In 2015, we were fortunate enough to be tapped on the shoulder by Lernerville Speedway to provide race recaps for the season. We were honored to be selected to do so. “The Story From Lernerville” became a weekly staple in our lineup at TDN, and to be able to tell the stories of the fab four week in and out was a great experience. There is nothing like it in all of weekly dirt racing.
And so we embarked on a season long quest to capture the spirit of the racing there from week to week. Along the way, consumed the atmosphere, the fumes, the sounds, the sights and the action on the track. We encountered some fantastic food, met some terrific people, and saw some excellent racing.
Our team this year, comprised of TDN Administrator Gary Heeman, contributing author Trever Steele and photographer Patrick Miller, got to bear witness to some awesome moments from the season that was, and we’d like to share those moments with you and offer a recap of the season..
We’d like to thank the entire staff at Lernerville for their assistance. They were very attentive and eager to help when we needed it. And also we’d like to extend a huge thank you to public relations director Eric Westendorf and general manager Gary Risch Jr. for giving us the opportunity! We enjoyed it immensely and it was truly an honor.
Peoples TWP Sprints
At the outset of the season, fans were surprised to learn that Ed Lynch Jr. would make a run for yet another track championship. He’d been away for a couple of seasons and new blood had moved into the division during that time. Plus, competitive drivers from when he last drove on a weekly basis had become champions or weekly winners on a semi regular basis. Nevertheless, Lynch picked up right where he left off and took the first two sprint features holding off upstarts AJ Flick and Brandon Matus in the process.
Matus would go on to enjoy a solid season and a second place finish in the points chase, but Flick, who’d finished a fantastic rookie season a year prior, would be the story of the 2015 season. The second year sprint driver managed to become a steady fixture in the top five virtually all season long and scored his first two career sprint victories in fab four weekly action en route the season championship.
Defending division champion Carl Bowser had the best of times and the worst of times in 2015 posting a division high five victories. However, he suffered a few mechanical gremlins at different points in the season resulting in a few DNF’s which took him out of the points race. But when the car behaved, his victories were of the dominant fashion more often than not.
Dan Kuriger provided two feel good moments in the middle of the season by collecting his first two Lernerville victories in his career. Both wins were not only the result of good fortune, but skillful driving as he survived restarts and lapped traffic in both victories. It was a season to remember for the veteran local driver who finally had his hard work rewarded.
As August rolled around, perhaps the most popular victory of the year occurred when crowd favorite Jack Sodeman Jr. ended a fairly long winless streak by dominating the field which included Craig Mintz to collect the win. And on the final Friday night of the regular season, Californian Tanner Thorson, who’d decided to tour the east for a brief period, delighted the fans on hand by adding the action track to his agenda, and he put on quite a display of skill in taking the checkers in the final fab four sprint race of the season. In post season action, Matus and his consistent season was finally rewarded with a hard fought victory in the Steel City Stampede in October to close the season.
Precise Late Models
Much like Lynch Jr. in the sprints, Russ King looked as if he would be the prime candidate to take home the championship in the first several weeks of action. King won two of the first three fab four features en route to the early points lead. However, Alex Ferree had other ideas and stayed hungry all year long for this third consecutive title. Ferree found victory lane the most within the late models with four victories on the season while King took home three wins, but early exits from some feature events would take away his title hopes as he retired from weekly competition in mid season.
Up and comers Michael Norris and Mike Pegher Jr. had up and down seasons in 2015 both with a mixture of top fives, dnf’s, and occasional wins. Both ended up with two victories on the season and also wound up on the podium at the end of August in the points battle. Both look to be formidable competition to Ferree in 2016.
Outside of the aforementioned performances, two nights stood out in the memories of fans during the course of the season that was. Firstly, after a rather long hiatus from action at Lernerville, former track champion John Flinner returned and was true to his reputation as a hard charger who lets it rip as he won a somewhat controversial victory following contact with Pegher Jr in a battle for the lead. Flinner’s win was met with one of the loudest choruses of boos in recent memory, but the veteran took it in and smiled widely throughout his victory lane celebration.
Shortly after the midpoint of the season, the seat of the #111 Detman entry was turned over to one Matt Lux in a selfless gesture by modified legend Brian Swartzlander. Lux took the opportunity and made the most of it in 2015 garnering several top five finishes and a victory on August 21. It was the first win for Lux at Lernerville in a few years, and the first ever for the #111. Lux would also take the win in the Steel City Stampede in October. For the year the car/driver tandem finished fifth in the season standings and looks to be a force to be reckoned with in 2016.
