PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Two-time Lernerville Speedway track Champion Michael Norris is cherishing the opportunity to run for NASCAR star Clint Bowyer’s Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series team.
Norris started the 2019 season running his family owned Dirt Late Model and was off to a pretty good start.
“We had more races on our schedule than we’ve ever had, and we were having a lot of decent runs,” Norris told Pittsburgh Racing Now in a recent phone interview. “We got a couple of wins early.”
The early season success prompted Norris and his team to travel to Ohio for one of the biggest Dirt Late Model races in the Country. That’s when Norris’ season took a turn for the worst.
“We went to ‘The Dream’ out at Eldora and ended up hurting the motor there, so we hurried back and figured we would go to Lernerville if there was still enough time,” said Norris. “We went there and tore our other car up.”
Norris’ outlook for the season changed that weekend and it looked pretty bleak because of the expense associated with getting the cars back on the track.
“A lot of our funding for our race team comes from our family owned business,” said Norris. “The scrap market went down low and everything’s been kind of slow at our business so we kind of had to pull the reigns back a little bit.”
Norris pulled out his phone and sent out a text message and put in motion a series of events that began to brighten his outlook.
“I actually texted Brian Daugherty of Integra Racing Shocks after Eldora, after I hurt the motor, ‘you know anybody looking for a driver because we’re done’,” explained Norris. “Totally just an off-the-wall text, and he was like ‘you can drive Todd’s car at the Firecracker’.”
Daugherty was referring to car owner Todd Cerenzia of Canonsburg. Norris jumped in his car and started delivering immediate results.
“I actually used to race against that car at Pennsylvania Motor Speedway, when we started racing,” said Norris. “We took it out the weekend before the Firecracker to shake it down because the car hasn’t been ran (in an event), I think it was 2-years, and we won that night and the car was really, really good. It’s really good equipment.”
A week later Norris parked Cerenzia’s car in Victory Lane at Lernerville again, this time in the preliminary to the Firecracker 100.
— Lernerville Speedway (@Lernerville) June 22, 2019
The victory caught the attention of Bowyer and his Dirt Late Model Team. Bowyer’s driver Josh Richards was in the event.
“Mark and Josh Richards put in a good word for me, they’ve always been great to me and Brian Daugherty from Integra Shocks, but I think the Firecracker 100 helped, we ran really well. We won the preliminary night and I know Josh was racing that night, so I know the Bowyer’s were watching and I think that definitely helped me.”
Norris’ season took another turn shortly thereafter.
“The Bowyer’s called me and asked if I could fill-in for the injured Don O’Neal,” said Norris. “My dad, my wife and everybody, I talked to all of them about it, and even if it was just for that first weekend it was such a cool experience and really a dream come true. As long as it lasts it’s alright in my book.”
It looks like the opportunity could last into September.
“It all depends on how he (O’Neal) is making out recovery-wise on his knee,” said Norris. “I think right at the beginning of September is when he’s planning on coming back but it all depends. I’m just going to ride the roller coaster as long as I can.”
The Lucas Oil Late Models race Thursday and Friday nights at Florence Speedway in Kentucky for the 37th Annual Sunoco North/South Shootout and North/South 100.
“If I never do it again one of my lifelong goals was to be able to travel with this guys, at least do it once, so however long it lasts I’m cool with it and grateful for the opportunity,” said Norris.
Western Pennsylvania race fans can check out Norris, Richards and the Bowyer team later this month when the series travels to Mansfield Motor Speedway in Ohio for the Dirt Million.
“I’m kind of hoping maybe this will open doors,” said Norris. “I love this, this has always been a dream of mine.”
Determined Dewease Destroys Port Royal in Night Two of Tusky 50 Weekend
PORT ROYAL, PA (September 9, 2022): Lance Dewease romped to an impressive win on night two of the Tuscarora 50 weekend at Port Royal Speedway. The $10,000 win was number one hundred twenty-one in his career, putting him just eight wins behind Keith Kauffman on the track’s all-time list. For Dewease, it was his ninth Port Royal triumph against the All Stars in the fifty-nine races held at the Speed Palace, and his fourty-third career triumph with the touring series.
