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DirtonDirt.com Dispatches

Dispatches: Norris denies rookie at Lernerville

June 16, 2024, 2:00 am
From staff, track, series and special reports
Michael Norris at Lernerville. (Howie Balis)
Michael Norris at Lernerville. (Howie Balis)

Among latest notes and quotes from around Dirt Late Model racing during a mid-June weekend that includes DIRTcar Summer Nationals and other action (find Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and Appalachian Mountain Speedweek coverage in separate stories). Our coverage includes a primer on the weekend's streaming selections around the country:

Norris stays hot

Hometown driver Michael Norris on Friday stretched his Super Late Model winning streak at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., to four in the row. In the process Norris denied 14-year-old Brock Pinkerous of Ellenville, N.Y., a victory in his first career Super Late Model start.

Pinkerous, the driver nicknamed Bam Bam and up-and-coming Crate Late Model racer, jumped into the higher-profile division with a flourish at the 4/10-mile oval.

Matt Lux, driving Levi Yetter’s backup car, led the first two laps of the Mid-Season Championship event, but Pinkerous edged in front of Lux and fellow challenger Ken Schaltenbrand, breaking out of a three-wide battle to lead the third lap. Pinkerous edged away while the fourth-starting Norris dispatched of Lux and Schaltenbrand by the halfway point of the 25-lapper.

Pinkerous had a 1.8-second margin, but Norris tracked him down. The leaders ran door-to-door down the backstretch with Pinkerous on the outside end Norris down low. On the next lap, the frontrunners made contact in turn one, sending the No. 555 of Pinkerous spinning with eight laps remaining.

“I had a good run off the bottom and he had a good run on the top,” Norris said. “I tried to get slowed down in turn one and he started to come down from the top and he couldn’t see me.

“I hated to do that to him because I did it to him at (2023’s Steel City) Stampede, too. I feel terrible for Brock, he’s gonna be spanking me here pretty soon. He’s a young talent and I’ll go talk to him. It was a racing deal.”

With his victory, Norris secured a guaranteed starting spot in the 18th annual Firecracker 100, June 22’s $50,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event. — Track reports

Historic victory

Entering this season, only two drivers in the nearly 40-year history of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals have won the tour's first three races. You might've heard of them: Billy Moyer (1994 and 2010) and Scott Bloomquist (1990).

Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, added his name to that list Saturday at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway, overtaking Cody Overton early and fending off challenges from unrelated Dennis Erb Jr. for a $10,000 payday and his third tour victory over four days.

Erb, winning for the first time at the quarter-mile oval, added the checkered flag to Wednesday's triumph in Peoria (Ill.) Speedway's opener and Friday's visit to Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. (Thursdays event at Kankakee County Speedway in Kankakee, Ill., rained out.)

"I'm glad to say I finally won a race at Fairbury," the 27-year-old Erb said in victory lane. "It's unbelievable."

Along with a history-making streak, Erb has virtually assured himself a $10,000 check as the top points earner during the tour's first opening week, which wraps up Sunday at Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill.

Starting outside the second row behind front-row starters Overton and Max McLaughlin — drivers who won their first Summer Nationals heat races at Fairbury — Erb plotted his move to the front.

"Really, as crazy as it sounds, I tried to be patient there the first five or 10 laps," the winner said. "Just the way Max and Cody were kind of (racing), I had to get by one of them before I could even mess with the other. When Max laid out, I drove in underneath him. We kind of got together there and that put me to second. Cody's car was really good, and I think I just got him flustered there on the restart. I got a good start and was able to get by him."

Dennis Erb Jr., who finished second to Tyler Erb at Peoria, provided another challenge at Fairbury, working the inside groove to sneak into the lead on laps 26-27 of the 50-lapper. But Tyler Erb used his high-side momentum and low-groove traffic to regain command.

"I didn't really feel like I was smooth sailing, because Dennis was side-by-side with me there for what felt like 20 laps," he said. "Yeah, the defense went out the window and I started pounding the cushion as hard as I could.

