Sharon Speedway set to open 2002 season

Blaney set to open Oldest Track in US. Historic Sharon Speedway set to open 2002 season. Blaney, local ownership group make major improvements. Two World of Outlaws dates and special events scheduled. HARTFORD, OH. -- After years of...

Blaney set to open Oldest Track in US.

Historic Sharon Speedway set to open 2002 season.
Blaney, local ownership group make major improvements.
Two World of Outlaws dates and special events scheduled.

HARTFORD, OH. -- After years of considering the possibility, Dave Blaney became the owner last fall of historic Sharon Speedway, the hometown track for the racing family and one of the oldest continuously running weekly racetracks in the United States. Last winter, Blaney purchased the Hartford, Ohio track, which began competition in 1929, with father, Lou--still a regular competitor at the facility--and a group of local investors, including area businessmen Bill Kirila, Ron Kirila (Kirila Contractors; Brookfield, OH.) and Jim Weller, Sr. (Liberty Steel Products; Hubbard, OH.).

Built as a home for the Central State Racing Association's (CSRA) open-cockpit dirt cars, original owners Homer McCracken and and Bill Pourbaugh began promoting midget, roadsters and the Ohio Speedway Association stock cars after World War II. Most recently, Sharon Speedway has hosted four divisions (sprint cars, dirt modifieds, e-modifieds, street stocks) on it's half-mile dirt surface every Friday night between late April and Labor Day.

The Blaneys, who will head the management group that bought the track, began work in November on a wide range of improvements including:

* change in track length (1/2-mile to 3/8-mile) and width (90')
* an upgraded racing surface and design
* a new 5,000-seat grandstand/concourse on the facility's backstretch expanding track capacity to 8,500 for major events
* all-new track lighting
* a new electronic scoreboard/message board
* refurbished suite-seating for 15 available to track sponsors
* a new billboard-wall outside Turn 3-4, with space for 50-plus sponsors
* a new concession/restroom building on the track's backstretch to be completed by early summer.

For the first time ever, the track's four divisions will compete on Saturday night from late spring through the traditional Sharon Nationals over Labor Day weekend with the exception of two World of Outlaws dates (May 31 and July 31), the first time sprint-car racing's premier series will visit the 72-year old track. The traditional season-ending Sharon Nationals weekend is scheduled for August 31 and September 1, two weeks after Winston Cup start Tony Stewart visits the track on August 15.

"Buying Sharon Speedway is something our family has looked at for a long time and I'm as excited about the progress we've made and the plans we have as anything I've been involved with in racing in a long time," said Blaney, driver of the #77 Jasper Engines Ford in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

"Everything fell into place with the right partners at the right time and we decided to make the changes necessary to place Sharon Speedway alongside the best weekly racing facilities in the country. Within a one-hour drive of the track, we have the Cleveland and Pittsburgh metro areas and over 3 million people, many of whom are die-hard racing fans to whom weekly racing is a ritual.

"NASCAR doesn't reach this area with a major race so we hope to bring in several of the guys I race with each week like Tony Stewart to help make a few of the weekends a little bigger for the fans as we move ahead with the track. Most of them started on tracks just like Sharon. It's where I started racing (1981) and my brother, Dale started. My dad just finished his 43rd season. My Uncle Bob won two Late Model championships in the 1960s. There's a great history here and my dad has seen a lot of it. I don't think he's ready to quit racing yet but having him involved on the operation side will be a big benefit."

Rusty Wallace is among a long list of drivers who have competed at Sharon Speedway, including Tom Sneva--who won his first USAC sprint-car race during a 12-year period (1969-1981) when the track featured an asphalt surface. In 1954, the track also featured NASCAR competition, including a major 200-lap race in which Lee Petty beat Buck Baker and Herb Thomas to the checkered flag.

**NOTE: The Blaneys--father, Lou and sons Dave and Dale--enjoy a long and sucessful racing history both locally and nationally.

LOU BLANEY, who will begin his 44th season of racing this month, has accumulated 700-plus career wins in the Modified and Sprint Divisions at local tracks and is the top track Modified Division winner at Lernerville (70 wins), Mercer (53 wins), Raceway 7 (45 wins) and Sharon Speedway (120 wins) and is tied with Ed Lynch for that honor at Tri-City (24 wins each) in records kept since 1968.

DAVE BLANEY, the 1995 World of Outlaws champion, is in his third NASCAR Winston Cup season, driving the #77 Jasper Engines Ford. He won 192 feature events during a 15-year open-wheel career before moving to stock cars full-time prior to the 1998 season. In 1984, Blaney became the then-youngest-ever USAC Silver Crown champion and finished second for the WoO championship five times. He's won 44 Sprint-Car features and two Modified Division features (both at Sharon) at local tracks during his career.

DALE BLANEY, who will help manage the track with his father, has enjoyed a successful sprint-car career in both the All-Stars and the World of Outlaws, where he was the 1998 Rookie-of-the-Year in the WoO entry co-owned by his brother and Keith Hylton. He finished seventh in the 2000 WoO point standings, winning twice including the prestigious $100,000-to-win King's Royal at Eldora (OH) Speedway. He's won 23 Sprint-Car features and one Modified Division feature (at Lernerville) at local tracks during his career.

KIRILA CONTRACTORS, INC. is a family-owned and operated construction company, providing service and experience in all aspects of the construction industry to both government and private sectors. Founded in 1958, the company has grown to more than 150 employees ranging from laborers to engineers, offering services including earth-moving, road and utility construction, cross-country pipelines, asphalt paving, building trade projects, hazardous-material activities, underground storage tanks, horizontal boring, fire-training facilities abd overall project management.

LIBERTY STEEL PRODUCTS, INC., founded by lifelong area native Jim Weller, Sr. with his brother in 1966, is the largest flat-rolled steel center in the Sharon/Youngstown area. The company, which includes four plants in the Mahoning Valley and one in Knoxville, TN., produces a wide range of products from flat-rolled steel, including automotive pieces, appliances, office furniture and garden tools. Jim Weller, Jr. is a weekly competitor at Sharon Speedway and has raced at local tracks for 18 years. Jimmy Weller III began racing in the Modified Division at Sharon Speedway last year.

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About this article
Series Sprint , World of Outlaws
Drivers Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Tom Sneva , Dave Blaney , Lee Petty
Teams HART