Charlie Sharpsteen Scores a Huge Slam-Dunk in Double 40-Lap Sunoco Modified Features at Chemung

By – Carol Houssack

(Chemung, NY) Race fans at Chemung Speedrome on Friday night witnessed several memorable events. While first-time rookie sweeps are always great, what most will remember from this night is the incredible show of strength by former track champion Charlie Sharpsteen. His wins of a pair of 40-lap Sunoco Modified features is unprecedented. Division rookie sweeps were recorded by Jesse Hurley (Super Stocks) and DJ Shaw (4 Cylinders), while other feature winners included Daniel Carter (INEX Legends), Josh Duke (INEX Bandolero Outlaw) and Chase Sinsabaugh (INEX Bandolero Bandit).

When a feature is held over to another night, drivers can make some changes to their race cars. Not so for Charlie Sharpsteen in the Sunoco Modified division. “We didn’t change anything from last week,” he said after winning the postponed 40-lap feature from the prior Friday night. Pat Judson led this one early with Keith Youngs, Sharpsteen and Zack Knowlden in pursuit. Following a lap 12 restart Sharpsteen got the better of Judson, who lost second to Knowlden on the next restart. A series of cautions just short of the halfway point slowed the action but not the front pair as Sharpsteen and Knowlden drove away from Tyler Rypkema, who was up to third. With five to go Sharpsteen’s car proved superior and he pulled away from Knowlden and Rypkema. When lap 40 clicked off it was Sharpsteen who finished first, ahead of Knowlden, Rypkema, Zack Curren and Gene Sharpsteen. Eight cautions led to restarts he had to endure in the zone off turn four. “Being in the start/restart area, you can’t mess with the other guy’s head,” he explained. “I felt I was faster and if the other guy hesitates I mash it.”
The Sunoco Modifieds also had heats and their regularly scheduled 40-lap feature to run. Tim Gullo and Zack Knowlden won the two heats, and the field was set for the finale. Bryan Sherwood started from pole position, but Gene Sharpsteen drove around from the outside to lead the opening lap. By lap three Gene and his cousin Charlie were running first and second with Tyler Rypkema and Zack Knowlden behind them in a four-car breakaway. Rypkema passed Sharpsteen and was up to second. He wasn’t done as he took the top spot from G. Sharpsteen, who then fell to third when C. Sharpsteen got y him. The first of two cautions came when Zack Curren spun coming off turn two 14 laps in. That set up a Rypkema/C. Sharpsteen front row where Sharpsteen prevailed. “When he slid a little on the restart that’s all it took,” Sharpsteen later recalled. The lead was his but Rypkema was right there with him. With five to go, caution came out again and most knew whoever won the restart would likely win the race. It was Sharpsteen who stayed in front and that’s the way this one ended. Rypkema was second, with Knowlden, G. Sharpsteen and Gullo all posting top-five finishes. “We were gonna keep the car as it was earlier then we made some changes. But then we figured we’d better go back and change them back to the way they were and that’s what we did,” Sharpsteen said from the Midstate Basement Authorities victory lane, a place he had been to just a few hours earlier.
Jesse Hurley’s move up from the 4 Cylinder division to the Super Stocks has proven to be a good move. As it turned out on Friday night his heat win was just a hint at what was to come in the caution-plagued 25-lap feature. Hurley started third but had the lead on the opening lap. On a lap three restart Frank Chapman capitalized on his front row position and took the lead for the next eight laps. Nick Robinson was running second and got around Chapman on lap 11, bringing Hurley with him. Robinson maintained the lead after a lap 12 caution and started to pull away from Hurley, Chapman and Mike Nichols. Two more cautions tested Robinson and Hurley, and the latter lost second to Chapman as the race neared its finish. That’s when things got a bit crazy. On the final lap Chapman turned Robinson and was given a severe penalty. Hurley, who crossed the stripe second, was awarded the win. “There was craziness everywhere,” he said while clutching the checkered flag. “I tried to hang on and not lose it. I have to thank Nick (Robinson) for all of the pointers.” Hurley had driven one of Robinson’s cars last season. Nichols finished second, followed by Jason Duke, Garrett Zacharias and Jason Dinzler. Earlier in the evening Chapman and RJ Zacharias won the other heat races.
