Located in Hartford, Ohio, the gateway to America’s heartland, Sharon Speedway is a 0.375-mile semi-banked clay oval that has been in some form of operation since 1929.
In 1954, the track held its lone NASCAR Cup Series event, a 200 lapper that ended on lap 160 due to rain. Lee Petty won over Buck Baker by a lap before the track went back largely to hosting weekly racing.
In 2002, Dave Blaney purchased the racetrack; he and his father had ran there over the years. Lou Blaney was a legendary dirt driver who, like his son Dave, was born in Hartford and helped run the track until his death in 2009. Afterwards, Sharon has annually held the “Lou Blaney Memorial” night, with such names as Tony Stewart, Christopher Bell, World of Outlaws ace Brad Sweet and of course Dave Blaney all competing in and winning in the sprint car feature over the years.
This week, Sharon hosts the final round of the 2022 SRX season. After a summer full of close racing, it all comes down to a dramatic title fight between five drivers, bragging rights for another five drivers, a father versus son showdown in essentially their backyard and a return by Chase Elliott to the series. Tickets are completely sold out for the event; it’s hard to call this anything but the most anticipated race in the series’ short history outside of night one at Stafford Motor Speedway last year.
Here is the entry list for Saturday night, with the guest drivers in bold:
|1||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Camping World||IndyCar|
|3||Paul Tracy||Bonanza Cabernet Sauvigon||IndyCar|
|5||Matt Kenseth||Camping World||NASCAR|
|6||Tony Kanaan||Spiked Coolers||IndyCar/Stock Car Pro Series (Brazil)|
|10||Dave Blaney||Body Armor||NASCAR/World of Outlaws|
|12||Ryan Blaney||Body Armor||NASCAR|
|14||Tony Stewart||Good Sam||NASCAR/IndyCar/USAC|
|18||Bobby Labonte||Sport Clips||NASCAR|
|39||Ryan Newman||Sun Outdoors||NASCAR/USAC|
On Friday afternoon, SRX revealed the drawings for the opening lineup of heat one. Waltrip will start on the pole position, while Newman will begin his championship bid in second.
Here’s a look at three notable superstars competing this upcoming Saturday night:
In my view, Dave Blaney is the best driver in Cup history never to actually win a race. The Buckeye Bullet, Blaney spent most of his career driving for smaller, underfunded outfits such as Bill Davis Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing and Jasper Motorsports. TBR was in some ways the epitome of Blaney’s skill at uniting and building up a race team, as they went from a single-car operation missing nine races in 2010 and parking multiple times to making every race in 2011, even fielding a second car full time starting in 2012.
But to many fans in the dirt world, Blaney is remembered as possibly the best in a family of great racers. Blaney ranks eighth on the all-time list of World of Outlaws feature winners, with 95 in total. Outside of WoO, the Bullet has won just about all of the big events in dirt racing, chief among them being a Knoxville Nationals win in 1997, a big win in the 1993 Chili Bowl Nationals and of course, multiple wins in the Lou Blaney Memorial.
When Dave Blaney won the 1995 WoO championship, his son Ryan Blaney was almost two years old. The newer model Blaney elected not to follow in his father, grandfather and uncle’s tire track on the dirt scene, instead racing late models in the Carolinas as his father was winding down his Cup career.
10 years prior to this weekend’s SRX event in July 2012, Blaney was first signed by Roger Penske, and after driving a partial schedule for both Penske’s NASCAR Xfinity Series operation and Brad Keselowski’s Truck team, Blaney has stayed affiliated with Penske to this day and has won 13 total races for the Captain between NXS and Cup competition. Blaney also scored the 99th win for the Penske-affiliated Wood Brothers Racing operation in 2017, and his ninth place in points was the only time the Wood Brothers have finished in the top 10 in points since 1994.
It will be interesting to see if Ryan Blaney’s youthfulness and skill will be able to circumvent his father’s decades of experience on dirt. Of course, I’m sure there’s some personal bet involved with both Ryan and Chase Elliott in the same race.
Among the SRX regulars, the big focus is the points battle. Marco Andretti leads Ryan Newman by eight points, Tony Stewart by 13 points, Bobby Labonte by 15 points and Greg Biffle is a very long shot, down by 40 points in a series where 46 is the maximum amount of points that can be gained in a weekend on another starter.
Andretti has the chance to win his first championship since the old Skip Barber National Series from back when he was a high schooler in 2004. A driver who won his first IRL event at age 17, Andretti has never really lived up to his expectations of being a third-generation driver and an early race winner. But he may be able to redeem that in part with a championship win against multiple great stock car drivers in a stock car racing series, and could well stamp his ticket to a potential NXS ride if everything goes his way on Saturday.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).
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