Weekly Notebook presented by JRi Shocks
Notes: Challenge awaits Lernerville points leader
By Alli CollisDirtonDirt.com staff writer
Russ King of Bristolville, Ohio, will tell you that Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa., has some of the toughest weekly competition around. But this weekend, the bar will be raised even higher, as the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series invades the 4/10-mile oval for the annual Firecracker 100 weekend. And King’s looking forward to it.
Debuting his new XR1 Rocket Chassis, the 27-year-old driver was the winner of Lernerville’s April 15 season-opener, notching multiple top-five finishes at the track since. Coming away with a runner-up finish at Lernerville last Friday night, King went on to score his third career United Late Model Series victory on Saturday at Mercer (Pa.) Raceway Park, putting him atop DirtonDirt.com’s Weekly Notebook presented by JRi Shocks.
“We started up front there and kind of rolled with it,” King said of his ULMS triumph. “We’ve been pretty good all year. We’ve run second like six times, so it was good to win one finally and not give it away in lapped traffic. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing here lately.
“We’ve got pretty good races here around the house, so it’s good to win one. Really nobody recognizes what you’re doing, even if you run Lernerville on a weekly show, nobody cares because it’s only $1,500-to-win. You go out and win some kind of series race, I guess it’s better. It was pretty good and gave us a little bit of momentum.”
King is among Lernerville regulars, finishing runner-up in the past three weekly events at the Pennsylvania oval. He currently tops the track’s points standings with a 22-point advantage over defending Lernerville champion Alex Ferree of Saxonburg, Pa.
“We won opening night, and that was the first time I sat in this new car,” King said. “We didn’t go practice it or anything because we were so busy over the winter building customer cars and getting my dad and brother’s Big Block stuff ready. We just kind of let it fly. We ended up winning the first night convincingly and we’ve been fast ever since then.
“We’re the one passing cars every week and we get to second and the race is over. Last week we started on the poll and led, then we got into lapped traffic and got hung up with a couple of lapped cars. Somebody that we’ve been helping this year is Mike Pegher Jr. That was his third race in his XR1, and he’s been pretty good. If I wasn’t going to win, I was happy to see him win.”
Picking up a weekly victory at Lernerville is no easy feat, King said. The racetrack continually draws some of the region’s toughest competitors, with recent car counts requiring consolation races for a regular show.
“Me and Alex Ferree and Mike Pegher, we always joke about that Street Outlaws show, like The List,” King said. “There’s like five or six really good guys that can win that can win any night. But then there’s a lot of guys that are good role players, that if the situation worked out really good, they can win.
“Alex (Ferree), I think he’s won 28 championships there now, and (Jared) Miley , (Mike) Norris … even guys like this Michael Lake, I’m impressed with him. He’s 16 and he’s been coming down and he’s been really tough. Max Lux, he’s been a staple in this area forever. They’ve got a really good core group of good guys. It’s just tough.”
But facing those stout fields of regional competition has King dialed in for the weekend, as the World of Outlaws tour makes it’s way to Lernerville for the Firecracker 100, headlined by Saturday’s $30,000-to-win main event. The shorter race distance better suiting his driving style, King said he’s excited for Thursday and Friday’s preliminary action.
“Everybody always says this, that and the other, ‘Oh a local could win the Firecracker!’ ” King said. “I for the biggest part, thought it was a bunch of bull. I’m a regional guy, I’ve never been a 100-lap guy. It’s so hard to think that you’re going to win a 100-lapper against those guys. Then Jared Miley last year led 70 laps of it or whatever, so it kind of brought a little belief to all of us.
“I’m really pumped up more so about the Thursday and Friday. That’s kind of more my style, the track’s a little bit wetter, it’s only 30 laps. After about 30 laps at that place, it’s wide open. I need a beer or something. I’m looking forward to Thursday and Friday because it’s more similar to what we’re racing. It’s a totally different ball game when it goes over 30 laps.”
King has qualified for the 100-lapper in the past, but admits that the Saturday show has always been harder for him. While a strong weekend performance would mean a lot to the Lernerville regular, he knows it will be back to business come Monday.
