SWEENEY RUSH RACING SERIES CREATING EQUALITY IN LATE MODEL RACING THROUGHOUT THE NORTHEAST, MID-ATLANTIC & ONTARIO
By Doug Kennedy
August 24, 2015 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Pulaski, PA)...Not everything is created equal, a saying that couldn’t be more correct as it pertains to auto racing. Whether it’s on the high banks of Daytona or the flat turns of a half-mile dirt track in Pennsylvania, not all racing teams are created equal. The inequities that create the chasm between the haves and have nots can be financial, mechanical, or just plain lack of crew or sponsorship support.
These variables also apply to racers competing in the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Series; however, they don't necessarily mean that a team cannot compete against those that are more solidly backed. This factor is one of the main reasons so many drivers enjoy participating and continue to support the RUSH Racing Series.
The majority of racers competing in RUSH consider themselves to be anywhere from low budget to mid-range teams. In most cases, one car is all the driver will have in his garage and the work on the car is done in some cases by only the driver himself. Come race day, support can total as many as four to five crew members or as few as zero. Many drivers fund their racing operations by themselves or with their families with sponsor support minimal or sometimes non-existent.
Tim Booth, who has been racing crates since 2009, doesn’t have a garage at his house and relies on longtime sponsor and former masonry boss, Vernon Ford to provide space for him to store his car and trailer and to do work on his race car.
Booth continues to do bricklaying work for J. Keen Construction and races only at Potomac and Winchester Speedways. “Those are the two,” said Booth, who just turned 53. “I just can’t afford to go out and venture too far.”
Booth went onto say, “The more overtime I work, the faster I hope my car goes.”
A resident of Edge Water, Maryland, Booth is literally a one-man show. “I have just the one car and do everything to keep it going. I serve as the driver, the crew chief, owner, mechanic, and just about everything else,” said the driver of the #95 RUSH Late Model. “No one comes to the track to help me. I know when I was a kid I would be around race shops sweeping the floors, but it’s not that way anymore.”
He says that if he would ever tear the car to pieces, it would probably take him out of racing for a long time, but he also went onto say, “I love the sport and as long as I have the competitiveness to go out and win, I’m not quitting.”
Twenty-year old Doug Gavette of Rushville, New York agrees with Booth when he says that if the racecar incurred any major damage, it would probably be lights out for at least that season.
Gavette’s single car operation is funded by himself, his dad, Scott, and his mom, Janet. The one-car operation does have a few sponsors that include Faro Pizzeria, Carley’s Collision, Campbell Motors, and Whiteman Motors, but 80% of the financial side comes from the family. “We are a low budget team for sure,” said Gavette- driver of the #9G.
His crew is a little larger than Booth’s and includes his dad, who serves as crew chief, his mom and his sister Amber, who helps in the garage at home and are the fans in the stands come race day, and Doug’s two cousins, Jeff and Chuck Miles. “They are there for every race when they are not working and provide as much help as they can,” said Gavette.
Brandywine, Maryland’s, Ben Bowie, is another of those drivers who financially funds his own one car operation. “We are a small team that doesn’t make much money,” said Bowie. “For us, we can go to a track and finish in the top five and make $300 to $400 that pays for the weekend for fuel, tires, the entry fee, and food. If we can do that, it pays for itself for the weekend and is not a loss.”
Additional support comes from Ralo Enterprises, who helps out with the tire costs, and Corbin Home Improvements, who also helps with tires and fuel. “That’s pretty much it,” said Bowie, who races primarily at only Potomac Speedway this year. “We tried to scale back a little this year.”
Like most everyone else, wrecking his car would put Bowie in serious trouble. “It seems like its $1,000 every time you bump or hit something,” said Bowie. “Fortunately, I’ve always been in a situation where I got some side work or work overtime, or a sponsor will step up.”
For 15 years, Ben had one guy, Mike Thir, who he could rely on to do anything dealing with the car. That all came to an end this year as Mike has pretty much stepped aside and even though he still comes to the track sporadically, Bowie has had to rely on two newcomers to his operation, Mike Raleigh and John Sellner.
“The majority of the stuff, I’m doing on my own now and they’re just backing me up,” said the driver of the #17. So for now, Bowie serves as the driver and crew chief.
