A WEEK ago Tuesday’s Lernerville Speedway was in action with their annual summer vacation event featuring school bus races, an enduro and kids bike races. Recently added were trailer races hooked to pickup trucks racing in a figure eight. And this year, the STAR’s Mod Lite Series was added to the schedule. A great crowd was on hand for the event on a beautiful evening.
A nice field of 27 Mod Lites competed and it was standout Mikey Hay outdueling another of the division’s veteran in Rod Jones. Hay and Jones really went at it trading slide jobs, but in the Hay of Somerset would emerge victorious over West Middlesex’s Jones. Brian Miller, Cody Bova, and Alan Knepper rounded out the top five.
Dave Hogg won the 100-lap Enduro for the $1,000 victory. Linesville’s Tim Gillette, who has won many events at Mercer and Sharon Speedways finished runner-up nearly three laps behind.
Evans City’s Frank Spithaler won the School Bus race and Doug Bigley captured the wild trailer race that pretty much turned into a truck demo derby on the figure eight track. At one time 15-20 School Bus participated and they were sure entertaining to watch, but the counts have really dropped in recent years as just five participated last Tuesday night.
Rain showers all throughout Ohio and western Pa. took care of racing on Friday night. It was Lernerville’s third rainout in the past four Friday nights. Saturday’s weather wasn’t a whole lot better with overcast and drizzly conditions that forced Mercer and Sharon Speedways to cancel their programs.
On Saturday, I made my way to Black Rock Speedway for the first time in around 12 years. Black Rock is located in Dundee about 12 miles north of Watkins Glen.
The FASTRAK Northeast Late Model Touring Series made its maiden voyage to Black Rock for the inaugural “Empire State Classic”. Race #16 of 25 on the 2012 slate drew a New York Touring record high car count of 32 cars from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and West Virginia despite being the furthest event ever contested away from the home base in the six-year history of the Series! It was the richest crate Late Model event ever held in the state of New York.
When the inaugural FASTRAK event at Black Rock speedway was announced this winter, probably the driver most excited about the show was Wayne Robertson. The second year FASTRAK racer was the closest competitor to Black Rock hailing from Corning, NY, and considers the speedway his home track from his days competing in the Super Stock/360 Late Model division.
Robertson’s experience paid off on the tricky, racey oval as he passed fellow former BRP Can-Am 360 Late Model racer Steve Dixon on a lap nine restart and then held off a valiant charge by another former 360 Late Model racer in Bryce Davis for the 30-lap, $3,000 victory. Robertson became the fourth new Touring winner of the season in the past five races and ninth different overall on the 2012 campaign. Robertson’s second career Tour win came in just his 13th career Tour start.
Robertson started alongside pole-sitter Steve Dixon, but dropped to third behind Dixon and fourth starting Mike Pegher Jr. and ahead of John Over. The top four cars quickly began to distance themselves from the field. It was three-wide for second racing off turn four with Pegher holding on. Robertson was able to regain second on lap three driving by Pegher down the backstretch and into turn three on the bottom of the speedway.
Robertson caught Dixon and began to pressure the leader. He got under Dixon down the backstretch and into turn three on lap six, but Dixon had the momentum to maintain the lead. The duo ran side-by-side for the lead on lap seven just before they entered lapped traffic on lap eight. As action was heating up in lapped traffic, Butch Lambert slowed to bring out the first caution with eight laps scored. Lambert made it back out for the restart, but then immediately pulled off the speedway. He was given The Brake Man “Tough Brake of the Night”.
When racing resumed, Dixon and Robertson raced side-by-side on lap nine with Robertson powering by on the bottom off turn four for the lead. Davis started in sixth and passed Matt Latta on the opening lap for fifth, but hadn’t made any progress. Davis decided to try the outside line and began to make it work. He drove around Over for fourth on lap 11 then rim-rided past Pegher one lap later off turn two for third.
Robertson pulled away from the pack on lap 13; meanwhile Davis drove by Dixon off turn two on lap 14 for second. Robertson had nearly a straightaway lead, but lapped traffic on lap 16 allowed Davis to close the gap in half. Robertson was in heavy traffic on lap 17 as it appeared Davis was primed to make a pass for the lead. Robertson though did a masterful job in traffic as he created separation on lap 19.
