RUSH MEMORIAL CUP SERIES- SETTING A NEW STANDARD FOR REGIONAL KARTING & PROVIDING A PATH FOR FUTURE STARS IN RACING
By Doug Kennedy
April 13, 2017
(Pulaski, PA)...During the week, he’s a nurse, working for Horizon Family Medicine located in Sharpsville, Pa. But on weekends, he’s the promoter for the RUSH Memorial Cup Go-Kart Series. Meet 40-year-old Brian Mathieson of Mercer, Pa. One of the races in the Series is the "Blaise Mathieson Memorial" race (BMM), held in honor of Brian and Nicki’s son, Blaise, who passed away from still birth in 2011 at the age of 22 weeks.
The race benefits the Mackenna’s Hugs program, which is based in the Shenango Valley and surrounding areas and benefits those who have lost children due to stillbirth, miscarriage, and early infant loss. Brian and close friend, Tracy Snyder, saw how successful the BMM race was and wanted to duplicate that for their other races in the Series.
The Series runs six races a year at six different tracks. “We try to do one race a month,” said Mathieson. The tracks that the Series race include Blairsville Speedway Goodhope, Slippery Rock Raceway, Stateline Speedway, Marion Center Speedway, and finally Red Rock Raceway.
The upcoming season will be the fourth year that the Series has been under the banner of RUSH. This year’s race, as always, will be held at Goodhope Speedway in New Springfield, OH on June 10. The memorial races on the schedule include the "Blaise Mathieson Memorial" at Goodhope, the "Lucas Leone Memorial" at Slippery Rock Raceway, which was the biggest race in western Pennsylvania in 2016, the "Bob Fletcher Memorial", a night race at Stateline, and the "911 Memorial" at Red Rock, where the champions will be crowned.
“At each event, we try to raise money for different charities,” said Mathieson. The primary charity of the Series is the Makenna’s Hugs program. Other charities that Mathieson has worked with include Phace Syndrome Community, Make-A-Wish, Wounded Warriors, and a monetary collection for Jack Sodeman, who was injured in a crash at Lernerville in a World of Outlaws race. “We also raise money for B.R.A.K.E S. which teaches new drivers safety techniques,” said Mathieson.
With the Makenna’s Hugs program, the donations helped UPMC Shenango Valley to purchase a Cuddle Cot, a small cooling machine that reduces the baby’s body temperature. The small cooling machine works by circulating cold water to a small flexible cold pad which is placed under the baby. The pad reduces the infant’s core body temperature through direct contact.
“We’re the highest drawing karting series with our two classes in the entire region,” said Mathieson. The region includes New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The two classes include the Junior Clone for kids ages 10 to 14 and the Senior Clone for drivers 15 and up. Last year’s champions were Clint Smith in the Junior Division and Mike Anderson in the Senior Class.
The senior championship came down to the final turn as both Anderson and Joey Watson were tied coming into the season ending event at Red Rock. Anderson, a former race in the RUSH Late Models, ended up winning the title by one position. Past winners have included Kimberly Taylor in 2014 and 2015 in the Senior class and Hutch Fry in the Junior division in 2014 and Blake Matjoulis in 2015.
Smith, who won last year’s Junior Division, will be moving up to the Senior Division for 2017. Last year, Clint raced on Friday nights at Pittsfield and Sundays at Eriez- those two being his home tracks. The Smiths also travelled to Naugle, Pittsfield, and Goodhope.
Towards the end of last season, Jesse Smith, Clint’s dad, moved him up to the Senior Division for a sampling of what to expect. All he did was win four features, had three seconds, a fourth, and a fifth- not bad for a first-timer. “I think he’s ready to make the move,” said Jesse who has watched his son progress in karts for the last eight seasons. “I won’t put him into a situation until I feel he’s ready.”
In all, Clint raced 49 times last year, but already for this year, Jesse says he has put a pencil to the paper and has 71 dates on Clint’s schedule for 2017. The Smiths are also putting together a 25 horsepower Unlimited All-Star Kart.
