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The Stampede Story From Lernerville Part 1; Flick Captures 1st Stampede Win; Norris Crushes Late Model Field; Bowman Wins Thriller; McPherson Rules Open Stock Fiels

The cast of Lernerville’s Fab Four weekly racing series and invading area drivers met for the final time at the action track Saturday night, for one last chance at ending the season on a high note, in front of a considerably good crowd on hand. And when the final checkered flag waved on the 2016 season, there were three familiar faces holding up the famed Steel City Stampede belt buckle trophies, and one great friend of a fourth.

Pat Miller Photo

AJ Flick took home his first career victory in the People Natural Gas DIRTcar Sprints while Michael Norris continued his torrid hot streak deeper into October with the win in the Precise Racing Products DIRTcar Late Models.  Meanwhile, in the Diehl Automotive Big Block Modifieds, a Canadian invader made off with the $3,000 winner’s share. And it wasn’t Mat Williamson. Merrittville Speedway and DIRTCar 358 Modified tour standout Mike Bowman joined in the fun and wired the field holding off a stiff challenge from Williamson as the two friends battled door handle to door handle for the second half of the 25 lap feature.  And in Millerstown Pic-A Part Open Sportsman action, Corey McPherson was the one and only 2016 track champion to come away with a feature win, driving away from an impressive field in a caution marred main event.

Peoples Natural Gas DIRTCar Sprints:

AJ Flick had achieved much in his sprint car years at Lernerville. Flick had seen his fair share of feature wins and track championships, and also provided some edge of your seat action to the delight of the fans over the years. However one thing he hadn’t done until now, was to stand in victory lane at the final event of the season, until Saturday night. Flick stayed patient in the early going as he watched George Hobaugh Jr  take the early lead, then seized an opportunity and never looked back en route to the win.

Hobaugh and Flick led the field to the green flag and once action got underway, Hobaugh was the man to beat, setting a torrid pace on the high side of the speedway while Flick became focused on 2016 champion Jack Sodeman Jr who was stalking him from his third running position. Behind them, Dan Kuriger and Sye Lynch took up positions four and five as Hobaugh began to encounter lapped traffic early.

Pat Miller Photo

Hobaugh split the lapped cars in turn three with precision as Sodeman started looking underneath Flick and looked to have the position when Andy Priest brought out the caution flag with four laps down. Once action resumed, Sodeman tried Flick again for the second spot while Lynch was all over Kuriger for the fourth position when Zach Morrow went off track in turn two with six laps in the books.

On the ensuing restart, it was Flick looking for the pass as he went underneath Hobaugh and stayed with him, completing the pass for the lead just one lap later with a turn four slide job. However, Flick would find himself in lapped traffic just two laps later with a pack of pursuers led by Hobaugh looking to eat away at Flick’s considerable lead. Flick maneuvered through the lappers with ease as the top three cars gained separation on the field. Behind them, Dan Shetler began creeping closer to contention by passing Lynch for fifth with 13 laps down

Pat Miller Photo

Out front, Flick was in control and looked to be on his way when Shetler brought out the caution with 20 laps in the books. With five laps left, the  action resumed with Hobaugh having a new lease on life. Flick saw his closest pursuer take a look underneath as Hobaugh relentlessly tried to seize the lead, but Flick would hold on and then some to collect the $3,000 pay day.

Cheryl Fleming Photo

“I had told my father that I knew this track might slick up a little bit so we kind of set up for that and it was tough to drive in the beginning,” Flick said in victory lane. “George (Hobaugh) was an absolute rocket ship. I didn’t know if anybody was going to catch him. I had one horrible restart and I was able to fix it the second time around and that gave me a shot at him and after I got past him, it was just about hitting my marks.”

Top 10:

1. AJ Flick
2. George Hobaugh
3. Jack Sodeman Jr.
4. Dan Kuriger
5. Sye Lynch
6. Michael Bauer
7. Sye Lynch
8. Carl Bowser
9. Brandon Spithaler
10. Cory Good

Precise Racing Products DIRTCar Late Models:

To say Michael Norris has been on a tear of late might be an understatement. He’s been on a podium and victory spree might be more accurate. And when he’s not doing that, he’s been setting quick time at a few choice national touring events.  Norris brought the hottest hand into the weekend in the Late Models, and he lived up to the billing as he put the 23 car field behind him, going almost unchallenged once he’d taken the lead to collect his first Steel City Stampede trophy.

