NEW SWEENEY RUSH SPORTSMAN MODIFIED SERIES DRAWING SUPPORT FROM REGION'S TOP DIRTCAR BIG-BLOCK MOD DRIVERS
By Mike Leone
January 27, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Pulaski, PA)…With the inaugural Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modified season three months away, Series Directors Vicki Emig and Mike Leone continue to work hard toward the April 26 debut at Sharon Speedway, which will be the first of over 30 events. The Series is proud to have the support from not only numerous national sponsors, the area's most premier speedways, and parts suppliers, but also from some of the region's top DIRTcar Big-Block Modified drivers.
Brian Swartzlander, Dave Murdick, Jeremiah Shingledecker, Mat Williamson, and Skip Moore are all behind the program 100%. In fact, four of those drivers finished in the top four positions of the 2013 Lernerville Speedway points with Williamson winning over Swartzlander, Murdick, and Shingledecker.
"It really means a lot to us to have the support these respected Big-Block Modified drivers are giving to the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds.," expressed Emig. "All of them remember, as we do, when Modified car counts thrived throughout our area, and I know they have the same concerns as we do about the division that they dedicated their entire racing careers to. Their endorsement of this class and the fact that they are willing to mentor the RUSH Sportsman Modified drivers will be a huge help in propelling this division into the future throughout our region."
Swartzlander will certainly go down as one of the region's most prolific Big-Block Modified racers, and no other active racer can come close to his accomplishments. Swartzlander has 156 career Big-Block Modified wins and has won Walt Wimer's "Cavalcade" title four times! This past season he won five times at Lernerville including the $3,000 BRP Tour finale and was also victorious at Sharon Speedway. He's won the Lernerville track title an amazing seven times all since 1998- a track where he leads the division's all-time win list at 82!
"The new RUSH Sportsman Modified Series is great for young drivers who want to get into racing," said the 54-year-old Leechburg, Pa. great. "It will provide an affordable and competitive racing experience for new drivers and serve as a feeder system for the bigger division. In addition to this Series, I feel it would help Modifieds in the area if Big Blocks and 358s were combined into one division. This will increase car counts and provide more competitive racing at the local tracks."
Second generation driver Dave Murdick started his racing career back in 1979 winning the “Western PA Rookie of the Year” award. After a consistent career, the Butler, Pa. native had a breakout year in 2010 with nine wins! His success continued in 2011 when he won six races. In 2012, Murdick won the "Cavalcade" title for the first time in his career as well as his second Sharon Speedway Championship! Murdick added a second straight prestigious "Cavalcade" title in 2013 and now has 61 career Big-Block Modified wins!
"I can only see positive things on the new series," stated the 50-year-old veteran racer. "It's a
positive step for Modified racing to get more cars to the track. "It's exciting to think of who can come through the ranks as the current field of Modified drivers are getting older and new drivers are needed. It also gives a place to sell some cars and parts to up and coming drivers. The Late Models have had this for some time now and it will be a welcome change for the Modified guys."
"The new RUSH Sportsman Modified Series will also give racers a chance to get involved in racing without the higher cost of big-block racing," continued Murdick. "It will also help the parts suppliers as there will be more cars to sell parts to and hopefully give more opportunities for more competition on that side also. There are also other opportunities to help these racers from the veterans to help this series grow. The only negative would be what division are these drivers leaving to become modified racers. I'm sure with your leadership and experience that this series is going to flourish."
Shingledecker is a driver that knows the importance of a feeder division as he experienced it himself first hand. The Polk, Pa. native started in the former West-Penn Sportsman Modified division in 1996 and continued in the division throughout the 90s with success. In 2000, Shingledecker began his big-block career and over the course of the new millennium has established himself as one of the region's best, all while building their own engines in house. His wins at Sharon and Lernerville in 2013 bumped his career big-block win total to 44. He won two consecutive Tri-City Speedway and "Cavalcade" Championships in 2009-2010 and was also the Lernerville Champion in 2009 and 2011!
"When we started racing in 1996, there were two strong
classes of Modifieds in our area- the West-Penn Sportsman, which was a
two-barrel small-block division, and the big-blocks," explained the 36-year-old
star. "We started in West-Penn and competed for several years before moving up
to the big-block division. The lower cost division allowed us to get into racing
and hone our skills before competing in the top division. Without this class,
it's likely we couldn't have started in Modifieds and perhaps may have never
"I believe an entry level Modified class will help strengthen all Mod racing in our area" added Shingledecker. "Modifieds are fun to drive and have a lot to offer for both the drivers and fans. The current big-block circuit has a lot of top notch drivers, so it may be a bit intimidating for a new driver to jump into that class, and even the 358 Modified division for that matter. The RUSH Series will provide an opportunity for new drivers to get into a Mod and work their way up."
"One way the RUSH Series will strengthen all local Mod racing is by providing the upper classes with an outlet to sell their used equipment and buy new," explained Shingledecker. "Most of the time, the used cars and equipment of the top teams are still good and would be great for crate Sportsman teams. The exchange of this equipment will ultimately lead to highly competitive racing in all Mod divisions."
Williamson carved his trade in the Sportsman Modifieds for four successful years before moving up into the "358" small blocks and most recently the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds. The 23-year-old Canadian made the trip down to Lernerville every week in 2013 winning five features and finishing in the top five in all 13 starts! He matched Swartzlander as the division's top winner and beat out the veteran in the point chase- something that's only been done nine times in the past 16 years!
"I see this new series as great steppingstone for either younger drivers who are looking to progress, it's the same cars I started in and went from there," explained the Saint Catharines, Ontario star. "It's the most affordable way of racing, and will hopefully produce some great racing."
Moore began his trade as crew member on Ernie Toth and Don Gray's cars in the late 1980s then worked with top racers Rick Hall (1993-1995) and Andy Priest (1996-1997). Moore began his own racing career in 1998 and improved his skills over the years and most recently captured a prestigious $2,000 BRP Tour victory, the first of his career, at Eriez Speedway on September 2, 2012. He also has a feature win at Tri-City to his credit.
While he's cut back on his big-block schedule in recent years, he'll now have a car for his son, Chris Habbyshaw, to compete with in Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified action in 2014. The tables will be turned as Moore will serve as a crew chief to his son.
"I first heard about the new RUSH Sportsman through my son, who had read about it and told me to look it up," explained the 46-year-old Jackson Center, Pa. resident. "We talked about it and decided to put one together. We had a chassis that was wrecked and needed repairs, but had enough spare parts to put one together. I have real good friend that race Sportsman in New York and always wished that we had that here. The rules package makes it more economical for the average working man. I like the low cost crate engine and shock rule. I believe it will get some guys that could not afford to race back on the track."
2014 membership forms are available online under the membership link at www.rushsportsmanmods.com. Membership cost is $125, which makes driver eligible for the Series point fund, $100,000 of additional excess participant accident insurance over and above driver’s health insurance and/or speedway’s policy, as well as additional perks.
Both Precise Racing Products and Big Daddy’s Speed Center have offered a 5% discount on all racing parts (excluding the sealed Bilstein shock, fuel, and tires) for the entire 2014 season to all RUSH Sportsman Modified member drivers!
2014 RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners include
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, VP
Racing Fuels, FK Rod Ends, and Precise Racing Products.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at [email protected] and snail mail to 4368 Route 422, Pulaski, PA 16143. Office phone is 724-964-9300 and fax is 724-964-0604. The RUSH Sportsman Modified website is www.rushsportsmanmods.com. Those on social media can like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rushsportsmanmods and follow us on Twitter @RUSHSportMods.