(Markleysburg, PA)...The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series returned to Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex on Friday night for the fifth and final time of the 2013 racing season. The "Northern States Classic" presented by Sunoco Race Fuels was originally scheduled to be a two-day event with the finale on Saturday night, but due to rain and cold temperatures in the forecast the decision was made by the track, Series, and racers to condense the program into a one-day event. When the checkered flag fell on Friday night, the temperature was down to 40 degrees.
After one of the worst weekends in recent memory for Mike Pegher, Jr. at his home track Pittsburgh's PA Motor Speedway in which Pegher went from a +18 point lead to a -17 deficit, he quickly bounced back on Friday night leading all 30 laps of the $2,000 to-win Sweeney Tour feature holding off Jacob Hawkins for his fifth win of the season. By virtue of his victory and Ryan Montgomery's sixth place, Pegher will trail Montgomery by just seven points heading into the finale next weekend at Lernerville Speedway.
"We're good friends with Montgomery," acknowledged the 27-year-old Wexford, Pa. driver. "We had a bad weekend last week at Pittsburgh with a 10th and a 17th. He's a good racer and hopefully we can get it done next weekend. We've run this the last few years and have never been this close so hopefully we can get it done. We haven't had near as many DNFs this year so that's always a good thing."
Pegher earned the pole position for the feature event via his K&N Dash win and took the early lead. Third and fourth starting Chad McClellan and Hawkins got past Cody Dawson on the opening lap for second and third. After moving from the eighth starting spot to fifth after one lap, Michael Lake dropped out of the top five on lap two when John Over made the pass.
McClellan was running his usual highline around the cushion as he tried to track down Pegher in search of his third straight Sweeney Tour win. McClellan though got too high in turn four on lap four allowing Hawkins to make the pass for second. McClellan got too high again in the next two laps as Dawson and Over slipped by into third and fourth respectively. Lake then passed McClellan to get himself back into the top five. The battle then was on for third as Dawson had his hands full with heavy pressure from Over, Lake, and McClellan.
Back up front, Pegher continued to set the pace, but Hawkins shadowed him every lap. Pegher caught lapped traffic on lap 12 as Hawkins closed in even more and on lap 13 was all over the leader in heavy traffic trying to find a way by; however, Pegher got a big break as debris was littered in turn four necessitating the first and only caution of the affair with 12 laps scored.
Back under green, Pegher out-dragged Hawkins into turn one following the double file restart. Lake was on the move as he passed both Over and Dawson to take over third on lap 13 with an inside move. Over and McClellan raced their way past Dawson for fourth and fifth respectively on lap 14.
As the laps ticked off, Pegher maintained a steady advantage. Lapped traffic loomed ahead in the closing laps, but it wasn't enough to allow Hawkins to mount any serious challenge. Pegher took the checkered flag in the Lynn Geisler-owned, #1 Cochran/Alternative Power Sources/Dale McClymonds Trucking/Pegher Painting/Triple-S Auto Outlet/Zero Wraps-sponsored Rocket Chassis #1c. by 0.795 of a second over Hawkins. It was Pegher's first Sweeney Tour win since August 15 at McKean County Raceway 10 races ago.
"Sometimes lapped traffic is good, sometimes it's bad," stated Pegher. "I obviously saw that Jacob (Hawkins) was second. The lapped cars were spread out enough so hopefully it would have allowed me to stretch out the lead, but it's always nice to have a caution. We've been struggling the last few weeks and put a little extra time in the garage this week and obviously it showed. My car owner Lynn Geisler is here tonight and if it wasn't for my crew guy Mike Brunner, I wouldn't be here."
Ironically back on June 22 when Pegher won at Roaring Knob, he held off Jared Hawkins, who subbed for McClellan. This time it was his younger brother Jacob, who trailed Pegher home driving for Jerry Hasler and Rick Strickler in the #RJ1. It was Hawkins first start in the car and his debut in the Sweeney Tour.
