(Sarver, PA)…The 2013 inaugural season for the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series wrapped up on Saturday night at Lernerville Speedway. The “Steel City Stampede” was the second visit of the season by RUSH in the 24th and final Sweeney Tour event of the year. The fifth annual event, which showcased 10 of the region’s divisions, was run in adverse weather conditions. Daytime temperatures never got out of the 40s with gusty winds and periodic rain, sleet, and snow. Thirty teams from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York participated in the event.
It’s been quite the season for Dennis Lunger, Jr. in RUSH competition. Lunger won a career high five feature events at Sharon Speedway on his way to his first championship in addition to a victory at Allegheny Mountain Raceway that propelled him to a fifth place tie in the Sweeney Weekly Series Championship points. The Sweeney Touring side wasn’t as friendly to Lunger with only one top five finish in 11 starts entering Saturday night.
It didn’t look like Lunger’s Tour luck was going to change as he blew a head gasket after the drive belts came off the motor during Friday’s heat race. A Sweeney Chevrolet/Pace Performance representative was in attendance and took crew members back to their showroom in Youngstown, Ohio where they picked up a new motor. The new “box stock” motor was installed on Saturday. Lunger then proceeded to charge from the 13th starting spot to a runner-up finish behind Jacob Hawkins; however, Hawkins was disqualified in post-race tech for illegal merge collectors on the headers. Lunger was subsequently awarded the $2,000 victory as well as the $100 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger” gift card!
“That car was just awesome tonight,” expressed the happy 45-year-old Albion, Pa. racer who became the 12th different winner in 24 Sweeney Tour races! “I had to run right around the bottom, but we were going forward so I decided to just hold it down there and it was really good. I thanked all of my sponsors earlier, but I have to thank Brad (Hibbard) from Race-1. He drove all the way to Youngstown to get the new one picked up last night and helped all night.”
A race within a race was also took place. Mike Pegher, Jr. had controlled the point lead in the Sweeney Tour for much of the season; however, after a terrible October 10-11 “Pittsburgher” weekend that saw Ryan Montgomery sweep the event, Pegher went from a +18 lead to a -17 deficit. Pegher gained 10 of those points back last Friday at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex to enter Saturday at -7. Pegher gained another 10 Saturday night with his runner-up finish to Montgomery’s eighth, which propelled Pegher to the $5,000 championship by a mere three points!
“We’ve been doing this (crate) tour for five or six years now and four times we finished runner-up so to finally be able to win this first one under RUSH is pretty cool,” stated the 27-year-old Wexford, Pa. champion. “We became pretty good friends with Ryan (Montgomery). You couldn’t ask for a better guy to race with, and his family and crew are all good people. Obviously I’m glad to win, but it was good to race with him all year. I gave the bottom up to Dennis (Lunger) and I knew I couldn’t give up any more points. I wasn’t sure where Ryan was at, but it turned out pretty good.”
After a four-wide tribute to Butch Lambert, who was ending his career in the Butch Lambert Racing #27 where it all started over 20 years ago, 2013 Sweeney Weekly Series and Pace “Summer Chase” Champion, Max Blair, battled with Chad Ruhlman to lead lap one with fifth starting Pegher moving to third over Hawkins and Rocky Kugel. By lap three, the top four began to distance themselves from the field before Ralph Morgan, Jr. spun off turn four to draw the first caution with three laps recorded.
Blair chose the outside on the restart and battled with Ruhlman for the next two laps but was able to maintain the lead. On lap six, it was three-wide down the backstretch for second with Pegher and Hawkins able to get by Ruhlman, who dropped to fourth. The second caution was displayed when Daryl Charlier slowed down the frontstretch with six laps in the books.
Blair again picked the outside for the restart and this time battled Pegher hard for the lead for next two laps. Though Blair continued to lead over Pegher, it was Hawkins putting a slider on both in turn four to take the lead on lap eight. Blair and Pegher continued to fight hard, this time for second. Pegher nosed ahead for the runner-up spot on lap 10 with an inside move in turn four.
By lap 12, Hawkins pulled away from the field. Ruhlman continued to stick to the outside and he was able to drive around Blair for third on lap 15. Hawkins was in traffic on lap 16 as he had a little more than a half-straightaway lead then found himself amidst heavy traffic on lap 19. Cars were battling in front of Hawkins and got bunched up and contact sent Jeremy Adamik spinning to necessitate the third and final caution of the race with 19 laps scored.
It was a huge caution for Lunger, who was quietly making his way forward running the bottom. Lunger passed Blair on the restart for fourth then three laps later drove under Ruhlman for third. Lunger continued his way to the front and little did he know made what would turn out to be the winning pass with an inside move taking runner-up from Pegher on lap 23. As the laps ticked off caution-free, Lunger ran out of time as Hawkins took the checkered flag first by 1.033 seconds before his post-race disqualification.
Lunger crossed the finish line 1.493 seconds ahead of Pegher for his seventh overall Sweeney RUSH-sanctioned victory of 2013 in the Rueben Schwartz-owned, Schwartz Construction & Trucking/Choices Restaurant/English Tire/State Farm Insurance Chris Brecht/Carter Lumber-sponsored #71L. Lunger’s first career Lernerville win also propelled him up one more position to 13th in the final Tour standings. Lunger became the fifth different winner in the five-year history of the event joining Josh Holtgraver, Bryan Force, Lambert, and Blair.
Pegher’s runner-up finish marked his 17th top four finish in 24 starts! Pegher had only three finishes outside the top 10 and no DNFs, which was key to his first championship. “I have to thank my car owner Lynn (Geisler) as for without him I couldn’t do this,” stated Pegher. “I also have to thank my crew guy Mike Brunner- that kid puts just as many hours in the shop as I do, everyone that helps me in the shop and at the race, and of course all of my sponsors that make this possible.”
