For Immediate Release

Article and pictures provided by Bill McKinney and Christie Hrdlicka

BARBERTON SPEEDWAY: While COVID-19 has effectively shortened the racing season, the show was able to continue in abbreviated fashion. Over the summer months, fans were treated to six divisions of intense side by side racing, and thrilling battles of skill, witt, and determination. While many drivers elected not to run the shortened season in favor of competing in a full length season once the pandemic subsides, many still answered the call weekly and were able to show that while field sizes were less than expected in prior seasons, this did, in no way, mean that the racing did not suffer. There was two weeks left to go in the season and drivers still had one simple goal in mind: Win.

First on the racing slate was the always enjoyed Bandoleros and Ayden Kitchen made yet another statement this week with a win after battling with division points leader Ryan Gardner for the entire duration of the event. When the green flag flew, Kitchen and Gardner had the front row to their selves with Chloe Mazzagatti flanking the duo in third. Kitchen was able to motor past Gardner going into turn one, but Gardner battled back on the low side. The two came off the West turn side by side and drag raced down the back stretch with Kitchen pulling away. Gardner caught Kitchen in the East end of the track (turn three) and used the new patch to catch back up to the Rusty Wallace themed #2. The first circuit was led by Kitchen and provided fans with a glimpse of what was to come. Gardner would draw near the back bumper of Kitchen in the corners, and Kitchen would speed away on the straitaways. Fans were in awe as the duo out dueled, battled, and used every trick they had to gain an advantage over the other. With these being kids in their second ever seasons of Bandolero competition, many fans were not convinced that their careers were not as short as they really were as they were racing like veterans of 30+ years. With a lap to go, Gardner was still barely a car length away from Kitchen, but Kitchen used a stellar final turn to distance himself by three car lengths over Gardner. While it appears that Gardner has this season’s points championship locked up, Kitchen’s late season surge may make him a favorite going into the 2021 season for the points championship.

The record since Barberton Speedway has reopened has been 11 strait features won. This was established last year by Mason Surgener in the Bandolero division. It has been matched this weekend by Legend driver Aaron Mulrooney. After battling fuel pickup issues most of the day, Mulrooney made the most out of setup, and driver ability to win the feature. When the green flag flew, Chuck Witt led Derik Gacom and the race was on. Witt would jump out to a nice lead of five car lengths while Gacom battled with Austin Tapia, Chris Breads, and Mulrooney. Tapia would eventually pass Gacom and begin to look for any way around Witt. While the two black Legend cars zipped around the track, the red and white #2 of Mulrooney worked up into third. Tracking the duo, Mulrooney had a decision to make. Does he go up there and race the duo with a car not performing up to par, or does he wait and see what the lead duo does? Laps ticked by with no movement from the #2. With Witt beginning to wear out Tapia, Mulrooney began to make his decision. If he stays in third, Witt has the win. So Mulrooney pulled out. Passing the #17 of Tapia in turn two, Mulrooney began tracking Witt down. After a couple laps, Mulrooney was there. Going into turn three, Mulrooney used the new patch, a late braking entry, and a hard wheel to duck low of Witt into turn three. He made the pass with just seven laps to go. With the car still not quite right, Mulrooney simply drove the car just as hard as he needed to stay ahead of Witt and Tapia. He would cross the line as the winner. This marked a tie of consecutive features won.

Sometimes it’s nice to be good at racing and other times, it’s good to be lucky. Either option will nab a driver a good finish or a win. But if you ask Modified winner Bob Sibila, both things at once are perfect. When the Modifieds took to the track, John White and Ron Ridenour brought the field to speed. With over 50+ years of experience between the two, fans enjoyed the two veterans as they ran side by side around the Barberton Speedway paperclip-shaped racetrack. The race looked clean and green for several laps until pre-race favorite Todd Ripley jumped out of line and came to rest near the pit exit in turn four. The reason? A broken driveshaft. After being pushed off by Greg Prunty, photographer Billy McKinney, and several others like Bill Linn and Tim Farrar, the race quickly resumed. Again, White and Ridenour brought the field to speed and continued their epic battle. Going into turn one, Ridenour slid up the track and fell back to the rear with Bryce Allensworth taking his vacated spot alongside White. Allensworth would speed past White after a lap and take sole possession of the lead while trouble broke out behind them as Ridenour would collide with the #33 of Paul Price, ending Ridenour’s race. The race resumed with a lengthy green flag run which saw Allensworth lead Mark Lushes and Lucas Ripley around Barberton. While the trio ran nose to tail, they had challenges that weren’t just each other. They had to deal with lap traffic. With Price’s machine damaged from the wreck, but able to continue, he was one such lap car, and while the lead trio passed him with five laps to go, Lushes and Ripley collided, cutting two tires on Ripley and a tire on Lushes. Lushes continued after pitting, but Ripley decided to retire from the event. While Allensworth was unharmed, his 2nd and 3rd place counterparts were not there. This moved up division points leader Sibila to second. On the restart, Sibila sped around Allensworth and took home the win.

