A BREAKOUT YEAR
(Pulaski, PA)...The third season for the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modifieds presented by Bicknell Racing Products is fast approaching. For the second straight year, Sharon Speedway will be the weekly home of the division with Lernerville Speedway, Pittsburgh's PA Motor Speedway, Tri-City Raceway Park, and Expo Speedway all holding events. Bicknell Racing Products returns for the second straight year to present the Weekly, Touring, and Futures Cup championship programs. RUSH is pleased to see continued growth once again as already a confirmed 13 new racers are set to join the division in 2016 including eight that will be rookie racers coming off a season that already produced the 2015 Western PA Rookie-of-the-Year in Kole Holden.
"This year is definitely one that we'll look back on as the breakout season for the division," stated Series Co-Director Vicki Emig. "We've been through this before, specifically with our Late Model division; 10 years later we have several hundred racers from Canada to Virginia competing in that class. As with anything new, the first few years are always the hardest; human nature is to take a wait and see attitude and that's understandable. We really have to thank the speedways that have supported this concept in our region from its inception and the racers, who two years ago chose to participate immediately. They are the ones that have given the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds the strong foundation it now has to continue to grow and prosper, and most importantly given new young racers a place to begin their racing careers."
Randy Williamson, co-owner of Series presenting sponsor of Bicknell Racing Products, is pleased with the progress of the division and feels that the class is vital to the future of Dirt Modified racing. "The Sportsman Modifieds for many years throughout New York has been an excellent place for entry level racers to kick-off their racing careers," stated Williamson. "Although a great entry level division, it has always also offered an affordable and exciting option for racers of various levels of experience and budgets, which in turn will always provide strong car counts for weekly tracks. The RUSH Sportsman Modifieds are a perfect fit for Bicknell Racing Products to maintain a strong presence throughout western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio and we look forward to partnering with Series for many years into the future."
One of the interesting combination of newcomers debuting in the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified is Calvin and Amelia Clay. The Series already has father-son duos with Larry and Rocky Kugel and Jerry and Will Schaffer, along with sisters Chelsie and Jessica Kriegisch, and cousins Brandon and Nick Ritchey. Now the Series will add the father-daughter Clay duo of Warren, Ohio. Calvin has raced numerous division over the years such as E-Mods, Dwarf Cars, and Limited Sprints, but will be getting back behind the wheel after a hiatus to join his daughter, Amelia, a rookie in 2016.
Amelia is a 17-year-old Junior honor roll student at Howland High School. She raced go-karts for two seasons at Goodhope Speedway where she fell in love with racing. Amelia recently asked her father if she could drive a "real" race car and he said yes choosing the affordable RUSH Sportsman Modifieds. Amelia's #12 and Calvin's #21 are sponsored by Deforest Rolloff Container Service.
Another female racer joining the division is Jessica Shea. The 33-year-old Franklin, Pa. resident becomes the fifth female part of the Series, and she also has a unique connection as her husband Justin will be a competitor for the second season in the division, giving RUSH its first husband-wife team! Jessica previously raced go-karts for three years where she has several heat race and feature wins with a career best second in points. Her family has been heavily involved in racing with her father Pat competing in the past. Jessica's #24s will be sponsored by Bradley's Boarding & Grooming and Justin Shea Enterprises for her rookie season. Pat and their 17-month-old son, Aedan, will be part of their two-car effort.
While Jerry and Will Schaffer are set to begin their third year in the division, another Schaffer will be joining the Series. Brian Schaffer is a 29-year-old third generation racer as he's the grandson to Alvin and son of Jim. After competing in quads for five years, he moved onto the "358" Small-Block Modifieds competing with his cousin Jeff Schaffer, Jr.
"I have been interested in the RUSH series since hearing about it at the first meeting (October 2013) at Precise Racing Products," said Brian Schaffer, who is married to Ashley and has an 18-month old daughter, Lilly. "To me this Series is the future of affordable Modified racing. The concept of rules limiting costs and the support behind it makes this class affordable and appealing to the average racer; like myself. I'm looking forward to racing in this class this year and competing against my uncle Jerry and cousin Will."
While he's not a rookie to racing, Jordan Ehrenberg will be making his Modified debut in 2016 in the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman division. The Ellwood City, Pa. 22-year-old grew up around racing with his father Doug, who owned and drove Modifieds until he could no longer afford it. Jordan began in the Mini Stocks before he had a drivers license and competed in some Stock Car events in years past.
