The Story From Lernerville: 2016 Year In Review
All the hot summer nights full of roaring engines filling the air and the ground with resonant thunder, and the sight of the cars searching for the fastest way around the track en route to victory lane, have come to an end. It’s in the books, all of it. Another year of action at Lernerville Speedway has come and gone like a thief in the night. And as we get ready for yet another far too long winter with only our memories to keep us warm, we’re reminded that it was quite a year indeed. Some well deserving drivers were rewarded with the first Lernerville track championships of their careers. Some others, added to their legacies in dominant fashion. The season saw invaders stop by to snag a feature win, a hat trick not only once….but twice by the same driver nonetheless, and the emergence of several drivers who may just be starting their own legacies at the action track.
We were delighted once again to be able to cover the action at TDN, as myself, along with Trever Steele and photographer Patrick Miller made the weekly trek to Sarver, to bring the stories the drivers wrote every Friday, to the fans. We saw some great things in 2016, and were honored and privileged to be a part of it.
However, the year did have a sad beginning though, as long time announcer Dow Carnahan passed away on April 29. Dow had manned the microphone for 12 years at Lernerville. His friendly voice and uncanny knack for the saying the right words exactly at the right time and smooth delivery endeared him to the fans that have made Lernerville a weekly destination for years. For many of us, it felt like losing a friend, no matter how long or how well we knew him personally. His passing was a moment many of us will never forget, as was his voice and demeanor which were inviting, and warm. And so we dedicate this final chapter in “The Story From Lernerville” to him, in remembrance of all the memories he lent the voice to over the years.
We’d like to thank everyone who made the series of race stories possible, starting with Public Relations Director, Eric Westendorf who tapped us on the shoulder a couple of years ago to try our hand at producing them. Thanks to the entire staff at Lernerville as well who represent one of the best teams in all of dirt racing, from race director Greg Wheeling, scorer Tyler Beichner, the front office personnel, the track crew and everyone else involved. Thanks as well to John Stivason for offering his photos when they were needed. And also to the Tomson family as well for making us feel at home and for doing the job very well as owners.
And lastly, thanks to the drivers and crew for giving us such great stories week in and week out. Your hard work and dedication while also meeting the needs of your families and full time jobs to give us the show are truly amazing, and we appreciate every single one of you.
For a week by week listing of the stories from the whole season, you may scroll to the bottom. Just pick a week and start remembering what a great season it truly was….
*All Photos Courtesy of Patrick Miller Photography
People’s Natural Gas Sprints
AJ Flick had thoughts of travelling around a bit in 2016, and perhaps hadn’t given much thought to defending his 2015 championship before the season began, leaving the issue wide open in April as the season began. At first thought, Carl Bowser, Brandon Matus and Brandon Spithaler came immediately to the mind of many as the favorites to etch their name on the track champions list. However two things happened over the course of the season that would change the outcome of the championship battle in the Sprints. Flick hung around and competed until the last checkered flag flew, and Jack Sodeman Jr. saw his luck change.
The last statement, was only one small part of the championship formula for Sodeman. Luck can only take a driver so far. Sodeman was more than lucky. He was fast, and he was consistent, and capitalized on what luck came his way in his season which saw him take home his first career Lernerville championship.
Jared Zimbardi took home yet another early season win as the season commenced and it would be his only Fab Four appearance on the year. He was followed in victory lane by Spithaler a week later. Spithaler missed the middle portion of the season following a hard crash in June, but would return to victory lane on the final night of the regular season. Flick and Sodeman traded wins in the weeks that followed, and the stage was set for the battle to the end. Former champion Bowser shrugged off a rough start to the season and found better luck with a new car in the second half, earning two victories as the weeks wound down, but was not able to play a significant factor in the title chase as Sodeman and Flick found victory lane three times each for the
In the end, Sodeman’s consistency won out as evidenced by his seven podium finishes on the season while Flick succumbed to some bad luck and a hard crash in the second half. Still though, he was in reach on the final night, needing everything to go his way to have a chance. However, Sodeman would seal the deal with a heat win on the final night, and a fifth place finish en route to the title.
Outside the title chase, a trio of drivers that either hadn’t spent much time in victory lane were some of the fastest cars in the field down the stretch as Dan Shetler, Sye Lynch, and John Garvin Jr., turned in either surprising results, or a sign of things to come. Shetler nearly won several close contests in 2016 while Lynch, who started his campaign later in the year, consistently turned some of the fastest laps of the year in the waning weeks. Former late model pilot Garvin Jr. finished fourth on the year and not only appeared competent, but very competitive, earning five top 5’s in his rookie season in Sprints.
The season saw invaders Danny Mumaw and Josh Baughman stop by one time each to collect a win and saw and end to the career of one Scott Priester who graced the clay at Lernerville for years.
