Erick Rudolph, Steve Shultz and Scott Bennett Are Sunday Fall Brawl Winners at Shangri-La II
By Carol Houssock
(Tioga Center, NY) Shangri-la II Motor Speedway closed out the 2013 season with a trio of Sunday races that left many with race stories they’ll exchange over the winter months. Mother Nature set the stage with beautiful weather, race teams and fans gathered, and day 2 of the Fall Brawl was on. When it was over the hardware went home with Erick Rudolph (ROC Modified), Steve Shultz (Pudgies Pizza Street Stock) and Scott Bennett (IMCA Modified).
Ransomville’s Erick Rudolph did something no one else had accomplished in 2013 – he passed Matt Hirschman for a win. Coming in to the ROC Modified Tour finale at Shangri-la II Motor Speedway, Hirschman had claimed all but one race. Mike Leaty was the only other winner on the tour. Hirschman’s consistency had already earned him the 2013 championship, but he wanted a Shangri-la sweep. He had victory on his mind. Rudolph’s team had that same vision. And, on this day, their vision became reality when Erick parked Ed McGuire’s #51 in victory lane. Bobby Holmes, Billy Putney and Daren Scherer won the 3 qualifying events, whose top 4 finishers drew for starting positions 1-12. Chris Whitenight drew the pole position while Matt Hirschman drew #12, something he said he always does.
Fans say that makes for a good race, and on Sunday it certainly did. ROC rookie driver Austin Kochenash started 2nd but by turn 2 had the top spot, something he held for 48 laps. Fellow rookie, Nick Pecko, ran 2nd with Rudolph in 3rd. Hirschman was consistently running 10th but by lap 40 he started working toward the front. When Tommy Cloce slowed to a stop in turn 4 it brought out a race-altering caution. The top 4 drivers (Kochenash, Pecko, Rudolph and Tony Hanbury) pitted for a fresh tire along with a half dozen other cars. Mike Leaty, Whitenight and Hirschman
all stayed out and restarted in the top 3 spots. Over the next 15 laps Leaty and Hirschman broke away from Brian Defebo and Rudolph, who ran together in a battle for 3rd.
Defebo’s day turned sour, when officials threw the caution for loose sheet metal on his car and a suspected leak. Their suspicions were valid, as he was leaking gear fluid and his strong run was over. Following the restart Hirschman got around Leaty and many assumed that was the race-winning pass. Not so. Rudolph continued his charge and got to 2nd on lap 78. From there it was all about passing Hirschman, whom he had easily caught with that fresher tire. Rudolph didn’t disappoint, got the nose of the #51 under the #60 and passed Hirschman for the lead. He held on for the popular win. Hirschman settled for 2nd, followed by Leaty, Hanbury and Kochenash. “The tire change was key for us. The car was fast but that gave us an edge,” he said from victory lane. Hirschman commended Rudolph, who has impressed him with many wins on both asphalt and dirt this year. Leaty said he likes the track, where he produced finishes of 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the 3 ROC shows contested on the concrete in 2013.
The Pudgies Pizza Street Stock portion of the Fall Brawl attracted 27 cars, some of whom had stayed overnight in the area after running the Big 10 Super Stock event on Saturday. The top 4 finishers in the 3 heats, won by Jason Duke, Sr., Billy Coyle and Mike Nichols, drew for the top 12 starting spots.
Tommy Markham and Gary Noe drew best and made up the front row for the start. Markham led early, first challenged by Tim Gullo and then by Lee Sharpsteen. Gullo took his car out of the groove in turn 3 and came to a stop in turn 4 after spewing smoke. Markham was back up to 2nd for the restart, which proved race-ending for him. Going into turn 1 a track official noticed he had a loose wheel. As he negotiated the corner he came down into the 05 of Jeff Goodwin, lost the wheel, then shot up the track into the wall on 3 tires. Mike Nichols then moved up to 2nd for the restart. Attrition was high in this one, as mechanical failures forced a number of cars into the pits and out of the race.