Matt Lux and Michael Davis started on the front row and early on took part in a last lap for the win style dog fight as both crossed grooves in attempts to get a leg up in the opening laps. Behind them, Jared Miley, and Chad McClellan looked to provide the early pressure for the front runners until lap four when track champion Russ King brought out the caution flag with a blown engine. Lux then departed for the pits during the yellow, while Davis inherited the lead.

Pat Miller Photo

Once action resumed, Davis and Miley were battling from the lead and joining them from his ninth starting spot was Norris. The top three ran under a blanket for the following laps with Miley running the low groove and looking to take the lead from Davis while at the same time, Norris began to look under Miley in a frenzied three car battle. On lap seven, Norris slid under Davis for the lead and found himself in heavy lapped traffic as Miley maneuvered under Davis for second, setting his sights on the leader until the caution flag waved on lap 12 halting all momentum.

Pat Miller Photo

Norris elected the bottom on the restart and once action resumed, he made for the top of the speedway as Alex Ferree joined the party moving up to the fourth spot and eventually overtaking Davis for third. A lap 14 caution for John Weaver re stacked the field. Norris elected low again, but once the field got rolling again, the top three cars remained the same as Norris, Miley and Ferree looked to decide the matter between the themselves, gaining separation from the field during the green flag run.

Pat Miller Photo

Norris now faced heavy lapped traffic as he split the cars of John Hodgkiss and John Weaver in turns three and four with Miley shaving the lead down in the waning laps. However, Ed Ferree stopped Miley’s momentum cold with a turn four spin that almost collected Miley in the process. Miley avoided disaster for a brief second, but when the green flag came back out with two laps to go, Miley went over the cushion to end his bid for the win. Norris was able to keep Ferree at bay on the following restart and cruised to victory, his first ever Steel City Stampede Championship.

Cheryl Fleming Photo

“It feels good,” Norris said. “I love coming here, all my fans and everybody from my hometown was watching. Ever since we put this new car together everything’s been clicking, the motor, the car and the crew. It’s been really fun, this is why you do it. We’re just soaking up the high times while we got them and I can’t thank everybody enough.”

Top 10:

1. Michael Norris
2. Alex Ferree
3. Andrew Wylie
4. Tommy Beck
5. Jordan Yaggy
6. Kenny Schaltenbrand
7. Mike Miller
8. Jared Miley
9. Todd Bachman
10. John Weaver

Diehl Automotive DIRTCar Big Block Modifieds:

Mike Bowman had been having an up and down 2016 in his own geography, so he selected tow to another to see if he could perhaps cook up some momentum to leave the season on a high note. He got all that and then some on Saturday night and also kept fans on the edge of their seat with a classic battle for the win that was as clean as one could hope for with track champion Mat Williamson in the process.

Pat Miller Photo

Bowman and former weekly Lernerville competitor Brad Rapp brought the field to the green flag and from the drop of it, one thing remained clear, that Bowman had brought his “A” game to the party.  The Canadian invader built a substantial lead in the opening laps. But Rapp would hang in there, looking as if he’d never missed a beat at the action track and ran a strong second, while behind him, Williamson, who’d started third on the grid, was gaining ground on both front runners. Behind them, Rick Richner and Brian Swartzlander rounded out the top five.

Rodney Beltz brought out the first caution of the main event when he slid off the top of turns three and four on lap five, and on the ensuing restart, Bowman looked as impressive as he had in the opening laps as Richner challenged Williamson for third.  Williamson would shake Richner a lap later and set his sights on Rapp making the pass underneath for second on lap seven as out front, Bowman was setting a torrid pace and had amassed a huge lead on the second running Williamson.

