By Jim Zufall & Mike Leone


February 16, 2015


(Pulaski, PA)…As the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modified Series prepares to enter its sophomore season, many changes are on the horizon for the crate engine, Bilstein sealed spec shock, center-steer Modified Series. The first of those changes is the introduction of two weekly tracks for the division. Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio and Sportsman’s Speedway in Knox PA have agreed to provide a weekly venue for the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified to compete on a weekly basis on Saturday and Sunday nights respectively.


Another large change in the Series is the addition of a number of drivers who will be entering the Sportsman Modifieds ranks for 2015. Series Co-Director Vicki Emig, for one is very excited about the growth for the new year. “Last year was somewhat of an exhibition year, but it served its purpose in showing the region and potential new racers what an exciting and affordable class it will be.”  She understands that the “show & tell” aspect of last season served its purpose and that is much of what attracted the new blood to the division.  “The majority of the racers joining the class this year have never raced or had not recently been racing so the division is right on track in doing what we had hoped, recruiting new racers and helping to preserve and build back into our Modified class.”


Among the new drivers entering the ranks of the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modified Series is Joe Plesniak. At age 43, Plesniak has a somewhat diverse short track background. “I started racing in the mini stock division in 2009.  Had some success and a whole lot of fun.  We moved up to try our hand at the Street Stock and quickly found out that both my talent and funds were lacking to compete at that level. We've took a little break from racing, but now we're going to give it another shot,” Plesniak says of his eagerness to move to the new affordable New York-style Modifieds.


In fact what has drawn him to the Sweeney RUSH Mods is the cost and the tech aspects of the class. “Tech for the mini stocks is limited at best. Go on to any of the racing classified ads and you'll find a bunch of cars for sale with ‘motor work’.  The RUSH Series seems to have a good handle limiting the costs to the racer.” Plesniak’s Watson's Auto Service, Merle Hays Auto Wrecking, State Farm Insurance, Linda Oliver, Whispering Pines Golf Course-sponsored Bicknell will be competing mostly at Sharon on Saturday nights. “I have no crazy thoughts of winning anything except for experience,” says the Linesville, Pa. racer. “The plan is to go out and have fun each week and be able to load the car on the trailer without cursing.  The goal is to have fun and not break our equipment or anyone else's equipment.”


Another driver that cites the cost controls built into the RUSH Series is Hubbard, Ohio’s Jeff Hughes.  The 29-year-old has some time behind the wheel in the Limited Sprint Cars and Mini Stocks, but his time working around the Big-Block Modifieds has given him the passion for this type of car. “What has sparked my interest in in the RUSH Series is being around the Big-Block Modifieds for the past 15 years watching one of my best friends Jimmy Weller and his dad race.  I have always had a passion for the Modifieds, but just to be competitive you have to spend big money which I was not in the position to do. So now that the RUSH Series has surfaced with Sportsman Modifieds and has made it affordable I was able to jump right in to them.”


Hughes will spend much of 2015 behind the wheel of his #22 Teo Pro with the backing of Hughes General Contracting and One Stop Mart.  You can catch him most anywhere the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds are scheduled to run this year including weekly at Sharon and Sportsman’s as well as most of the touring dates.


Emlenton, Pennsylvania’s Kurt Corah joins the ranks of the Sweeney RUSH Mods with a background that includes much of the 90s and early 2000’ in a Stock Car before going on to motorcycle racing.  He also finds the low cost of the series keeping the racing in the driver’s and team’s hands as the reason for his interest in RUSH.  Asked where we can see his Bicknell #152 compete, the 45-year-old says, “I will be racing at Sportsman’s Speedway in nearby Knox mostly with Sharon on weekends that time will allow.” With backing from Amazing Stitches and Hermes Custom Products, both of Emlenton, he hopes to experience some close, competitive racing.


Twenty-four year-old Josh Deems has spent a fair amount of seat time racing at Tri-City Speedway in the Enduro class and Mercer Raceway Park in a Mod Lite.  He brings his #9D Bicknell, Crate Engine Sportsman Modified to the RUSH Series with a couple of factors in mind. “I was interested in the class because it seems like it’ll have an even playing field and the Series’ promoters care about the drivers,” says the Volant, PA driver, who continues his high praise of the Series and some of its promotions.  “I think it is great that the class can have a point fund such as it does for all the more it costs to get into the class; and that they have the manufacturers night that they give away products and parts to the racer. Things like that really attract racers to the division.”  With the help of his wife Staci and his uncle, Deems hopes to make as many races as possible in his yet unsponsored racer.