Dewease stamped himself as one of the favorites to take home the $60,000 winner’s share that will be on the line Saturday night. He has seven career wins in the classic, more than any other driver.
“It was a really good car last night, and it was good all night. We just timed sixth against a good group.” On this night, he timed second second in his group, which put him on the pole of his heat race. Although he had another tough group to race against, he had a much better starting position and easily won the preliminary to lock into the dash. While he did not get a good pill draw, he did pick up a couple of positions to move ahead in the feature line-up.
Dewease explained that his veteran crew made a motor change during the day and that they wanted to see how it would perform. The team also made a few other changes which he did not disclose. He added, “they know what they need to do to make it better.”
Dewease noted that the car does not like the dirty air. “I didn’t do a good job last night staying out of the dirty air. I did a better job with that (tonight). I was pretty good tonight keeping the wing loaded.”
Dewease mentioned that he got a break on a pair of lap eleven restarts. On the first try, Dewease entered the corner low to try to pass Giovanni Scelzi for second, and Danny Dietrich was able to sail past Dewease on the high side. But a multi-car wreck in the middle of the pack in turn one wiped that pass out and Dewease altered his strategy for the second go at it. That time, he entered the first corner in the middle and Dietrich did not have as much room to make a run on the outside. Dewease held third and then he went to work on Scelzi.
After dispatching Scelzi rather quickly, it only took Dewease three more laps to pass Brian Brown for the lead. “I didn’t want to show Brian a lane,” Dewease said. By the time Brown knew Dewease was down on the guardrail, the pass was history.
Dietrich used the high line to pass Brown about a lap later, and he was reeling in Dewease. The fans were ready for a full tilt fight for the lead in the waning laps, but Dietrich suddenly slowed coming off turn two on lap twenty-two. He stopped to bring out a caution. He went to the work area with teh assistance of a push vehicle, but the car was sitting down on teh right rear corner with apparent suspension damage that could not be repaired.
By winning the dash handily, Brown started from the pole. Scelzi was on his flank. Behind them were Cory Eliason and Kasey Kahne. Dietrich and Tyler Courtney lined up in the third row, followed by Brent Marks and Lance Dewease. Justin Peck and Rico Abreu were in row five, as the last of the dash competitors. Austin Bishop and Sye Lynch represented the millennials well in row six.
Brown, Scelzi, Courtney, Dietrich and Eliason led the way atthe start. Kahne, Marks, Dewease, Lynch, and Abreu followed. Dietrich slipped into third on lap two and he started to close on Scelzi when the first caution was displayed for Zeb Wise five laps into the contest.
Two laps after the race resumed, Dietrich was riding second, but Dewease was up to fourth and he was clearly the fastest car on the track at that time. Dewease sparred with Dietrich for a couple of laps before assuming the third position.
Another stoppage for Bill Balog set up the pair of restarts with eleven laps in the books. The first start was called off because of the chaos in turn one involving Lynch, Kahne, Bishop, and Mike Wagner. Wagner got airborne after running over the left front wheel that came off Lynch’s car. Wagner’s car was struck by two other cars while in the air and it briefly hung up on the tin that sits above the tiers of Armco barriers that ring the first and second turns. Fortunately, none of the drivers were injured in the wreck.
When the race officially resumed, Dewease was on a mission. He passed Scelzi for second on lap thirteen and Brown for the lead three laps later. Dietrich followed his advance, but he was several car lengths behind Dewease. The anticipated battle between Dewease and Dietrich never materialized, though, because of a mechanical failure.
Dewease easily outdistanced Brown over the final eight laps. Scelzi crossed in third. Marks briefly challenged for that position, but Scelzi was able to hold him off. Peck snuck by Marks for fourth in the final rounds. Positions six through ten went to Courtney, Dylan Cisney, Justin Whittal, Anthony Macri, and Eliason.
Whittal was the hard charger, coming from twenty-fourth to eighth.
“We were a third place car,” Brown said. He added that he was in the right place when Dietrich broke. Nevertheless, he was pleased with his run and he was looking forward to the fifty lapper on Saturday.