“Not last year, but the year before, I want to say I ran decent in one of those prelim nights,” King said. “We ran good in that in then the next night we ran half decent. It seems like Saturday, we’ve always just been missing something. I don’t know if we’re just so hungover from Thursday and Friday and we’re just not feeling it or whatever, but we’ve never been really good. It’d mean more than me to contend and be competitive in the first two nights. It’s so hard because I know my style ain’t that 100-lap style.
“At the end of the day, Monday I’m going to be down here washing all these modifieds and servicing cars. You’re always pumped up about it … just like Mercer, we won that and we were happy. Once we got home and started working on stuff for this week, it’s like you almost forgot you even won, because you’re back trying to get better for the next one. We’ll see how it goes and go from there.”
• With another sweep of Super and Limited Late Model features June 18 at Senoia (Ga.) Raceway, hometown driver Clint Smith has 11 victories in his last 14 starters overall in both divisions.
• Jonathon Ortega of Las Cruces, N.M., swept June 17-18 Late Model action at Western Tech Speedway Park in El Paso, Texas, and his hometown Southern New Mexico Speedway. He also swept the previous weekend, giving him four feature victories over a nine-day stretch.
• Scoring a two-victory weekend June 17-18, ULMA rookie Aaron Marrant of Richmond, Mo., won at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., and Central Missouri Speedway in Warrensburg.
• Continuing a hot streak, Jake Neal of Omaha, Neb., notched his fourth straight IMCA Late Model victory at Shelby County Speedway in Harlan, Iowa.
• Twice outrunning WoO regular Chub Frank, Doug Drown of Wooster, Ohio, swept June 17’s double features at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park.
• Overtaking Skip Lindemuth on the final lap, Paul Kot of DuBois, Pa., grabbed June 18’s Late Model victory at Hummingbird Speedway in Newberrytown, Pa.
First things first
First-time occurrences at the dirt track:
• Notching his first WISSOTA Late Model victory, Kelly Duffy of Winner, S.D., outran former track champion Kent Arment on June 18 at Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron, S.D.
• At Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park on June 18, Nick Bocook of Wheelersburg, Ohio, notched his first Super Late Model victory at the track while Limited Late Model winner Jacob Curnutte of Lavalette, W.Va., captured his first feature of any kind.
• Delaware International Speedway in Delmar also had a pair of first-time winners on June 18. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Dylan Evans of Millsboro, Del., won his first Super Late Model feature while Steven Baker of Georgetown, Del., broke through in the Crate Late Model division.
• In his 14th year of racing, Bill Koons of Omaha, Neb., won his first Super Late Model feature in a June 17 photo finish at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. His best previous finish in 2016 was 12th. His son Billy won the night's Crate Late Model feature.
• Becoming the fifth winner in five 2016 races at Freedom Motorsports Park, Damian Bidwell of Eldred, Pa., notched his first victory at the Delevan, N.Y., oval.
• On June 10 at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, S.D., Lynn Amick grabbed his first feature victory at his hometown track.
Weekly news briefs
• Senoia (Ga.) Raceway stripped the June 11 fourth-place Crate Late Model finish of Jimmy Thomas of Phenix City, Ala., after lab tests found a tire sample didn’t meet Hoosier Racing Tire benchmarks.
• Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn., has shifted its weekly programs to Fridays instead of Saturdays. Track owner Bob Harris announced that Michael Luna and Scott Shelton of Crossville (Tenn.) Speedway will promoter the track’s July 3 special event, a $3,000-to-win Super Late Model program.
• Reigning Tri-City Motor Speedway champion David Hilliker of Midland, Mich., will be among the 2016 inductees into the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame in November. The 52-year-old Hilliker has more than 100 career feature victories and eight track championships.
• The dirt track in Sheridan, Wyo., which closed under track owner Craig Draper last month, will reopen June 26 under promotership of the Sheridan Motorsports Association.
• Reigning East Bay Raceway Park Limited Late Model champion Paul Gibbs of Plant City, Fla., died Monday, the Gibsonton, Fla., racetrack reported. He was 51. Gibbs was also the 2006 street stock champion at the third-mile oval.
• Midway Speedway in Crooksville, Ohio, has added the Topless 40 to the schedule, a $4,444-to-win event for Super Late Models on July 1.