Final Standings; Top 10:
1. Jack Sodeman Jr.- 424
2. AJ Flick- 392
3. Carl Bowser- 343
4. John Garvin Jr.-329
5. Dan Kuriger- 323
6. Dan Shetler- 306
7. Brandon Matus- 304
8. Brent Matus- 298
9. Scott Priester- 278
10. Alex Paden- 270
Precise Racing Products DirtCar Late Models
Alex Ferree may be one of the hardest returning champions to knock off the top of the podium year in and year out. He doesn’t just win one typically, he wins them in bunches. So it would take an amazing effort to wrest the title away from him. And that was just what happened in 2016. Former World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year Russ King, put together a whole season. Not just a season of showing up and finishing, but finishing well, winning, and not succumbing to mechanical failure or bad decisions. King more than earned his title, by winning on different types of tracks, keeping a level head, and simply putting himself in position to take a podium finish once where perhaps he may have elected to go all out for the win. King found the line between points racing, and racing to win, and straddled it, exhibiting some knowledge of both sides.
Ferree took the win on opening night and was off and running while potential title contender Michael Norris stumbled early in the season, creating gap for King and Ferree in the standings. Young Micheal Lake spent the early part of the season at Lernerville in 2016 and it took him only three weeks to get the hang of it, coming home with his first career feature win on May 27, while Jared Miley took home the victory the week before. Following their victories, both drivers opted to spend the majority of the summer touring in the area and would not play a factor in the title chase.
One driver who was in the hunt for most of the season was Matt Lux who came home fourth in the final standings. Lux found the top five on several occasions, but was unable to convert wins in those situations enough to contend for the title. However he did save his best for last taking home the win in the final night of points action. Ferree and King spent the second half of the season, looking for a victory and for the other to experience misfortune. However the racing was clean and neither fell victim to mechanical gremlins or bad luck. In the end, King kept his car in the top three with amazing consistency, earning three wins on the season and 10 podium finishes while Ferree found victory lane just two times with five top three finishes overall.
Outside of the title chase, the biggest story was the emergence of Michael Norris. The young driver from Sarver had found victory lane before in recent years, using the high side of the speedway in characteristic fashion. But in 2016, Norris turned flashes of brilliance, into performances that saw him take two victories in the second half that were as well done as any in recent memory, using all lanes available. Norris became a legitimate title contender for 2017 should he elect to call Lernerville his Friday home once again, and he carried the momentum forward from his weekly program to some outstanding performances in the area in the post season.
Final Standings; Top 10:
1. Russ King- 434
2. Alex Ferree- 380
3. Michael Norris- 357
4. Matt Lux- 356
5. Mike Pegher Jr.- 315
6. Gary Lyle- 277
7. Ken Schaltenbrand- 251
8. Brandon Wearing- 209
9. Mike Miller- 205
10. Tommy Schirnhofer- 168
Diehl Automotive Big Block Modifieds
In 2016, it was once again Mat Williamson’s world, everyone else was just living in it. That’s not to say that no other drivers stood a chance in the Modified division. It’s just that they would have to be extremely good. Better than good. And, suffer no mishaps if they were to remove him from the top of the standings. Rex King Jr. and Brian Swartzlander tried their hardest, but were unable to match Williamson’s results week in and week out.
The St Catharines, Ontario driver found victory lane a staggering seven times in 2017, and was on the podium ten times overall, turning in a performance that was as dominant as could be found at any home track in the DIRTCar modified geography en route to his third Lernerville championship in four years.
But Williamson would actually lose ground in the early going as King and Jeremiah Shingledecker would take the first two wins. Meanwhile, Swartzlander would have a rough time getting in the top three in the early going, taking himself out of contention for the title. The former champion would rally in the second half of the year garnering two wins and a much more consistent performance albeit too little too late.
Perhaps the biggest upset win of the season in any division came in the modifieds as veteran pilot Steve Feder, who had endured several near devastating crashes in the past few seasons, found victory lane on June 10th, much to the delight of the crowd. It was one of the rare nights that Williamson didn’t win however as King would take his second victory on the final night of the regular season, after Williamson had already but the season title to bed.
Dave Murdick failed to find victory lane in 2016, but came through with a consistent season that saw him come home fourth in points while JR McGinley would finish his first full season in a big block seventh in the final standings with some promising performances during the year, but the season belonged to Williamson who won three consecutive races on two separate occasions to put an exclamation point on his tremendous season.
