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Norm Benning Hopes To Make History Again In NASCAR Truck Race At Eldora Speedway

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Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

ROSSBURG, OHIO (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Level Green’s Norm Benning is hoping to make history again tonight as the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series makes its annual visit to Eldora Speedway for the Eldora Dirt Derby Thursday night.

Benning, an independent, old-school driver, made Truck Series and NASCAR history by his sheer determination to get into the main event during the finish of the inaugural last chance race in 2013.

While Benning was conducting his post-race television interview, crews from other teams rushed to Benning’s truck to begin making repairs to his damaged truck.

“Norm, you just made this show a success,” Eldora Speedway owner Tony Stewart said at the time.

Stewart purchased Benning’s truck from that race and put it on display at Eldora.

“It was important to me just because of the history of the event,” Stewart told The Sporting News.  “I don’t know that everybody remembers who won the race as much as everybody remember Norm Benning’s last couple laps just to get in the race in the last chance race.”

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Eldora is the only non-paved venue that one of the NASCAR national series visits.  The half-mile dirt track also is the only race that sets the field through five qualifying races and the last chance qualifying race that Benning helped make historic.

Benning is one of thirty-two drivers are entered into Thursday night’s race along with defending race-winner Chase Briscoe, who was only in the race as a one-off for his ThorSport Racing Team.  Briscoe edged out teammate Grant Enfinger in a door-to-door battle to the finish.

Enfinger is looking for a win in 2019 along with Truck Series regulars Matt Crafton and Stewart Friesen.  A win would lock one of those drivers into the NASCAR playoffs.

Friesen finished third last year and sat on the pole position at Eldora in 2017.  Friesen sits 13-points ahead of Harrison Burton, who sits in ninth place in the points standings, one spot outside the final qualifying spot for the playoffs.

Burton’s Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland sits 85-points behind the final spot held by Friesen so his only hope to get in with two races left before the playoffs.

Spectator gates open at Noon with Super DIRTcar Big Block Modified practice at 6:30 followed at 7 p.m. by the NASCAR Heat races.  The Super DIRTcar Big Block feature starts at 7:55 p.m. with the NASCAR Last Chance Race beginning at 8:15 p.m. followed by driver introductions at 8:40 p.m. and race at 9:00 p.m.

The race will be televised by FS1 beginning at 8:30 p.m. and can be heard on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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Larson Gets First Career Win at Williams Grove and Closes in on First Speedweek Title

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Williams Grove Speedway

WILLIAMS GROVE, PA (July 3, 2020 – Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kyle Larson put a stranglehold on the points championship in the 30th Annual Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek. After scoring his first career victory at the venerable speedway, Williams Grove, and third win of the week, Larson will be the odds-on favorite to tote home the largest share of the points fund for the nine-race series. If that comes to fruition, it will be the first time ever that an invader took the title against the best of the eastern Sprint Car scene.

“This is an historic race track,” Larson noted. “It was great to get my first win here and the first one for Paul (Silva, his car owner and crew chief) here. To get my first win here and have the 69K (Lance Dewease) behind me . . .” Larson’s voice trailed off and he appeared to be in deep thought.

Larson’s win may have come with some controversy attached to it. When he made the winning pass on Brent Marks, there was some contact. “There was definitely some contact on my part,” Larson admitted. “I wasn’t expecting him to go to the bottom.” Larson explained that Marks had been running the outside line pretty consistently and that he had just put a lap on another car. “I was committed to sliding him and he came down. I just misjudged it. I hated that we had some contact.” Fortunately, both drivers were able to keep control of their cars and neither one appeared to sustain any significant damage. Marks held second until he made a mistake of his own, going above the cushion in turn one with two to go, and opening the door for Dewease to drive by on the low side.

Dewease and Marks paired off in the front row for the prestigious Mitch Smith Memorial. Dewease was gunning for his 100th career win at the speedway and 30th career Speedweek victory, which would have tied him with Fred Rahmer for top honors in that category. Larson, who quipped the week before that he hoped that he would not be at the track to see Dewease reach the century mark, lined up third. On his flank was T.J. Stutts. Rico Abreu and Brian Montieth were in the third row. Then came Anthony Macri and Chad Trout. Kyle Reinhardt and Freddie Rahmer, Jr. claimed row five. Way back in 18th position was Danny Dietrich, Larson’s main rival for Speedweek supremacy.

Dewease bolted out to a two car length advantage over Marks. But, just as the racers were settling in for the 30 lap affair, disaster struck in turn four. A five-car jingle took place, with two cars turning upside down. Brock Zearfoss was able to make repairs and rejoin the field for the restart. None of the others–Jeff Halligan, Matt Campbell, Chase Dietz, and Mike Wagner–were able to continue. The good news was than none of the drivers were hurt.

On the second attempt, Dewease repeated his opening move. Marks remained close, with Stutts getting the edge over Larson and Montieth. Marks followed Dewease for the first few laps. With two in the books, he dropped to the inside of Dewease and surged ahead coming off the second corner. He would maintain the advantage until lap 23, when Larson muscled past him in the first turn.

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Dewease held second until lap 18. That was when Larson also came off the bottom of turn two to take over the position. Dewease fell back several car lengths but did not lose any other positions. Montieth was close in fourth but he could not quite get close enough to challenge for third. Abreu and Rahmer moved up a few positions in the middle stage of the race. But the man on the move was Dietrich. He made steady progress and reached the top ten with ten laps remaining.

Macri surrendered his top ten spot and Montieth forfeited his top five position when they encountered mechanical problems in the final five laps.

Dewease took advantage of Marks’ mistake and that pretty much closed out the action.

