Join us at PPMS this Saturday, August 11, 2018, for Kids Fest 2018, and the highly anticipated twenty-ninth annual Jook George Steel City Classic for the Diehl Automotive RUSH Late Model Dirt Series. We will also be featuring the PPMS Pro Stocks, and the Keystone Coach Works Hobby Stocks. Gates open at 3 p.m., Kids Fest begins at 4 p.m., hot laps begin at 6 p.m., and the racing action will commence at 7 p.m. The Jook George Steel City Classic is the second biggest race of the season for PPMS.
In 2017, the “Jook George Steel City Classic” race, held annually at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway, became a Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring event. This event, in its 29th year, is the second most important event at PPMS next to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series 30th annual “Pittsburgher 100”. The 2018 version of the “Jook George Steel City Classic” will again pay a minimum of $5,010 to win and will take place on Saturday, August 11 with a rain date of Sunday.
“We believe that they are two of the longest consecutive running events in the region,” said Matt Miley, PPMS promoter. “The Jook George is a big deal to the Miley family, the George family, and all the racers who have been or are part of it.”
The event is financed by contributions from a number of people, companies, race teams and racing organizations including RUSH. The bulk of the promotion is handled by 34-year-old Branden Lockwich of Imperial, Pennsylvania. The race is special for Lockwich because Jook was a friend of the family for a number of years. “I know his family very well and this event takes on a personal feeling, it’s not just another event,” said Lockwich.
As a youngster, Lockwich attended a number of races with his parents but found that one track was the one they visited the most. “I guess you could say that PPMS was our home track,” said Branden. “I wanted to do what Vince Laboon did for his dad (Ed) at Pittsburgh.” For the last seven years, Laboon has promoted the Ed Laboon Memorial Pro Stock Series race.
Who is William Thomas “Jook” George and why has he been honored for nearly three decades? His son, “Little Jook” explains. “He was always Big Jook and then when I came along, I was Little Jook. If anyone ever called him William, he wouldn’t respond because he was always Jook.”
“Dad had a very brief racing career, in fact, it was one race,” said the 43-year-old William “Little Jook”. “He started drag racing in 1964 at PID (Pennsylvania International Dragway) when he was a senior in high school. Then in 1965, he bought his first circle track car. His one and only race was at Clinton Motor Speedway. He was claustrophobic and couldn’t handle all the race cars around him so he hired Davey Gallo to drive for him.”
Gallo was actually a friend from Midway, Pa., the place where Jook was born and died. The number he chose and had for most of his racing career was the #10 and that was in honor of his racing hero, Lou Blaney. There was a race at the Butler County Fairgrounds in the late ’70s that had the Sprint Car drivers race in Late Models and Lou drove Jook’s car that night. “He was pretty proud of that,” said “Little Jook”.
Other highlights to his career were being selected as the “Sportsman of the Year” at PPMS, being nominated into the Pittsburgh Circle Track Hall of Fame, winning the 1990 track championship at PPMS with John Beatty behind the wheel, and winning the Fall Classic in 1993 at PPMS with Bill Yakin. His most dominant stretch as a car owner came in the late ’70s when Earl Peters was his driver.
“They won a bunch of races in that black and yellow car,” said “Little Jook”, who works as a manufacturer of industrial signs for Precision Sign and Awning in Carnegie, Pa. In fact, there was a bounty placed on them at Latrobe and Expo Speedways. “They did a lot of traveling and ran races in Canada. When I came along, the traveling stopped.”
Other tracks that they competed at were Jennerstown, Motordrome, and Lernerville Speedways. “We ran Lernerville 13 times and came back on a wrecker in 12 of them. It wasn’t our best track.”
Miley remembers as a young boy when they would go to his shop to pick up some parts. “Jook was a fun guy to be around, a lot like my brother Red,” said Miley. “Both of them would give their shirt off their backs to help you. They saw the benefit of helping others very early in life and Jook give so much to the children.”
In accordance with the children Late Model driver, Jared Miley and his wife, Rachael have started a KidsFest Pittsburgh 2018 prior to the running of the Jook George race. Rachael has put together over 50 booths and activities focusing on children.
As for his dad and his love for the sport, “Little Jook” said, “He loved racing- that was his thing. He was competitive but was all about fairness. He just enjoyed the sport.”
Lockwich is a database administrator who works for Premier Comp Solutions. Prior to that, he worked 12 years at Comcast in technical support. Branden’s main goal was to take the “Jook George Steel City Classic” race to another level, and he has succeeded. Lockwich never had the finances to race himself so he decided to help some of his friends stay racing.
For Lockwich, this is something he has been involved with since 2015, however, that year was put together just prior to opening day at PPMS. Two thousand and sixteen became Branden’s first full-fledged year that he promoted the race. There were 27 cars that showed for the race at Pittsburgh as RUSH Weekly-sanctioned event. Then in 2017, the race became a RUSH Touring Series event and 43 cars were there to compete. This year, the following Saturday night tracks are either not racing or have dropped the RUSH Late Models for August 11: Genesee, Stateline, McKean, and Delaware.
