CANADIAN RUSH RACERS & SPEEDWAYS PLEASED WITH UNIFICATION OF CRATE LATE MODELS; SERIES TO JOIN DIRTCAR 358's AT MERRITTVILLE MONDAY FOR MARQUE VICTORIA DAY EVENT
By Doug Kennedy
May 15, 2015
(Pulaski, PA)…The Canadian Victoria Day Holiday spells victory for the Sweeney RUSH Dirt Late Model Series. On May 18, Merrittville Speedway, located in Thorold, Ontario will become the showcase for the first ever Crate Late Model event to be held at the 60-year-old facility.
The event that begins at 7PM will have four different classes running that evening- the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Models in an Insinger Performance/Sunoco Race Fuels Northern Tour race paying $2,000 to-win, the DIRTcar 358 Modified Series running for $4,444, the Hoosier (Street) Stocks, and an Enduro race to close out the evening. The highlight to Victoria Day at Merrittville has always been the DIRTcar 358 Modified event.
“To be able to be part of Merrittville’s traditional Victoria Day DIRTcar 358 Modified event will provide a tremendous stage from which to showcase exciting door-to-door quality Crate Late Model racing in front of a packed grandstand,” said Vicki Emig, RUSH Series co-director.
The track, which is owned by racing legend, Peter Bicknell and his wife Nancy and Randy and Tracey Williamson, is situated some twelve miles from the U.S. border of Niagara Falls.
“This Monday show in May is a huge event for anyone who has been around stock car racing in this area,” said Merrittville General Manager, Erica Bicknell-Jones. “The Victoria Day event has always been huge and to add the RUSH Late Model Series makes it even more special.”
As a sidelight, Peter Bicknell, Erica’s husband, Tim Jones, and Randy and Tracey’s son, Mat Williamson, all compete against each other in the Modified Series. “It can get very interesting,” laughed Erica.
“We don’t have Late Models here very often,” said Erica. The last event at Merrittville for Late Models came way back in 2010 when the World of Outlaws made a visit.
“When the people heard that the Late Models were coming, they were very excited,” said Bicknell-Jones regarding the RUSH Late Models. “The buzz was wow, great; the Late Models are coming back. For us, it was nice to align with Vicki and Mike because they are so organized. Compared to any other series I deal with, they’ve been the best.”
The May extravaganza weekend will include Sweeney Weekly Series action at Can-Am Motorsports Park (La Fargeville, NY) on Friday night, Brighton on Saturday night, and Humberstone on Sunday night, followed up with the Victoria Day Tour event at Merrittville on Monday.
“We picked that day because there are no excuses why people cannot come,” said Erica. “For the most part, it’s a perfect day.”
Brighton Speedway located in Brighton, Ontario, 100 miles northeast of Toronto, came on board to become a weekly-sanctioned RUSH Series speedway on Saturday nights in 2015. Brighton also became the northernmost speedway in the Series. Mark Rinaldi, Brighton’s track promoter, is a huge supporter of the Crate Engine and the Bilstein Shock program.
Two-thousand and twelve Brighton track champion, Corey Earl, of Belleville, Ontario had this to say about Crate Racing in Canada. “I definitely like it. It’s a 12-race replacement where you can replace your bad finishes and we have three or four tracks within three or four hours from here. I think it’s going to be excellent and bring this class even above and beyond what we’ve seen in the last five or six years since it was introduced.”
Humberstone, which is located in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, a town 20 miles west of Buffalo, became a full-time international RUSH Series venue in 2014. They feature Sweeney RUSH Weekly Series racing on Sunday nights.
A second Canadian Insinger/Sunoco Northern Tour event will happen nearly two months to the day later (July 19th) when Humberstone Speedway hosts the $2,000 to-win “Canadian National Late Model Championship”.
2014 Humberstone track champion, Paul Grigsby of Springville, New York said, “Any of the guys who are willing to make the long trip are in for a real treat. It’s probably the best racing surface that the Series is going to be on this season. Merrittville has a great track configuration, is run very professionally, and the racing surface is arguably the best in the county.”
Former Late Model driver and 2013 Humberstone track champion Rob Ledingham said of the event, “I think it’s outstanding. I’ve been bugging Erica to get the Late Models there for a while. We need more recognition in Canada. I think they should be doing this more than one time a year. I would actually like to see a Canadian Tour.”
After 34 years of racing, Rob will be turning over the driving duties to his 17-year-old son, Colton. “It’s time for me to hand over the reigns to him and have him move up with the big boys.” Rob will serve this year as his son’s crew chief.
