Justin Lamb with his father Rick accepting the $5000 Bilstein Bandit Championship.

Justin Lamb with his father Rick accepting the $5000 Bilstein Bandit Championship. Photo: Toni Carbone

The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Racing Series held its annual awards banquet on Saturday night, January 20th at the Gatherings Banquet and Event Center near New Castle, Pennsylvania and when it was all over, a number of the awards were headed to Pittsburgh.

With no less than six racing divisions running under the RUSH banner at nearly 30 race tracks throughout the northeast United States and southern Ontario, it is impressive to see that some of the biggest awards belonged to people involved in racing at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway.

After the typical socializing and dinner, RUSH Touring Series announcer Brian Spaid took to the microphone to present a myriad of awards to the many drivers, car owners, promoters and others who participate in the RUSH racing programs.

Among those recognized that have a connection to PPMS is Jessica Kriegisch. While finishing thirteenth in the RUSH Sportsman Modified points, the highlight of her season came at PPMS on July 24th when she picked up her first career victory in the division. As pointed out by banquet host Brian Spaid, Kriegisch had the good fortune to score her first win in front of a packed house for the rain-delayed All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car event. As a bonus, she stood in Victory Lane on the same night as Tony Stewart. The owner of the All-Star Sprints even took a moment to get a picture with Kriegisch in Victory Lane.

Also in the ranks of Sportsman Modified drivers to receive accolades at the RUSH banquet was Sportsman Modified Weekly Champion, Rocky Kugel. The Aliquippa, Pennsylvania native had a challenging year to say the least, but he managed to pull off the championship on the last night of competition for the Bicknell Weekly Series Championship worth $3000! When racing at PPMS, Kugel is definitely one to watch.

In the ranks of the Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Racing Series, all the drivers at PPMS compete for a RUSH weekly point fund. With well over 300 drivers across the RUSH Late Model landscape, a number of drivers from Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway finished in very respectable positions. Topping the list of PPMS regulars was Mike Pegher, Jr in the Jerry Haseleu owned RJ1, racking up 1318 points in just 15 races for a solid seventh place finish in the series Weekly Points. The Wexford, PA driver finished with no less than 106 points in every race he took part in during weekly competition.

Finishing tenth in the weekly points was Midway, Pennsylvania’s Daryl Charlier. The orange number 12 is always in the hunt on a Saturday night at Pittsburgh as he racked up 1310 points over 18 races in 2017.

Just one position and four points behind Charlier is the 93X of Justin Lamb. The 11th place finish in the Weekly Series points puts him in some rarified air, as he also scored the Precise Racing Products RUSH Late Model championship at PPMS. The Coraopolis, Pennsylvania driver competed in 17 race events at PPMS and finished the season with 1306 points in the series.

Other PPMS drivers in the RUSH Late Model ranks in the top 100 in the points include Michael Reft in 33rd position with 1272 points, John Mollick in 38thwith 1259 points and Chuck Medved with 1202 points and a 65th place finish.

Beyond the normal accumulation of points toward a championship, two Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway drivers scored in the RUSH Bilstein Bandits program. In an effort to provide an affordable shock option, Bilstein Shocks has teamed up with the RUSH Racing Series to provide the $135 spec, sealed shocks. While these shocks are mandated in the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds and Pro Mods, they are an option for the Late Models. As an incentive for the Late Model drivers to utilized the shock package, a $13,150 cash point fund was established to be distributed to the top 12 finishers in the program.

Finishing fourth in the Bilstein Bandits program was the 2M of Chuck Medved. On the recommendation of friend and fellow competitor Justin Lamb, Medved went with the Bilstein shocks for the first time in 2017 and finished with the best season of his career with three top fives and nine top tens.

The big winner on the night in the Bilstein Bandits program was Justin Lamb, driver of the 93X. The driver from Coraopolis Pennsylvania amassed 16 top fives with his worst finish of the year being a seventh place. He won a feature in weekly competition on May 27th and finished a strong third in the Jook George Classic RUSH Touring Series race in a field of 43 entries. He ran the entire season on the Bilstein Bandit Shocks and took home the champions check worth $5000! Added to his winnings in the weekly series, Lamb would leave the event on Saturday with a total of $5900!

