By MIKE LEONE
HARTFORD, OH – Sharon Speedway kicked off the 87th anniversary season on Saturday night with the twice postponed 2015 “Apple Festival Nationals” night two. A large crowd watched an overflowing pit area full of race cars open the 2016 season on a picture-perfect evening as Erick Rudolph-Big-Block Mod Tour “Russ King Memorial”, Matt Latta-Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series, Joel Watson-Summit Racing Equipment Modifieds, Rob Shook-Penn-Ohio Stock Car Series, Greg Martin-Lyden/Red Line Oil RUSH Sportsman Modified Bicknell Tour, Josh Ferry-HTMA/Precise Racing Products Econo Mods, and Brian Felmlee-Deforest Used Parts Mini Stocks earned opening night wins.
Erick Rudolph captured his first career Sharon win in a big way taking the $2,000 “Russ King Memorial” event for The Mod Tour Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds. The Ransomville, New York racer held off a bevy of competitors including teammate Randy Chrysler, the father-son duo of Rex King and Rex King, Jr., and a late charge by Garrett Krummert.
“I was doing everything I could to keep the behind me,” stated the Empire State star. “Seemed like I was good in the longer runs, but was struggling on the restarts. The Kings were a tick better than me and all I could do was keep them behind me. I had a couple scares, but was able to get the job done. I was on cruise control until that caution with one to go, but that opened up a whole can of worms. I’d like to thank the Kings for racing me clean out there- it was a fun race. Between Randy and I myself we both had top five runs, and I’d like to thank the fans for coming out today.”
While Rudolph would lead all 35 laps, the competition was hot and heavy behind him as the 34-car field was whittled down to 26 for the starting field. The first 17 laps went caution-free as Rudolph would build up a half-straightaway lead on Chrysler. King, Jr. passed Chrysler on lap 13 for second. Though the first half of the race was clean, the second-half was marred by seven caution periods. Krummert started back in 12th and moved into third following a restart on lap 27.
Positions two and on back kept shuffling on the restarts. The elder King made a charge on the final lap to temporarily get by Rudolph for the lead only to have the caution come out and setup a one-lap shootout. When racing resumed for the final time, Krummert made a move on the final lap to take second, but it was Rudolph becoming the 86th different driver in the history of Sharon Speedway to win a big-block feature.
King was third over Chrysler and King, Jr. Brad Rapp came from 16th to finish sixth over Brian Swartzlander, Mark Flick, Jimmy Weller III from 21st, and Eric Gabany. Chrysler set fast time in qualifying with a lap of 16.285. Heat wins went to Rudolph, King, Jr., Michael Maresca, and Swartzlander, while Weller III won the B main.
The Mod Tour “Russ King Memorial” Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds (35 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. ERICK RUDOLPH (25R) 2. Garrett Krummert (29) 3. Rex King (65) 4. Randy Chrysler (21K) 5. Rex King, Jr. (165) 6. Brad Rapp (11R) 7. Brian Swartzlander (83) 8. Mark Flick (7z) 9. Jimmy Weller III (23) 10. Eric Gabany (3E) 11. Ricky Richner (26) 12. J.R. McGinley (66M) 13. Kevin Bolland (777) 14. Jim Rasey (21) 15. Tom Glenn (83T) 16. Michael Maresca (7) 17. Rob Kristyak (00) 18. Shayne Pierce (88) 19. Shawn Kozar (3K) 20. Jim Weller, Jr. (31) 21. Dave Murdick (61) 22. Shannon Whaley (44) 23. Ron Cartwright, Jr. (2B) 24. Kevin Hoffman (00) 25. Jeremiah Shingledecker (37MD) 26. Rodney Beltz (64). DNQ: Shawn Fleeger (88F), Mark Frankhouser (03), Rick Regalski, Jr. (13), Chris Haines (35H), Erik Martin (29E), Tom Mattocks (69), Bob Warren (96B), Skip Moore (17M).