“BILSTEIN BANDITS” SHOCK PROGRAM PROVING SUCCESSFUL WITH NUMEROUS SWEENEY RUSH LATE MODEL FEATURE WINS THROUGHOUT REGION; NEW RACERS CONTINUE TO JOIN PROGRAM
By Doug Kennedy
September 4, 2015 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Pulaski, PA)...With the 2015 Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model racing season fast approaching its conclusion, RUSH Series Officials have been very pleased with the initial results of the inaugural year of the "Bilstein Bandits" Shock program. Currently, the 2015 Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Bilstein Points program has 18 participants from six states (MD, NY, PA, OH, VA & WV) plus Ontario, Canada with the shocks going to victory lane 19 times!
Put in place for 2015, the program was created to give RUSH racers, who chose to compete on the $135 sealed, spec shock, the opportunity to compete for a $13,000 point fund, which will reward the champion a $5,000 paycheck over and above his other RUSH point fund monies. The program will pay 12 cash positions and three product positions allowing a total of 15 different racers to take home additional monies.
"It's been exciting to see racers with all different levels of experience find success on the RUSH Bilstein shock," stated Series Director Vicki Emig. Last year when the package was introduced throughout the region via Alan Dellinger driving the Bob Williams-owned team, I listened to numerous comments concerning Alan and his ability to win races regardless of the caliber of the car he was competing with. I can't say that I deny that, but this year I think we've proven the point that the $135 Bilstein shock is a quality product that fits into our program very well. Throughout the summer we've watched racers who are utilizing them with various levels of experience find success competing against racers with expensive shock packages.
As of the close of August, Charlie Sandercock has been brilliant, leading in points and posting 14 wins on the season. Eight of those came at Brighton Speedway in Brighton, Ontario and the other six at Can-Am Speedway in La Fargeville, New York. Recently turned 16-year-old Clinton Hersh has posted two wins at Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Pennsylvania, while Tommy Schirnhofer has a pair at PPMS in Imperial, Pa. Kris Eaton is currently second in points at Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Virginia.
The star so far this season has been Charlie Sandercock who continues to slice up the competition. He currently leads over Schirnhofer, Hersh, while Eaton and Bob Kish round out the top five in points.
At this juncture, Sandercock, who hails from Belleville, Ontario, is in line to win the $5,000 Bilstein Bandits top prize as well as the RUSH Weekly Series, track championships at both Brighton and Can-Am Speedway. Sandercock is also currently second in the Sweeney Weekly Series Championship and leading the Pace Performance “Summer Chase”. If all of those positions hold true, Sandercock would be looking at a point fund payoff from RUSH alone worth $11,000!
“That would be nice,” said Sandercock, the driver of the #57 RUSH Late Model. “I think Crate Racing is a really good deal because it makes it affordable for all of us. It has helped develop a rebirth in local racing.”
“It’s a really good program (Bilstein Shocks) for guys getting into racing or those that don’t have a lot of knowledge with shocks,” said Sandercock. “You can put them on and spend more time tuning the car. A guy can get into trouble if he doesn’t know how to do the set-up.”
However, he, unlike a lot of other drivers, feels that there should still be a separation between the spec shock and those that want to run their current shock package. “There are still guys out there who still want to do that,” said Sandercock. “We’ve done a lot of work with the Bilstein’s and had to change a lot to make the car react to the way that it normally would. My team and I have worked very hard for those 14 wins.”
As for the “Bilstein Bandits” point fund, Sandercock said, “I think it’s really good. I expected a few more guys to have jumped on board, but we’ll see what next year brings. We’re looking forward to it and even if it’s the same thing, it will still be good. It’s a really good incentive to get guys on the program.”
Sandercock has been so pleased with the Bilstein Shocks that he has decided he’s going to run them in his region’s biggest crate event- “The Great Crate Race”- a $6,000 to-win Go Nuclear Series event at Brighton Speedway on September 12. Though “Bilstein Bandits” participants commit to running the Shocks in all RUSH-sanctioned events or lose their points; they are not required to run them in events not sanctioned by RUSH.
