A driver was life-flighted following an accident.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HARTFORD - An accident during the hot laps preceding Thursday night's modified heat races at Sharon Speedway forced Dave Blaney and the rest of the drivers to wait for nearly an hour.
Some got out of their cars to survey the scene while others went back to their trailers in the pit area.
Blaney, Sharon's co-owner, walked to the fence around the 3/8-mile dirt oval where 8,000 fans watched rescue crews work before a STATMedEvac helicopter airlifted injured Chuck Mong of Seneca, Pa.
Blaney was preparing to compete in a 50-lap feature race. He and Tony Stewart were the two NASCAR celebrities in the race.
The group Blaney stood near was his NASCAR pit crew, including crew chief Ryan Pemberton.
Will compete Sunday
The crew of 10 was en route from Charlotte to Michigan where Blaney and his Jasper Engines No. 77 car will compete Sunday in the Pepsi 400. Stewart, the fourth-ranked driver in NASCAR's points standings and third in money, is also scheduled at Michigan.
Pemberton and his group were flying when they decided to land their private plane in Vienna and take in the Sharon event. He said he hadn't watched a race on dirt for a while, so it was refreshing.
"It's neat to see something like this. You get so caught up in the politics of big-time racing that it's good to get back to the grass roots level; some people call it 'real racing'," he said.
He likes Blaney. "Dave's a tough dude," Pemberton said. He was referring to last Sunday's NASCAR race at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
"It was about lap 10 of 90 when the ball on the shifter handle broke," Pemberton said. "Dave had nothing to grab onto. The shifter is short to being with, but he manhandled it -- and his hands weren't blistered . If you work at this long enough, you'll see everything. I was impressed."
He thinks the best is yet to come for the Jasper team.
Could be best
"This weekend could be one of our best ever," he said. "Dave runs well at a track like Michigan. It's big and fast; it's a superspeedway. Dave likes to go fast. He'll go 200 mph getting into the corners."
Pemberton got started with cars as a teenager in Malta, N.Y., near Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
"During the week, I'd help out the guys across the street in the speed shop. They were mostly modifieds. It's just what we did as kids. We followed those guys around and paid attention. It was our summer vacation. That's where we learned how to weld and straighten metal and mount and dismount tires. We did what you could get away with when you're 14-years old."
With the help of his brother, Robin, Pemberton joined Mark Martin and the Jack Roush team in the fall of 1987. He then worked with Davey Allison, Kyle Petty and Ernie Ervin.
Ryan has been with Jasper the last several years. Robert Pressley was the driver until Blaney came on board.