By starting the A Main with a provisional, Logan Wagner was named the 410 Sprint Car champion atthe speedway for the fifth time in his career.
The five heat winners were Eliason, Kahne, Dewease, Dietrich, and Abreu. Abreu battled Macri in the early going, but Macri made hard contact with the wall followed by a 360 between turns one and two. Somehow, he kept the car going and limped into the work area. Although the right rear tire was replaced, other damage prevented his return. Macri rebounded for the B Main victory. The C Main winner was Zach Hampton. For the second night in a row, Courtney was the fastest qualifier. His lap time was 16.225 seconds.
In the Super Late Model feature, veteran Jason Covert picked up the win. Although he started on the pole, he lost the lead at the start to his dancing partner, Mike Lupfer. Lupfer led the first ten laps before Covert took control. Once in the lead, Covert disappeared from the field.
In the second half of the race, Lupfer had an extended battle with Hayes Mattern for the second position. Lupfer held him off, though. Taking fourth at the end of the race was Colton Flinner. That assured him of his first track title. Gary Stuhler, who had a mathematical chance of taking the crown, was fifth. Last year’s titleholder, Dylan Yoder, was sixth. Gene Knaub, Trever Feathers, Dillan Stake, and Deshawn Gingerich rounded out the top ten in the non-stop affair.
Late Model preliminaries went to Lupfer, Yoder, and Flinner. There was no B Main.
Macri Masters Port Royal Tusky Opener
PORT ROYAL, PA (September 8, 2022): Anthony Macri celebrated the return to his familiar, family-owned mount by steering it into victory lane on the opening night of the Tuscarora 50 weekend at Port Royal Speedway. The $8,000 victory was his eighteenth of the season overall.
“We spent a month on the road and we got our butts kicked a little bit, but I learned a lot, different scenarios and tracks,” Macri noted. Truth be told, his experience behind the wheel of the Sam McGhee Motorsports number 11 was not all bad. He did chalk up a win with the car at the Bedford Speedway a couple of weeks ago. But, you could tell that he was more comfortable, and more aggressive, in his own car.
Macri fell back at the beginning of the race. While that may have concerned some, it was all part of his strategy to save his tires. He noted how tires worn in the heat races, and he wanted to make sure that he had enough rubber to go the distance. Conserving tires will be even more important in the big fifty lapper that will close out the fifty-fifth running of the Tuscarora 50.
“I wanted to play the beginning of the race calm and cool,” he explained. He dropped to third behind Bill Balog and Danny Dietrich. “Balog got out there and I decided , I knew, it was time to go.” And, once he got going, there was no stopping him.
Dietrich, who finished second, quipped, “I kept Anthony honest up until lap twenty-two. Then I came up on some lapped cars. They were running three abreast, a lot of dirty air.” Nonetheless, Dietrich was pleased with his performance. “That’s the best by far that this car has been up here. It really stuck in the middle.”
Perhaps the fastest car on the track in the second half of the race, though, was the Zemco number 1 driven by Logan Wagner. Wagner, who is seeking his fifth track championship this weekend, came on strong to take the third position. Wagner was disappointed with his run in the dash, which was only good enough to put him eighth on the grid. “I feel if I had capitalized a little better in the dash and put ourselves into a better position . . .” his voice trailing off.
Balog was on the pole as a result of his dash win. Macri was his wingman. Justin Peck and Dietrich occupied row two. Giovanni Scelzi and Mike Wagner were in row three. Jeff Halligan was slated to start inside row four, but when he had a fuel pump problem, he had to borrow a car to start at the rear of the field. That moved Lucas Wolfe up a row and placed him beside Logan Wagner. Justin Whittal and Cory Eliason made up row five. Freddy Rahmer, Jr. and Brian Borown were paired in row six.
The talent laden field included Brent Marks in row seven, Lance Dewease and Rico Abreu in row nine, Tyler Courtney in row ten, and Dylan Cisney in row ten.
