After a long, cold off-season, the track crew has been hard at work getting ready for the Saturday, May 4 season opener. Six months ago, Bobby Pierce (32) took the checkered flag at the 30th Annual Pittsburgher 100, ending the 2018 racing season at PPMS. While some race teams celebrated a lot of success in 2018, other teams did not.
Justin Lamb (93X), from Findlay Township, won his second consecutive points championship in the Diehl Automotive RUSH Late Model Dirt Series at PPMS in 2018. In preparation for the season, Lamb (93X) said, “[I am looking forward to] just getting back to the track, and focusing on winning more races.” Lamb (93X) will run a more limited schedule this season to spend more time with his family, but when he does race, “it’s to win.” Lamb (93X) finished the 2018 season with 1,425 points, 132 more points than second-place Logan Zarin (1Z), from Moon Township. Zarin (1Z) won the Western Pennsylvania Rookie of the Year Award, given by a panel of 50 media members and track officials from Western Pennsylvania. Walt Wimer created the award in 1968. Zarin (1Z) was the fifty-first winner of the award, and he won the award by a large margin. John Mollick (60M) from Toronto, Ohio finished in third with 1,248 points, while Christian Schneider (1ST) from Pittsburgh finished in fourth place with 1,241 points. Schneider (1ST) said, “I’m looking to bettering myself from the previous years and being consistent, running up front. [I’m excited about] everyone’s smiles at the races because it’s all-around such a fun time and I believe there is nothing better than being around people and going fast!” Mike Reft (9R) from Whitehall wasn’t as fortunate when his car was totaled in a horrible accident on August 4th. Reft (9R) would walk away from the accident but his car wasn’t as lucky, which put him out for the remainder of the season. The accident happened one week before the 28th Annual Jook George Memorial, a race that Reft (9R) has dominated in the past, leading all 40 laps, and taking home the win in 2016. Reft (9R) is the only driver to lead all 40 laps in the 28-year history of the Jook George Memorial. Reft (9R) also plans on running a limited schedule but he is always a contender in the Diehl Automotive RUSH Late Model Dirt Series. The “Midway Missile” Daryl Charlier (12C) had the most Diehl Automotive RUSH Late Model Dirt Series wins with six but still finished in seventh place with 1,052 points due to a limited schedule. Charlier (12C) plans to mostly race on the Penn Ohio Pro Stock Series with J&J racing, owned by Ben Laboon. Charlier’s (12C) father used to drive for Laboon’s father. With a lot of the top guys planning on running limited schedules, the door will be wide open in the 2019 points race for the Diehl Automotive RUSH Late Model Dirt Series at PPMS.
Greg Beach (33X), from Chicora, dominated the PPMS Pro Stock division in 2018. Beach (33X) had seven wins and took home the championship with 1,247 points. During the off-season, Beach (33X) became the crew chief for Alex Ferree (4). Beach (33X) said, “It’s going well, just getting started racing and trying to shake down a brand new XR1. [We’re] also trying to get Alex and I communicating on the same page to make the best adjustments on the car to suit his driving style.” With Beach’s (33X) new position, if he does race local at PPMS, it will be a limited schedule. Dave McManus (114) from Elizabeth finished in second place with 1,172 points. McManus (114) is also on the J&J racing team owned by Ben Laboon. Charlier (112) and McManus (114) will both be racing the Penn Ohio Pro Stock series for Laboon, and McManus (114) plans on racing locally at PPMS when the schedule permits. Again, with some of the top drivers racing elsewhere, the PPMS Pro Stock points race should be wide open in 2019.
Stephen Shelpman (17S) from Pleasant Hills had eight wins in the Keystone Coach Works Hobby Stock division and he took home his second consecutive championship. Shelpman (17S) plans on defending his title in 2019 and when asked about the upcoming season he said, “I want to go three for three and have more championships on dirt than asphalt.” Shelpman said, “I’m looking forward mostly to trying to get my dads car more competitive. We concentrated so much on my car that his never really got a lot of attention. This winter we put a lot of research into setups and I think we’ll really turn the corner on his car.” Ed Shelpman (17P) has been involved in racing for 11 years and was his son Stephen’s crew chief when he started racing the backup car last season. E. Shelpman (17P) finished eight out of sixteen in points in 2018. Casey Grumling (77X) from Elrama had one feature win in 2018 but finished in second place, only 25 points behind S. Shelpman (17S). Grumling (77X) said, “I’m looking forward to being a two-car owner for the first time and hopefully give [S.] Shelpman [17S] a run for the championship and coming out on top for my second championship” Grumling will drive the 77X car and his other car (7X) will be driven by different people throughout the season. Ben Anton (13) from Jefferson Hills finished in third during his rookie Hobby Stock season with 1,151 points. B. Anton (13) dominated the Three Rivers Karting Young Guns division before moving up to a Hobby Stock in 2018. B. Anton (13) said, “I’ll be trying to get to the front of the pack now that the rookie season is over.” Tom Anton (64), Ben’s dad, will be moving up to the Hobby Stock division this season after racing in the Open Four Cylinder division. Karlee Kovacs (221K) finished in fourth place with 994 points and (221K) dominated the Three Rivers Karting Young Guns division. The Keystone Coach Works Hobby Stock division always has some of the best racing of the night and 2019 should be no different.
The “dominator” Andy Garlinger (R88) from Hopedale, Ohio lived up to his nickname in 2018 with 10 wins, en route to the Open Four Cylinder track championship. Garlinger (R88) said, “I’m just hoping to have a good year, have a bunch of clean races, and race with a bunch of good drivers.” Garlinger (R88) also won the Open Four Cylinder track championship at 250 Speedway. Craig Rudolph (5R) from Steubenville, Ohio will jump back into his Open Four Cylinder after taking a year off to help his daughter Susie Rudolph (55), who races in the Three Rivers Karting Young Guns division.
S. Rudolph (55) from Steubenville, Ohio had seven feature wins in the Three Rivers Karting Young Guns division but she finished third in points behind Frank Magill (05) of Jefferson Hills and Kyle Janus (88) from Coraopolis, who finished first and second respectively. S. Rudolph (55) said, “This year I’m really looking forward to being back in my happy place, doing something that I love, and reaching some of my goals I set for myself this season.” S. Rudolph (55) has some big goals for the upcoming season and also said, “I’m going to try to win the championship this year and I’m going to try my best to beat the record for most wins in a row,” a record that she almost beat in 2018. There will be at least one rookie in the Three Rivers Karting Young Guns division in 2019. Cameron Lambert (22 the 3rd) from Mars will race in his rookie season at PPMS in 2019. C. Lambert (22 the 3rd) is looking forward to getting seat time and having a fun experience.
The 2019 season at PPMS will be action-packed with the five regular weekly divisions. PPMS will also see a number of different divisions, such as, The Elite Modified Series, The RUSH Sportsman Modified Series, The RUSH Sprint Car Series, BOSS Sprints, 410 Winged Sprints, and more. Some of the bigger races on the schedule include, The Ed Laboon Memorial (June 1), The Herb Scott Memorial (June 29), The Red Miley Rumble (July 20), The Jook George Memorial (August 10), and The Pittsburgher 100 (October 4 & 5). PPMS hopes to see everyone at the track for an action-packed season, beginning on Saturday, May 4.