KUNTZ, BRINK & BUTLER CAPTURE INAUGURAL RUSH ASPHALT SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS IN 2017 AT JENNERSTOWN
By Doug Kennedy
November 25, 2017 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Pulaski, PA)...An important date in regional racing came on October 13, 2016 when the Sweeney Chevrolet Buck GMC RUSH Racing Series powered by Pace Performance and Pennsylvania's Jennerstown Speedway announced that they had formed a partnership that would bring sanctioned crate racing to the venerable asphalt race track. The three divisions of Jennerstown that became part of the RUSH Series were the Late Models, Modifieds, and Street Stocks.
The primary reason for making the change to sanctioning with RUSH was the costs in racing had escalated to such levels that many of the drivers just could no longer afford it. Consequently, car counts and crowds dwindled forcing management and ownership to look in another direction and that was to align themselves with a racing series. Enter RUSH.
“We felt that it was in our best interests to align ourselves with a sanctioning body,” said Bill Hribar, Jennerstown Speedway General Manager. "We were looking for something that every competitor has a fair shot every time they go onto the speedway. Things were getting out of hand with asphalt racing and drivers were dropping out of racing, but now we’re seeing some of the guys come back and that’s unheard of when a driver who leaves comes back again to compete.”
2017 can certainly be deemed to be a success as there were multiple winners in each of the three divisions in 2017. Car counts also increased with an average of 10 cars in the Late Model Division, 15 with the Modifieds, and 12 in the Street Stocks. Hribar expects that number to increase significantly particularly with the Late Models and Modifieds.
For the most part, drivers had nothing but great things to say about Jennerstown and the RUSH Racing Series.
“I went from finishing in the top five every once in a while to being a top five car every week,” said Late Model driver Brian Shipp.
“It made the racing more close and overall, the racing is better,” said Modified driver Jason Busch.
In its inaugural season with the RUSH partnership, Jeremiah Kuntz was the Late Model champion, Chris Brink won the Modified Division, while Lauren Butler won the Street Stock title.
Butler became the first ever woman to win the Street Stock championship at Jennerstown, and first ever in RUSH. “It was pretty amazing,” said Butler of her accomplishment. “It didn’t feel real until the Jennerstown banquet and I was standing on the stage and then it became real. It’s a huge accomplishment and set the bar out there that if one woman can do it, others can as well.”
At the beginning of this season, Butler was excited about the teching and the rules. “It’s the best I’ve seen in 15 years,” said Butler, who works as a Central Processing Technician at Magee Women’s Hospital. “We’ve been here (Jennerstown) for the last two years and it’s the best track I’ve been at-hands down.”
As another bonus for the Butler family, Lauren’s dad, Eddie, received the "Mechanic of the Year" Award. He also serves as Lauren’s car owner.
The 30-year-old began her career in Go-Karts before moving to a Legacy car. She then had a brief debut in a Late Model but totaled the equipment and realizing that it would cost too much to repair it, she chose to get into a Street Stock in 2006 and has been in one ever since.
“I’m happy with the Street Stocks and I’m going to stay there,” said Butler. She is a little concerned that there are a handful of drivers who are moving up to the Modified Division for 2018. “Hopefully new kids will come up and replace the guys who are moving up. It’s a fun division.”
“RUSH coming on board was one of the best things that could have happened. Nobody got away with anything because everything was checked and done to spec. There wasn’t any room for error or cheating.”
“My dad thinks the future of RUSH is here and it’s making it more affordable for the lower budget teams like us,” said Lauren. “We hope that more asphalt tracks will jump on board with this as well.”
Kuntz of Mahaffey, Pa. won the Late Model title by a mere five points over veteran champion driver, Barry Awtey. Both drivers had four wins, 13 top fives, and 14 top tens.
“I was pretty ecstatic to win,” said Kuntz, who along with his father, Carl, own Kuntz Motor Company, a Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram dealership. “Initially, I questioned it, but overall, I thought the sanctioning with RUSH worked pretty well. It put everyone on a level playing field and gave the opportunity on any given night that anyone could win. It helped my program because it added a level of consistency. We as racers are thankful for the contingency programs and all the other things that RUSH brought to the racers.”
As for the track and coming back to defend his title in 2018, Kuntz said, “It (Jennerstown) is awesome, it’s like home even though it’s an hour and half away. We’ll be back for 2018 to defend our title. We are coming back excited and happy to be on board with the RUSH program.”
Chris Brink of Penn Run, Pa. captured the Modified title with a 29-point bulge over Zane Ferrell, while Lauren Butler of West Mifflin, Pa. held off Josh Coughenour by five points. Both Butler and Coughenour led the way with three feature wins. Brink, on the other hand, dominated with eight feature wins.
“We actually won 11 features last year, so it was a down year for us,” laughed Brink.
Brink, who is now 58 didn’t start racing until he was 39. “I was a late bloomer,” he said. His career began with a Pure Stock, then a Dwarf Dirt Car, an Allison Legacy Car, a Limited Late Model, and eventually a Modified which he has been racing since 2007.
“I really learned how to race in that Legacy Series,” said Brink. “We raced at Jennerstown and Motordrome and did some travelling to Maine, North Carolina, and Indianapolis. I cut my teeth with that series.”
Brink did finish second in points at Jennerstown in the one year that he raced a Limited Late, but once they disbanded the series, Brink knew he needed something more stable so he bought the Modified.
His previous two track championships came at Motordrome in 2010 and then at Jennerstown in 2014.
As for the RUSH Series involvement at Jennerstown Brink said, “We’ve been on an island for so long and I think it’s great. I like the crate engines and the concept and appreciate what RUSH is doing for us. I think the series has helped me this year because it leveled the playing field.”
He also points out that the Modified division has grown from four to six cars to now where it’s pushing 20 cars. “I think the main reason it has succeeded is because of RUSH.”
“We have a good crew and a good car,” said Brink. “This is the longest I’ve even been in a race car. We’ve run this car since 2007.”
When asked if he had any aspirations to move into a Late Model, Brink said, “Because of my age, I think I’ll stay where I am and have fun.”
In all there were six different Late Model winners and two career first time winners. There were also six different Modified winners and five different Street Stock winners.
“You can’t ask for a more even playing field that that,” said Hribar. “It’s also quite some time since we have seen a lateral movement on asphalt.”
For 2018, Modified driver Zane Ferrell will be moving up to a Late Model. Tanner Friedline will move from the Charger Division to the Modifieds and Cindy Rhodes and R.J. Dellape will move from the 4 Cylinders to the Modifieds.
“This is a testament to validate the strength and integrity that RUSH brings to asphalt racing,” said Hribar. “We feel that it was a very successful year. The first year is always the hardest and we are looking forward to 2018. We are confident that RUSH is going to keep us on the right track and lead asphalt racing into the future. Jennerstown may be the first RUSH Asphalt Racing Series track, but it definitely will not be the last.”
E-mail can be sent to the RUSH Racing Series at firstname.lastname@example.org and mail to 4368 Route 422, Pulaski, PA 16143. Office phone is 724-964-9300 and fax is 724-964-0604. The RUSH Asphalt Racing Series website is www.rushasphaltseries.com. Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rushasphaltseries and follow us on Twitter @RUSHAsphalt.
Edited by RUSH Racing Series, 25 November 2017 - 03:00 PM.