SWEENEY RUSH PRO MODS READIES FOR INAUGURAL SEASON AT STATELINE SPEEDWAY; DIVERSIFIED GROUP OF RACERS TO MAKE-UP CHARTER SEASON
By Doug Kennedy
April 6, 2016
(Pulaski, PA)...In December it was announced that for the third straight year, the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series powered by Pace Performance would be adding a new division, the RUSH Pro Mods, to their growing racing family, one that already consisted of Late Models, Sportsman Modifieds, and Pro Stocks.
The RUSH Pro Mods, an E-Mod style car, will feature the GM 604 and GM 602 engine package, as do all of the other RUSH divisions, along with the mandated sealed spec $135 Bilstein shock package and the RUSH 91 pump gas type product. The Series will offer $15,050 in Weekly Series point fund money with $3,500 going to the champion all the way down to $300 for the 20th place finisher. There will also be a $600 “Futures Cup” program, as well as "Manufacturers Night" to be held at Stateline on Saturday, July 30.
Stateline Speedway located in Busti, New York will be the home base for the division throughout the 2016 season beginning with opening night on Saturday, April 30. Following a couple somewhat tumultuous years, Stateline is now in the hands of new owners, Jim and Jean Scott and Brian Horner. “It’s going to be a totally different place,” said well known regional Late Model and E-Mod racer, David Scott, Jim's son, of Stateline. “We made sure that the racers knew that the track was going to be there in 2016. Now we’re racing baby.”
Regional Econo Mods will be permitted to compete with the RUSH Pro Mods at Stateline this season only; however, will not be able to earn RUSH points nor contingency prizes.
David and his father, Jim were talking one night about how to entice kids to join an economical racing series, when they came up with the idea of a crate engine E-Mod type car. With Stateline already being a RUSH-sanctioned speedway they contacted Vicki Emig. After a December meeting in which the details were discussed, the two parties came to an agreement to begin developing the class under the RUSH sanction.
“RUSH is the division's sanctioning body and Stateline is the racetrack,” said Dave. "Realistically, we have discussed for quite a while that E-Mods should have the crate motor. Pricewise, motors that require more horsepower are out of hand.”
Even though Stateline is the only track that will be running the RUSH Pro Mods on a weekly basis this season, there are hopes that other tracks will run the series as well in the future. A similar model has already proven to be successful with the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds that are now set to begin their third full season with its Sharon Speedway being its home base from its inception. The Sportsman Modifieds now also features a small "Touring" Series that will visit another four speedways throughout the region and is expected to see its biggest growth spurt during the 2016 season. The same successful progression is expected for the RUSH Pro Mods.
Scott will continue his racing career with a Late Model and an open motor E-Mod, but with regards to the operation of the track, he will wear a number of hats. He says that there will be a group of six or seven who will sit down on a regular basis and talk about issues regarding the racetrack
Another individual who was involved in initiating the Pro Mod class is retired E-Mod, Late Model, and Limited Late Model driver, Dale Applebee. This season he will co-own a RUSH Pro Mod for driver Jeremy Williams. Applebee said that he and David (Scott) started talking in December about doing something with the Pro Mods and expanded those talks to include Emig as well.
“I played a role in getting it started and then it grew from there,” said Applebee. “I think it’s going to bring in some good quality racers. It’s a good deal. All the rules make sense and it’s affordable for the weekend racer.”
“I will be driving the Applebee House Car,” said Williams, who lives in Pittsfield, Pa. “I raced a Stock Car for five straight years and was looking to find something different. When we looked at the E-Mod, the motor costs were way too high so we found the RUSH series though Dale. In early December, he approached me about driving for him because the Series was a go. It was a class we could afford to do and move up from where we were before. I just didn’t want to race a stock car for the rest of my career.”
Other driver and owner responses are just as positive regarding the new Pro Mod Division. One of them is Mike Asel of Kane, Pa., who is also the tech inspector for the RUSH Late Models at Bradford Speedway. Asel hasn’t driven a race car for the last 12 years, but plans to participate as an owner in the new RUSH Pro Mod Series with his brother, Dennis, behind the wheel. When he did drive, Asel competed in Street Stocks at Sportsman's, Marion Center, and Lernerville.
“We got rid of our Street Stock motor because I could buy a used crate motor for what it would cost to fix my Street Stock,” said the 55-year-old Asel. “So it was a no brainer for me. It’s (the Series) going to help keep the costs of racing down.”
