The local racing season all but came to a close last weekend with the running of the 10th annual “Steel City Stampede” at Lernerville Speedway. A total of 264 race cars competed over the two days amongst the 12 divisions and adding in the 57 Enduro cars brought the total to 321!
After early rain Thursday with a cold front that changed conditions from July-like to late fall, an open practice took place that evening with some 100 cars participating. Friday dawned cloudy and cool as the temp barely made it to 50 degrees. Another system came in Friday night that washed out the last two heat races and dumped a lot of rain. The track crew did a tremendous job giving racers a great surface to race on Saturday despite a muddy infield. Saturday’s weather was much like Friday’s, but the entire show was able to be completed without using Sunday’s rain date.
After the Micro Sprint heat races that were rained out from Friday and a some last chance B mains, the 12 features got underway around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The 25-lap “410” Sprint feature was an excellent one with 14th starting Carl Bowser picking up the win. Michael Bauer, who was driving George Hobaugh’s back-up car, raced to the early lead, but it was track champion A.J. Flick, who started third, grabbing the top spot on lap two.
Flick continued to lead as Jack Sodeman, Jr., Sye Lynch, and Carl Bowser closed in. Lynch, who started ninth, worked his way to second when the caution was displayed for a spin by Gerald Hairhoger with 22 laps scored, but was penalized two spots for jumping a restart on lap four. This moved Lynch back to fourth with Sodeman and Bowser in second and third. When racing resumed, Bowser stormed past Sodeman for second. Bowser chased Flick and made the winning move in turn four on the final lap to steal the $3,000 win away from six-time winner, Flick. For Bowser it was his second straight “Steel City Stampede” win. Flick, Sodeman, Lynch, and Bauer completed the top five. There were 25 Sprints on hand.
The Super Late Model 25-lap feature was also a good one. While the score sheet will show David Scott leading all the way that doesn’t tell the story. Ninth starting Russell King was making his 2018 racing debut and battled his way to second on lap 22 taking the spot from Colton Fliiner, who had challenged Scott for the lead. King went after Scott over the final laps and Scott was able to fend him off as the two made contact at the finish. King had to be towed off and Scott suffered a flat tire, but the Garland driver awarded the $3,000 win. Flinner was third over Doug Eck and Mike Wonderling, Jr., who made his 2018 Lernerville debut.
The Big-Block Modified feature was marred by one of the biggest accidents in track history. Garrett Krummert led the first two laps before Jeremiah Shingledecker went sliding off turn three challenging for the lead. When racing resumed, several cars got bottled up as Rex King, Jr. hooked the bumper of New York’s Rick Richner turning him into the frontstretch wall. The rest was a big chain reaction that involved 16 cars with several suffering heavy damage. In fact, none of the accident cars would continue taking the field of 22 cars down to six for the remaining 23 laps.
New Castle’s Krummert wasn’t challenged the remainder of the way as the final 23 laps went green-to-checkered. Krummert’s second win of the season at Lernerville was worth $3,000 as he won a RUSH Sportsman Modified feature earlier in the year. Eighth starting Rex King was second over Brian Swartzlander, Dave Murdick, and Jim Rasey.
Robbie Bartchy won his second straight feature in the “305” Sprints. Bartchy passed Seneca’s Jacob Gomola on lap 17 for the 20-lap win worth $800. Bartchy, who lives less than mile from Lernerville right on Route 356, won the “305” race on September 22 that was run in conjunction with the World of Outlaws Sprint show. Jonathan Jones was third. Alfred Galeridge, Jr. towed in from the state of Indiana to race for the first time ever and after starting on the pole, finished fourth ahead of Brad Mellott.
The RUSH Racing Series had three classes in competition including the Late Models, Sportsman Modifieds, and non-winged Sprint Cars. The Late Models and Sportsman Mods were both running in their final Tour races of the season. There were 33 Late Models on hand and the 30 Sportsman Mods was a Lernerville record.
The Late Models were the featured attraction as sixth starting Colton Flinner of Allison Park passed a determined Jeremy Wonderling on lap 16 and held him off to the finish to become the 12th different Tour winner in 17 races during the 2018 campaign, worth $2,000. Wonderling charged from sixth to win the dash to earn the feature pole then dominated the first half of the event before settling in and finished second to overtake eighth place finishing Jason Genco in the standings to win the $5,000 Tour title.
Wonderling flew into the early lead, while fourth starting Michael Duritsky, Jr. went from fourth to second over Brady Wonderling, Chad Homan, and Flinner. Lap two saw Flinner and eighth starting Mike Pegher, Jr. take over fourth and fifth from Homan. Wonderling caught lapped traffic on lap eight as he had a sizable straightaway lead. Wonderling was in heavy lapped traffic on the ninth circuit as the battle for second raged between Duritsky, Brady Wonderling, Flinner, and Pegher. On lap 11 and 12, Flinner and Pegher continued to move forward as they disposed of Brady Wonderling for third and fourth respectively.
Flinner continued his charge as he drove around Duritsky off turn two for second on lap 13 then got the break he needed when Justin Lamb spun to bring out the event’s first caution. Flinner would make the winning pass putting a slider on Wonderling on lap 16. Pegher continued his run to the front sliding Duritsky for third on lap 18 before back-to-back cautions with 18 laps scored.