"It felt real good to get a second after we just got the car put together the other night," revealed the Fairmont, West Virginia racer. "It's a new deal. These are great people. I'm thankful for the opportunity they gave me to come out here. We had a had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I think if we can get the fuel issues figured out this will be a real good piece. Anytime my schedule is open I'll gladly jump in this, I know it can win these races. I had a smile on my face there for a little while. I knew lapped traffic was going to get thicker, but that caution fell at the right time. Mike (Pegher) is a heck of a racer and especially that Michael (Lake)- I saw him coming up in the third. He's impressive for a 12 year-old. I look forward to racing with him in the future to see what he becomes."
Lake's third place was his second straight top five Tour finish. "I started eighth and at the beginning I was trying to run the top to see if it would work," explained the Uniontown, Pa. resident. "Eventually I chose the bottom and got up to fifth. Then on the restart I got by Cody Dawson and John Over and just tried to stay in third and hoped for maybe one more."
McClellan passed Over to take the fourth spot for his fourth straight Sweeney Tour top five finish. Over was fifth in his first race back in seven weeks after breaking his wrist in accident at Roaring Knob on August 29. It also was his best Tour finish of the season.
After electrical issues in both qualifying and his heat race, Ryan Montgomery had to start 21st in the feature, but made his way to sixth at the finish to maintain his point lead and earned the $100 Precise Racing Products "Pedal Down Hard Charger" gift card. Even though he started second and fell back to seventh, Dawson recorded his best finish of the season and jumped two spots to fourth in the points! Shane Weaver also nailed down his season's best finish in eighth as did Mike Lewis in ninth.
What a night it was for Dennis Lunger, Jr! The 2013 Sharon Speedway champion towed over 200 miles with only one crew member to Roaring Knob in his first ever appearance. Lunger blew a motor in warm-ups and was lent a motor by Bobby Lake. Lunger and Lake's team made the motor change just in time for the feature! Lunger then raced his way from the 22nd starting spot to a 10th with just one caution without ever being able to make any adjustments to the car from his brief warm-up session! Lunger was awarded The Brake Man's "Tough Brake of the Night".
The third and final "Futures Cup" Trifecta race was contested and a new winner would be guaranteed as Pittsburgh winner Jorden Peters and Sharon winner Clay Ruffo were unable to make the trip. At his home track, Michael Lake led all 12 laps for the $200 win in the Bobby Lake-owned, C. Harper Chevrolet/Youngblood Concrete/V Corners Auto Sales/D&M Truck Repair/High Gear Speed Shop-sponsored Warrior Race Car #27 over Dawson, Eric Wilson, and Weaver.
"I just went and did what I did in the feature and it worked," expressed Lake. "I'd like to thank all of my sponsors. It was a good battle for the Futures Cup with Eric. It's pretty nice knowing I'm not the only young driver battling against all of the adults."
The win though wasn't enough to overcome Eric Wilson, who claimed the $1,000 title by just six points! Drivers' Sweeney Weekly Series points were added to the three "Trifecta" races. "It was a good season," acknowledged the 16-year-old Cortland, Ohio racer in his first Roaring Knob start of the season. "It was fun racing against Michael. I have to give props to him and his team. He's definitely a force to be reckoned with and I'm sure in the future he'll surpass a lot of great drivers. It came down to a close finish. I'm happy for him to win this final race- he definitely deserved it at his home track. I'm just happy to walk away with the championship. Without my parents and sponsors none of this would be possible."
McClellan set a new track record in $100 Bobby Lake Motorsports "Shock the Clock" qualifying with a lap of 16.860 besting the standard set by Andrew Wylie at the last Sweeney Tour race on September 27 by just 0.035 of a second! McClellan, Dawson, and Pegher also picked up Bobby Lake Motorsports heat races and earned an extra $25.
Pegher became just the fourth driver to repeat in K&N "Cold Air Induction" Dashes this season and received a $100 K&N certificate. Dawson won a $50 K&N certificate for second, while McClellan and Hawkins picked up an extra $25 cash for finishing third and fourth.