Ledingham, who is a financial advisor at Sun Life and lives only a country block away from Humberstone Speedway, said of Late Models overall, “I wish it would have been here 20 years ago. It’s a very reasonable class. I think it’s great the way they are running it. My kid would never be racing if we didn’t have the Crate Late Models.”
Darren Peters and his son, Jorden, have competed against each other in the Crate Late Models for better than 40 races. “We travelled together and had a lot of fun,” said Darren who lists ODLM (Ontario Dirt Late Model), the O’Reilly Series, Lernerville, Stateline, Cornwall, Ohsweken, and Humberstone as series and tracks that he has run.
Regarding the Victoria Day racing extravaganza, Peters said, “It’s huge for Crate Racing around this area. It’s a good venue already and then adding the Crates to the show will be fantastic.” Incidentally, Jorden will run the event, but Darren, unfortunately, due in large part to his highly successful construction business, wasn’t able to get his car ready in time to compete.
Promoter Mark Rinaldi of Brighton Speedway had this to say about the May 18 event, “I think it’s good for Late Model racing in general. Other tracks are starting to take notice, especially for the Crate Late Models.
“It’s been a long time since drivers have had this opportunity,” he said of the opportunity to run four events all under the same rules package. In addition, RUSH sanctions all weekly Crate Late Model tracks in New York and Ontario, Canada, which now includes Can-Am, Freedom, Fulton, and Stateline in New York along with Brighton and Humberstone in Ontario. In addition to the weekly tracks, the Monday event at Merrittville along with Sweeney Weekly Series single events at New York’s Brewerton and Woodhull Speedways are also under the RUSH banner.
“I’m really looking forward to the Sunday/Monday show, “said Rob Pietz of Welland, Ontario. “This is my home track (Merrittville) and I’m glad to be back with all my fans. We haven’t raced here in four years and I hope I can have a good run and put on a good show for the fans. With this Series, I have the same chance to start up front and the same chance to win.”
“Humberstone and Merrittville have been my two main tracks since I began racing when I was 19,” said Pietz, who just turned 50.
“I’ve never raced there before,” said Tim Gillespie of Ridgeway, Ontario. “I’ve always wanted to race there and am looking forward to competing against guys like Rob Pietz and Jeff Dayman and see how I do.
“The RUSH Series is so professionally and consistently run that all you have to worry about is getting the car around the track,” said Gillespie, a Humberstone competitor. “It is really taking a hold at a lot of the tracks.”
“I think the race will gauge where I’m at,” said Adam Turner, a Brighton Speedway regular. “Getting a new batch of people to race against will be nice for us with regards to where we’re at with our program. We don’t know how good we are because we race with the same people every week.”
Turner also likes the fact that racers will be coming North. In 2015, RUSH split its Touring Series into a Northern and Southern tier. The Insinger/Sunoco Northern Tour races will be contested in northwest Pennsylvania, western New York, and southern Ontario. “For a change, everybody will be coming to us instead of us going to them and we’re on an equal playing field.”
But it’s the RUSH Series and the way it is operated that has attracted the attention of the drivers.
“You start at the top and everything is professionally run and then she (Vicki Emig) comes over and talks to you and all the officials are so professional and knowledgeable,” said Gillespie. “When it runs that smoothly and consistently, it allows everyone to know where they’re at.”
“Vicki makes sure it’s going to be right and for Crate Racing that’s going to be great,” said Turner.
“I enjoy the RUSH series,” said Grigsby. “The one word I would use for the Series is professionalism. They always have their act together and money is never an issue.”
Fort Erie Ontario resident, Darren Peters said of Crate Racing, “I’m a big supporter of it. It’s affordable racing with great competition. For us to have this type of racing in Canada is huge for the class. Hopefully we will get a lot of fans hooked on us.”
“I love the Series,” said Pietz. “I was reluctant at first to get involved with the Late Models and now I look back and wonder why I didn’t get involved three years sooner. I like the affordability. The whole Series has allowed the average guy to come out and still be competitive. With the Crate motor, we all have the same chance as the guy beside us.”
One sidebar is for gentlemen beware-there’s a hard charging female to reckon with- Carrying Place, Ontario’s Caley Weese. The 28-year-old is currently sixth in Brighton’s points with a 10th and a fifth place to date. If she can maintain a top 10 in RUSH points at the end of June at Brighton, she’ll qualify for the Pace Performance “Summer Chase” – a separate $10,000 point fund that awards $3,000 to the champion with $500 to 10th at the conclusion of Labor Day.
For those of you who wonder what Victoria Day is, the Canadian holiday is observed on the last Monday before May 25th to honor the birthday of Queen Victoria. It has been celebrated since 1845.
RUSH Late Model marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, Bazell 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., 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.