Kenny Schaltenbrand put a new car on the track in 2015 and it paid dividends as his fierce level of competitiveness met up with better equipment. The combination of those two facts propelled the veteran driver and fan favorite to a fourth place finish at the end of the season and almost saw him reach victory lane for the first time in years.
But the story of the season was Ferree who earned his sixth late model track championship at Lernerville and was both the most consistent and winningest driver during the regular season.
Diehl Automotive Group Modifieds
Mat Williamson returned to the action track following a year that saw him drop off the weekly series with a disappointing run of mechanical failures and rough outings in 2014. This opened the door for one Rex King Jr. who slammed it shut behind him en route to his first ever championship at Lernerville. But Williamson returned in 2015 hungrier than ever to earn another title. The St. Catherines, Ontario native hauled back home with the trophy six times in weekly action, most of any driver in any division for the year, and seemingly got better as the season went along as four of his wins came in the second half of the campaign. His season was simply dominant, and he delighted fans with spirited and clean battles for the win with Brian Swartzlander that kept everyone on the edge of their seat.
King Jr. had nothing to be ashamed of in coming home second in the points battle. The 2014 champion found victory lane four times in 2015, highlighted by victories on the mid season championship night and a victory at the Steel City Stampede in October. Had it not been for a pair of DNF’s during the regular season, the points battle could have very well come down to the final lap of competition.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in any division at Lernerville in 2015, was the season of Garrett Krummert who rejoined the modifieds after a few years in a super late model. The former modified driver wasted no time getting used to the car and was a threat to win on virtually any night. His previous stint in the modifieds produced more mid pack finishes than anything else. But Krummert’s late model career indicated a driver that could be competitive given the right set of circumstances. In 2015, those circumstances were ripe as a new car and some more experience in a top level of dirt racing, gave Krummert instant credibility. Krummert erased any leftover doubt about how good he might be with his first victory on May 22 in a race that saw him go nerf bar to nerf bar with both King Jr. and Williamson. His performance earned him a third place finish in the season standings.
Swartzlander may have finished outside the podium on the year, but still had a good season. He amassed three wins including his 90th modified feature win in August and gave fans more than a few thrilling moments battling up front in some of the most exciting features in any division throughout the season. Rounding out the top five in points was Rex King Sr. who found victory lane in week two and was a fixture in the top five most Friday nights.
Millerstown Pic A Part Sportsman
Corey McPherson was simply in another world in sportsman stock competition in 2015 and cruised to his third track championship in four years. He may not drive a late model, but the nickname “High Side Hustler” totally applied to McPherson who earned five wins, sometimes coming from deep in the field. He used the top of the speedway to his advantage, it was his home more or less and when he found it early, he was unbeatable.
2014 champion Jim Fosnaught gave it all he had, but a number of bad luck nights either knocked him out of the running, or out of the race altogether. Fosnaught was in the mix for the win on most nights and found victory lane on July 31 for his lone appearance there, but was not able to overcome some bad racing luck and fell 37 points shy of another title.
One of the pleasant surprises on the year in any division was to see stock legend Joe Kelley return to the winners circle. Kelley was able to snag four feature wins on the season, evoking memories of seasons past when he was a force to be reckoned with week in and week out. Kelley found himself on the podium for the year when all was said and done.
Another surprise was the performance of Wayne Carbo who found himself a fixture in the top five in the highly competitive divison. Carbo mixed it up with the best of them night in and night out and got rewarded for the effort with a win on July 10 in a hard fought race that saw him edge Mike Miller in the waning laps.
Terry Young was able to take a top five finish in the point standings by virtue of a consistent season and two feature victories. Also winding up in victory lane were Jason Fosnaught who drove the Brett McDonald #25 machine to the victory in May, and fittingly, Mike Miller was able to break his lengthy winless streak closing out the regular season with an August 28th win.
The Pictures: Courtesy of Pat Miller
Our very own Patrick Miller was able to capture the sprit of the racing from Lernerville on several occasions throughout the season. His albums can all be found by clicking on the links below. We hope you enjoy his wonderful photography that graces the pages of TDN week in and week out.
The Stories: (Week by Week)
June 26, 2015: Junghans Earns Breakthrough Victory in Dominating Fashion
July 10, 2015: Kuriger, Flinner, Williamson and Carbo Roll to Victory Lane
September 4, 2015: The Outlaw Story From Lernerville- Clanton Cruises to Victory
September 5, 2015: The Firecracker 100 Story from Lernerville; Eckert Etches Name In Books