"I tried to give it away on the last lap there in turn three, but, I've been coming here for, I don't know, everybody remembers when I flipped (Ryan) Unzicker (in a 2016 wreck in World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series). Since then, I've never won a race here. I've felt like I've been close and it's just awesome. I love coming here." — Series and staff reports

Bounty collected

The Lucas Oil Speedway bounty has been collected.

Johnny Fennewald of Appleton City, Mo., led all 20 laps to capture the regularly scheduled Hermitage Lumber POWRi Late Model feature Saturday at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. Fennewald ended the six-race winning streak of reigning track champ Justin Wells, claiming a $500 bounty.

Wells was involved in a lap-six incident and had to restart at the rear of the field. He wound up seventh — but the way Fennewald was on a rail throughout it probably would not have mattered. While the bounty money was nice, Fennewald said he wishes he could have won it by outrunning Wells.

"Honestly, I wouldn't even care if they paid me that bounty after this week; I want to race door-to-door and outrun him," Fennewald said of Wells.

The night was far from a total loss for Wells, the track's midseason champ. He captured the Late Model race to begin the program, a makeup from a rainout on Show-Me 100 weekend. He claimed $2,000 for that win, his sixth without a loss at the speedway in 2024. But Wells was unable to make it 7-for-7 in the regular main event.

"Congratulations to Johnny, he ran a good race," Wells said.

Fennewald rolled to a 2.1-second lead over Kaeden Cornell just five laps into the race with J.C. Morton in third and the sixth-starting Wells in fourth. Just one lap later, a caution for debris bunched the field and took away Fennewald’s lead.

One lap after the restart, third-running Cornell took a wild ride when he and Wells made contact entering turn one. Cornell’s car went up and over in mid-air before landing on all four wheels. Cornell was not injured, but the car suffered major damage. Wells, as one of the card involved in the red-flag incident, restarted 17th with 14 laps remaining.

"We just didn't get it done tonight and I feel bad for Kaeden," Wells said. "I don't even think he knew I was there when we went into the corner. I'm more worried about him than anything, I don't care about winning the race. I hate it for him."

When action resumed, Fennewald sprinted to a two-second advantage over Morton at the halfway point. He kept building on the margin from there as Sawyer Crigler passed Morton for second on lap 14.

Fennewald remained in command as the race went without another stoppage and he finished 3.4 seconds in front of Crigler. Morton finished third, Tucker Cox was fourth and Andy Bryant took fifth.

"We've been struggling a little bit down here," Fennewald said in victory lane. "New tires and new dirt, it's not the same as what it was last year. We were just a few clicks off." — Lyndal Scranton

He’s back

When Tyler Carpenter had engine problems in hot laps Friday evening at Skyline Speedway, he could’ve called it a night.

Instead, when rain hit the track in Stewart, Ohio, about 7:30 p.m., forcing a lengthy rain delay, Carpenter’s team scurried back to his Parkersburg, W.Va., shop 30 miles away and proceeded to change engines in his No. 28 Kryptonite Race Car.

When the track was ironed back in and ready for racing about three hours later, Carpenter returned, unloaded and headed to the track for hot laps (again). With a fresh powerplant, Carpenter was fast as usual, and he ended his night with a feature victory, his seventh overall of the season.

He’ll likely be back again Saturday with $3,000 up for grabs for the Super Late Model division in concluding the Rumble on the Ridge weekend. — Jeff Hurst

Hot Hell Tour starts

During three of the past four campaigns including this one, a single driver has won the first two races of the season on the DIRTcar Summer Nationals. Tyler Erb of New Waverly, Texas, Wednesday's tour winner at Peoria (Ill.) Speedway and Friday’s victor at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill., will on Saturday at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway try to become the first driver to win the first three series races in 14 seasons.

Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., last year failed to capture the tour’s third race at Tri-City after winning at Peoria and Kankakee County Speedway in Kankakee, Ill. In 2021, Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., won the first two series races at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway and Peoria but couldn’t win at Kankakee.

The last driver to win the first three Summer Nationals consecutively was Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., who in 2010 won at Brownstown, Kankakee and Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis., before losing the following night at Kankakee.