"Racing has always been a passion for me," explained Ehrenberg. "In 2007, when I found out Mercer was letting kids race at age 14 in the Mini Stocks, I was dead set on getting behind the wheel. Racing has been one of the greater things that's happened to me. While my friends were out getting in trouble, I was at home in the garage working on the car. I've always wanted to run a Modified growing up watching drivers like Rodney Beltz, Garrett Krummert, and my dad. Unfortunately being a low budget team we weren't able to obtain high end sponsors to come into partnership with us like some of the bigger name teams. For us to be able to run a Modified, it had to be the RUSH Sportsman. I knew it was here to stay for awhile so I sold all my four-cylinder stuff and started looking for a Modified. Knowing that everyone is on the same engine, shock, and wheel package helps a lot to even out the field."
Like Ehrenberg, Chas Wolbert is another relatively young racer that has a lot of experience that will be entering his first year as a Modified racer. Wolbert, 21 of Warren, Ohio, began his racing career at 11 years of age in the kid karts at Deerfield Raceway. By 13 he was in a Mod Lite and competed in the class throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In 2013, Wolbert slowed down from racing as he focused his time on being a youth pastor and married the love of his life.
Wolbert got the itch to racing again in 2014 as he purchased a go-kart to race at Goodhope with his wife and friends, and ended up winning the predator division championship. When asked about his move to the RUSH Sportsman, the driver of the #C3 Bicknell said, "I became friends with the legendary Russ King many years ago and he has led me in the right direction. I love the fact that the contingencies are real, not paper! Also the diversity in the tracks for the weekly and tour series is nice. I'm looking forward to racing in the RUSH series and getting back in the seat with Aaron Meardith as my crew chief."
The 2016 will mark a return to racing for Jonathan Myers. While the 31-year-old Sligo, Pa. resident will be rookie in full-size competition, Myers' racing history goes all the way back to 1995 when he first started racing champ karts where he finished second in points. Myers continued racing for the next five years at Pine Hill Speedway and Slippery Rock Raceway where he finished first in points.
"In 1999, my dad gave me the option to either keep racing or sell everything to get my first car," explained Myers. "I chose to sell everything and bought a 1984 Camaro Z28. My mom and dad were always my biggest supporters. On April 17, 2015 I lost my number one supporter, my dad, to a long battle with cancer. I decided it was time to get back into racing. I started going to Sportsman's Speedway where I ran into Nick and Bud Ritchey, who I had not seen since I raced the champ karts with Nick. I hung out in the pits and helped if they needed a hand with anything. I saw what a great group of people the RUSH class was, and decided that was the class I wanted to be a part of. Everyone has been so helpful in helping me learn the car and what I need to do to. I'm looking forward to this year, and have to thank everyone for the support I have received."
The youngest of the newcomers to the division and most likely in all of RUSH and possibly western Pa. is Blaze Myers. The soon to be 12-year-old resides in Franklin, Pa. and is the son of Billy Myers, who has competed in various Stock Car and Modified divisions over the years.
Blaze meanwhile started riding quads at age two around the yard In 2011, he started go-kart racing and continued through 2013 with multiple wins at Tri-City and Slippery Rock Raceways along with a second place in points at Tri-City. He started racing mini quads in 2013 and had accidents at Hole Shot Raceway and at the indoor track at Switchback Raceway in 2014 that resulted in an overnight stay at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. Recently he personally sold his go-kart and all of the extras and trailer to buy Kevin Hoffman's old Modified to follow in his dad's racing footsteps. "We chose to do the RUSH Modified Series because we feel it will be the best starting point due to the fact there are rules set up and there is a pretty equal opportunity for everyone involved," stated Blaze's mom Brandy. "He's so excited and anxious to start the race season. Blaze has a lot of sponsorship and support for the season He's also gotten a lot of support at school (Central Elementary) from his teachers and principal. They've been asking about the car and cannot wait to wear his t-shirt at the races in support of him. His family and friends think he will do a good job as they say he has no fear of any motorsport activities."