• Two-time Late Model champion and inaugural Red Clay Classic winner Johnny Johnson will join the ABC Raceway Hall of Fame with seven others in August, the Ashland, Wis., track announced. Johnson, who had 32 career feature victories at ABC while winning titles in 1972 and ’74, captured the first Red Clay Classic Late Model feature in 1976 and won it again in ’78.
Weekly points chases
AMRA (Super Late Models): Tyler Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va. tops the standings with 787 points over Freddie Carpenter (707) and Ronnie Mayle (679).
IMCA (Limited Late Models): Through June 16, Rob Toland of Davenport, Iowa, has 680 points to lead Andy Nezworski (591) and Luke Goedert (518).
ULMA (Limited Late Models): As of May 16, Jon Melloway of Hallsville, Mo., has 850 points to lead Dustin Hodges (754) and Todd McCoin (670).
UMP DIRTcar (Super Late Models): Through June 12, McKay Wenger of Fairbury, Ill., tops the standings with 1,258 points over Rusty Schlenk and Michael Kloos who are tied with 1,040 points.
WISSOTA (Limited Late Models): Through June 12, Kent Arment of Aberdeen, S.D., has 778 points to lead Chad Becker (772) and Curt Gelling (738).
UMP DIRTcar (Crate Late Models): As of June 12, Roben Huffman of Midland City, Ill., tops the standings with 1,018 points over Nick Bauman (955) and Dakota Ewing (925).
Fastrak (Crate Late Models): David McCoy of Franklin, N.C., has 705 points to lead Colby Cannon (493) and Tyler Arrington (406).
NeSmith Chevrolet (Crate Late Models): Through June 22, Shannon Lee of Lumberton, Miss., has 560 points over Michael Arnold (514) and Dustin Knighten (488).
Sweeney Chevrolet RUSH (Crate Late Models): As of June 20, John Waters of Whitesville, N.Y., has 1,296 points to lead David Lyon (1,269) and Damian Bidwell (1,264).
Southeastern Crate Association (Crate Late Models): Dale Timms of Hodges, S.C., tops the standings with 526 points over Trent Ivey (514) and Dillon Brown (508).
Upcoming weekly specials
Among non-touring and independent special events coming up for Late Models at dirt tracks around the country:
Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway (June 24): Super Late Models make a rare appearance on the card at the 3/8-mile oval in western Kentucky (Crate Late Models get a night off).
Elkins Raceway in Kerens, W.Va. (June 24): Thanks to sponsorship from Jenkins Ford, the track is hosting a $2,000-to-win Super Late Model event along with a huge fireworks display.
Silver Bullet Speedway, Owendale, Mich. (June 24-26): The Locked & Loaded weekend includes Friday practice with prelims on Saturday and main events on Sunday.
Cedar Lake Speedway, New Richmond, Wis. (June 25): The second round of the NASCAR Dash miniseries pays $1,500-to-win for Late Models pointing toward the $10,000-to-win championship.
Madison (Minn.) Speedway (June 25): The track hosts a rare WISSOTA Late Model event paying $1,500-to-win. Five other divisions are in action.
Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway (June 25): Another round of the Moon Shine Camo Route 35 Challenge Series pays $2,000-to-win for Super Late mOdels. Action also includes the Firecracker 30 for sprint cars.
Sycamore (Ill.) Speedway (June 25): The Firecracker 44 includes four-bar Super Late Models, all other divisions and bubble gum races for the children.
Cottage Grove (Ore.) Speedway (June 25): The Loggers Cup pays $1,000-to-win for Late Models with NWWT sprints also in action Saturday; the track also hosts a Friday racing program (no Late Models).
Peoria (Ill.) Speedway (June 25): The Herb Shannon Memorial pays $500-to-win for the track’s steel-block engine Late Model division; a race car shot is scheduled for 1-3 p.m.
South Buxton Raceway, Merlin, Ontario (June 25): UMP DIRTcar-sanctioned Late Models battle in the Don Hendricks Memorial.
Benton County Speedway, Vinton, Iowa (June 26): IMCA Late Models return to the card for a monthly visit.