At age 20, Brandon Richey has two years of experience in the Mini Stocks where he has already won at Sportsman’s Speedway and picked up a win at the “Little Guys Nationals” at Mercer Raceway Park.  The Cranberry, Pa. driver will be returning to race at Sportsman’s weekly in his 2010 Teo #17. “Getting used to the Modified will be the big thing as a first-year driver,” says Richey. His Casey’s Restaurant and Lounge, Nickle Bar, Eakin Concrete-sponsored entry will be accompanied in the pits by his crew consisting of his father, grandfather and brother.  His father Chip was a former Big-Block Modified racer at the area speedways years ago.   


Brandon’s cousin Nick Ritchey is one that is looking forward to getting back into Modified racing due to the affordability.  Nick started racing go-karts at the age of eight, and had many feature wins along with track championships at Slippery Rock and Pinehill Speedways.  Nick started racing Big-Block Modifieds in 2001, and captured Rookie of the Year at Tri-City Speedway and the Outstanding Achievement Award at Mercer Raceway Park.


Nick got hurt in 2005 and gave up racing until 2007 when he started racing an asphalt Late Model at Lake Erie speedway through 2010.  Now the 30-year-old from Oil City, Pa. will be behind the wheel of a 2003 Bicknell.


While the Sweeney RUSH Late Model Division has a number of very young, talented drivers, with names like Michael Lake, Ryan Montgomery, Eric Wilson, Nico Dabecco, and others, the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds also has two young teenagers ready to take on his elders in competition.  


The first is Kyle Martell.  The 14-year-old is probably the westward most New York-style Modified racer in the country residing in Rootstown, Ohio. Martell started racing asphalt quarter midgets at six.  Martell raced throughout Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and North Carolina winning championships locally, regionally, and nationally throughout his eight-year career.  His biggest victory was a national race in the infield of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


In 2014, Martell competed in the “358” Modified division at Mercer Raceway Park, and is looking forward to moving over to the Sweeney RUSH Sportsman Modifieds for the upcoming 2015 season.  Martell is a big proponent of the sealed crate engine.  His #8 Bicknell is sponsored by Sarchione Chevrolet & Ford and Band of Brothers Restoration.  He’ll have help from his dad Tim, uncle Andy, and grandfather Jim as he looks forward to competing weekly at Sharon Speedway and traveling with the RUSH Series with futures goals of victories and championships.


At 13 years old by the drop of the first green flag of the season, Stoneboro, Pennsylvania’s Jeremy Weaver is ready to take on the challenge of the Sportsman Mods.  He became a huge fan of racing watching his uncle Chris Haines in competition at Mercer Raceway Park and never missed a race.  By age seven, Weaver’s parents gave him a go-kart as a Christmas present.  A true track kid, Jeremy has made many friends in the racing business at his young age.  After a couple of track titles in the kart, his story jumps ahead a half dozen years to another Christmas morning in 2014 when he received a full-size center-steer Modified!


Sharing garage time with Haines and Tommy Kristyak, Weaver and his father Aaron are looking forward to a season of learning, seat time, and earning the respect of the older drivers in the class. The Lakeview Middle School student has a lot to prove and has just the right determination to reach those goals.


Several other new racers are expected to compete.  One of those is Sam Tatalovic of Guys Mills, Pa.  Sam is the son of new Tri-City Raceway Park owner, Mark Tatalovic.  Sam recently picked up a Bicknell car from longtime racer Rick Hall and will be a rookie racer in 2015.  Another is 24-year-old Josh Chaney of Hubbard, Ohio, who is good friends with Jeff Hughes and will be a rookie racer in 2015.


Twenty-year-old go-kart graduate, Chelsie Kriegisch, will begin her first full season.  The Ellwood City, Pa. resident split time last year with car owner Jerry Schaffer, who will have three cars in 2015 including one again for his son Will.


Emig seems pleased with the response to the growth of the division so far, with the number of new drivers and two tracks where they can run full-time. “When Sharon and Sportsman’s Speedways both stepped up to host the division on a weekly basis, I knew the results would be positive.  I really think by mid-summer we will see very respectable fields of cars at both speedways and from there the sky’s the limit for growth into the future.”


RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners: Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, MSD Ignition, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, VP Racing Fuels, FK Rod Ends, AERO Race Wheels, Velocita-USA, Precise Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, K&N Filters, Rocket Racing, 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 Racing Series website is Like our Facebook page at and follow us on Twitter @RUSHLM.