DJ Shaw is surrounded by good coaches in his 4 Cylinder rookie season including his Waverly, NY football coach father and his car owner and hot shoe Lee Sharpsteen.  But once the green comes out he’s on his own. Friday night he proved to all that the coaching worked when he won both his heat race and the 20-lap feature. It was a methodical run to the front in the caution-free race. Early on Shaw was in fifth while Ricky Lane led the way. Lane did a great job of holding off Mark Taylor and heat winner Monica Green while Shaw was engaged in a battle for fourth with Joey Bevacqua. Taylor got by Lane for the lead while Shaw started his charge to the front. After passing Bevacqua, Green and Lane he was closing in on leader Taylor. While working lap 12, Shaw made his race-winning pass, but he then had Bevacqua chasing him for the lead. The two young rookies proved the division is on solid ground as they put on a great show for the fans. When it was over an elated Shaw got on top of his car to salute the fans, who showed him their appreciation. After knocking the checkered flag off the stick, he celebrated knocking off the competition for his career-first win. “The car was fast, and I just had to hang on,” he said.
Daniel Carter, the track’s 2018 champion, bounced back from a bad week and recorded a sweep in the INEX Legends division. The light field got even lighter when Chuck Lohmeyer developed a mechanical problem in the heat and was unable to start. With only four cars making the call, officials shortened the race to 15 laps. Carter led early but Gary Ham passed him and led lap five. It was a lead he held for just three laps, as Carter reclaimed the top spot on the eighth lap and never looked back. The race was slowed just once for a single car spin. When the checkered flag came out it was over the 83 of Carter, followed by Ham, James Anderson and Chelsea Sellars. “I thought I had the fastest car but then Ham passed me. I was loose going in the corners but good coming off two and four,” Carter explained.
Josh Duke has the Carpenter’s Custom Karts INEX Bandolero division figured out and added another sweep to his racing resume. He won the heat and picked up his fourth win in a row in the 10-lap feature. The huge lead he had built up over Chase Sinsabaugh went away when Jeffrey Noe’s spin brought out the only caution. Duke took off and pulled away over the final three laps. When it was over Duke had the win as an Outlaw over Sinsabaugh, the Bandit winner, Kaden Rogers, Aidan Gardner and Nial Gardner.  “I was just following his line, trying to catch up,” Sinsabaugh told the crowd.
This coming Friday Chemung welcomes the New York Super Stock Series for their first of two appearances this year. They’ll be running 50 laps in the Gary Marshall Memorial. The Sunoco Modifieds, 4 Cylinders, INEX Legends and Bandoleros join them on the race card. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $5 for kids ages 6 to 12, and free to kids ages 5 and under. Pits open at 5 PM, with practice and grandstand gates at 6 PM and racing starting at 7 PM.
For information, log on to the track’s website:, ‘like’ us on Facebook: Chemung Speedrome – Racing at the Drome, or call Ray Hodge, Promoter, at 607-483-3468.
Of Note:
Several young racers from the Southern Tier Microd Club had their cars on display and conducted a helmet drive during intermission. Drivers in all five of the track’s divisions got their start in microds.
During intermission a lucky boy and girl won bicycles donated by Service Machine & Tool.
Special thanks to Jim Bronson for providing the Ferrario pace car.
Bill Chandler, Jr. won the 50/50, about the only good thing that happened that night to the driver of the Sunoco Modified #17.
Two lucky fans won pizzas donated by Coach’s Pizza in Waverly. Another fan won a prize package for having the lucky number in the program book.
Charlie Sharpsteen, Jesse Hurley and DJ Shaw won free wings from Buffalo Wild Wings in Horseheads, NY in the “Winner, Winner – Chicken Dinner” bonus.
Sunoco Modifieds (June 14th race, 40 Laps):  CHARLIE SHARPSTEEN, Zack Knowlden, Tyler Rypkema, Zack Curren, Gene Sharpsteen, Tim Gullo, Bryan Sherwood, Pat Judson, Teddy Bowen, Kevin Youngs, Damon Frutchey, Gary Noe, Keith Youngs, Bill Chandler, Jr.
Heats: Rypkema, Judson
Sunoco Modifieds (40 Laps):  CHARLIE SHARPSTEEN, Tyler Rypkema, Zack Knowlden, Gene Sharpsteen, Tim Gullo, Zane Zeiner, Zack Curren, Bryan Sherwood, Teddy Bowen, Damon Frutchey, Keith Youngs, Steven Sherwood, Gary Noe, Bill Chandler, Jr., Zack Truesdail, Pat Judson
Heats:  Gullo, Knowlden
Super Stocks (25 Laps):  JESSE HURLEY, Mike Nichols, Jason Duke, Garrett Zacharias, Jason Dinzler, Josh Hunter, Joe Miller, Andy Cryan, RJ Zacharias, Nick Robinson, Frank Chapman, James Stanley, Ron Underwood, Dennis Beardslee, JP Harbst, Brian DeMark, Cody Frantz
Heats:  Chapman, Hurley, RJ Zacharias
4 Cylinders (20 Laps):  DJ SHAW, Joey Bevacqua, Monica Green, Greg Moldt, Mark Taylor, Ricky Lane, Mike Ferris, Alex Brown, Jason Peck, Tyler Harbst
Heats:  Shaw, Green
INEX Legends (15 Laps):  DANIEL CARTER, Gary Ham, James Anderson, Chelsea Sellars, Chuck Lohmeyer (DNS)
Heat:  Carter
Carpenter’s KARTS INEX Bandoleros (10 Laps):  JOSH DUKE (Outlaw), CHASE SINSABAUGH (Bandit), Kaden Rogers, Aidan Gardner, Nial Gardner, Jeffrey Noe, Nolan Baker
Heat:  Duke