By lap 20 the field of 26 starters was down by 10. Several additional cautions were race-ending ending for other competitors. Following each restart Sharpsteen proved he had the car to beat, as he pulled away from whatever car had 2nd at the time. By lap 25 it was Billy Coyle who was up there, trying to close the gap.
Goodwin was running 3rd, Duke 4th and Steve Shultz 5th. The race-altering issue in this one occurred with 38 laps complete. Sharpsteen had a right side tire go down and when he spun Coyle had nowhere to go. During that caution Goodwin also pulled in with a flat left side tire. At some point Sharpsteen and Goodwin had made contact and their tires let go at the same time. With the top 3 in the pits that brought Duke and Shultz up to row 1 for the restart and Duke prevailed briefly. The 8th, and final, caution came out with 6 laps remaining. Over those 6 laps Shultz proved the strength he demonstrated the night before was no fluke and he sailed across the finish line first. Duke was 2nd, followed by Coyle, Terry Potrzebowski and Goodwin. “The damage last night was very minor. We fixed it and had the car race-ready for today,” he said while surrounded by his Drums, PA crew. “We won at Shangri-la!”
Virtually every race fan has witnessed a 3-car race that was one for the memory bank. Such was the case Sunday afternoon for the IMCA Modifieds, making their debut on the ½-mile concrete. Scott Bennett swept the action and made a history when he won both his heat and the inaugural 15-lap feature. Chad Ely led the first 4 laps, but it was his slide through the grass in turn 4 that most fans will remember.
The crowd went wild, cheering him on as he controlled his car through the grass and back onto the concrete. His dirt track experience was evident. All 3 drivers spent a good portion of their time on the track running on 3 tires, with their left right up in the air around most of as the track.
Bennett, who started 3rd, had 2nd by the 2nd lap and passed Ely for the lead on the 5th lap. Once in front he pulled away from Ely, but the crowd showed their appreciation for his run and the other 2 when he exited the car. “That was way different than anything I’ve ever done before,” Bennett told the crowd. Todd Stone finished 3rd.
The oval track is now quiet until 2014; however everyone is reminded to watch the track’s website www.shangrila-2.com for details on the 2013 banquet. Track management extends thanks to the many race teams, sponsors and fans for their support this year.
Notes: During intermission the ROC drivers conducted a helmet drive that raised over $700 for the Southern Tier Microd Club. Two of the cars were on display and the young drivers had some time on the front stretch.
Steve Shultz drew the winning ticket for a helmet autographed by drivers in NASCAR’S Camping World Truck Series. Tickets had been sold all season long, with proceeds go to the Spalding Foundation for Injured Drivers.
Al Robinson gave the command to start the engines for the ROC 100-lap feature.
Numerous race teams and businesses that sponsored laps for the Pudgies Pizza Street Stock race were acknowledged and thanked for their support.
ROC Modifieds (100 Laps) ERICK RUDOLPH, Matt Hirschman, Mike Leaty, Tony Hanbury, Austin Kochenash, Nick Pecko, Bobby Holmes, Daren Scherer, Chris Whitenight, Brandon Oltra, Doug Reaume, Billy Putney, Jim Storace, Dean Rypkema, Todd Geist, Tommy Cloce, Bryan Sherwood, Brian Defebo, Ken Canestrari
Heats: Holmes, Putney, Scherer
Pudgies Pizza Street Stocks (50 Laps) STEVE SHULTZ, Jason Duke, Billy Coyle, Terry Potrzebowski, Jeff Goodwin, Lee Sharpsteen, Randy Brokaw, Jeff Frisbie, Brad Knapp, Mike Ramos, Derrick Tarbox, Mike Nichols, Glenn Lippolis, Gary Noe, Bob Ripley, Tommy Markham, Al Chapman, Tim Gullo, Hank Buchanan, Bill Frisbie, Jr., Aaron Higgins, Chuck Nichols (DNS), Charlie Sharpsteen (DNS), Robert Fink (DNS), JR Swansbrough (DNS), George Swansbrough (DNS), Kelly Miller (DNS)
Heats: Duke, Coyle, Nichols
IMCA Modifieds (15 Laps) SCOTT BENNETT, Chad Ely, Todd Stone
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