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Brunnell Wins Ray’s Race for Penn-Ohio Pro Stocks; Matus, Martin and Speer also Score



FRANKLIN, PA (August 16, 2020): The Penn-Ohio Pro Stock Series made its first visit of the season to Tri-City Raceway Park for the third annual Ray’s Race held in memory of R.K. Virgile. Mr. Vigile was the founder of a successful scrap metal business in nearby Oil City, but race fans will remember him as a loyal supporter of the Pro Stock class, especially at Tri-City. His name was splashed across the body panels of countless cars over the years and quite a few of his former drivers were on hand to support the event. However, it was an invader of sorts, Greensburg area driver Noah Brunnell, who came away victorious in the special race.

Also getting wins on this night were Brandon Matus in the 410 Sprint Car division, Greg Martin in the 358 Modifieds, and Dillon Speer in the Mini Stocks.

Matus, a third generation driver from Wampum, PA, took advantage of his front row starting position, as he jumped out to the lead. Veteran Gary Kriess, Jr. had the pole, and he was mighty strong in his heat race, but something was amiss in his machine come feature time. Jack Sodeman, Jr. also moved ahead of Kriess on the opening lap and it was not long thereafter that Kriess retired from action.

While Matus motored along in the lead, Sodeman had to deal with a number of challenges for the second spot. First it was George Hobaugh, Jr. and later it was Brandon Spithaler who tried to take the spot away. Neither were successful.

Other positions in the top ten changed hands frequently over the course of the 25 lapper. Michael Bauer, Carl Bowser, and New York Modified driver Matt Farnham were among the most active. Each took turns racing into the top five at various stages of the race.

At the checkers, it was Brandon Matus ahead of Sodeman and Spithaler. Bowser made a late race charge to get fourth amd Hobaugh held on for fifth. Bauer, John Garvin, Farnham, Leyton Wagner, and Chase Matheny completed the top ten. It was quite an accomplishment for young Matheny, who started at the rear of the field after being unable to compete in his heat race due to an engine problem.

Three heat races were contested earlier in the night, with Kriess, Spithaler, and Brandon Matus getting the wins.

A major wreck early in the 358 Modified race completely changed the complexion of that event. Eric Beggs and Steve Barr were fighting for the lead, but they tangled in turn one with just a couple of laps in the books. A number of other top cars were collected, with several of them being eliminated for the rest of the night. This development moved Jeff Schaffer, Jr. to the front row, with last week’s winner, Greg Martin on his right.

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When the green light flashed on again, Schaffer took the lead. But it was Kyle Fink who assume command just a lap or two later. Fink’s time out front did not last as long as he would have liked, as Martin found a comfortable groove and he raced into the lead. Fink remained close throughout the remainder of the race, but he was unable to regain is advantage.

Two racers put in impressive performances. One was Steve Barr, who came back through the field to get third in the closing laps. The other was Ryan Riffe, who ran in the top five for most of the race. Although he was edged out by Schaffer for the fourth spot, Riffe had to be happy with his fifth place finish, as it was his best run of the season. Riffe had a number of mechanical issues in earlier races at Tri-City.

Another hard luck driver, Sid Unverzagt, Jr., took sixth, followed by Andy Jankowiak, Beggs, Max Smoker, and D.J. Schrader.

The preliminaries went to Schaffer and Riffe.

In Ray’s Race, Noah Brunnell took the early lead, but the action was intense behind him. Rod Laskey made contact with series points leader Andrew Gordon while fighting for position, setting off a wild crash in turn four. Gordon’s car went over several times, and was heavily damaged, but he was not hurt.

Curtis J. Bish and Josh Seippel chased Brunnell, but neither could make a challenge for the lead. Tim Bish came home in fourth, followed by Jackson Humanic in fifth.

Heat wins went to Rusty Martz, Tim Bish, and Laskey. Seippel took the dash held for drivers who enjoyed Mr. Virgile’s backing during his long involvement in the Pro Stock class.

The nightcap once again was held for the Mini Stocks. While the winner was a familiar one, Dillon Speer, the twist was that he was driving his four cylinder car rather than the more potent six cylinder machine that graced victory lane several times already. Pat Hanlon was making his first start in the car normally driven by his father, Todd, who recently announced his retirement from the sport. Hanlon was excited about his second place finish. J.R. Shaner was third, followed by Rick Feeley and Bondy Stoyer. Speer and Stoyer took the checkers in their respective heat races.

Next week, Tri-City Raceway Park will have another round of Sunday Night Thunder.

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Local Racing

Pennsylvania Racing Economic Impact Surveys Released



PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania (MCP) is sending out economic impact surveys to Pennsylvania race tracks, teams and racing related entities.

The data collected from the surveys will be compiled by Washington & Jefferson College professors Rob & Leslie Dunn, who along with the MCP, will produce a study on the range and economic impact of the racing industry in the Keystone State.

The economic impact study will be a valuable tool for race tracks, teams and marketing professionals in their efforts to attract partners, sponsors and other assets that may be available throughout the State.

Race teams are needed to take part in the survey!  Here is link to the team survey:

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Fans are also asked to help the MCP in the efforts.  Here is a link to the fan survey so take a few minutes of your time to support race tracks and teams in this endeavor:

Marketing and media professionals have a survey that the MCP is asking them to complete.  Here is a link to that survey:

Race tracks are also participating in the survey, if a track has not received a survey directly from the MCP, here is a link to that survey:

The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania hopes to have the Economic Impact Study completed by the start of the 2021 racing season.

Editors Note: Robert Johnson of the Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania will be one of the guests on the next episode of The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.

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Local Racing

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek Is Coming Back



SHIPPENVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Five local dirt tracks are teaming up to bring back Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek for the 2021 season.

Michael’s Mercer Raceway (Mercer, PA), Thunder Mountain Speedway (Brookville, PA), Lernerville Speedway (Sarver, PA), Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH) and Tri City Raceway Park (Franklin, PA) are the five tracks where the owners and promoters have aligned to bring back the event for the 410 Sprint Cars.

“The ‘410 Sprint Car’ division in the local area has been through many ups-and-downs over the last two decades, but there’s no doubt it’s as strong now as it ever was”, said Dave Willoughby, Sharon Speedway’s General Manager. “You see our guys competing for spots up front everywhere they go, and that even includes out at some of the tougher Central PA tracks.”

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Additional details will be released in the near future regarding the established point fund and other race night details.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Wednesday, June 2nd – Michael’s Mercer Raceway
  • Thursday, June 3rd – Thunder Mountain Speedway
  • Friday, June 4th – Lernerville Speedway
  • Saturday, June 5th – Sharon Speedway
  • Sunday, June 6th – Tri City Raceway Park

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek was previously run from 1993-2000 by the All-Star Circuit of Champions.

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Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled



Indy Autonomous Challenge/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature Dallaras as the race cars.

Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this week unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.

Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series since 2002, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.

“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”

“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”

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One of the teams competing in the challenge is the Panther AV RAS-ing team from the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

Panther AV RAS-ing is part of more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software that have responded to the challenge.  The challengers represent 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.

The IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races.

“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”

Two companies headquartered in Western Pennsylvania are sponsors of the event.  Ansys, a global leader in engineering simulation that is headquartered in Canonsburg, and Aptiv, an autonomous vehicle company who is relocating from O’Hara Township to Hazelwood Green.

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