Story By: RUSH RACING SERIES – PULASKI, PA – Look up the word diversified in the dictionary and here is what you will find; to give variety to, and not a better word would describe the current group of Pace Performance RUSH Sprint Car racers currently competing in the third year division.
The class was launched in 2018 as a sister Series to the RUSH Late Model, Sportsman Modified, and Pro Mod divisions as a true “cost containment” non-wing Sprint Car division featuring the Chevrolet Performance 602 crate engine, $140 sealed/spec Bilstein Shocks, spec Hoosier Tires, and RUSH Visual methanol. Well over $20,000 in championship monies were awarded to its drivers in 2018 and 2019. Now in 2020, the RUSH Sprint Car division has really began to turn some heads despite a severely interrupted and shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From day one, the Series garnered a lot of support from former “410” Sprint Car racers. In fact, one of those, Scott Bonnell, was the presenting sponsor of the Weekly Series Championship with his Bonnell’s Rod Shop for the first two years. While Bonnell was unable to continue his sponsorship in 2020, another former area “410” standout, Arnie Kent, stepped up with his Equipment Rental Options to become this year’s presenting sponsor of the Weekly Series Championship. Kent won the division’s inaugural race in 2018 and was also the “Wednesday Night Lightning” Champion.
“It’s really been a shame that we haven’t gotten a clear shot over the past couple of years to allow the division to have a normal development period,” acknowledged RUSH Director Vicki Emig. “Horrible weather last season cancelled a good chunk of the schedule, and of course the COVID situation this year has slowed the ability to showcase the RUSH Sprint Car concept, a true cost containment Sprint Car division that racers enjoy participating in that provides great racing for the fans. The division is now filled with both veteran racers from all different racing backgrounds as well as numerous young guns that have been mixing it up at each and every race!”
Jeremy Weaver has jumped out to the early lead in the Equipment Rental Options Weekly Series standings thanks to four victories in the first six races, while Zach Morrow and Steve Pedley have also been victorious.
“The RUSH Sprint Car drivers have absolutely knocked it out of the park when it comes to edge of your seat excitement,” expressed Emig. “I have personally been at five of the six completed events and I can’t tell you how satisfying it’s been to hear the reaction from the crowd at the completion of these events, they’ve absolutely been loving it!”
“Both Don Blackshear (Pace Performance’s Circle Track Developer) and myself have received numerous calls and messages since the Sharon event with the All Stars a few weeks ago,” added Emig. “People have been inquiring about the class and we’ve even had fans reach out to let us know how much they are enjoying the racing! I think we’re over the hump now and the racing that is being produced by the RUSH Sprint Cars as well as the cost effectiveness of the actual RUSH Sprint Car package is now going to sell itself and allow the division to continue to grow and flourish into the future!”
“I’m very excited to see the division develop into exactly what it was designed to do from the beginning,” stated Blackshear. “The RUSH Sprints offer a cost-controlled weekly division that’s competitive and focuses on a racer’s talent to gain success and not their financial resources. The diversity of winners proves the RUSH Sprint concept works, and it will continue to grow into the future.”
After a four-year RUSH Sportsman Modified career that saw two victories and a “Futures Cup” Championship, Jeremy Weaver has found his groove in the RUSH Sprint Cars. The Stoneboro, Pa. racer teamed up with Hull Racing featuring the father-son ownership of Cal & Ted Hull in 2019 winning one feature, finishing fourth in the Weekly Series points, and earning the “Empire State Classic” title. That success has parlayed into an impressive start to 2020 where the #41 has become the car to beat. Weaver celebrated his 19th birthday with a last lap win at Tyler County on July 11, had another last lap win on July 24 at Lernerville, and went two-for-two at Tyler County the following night with his third win in the last four races.
In 2018, Zach Morrow finished third in the Weekly Series points. Last year, the 30-year-old Gibsonia, Pa. racer advanced to second in points. No doubt, Morrow entered the season with championship hopes. After winning the opener on June 20 at Pittsburgh, Morrow again finds himself second in points. Morrow came out of go-karts and into Mod Lites before making his way into the “410” Sprint Car division, something he still dabbles with. The RUSH Series though has allowed Morrow an affordable way to compete and contend for wins without the wing- something Morrow has always enjoyed.