The traffic allowed Dixon and Pegher to close back in on Davis. Dixon would get back by for second on lap 20. Brian Knowles started seventh and entered the picture taking fifth from Over. The three-car battle for second continued as Davis regained runner-up on lap 26. Pegher then took third from Dixon on lap 27.
The event’s second caution occurred for a spin by Lauren Longbrake with 28 laps scored. Knowles then overtook Dixon and Pegher for third on lap 29. Up front, Davis was trying to get by his good friend Robertson. The duo ran side-by-side on the last lap; however, the race for the win ended when Adam Sixt spun in turn one. Robertson was able to get a good restart on the final lap shootout and held off Davis. Davis earned $1,500 for his runner-up, which was just his third career Tour start in his first full season of FASTRAK competition.
On the final restart, Knowles got shuffled out as Pegher crossed the line in third. Over had a solid night finishing fourth in his first ever race in New York. Dixon, who was looking for a clean sweep of the night, faded to fifth. Dixon set fast time with a lap of 16.490, won his heat race then drew the zero inversion for the K&N Dash in which he led all four laps to earn the pole for the feature.
Smethport’s Craig Dean led wire-to-wire in the non-stop six-lap non-qualifier event for his first ever victory. The $200 win came made Dean the 24th different non-qualifier victor in the 30 races run all-time! Zack Carley passed Dale Caswell on lap four to finish second. Caswell dropped to third in his first ever Tour start. Art Halliday, another newcomer to the Series, finished fourth over Justin Smith.
The FASTRAK Northeast Touring Series will have a big night this Saturday at Sharon as they compete first in the May 27 $1,500 to-win make-up feature as part of the Bill Emig Memorial “Wild Card Weekend” that will determine the $1,500 point fund. In addition, a complete new $1,500 to-win event will be run for Manufacturers Night as over $20,000 in product and certificates will be given away!
Also on Saturday at Black Rock, I got to see the CRSA “305” Sprints for the first time ever. The Series is under the RaceSaver rules like the central Pennsylvania PASS Series, the NJ-based TSRA Series, and the Virginia Sprint Series. A nice gathering of 20 cars made their way to Dundee and it was Jeff VanSteenburg winning the 25-lap feature in his first ever appearance at the track. VanSteenburg held off Ryan Smith for the victory.
Smith is an amazing racer that competes in “410” Sprints driving for Don Kreitz, Jr., ARDC Midget Cars, Micro Sprints, and just about anything else. He was actually planning on racing in New Jersey at Nee Egypt before they rained out and made the long tow to Black Rock.
On Sunday, I stayed over and went to the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International for the first time ever. Watkins Glen is quite the facility, and it certainly was a new experience. I was able to take a garage tour prior to the race thanks to Brian Spaid’s sister, who works PR for Ryan Newman. Brian Spaid is a former Sharon and Tri-City Speedway announcer and is the current FASTRAK Series announcer. WGI made for my 84th race of the season and 149th different track overall I’ve seen a race at.
It was a pretty good race too for a road course with quite the final lap as Aussie Marcos Ambrose won the event for the second straight year. Watkins Glen deserves a lot of credit for the way traffic flows in and out of the facility with hardly any traffic delays!
On Sunday at Sportsman’s Speedway in Knox, Fairmount City’s Skip Dougherty won his first in the “305” Sprints, while Strattanville’s Brian Fink won the Sam and Bonnie Colwell Memorial for the “358” Modifieds, and Jake Gomola won the Micro Sprints. Good to hear there were 85 cars in the pit area including 18 Modifieds and 17 Micro Sprints.
If you’re looking for some racing this Sunday, Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown has the “410” Sprint Cars back for the second time this season and third time ever. It’s going to be an open wheel fan’s dream as the Big-Block Modifieds will also be on the card for the first time ever in a BRP Tour-sanctioned event plus the “305” Sprints and Vintage Mods will also be racing. Race time is 7:30 p.m.
Mike Leone is motorsports columnist for the Allied News. Follow his updates on Twitter @mikevleone