Last season, Alan Dellinger won four times at Sharon Speedway. The Bob Williams/Dellinger team has been one of the more successful teams in the tri-state region. Dellinger just won last Saturday night at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio for the first time.
“We’re 100% satisfied with them,” said Williams of the Bilstein Shocks. “I think everyone who has switched to them finds that they are easier to work with no adjustments. You just put them on and race.”
Williams points out that they have the same set of Bilstein Shocks that were put on at the beginning of the 2014 season.
“It’s fantastic,” remarked Williams in talking about the “Bilstein Bandits” point fund. “It’s paying more than what some of the Touring Series do. Bilstein has really stepped up to the plate.” Williams believes in them so much that he has helped convert another half dozen or so drivers to converting to the Bilstein Shocks.
“Everyone who has converted has said they can’t believe how good the shocks are,” said Williams. “I would really like to see the Bilstein’s made mandatory beginning next season and beyond.”
Hailing from Pittsburgh and primarily racing at PPMS, Tommy Schirnhofer had this to say about the Bilstein’s. “I like them a lot. We built a new car this year and felt that since they (Bilstein) were putting money up for the points fund program, we should put on their shocks. The shocks were affordable and helped defray the costs of the new car.”
He also believes that the shocks takes the over-thinking out of racing when it comes to shocks because with the Bilstein’s, the racer doesn’t have to worry about the settings. Schirnhofer is currently second in the “Bilstein Bandits” points.
“It helps you work a lot more on the driving and the tweaks with the set-ups,” said the 29-year-old Schirnhofer, who has been racing off and on for the last 11 years. He says he runs about 15 to 16 races a year.
Clinton Hersh said, “I have two feature wins and four to five heat wins. I think it’s pretty good for my first year on them and my second year of racing overall.” Hersh competes at Roaring Knob on a weekly basis is currently third in the Bilstein Bandit program and is on track to also capture the coveted "Future's Cup" Championship.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with the shocks,” said Kris Eaton. “I feel like every time I unload, I’m the equal to guys that have $4000 spent in their shocks and I have $540 in mine.”
As for the point fund, Eaton said, “It was a no brainer for me to do it. I’ll definitely do this again next season.”
Harry Shipe, who is 55 and been out of racing until last season for 13 years, realizes the importance of the Bilstein Shock. “The costs help a lot,” he said. “I would love to see everyone on them. It means a lot to me to be out of racing for so long and be in contention (Bilstein Bandits Point Fund). I’m just hoping I can finish in the top five. I would be tickled to death for that.”
Two Pittsburgh drivers, Jake Gunn and Justin Lamb, recently made the jump to the Bilstein Bandits program during the season.
Jake Gunn, the son of former PPMS Limited Late Model champion, Scott Gunn, was a late converter to the Bilstein Shocks. His dad and he are currently competitors in the RUSH Late Model division.
Following the July 15 race at Expo Speedway, Gunn switched over to the Bilstein Shocks. “Honestly, I think they’re better than the Integra shocks,” said the 19-year-old Gunn.
Jake is currently beginning his second season at West Virginia University, where he is intending to major in Mechanical Engineering. Being in college, it took a while for Jake to get his car ready for this season, plus the excessive amount of rain certainly didn’t help either.
“We decided that putting on the Bilsteins would be the best option heading into next season. I really feel comfortable with them."
His dad, Scott, is an interesting story as he not only became a good racecar driver, but was a pretty strong baseball player as well. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Gunn was drafted in the 14th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1983. After moving up through the minor league ranks where he was a centerfielder with a lot of speed and a good arm, Scott’s baseball career came to an abrupt end when he tore his MCL and detached his ACL sliding into second base. Now he enjoys racing with his son in the RUSH Late Model Series.