The Street Stocks had five starters, but still thrilled fans with a classic Jeff Kuykendall win. When the green flag flew, Jeff Mundell led Lee Bonnell for the first two laps until Bonnell would get passed by Ron Miller. Miller stayed right on the back bumper of Mundell, but it appeared that the ‘Bud’ Crum throwback would display the checkers for the first time in nearly 52 years. This changed when Mundell and Miller collided. Mundell would spin into the infield and Miller would serve the penalty. Mundell stayed up front on the restart and held off Bonnell again. But as laps ticked away, Mundell began to receive a new threat. New points leader Jeff Kuykendall was knocking and wanted what Mundell had. Making the pass into turn three near lap eleven, Kuykendall took possession of the lead and began to speed away from Mundell, Miller, and Preston Walker. Walker would make his way to second but it appeared that Walker’s crate motor wouldn’t be able to mount much of a charge as Kuykendall had his car set up to run on a rail. Kuykendall would cap off the clean sweep as he won the heat, took fast time, and took the feature win. This was his fifth win of the year.

The Late Models featured some classic names and battles with Roger Smith taking his #43 to the winners’ circle. When the green flag flew, Larry Baker took the lead on the outside away from Dave Martin. Baker began stretching his lead out over the field while drivers worked one another over for sole possession of position. While Baker led, Smith began to work through the field and found himself n second by lap three. He began tracking Baker down and would take the lead by lap nine of the 25-lap event. Smith led and appeared to have the car on cruise control until a threat presented itself. The threat was none other than five time main event champion Gary Whipkey. Whipkey, after setting fast time and starting at the rear, had worked to second place and was looking to see if Smith had truly did his homework this week. Fans witnessed in awe as the two giants of the sport battled for the lead. With Whipkey on rails and quite fast, this meant that Smith had to be better than good. Smith literally had to rise from the status of division points leader and giant of the industry to something of a god level status. The two simply put on a clinic for the fans and it was well received. Smith forced Whipkey into running Smith’s race. Keeping Gary on the defensive, Smith kept at it and eventually wore Whipkey’s tires out. He began to pull away with five laps to go and he would take the win by three car lengths over Whipkey.

Kenny Betts has been perfect since winning his first race in the compacts as he collected another this weekend. When the green flag flew, Don Howe took the lead and led the first lap. 2008 champion Randy Cecil, subbing for Jesse Knox (who was present, but in Dennis Garrett’s car as he knew the car better than Cecil) , took the lead from Howe and began logging laps in clean air, a position he knew very well over the last 20 years. While Cecil led, Betts took second and began to stalk the ageless veteran. With the duo far out front, a yellow would be the only thing to bring the field back into contention. And a yellow was what they got as Howe and Sheldon Sommers collided. Sommers spun in the corner and came down into traffic. He would be hit by Chad Greenland and both party’s days were done. After they were towed away, Cecil and Betts continued their battle. While they thrashed for the lead, the trio of Cavaliers in Scott Kitchen, Natalie Collier, and Chris Kennedy sat quite close. Kennedy moved past Collier and Kitchen to take 3rd with five laps to go. Using an aggressive entry into the corners, Kennedy caught the side-by-side duo and made a bold three wide pass going into turn three to take the lead with just two laps to go. He would lead the final two circuits and win the event. Or so he thought. In technical inspection, his #317 had a couple of rules infractions that were deemed severe enough to strip him of the win and hand Betts (who passed Cecil with a lap to go) the win.

FINISHING ORDERS: (*Denotes Heat Win)

Bandoleros-

1- A. Kitchen*

2- R. Gardner

3- C. Mazzagatti

Legends-

1- A. Mulrooney*

2- A. Tapia

3- C. Breads

4- C. Witt

5- D. Gacom

Modifieds-

1- B. Sibila

2- B. Allensworth

3- S. Jones

4- T. Moran*

5- M. Lushes

6- J. White*

7- M. Walsh

8- P. Price

9- L. Ripley

10- R. Ridenour

11- T. Ripley

Street Stocks-

1- J. Kuykendall*

2- P. Walker

3- R. Miller

4- J. Mundell

5- L. Bonnell

Late Models-

1- R. Smith*

2- G. Whipkey

3- M. Mazzagatti

4- J. Adams

5- L. Baker

6- D. Martin

7- G. Gault Jr. (DNS)

8- J. Taylor (DNS)

Compacts-

1- K. Betts

2- S. Kitchen

3- R. Cecil*

4- J. Knox

5- N. Collier

6- S. Stewart

7- T. Daniels

8- D. Howe

9- S. Sommers*

10- C. Greenland

11- C. Kennedy (DQ)