|Rick Rarer Photo|
Hartford, OH (July 8, 2017) Christopher Bell and Jeremiah Shingledecker may have started towards the front in their respective features during Saturday night's 9th Annual Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway. But they both showed the same penchant for making the right moves at the right times while navigating lapped traffic en route to two feature victories against two very stacked fields.
"This Sprint Car win means a lot to me," Bell said in victory lane. "I feel like the Sprint Car has kind of been the downfall of my career so far and I want to prove to all these fans that I can be a good Sprint Car driver too."
45 All Star Sprints and 32 Big Block Modifieds graced the red clay in front of a packed to the gills front stretch grand stand, and over $2100 was raised for the Alzheimer's Association during a pre race Chinese auction. The drivers and fans both came for the same reasons, to celebrate the legacy of Lou Blaney and what he meant to the area racing community and beyond.
Bell Leaves No Doubt In All Star Main Event
Christopher Bell was quick to point out in victory lane that Winged Sprints were the weakest part of his overall racing game. After witnessing his performance in the 30 lap main event, the massive crowd on hand was left wondering and actively fearing what he'll work to improve on next as the 2017 Chili Bowl Champion left no doubt on his way to victory as he seemingly had the field of All Star Sprints on a leash from start to finish.
The Norman, OK driver, who had previously tasted victory in USAC Midget and Nascar Truck action, both within the eight days, started up front alongside Caleb Armstrong as the field came to the initial green flag. On the first green flag lap, potential challenger for the feature win, Ryan Smith found himself facing the wrong way in turn three forcing a complete restart. When action resumed, Bell won the drag race down the front stretch and made his plan for the night simple and plain to fans in attendance. He put his machine on the top of the surface with authority and put car lengths between himself and any car behind him. Early in the running though, Joey Saldana looked as if he had the best chance of keeping up with the leader. The World of Outlaws veteran has been in a new set of circumstances following his release from Stenhouse/Wood Racing and was impressive throughout the main event.
"There was a little bit on the exit of four," Saldana said regarding his search for bite on the surface. "I probably should have waited until the end instead of trying to do it on the restart. But, it's the way it is. Bell is pretty good, we see that every week he's winning something so to run second to him is not a bad night. I really enjoy racing the All Stars and this is an awesome track. I haven't been here in a while and it's fun to race on. The biggest thing is that you just have to run these cars really tight. With the World of Outlaws you have to figure out how to get your car to roll, it's a totally different atmosphere. We just have to figure out how to be a little better."
Following a lap two caution for Sye Lynch, who put on a clinic in the bmain charging from 12th to third, Saldana made his way around Caleb Armstrong and set his sights on the leader while behind him, series points leader Chad Kemenah was on the move, rising from his fifth starting spot while sliding Armstrong four the fourth spot in the early going.
|Rick Rarer Photo|
Bell was setting a blistering pace up front and was into lapped traffic approaching the six lap mark as Kemenah made his way around Dean Jacobs for third. Kemenah would be able to climb no higher though, while remaining patient and consistent. The race was a microcosm of sorts for his season to date.
"It kind of got one lane around the cushion there but my guys do a really good job with the race car," Kemenah said. "We'll take another third, it seems like I really know how to finish third. We won't complain and we'll move on. Our object is to be consistent and I think we are consistent, consistently third. My brother made some changes tonight and I think we're going the right way and I think it will show in the long run."
Aliquippa, PA driver Tim Shaffer found the track to his liking as the race went on as he picked up one car after another, moving forward from his ninth starting spot to fifth in the first 12 laps. He would hunt down and make his way around Jacobs for fourth, while out front, Bell found himself in heavy lapped traffic as he split a pair of slower cars on the back stretch on lap 16 to maintain his comfortable lead over Saldana. Bell would lap up to ninth place laps and looked masterful in waiting until the opportune moment to switch grooves.
Saldana found himself desperately in need of a caution to have a chance at the victory and he would get his wish on lap 21 when Brent Matus spun to reset the field. Saldana moved down low on the single file restart, while Bell was in clean air up front and putting car lengths between himself between and Saldana. He would have to survive one more round of lapped traffic in the waning laps and did so with skillful precision as Saldana could not mount a serious challenge for the win. Bell took home just is second career All Star Sprint series victory, but his third major race in less than 10 days.
|Gary Heeman Photo|
"With the lapped cars, some of them would get going around the top and as soon as I could get to them they dropped down and I'd already been committed," Bell said. "I was glad I got a lead built up there because I screwed up there a lot and not too many really noticed. It's a pleasure to drive in front of a crowd, you guys are the reason we're out here, it's an honor to be able to win this race."