Moyer also owns the longest-ever consecutive victory streak to start the Summer Nationals, winning six in a row in 1994 starting at GLV Raceway near Owensboro, Ky., en route to the series championship. Moyer followed that with victories at Twin Cities Raceway Park in North Vernon, Ind., Kankakee, La Salle (Ill.) Speedway, Farmer City (Ill.) Raceway and Fairbury. His streak ended when Bill Frye outran Moyer at West Liberty (Iowa) Raceway.

The only other such streak longer than three came in 1990 when Scott Bloomquist, en route to his first Summer Nationals championship, won the first four races. His victories came at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, Minn., Macon (Ill.) Speedway, Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., and St. Francois County Raceway in Farmington, Mo. — Staff reports

Long time coming

Typically at Tri-City Speedway, the season's DIRTcar Summer Nationals race comes after the 3/8-mile oval in Granite City, Ill., has hosted several Super Late Model events. But this year's Hell Tour event, a $10,000-to-win race on Fridays, marks the Gundaker family-owned track's first Super Late Model event of the season and just second event of any kind.

Tri-City saw April 5-6 Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association events rained out along with the Gordy Gundaker-promoted Summer Cup Clash scheduled for May 31-June 1. The track's only completed event came May 11 with the Kubota High Limit Racing sprint car event.

The track is set to host a Summer Nationals program for the ninth consecutive season. The track has hosted series events for 19 seasons except for a 2015 rainout.

Billy Moyer of Batesville, Ark., and Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., have five Summer Nationals victories apiece at Tri-City. Two of Moyer's came on the pre-2007 half-mile layout and three on the shorter configuration. Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, Ill., and Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., have two series victories apiece.

Other tidbits about Tri-City:

• Over the past 10 seasons including 2024, Michael Kloos of Trenton, Ill., is the track's winningest Super Late Model driver with 19 victories. He's followed by Bobby Pierce (18), Daryn Klein (16) of Fairview Heights, Ill., and Tim Manville (11) of Highland, Ill.

• Pierce's victories have come on virtually every organization to run a Super Late Model event at Tri-City: Summer Nationals, World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series, Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, DIRTcar, MARS and Castrol FloRacing Night in America.

• Tri-City is the site of Dan Schlieper's last five-figure payday with his 2011 Summer Nationals victory as well as the site of Jason Feger's first-ever Summer Nationals victory in 2009.

• While Tri-City hosted races on the first four seasons of the Summer Nationals (1986-89), the track hosted a single series event (a 1996 race won by Billy Moyer) between 1990-2003.

Weekend watch

Where to watch this weekend's streaming special events:

Friday, June 14

• Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn. (FloRacing)

• Appalachian Mountain Speedweek at Bedford (Pa.) Speedway (FloRacing)

• DIRTcar Summer Nationals at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. (DIRTVision)

• Comp Cams Super Dirt Series at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss. (RaceON)

• Repairable Vehicles.com Tri-State Series at Murray County Speedway in Slayton, Minn. (IMCA.tv)

• Malvern Bank East Super Late Model Series at C.J. Speedway in Columbus Junction, Iowa (Dirt Crown TV)

Saturday, June 15

• Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, Tenn. (FloRacing)

• Appalachian Mountain Speedweek at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pa. (FloRacing)

• Comp Cams Super Dirt Series at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss. (RaceON)

• DIRTcar Summer Nationals at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway (DIRTVision)

Sunday, June 16

• Appalachian Mountain Speedweek at BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Pa. (FloRacing)

• DIRTcar Summer Nationals at Sycamore Speedway in Maple Park, Ill. (DIRTVision)

Correction: Fixes Bobby Pierce's victory total at Tri-City.

DirtonDirt.com Dispatches

In continuing to streamline our race coverage, we’ve added DirtonDirt.com Dispatches to our list of regular features on the site. The idea of the new feature is to spotlight key storylines of the weekend (and sometimes during the week), putting notes, quotes and accomplishments in context to provide subscribers a quick-hitting read on all the latest from tracks around the country. Our intention is to have a single file that’s regularly topped by the latest news, so check back throughout the weekend.

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