The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modifieds team is building on the success they’ve had in their Late Model Division to create a new series for Sportsman Modifieds in the Northeast. We had a chance to speak with Series Directors Vicki Emig and Michael Leone to learn more about this new series.
CI: For those who may not be familiar, what are the basics of your series? (Car type, surface, engine, region)
RUSH: The Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modifieds features Northeast-style center-sitting Modifieds utilizing GM 602 crate engines on spec Hoosier Tires with steel wheels and Bilstein “sealed” spec shocks. RUSH member racers will compete for a minimum of a $10,000 point fund plus approximately another $10,000 in actual product contingencies for the inaugural season.
CI: Tell us how you came to found the RUSH Late Model Series.
RUSH: After being involved with the formation of Crate Late Model racing in the Northeast since 2007, the region was also devoid of an affordable Northeast Modified division. Only two speedways campaign Big-Block Modifieds and two “358” small-block Modifieds throughout the entire region with dwindling car counts.
Currently at least nine speedways throughout eastern Ohio and western and central Pennsylvania will host RUSH-sanctioned Sportsman Modified events in 2014. These dirt/clay speedways vary from 1/4-mile to 5/8-mile in size.
CI: How do your rules align with other similar series?
RUSH: Our rules package mirrors the DIRTcar Sportsman Modifieds that are prevalent in New York and Canada with the only exception that we have required the $135 Bilstein “sealed” spec shocks. We’ve aligned our program with DIRTcar for the betterment of Crate 602 Sportsman Modifieds in the future like we have in the Late Models with the NeSmith Racing Series.
CI: What has been the biggest challenge?
RUSH: The biggest challenge with the Sportsman Modified division is overcoming some of the misconceptions of crate racing that we faced back when we started Crate Late Model racing in the Northeast; however, at the same time our experience on the Late Model side has certainly been beneficial. We’ve also had to “sell,” so to speak, the clean slate with the steel wheels and Bilstein “sealed” shocks with the abundance of aluminum wheels and open shocks on current Modified cars.
CI: What is the one thing that people misunderstand the most about your role as the Series Director?
RUSH: Sometimes it’s hard for people to fathom that running a series really is a seven-day a week job. Not only do you have to coordinate your own programs, but then properly execute them with the speedways and promote them to the public. People never realize all of the work and coordination it takes to put out a final products whether it be a schedule of events, set of rules, promotions, etc. Also, a Series Director really becomes a mediator or go-between to work with each speedway, the racers, engines rebuilders, etc. in a mutually-beneficial way.
We’re very excited to debut the Sportsman Modified class offering an affordable Modified division for our area. So many racers have quit racing the Modified class in our area over the past 10 years and with the high costs, it has really stunted the growth and any incentive for new racers to get into the division. We feel with not only the affordable cost of a new GM 602, but to go one step further with the requirement of steel wheels and the $135 Bilstein Shocks will really help preserve the Modified division for years to come.
We also couldn’t be prouder that the majority of the regional speedways have been 100% behind the program and have offered us dates to kick it off. Having speedways like Lernerville, Sharon, Pittsburgh, America’s, Raceway 7, Roaring Knob, Eriez, and Bradford behind the program has really given us the credibility that we need to move forward.
Beginning in 2014, the new Sportsman Modified division utilizing GM 602 engines will debut under the RUSH Racing Series banner. Already, at least nine different speedways will host an event this coming season.