By Tyler Beichner
A hearty field of 38 HOMAK Penn-Ohio Pro Stocks presented by R&R Garage and R.K. Virgile packed the pits on Sunday for an early 4 p.m. start time as they headlined the traditional Applefest race that Tri-City Raceway Park is known for. They were accompanied by the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds presented by Blooming Valley Landscape and Supply, and the ‘305’ Sprint Cars presented by ARMSTRONG Cable.
The HOMAK Penn-Ohio Pro Stocks made their second appearance of the season at the ½-mile Franklin oval as they packed the pits with 38 entrants of their own. Sunday’s event was not only the track’s season finale, but it was another chance for a driver to collect the prestigious Applefest crown that has been chased by countless drivers in the area. This year’s edition of the race featured a 50-lap, $2,000-to-win event to decide the winner.
Heading into the feature, the “Seneca Slider” Bobby Whitling had to be the pre-eminent favorite. Not only is he one of the winningest drivers in Tri-City Raceway Park history, but he shocked the clock by setting fast time in Stock Car qualifying and charged to the front of the Dash to earn the pole position. However, it was Dubois, PA’s Andrew Gordon, who would line up alongside Whitling on the front row of the feature, that would steal the show.
Fresh off a $2,000 victory just one night prior at the Sharon Speedway, Andrew Gordon was looking for redemption in his second career Tri-City Raceway Park start as his only previous appearance earlier in the season resulted in a DNF.
Whitling and Gordon stormed down the frontstretch side-by-side at the drop of the green flag, but it was Gordon that would assume the lead spot heading down the back chute after powering around the outside of Turn 2. At the completion of that first lap, he held a 0.902-second margin over Whitling, Chris Schneider, Rusty Moore and Rusty Martz.
The first change within the top five came on Lap 5 as Randy Wyant completed the pass of Rusty Martz and slid into the 5th position. Just as the that lap was completed, the first yellow of the race was displayed for a five-car pileup in Turns 3 & 4 involving Joe Stajnrajh, Darr Diegelman, Bill Hurrelbrink, Davy Lee and Brad Church. A subsequent red flag was thrown and cars were stopped until the track was cleared of the wreckage.
Racing resumed, with Andrew Gordon opening up a sizeable advantage over the rest of the field, and the running order stayed much the same until another yellow flew on Lap 15 for a slowing Chris McGuire. The remaining 35 laps would run caution-free.
On the ensuing restart, Gordon once again put ground between himself and the rest of the field. At the same time, Chris Schneider was able to take advantage of a good restart as he stole the 2nd position away from Bobby Whitling. He then set his sights on the leader.
Just after the halfway point of the race, Rusty Moore took advantage of a string of good laps to sneak past Bobby Whitling and inherit 3rd place on Lap 26. Randy Wyant still occupied the 5th position.
Race-long leader Andrew Gordon encountered lapped traffic for the first time on Lap 30, but it did nothing to diminish the 4.641-second lead he held of Chris Schneider at the time. In fact, he still continued to pull away from not only Schneider, but the rest of the field as he went unchallenged until the checkers flew. His dominance was on total display as he lapped up to 5th place and finished with a winning margin of 12.729 seconds. Chris Schneider, Rusty Moore, Bobby Whitling and Randy Wyant finished 2nd-5th and were the only cars on the lead lap. Rounding out the Top 10 were Rusty Martz, Bob Schwartzmiller, Nick Kocuba, Danny Rich and Jarod Larson.
Heat race winners over the 38 car field were Chris Schneider, Randy Wyant, Rusty Moore and Rusty Martz. Bob Sloss was the winner of the Penn-Ohio Non-Winner’s race.
Next on the card was the RUSH Sportsman Modified tour. The season-long series was completing their second event of the weekend as well as their second-to-last touring race of the year. Sunday’s visit to the high-banked ½ mile oval marked the third time the division would compete at Tri-City Raceway Park in 2017.
After heat races and a redraw set the feature field, Chas Wolbert and Nick Ritchey aligned side-by-side on the front row as the 20-car field took the green. After the field was set loose, Wolbert wasted no time as he took a commanding lead. He completed Lap 1 with a 1.384 second lead over Ritchey, Brandon Michaud, Josh Deems and 8th starting Justin Shea.
Franklin’s own Justin Shea was the show in the ensuing laps as he made his way past Deems on Lap 2 to grab 4th, and then worked his way past Michaud on the following lap to claim 3rd place.
The first caution flag of the race flew on Lap 4 for A.J. Gillespie who spun to a stop on the frontstretch to avoid a slowing Brian Schaffer. The field was re-aligned and shown the green, but quickly another yellow was displayed for a spinning Jason Hufnagel before a lap could be completed.