Blaze said he's excited to get feedback, instruction and help throughout the season from his dad and Kevin Hoffman, and is willing to receive advice from any of the other racers who are willing to give him feedback. Blaze and his dad have been spending time together working on the #43JR, and are looking forward to a safe, fun-filled season.
Continuing with the teenage rookies entering the division is Preston Cope. While the Champion, Ohio driver will turn 15 on April 27, Cope has been racing go-karts since the age of five at various tracks throughout the area. Some of those tracks included Goodhope, Slippery Rock, KartTrak, and Pine Hill. He also competed on asphalt courses in New York.
Cope was a competitive driver at a young age and was successful at the tracks in which he competed at placing first in a few feature events in rookie competition, and he had many other successful runs and placements throughout the time he raced. With many of the area tracks closing due to rising costs for upkeep, insurance and lack of participants, Cope got out of kart racing and took some time off from racing.
"I'm excited to be back into racing thanks to the RUSH Sportsman Modified Series," expressed Cope. "I chose this venture under the guidance of Big-Block Modified racer Jim Rasey. I'd like to thank him as he's been instrumental in supporting me and guiding me into the RUSH Series. I'm looking forward to the competition and being behind the wheel in this new and exciting venture. "
Jacob Jordan will be yet another rookie to the division. The 16-year-old from Aliquippa, Pa. purchased a Modified formerly driven by Andy Priest and owned by Ted Hull late last year and will make his debut in 2016. Jordan raced go-karts for seven years. "My reason for joining the RUSH Sportsman Modified series is because it seemed to be the most reasonable and economic open wheel class," stated the teenager.
Last year, Larry Kugel won the inaugural Bicknell Racing Products Touring Series Championship at age 64. Finishing third in points was another veteran driver in 56-year-old Jerry Schaffer. While those two drivers are certainly the elder statesman of the group by far, RUSH will have another "50-plus" driver joining the ranks to keep the youngsters in line as Steve Slater will make his debut. The 50-year-old Butler, Pa. native has been involved in racing for 15 years helping Big-Block Modified standout Dave Murdick. Slater said he's always wanted to race and decided to try the RUSH Series. He'll be in a former #35 Tim Temple-owned car. Slater owns Steve's Auto Body & Repair with two western Pennsylvania locations in Butler and Ford City and lives with his wife and their two dogs and cats.
Two other Warren, Ohio racers joining the division are Mike Sparks and Anthony Gillespie. The 30-year-old Sparks has limited racing experience other than some starts in a Dwarf Car at Ohio's Deerfield Speedway, while the soon to be 26-year-old Gillespie has raced in numerous divisions over the years including Dwarf Cars, Mod Lites, Econo Mods, E-Mods, and even a couple Big-Block Mod starts. Gillespie did make one start last year in the RUSH Sportsman Mods at the season ending "Steel City Stampede" and finished sixth driving for John B. Smith, who he'll drive the #3G for in 2016.
"The division has done exactly as we had hoped," stated Series Co-Director Mike Leone. "Renewing an interest in New York-style Modifieds, providing an avenue for racers in all stages of their career to compete in an affordable Modified division, and providing an outlet for other divisions of Modifieds in our region to sell some of their equipment in order to be able to update their own. I think we've only seen the beginning of the interest in this division, and it's our job, as with our other divisions, to continue to create exciting and valuable programs that will give incentive to racers to participate in RUSH. From the beginning we have believed that the relationship we have built over the past 10 years with our RUSH Late Model partners, whether it be speedways or sponsors, will be a huge help in growing our other classes, and has already been shown with the RUSH Sportsman Modififeds. "
The 2016 season will kick-off on Saturday, April 16 at Sharon Speedway with the 2015 Bicknell Racing Products Touring Series make-up feature part of the "Apple Festival Nationals" that was twice rained/snowed out. This event will not be a Tour point event, but will count for Bicknell Weekly Series points. Cars that were not in the original feature lineup will be permitted to compete. The following Friday on April 22, Lernerville Speedway will host their first of six events in a Bicknell Weekly Series event. The complete schedule is posted at www.rushsportsmanmods.com.
RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners: Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Bicknell Racing Products, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, MSD Ignition, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, FK Rod Ends, Sherwood Racing Wheels, Velocita-USA, Precise Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, K&N Filters, TBM Brakes, Lincoln Electric, Classic Ink USA., CrateInsider.com, and B.R.A.K.E.S.
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