By Mike Leone
Hartford, OH July 12, 2020 The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars presented by Mobil One completed a two-day Series event at Sharon Speedway for the first time since 2001 on Sunday night in the running of Justin Snyder’s “Salute to the Troops” that was also round nine of Ohio Speedweek. Sharon was able to dodge several rounds of storms that fired just south and east of the facility as Kyle Larson (All Star Sprints) and Steve Pedley (RUSH Sprint Cars) were victorious. The fifth annual event took place at the Hartford, Ohio oval for the first time, which honored the late Justin Snyder and was a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project. The Snyder Family have been a longtime supporter of Sharon for many decades.
Kyle Larson continued his tear throughout the open wheel ranks by closing out Ohio Sprint Speedweek with his third win in just five attempts. Making his first Sharon start of 2020, Larson inherited the lead on lap 10 after leader Skylar Gee crashed out of the 30-lap feature and then held off a late surge by defending and two-time All Star Champion, Aaron Reutzel, for the $6,000 victory. Larson has now won an amazing seven All Star features in just 12 starts in 2020!
“This place is awesome- especially when it gets slick to the fence,” expressed the 27-year-old Elk Grove, California standout. “I thought I could maybe shortcut (turns) three and four, but I wasn’t as good as what Skylar (Gee) was up against the wall. Once I got the lead, I knew I needed to commit up there as long as I didn’t see Aaron (Reutzel) poke to my inside. I never really saw his nose other than that restart.”
“I hit the wall and kinda got stuck in it, so I figured I was going to get a flat tire or something,” explained Larson on his late race brush with the fence. “I was just trying to stay calm. I guess I lost focus a little bit right there. I knew Aaron was probably running pretty hard behind me. I didn’t know where he was, but I figured he was going to be right there. I felt like I hadn’t made any mistakes up until that point, but you never know where they’re at. I really enjoy coming to Ohio and running Ohio Speedweek. A big thanks to all of the fans for coming out and supporting your local dirt track racing.”
Gee took off in the lead, while Larson passed fellow Golden State racer, Cory Eliason, for second on the opening lap. Reutzel started in sixth and worked his way to fourth passing Pennsylvania racers Gerard McIntyre, Jr. and Danny Dietrich on lap two. Up front, Gee was setting a good pace as the Canadian was in search of his second career All Star win. Gee’s lead though began to shrink when he caught lapped traffic on lap eight, while Reutzel moved to third past Eliason. One lap later, Gee made heavy contact with the frontstretch fence crossing the line in the lead, but ending up disabled in turn one with enough damage that ended his night.
Larson inherited the lead when racing resumed on lap 10 with Reutzel now second. Eighth starting Dave Blaney and Eliason put on a tremendous side-by-side battle from laps 11-15 swapping third place numerous times. The event’s second and final caution came when Adam Kekich slowed with 15 laps scored. When green replaced yellow, Greg Wilson made an excellent move to pass both Dietrich and Rico Abreu to move into the top five from his16th starting spot.
Back up front, Larson caught lapped traffic on lap 24. Reutzel began to slowly cut into the deficit. On lap 27, Larson made heavy contact with the turn one fence, rode it, but somehow not only was able to survive the contact but didn’t lose that much ground to Reutzel. One lap later though in traffic, Reutzel reeled in the leader. Larson though would make the right moves in the Paul Silva-owned/Durst/Lucas Oil/Tarlton and Sons #57 to take the checkered flag first for his second career Sharon win by 0.805 seconds. Reutzel’s runner-up earned him his first Ohio Speedweek title, which was worth an additional $4,000.
“We’ve been consistent, so we’ve definitely accomplished that, but I feel like we need to get back on the winning part,” described Reutzel. “If we keep doing what we are doing or get Kyle (Larson) to go away, the wins will come. He’s just unreal. To watch him run that close to the wall and make contact and keep going is just crazy. I think I needed a caution-free run and additional traffic if I was going to get by him. I think I was a little better than he was in those long runs. A big thanks to everyone who came out. It was a fun week, but we still have more work to do.”
Eliason beat out Blaney for third with Wilson not far behind after a solid run in fifth. After racing from 10th to fifth, Abreu settled for sixth. Dietrich slipped to seventh ahead of Paul McMahan, McIntyre, and Zeb Wise.
Larson set fast time over the 38-car field in qualifying with a lap of 16.313 earning him $500 from Reggie Murcko in memory of his brother Reggie. The Murckos have been longtime supporters of Sharon Speedway and friends of the Snyder Family. Brock Zearfoss, McIntyre, Dietrich, and Blaney won the heat races. Gee and Eliason won the twin dashes to earn front row starting spots. The last chance B main was won by Josh Baughman.