Bear Lake, Pa. resident, Scott Gurdak, will be a regular competitor in the Pro Mods each and every Saturday. “I think it’s going to be a fun series because everyone has to run the same stuff,” said Gurdak.
For Gurdak, racing is certainly a family thing. His sister, Lori, his brother, Stacey, and Scott own the family RUSH Late Model, while his brother also owns the Pro Mod. Scott’s plans are to run the full Stateline schedule, as well as the RUSH Late Model on a regular basis. His sister’s husband, Jack Hollabaugh, will crew chief on both cars. “He used to tow my race car when I was just 16,” said Gurdak.
Greg Johnson has been racing for 25 years and in an E-Mod since 2007 where he currently races at Stateline, Eriez, Tyler County, along with the Renegade and the UEMS Series. Greg’s son, Zach, will be doing the driving in their new Pro Mod and feels that the Pro Mod Series will be a good start for his 14-year-old son. His plans are to take both cars to Stateline so that he and his son can both race at the same track.
“I’m excited,” said Greg regarding the Pro Mod division. “I think it’s a good deal. If I was just starting out, that’s where I would go,” said Johnson. “If I didn’t have the E-Mod, I would probably have two Pro Mods.”
Veteran, Chad Ruhlman will run an E-Mod and at times, he will also race the RUSH Pro Mod. “I like it,” said Ruhlman of the Pro Mod Series. “I think the class needed the crate motor 20 years ago. Guys are putting $35,000 into a motor for the E-Mods. There’s no economy in the cost of the motor when they’re running for $500 a night to win. You would have to win 70 features a year to break even. I think the Pro Mods is good with the spec shock and the spec motor, and everything that Vicki is doing is good for the racer.”
He also believes that the division is good for a beginner’s class for the younger kids. As with Greg Johnson, Ruhlman is going to have his 13-year-old son, Kevin, do the driving of his Pro Mod.
One of the familiar names that will be participating in the Series is Justin Carlson. The Panama, New York racer started his career in 1999 in the Stock Car division before moving to the E-Mods in 2002 where he's been a regular competitor ever since scoring wins and championships throughout the region. Carlson is a strong believer in the Pro Mod concept and the point fund is what attracted him to the Series saying it's a nice reward for a long year's work. Carlson will be campaigning both an open E-Mod and a RUSH Pro Mod during 2016.
Corry, Pa’s Bill Silvis said that he feels the Series is really going to be good and more economical. Silvis’ 15-year-old son, Jarrod, was targeted to drive the family Pro Mod, but prior commitments will now mean that Bill will do the driving for 2016. “There wasn’t a learning class for racing so I figure this will be a good class for that,” said Silvis. “I think it will be a little easier to learn with more of an even class.”
Another son who will be driving for his father is Brandon Blackshear. The younger Blackshear will be driving an Econo Mod at both Sharon and Eriez and occasionally a Pro Mod at Stateline. Brandon is the son of Don Blackshear, the Director of Circle Track Engine Development at Pace Performance.
Jason Covey of Clymer, NY has raced a Street Stock for the past five years and is looking forward to the new class. “I think it’s a great idea as far as keeping the costs down, evening things out, and making it more of a driver’s class. I’m excited about the season,” he said.
Though his home track South Buxton Raceway in Merlin, Ontario is not part of the RUSH program yet, Drew Smith's car will be 100% RUSH legal with a GM 604, the spec Bilstein Shocks, and the RUSH 91 pump gas. The Canadian is a big proponent of the rules package and RUSH and hopes to make at least one appearance at Stateline for "Manufacturers Night".
Membership, as always with all RUSH divisions, is optional and is only available for drivers who compete with the GM 604 and 602 engine packages. Membership makes drivers eligible for the point funds and gives the drivers an excess $100,000 of participant accident insurance. The cost to join is $125. The Sweeney Weekly Series championship is comprised of member drivers’ best 12 feature points finishes throughout the 2016 season at RUSH Pro Mod sanctioned events.
In closing Emig believes the RUSH Pro Mods will be just as successful in the end as the other RUSH classes. "Over the years we've been continually asked when we were going to do develop a crate engine E-Mod division. There's definitely been a need for this type of class, especially in the past few years, but as they say, everything in its time and place, and I can't think of a better place to begin the Pro Mods than Stateline Speedway with the Scott family."
"Thanks to this initial group of racers we are going to have a strong foundation to build upon into the future," continued Emig. "One thing is for sure, they already have a great advantage in that all of the great partnerships that are in place with the RUSH Racing Series are waiting in the wings to support and provide them with the same exciting and valuable programs RUSH racers have enjoyed throughout the years!"
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