Story By: MIKE LEONE / RUSH RACING SERIES – PULASKI, PA – The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sprint Car Series powered by Pace Performance will record the 2019 season as a great success as the division continued its forward momentum in just its second year with a total of 27 different racers competing throughout the region.
The cost-containment classes features traditional, non-wing Sprint Cars with the Chevrolet Performance 602 crate engine, spec Hoosier Tires, spec/sealed Bilstein Shocks, and RUSH “Visual” Methanol.
Three drivers captured RUSH championships. Chad Ruhlman earned the Bonnell’s Rod Shop $5,000 Weekly Series title, while his son Kevin Ruhlman captured the “Futures Cup” crown. Jeremy Weaver copped the “Empire State Classic” top honors. Well over $33,000 in cash and valuable product was distributed to RUSH Sprint Car racers for their efforts in 2019.
A good chunk of the season was decimated by rain with Mother Nature taking 14 of the 33 events. There were seven different winners amongst the 19 completed events with five of those being first time winners. Eight different speedways completed events, while the shows at Stateline and Tyler County Speedways were rained out.
The 27 different cars was an increase of six from 2018. Sharon averaged 18 cars per night, while Lernerville had over 20 cars for all three of their shows. The August 31 “Manufactures Night” presented by MSD Performance at Lernerville saw over $12,000 distributed to the record 21 competing racers.
“Outside of the rain, we were very pleased with how the 2019 season went for our RUSH Sprint Cars,” acknowledged RUSH Director Vicki Emig. “The rain put a damper on a lot of the events, but the car counts grew and the quality of racing really improved- a couple of the events were ones racers and fans won’t forget. It was great to see five new winners. The growth of this division has even been on a faster pace than when our RUSH Sportsman Modifieds and Pro Mods started. We’re excited for 2020, as this class continues to allow racers the opportunity to race a Sprint Car affordable and offer back strong championship point funds and contingencies.”
For the second year in a row, Chad Ruhlman captured the $5,000 Bonnell’s Weekly Series title and led the way in victories; however 2019 wasn’t as dominate as he won 10 times compared to 15 in 2018. Ruhlman picked up the first ever RUSH Sprint race at Raceway 7, which featured a strong 20-car field. He’s won all three $800 races over the past two years during the “Empire State Classic” at Genesee Speedway. The 42-year-old driver, who now calls Erie, Pa. home, was sponsored by Callahan Weber Hydraulics, Wicked Wrenches, Kelly Frederes Auto Repair, Close Racing Supply, North Star Unlimited, 5th St. Sunoco, Jen’s Pink Zebra, Ruhlman Race Cars, and Premier Communications.
Zach Morrow was the second winningest driver as he was able to win three features in 2019, which was one more than 2018. Morrow was also able to improve his point finish from third to second, which earned him $2,500. The 29-year-old Gibsonia, Pa. driver has found a lot of success at nearby Lernerville, where he’s captured four of his five career wins. He also picked up his first career win at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway in 2019, which propelled him to the track title at the “Monster Half-Mile”.
After making several end of the year starts in 2018, Brian Woodhall completed his first full season of RUSH Sprint Car racing this past season. The 35-year-old Apollo, Pa. driver captured his first career RUSH win on June 22 at Sharon then later in the season won the first ever RUSH Sprint Car race at New York’s Ransomville Speedway on September 13. Woodhall, who was one of only three drivers with multiple wins in 2019, earned $1,750 for finishing third in points.
Jeremy Weaver really came on throughout his first season of RUSH Sprint Car racing. The 18-year-old Stoneboro, Pa. racer competed for four full seasons in the RUSH Sportsman Modified division. After some early season Mod starts this year, Weaver moved over to the RUSH Sprint Car division full-time driving for longtime Modified and Sprint Car owner Ted Hull. Weaver picked up the $300 “Empire State Classic” championship in mid-September then won his first career Sprint feature the following Saturday at Pittsburgh. He’d go on to finish fourth in the final standings for $1,500.
After helping his father Chad during the inaugural 2018 season, Kevin Ruhlman made his Sprint Car debut in 2019. The 17-year-old competed in the RUSH Pro Mod division in 2016 and 2017. Driving his father’s 2018 championship Sprint Car, Kevin had a tremendous year with 8 top 5s and 12 top 10s in 13 starts to finish fifth in points. His best finish was a third three times, which came at Bradford, Pittsburgh, and Sharon. Kevin will go down in history as the inaugural RUSH Sprint “Futures Cup” Champion.
The three other drivers to pick up their first career RUSH Sprint Car victories were Brad Blackshear, John Mollick, and Andy Feil. Blackshear, a former Econo Mod standout, won an exciting feature on June 30 at Old Bradford Speedway, while his brother Brandon matched a season best third that night. Brad would go on to finish 10th in points for the second straight year.
Mollick’s win was aboard Scott Clever’s #4J on July 27 at Pittsburgh- a track that he’s had so much success in driving a RUSH Late Model for Bob Bentz. Feil’s win meanwhile came on August 24 at Sharon in one of the best RUSH Sprint races of all-time when he out-dueled Brian Ruhlman after nearly a race-long side-by-side battle for the lead. Feil drove the John Mahoney/Larry Eckart #9J to eighth in points in his first year of RUSH.
Other newcomers to the RUSH Sprint division in 2019 included Matt Sherlock III, Brian Hartzell, Nolan Groves, Brad Church, Greg Beach, Ryan Fraley, and Frank Wilson. Groves finished second in the “Futures Cup” standings.
The RUSH Sprint Car drivers will celebrate their 2019 accomplishments at the awards banquet on January 25 at Gatherings Banquet & Event Center. The 2020 season will get underway on April 11 at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, WV for “RUSH Night”.
FINAL 2019 Bonnell’s Rod Shop Weekly Series Top 20 Points: 1. CHAD RUHLMAN 1321 2. Zach Morrow 1310 3. Brian Woodhall 1297 4. Jeremy Weaver 1280 5. Kevin Ruhlman 1251 6. Brandon Blackshear 1243 7. Shawn Smith 1227 8. Andy Feil 1221 9. Arnie Kent 1208 10. Brad Blackshear 1207 11. Steve Pedley 1194 12. Dave Hawkins 1185 13. Matt Sherlock III 1174 14. Brian Hartzell 1171 15. Tyler Powell 1142 16. Brian Ruhlman 959 17. Nolan Groves 850 18. Brandon Hawkins 775 19. John Mollick 763 20. Scott Hawkins 673.
FINAL 2019 “Futures Cup” Points: 1. KEVIN RUHLMAN 1251 2. Nolan Groves 850.
FINAL 2019 “Empire State Classic” Points presented by CNC Specialties, Intense Fab & Pace Performance: 1. JEREMY WEAVER 266 2. Brian Woodhall 257 3. Zach Morrow & Brandon Blackshear 254 5. Arnie Kent 251 6. Steve Pedley 248 7. Dave Hawkins 245 8. Matt Sherlock III 243 9. Brian Hartzell 240 10. Brad Blackshear 236 11. Shawn Smith 178 12. Tyler Powell & Chad Ruhlman 170 14. Kevin Ruhlman 166 15. Andy Feil 156 16. Nolan Groves 151 17. Brad Church 84.