NUMEROUS SWEENEY RUSH LATE MODEL RACERS SET TO CHASE AFTER BILSTEIN BANDITS $5,000 CHAMPIONSHIP PROGRAM UTILIZING THE $135 SHOCKS
By Doug Kennedy
March 30, 2015
(Pulaski, PA)...For 2015, Bilstein of America will up their involvement with the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series program. The “Official Shock” of RUSH will now offer some major monetary incentives for Late Model Drivers who choose to run the $135 “sealed” spec shock package.
Bilstein Shocks’ aftermarket headquarters is located in Poway, California, a suburb of San Diego. The manufacturing plant and company headquarters are in Hamilton, Ohio, while the warehouse and motorsports shop is based in Mooresville, North Carolina.
This is now the second season of Bilstein’s involvement with the Sweeney RUSH Racing Series. Last year, Bilstein shocks and the race team of Bob Williams and his driver Alan Dellinger was a huge success as they captured four weekly wins at Sharon Speedway and finished in the top three in 14 of the 19 races they entered.
“We’re back on the Bilsteins for another season,” said Williams of Canfield, Ohio, “so that shows that we really believe in the program. The shocks are easy to use. You bolt them on in the beginning of the year and don’t have to make any gas pressure adjustments and then take them off at the end of the year, clean them up, and put them back on.”
The Bilstein Bandits Championship program will run from 2015 through 2017 and offer a cash payout program of $13,150 per year. The package will pay the season point champion $5,000. Eleven other spots will also get cash payouts with 12th place receiving $250. The 13th through 15th place finishers will receive a pair of shocks which actually raises the total payout package to $13,960. The program is based on drivers' best 12 finishes through September 2015
There are now 18 authorized RUSH/Bilstein Sealed Spec Shock Distributors with seven locations in Pennsylvania, three in New York and two each in West Virginia and Ontario, Canada, and one each in Ohio, Maryland, Kansas, and Nebraska. Modified superstar, Merrittville Speedway co-owner, and car builder Pete Bicknell came on board in late March adding his Ontario and New York based distributorships.
The Sweeney Weekly Series point fund will allow the driver to potentially win $13,000, not including the "Futures Cup" and other point funds that are offered by the individual speedways. As for the weekly programs, once the driver has paid his $125 weekly fee, he will become eligible for the Weekly Championship which pays $5,000, the Pace Performance "Summer Chase" which pays $3000, the "Futures Cup", if applicable, and the Bilstein Shock Program which will pay $5,000.
“The thing to remember is that the Bilstein shock program is not a mandated program for the Late Models,” said Series director Vicki Emig, although it is our Sportsman Modified division and has been very well received by the competitors in this class. With that said it has really been encouraging to see how many of our late model drivers have already chosen to participate in the program. I truly believe that as the season goes on and these racers have success that we will see more and more come onboard. It is important to remember that racers can join the program anytime throughout the season as it will look only at their best twelve finishes.
Bilstein offers nine different part numbers for their Late Model sealed spec shock package. The shocks are unique in the sense that once they are sealed, the spec shocks cannot be taken apart.
The original patent for the shocks was designed by August Bilstein in 1954. It was unique in that it was a monotube gas shock that used a deflective disc valving. Those discs are made out of real spring steel and not an alloy of stainless steel. “You are not going to wear the Bilstein out,” said Jim Hiland, motorsports salesperson for Bilstein.
“Reduced costs and expenses” is the term of the future for local and regional dirt track racing. By further reducing the costs for drivers, they will be able to apply those savings towards other areas of their racing programs.
Super Late Model driver, Ben Miley, a multiple super late track champion whose younger brother, Matt, is the promoter at PPMS said, “Shocks have been a long time problem for both Dirt and Asphalt. When I saw the program (Bilstein), I was 100% behind it. This needs to happen and maybe in some sort of phase in way. Once everybody is on them, then nobody will have the advantage, it will be the same for everyone. That’s the next step.”
There are a number of high profile drivers who will becoming part of the Bilstein Shock program for 2015.
“It’s a good way to keep the costs down and it should be more entertaining and better for everyone,” said Charlie Sandercock, who was the Go Nuclear Series champ as well as track champion at both Brighton and Can-Am Speedways. “It keeps the costs down and guys can spend money elsewhere to help and improve their programs. If we prove we can win on these shocks, then maybe others will see that and try it.”
“It’s all brand new to me,” said multi-time Super Late Model Champion, Ryan Markham, who admitted that Crate Racing five years ago for him was nothing more than a beginners’ class. “It’s getting to the point where I just can’t afford it anymore. I was looking at the points fund and the deal sparked my interest. With the Late Model deal, it’s becoming more stressful each year to maintain the car at the level I need to have it.”
“I was one of the first guys to start racing the Crates,” said veteran Western New York driver, Bob Kish. “The costs for shocks are out of control. The money opportunity with the shock program is that you can get an awesome paycheck. If you go out there and be consistent, you might just end up on top.”
Last year’s fourth place RUSH Touring Series driver, Jason Rider and his car owner, Dave Wade, former PPMS Late Model Champion, chose to put the Bilstein package on their car late in the season in 2014 after observing the success of the Williams/Dillinger team.