Larson completed the 30 laps in nine minutes and 28.754 seconds. Dewease checked in over two seconds later. Then came Marks, Abreu and Rahmer. Dietrich was sixth but lost valuable points to larson for the championship. Ryan Smith, Stutts, Trout and Lucas Wolfe completed the top ten.

Dewease, Montieth, Marks, and Stutts won the heat races. The B Main belonged to Campbell. Dewease was the fastest qualifier at 17.330 seconds.

Williams Grove will be racing next Friday, July 10, with 410 Sprints and the URC 360 Sprints. July 17, the track will have the All Stars Circuit of Champions on hand for the Tommy Classic honoring legendary driver Tommy Hinnershitz, the first winner in the history of the speedway. Speedweek will conclude Saturday night at the Port Royal Speedway. The Second Annual Greg Hodnett Classic will pay $10,000.

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COVID-19 Forces Cancellation of Saturday’s Racing At PPMS

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IMPERIAL, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Allegheny County Health Department’s new order has forced Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway (PPMS) to cancel Saturday’s racing program.

Saturday’s program included the 8th Annual Herb Scott Memorial for the RUSH Dirt Late Model Series as well as the RUSH Sprint Car Series, the RUSH Sportsman Modified Series, the PPMS Pro Stocks, the Keystone Coach Works Hobby Stocks, the Four Cylinders and the Young Guns.

The Health Department’s new order calls for a one-week closure of bars, restaurants and casinos as well as the cancellation of all activities or events over 25 people for a one-week time period.  The order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 3, 2020.

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“I know that people were angry and frustrated with recent developments including the surge in cases, the prior order and recommendations, as well as the state mask order,” said Bogen. “I also realize that this newest order won’t make any of that better but as Health Department Director, I am charged with protecting, promoting, and preserving the health and well-being of all county residents, particularly the most vulnerable. This is not a decision that I’ve made lightly but I believe it’s necessary based on the new cases in the county and the community spread that is occurring.”

In addition to the new order, Dr. Bogen also recommended a voluntary stay-at-home protocol for residents of Allegheny County.

This marks that 10th Pace Performance RUSH Dirt Late Model Touring Series event that has succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic this season.

PPMS has only had one weekend of racing since the pandemic began.  Track officials are planning to reschedule the Herb Scott Memorial to a later date.

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Larson Strikes Again

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HAGERSTOWN, MD (July 2, 2020 – Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kyle Larson extended his points lead in the 30th Annual Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek with his victory at Hagerstown Speedway in the Johnny Grum Memorial. His second win of the series boosted his margin to 110 points over Danny Dietrich and 190 over Freddie Rahmer, Jr. with just two races remaining. Larson earned over $5,000 for his night’s work.

Larson noted that the win was his first on one of the big half miles in the area. After his win two nights ago at Grandview Speedway, Larson expressed a preference for the smaller venues, which are few and far between here. “I like it a lot better now,” he said with a smile. “Any time you win, you have a lot of fun.” Larson made the win look very easy. “My car was really good, I could get through (turns) one and two pretty respectably. I could carry a lot of speed on entry and I could drive through the middle. I didn’t have to run the cushion, but I could slide up to it in two and get a good run down the backstretch.” He added that turns three and four held a lot of moisture through the night, so he could run the bottom at that end of the track.

Larson’s only disappointment was with the caution, which came out on lap 23 of 30. “I wanted it to stay green because I knew that I had lapped a lot of cars so I knew that I had a big advantage over the second place car.” That happened to be Brent Marks, who had taken the position away from Sammy Swindell in traffic. “I thought we may have had something for (Larson) after the yellow there, but I needed him to mess up a couple of times,” Marks commented. Swindell agreed. “I knew that I wasn’t going to get Kyle unless he messed up real bad.” Unfortunately for Marks and Swindell, Larson was free of any errors on this night.

The luck of the draw put Larson on the pole for the feature event, and he had his son, Owen, to thank for that. He quipped that Owen would have to do the honors for the rest of the weekend becasue it was the first good pill that he had during Speedweek. Brock Zearfoss was on the outside of row one. Marks and Swindell were in the second row. Then came Dietrich and Rico Abreu. Kyle Reinhardt and Ryan Smith were in row four with Anthony Macri and Freddie Rahmer, Jr. in the fifth row.

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Larson entered turn one with the lead and he never was pressured. Zearfoss held second position for the fist eight laps of the race. That was when Swindell powered off turn two to take it away from him. Abreu held fourth for a few laps before giving way to Dietrich and Marks. Macri, Kyle Moody, Smith, and Rahmer raced along in the top ten.

Marks took over the second position just two laps before the caution was displayed for Zearfoss, who spun in turn four while racing in the fifth spot. That eliminated all of the lapped cars that separated Larson from the rest of the pack, but when the green light came on again it did not take him very long at all to open up his lead over Marks and Swindell.

Larson completed the final seven laps without incident, as did Marks and Swindell. The same could not be said for Dietrich, however. With two circuits left, Dietrich slowed on the backstretch, losing several positions. benefiting most were Abreu and Rahmer, who completed the top five. Other beneficiaries of Dietrich’s misfortune were Macri and Smith. Following the faltering Dietrich across the line were Chase Dietz and Mike Wagner.

Scoring wins in their heats were Reinhardt, Marks, Smith, and Swindell. Robbie Kendall took the B Main. Larson’s quick time of 15.593 was just .013 seconds off the track record.

Hagerstown Speedway will host the Ultimate Late Model Series on Saturday for a $5,000 to win event. Speeweek round eight will be held Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway. It will be the Mitch Smith Memorial paying $15,000 to the winner. It will be a Sprint Car only show, with fireworks for added entertainment. Speedweek will then conclude at the Port Royal Speedway with the Greg Hodnett Classic paying another $10,000 for first place.

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