Steve Pedley certainly won’t forget July 12, 2020. The 59-year-old veteran passed seven-time Sharon Speedway “410” Sprint Car track champion, Jarod Larson, on lap 15 and went on for his first win nearly 30 years after his racing career started bringing down the curtain on a night Tony Stewart’s All Star Circuit of Champions closed out Ohio Speedweek. Pedley’s career first Pace Performance RUSH Sprint Car win came in the 20-lap Equipment Rental Options Weekly Series special worth $600.
“I ran a winged Sprint Car for four or five years after the Big-Block Modified, gave it up for quite awhile and they came out with this division and I love it,” expressed the Seneca, Pa. racer after his non-wing Chevrolet Performance crate engine victory. “This is the third year on this motor and I have never touched it outside of routine maintenance. I saw him (Larson) slip up a couple times. I tried to go up above him a couple times, but it didn’t work so I pressured him down low and he eventually slipped up a bit and I got under him. No sponsors; it’s just me and my brother Greg- he’s the only way I do this.”
The event’s only stoppage came on the opening lap when Gale Ruth, Jr. and A.J. MacQuarrie tangled in turn one, which was followed by 20 caution-free laps. Last year’s RUSH “Futures Cup” Champion, Kevin Ruhlman, took off in the early lead over Larson, Pedley, Alan Dellinger, and Brian Woodhall. Ruhlman and Larson raced side-by-side for the lead on lap two with Larson taking over.
Pedley caught Ruhlman and was all over the youngster on laps four, five, and six before going around Ruhlman on the topside of turn two on lap seven to take over second. Pedley quickly closed in on Larson on lap eight and caught the leader on lap nine. Pedley and Larson raced side-by-side on laps 10 and 11 before Larson broke free. Larson was making his debut in the division and was trying to come out of the box victorious, but Pedley stole the glory as he slipped under Larson in turn two on lap 15 and pulled away. Pedley stretched out his lead over the final five laps taking the victory in his #21 by a margin of 2.513 seconds over Larson.
Ruhlman was third over Dellinger. Shawn Smith took fifth in his 2020 debut over Brandon Blackshear. Amazingly none of the top six finishers had ever won a RUSH Sprint Car feature! Completing the top 10 were Woodhall, Matt Sherlock III, opening night and Saturday’s Tyler County Speedway winner Jeremy Weaver, and 16th starting Zach Morrow. Weaver and Blackshear won the heats over the 19-car field.
All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars (30 laps, $6000 to-win): 1. KYLE LARSON (Silva 57) 2. Aaron Reutzel (Baughman 87) 3. Cory Eliason (Rudeen 26) 4. Dave Blaney (10) 5. Greg Wilson (w20) 6. Rico Abreu (24) 7. Danny Dietrich (Kauffman 48) 8. Paul McMahan (Buch 13) 9. Gerard McIntyre, Jr. (Coldren 07) 10. Zeb Wise (McGhee 11) 11. George Hobaugh (40) 12. Cale Conley (3c) 13. Dan Kuriger (08) 14. Cole Macedo (Kiser 23) 15. Lee Jacobs (Lewis 81) 16. Brock Zearfoss (3z) 17. Tim Shaffer (Grove 28) 18. T.J. Michael (8M) 19. Josh Baughman (17) 20. Sye Lynch (Grove 70) 21. A.J. Flick (2) 22. Adam Kekich (5K) 23. Brent Matus (33) 24. Skylar Gee (99).
DNQ for the Feature: Michael Bauer (46), Jordan Ryan (Prosser 19R), Carl Bowser (11), Brandon Spithaler (22), Darren Pifer (23), Russ Sansosti (23s), Frankie Nervo (21N), Steve Haefke, Jr. (19), Jeremy Hill (14H), Jeff Neubert (21J), Brandon Matus (Frederick 13), Dan Shetler (7K), Stuart Brubaker (35), Jack Sodeman, Jr. (23Jr).
RUSH Sprint Cars (20 laps, $600 to-win): 1. STEVE PEDLEY (21) 2. Jarod Larson (47) 3. Kevin Ruhlman (23) 4. Alan Dellinger (Williams 8) 5. Shawn Smith (36) 6. Brandon Blackshear (10) 7. Brian Woodhall (8B) 8. Matt Sherlock III (55) 9. Jeremy Weaver (Hull 41) 10. Zach Morrow (27) 11. Brian Hartzell (69) 12. Brad Church (40) 13. Gale Ruth, Jr. (Clever 13) 14. A.J. MacQuarrie (Hartzell 69X) 15. Andy Feil (Mahoney/Eckart 9J) 16. Brian Cressley (62) 17. Nolan Groves (25) 18. Brandon Shughart (29) 19. Brian Ruhlman (49).
Sharon Speedway is owned by the Blaney, Weller, and Kirila Families and is a 3/8-mile dirt track located on Custer-Orangeville Road in Hartford, Ohio near the intersection of Routes 7 & 305. For more information, check out the website at www.sharonspeedway.com or call 330-772-5481. Become a fan of Sharon Speedway on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sharonspeedway and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sharonspdwy.