When racing resumed, Pegher would lose third to last Sunday’s $4,000 “Bill Hendren Memorial” Pittsburgh winner, Daryl Charlier, who had quietly worked his way forward from the 10th starting spot. Flinner pulled away and appeared headed to the win and Wonderling the championship, but one more caution for a spin by Chad Sines would bunch up the field for the final time setting up a two-lap dash to the checkered.
Flinner held off Wonderling over the final two laps to capture his second career Tour win, but first since September 13, 2014. After falling behind by 12 points to Genco heading into the final two races, Wonderling recorded a fourth and a second place finish compared to Genco’s 10th and eight to capture the. Wonderling of Wellsville, NY ended the season with 14 straight top nine finishes!
Charlier was third over Pegher. After joining up with the Tour on August 12 at Pittsburgh, Pegher reeled off four straight top four finishes to end the season. Duritsky matched his best career Tour finish of fifth from way back on October 9, 2015 at McKean County Raceway.
Fourteen-year-old Blaze Myers pulled off a stunning upset to win his first career Tour feature for the RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, worth $800. The Franklin driver won the last chance B main from the third starting spot then charged from 19th in the feature to pull off a last lap pass of 2018 Tour and Weekly Series Champion, Garrett Krummert. To make things even more impressive, Myers did a 360-spin with five laps to go losing at least five positions. The victory also propelled Myers to the “Futures Cup” Championship!
Tour Championship contenders Chas Wolbert and Garrett Krummert led the field to green for the 20-lap feature. Wolbert had a four-point lead on Krummert and six-point lead on fourth starting Brandon Ritchey. Wolbert grabbed the early lead over Krummert and fifth starting Tony Tatgenhorst. Josh Deems started ninth and was already to fourth after two laps taking the spot from Jessica Kriegisch. On lap four, Tatgenhorst closed in making it a three-car race for the lead before a caution for debris with four laps scored.
When racing resumed, Krummert took the lead on lap five before a caution for a spin by Steve Slater. Back under green, Tatgenhorst slid Wolbert for second. It was three-wide for second on lap seven as Tatgenhorst held the spot over Wolbert and Deems. After a caution for a Kevin Long spin, Deems, Jacob Jordan, and Kole Holden overtook Wolbert for positions three through five on lap eight.
Myers meanwhile was working his way forward and cracked the top five on lap 12. Myers though lost the handle in turn four on lap 15 spinning, but was able to do a 360 spin and keep going, while Brian Sadler spun to bring out the caution. Myers though lost at least five spots and had just five laps to get to the front. When racing resumed, Deems passed Tatgenhorst for second and went after Krummert running the bottom. They were side-side for the lead on lap 17 when the event’s final caution was displayed for Steve Slater’s spin, which proved crucial for Myers.
Myers got a great restart flying into second on lap 18 as he continued to find the moisture around the bottom. Myers caught Krummert and the two were side-by-side and literally a dead heat according to AMB scoring as they crossed the line with the white flag waving. Myers hit the moisture around the bottom perfect and was able to fend off Krummert’s last chance turn four run off the cushion coming to the checkered to win by just 0.161 of a second. The victory was Myers’ second of his career as he won the season opener at Sharon Speedway on June 2 over a 31-car field in Weekly Series competition. Deems of Volant was third for his best Tour finish of the season Holden’s fourth and Tatgenhorst’s fifth were also their best Tour finishes of the season.
Back on May 20, Chad Ruhlman made his Sprint Car debut and came out on top as a winner at Old Bradford Speedway. On Saturday, Ruhlman closed out his rookie Sprint Car campaign in victory lane by leading all 20 laps over his brother Brian for the $800 victory and inaugural $5,000 Weekly Series Championship for the RUSH Sprint Cars. It was Ruhlman’s third win in three tries at Lernerville.
Brian Ruhlman’s second was his best finish of the season after debuting with a third on August 25 at Pittsburgh. Morrow’s third place was enough to overtake Lernerville “Wednesday Night Lightning” Champion, Arnie Kent, for third in points. Kent had worked his way from 15th to fifth before getting caught up in an accident at the halfway point. Shawn Smith continued his strong conclusion to the end of the season with his eighth straight top five finish after coming home fourth over Brandon Hawkins.
Jonathan Taylor passed Dennis Lunger, Jr. on lap 11 and went on to win the 20-lap UMP Modified main. The Saltsburg driver’s victory was worth $1,000 and came over northern racers Gary Eicher, Troy Johnson, and Lunger. Taylor then went to Eldora on Sunday where he earned the track championship ironically in a race won by Brian Ruhlman, who finished second in the RUSH Sprint Car event.
Chris Schneider passed track regular, Joey Zambotti, on lap 15 to win the 20-lap Stock Car feature. It was the Tarentum driver’s 22nd career win all-time at the Sarver oval, and was worth $1,000. Zambotti was second over Franklin’s Bobby Whitling. RUSH champion, Tyler Dietz, crossed the finish in fourth over track champion, Corey McPherson.
In other action, Albion’s Lunger captured the $500 Elite (Econo) Modified Series event. Cortland, Ohio’s Brian Borawiec, Jr. earned $600 for winning the 270cc Micro Sprints, and Eric Boozel invaded to take the $500 Mini Stock main. Boozel had to start last in the feature after not racing in Friday night’s heat races. Paul Crynock ended the event victorious in the 100-lap Enduro.
MIKE LEONE is a motorsports columnist for The Allied News. For the latest updates, follow him on Twitter @mikevleone.