The next and final event on the 2013 Sweeney Tour will be race #24 next weekend at Lernerville for the "Steel City Stampede" with heats on Friday (October 25) and last chance B mains and the $2,000 to-win feature on Saturday. The rain date is Sunday.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series Race #23 (30 laps, $2,000 to-win): 1. MIKE PEGHER, JR. (Geisler 1c) 2. Jacob Hawkins (Strickler/Hasler RJ1) 3. Michael Lake (27) 4. Chad McClellan (119) 5. John Over (K2) 6. Ryan Montgomery (12) 7. Cody Dawson (36) 8. Shane Weaver (Ruffner 325x) 9. Mike Lewis (98) 10. Dennis Lunger, Jr. (Schwartz 71L) 11. Greg Lemley (4L) 12. John Waters (LeBarron 11) 13. Garrett Paugh (03) 14. Joe Moyer (LeComte 32) 15. Butch Lambert (27) 16. Nico Dabecco (Karalagas 1FR) 17. John Imler (63) 18. Jeremy Zufall (63) 19. W.L. Stile (1W) 20. Mike Thorne (47) 21. Bryan Rankin (7x) 22. Eric Wilson (27).
"Futures Cup" Trifecta Race #3 (12 laps, $200 to-win): 1. MICHAEL LAKE 2. Cody Dawson 3. Eric Wilson 4. Shane Weaver.
Feature Lap Leaders: Pegher (1-30)
Margin of Victory: 0.795 seconds
Precise Racing Products "Pedal Down Hard Charger":Ryan Montgomery (+15)
The Brake Man "Tough Brake of the Night: Dennis Lunger, Jr.
Crate Innovators Accelerator-1 Carb Spacer Kit Giveaways: Bryan Rankin & Eric Wilson
Bobby Lake Motorsports Qualifying ($100 for fast time) (Track Record 16.895 Andrew Wylie 9/27/13): 1. Chad McClellan 16.860 (NTR) 2. John Waters 16.882 3. John Over 16.947 4. Jacob Hawkins 16.984 5. Cody Dawson 17.104 6. Mike Pegher, Jr. 17.173 7. Greg Lemley 17.195 8. Michael Lake 17.234 9. Shane Weaver 17.305 10. Garrett Paugh 17.311 11. Mike Lewis 17.376 12. John Imler 17.384 13. Nico Dabecco 17.433 14. Butch Lambert 17.469 15. Bryan Rankin 17.488 16. Jeremy Zufall 17. W.L. Stile 17.653 18. Joe Moyer 17.685 19. Eric Wilson 17.701 20. Mike Thorne 17.956 21. Ryan Montgomery 21.066 22. Dennis Lunger, Jr. NT.
Bobby Lake Motorsports Heat 1 (8 laps, $25 to-win)1. McClellan 2. Hawkins 3. Lemley 4. Dabecco 5. Paugh 6. Zufall 7. Wilson 8. Lunger-DNS.
Bobby Lake Motorsports Heat 2 (8 laps, $25 to-win)1. Dawson 2. Waters 3. Lake 4. Lewis 5. Lambert 6. Stile 7. Thorne.
Bobby Lake Motorsports Heat 3 (8 laps, $25 to-win)1. Pegher 2. Over 3. Weaver 4. Imler 5. Moyer 6. Rankin 7. Montgomery.
K&N "Cold Air Induction" Dash (4 laps/$100 K&N certificate to-win): 1. Mike Pegher, Jr. 2. Cody Dawson 3. Chad McClellan 4. Jacob Hawkins.
2013 RUSH marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, RainEater Wiper Blades, Hoosier Tire, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, The -Brake Man, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, TurboStart, K1 RaceGear, Beyea Headers, FK Rod Ends, Bobby Lake Motorsports, Wrisco Industries, High Gear Speed Shop, Utsinger's Towing, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 www.rushracingseries.com. Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rushlatemodels and follow us on Twitter @RUSHLM.