HARTFORD, Ohio – Jack Sodeman Jr. claimed the biggest victory of his career on Tuesday when he captured the fifth annual Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway.
Sodeman was the last track champion when the sprint cars ran weekly at Sharon in 2010. Last season, Sodeman won the BOSS-sanctioned event in the first ever non-wing sprint race held on the speedway’s new three-eighths-mile oval. Tuesday night, Sodeman won the biggest race of his career by holding off Caleb Griffith in the 30-lap $5,000 to-win feature.
“The motor started tightening up and smoking the last five laps,” said the 36-year-old North Jackson, Ohio, second generation racer. “I wanted to win this. It was either pull off or win $5,000. Either way the engine was going to need rebuilt so this $5,000 can go towards that. I have to thank everyone that helps out on the car to make this possible.”
Sodeman rocketed into the lead past pole-sitter Carl Bowser on the start with Lee Jacobs getting past Dave Blaney. Sodeman quickly pulled away on lap two, while the battle was on for second with Bowser trying to fend off Jacobs. Lapped traffic came into play on lap five and two laps later Bowser closed in as did Jacobs and Griffith making it a four-car race for the lead.
Griffith, who started fifth, was able to get by Jacobs for third on lap seven. Then on lap nine he pulled alongside Bowser and made the pass for second going down the backstretch entering turn three, while Jacobs followed in third as Bowser lost his momentum after contact with the fence. Griffith looked like he was on a mission as he tracked down Sodeman on lap 11, but his momentum was stopped when C.J., Jones got upside down in turn four with 11 laps scored.
After starting third, Blaney had faded back to fifth at the start. Blaney was able to pass the fellow #10 of Bowser for fourth before the red; then when racing resumed flew around Jacobs for third. Blaney was gaining on Griffith each lap and caught him on lap 14. At this point Blaney had the fastest car on the track. On lap 16, Blaney made a bid to pass Griffith on the outside, but got too high slapping the turn one and two fence ending his night on the hook.
After new track record holder Danny Holtgraver drew an invert eight, he was quiet in the first half of the event, but entered contention when he cracked the top five getting by Bowser when racing resumed on lap 16. Griffith stayed right with Sodeman as the laps ticked off. Griffith ran the low line while Sodeman powered around the top keeping his momentum and the lead.
Lapped traffic came back into play on lap 21 as the battle heated up for third with Jacobs, Cole Duncan, and Holtgraver. Holtgraver grabbed fourth before the final stoppage of the event when Jimmy Pooler and Bob McMillin made contact on the frontstretch with a nasty flip ensuing in turn one. Both drivers were ok.
Sodeman took back off in the lead when green replaced yellow. As the laps counted down, Griffith was getting faster and looked like he was setting up for a last lap pass. On the final lap, Griffith drove hard into turns three and four and got alongside Sodeman. It was a drag race down the frontstretch with Sodeman winning out by just 0.170 of a second! The victory was the 12th of Sodeman’s career at Sharon and came in the Rudzik Excavating/Economy Tooling-sponsored No. 94. Sodeman also became the fifth different Lou Blaney Memorial winner in as many events.
Dave Murdick came out on top of a wild night of DIRTcar Big-Block Modified racing for his third straight win on the circuit. Like Sodeman, Murdick became the fifth different Lou Blaney Memorial winner in as many Modified events and pocketed $2,000 in the 30-lap BRP Tour-sanctioned, Governor Insurance Agency feature. Murdick’s win adds to some $3,700 won last weekend at Lernerville Speedway and Mercer Raceway Park!