Emig sees nothing but a bright future for both the Late Model and Sportsman Modified programs. “I know our sanctioned speedways support this program and I hope our racers look at our efforts with a positive attitude and understand that we are not doing this to hurt them but in fact, ease their burden of having to have an expensive shock package to field a competitive Crate Late Model.”
“I chose the shock deal because I have never been sold on all of those high dollar shocks,” said driver Kris Eaton, a two-time Limited Late Model champion from Winchester, Virginia. “The point fund for this deal is exciting. I won $500 each for the two championships so this shock deal was a no brainer for me.”
Two lower budget drivers also share their excitement for the Bilstein Shock package. “I’m a one man show,” said Northeast Ohio driver, Bobby Pifer. “It’s a good deal. I was hoping that not so many people would have signed up.”
The other is Harry Shipe, Jr., who took a 13-year hiatus from the sport for a variety of reasons, including a lack of sponsorship. “I had shocks last year that cost me $2500,” said the Mt. Airy, Maryland racer, whose car will be adorned with a tribute to his late mother, Barbara, and to his dad, Harry, Sr., who established Shipe Racing in 1957. “I broke a shock last year and it cost $400 to fix and for that I could have bought three of these (Bilsteins).”
“It gives us an opportunity to win a little more cash to help support us,” said Shipe, Jr. “Now you have two things to shoot for every night- to win and to work your way up the Bilstein point standings. You’re racing against the guys in the program and not just the field. We may not be number one in the RUSH points, but you look over there at the Bilstein points and you may be right up there running for that.”
Sweeney Touring Series veteran and 2014 "Gary Knollinger Memorial" Golden Award winner, W.L. (Bill) Stile said, “I’m by myself and don’t have the time to mess around with adjusting the shocks. Now the shocks are reasonably priced and it’s a good deal for the money thing too. Between the money and the time, it’s a great deal.”
Veteran PPMS and Lernerville racer Pat Hanley couldn’t compete the crate late model he purchased a few years ago because of the high costs of shocks. Now with the Bilstein program, is excited to be campaigning both his Stock and his RUSH Late Model on a weekly basis at PPMS.
Potomac Speedway’s second place point finisher and three-time winner last season, Jeff Pilkerton, was very terse with his feelings. “It’s more economical and the shocks are sealed, after that it’s all driving skills.”
Car owner Shayne Tenace of Tenacious Racing said, “I will be fielding two teams in the RUSH Weekly Series that will be utilizing the Bilstein Shock package.” Those cars are the #76 of Brandon Ford and the #39 of Richie Riggs. “I really do like the concept of incentivizing people to run the shocks,” said Tenace, who is also the Go Nuclear Series Director. “I firmly believe that you will see a lot of people migrating that way.”
Wayne County Speedway promoters, Jason and Kristin Flory, will be running the Sweeney RUSH Late Models on a weekly basis at his Orrville, Ohio track for the first time ever this season. The Florys were regular Super Late Model competitors in the past before their involvement at W.C.S. Jason still has a Late Model and not only will the car run in the RUSH class, but will sport the Bilstein “sealed” spec shocks with driver Brandon Gardner!
Just as the story was concluding we were informed by Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr. that he was also be participating. The Pittsburgh driver has been a standout at PPMS over the years where he owns 20 career wins including a Sweeney Tour event win over a 40-car field on “Manufacturers Night” in 2013.
As of this writing, other drivers who will be part of the Bilstein Shock Program are Roaring Knob’s Russell Baird, Jr., Futures Cup driver Clinton Hersh, teenager Clay Ruffo of Mercer, Pa., Fulton Speedway competitors Aaron Jacobs and possibly Aron Backus, second year Bilstein Shock competitor, Brian Lederhouse, Wayne County Speedway’s Paul Harriger, and Josh Stoica, who will race at both PPMS and Wayne County, along with Pittsburgh regular Tony White. There’s no doubt that this list will continue to grow as the season approaches.
Track promoter Mike Rinaldi of Brighton Speedway in Brighton, Ontario knows what it’s like to have or in his case not to have Late Model Racing. “In 2000, Late Models died in this area because of the increasing costs,” he said. “The Crate motor was the first step in getting costs back in line so the local racer can afford it and now with the focus on reducing the costs of shocks, Mike (Leone) and Vicki (Emig) at RUSH have raised the bar when it comes to creating a series that everyone can race. The Bilstein Bandits point fund has a lot of drivers thinking they will save a lot of money while having the opportunity to win more money.”
“The way Vicki is doing the RUSH thing, it gives people the opportunity to race,” said Hiland. “I hate to see pricing putting people out of racing. I’m excited about seeing people having the opportunity to crossover from the grandstand to the pits to become a racer.” In conclusion, Hiland said, “Bilstein is unique because we deliver world class performance for a Saturday night price.”
RUSH Late Model marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, MSD Ignition, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, The Brake Man, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, TurboStart, Beyea Headers, FK Rod Ends, Bobby Lake Motorsports, Crate Innovations Inc., Moroso Performance Products, Velocita-USA, High Gear Speed Shop, CrateInsider.com, B.R.A.K.E.S., RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
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 www.rushracingseries.com. Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rushlatemodels and follow us on Twitter @RUSHLM.