Thirty-one year old, Daryl Charlier of Midway, Pennsylvania, runs 90% of his races at Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Motor Speedway. Following an accident at PPMS in 2013 that destroyed his Super Late Model, Charlier sold his motor in exchange for a crate car that was owned by Colton Flinner.
Up until 2010, Charlier was racing a spec late model and a modified on the same night at PPMS. One of his biggest moments came on a night when he was able to win the feature in both divisions. “It was a fun experience,” he said.
For the past two crate racing seasons, Charlier has footed the bill, but also gets help from his sponsors, not so much with monetary support, but providing services that he would normally have to pay out of his own pocket.
For example Kane’s Ideal Trucking Services works on his towing vehicle. Tri-State Motorsports is his dad’s racing business and affords Daryl the opportunity to build racecar bodies and do chassis set-ups. NAPA Auto Parts supports Charlier by supplying him with all his oil and lubrication. Knucklehead’s Pizza supplies the crew with food every weekend.
“Food on a race night might cost me $150 and around $2,000 for the year, but getting the food provided saves me that expense,” said Charlier.
2 Brothers Motorsports gives him discounts on racecar parts. Donaldson Supply provides fuel for the travel costs and Cleetus Motorsports provides some money. He estimates that 50% of his racing budget comes from him and the other 50% is provided by his sponsors.
“My race winnings go straight back into car so I don’t count it as out of pocket money,” said the driver of the orange #12.
Charlier also feels very lucky to have friends who are concerned about his racing operation. Following a bad wreck last year that nearly totaled his car, Charlier was overwhelmed by the number of people who he didn’t even know that were giving him $50 to make sure he would be able to get back on the track.
His crew is limited to his dad, Dale, Daryl, himself, an old college buddy, John Kikta, and Daryl’s wife, Tanya. Her job is quite expansive as she is in charge of making sure his uniform is ready and that the transponder and RACEceiver are working, documenting changes in the racecar during the evening, and is in charge of his Facebook page. “She sort of acts like the general manger,” laughed Daryl.
Bryce Davis is running the Insinger Performance/Sunoco Race Fuels North Touring Series in 2015 and is currently second in points. At 24 years of age, Bryce is now in his fourth season of driving a Crate Late Model.
“It’s a great series,” said the Cornell, New York resident. “Vicki (Emig) and Mike (Leone) do a lot for us. The purses are good and I really enjoy running it.”
Financially, Bryce and his father, Dave, provide just about everything. “We have one good sponsor, Griswold’s ETR Services,” said Davis. “80% comes from us and 20% comes from our sponsors.”
Davis, who considers his racing operation to be mid-range also receives support from Close Racing Supplies, who gives him discounts on racing parts. Joel Smith of Close is also there to provide technical support. The rest of his sponsors, who average about $1,000 per season, are Loper’s Auto Sales, Jody’s Hair Design, and Mike Palmer Heating and Cooling.
Last season, they bought a new Crate Late Model for around $30,000. Bryce estimates their budget to be somewhere around $10,000 to $15,000 a year. “We need to finish in the top five or better,” said the 24-year-old Davis.
But even though his budget might be a little higher than the others, he also realizes that wrecking his car would put him down for an extended period of time.
His three-man crew is there with him on race night for the entire season. The crew includes his dad, who serves as crew chief, Fred Griswold, who maintains the engine, and Jason Bown, who is the general helper and grinds the tires.
“You can have a top five car for not a whole lot of money,” said 26-year-old Jamie Brown of Jamestown, New York. “With a little bit of time and money, you can be out front.”
Brown, who has been in a crate for the past seven seasons, races mainly at Freedom and Stateline Speedways and also the events at Tri-City Raceway Park as well as some other RUSH Series events.
Funding for the #135 RUSH Late Model comes mainly from his dad’s business- Roger’s Auto, a 20-year-old car repair shop located in Lakewood, New York. In addition, his step-mother puts financial support into the operation with her business, Heintzman Accounting. Extreme Marine also provides additional financial help, while two other companies, Applebee Motorsports and Spartan Tool, supply the team with parts.
With two cars in the garage, it may seem that Jamie and the team are well stocked, but they are in fact, trying to sell the second car making it a one-car team.