All Star Sprints; 30 Laps- $5,000 to win Lou Blaney Memorial
1. 11N-Christopher Bell [2.] 2. 71-Joey Saldana ; 3. 10H-Chad Kemenah ; 4. 49X-Tim Shaffer ; 5. 81-Lee Jacobs ; 6. D4-Danny Holtgraver ; 7. 7C-Caleb Armstrong ; 8. 8-Dean Jacobs ; 9. 71M-Dave Blaney ; 10. 5-Justin Barger ; 11. 13-Brandon Matus ; 12. 17-Caleb Helms ; 13. 4-Danny Smith ; 14. 59-Ryan Smith ; 15. 98-Carl Bowser ; 16. 8M-TJ Michael ; 17. 2-AJ Flick ; 18. 51-John Garvin ; 19. 7K-Dan Shetler ; 20. 22-Brandon Spithaler ; 21. 4N-Jim Morris ; 22. 35-Tyler Esh ; 23. 23JR-Jack Sodeman Jr. ; 24. 33-Brent Matus ; 25. 33M-Max Stambaugh ; 26. 42-Sye Lynch 
Quick Time: AJ Flick (13.619)
Heat Winners: Christopher Bell, Danny Holtgraver, Tim Shaffer, Joey Saldana
Shingledecker Cruises to Victory Lane
Jeremiah Shingledecker's fortunes may have taken their biggest turn for the good in recent memory. His performance against a stout 32 car field on Saturday night provided more than a glimpse of what the veteran wheel man is capable of as if anybody had needed a reminder, it was evidence that the car was now as good as the driver. And when those two factors are at their highest level, he's still one of the best in the area as he showcased on Saturday night.
|Rick Rarer Photo|
Former two time Blaney Memorial winner Jim Rasey looked set to make a good run for his third victory as he sat on the pole for the 30 lap main event. Alongside him was local legend Kevin Bolland who had been in victory lane recently at Pittsburgh Pennsylvania's Motor Speedway. But from the drop of the green flag, Shingledecker looked as if he was in a different world, quickly grabbing the lead while using the moisture coming up on the bottom of the surface. Meanwhile, Bolland put himself up top and it worked for him in the early going as he kept the leader in his sights.
Third starting Dave Murdick's chances for victory suffered a major blow with two laps in the books as he blew a rear tire and spun on the front stretch, bringing out the first caution of the night. When action resumed, Rex King Jr. was a man on the move. The former track champion and current points leader started eighth on the grid and put himself in the top five in a matter of two laps.
Following a caution for a Colton Walters spin with four laps down, Shingledecker got off to a strong restart while behind him Bolland, Jim Weller Jr. and Jim Rasey jockeyed for position and Brian Swartzlander began to challenge King for the fifth spot. Swartzlander and King would become locked in a battle for position for the majority of the race with each taking turns with passes for positions while running door to door in an impressive battle of skill.
|Rick Rarer Photo|
Out front, Shingledecker had gained significant separation from Bolland and was into his first taste of heavy lapped traffic with 10 laps down. He managed to barley get by a potential hold up by getting underneath Jason Sines in nimble fashion and at the last possible moment before the daylinght heading into turn one was about to evaporate. The move bought him a more sizable lead as Bolland looked to be hung up and looking hard for a way round Sines.
All progress was halted when Rasey took himself out of the running in a turn three spin with 15 laps down. Once action resumed, Shingledecker kept the car on the bottom, ready to make wide if necessary to fend off Bolland for the win. However, Bolland would not be able to mount a serious bid for the lead with one last chance restart with 27 laps in the books. Shingledecker crossed under the checkered flag first with relative ease as he found victory lane for the first time since an April, 2016 victory at Lernerville, while looking like the same driver who was capable of winning at any area track on any night, regardless of whom was in attendance.
|Gary Heeman Photo|
"It definitely reminded me of the Tri-City surface," Shingledecker said. "It's a really nice surface and they've done a great job with it here. I think we just got lucky tonight. We've been trying to get the car just a little bit better every week. We were kind of edging on this at the end of last year. I'd really like to thank my dad, he spends a lot of time on it and I'd like to thank the Blaney family for putting the race on. When I first started racing, I looked up to Lou Blaney a lot and this means a lot."
Big Block DIRTcar Modifieds; 30 Laps-$2,000 to win Lou Blaney Memorial
1. . Jeremiah Shingledecker, 2. Kevin Bolland, 3. Brian Swartzlander, 4. Rex King Sr. 
5. Rex King Jr. , 6. Steve Feder , 7. Jim Rasey  8. Jim Weller Jr. , 9. William Thomas 
10. Garrett Krummert , 11. Jimmy Holden , 12. Chris Haines , 13. Skip Moore 
14. Rob Kristyak , 15. Dave Murdick , 16. JR McGinley , 17. Eric Martin 
18. Bob Warren , 19. Justin Rasey , 20. Jason Sines , 21. Kevin Greene 
22. Tom Glenn , 23. Steve Slater , 24. Rodney Beltz , 25. Colton Walters 
Heat Winners: Jim Rasey, Kevin Bolland, Dave Murdick, Jeremiah Shingledecker