The second time was the charm as the field of RUSH Mods was able to string a few laps together. Chas Wolbert still maintained command of the field, but it was during this stretch that series point leader Kyle Martell made his first appearance in the top five when he found a way past Josh Deems and Brandon Michaud.
On Lap 8, Justin Shea completed the pass of Nick Ritchey for the runner-up spot and set his sights on race-long leader Chas Wolbert. For a handful of laps, Shea was able to cut into the lead. However, his momentum was stalled when the final caution of the race flew on Lap 11.
Heading into Turn 1, initial contact was made between Jessica Kriegisch and Blaze Myers as they went for the same real estate on the bottom of the circuit. The contact resulted in the pair of drivers spinning sideways in the middle of the pack. Total carnage ensued as six other drivers – Chelsie Kriegisch, Chad Gumpp, David Kalb Jr, Brandon Ritchey, Jason Hufnagel and Tiffany Williams – piled into the crash with nowhere to go. Chelsie Kriegisch was briefly tended to by the medical staff, but no serious injuries were reported.
After the accident scene was cleared, the remainder of the field got back to racing. The final nine laps of the race were ran accident free. Chas Wolbert was never seriously challenged as he continued on to pick up the $600 RUSH Sportsman Modified touring series win by a 0.976-second margin over Justin Shea, Kyle Martell, Nick Ritchey and Josh Deems.
Preliminary heat races were won by Brandon Michaud and Blaze Myers.
The final feature event of the season was for the ‘305’ Sprint Cars. After car-count concerns by Tri-City Raceway Park staff and management, it was decided to open up the event to all ‘305’ Sprint Cars, rather than limiting the race to one sanction within the division.
An interesting mix could be found just on the front row as long-time racer Andy Priest lined up on the pole with Joe Sylvester, who is completing his first season in a full-sized sprint car, to his outside.
Priest held the lead for the opening lap, but to the surprise of many, Joe Sylvester powered around the outside of Turn 2 to take the top spot on Lap 2. The running order remained much the same, and by Lap 10 Sylvester had opened up a 1.215-second gap over Priest, Cody Bova, Matt Foos and Darin Gallagher.
A couple bobbles by Sylvester allowed Priest to close back in on Lap 15, and Priest continued to stalk him for the subsequent three laps until he edged ahead of Sylvester by a nose as they crossed the stripe to complete Lap 17.
The race’s only caution came with two to go as Mike Marano spun to a spun directly in front of the leaders on the top side of Turn 1. Fortunately all drivers were able to avoid the stopped car.
Following the caution, Sylvester bobbled once again and surrendered two spots. Cody Bova completed the pass for 2nd, and Matt Foos followed closely behind and now occupied the 3rd spot.
Andy Priest was the first to cross the scoring line under the checkers on Lap 20 as he picked up the $800 victory by a 1.139-second margin over Bova, Foos, Sylvester and Darin Gallagher.
Cody Bova and Mike Marano were the heat race winners.
Homak Penn/Ohio Pro Stocks presented R&R Garage and R.K. Virgile:
Feature (50 Laps, $2,000-to-win): 1. Andrew Gordon 2. Chris Schneider 3. Rusty Moore 4. Bobby Whitling 5. Randy Wyant 6. Rusty Martz 7. Bob Schwartzmiller 8. Nick Kocuba 9. Danny Rich 10. Jarod Larson 11. Bobby Heim 12. Terry Wheeler 13. David Baker 14. Chris McGuire 15. Andy Buckley 16. Curtis J. Bish 17. Curt Bish, Jr 18. Daryl Charlier 19. Todd Weldon 20. Joe Stajnrajh 21. Darr Diegelman 22. Brad Church 23. Bill Hurrelbrink 24. Davy Lee 25. Jackson Humanic DNS Leigh Wheeler