“We won’t race anymore for track championships,” said Jesse. “He (Clint) already has six titles. Our main goal will be to run for the RUSH Memorial Series championship.” Clint will also do some travelling besides his normal Fridays and Sundays at Pittsfield and Eriez. “We don’t let much grass grow under our feet,” laughed Jesse.
As for the future of his son’s future in racing, Jesse said, “He has desires to move up and run the RUSH Late Models and the Super Late Models. That’s kind of where we are headed. We’re trying to put together the funds for an E-Mod and race at Raceway 7, Sharon, and Eriez. We’ll start there and see how far we can go.”
As for the Series, the Centerville, Pa. resident said, “Brian and Tracy do a great job with the Series. They are always out there promoting it. I’m always proud to say that we follow the RUSH Memorial Series.”
Twenty-eight year old, Corey Whetzel of Keyser, WV has been racing for 15 years and does a lot of travelling to get to the events. “We put a lot of miles going up and down the road, but it’s fun because it gives me time to be with my family,” His wife, Briana, and parents, Kim and Steve, attend all of Corey’s races. He also enjoy racing with his teammate, Bryson Sanders, who along with his dad, Eric, builds engines for Whetzel.
Whetzel is a state trooper for western Maryland. That limits the amount of time he can dedicate to racing. “It makes it hard for us to get out and do other things,” said Whetzel, who also coaches basketball at Keyser Middle School.
“We’ve run a lot of other series but with this Series, the competition is great with a good group of guys,” said Whetzel. “I love how Brian has these memorial races and with the money going to charity, that’s awesome.”
Corey wanted to thank his main supporters, Liller Paving, who has been with him for the last three years, Iron Horse Logging, and Burton’s Speed Cuts.
Whetzel would love to eventually get into a Dirt Late Model, but realizes that is probably more like a dream. Being a trooper makes it hard for him to get out do other things.
“I will do this until the day I die or if I would get the opportunity to move up to say a dirt Stock Car, but I will follow RUSH for as long as it lasts.”
Brian Mathieson is also a go-kart driver, having competed in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware for the last 17 years. During that time, he has won five track championships and 75 features. “I still really enjoy it,” said Mathieson. “I’ll race around 25 to 30 races this year.”
“I find it tough racing against the younger kids at times, especially when we go indoors because the kids are mostly faster than the older guys,” said Mathieson.
The goal of the Karting Series was to be associated with a sanctioning body and RUSH was the perfect fit. “We wanted to use the RUSH logo to associate ourselves with the big cars and for name and product recognition,” said Mathieson. “It gives us more notoriety and people now take us a little more seriously. Karting is not a fan base sport, it’s a participant based sport. We don’t get 3,000 fans to come to our races, so we needed to associate ourselves with somebody who would give us more recognition and that’s why we hooked up with Vicki and RUSH.”
Mathieson’s goal is to one day see one of his Karting champions move on and win a championship in the RUSH Late Model, Sprint, Modified, or Stock Series. “We have a couple of drivers who are a year or two away from making the jump to the Late Models. He also feels very strongly about what Karting can teach to a driver. “Karting teaches you how to drive by teaching you how to pass cleanly because everything is equal.”
Sponsors are also very important for Mathieson and the Karting Series. Currently, he has Bullet Racing Engines, Brian Seeley of Photo Graphics Memories, McCool's Signs and Graphics, the Mercer American Legion, and Brian Ellenberger of Classic Ink. He also recognizes Arnie Caretti and Abbott Furnace who provides fire rings to raffle off at the Blaise Mathieson and Lucas Leone Memorial races.
“Tracy and I do the rest of the things by ourselves, although I do get help from my wife, Nicki, who helps me with officiating at the track, Nick Simon, and Tracy (Snider) who helps me with the planning of the Series.
At many of the races, there will be Chinese auctions where items are raffled. “We’re always in search of driver shirts, door panels, and other racing related items,” said Mathieson.
On a personal note, Mathieson has only been a nurse for the last five years having worked as a machine operator at Ivex, Inc., that was located in Grove City, Pennsylvania. “They went out of business and I was always interested in the medical field so here I
And even though they don’t currently have a website, you can get all the information you need by logging onto Facebook. Brian’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at email@example.com 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.