Like Morrow, Brian Woodhall is another driver that has competed in the Mod Lite and “410” Sprint Car divisions. Woodhall had success early in his career as a teenager winning a pair of “410” races during Emig’s ownership at Mercer Raceway Park. Now married and at 35 years of age, the RUSH Series has Woodhall to get back behind the wheel of a Sprint Car. The Apollo, Pa. racer came out late in the 2018 season, while last year saw him win a feature at both Sharon and Ransomville in route to second in points.
The Blackshear brothers have made their way into the RUSH Sprint Car division via promidemently Econo Mod and E-Mod racing. The two excelled in the Econo Mod class at Sharon where Brandon won 21 times and Brad five times, while each have won a track championship. Brad got into the RUSH Sprint division first in 2018 finishing 10th in points and did it again last season as well as winning a race at Bradford, while Brandon finished sixth last season in his debut. Brad hasn’t made it out for competition yet in 2020 due to starting a truck repair business, but is expected to do so soon. Also close to the Blackshear brothers is Ryan Fraley, also a graduate of Econo/E-Mods. Fraley, 31 of Brookfield, Ohio made his debut in the class last August.
The RUSH Sprint division has put several other former “410” Sprint racers back behind the wheel of a Sprint Car including Gale Ruth, Jr., Jarod Larson, Andy Feil, Steve Pedley, and Brian Hartzell.
Ruth had a strong inaugural season winning five features in route to second in points driving the Culver Motorsport entry. The Culver Family took time off and didn’t compete after the 2018 season; however, Ruth recently got the call to drive Scott Clever’s #14. Ruth of Pleasantville, Pa. has a pair of top 4s including a runner-up at Tyler County. Ruth always got everything he could out of his “410” Sprints, but financially couldn’t compete consistently at the top level, but the RUSH Series has allowed him to showcase his talents.
An exciting new addition to the RUSH Sprint Cars is Jarod Larson. The seven-time Sharon Speedway “410” Sprint Car Champion made his Series debut on July 11 at Sharon nearly pulling off the win before finishing second in the feature. Larson thrilled Sprint Car fans in the region for years in between racing Stock Cars, but now looks to reignite that excitement in a RUSH Sprint Car.
Feil’s path to the RUSH Sprint Cars was similar to Morrow and Woodhall’s as he progressed from a successful Mod Lite career into the full size Sprint Cars before getting the call last year from car owners Jack Mahoney and Larry Eckart to drive their #9J. The 2017 Youngstown State graduate picked up a win at Sharon, one of the most exciting of the season, on his way to an eighth place points finish.
One of the most popular victories in the Series’ history came on July 11 during Justin Snyder’s “Salute to the Troops” event at Sharon Speedway featuring the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars. On that night, Steve Pedley passed Larson to win his first career feature since he started racing back in 1992. Pedley ran a Modified then a “410” Sprint Car before taking some 20 years off from racing. The RUSH Series was the perfect way for Pedley to get back into Sprint Car racing affordably. Pedley returned to racing in 2019 finishing 11th in points. The 58-year-old Seneca, Pa racer ended the season much more competitive and has been much improved thus far in 2020.
Hartzell is yet another driver that competed in the “410” Sprint division. In fact, he did a lot of racing at Mercer when Emig was the track owner and also enjoyed racing without the wing. The RUSH program was the perfect calling for the 48-year-old to get back behind the wheel of a Sprint Car. The Oil City, Pa. resident has only missed one race over the past two years. He has taking a liking so much to the class that he added a second car to the #69 stable in 2020 bringing A.J. MacQuarrie on board. MacQuarrie was a former Stock Car racer and even competed in the RUSH Late Models years ago.
One of the biggest names to join the RUSH Sprint Cars is Alan Dellinger. Dellinger has had success in just about every division in the region from various forms of Late Models, Modifieds, Stock Cars, Mod Lites, and more. One division he never touched was Sprint Cars. That was until 2020 when longtime car owner Bob Williams, also one that never had any dealings in Sprint Cars, decided to go a different direction and take on the RUSH Sprint Cars. In recent years, Dellinger and Williams teamed up in RUSH Late Models, RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, and Econo Mods. Dellinger owns 165 career wins at Sharon alone. Thus far, Dellinger has a sixth and a fourth place finish at Sharon this year.