Final Standings; Top 10
1. Mat Williamson- 471
2. Rex King Jr.- 419
3. Brian Swartzlander- 405
4. Dave Murdick- 340
5. Jeremiah Shingledecker- 336
6. Steve Feder- 301
7. J.R. McGinley- 274
8. Jim Weller III- 260
9. Garrett Krummert- 259
10. Tom Winkle- 252
Millerstown Pic-A-Part Sportsman
Coming into the season, much was made about the switch from open engines to crates in the Sportsman with some skeptics believing that car counts would dwindle and the action on the track would be less thrilling than in previous years. They were wrong on both counts, as a healthy contingent of cars put on some of the best racing of the night week in and week out in 2016. And at the end of the season, Corey McPherson was the last man standing.
Much like Williamson, McPherson was once again the dominant force in the stocks taking five wins on the season and winning the title by a staggering 130 points. McPherson seemingly never had a bad night even when he didn’t win and cruised to his fourth championship, looking effortless in the process. When McPherson wasn’t winning, odds are Joey Zambotti was in the hunt. The young driver found victory lane on three occasions in 2016 and has learned how to turn his passion and wild energy, into a more refined style and focus that paid dividends this season as he was rewarded with a second place finish when all was said and done.
Former rookie of the year Aaron Easler had a rough 2015, and came back with a very consistent year that saw him return to victory lane and finish on the podium for the year, while veteran Terry Young managed two wins on the year.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the division was the emergence of Tyler Dietz who barely missed out on some wins that may have made a difference in the title chase early in the year. Dietz stayed patient though and came through with two wins and several podium finishes, coming home fourth in the standings. Former champion Joe Kelley found victory lane once in a down year for the veteran who finished outside the top five in the point for the first time in recent memory.
The young guns of the division, led by McPherson, appear to be in control of the Sportsman going into the off season. But they’ll have to contend with McPherson’s dominance and find a way past him for the meantime.
Final Standings; Top 10:
1. Corey McPherson- 586
2. Joey Zambotti- 456
3. Aaron Easler- 452
4. Tyler Dietz- 442
5. Bob Egley- 390
6. Terry Young- 389
7. Joe Kelley- 380
8. Brett McDonald- 356
9. Paul Schreckengost- 344
10. Brandon Wearing- 320
The Photos: Courtesy of Pat Miller Photography
4/15/16- Week 1- Zimbardi-King-King Jr.- McPherson
6/26- Firecracker Preliminaries
7/1/16- BOSS Sprints
7/1/16- RUSH Late Models and Modifieds
7/15-16- Week 12- Norris-Sodeman-Sodeman Jr.-Williamson-Easler
7/19/16- World of Outlaws Sprints- Don Martin Silver Cup
10/15/16- Stampede Finals- Big Blocks-Sprints-Late Models
10/15/16-Stampede Finals-UMP Emods- Sportsman- 4 Cylinders
10/15/16- Stampede Finals-RUSH Late Models-Modifieds-Sportsman
*Feature Winners Listed With Week
4/15/16- Week 1- Zimbardi-King-KingJr-McPherson
4/22/16- Week 2- Shingledecker- Spithaler-Zambotti-Holden
5/13/16- Week 3 (ASCoC Sprints)- Haudenschild-Kelley-Schaffer
5/20/16- Week 4- Miley-Williamson-Flick-McPherson
5/27/17- Week 5- Williamson-Sodeman-Lake-Zambotti
6/3/16- Week 6- Flick-Ferree-Williamson-Young
6/10/16- Week 7- Ferree-Feder-Mumaw-McPherson
6/16/16- Week 9- Williamson-Bowser-Pegher Jr.-Young
Firecracker Preliminary Night: Richards Scores Opening Night Victory
Firecracker 100: Bloomquist Becomes First Three Time Winner
7/1/10- Week 10 (B.O.S.S Wingless/RUSH LM/Mods/Stocks) Owen-Davis-Ritchey-Egley
7/8/10- Week 11- Baughman-King-Williamson-Dietz
7/15/16- Week 12- Norris-Sodeman Jr.-Williamson-Easler
7/29/16- Week 13- Swartzlander-Flinner-Sodeman Jr.-Zambotti
8/5/16- Week 15- Flick-Williamson-King-McPherson
8/12/16- Week 16- Norris-Bowser-Swartzlander-Dietz
8/27/16- Week 17- Spithaler-Lux-King Jr.- McPherson
9/2/16- Working Man Preliminary Night- Eckert-Richards-Deems-Fosnaught
9/3/16- Working Man Final Night- Mars-McPherson
9/10/16- Autumn-Motive Fest- Carbo- Miller-Wolbert
10/15/16- Steel City Stampede (Fab Four Portion)-Flick-Norris-Bowman-McPherson
1-/15/16- Steel City Stampede (RUSH LM/Mods/UMPEmods/4Cyls) Mollick-Scott-Kugel-Boozel
We’ll miss you Dow…..
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