Ruhlman was credited with third for his third top four finish in his last three starts, which bumped him up to fifth in the final Sweeney Tour standings. After starting 16th, Lambert raced his way forward and passed Blair for the fifth spot on lap 28 then inherited fourth after the disqualification of Hawkins. It was a great end for Lambert recording his season’s best finish after a hard charge at the track it all began at, and where he owns 23 career wins and three Pure Stock championships. Lambert was able to finish third in the final Tour standings after three of his season’s best finishes came in the final seven races!
Blair rounded out the top five. Former Super Stock racer, John Waters of Whitesville, NY, made the move to Late Models last month and joined the Tour competing in six of the final seven races. On Saturday, Waters came home sixth for his best finish to date in his first ever Lernerville start. Holtgraver edged out Montgomery for seventh. Nico Dabecco had a solid run in ninth after starting 19th, which moved him up to 14th in the final standings. Andrew Wylie completed the top 10.
Friday’s heat race winners were Pegher, Ruhlman, and Blair. Dabecco won Saturday’s last chance B main. Lunger won his season’s first K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash to become the 18th different winner in 24 dashes this season! Lunger earned a $100 K&N certificate, while two-time winner Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr. received a $50 certificate for second, and $25 cash went to third and fourth place finishers Will Thomas III and Lambert.
Jamie Wrightsman was awarded The Brake Man’s “Tough Brake of the Night” after a hard hit into the turn four wall in the B main. The rookie Late Model racer and former Mini Stock top runner finished fifth in Sharon Speedway’s points.
Maryland racer Matt Glanden, who finished eighth in the Sweeney Tour points, was the lucky recipient of the 16-volt TurboStart racing battery giveaway ($250 value). Making his second straight Sweeney Tour start, Jeremy Zufall won the ARbodies “Nosed Out” nose kit valued at $245 for being the first non-qualifier. Bryant Hank and W.L. Stile received Accelator-1 carb spacer kits from Crate Innovations Inc. valued at $129 each.
The 2013 season for the Sweeney RUSH Series is now complete. Stay tuned for more information throughout the winter. The awards banquet dinner has been scheduled for Saturday, January 18 with location and times TBA.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series Race #24 (30 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. DENNIS LUNGER, JR. (Schwartz 71L) 2. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Geisler 1c) 3. Chad Ruhlman (Suppa 4s) 4. Butch Lambert (27) 5. Max Blair (111) 6. John Waters (LeBarron 11) 7. Josh Holtgraver (00) 8. Ryan Montgomery (12) 9. Nico Dabecco (Karalagas 1FR) 10. Andrew Wylie (84) 11. Joe Martin (55) 12. Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr. (8) 13. Justin Lamb (93x) 14. Will Thomas III (9) 15. Rocky Kugel (21KRT) 16. Bobby Whitling (7W) 17. Daryl Charlier (12) 18. Ralph Morgan, Jr. (Swindell 21*) 19. Jeremy Adamik (7J) 20. Matt Glanden (01) 21. Wendell Pinckney (11) 22. Cody Dawson (36) 23. Ron Smithley (27s) 24. Jacob Hawkins (Strickler/Hasleu RJ1)-DSQ (headers) 25. Bobby Rohrer (11)-DNS.
DNQ: Jeremy Zufall (20), Bryant Hank (28), W.L. Stile (1W), Paul Jablonski (3J), Jamie Wrightsman (21J)
Car Count: 30
Feature Lap Leaders: Blair (1-9), Pegher (10-22), Lunger (23-30)
Margin of Victory: 1.493 seconds
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down Hard Charger”: Dennis Lunger, Jr. (+12)
ARbodies “Nosed Out” Nose Kit: Jeremy Zufall
The Brake Man “Tough Brake of the Night: Jamie Wrightsman
TurboStart Battery Giveaway: Matt Glanden
Crate Innovations Accelerator-1 Carb Spacer Kit Giveaways: Jeremy Zufall & W.L. Stile
Heat 1 (10 laps, Top 6 transfer) 1. Pegher 2. Montgomery 3. Hawkins 4. Martin 5. Lunger 6. Lambert 7. Dabecco 8. Charlier 9. Pinckney 10. Lamb.
Heat 2 (10 laps, Top 6 transfer) 1. Ruhlman 2. Waters 3. Wylie 4. Dawson 5. Thomas 6. Smithley 7. Adamik 8. Hank 9. Zufall 10. Jablonski
Heat 3 (10 laps, Top 6 transfer) 1. Blair 2. Holtgraver 3. Morgan 4. Kugel 5. Schirnhofer 6. Rohrer 7. Whitling 8. Stile 9. Glanden 10. Wrightsman.
K&N “Cold Air Induction” Dash (4 laps/$100 K&N certificate to-win): 1. Dennis Lunger, Jr. 2. Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr. 3. Will Thomas III 4. Butch Lambert.
Last Chance B main (10 laps, Top 6 Transfer): 1. Dabecco 2. Whitling 3. Charlier 4. Adamik 5. Pinckney 6. Lamb 7. Zufall 8. Glanden 9. Hank 10. Stile 11. Jablonski 12. Wrightsman.
2013 RUSH marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, RainEater Wiper Blades, Hoosier Tire, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, The -Brake Man, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, TurboStart, K1 RaceGear, Beyea Headers, FK Rod Ends, Bobby Lake Motorsports, Wrisco Industries, High Gear Speed Shop, Utsinger’s Towing, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at firstname.lastname@example.org and snail mail to 4368 Route 422, Pulaski, PA 16143. Office phone is 724-964-9300 and fax is 724-964-0604. The RUSH Racing Series website is www.rushracingseries.com. Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rushlatemodels and follow us on Twitter @RUSHLM.