Dash (4 Laps): 1. Bobby Whitling 2. Andrew Gordon 3. Chris Schneider 4. Rusty Moore 5. Rusty Martz 6. Randy Wyant
Heat 1 (8 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. Chris Schneider 2. Bobby Whitling 3. Andy Buckley 4. Danny Rich 5. Terry Wheeler 6. Garrett Calvert 7. David Baker 8. Davy Lee 9. Bill Phillips, Jr 10. Bill Hurrelbrink
Heat 2 (8 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. Randy Wyant 2. Andrew Gordon 3. Chris McGuire 4. Jarod Larson 5. Darr Diegelman 6. Bobby Heim 7. Russ Coyne 8. Pat Fielding 9. Ronnie Davis 10. Tim Bish
Heat 3 (8 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. Rusty Moore 2. Jackson Humanic 3. Leigh Wheeler 4. Curt Bish, Jr 5. Joe Stajnrajh 6. Charlie McMillen 7. Brad Church 8. Rod Laskey 9. Bob Sloss
Heat 4 (8 Laps, Top 5 Transfer): 1. Rusty Martz 2. Nick Kocuba 3. Bob Schwartzmiller 4. Todd Weldon 5. Curtis J. Bish 6. Daryl Charlier 7. Jesse Brock 8. Wesley McCray 9. Bill Robertson
Qualifying: 1. Bobby Whitling (20.394) 2. Andrew Gordon 3. Rusty Moore 4. Bob Schwartzmiller 5. Chris Schneider 6. Chris McGuire 7. Leigh Wheeler 8. Rusty Martz 9. Bill Hurrelbrink 10. Tim Bish 11. Jackson Humanic 12. Todd Weldon 13. Andy Buckley 14. Randy Wyant 15. Curtis Bish 16. Nick Kocuba 17. Danny Rich 18. Bobby Heim 19. Brad Church 20. Curtis J. Bish 21. Terry Wheeler 22. Wes McCray 23. Jarod Larson 24. Joe Stajnrajh 25. Daryl Charlier 26. Sonny Baker 27. Pat Fielding 28. Rod Laskey 29. Garrett Calvert 30. Darr Diegelman 31. Bob Sloss 32. Bill Robertson 33. Davy Lee 34. Russ Coyne 35. Charlie McMillen 36. Jesse Brock 37. Bill Phillips, Jr 38. Ronnie Davis (DNS)
B-Main #1 (10 Laps, Top 3 Transfer): 1. Davy Lee 2. David Baker 3. Bobby Heim 4. Bill Hurrelbrink 5. Pat Fielding 6. Bill Phillips, Jr 7. Ronnie Davis 8. Garrett Calvert 9. Russ Coyne 10. Tim Bish
B-Main #2 (10 Laps, Top 2 Transfer): 1. Daryl Charlier 2. Brad Church 3. Rod Laskey 4. Wesley McCray 5. Charlie McMillen 6. Jesse Brock 7. Bob Sloss 8. Bill Robertson
Non-Qualifier (8 Laps): 1. Bob Sloss 2. Pat Fielding 3. Rod Laskey 4. Russ Coyne 5. Bill Phillips, Jr 6. Bill Robertson DNS Garret Calvert, Wesley McCray, Charlie McMillen, Ronnie Davis, Jesse Brock, Tim Bish
RUSH Sportsman Modified Tour presented by Blooming Valley Landscape and Supply:
Feature (20 Laps, $600-to-win): 1. Chas Wolbert 2. Justin Shea 3. Kyle Martell 4. Nick Ritchey 5. Josh Deems 6. Brandon Michaud 7. Kole Holden 8. Jerry Schaffer 9. Billy Myers 10. Brandon Ritchey 11. A.J. Gillespie 12. Blaze Myers 13. Chad Gumpp 14. Tiffany Williams 15. Jessica Krieigisch 16. David Kalb, Jr 17. Chelsie Kriegisch 18. Jason Hufnagel 19. Jacob Jordan 20. Brian Schaffer
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. Brandon Michaud 2. Justin Shea 3. Jessica Kriegisch 4. Chas Wolbert 5. Brandon Ritchey 6. Tiffany Williams 7. Kole Holden 8. A.J. Gillespie 9. Chelsie Krieigisch 10. Billy Myers
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. Blaze Myers 2. Josh Deems 3. Kyle Martell 4. Nick Ritchey 5. Brian Schaffer 6. David Kalb, Jr 7. Jerry Schaffer 8. Chad Gumpp 9. Jason Hufnagel 10. Jacob Jordan
305 Sprint Cars presented by ARMSTRONG Cable:
A-Main (20 Laps, $800 to win): 1. Andy Priest 2. Cody Bova 3. Matt Foos 4. Joe Sylvester 5. Darin Gallagher 6. Ken Rossey 7. Mike Marano 8. Landon LaLonde 9. Nevan O’Donnell 10. Shamus O’Donnel 11. Mike Roddy
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. Cody Bova 2. Matt Foos 3. Joe Sylvester 4. Andy Priest 5. Shamus O’Donnell 6. Nevan O’Donnell
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. Mike Marano 2. Darin Gallagher 3. Landon LaLonde 4. Mike Roddy 5. Ken Rossey