Balog led Macri into turn one, with Dietrich fighting Peck for third. Dietrich prevailed, and he immediately pressured Macri for the second spot. Dietrich to that on lap two. Macri regained the second spot as the field completed lap five.
Meanwhile, Balog was setting a blistering pace. He was more than two seconds ahead of Macri at one point. However, Macri tracked him down and assumed command on lap eight. Soon thereafter, Dietrich took over second again and he began to reel in Macri.
By the halfway mark, Balog was fading. The top five included Macri, Dietrich, Peck, Mike Wagner, and Scelzi. Logan Wagner was sixth. After Balog came Whittal, Abreu and Marks. Dewease was up to eleventh and he was stalking Marks for a position in the top ten.
Logan Wagner picked up speed as the race went on. He was up to fourth by lap twenty and third by lap twenty-five. While he continued to close in on Dietrich, he was unable to make a move for second in the final rounds.
At the checkers, it was Macri over Dietrich, Logan Wagner, Peck, and Mike Wagner. Whittal was sixth, followed by Scelzi, Abreu, Dewease, and Marks.
Heat wins went to Balog, Eliason, Wolfe, Dietrich, and Halligan. The C Main went to Zach Hampton, with Courtney taking the B Main. The evening’s fastest qualifier was Courtney, who turned in a lap of 16.371 seconds.
In the PASS 305 Sprint undercard, it was Garrett Bard who was the third and final leader of the event. Drew Young started on the pole and led the first ten laps. However, he withdrew from the race after taking the crossed flags. That put Zach Rhodes into the lead, which he held for six rounds before giving way to Bard.
Rhodes held on for second, followed by Mike Melair, Ken Duke, and Jeff Weaver. Justin Mills, Scott Frack, Jimmy White, Tyler Snook, and Josh Spicer completed the top ten.
Bard, Rhodes, Mills, and Frack were the heat winners. The twin B Mains went to Kenny Heffner and Chad Phillips. The second B Main had a wild, three-car crash on the opening lap. Fortunately, none of the drivers were injured in the melee.
Labor Day Finale Sunday at Tri-City Raceway Park
FRANKLIN, PA (September 2, 2022): Tri-City Raceway Park will present its final race of the 2022 season on Sunday, September 4. Instead of the planned two-day special holiday event, the speedway will present a Sunday Thunder card. The standard purse structure will be used for all divisions and Sunday Thunder ticket pricing will apply. Pit gates will open at 2 p.m. and spectator admission will begin at 4 p.m. Racing will commence at 6 p.m., as usual.
The Shawgo Real Estate LLC 410 Sprint Cars, the Donovan & Bauer Auto Group 358 Modifieds, the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Pro Stocks, and the 4 Your Car Connection Mini Stocks will not be racing for points, as track champions were named following the racing on August 28, Congratulations to A.J. Flick, Kevin Hoffman, Tyler Wyant, and Levi Maskal for their success and thanks to all sponsors, competitors, and fans for their support.
The speedway grounds will be available all weekend for free camping even though racing activity will only be held on Sunday of the holiday weekend. The bonfire will be moved to Saturday night, with the time to be determined. All attending the bonfire will be responsible for their own refreshments.
“We regret any inconvenience for our racers and fans who were anticipating a two-day program to close out the season,” said track owner Merle Black. “Everybody is welcome to come to the speedway to enjoy camping and to gather with friends before we have our last show of the season on Sunday. The racers will be able to go all-out with no fear of how the outcome will affect the season championships,” he added.
Adult admission on Sunday will be $15 for those aged 16 to 62. Seniors, aged 62 and up, will be admitted for $13, Students aged ten through 16 will be admitted for $10. The children below age of ten will be admitted for free, as usual. The Family Passes will be $45, and that will apply for two adults of any age and two students. Pit Passes will be $30.
Further information about Tri-City Raceway Park can be obtained by calling the track office at 724-967-4601, or by e-mailing the office at email@example.com. Or, you can check the web at Tri-CityRacewayPark.com, or the Facebook page at Tri City Raceway Park. Tri-City Raceway Park is located just a few miles north of Franklin, PA, at 3430 State Route 417 in Oakland Township.