“We’re really excited with how last season went, having our best year ever especially on the Bilstein Bandit program,” commented Lamb after the banquet. “What RUSH has done for the sport is tremendous. You know when I first started we were racing for $350 (to win), no championship funds or anything. So, to now be able to race and leaver here with almost $6000 is tremendous.”

As for Miley Motorsports embracing the RUSH concept in the Late Models, the Sportsman Modifieds and now the Wingless Sprints, Lamb gives high marks to the management at PPMS. “It’s great. The Miley’s have supported the Crate program from the get-go. Ever since Crate racing really came around when I first started, we were still racing against the open motor economy cars. So, they’ve really embraced it from the beginning. They are really open to bringing anybody in there that’s willing to come race at Pittsburgh.”

After all the awards but one had been distributed, emcee Brian Spaid gave a short description of the prestigious “Majestic Award.” Normally awarded to a driver, car owner, promotor, or official, the 2017 Majestic Award was presented to a fan! That fan is none other than Brandon Lockwich! In the past couple of years, Lockwich has taken on the task of promoting the long standing Jook George Memorial race at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway and transformed it into the most significant and highest paying event on the RUSH Late Model Touring Series. Now known as the Jook George Steel City Classic, the race honors longtime car owner and builder Jook George. Lockwich’s tireless efforts to gather contributions from individuals and businesses culminated in a $12,000 purse paying over $4000 to the winner. Along the way, Lockwich gained the respect of the RUSH Late Model community and became something of a hero at PPMS, a place he calls home most every Saturday night.

Known as “Cleetus” to many, Lockwich remains modest on his accomplishments. “I feel humbled to have been presented the Majestic Award. Every year I put everything I have into making the Jook race great for both his family and the drivers. I’m sure there were other people who would probably be more deserving of the award then myself. I’m just a guy who loves racing, and has since I first went to the tracks as a youngster. The part I have enjoyed the most are the friends I have gotten to make along the way and friendships I gained.”

The RUSH Late Model season gets underway for the 2018 season on Saturday night May 5, 2018, when it will be Champions Night.

Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway was originally built in 1948 as Heidelberg Raceway in Scott Township. The Heidelberg Raceway was the home of the Pittsburgher 250 and closed in 1973 as metro-Pittsburgh surrounded the area. Most of the facilities were relocated to build PPMS in 1979 near Imperial Pennsylvania. Ten years later, Miley Motorsports took over, and the Pittsburgher returned as the Pittsburgher 100. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Pittsburgher 100 was ranked the 4th best dirt racing event in the country in 2015 by dirtondirt.com.

PPMS Marketing Partners include Diehl Automotive, Precise Racing Products, Sunoco Race Fuels, Miley Truck Rental, Imperial Heights Garage, Cruise America RV, Colussy Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Falconi’s Moon Township Automotive, Rock Auto, Mastro Ice and Zufall Media. PPMS races every Saturday night May to October.

2018 RUSH Late Model marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Holley Performance Products, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, Quick Fuel Technology, FK Rod Ends, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Racing Electronics, Dynamic Drivelines, Wrisco, Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, ARbodies, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA,  Landrum Performance Spring, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.

RUSH Sportsman Modified marketing partners include Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Pace Performance, Hoosier Tire, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Sunoco Race Fuels, Bazell Race Fuels, Insinger Performance, MSD Performance, Holley Performance Products, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, Quick Fuel Technology, FK Rod Ends, Sherwood Racing Wheels, Schoenfeld Headers, Jones Racing Products, Racing Electronics, Dynamic Drivelines, Wrisco,Alternative Power Sources, Precise Racing Products, TBM Brakes, K&N Filters, Lincoln Electric, Velocita-USA, Classic Ink USA, CrateInsider.com, RockAuto.com, and Valley Fashions.