GROWING FIELD OF RACERS SET TO BECOME INAUGURAL CLASS OF
SWEENEY RUSH SPORTSMAN MODIFIED RACERS IN 2014; 16 CONFIRMED PARTICIPANTS
By Mike Leone
March 17, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Pulaski, PA)…With spring now in focus and the 2014 racing season drawing near, Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series Directors Vicki Emig and Mike Leone are greatly anticipating the debut of the new Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified division. The first event will take place on Saturday, April 26 at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio as member racers will begin to battle for a point fund of over $10,000. As the season draws closer, more and more racers will be taking part in the inaugural season.
"We're really excited to hear the continual excitement and initial growth of the Sportsman Modifieds," stated Emig. "It's great to see several third generation racers now being able to race and other racers finding a division they can afford to compete in. To have approximately 16 new Sportsman Modified racers confirmed is more then we could have hoped for at this early stage of development for the division. I know that someday we'll look back at this group and remember that they helped build the foundation for affordable Modified racing throughout our region into the future.
The Sweeney RUSH Sportsman
Modified division is giving youngsters with Modified racing in their blood the
ability to participate affordability. Three of those third generation racers
will be beginning their careers this season including Michael Kristyak, Billy
Schaffer, Chris Habbyshaw, and J.C. Boyer.
The 15-year-old Kristyak of Mercer, Pa. is the son of Marty and grandson of Mike- both veteran racers of Mercer Raceway Park. Michael will be acquiring a DIRTcar Sportsman-legal 1996 Bicknell that recently competed at the Syracuse mile. Marty sees the division as something he can afford for his son. Michael will carry the famed #404 and has several relatives racing including his cousin Max and uncle Gary Smoker in the "358s" and cousin Rob in the big blocks.
Like the Kristyaks, the Schaffer Family has had a long and storied racing history throughout the region and now another Schaffer is expected to get his start. Jerry Schaffer, who has experience in all of the region's Modified divisions, will be using his red #4 to compete in this new Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified series. Jerry explained, "The plan is for me to run a race or so then turn it over to my son Billy, who is a rookie. We think that this division will work great for him. To place older drivers that are near the end of their racing careers against the young, exciting and unpredictable rookies should get exciting!"
The 28-year-old Habbyshaw of Mercer, Pa. has grown up at the races crewing for his father Skip, who began his racing career in 1998 after crewing on several Modifieds. Skip's father raced at Mercer in the 1960s and 1970s. Now the third generation, Chris, will be able to try his skills in the division he grew up loving.
"I first heard about the new RUSH Sportsman through my son, who had read about it and told me to look it up," explained Skip. "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."
Warren, Ohio's J.C. Boyer is also a
generation driver ready to resume his racing career this season. J.C's father
John was a regular competitor for many years in the Big-Block Modified division
at Sharon Speedway and Mercer Raceway Park. J.C. meanwhile got his start in
2011 when Sharon began running the Crate Late Models on a weekly basis. J.C.
though went into the Army and hasn't competed since. The
20-years-old added, "I'll be driving the number 1M, 2002 Bicknell sponsored by
Fallen Angel tattoos and Liquid Nitro energy drinks. I decided to run the RUSH
series because Modifieds have always been my favorite of dirt track racing since
I was little watching my dad race big blocks at Sharon speedway. So I saved all
my money from basic training and AIT for the US Army to be able to get my own
car to continue the family tradition being the 3rd generation of my family to race.
I am looking forward to competing in this new division and help the sport of
dirt track racing grow."
Leading the list when it comes to Modified experience are Jeremy Paup and Adam Siegel. The 30-year-old Paup of Reno, Pa. is the step-son of the great Le Myers. Paup was the 2004 Mercer Raceway Park "Horizon Award" winner improving on his rookie season of racing in 2003 when he jumped into the Big-Block Modified division. Paup has since raced off and on since due to the high costs of fielding a Big-Block Modified. While Paup still hopes to run some of the BRP Tour Big-Block events, the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds will give him an affordable opportunity to compete again.
Siegel of Brookville, Pa. meanwhile was always a low-budget Modified racer and always got everything he could out of his big blocks. Siegel excelled at Sportsman's Speedway and Mercer Raceway Park with his #91 and also had good runs at other speedways throughout the region. Siegel, who hasn't raced a full season since 2008, was one of the first racers that committed, and in fact went to work on his car that very first weekend after it was announced last October. Adam's brother Bobby has raced in various divisions over the years especially the Micro Sprints and Mini Stocks and presently is in the process of purchasing a race-ready Sportsman Modified to go racing.