Bowman started to enter lapped traffic which combined with Williamson’s sense of urgency, began to shrink the lead to a manageable size as the two front runners pounded the cushion with Rapp, Richner and Swartzlander in a fierce battle for third.  Williamson had managed to cut Bowman’s lead from nearly a second, to a tenth and the battle for the win increased with intensity. Wiliamson looked under Bowman at every turn in the waning laps and drew even with him on several occasions, swapping the lead seemingly from corner to corner. The stage was set for a final lap for the ages with the two leaders neck and neck when Swartzlander cooked his engine, setting up a green, white, checkered finish, much to the delight of the audience.

Pat Miller Photo

On the restart, Bowman elected down low, putting Williamson on the top shelf where he had been making up the most ground. Once action resumed, it appeared Williamson had finally pulled off the pass until Richner brought out the caution for another round of overtime.  Bowman elected high on the second restart and it helped keep Williamson at bay as he crossed the line just slightly ahead of his friend to take the $3,000 victory.

Cheryl Fleming Photo

“I followed my buddy Mat (Williamson) down here and everybody knows Mat’s a champion because he races like that,” Bowman said. “Mat and I have raced like that so many times up at Merrittville and it’s kind of fun to do it going a lot faster and I appreciate him running me clean there. The first yellow, I didn’t even see him in the top five and I thought it was a mistake in scoring but sure enough he showed up and we were able to switch are restart alignment on that last restart and get back up in front.”

Top 10:

1. Mike Bowman
2. Mat Williamson
3. Russ King
4. Brad Rapp
5. Steve Feder
6. Rick Regalski
7. Rodney Beltz
8. Skip Moore
9. Mike Turner
10. Tom Glenn

Millerstown Pic-a-Part Sportsman

One of the most intriguing things coming into the weekend, would be the open versus crate sportsman outcome as many invaders with more substantial engines came to party with the crate engine based home track drivers. But sometimes, talent wins the battle, no matter what the engine difference might be. Corey McPherson had a regular season to remember en route to another track championship, and was certainly the man for the job this night as he kept the $1,000 first place money in the area which he did on Saturday night in a feature event that saw as many if not more caution laps than green flag circuits.

Pat Miller Photo

McPherson started on the pole and opened up a comfortable lead with invader Nathan Smith moving up three spots in a hurry once action got underway, to find himself in second place in the early going. Behind them, Marty Spade, AJ Pokjak and Jim Fosnaught took up positions two through five.

With eight laps in the books, and McPherson stationed at the top of the speedway, Smith began to reel in the leader, but tagged the front stretch wall on lap 10. His second position was saved though as another caution on the speedway reset the field. Smith would find during the caution laps, that he’d suffered a flat tire, ending his contention for the win. When action resumed, Spade had inherited the second spot as Wayne Carbo joined the top five from his 10th starting position.

And then, the green flag action ground to a halt.

Pat Miller Photo

A large pileup involving Joe Kelly and Joey Zambotti as well as about four other cars occurred on the back stretch, re stacking the field. On the following restart, Fosnaught looked as if he’d been shot out of a cannon and jumped forward to second place. Carbo then went over the backstretch to bring out a caution with 12 laps down as 18th starting Mike Miller took second place away from Fosnaught. Then, with 15 laps gone, Zambotti brought out another yellow.  Indeed, 14 of the 24 starters had been involved in a caution up to the lap 15 mark. But through all the restarts, McPherson stayed out front, ad was looking as if he’d have no immediate pressure to relinquish the top sot.

Following several more cautions and restarts, consecutive green flag laps returned just in the nick of time as McPherson held off any attempt and drove away to the victory while weekly drivers Tyler Dietz and Brett McDonald joined him on the podium.

Cheryl Fleming Photo

“This is an awesome race track and I can’t thank all the Lernerville personnel enough and all the people that work here for making this such a great racetrack,” McPherson said.

Top 10: 

1. Corey McPherson
2. Tyler Dietz
3. Brett McDonald
4. Jim Fosnaught
5. Nathan Smith
6. Todd Weldon
7. Mike Miller
8. Andy Buckley
9. Cam Kraisinger
10. Matt Thomas



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