For Immediate Release
By Billy McKinney
BARBERTON OHIO: With rain moving out of the area early enough to save the track, Mike Mazzagatti made the call to let the drivers run and put on a spectacular show. They did just that. Side by side racing, fights to the finish, race long jockeying for position, and the threat of the season winding down meant it was time to get moving forward. For some, valuable points were at stake as they closed in on season championships. For others, bragging rights and pressure to succeed were on their minds as they wanted to grab that elusive checkered flag. With huge races looming on the horizon for all divisions, this week was ‘go time’. And this is one the fans will talk about for years to come as we had not one, but three instances where a father and son finished 1-2!
“I had to work hard for that one” exclaimed Bandolero winner Ryan Bille. He picked up win number seven on the season and in a row as he adds to his points lead. When the race started, young Steve Mitch led the field of eight down to green but got passed by veteran Madison Lengyel. Lengyel was one of two original Bandolero drivers from their inception in 2015 (The other being Chris Breads) and she wanted a win in the worst way. Week in and out, she had been close and hoped this would be her week. Leading almost half of the race, she kept on the offensive s Chris Breads worked on her bumper. Breads made a bold pass in turn three to lead right at the halfway point but got passed on the opposite end of the track in turn one by Bille. Breads didn’t let Bille get too far ahead. Keeping the silver #23 in his sights, Breads made sure to let Bille know he was there. The two giants of the division jockeyed for any kind of advantage to pull away from one another, but both had an answer for the other’s move. At the white flag, Breads tried once more to make the inside work, but Bille pulled away using momentum and took home the win. The battle was one the fans loved and the two drivers enjoyed the competition.
“I just want to thank everybody that helps me out” exclaimed Legend winner Aaron Mulrooney. His win comes at the right time as he wants to get points in the leader Cale Grimes. Mulrooney sits a point out of 2nd in points and sits a race out of first. When the green flag fell, the #3 of Dan Shively grabbed the early race lead. His lead was short lived as Mulrooney worked around Shively and took the lead over. Just as he and the others got into a groove, the red flag stopped the field dead in their tracks as a metal crunching wreck involving the 5 of Lars McElravy and Austin Tapia brought the race to a halt. Both drivers were checked and found to be okay. When the green fell, Mulrooney kept his lead and worked out to half a track lead. Positions jockeyed behind him and it was Cale Grimes coming out in 2nd. Grimes began reeling in the #2 of Mulrooney but fell short of laps as checkers graced Mulrooney first.
“It was cool to beat my dad finally and get a win here”, an excited Lucas Ripely said after besting his father, Todd, in the modified race. When the race got underway, Tim Gulatta brought the hungry field of mods down to begin their battle. He lost the lead to John White early and White looked to have the car to beat. Leading many laps, this race looked to be his to win. Unfortunately for him, a yellow brought the field under yellow and his car began sputtering under caution. He had no choice but to relinquish his lead and end his race prematurely. This handed the lead to Ripely. He brought the field to green and began his assault on the ‘laps led’ category. While he showed Barberton why he had the piece to beat, it was his father, Todd, who had other ideas. He reeled his son in and began pouring the coal on to pass him. He tried high and low but ran out of time. Lucas took home the win and was eager to get out and interview and take the picture with his trophy.
“A little luck goes a long way, and this shows why we needed some. We have a good car, just haven’t been the luckiest.” Those were the words of Cyler Bertram, a Street Stock winner at last! After being fast all year and leading on at least five different instances, Bertram had been down on luck. Wrecks, parts breaking, late race restarts, tires going down, the list goes on and the young driver wanted to put that behind him. On Thursday he didn’t know if he would even race this weekend due to a bent rear end. His crew and fellow drivers made sure he would not miss the week and got the car ready to race! When the green flag fell, it was Tim Schmitt Jr moving out in the lead. Schmitt looked fast and was looking for bragging rights as he was not in the points battle. He led many laps and survived a couple early restarts but lost it just before halfway to Bertram. Bertram began stretching his advantage on the field and never looked back. He was on rails and made it look easy. At the line, he owned a full second lead on Jeff Kuykendall as he secured his first win this year, and first since the infamous tie with none other than Kuykendall last year. Fortune befallen Bertram finally and his competitors were there to congratulate him.
“I hadn’t been gone that long, have I?” joked late model winner Dave Wagner, subbing for Tony Urdiales. A race long battle with John Ambrose and Doug Sommers meant that the trio entertained fans for the entire duration of the event. When the green flag fell, Sommers grabbed the early lead, but it wasn’t the clean track in front of him that had fans in awe of his driving. It was the new ‘passenger’ he picked up on his rear bumper. On the start, Sommers and Doug Mate made contact ripping Mate’s nose off. Instead of the nose harmlessly falling off and bringing out the yellow, it latched onto Sommers and took a ride. Officials agreed a yellow should come out to address the added cargo and bunched the field up. Sommers, now a nose lighter, led Mate, Ambrose and Wagner down to green. Wagner weaved through the field and passed Sommers at the race’s quarter distance mark. His lead was short lived as Sommers battled back on a restart. Sommers took the lead and Wagner fell to the clutches of John Ambrose. Ambrose battled through to 2nd and followed Sommers. The three drivers tried to out do one another, and Ambrose tried to make a move inside. Sadly, he made contact with Sommers and the #3 slid up the track and stopped bringing out the yellow. Officials ruled Ambrose at fault and had him serve the penalty. On the restart, Sommers tried to hold Wagner off, but could not. Wagner passed him and led from there on out. He picked up his first late model win in quite some time and joked with announcer Tim Philips that he should do this more often. While he basked in the winners circle, Sommers switched rides and readied himself for the compact race.
“Well, we got one tonight, and worked hard for it” exclaimed Sommers. But this was not Sheldon doing the interview. Nope, it was none other than Late Model champion Doug Sommers running Sheldon’s old car now numbered #37. Sheldon finished 2nd, making this event the third race that a father and son finished 1-2 (The other being their heat that Sheldon won, and the modified race with Lucas and Todd Ripely). When the green flag flew, Nicole Hrdlicka grabbed the lead and looked unstoppable. She held off challenges from the likes of Scott Kitchen, Doug Sommers, and Tim Farrar. Kitchen got around her to lead one lap, but Sommers passed both on the high side and took the lead from there. While he led, Kitchen found his 2nd place position to be under attack from the intimidating #59 of Farrar and #3 of Sheldon Sommers. The three went at it and it was Sheldon coming out in 2nd. He began reeling his father in while Kitchen followed the family reunion. The laps wound down quickly and Doug found himself in the best seat. As he took the checkers, it was with the smallest of margins on his son Sheldon. Less than a car length. The duo celebrated in the winners circle in the pits parking their cars nose-to-nose and posing for the picture with their respective trophies.
Article and Photos provided by Billy McKinney and Christie Hrdlicka.