This is the first installment of our Season in Review series that will feature different personalities and drivers in the world of dirt racing.
|Flick on the Track for Hot Laps during the Commonwealth Clash at Lernerville
(Pat Miller Photo)
After a few successful seasons in the sportsman division including a runner up finish in the 2013 Lernerville points standings, AJ Flick and his race team set their sights on a new challenge this year.
Sprint car racing.
It may have seemed like an interesting choice for Flick to move up into sprints, with his dad Mark, the 1994 Lernerville track champion, being a former modified driver and his grandfather, Willard, “Pee Wee” Flick was a late model racer who won the 1973 Lernerville track title.
“The joke I always say is that sprints were the only thing left for family to do,” Flick said. “But realistically from a monetary standpoint if you don’t flip a sprint car there isn’t much body work you have to fix. Also there are a lot of sprint races that pay good money in Western Pennsylvania.”
They went into this venture with out much experience in the sprint car world, but by the end of the season AJ contended several times for a win.
“We were excited for the challenge,” Flick said. “Basically I had the weight of a (sportsman car) and doubled the horsepower. We had to rely on a lot of people. We talked to guys who my dad raced with in the modifieds and moved up into the sprints. We talked about anything that could help prepare me for that first night.”
That first race came the same day as the practice day at Lernerville. The team felt good about the way practice went so they loaded up and went to Mercer to race later that evening
Mercer is a place that Flick found to be fun in a sprint car. He came close to getting his first win in a sprint there when he finished second to Andy McKisson on August 16th. He finished 8th in the point standings there this year.
“It’s a really cool track in a sprint car,” Flick said. “Turns one and two are sweeping and turns three and four are so tight. It is hard to figure out, because everything around the track is different.”
|Flick in the Staging Area at Lernerville on Opening Night.
(Pat Miller Photo)
Lernerville Speedway has been Flick’s home track for several seasons in the Sportsman division, so it was natural that he’d be ready to rip the sprint car around the 3/8th mile clay oval. The first night at the Sarver track didn’t go as planned as he went over the hill and flipped to avoid the spinning car of Brandon Spithaler in his first heat race at the track. It would be the only major mishap for him all season though.
As the season went on at Lernerville he got more comfortable with the nuances of driving a sprint car and the results came with it. He and his dad along with the rest of his crew worked together trying different things and improved along the way.
“My dad is the most versatile driver I know,” Flick said. “He raced on both dirt and asphalt. Sometimes he did things to the car that didn’t work and he also made changes to the car I didn’t think would be good and turned out to be awesome. It’s complicated, but we are definitely learning.”
While his dad helps with the car AJ’s mom is there to support him too. She shoots video of his races that you can find on his Facebook page.
“My mom is the biggest supporter I have,” Flick said. “You can hear her screaming and cheering in the background of the videos she makes.”
He also has help from family friend Rod Kacin, who helped his dad back when he raced modifieds. James Barber is also a big supporter of Flick, who AJ says is a good morale booster.
While he has support from his family he also has had a big boost from Dave Ferguson, who is his main sponsor with Ferguson Heating and Air Conditioning. Flick met Ferguson by being friends with his son while he was in high school and he’s been helping him since his sportsman days.
“We talked to him about his opinion about moving up and he asked what we were thinking about doing,” Flick said. “When we told him sprint cars he said heck ya let’s do it. He’s been at every race we’ve been to and he’s excited to go to go to new places. He’s one of the best things to happen to my racing career.”
|Flick during the ASCoC race at Lernerivlle
(Pat Miller Photo)
Flick picked a great season to start his sprint car career with it being the last full season for Steve Kinser. When the World of Outlaws rolled into town for the Silver Cup Flick got to race in the same heat as Kinser and even got by him at one point.
“It may have only been for a second or two, but I can say I passed Steve Kinser,” Flick said.
After the Silver Cup the results really started to come to fruition for the 21 year old. On August 1st Flick took the lead from Cory Good on lap six and at one point led by seven seconds. A couple of late cautions fell and this year’s track champion Carl Bowser got around him on a restart with three to go to steal the victory.
“On the restarts at the end I wasn’t nervous in the car,” Flick said. “On the second restart I made a misjudgment when Bowser pulled the slide job on me. On the lap before I did the same thing with Brandon Matus and though I had completed the pass back going into three, but it was later that I saw on my mother’s video that he broke going into three. If I would’ve known he had broke I would’ve changed me restart tactics with Carl. It is a learning experience I’ll know for next time.”
Flick also led some laps in the season finale at Lernerville after a deluge delayed the racing for a while. He finished second to fellow 410 rookie Logan Wagner that night. At the end of the season Flick finished sixth in the Lernerville points championship. He also posted top five finishes at Pittsburgh.
Flick plans on being at the Steel City Stampede at Lernerville in a couple of weeks.
“There’s still one more race for us and maybe we can get that first sprint win that night,” Flick said.
With the racing season winding down Flick is back at Penn State where he is a senior majoring in Petroleum and Gas Engineering. He is looking forward to the spring when he graduates and it also means a new season of racing will be upon us. If he doesn’t find victory lane at the Stampede, he will be ready to get that checkered flag in 2015.