But it’s the crew that sets Jamie apart from a lot of other drivers. 70% of the time, its Jamie, his dad, and Jamie’s wife, Ashley, who are the pit crew; however, when the team races at Stateline, a track a mere five minutes from home, there can be up to six more friends and helpers who make the trip to the track on race night. That list includes Randy and Clint Haskins, Andy Latta, Corey Card, and a couple of other friends who hop in the truck to help out. “Sometimes I don’t have enough work for everybody to do something,” said Jamie.
The race shop is located right next door to Roger’s Auto so everything is very convenient. “Every time I leave the shop I want to make sure I have a top five car ready to go,” said Jamie. “But that’s the good thing about the crates because everyone is on such an even playing field.”
Twenty-year racing veteran, Phil Potts of Trenton, Ontario considers his racing operation to be upper mid to high budget. The two-car Rocket Chassis team is run by Stewart Archer, the owner of Archer’s Poultry Farm where Potts works as a mechanic.
“He’s the set-up god,” said the 43-year-old Potts of
Archer. The rest of the crew includes the body guy, Charlie White, the tire
specialist, Jan Steenstra, and the all around guy, Shawn Platt. “I have nothing
at all to do with the financial side,” said the driver of the #29. “All I do is
spend his (Archer’s) money.
Stewart is the type of owner who provides pit passes for all his crew at their home track, Brighton Speedway. “When we go away, he pays their way into the track as well,” said Potts. “I buy my own when I go to different tracks because I believe if he’s good enough to let me wreck his equipment, I should be good enough to pay my own way in.”
As for the financial side, Archer supports the car with help from a group of sponsors that include Vanderlaan Building Products, Indewey Excavating, Hutchesion Fuels, and Brighton Recycling. “They all help, but monetarily it’s none of my business,” said Potts. “Not very many guys are as lucky as me.”
Potts says that the operation is first class because Stewart doesn’t scrimp paying for what the car needs or for safety issues for him. “He’s a really good owner in that sense,” said Potts.
The RUSH Series has provided Potts the opportunity to compete against different cars and competitors and at a variety of different race tracks. His weekly schedule usually includes Can Am Speedway every other Friday, Brighton Speedway on Saturday, as well as some touring races.
He also likes the fact that if he has a bad Saturday night at Brighton, he can chase another RUSH Series track on Sunday to make up for his poor performance.
Former driver and car owner of two Crate Late Models, Larry Knowles, is impressed with the way the RUSH Series police their tracks. “The thing that is different that we like is that they have a strong program for “teching” the cars at the track,” said Knowles, who won four track championships and 70 features during his 21 year racing career. “They know what they’re doing and follow it up to make sure everything is equal.”
The two-car racing operation of sons, Brian (35) and Jason (33) is funded by the family run business, Doug Gross Construction that is located in Painted Post, New York. Larry and his wife, Janice, are the owners, while the boys and their wives all work at the construction company.
“By owning the construction company, we’re able to support the boys and give them some decent equipment.”
But even though Brian and Jason receive financial support from the family business, it’s up to the boys to secure their own associate sponsorships.
“The boys get their own sponsorships and we make up the difference,” said Knowles.
“They make all the calls when and where they want to race,” said Larry. “I’m there monetarily and at the track to help out.” The Knowles Brothers are in their first season of running the entire Sweeney Touring Series.
Knowles who considers his racing operation to be middle to high budget estimates that he spends around $8,000 for each car at the beginning of each season.
He also likes what the RUSH Series offers as well. “They have top notch people with drivers from full fledged teams down to the Saturday night local guy. We choose it because it’s competing against a higher level of drivers.”
"It's hard to believe that 2016 will be 10 years since we have been involved with the development of crate engine racing throughout the Northeast," stated Series Director Vicki Emig. "We are aware that some of the costs involved in crate racing outside of the engine spec Hoosier Tires and have escalated since the inception of the division. However, we are now able to control our own destiny under the RUSH banner with the help of our RUSH-sanctioned speedways and input from our racers. I speak with promoters every day and express to them that I believe we are at a crossroads for the continued success and growth of what we have all worked so hard to achieve in crate racing. I have tremendous confidence in them and know that when we gather together soon to discuss these concerns that these issues can be corrected and continue to provide our racers a healthy and competitive Late Model series for them to continue to compete in into future."
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.
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.