LAST weekend Lernerville Speedway brought down the curtain on their 2017 season with over 300 cars in the pit area for the ninth annual “Steel City Stampede” featuring “410” Sprint Cars, Super Late Models, Big-Block Modifieds, RUSH Late Model Touring Series, RUSH Sportsman Modified Touring Series, E-Mods, “305” Sprints, Stock Cars, Mini Stocks, and the Enduro. The weather was fabulous especially on Saturday that brought out the biggest crowd ever for the event. After Thursday night’s practice rained out, Friday kicked off with heat races for all of the divisions, while Saturday began with last chance B mains and dashes for both RUSH classes.
The 25-lap “410” Sprint Car feature was up first. After a spin by pole-sitter A.J. Flick on lap two, the remainder of the race went caution-free and was dominated by Carl Bowser. The fifth starting Sarver driver ran down Jack Sodeman, Jr. and passed him in lapped traffic on lap eight. Once in front, it was lights out as Bowser cruised to the $3,000 win lapping up to the fifth place car. Amazing, Bowser failed to win a race all year for car owner Tom Chiappelli until winning on August 18 then repeated the following week in the final regular show. With the exception of the WoO show last month, Bowser ended the season at Lernerville winning the last three events. Sodeman was about seven seconds back in second. Sye Lynch was third. Flick came back to get fourth after passing fifth place finisher, Dan Kuriger at the end.
Up next was the 25 lapper for the Super Late Models. A strong field of 27 cars were on hand. Matt Lux has always run well at the “Steel City Stampede” events and Saturday was no different. Lux started on the pole and had faded as far back as fourth before making the winning pass from track champion, Michael Norris, on lap 21. The Franklin driver now has three “Steel City Stampede” belt buckles, worth $3,000 a piece. Norris was second over Russell King, Mike Pegher, Jr., and Alex Ferree.
The Big-Block Modified 25-lap feature was a great duel between Lernerville track champion, Mat Williamson, and Sharon track champion, Rex King, Jr. While the box score will show King, Jr. leading from green-to-checkered, the win was far from easy. Williamson got to second on lap one and King, Jr. had to fend him off with five double file restarts for the first 17 laps. The final eight laps saw Williamson all over King, Jr., but the Bristolville, Ohio driver was able to hold on by just 0.034 of a second for the $3,000 win! Stoneboro’s Jeremiah Shingledecker raced from eighth to third over John Mollick and New Castle’s Garrett Krummert.
After finishing third in the Super Late Model feature, Russell King jumped in his RUSH Crate Late Model and attempted to win the $2,000 to-win, 25-lap feature. King was trying to redeem himself from crashing out the Saturday before at Pittsburgh while battling Daryl Charlier for the lead late in the race. This time, King held the top spot until he was overtaken by John Waters of Whitesville, NY with five to go. King actually started smoking three laps before and would exit with a few to go. The victory was Waters’ third RUSH Tour win of the season for the defending champion, while came over 2017 Tour champion, Bryce Davis. West Virginia’s Garret Paugh was third for his career best Tour finish ahead of New York drivers Jeremy Wonderling and Jason Knowles. Somerset’s Clinton Hersh won the non-qualifier race for the second straight year. A strong field of 39 cars were on hand.
The RUSH Sportsman Modifieds followed up their Late Model counterparts with a 20-lap feature. Steve Slater battled early on with Jeremy Weaver swapping the lead back and forth before Weaver spun. Slater of Butler then had to hold off veterans Alan Dellinger and Rocky Kugel for the $800 win- his first ever at Lernerville and just the second of his career. Kugel came from 22nd to earn the $3,000 RUSH Weekly Series Championship. Kyle Martell, the 2017 Tour champion, was fourth ahead of Volant’s Josh Deems.
The E-Mods were making just their second appearance of the season and it was Saltsburg’s Jonathan Taylor scoring the dominating win, worth $1,000. Oil City’s Curt J. Bish won the first race of his career at Lernerville, which came in the 20-lap, $1,000 to-win Stock Car feature. Greg Dobrosky made a last lap pass of Ray Sheets to win the 20-lap feature for the “305” Sprints. The Kittanning driver earned $800 for his first career Lernerville win as well. Eric Boozel captured the Mini Stocks for the third time to earn $500. The night wrapped up with Austintown, Ohio’s Joe Campbell winning the 100-lap Enduro for $1,000 over the 69-car field.
On Sunday I had planned to go to the World of Outlaws Sprint Car make-up from May at Weedsport (NY) Speedway, but with 100% chance of rain at race time the plug was pulled in the morning. The WoO were at Port Royal (PA) Speedway on Saturday night for their final Pennsylvania race of 2017, and it was point leader Donny Schatz picking up his 19th win of the season, worth $10,000. Lance Dewease was the top central Pa. car in second. Dave Blaney was sixth. Aliquippa’s Tim Shaffer dropped out in 23rd.
With dry weather forecasted for Monday, I headed north to Ransomville (NY) Speedway. Ransomville had the WoO Sprints scheduled back in July and with the high likelihood of rain I opted not to make the trip. A big storm hit before the program wiping out the show and postponing it until Monday. I had only been at Ransomville two other times and neither for Sprint Cars. Monday was the first appearance by the WoO at the western NY track in 20 years! Ransomville is Modified country and generally only has a couple of “360” Sprint shows a year. Despite the daytime high not getting much beyond 50, a capacity crowd turned out along with 32 Sprints and 26 Sportsman Modifieds.
The track was lightning fast; so fast that 29 of the 32 cars broke the track record of 14.360 that Mark Kinser established in 1997. The fast time was Donny Schatz’s 12.629 an amazing 1.731 seconds faster!
Tim Shaffer’s tremendous season continued with an impressive performance in the 30-lap feature. Shaffer finished second in the dash to earn the outside pole and then took the lead on the opening lap of the feature from pole-sitter Brad Sweet. Two cautions would slow Shaffer’s run; however, he did have a scare on lap 28 when he was in lapped traffic and slipped off the track. Somehow he made his way back on the track without crashing and managed to maintain the lead over Sweet and fast-closing David Gravel. Shaffer then held off Sweet for the $10,000 win- his second of the season and 16th of his career with the WoO. Overall it was Shaffer’s 10th victory of the season! Shane Stewart and Schatz got by the slowing Gravel, who cut a tire on the last lap. Gravel limped across the line in fifth.
Matt Farnham won the 25-lap feature for the Sportsman Modifieds. The temperature was just 40 degrees when the program was completed.
The WoO now head to Kansas and Oklahoma for the next two weekends for four events before closing out the season at the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte November 2-4 where they’ll join up with the World of Outlaws Late Models and Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds. This is one of my favorite events of the season with the best of the best competing in front of huge crowds.
I had mentioned last time that Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway announced the “Pittsburgher 100” would return in 2018 on October 4-5. The 2018 LOLMDS schedule was released this past week and Sharon Speedway will again kick off their season on Friday, April 20. The event will now pay $12,000 to-win before moving on to Hagerstown (MD) and Port Royal (PA) Speedways that weekend.
Speaking of Port Royal, they’ll close out their season tonight (Saturday) with their “Open Wheel Madness” featuring “410” Sprints, URC “360” Sprints, and PASS “305” Sprints! Dog Hollow Speedway will end the local season tonight as the Strongstown oval features the Big-Block Modifieds, E-Mods, and Vintage Mods in a “Mod Madness” event.
MIKE LEONE is a motorsports columnist for The Allied News. For the latest updates, follow me on Twitter@mikevleone.