Like Siegel, Rocky Kugel was one of the first drivers to commit to the new division last fall. The 37-year-old East Liverpool, Ohio driver has several years of experience in E-Mods and most recently with the RUSH Late Models. While his father Larry is one of the region's winningnest E-Mod drivers, the center-sitting Northeast-style Modifieds will be an all-new learning experience for Rocky, who is up for the new challenge. Kugel sees it as a much more affordable way to race with the $135 Bilstein "sealed" shocks and GM 602 crate engine.
Another Sweeney RUSH Late Model racer making the move over to the Sportsman Modifieds is Jeremy Zufall. The 31-year-old Greensburg, Pa. worked his way up the ranks at Dog Hollow Speedway and most recently was a semi-regular at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex. Zufall has proudly carried Joy Mining sponsorship and has taken his car to Joy events all over the region and even into Tennessee. The Modified class will be an all-new experience for Zufall.
Jorden Eck is another racer with a Late Model background. His father Doug has been a mainstay in the Super Late Models all over the region. Jordan teamed with father in 2012 in the Super Late Models before purchasing a GM 604 crate to run at Stateline at the end of the season, which he continued through 2013.
"Although 2013 was an improvement, I still didn't feel comfortable in the Late Model chassis enough to pursue that route," explained the Corry, Pa. youngster. "I have always been drawn to the Mods and when this rule package was introduced, specifically the 602 because of affordability, I couldn't wait to find a car and start preparing. I have logged a lot of miles acquiring parts and been on the phone with Bicknell tech support quite frequently, but everyone has been great to work with and I have already met some great people."
Two drivers moving over from the Stock Car division are Adam Ashcroft and Jamie Duncan. Ashcroft dominated the Stock division at McKean County Raceway winning the championship and the track's "Drive of the Year" with a used GM 604 engine. The 31-year-old Arcade, New York driver is looking for a new challenge and really likes the rules package of the new Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds.
Duncan meanwhile finally captured his first career win last year at Sharon Speedway on July 20 after 10 years of trying. The longtime competitor's green #67J has been a fixture in the Stock Car division at Sharon Speedway, and the soon to be 49-year-old will now be behind the wheel of a Modified for the first time in his career!
Ken Moy, Jr. is the classic example of a driver that loves the Modified division, but has struggled to be able to compete in the headlining big-block division. The 35-year-old Cortland, Ohio driver began his career in the Stock Car division in 1997 and continued racing it through 1999. He then moved into the Big-Block Modified division and has competed off and on ever since. Just recently, Moy sold all of his big-block components upgrading from an older Teo to a newer Bicknell chassis.
"I am definitely in support of the division and will hope to at least attend events at Sharon Speedway and Raceway 7," explained Moy, who plans on purchasing a GM 602 in the next coming weeks. "My reasons to continue in racing are one, I love it, and two, I want to use it to raise awareness of kidney disease in honor of my three-year old daughter Mary, who has stage 3 chronic kidney disease possibly facing dialysis and kidney transplants in the future."
"It is my goal to heighten awareness of the seriousness of kidney disease and the impact it has on people locally and as a nation," continued Moy. "I want to advocate for the importance of donating organs and especially kidneys with thousands waiting for a kidney. My family and I are praying and being faithful that Mary will not advance through the stages of kidney disease, but still ask support from everyone we reach. "
Walt Tutak, Jr. has spent the past several seasons competing in the "305" Sprint Car division. While his father Walt, Sr. has tried to organize efforts and continuity amongst the "305" Sprints, the Kittanning, Pa. driver has always admired the RUSH Late Model program and teching procedures. After a recent call to the RUSH Office, Tutak went and picked up a race-ready Sportsman Modified.
Jeff Stuchel has been racing off and on for the past 20 years or so. The Apollo, Pa. driver has tried his hand at many divisions like "410" Sprint Cars, Big-Block and "358" Modifieds. He was a regular racer at his nearby and now defunct Challenger Raceway in Indiana, Pa. before moving around to several other speedways. After a several season hiatus, Stuchel will be back behind the wheel in the new Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds.
Rick Thompson is coming off the asphalt racing scene into the dirt world. The 40-year-old Erie, Pa. driver was planning on racing an E-Mod in 2014 until the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified deal came along. Thompson is planning on hitting the road and traveling to the different venues hosting Sportsman events this season.
Several other regional racers have expressed interest or their intent to race with the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds. Also, RUSH has received a lot of interest from New York racers that are planning on making the trip down to race periodically as several have stated they've always wanted to race at some of the facilities that will be hosting events. These drivers include Mark Chiddy, Dave Conant, James Henry, Adam Hilton, Scott Lee, Greg Martin, Cody McPherson, and Bill Willard.
2014 membership forms are available online under the membership link at www.rushsportsmanmods.com. Membership cost is $125, which makes driver eligible for the $10,000+ 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, Precise Racing Products, and B.R.A.K.E.S.
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.