While Dellinger and Larson both raced Stock Cars during their career, two other drivers that made the move from Stock Cars include Shawn Smith and Brad Church. Smith is in his third year of RUSH Sprint racing, while Church is in his second. Smith, 37 of Seneca, Pa., had a strong first season with nine top 5s finishing fifth in points, while last year slipped to seventh in points. Church, 28 of Russell, Pa., competes in selected events primarily in the northern part of the region; however, did make the four and half hour tow to Tyler County Speedway on July 25 and finished sixth, which nearly matched his best career finish of fifth at Eriez in 2019- a track he raced his Stock Car at regularly.
Matt Sherlock III is in his second season of RUSH Sprint Car racing. Matt’s father competed in various Late Model divisions years ago, while Matt raced UTVs. The 28-year-old Beaver Falls, Pa. racer finished 13th in the 2019 standings and has been a loyal follower of the division again this season. Sherlock continues to show improvement in the seat and is expected to improve his position in the overall standing in 2020.
Two drivers competing for the “Futures Cup” crown are Nolan Groves and Brian Cressley. Both teenagers came out of go-karts; in fact, Groves is also racing a RUSH Kart. Groves, 16 of Sugar Grove, Pa., is in his second year, while Cressley, 15 of Corry, Pa., is a pure rookie in the big cars. Nolan’s father Jay was a standout Micro Sprint racer before moving into “360” Sprint Cars. Today, Jay not only mentors his son but also competes in a RUSH Kart and has been instrumental in the development of the RUSH Karting Series program, while also being a distributor through his Kart Works business.
Speaking of the “Futures Cup”, the 2019 champion was Kevin Ruhlman. Kevin’s father Chad won the $5,000 Weekly Series Championships the first two years, but stepped aside from racing in 2020. Kevin had eight top 5s in route to last year’s “Futures Cup” title. Kevin’s racing in 2020 will be cut short as the soon-to-be 18-year-old Bemus Point, NY native will be off to college. Kevin’s uncle Brian Ruhlman has been a part-time competitor in the Series as he makes the tow in from Clarklake, Michigan. Brian is an accomplished Late Model and Modified racer. Brian also recently picked up his first Sprint Car win in his home state.
Tyler Powell is in his third year of RUSH Sprint competition. The 26-year-old Cochranton, Pa. driver has been racing since he was seven years old beginning in a Go-Kart. When he was 13, he switched to a Mini Stock and then an E-Mod for one season. Powell got his start in full-size racing in a Mini Stock at Mercer when Emig started that affordable, start-up class when she owned the track. His best finish to date is a third place at Stateline Speedway in 2018. Tyler’s father Bruce was a former Sprint Car racer.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Hawkins Family. Dave and his two sons Scott and Brandon made the move from the Micro Sprints into the RUSH Sprint Cars in the inaugural 2018 season. They were big supporters of the class and helped get the division off the ground as all three finished in the top nine in points. Dave led the way in the family with a 12th place finish in points last year. Brandon tragically lost his life in a work accident recently. Dave and Scott made their 2020 RUSH debuts the Friday following Brandon’s passing at Lernerville.
Another newcomer to the division in 2020 is Brandon Shughart. The 32-year-old Weirton, WV racer is a true rookie to racing, but has a great mentor in his corner with none of than the “West Virginia Wild Thing”, Mark Cassella. Cassella, who was a standout Sprint Car racer both with and without the wing, has been a fan of the RUSH Sprint Car program since day one. Another West Virginia racer that has been part of the Series the last two years in a part-time manner is Frank Wilson, Jr. Wilson had a successful Late Model career on both asphalt and dirt, and also spent time as the promoter of Tyler County Speedway.
Two other new drivers that have sent their memberships in but have yet to compete this year are Scott Dean and Jeremy Scruggs. Also, Amelia Clay has purchased a Sprint Car and an engine from Pace Performance. The Warren, Ohio racer that also competes in the RUSH Sportsman Modified division is expected to make her debut soon. It was also great to see Carl Bowser compete in a RUSH Sprint Car. Bowser made his debut on July 24 at Lernerville, a track he owns 27 career “410” Sprint Car wins at, driving for Scott Clever. Bowser won his heat and finished fifth in the feature.
There is no doubt that in just a very short period of time the RUSH Sprint Car division has now established its roots in Sprint Car racing throughout the region. The RUSH Sprint Car division has also developed into a tremendous model for other speedway promoters across the country to consider bringing a true “cost containment” Sprint Car division surrounded by numerous other exciting programs to their speedways!