“Ideally I would love to see 50 cars this year but you never know,” said Lockwich. “I think 35 to 40 is attainable, but it’s hard to guess on the car count because guys may pop in that you don’t even think about.”
For the last two seasons, an anonymous person donated $8,000 each year. This year that same donor submitted $5,000 which put Branden $3,000 behind from the start, yet he is right around the same amount raised for this year’s event.
“I’m also very proud every year of the racers and companies that are involved,” said Lockwich. “Most of the people I get are with me every year. 75% of the people I get have been with me since 2016. They feel that the race is worthwhile and that’s why they’re with me.”
So when does Branden begin putting together the sponsorships for the race? “What I do is keep a master list at home,” Lockwich said. “I start around March or April and go to the people who have been with me over the last few years. I also reach out to some new people that I haven’t had in the past. I have been blessed because most of the people have been with me before so it makes it easier. Don’t get me wrong, it’s work, but it’s something I love doing. The most rewarding part of doing this race, other than honoring Jook George, are the friendships I’ve made along the way. Now I can go up to the drivers and ‘bs’, and it’s also great having the George family there.”
There are also $50 lap sponsorships involved. “We sell laps and all the cumulative money goes back into the overall purse,” Lockwich said. Since 2015, past winners have been Colton Flinner, Mike Reft, and Mike Pegher, Jr.- all Pittsburgh area racers.
“Branden has kept his head up, removed obstacles, and brought this event to its current state,” Miley said of Lockwich. “We can’t thank him enough and are very proud of him and his contribution to the sport we love.” “Branden is a phenomenal promoter,” said “Little Jook. “He took it to the next level.”But the race is all about the memory of one Jook George, a car owner who was revered by everyone in the racing community.
For anyone wanting to get involved in the event, contact Branden at 412-977-4669 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current sponsors for the “Jook George Steel City Classic” include Imperial Tire and Auto, Doug Smith Schaefers Oil and Croftgate, Davis Electric and Lighting, Bryant Hank in memory of Dow Carnahan, JMR and Bristol Renee Miley, Jook George Family, Castleveter Landscaping, Kessler Motorsports, Jim Johnson Motorsports and Genesee Speedway, Lukons Reb Fab, Rappin on Racin, Tri State Motorsports Dale Charlier, Russ King Racing, Russ Matejka Racing, Kurt Thompson Realtor, Falconi Family of Dealerships, The Dirt Network, In Memory of Mark Policz 84 from Ben Policz, 1st Stop Automotive, Dobs Auto, Ron’s Barbershop, J&J ATR, RebelYell Motorsports Graphics, Bryan Hoffman Racing, Jamie Wrightsman Racing, Schirnhofer Racing, John Waters Racing, Chase Freberg, Chris Lander Racing, Carl Cavanaugh, Kanes Ideal Truck Service, Reft Racing 9R, D&T Autobody, Rocket Chassis, 4 Generations of Charlier Racing, Pete Lockwich, JMO Construction, Dirt on Dirt, RUSH Racing Series, In loving memory of Bucky Johnson from Vince Dubois, Duratz Fab, John from Raceteam 114, Mike Duritsky Racing, Dietz Fabrication, Thoma Meat Market, Joe Lockwich, Bioni Drilling, Tom Schwarzl Racing, Imperial Heights Garage, Sherry Charlier, Schwartzmiller Ground Maintenance, Ron Hall Racing, Mike Pegher, Jr., Zarin Trucking, Shane Harvey, Bud’s Place, Josh Harvey, Derek Charlier Productions, Pucktastic Auto Detailing, Nico Dabecco F1 Racing, Veronica Brant, Ultraclassic Salon, Alternative Power Sources, Taylor Auto Body, Close Racing Supply, Denny Nakutis, In Memory of Bill Stile from the Stile Family, Three Rivers Karting, In Memory of Ed Laboon from Vince Laboon, Beatty Welding, Ingram Engines, 955 Automotive, Brougher’s Machine Shop, Denny Angelicchio, Royal Purple Synthetic Oils, Jeremy Wonderling Racing.
Jook George Memorial Past Champions
2017 – Mike Pegher Jr.
2016 – Mike Reft
2015 – Colton Flinner
2014 – Daryl Charlier
2013 – Colton Flinner
2012 – Kyle Lukon
2011 – Mike Pegher Jr.
2010 – Dan Angelicchio
2009 – Mike Pegher Jr.
2008 – Mike Pegher Jr.
2007 – Kyle Lukon
2006 – Tommy Schirnhofer Jr.
2005 – Brandon Burgoon
2004 – Pete Loria
2003 – Bobby Castelvetter
2002 – Gary Cellone
2001 – Brian Laraway
2000 – Dave Wade
1999 – Jim Stephans
1998 – Dave Wade
1997 – Dave Wade
1996 – Jason Cisson
1995 – Mel Minnick
1994 – Rich Curry
1993 – Bill Yakin
1992 – Mike Johnson
1991 – Bill Yakin
1990 – Bill Yakin