“I’ve only done it a couple of times, but it’s been a blast,” said Jake of racing against his dad. “It’s unbelievable to race against the guy I looked up to and who taught me all my racing,”
Lamb, who is one of the top RUSH Late Model drivers at PPMS, and finished second in the tracks overall points. “I switched my right front Integra Shock out for a Bilstein and was really happy with the results,” he said. “With the success of the other guys running them, I decided to replace my Integras with a set of Bilsteins.” Beginning on August 15, Lamb became a full-time Bilstein Bandit Shock user. He’s currently 16th in points.
“We have an older car and were struggling a little bit and I think the move to the Bilsteins simplified my program and allowed me to focus on the car’s set-up,” said the 33-year-old Lamb, who lives in Findlay Township, Pennsylvania.
Lamb really wanted to win that first night out on his Bilstein’s, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. “I really wanted to win it,” said Justin. It would have been a great PR piece for RUSH.
Regarding the points fund, Lamb said, “I looked at the points fund and realize that I could at least get two new shocks (positions 13-15). It’s a great program when you can win $5,000 or more by simply competing on the shocks.
Lamb likes the way that the Bilstein’s put everything back in the hands of the driver. “I think it gives the guys with a smaller budget and older cars the chance to compete with everyone. I look forward to the day when everyone is on a spec shock.”
Getting a call following his first race from Jim Hiland of Bilstein Shocks meant a lot to Lamb as well. “He called me and we talked for quite a while,” said Lamb. “I was impressed with their customer support.”
As for the relationship between RUSH and Bilstein, Hiland said, “It’s been fantastic and has been even better than my lofty expectations. We’ve had a number of feature wins and a lot of strong finishes with charges from the rear of the field to the front, and with no shock failures which is what you expect from Bilstein Shocks. The idea for the Bilstein sealed spec Shock is to put everyone on a level playing field. The shock provides the racers with a good handling, stable race car 100% of the time that is equipped with an affordable shock that provides a high degree of reliability.”
Hiland also sees the expansion for the Bilstein Bandits Program for 2016 and beyond. “The program is going very well,” said Hiland. “We’re looking forward to expanding the participation for next season and to the day when everyone will want to be part of the Bilstein Bandit program. The whole idea in the long run is to increase car counts by allowing the drivers to feel competitive on an affordable shock that will help them control their cost in their individual racing programs.”
In closing, stated Emig, "I believe we are at a very important crossroads concerning the future of Crate Late Model racing. We can't turn a blind eye to the situations that are now more than ever going to determine our destiny as participants, whether it be as a Series, racer, or speedways. With engines and tires under control via a strong tech program we can begin to address other costly factions that have veered from the original concept of crate engine racing. To be perfectly honest until we were able to operate under the RUSH banner we did not have that ability; however, now with the help of our promoters and racers, I know we can begin correcting some of these concerns.”
2015 "Bilstein Bandits" participants include (in alphabetical order): Alan Dellinger, Kris Eaton, Pat Hanley, Paul Harriger, Clinton Hersh, Jake Gunn, Bob Kish, Justin Lamb, Brian Lederhouse, Walter Nichols, Bob Pifer III, Clay Ruffo, Charlie Sandercock, Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr., Harry Shipe, Jr., W.L. Stile, Josh Stoica, and Tony White.
2015 Bilstein Bandits Point Fund ($13,150 cash): 1. $5,000 2. $2,500 3. $1,500 4. $1,000 5. $750 6. $500 7. $400 8. $350 9. $325 10. $300 11. $275 12. $250 13. 2 Bilstein sealed spec shocks 14. 2 Bilstein sealed spec shocks 15. 2 Bilstein sealed spec shocks.
RUSH Late Model marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Maxima Racing Oil, Jones Racing Products, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Beyea Headers, FK Rod Ends, Bobby Lake Motorsports, Velocita-USA, High Gear Speed Shop, CrateInsider.com, B.R.A.K.E.S., RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.
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