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2-Time Lernerville Champ Michael Norris Living The Dream Driving For Clint Bowyer

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Heath Lawson / heathlawsonphotos.com

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.”

Three Rivers Karting

A week later Norris parked Cerenzia’s car in Victory Lane at Lernerville again, this time in the preliminary to the Firecracker 100.

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.”

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Local Racing

Alex Ferree Wins Art Osmer Memorial At Lernerville

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Lernerville Speedway

SARVER, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Alex Ferree led wire-to-wire to win Friday night’s 4th Annual Art Osmer Memorial race for the Precise Racing Products Late Model Division at Lernerville Speedway.  Kenny Schaltenbrand finished second and Colton Flinner rounded out the podium.

Dan Kuriger captured the checkered flag in the Peoples Natural Gas 410 Sprint Car feature.  The victory was Kuriger’s first at ‘The Action Track’ since 2017.  Michael Bauer and Brandon Matus finished second and third respectively.  AJ Flick finished fourth and leads the points, 229-214, over Matus.

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It was a battle of the King’s in the Diehl Automotive Big Block Modified feature.  Rex King Sr. held off Rex King Jr. to score his second victory of 2021.  Dave Murdick finished third.  Jeremiah Shingledecker leads the points by five over Garrett Krummert.

In the Millerstown Pic-A-Part Penn Ohio Pro Stock main event, Chris Schneider scored his 27th feature win at Lernerville holding off points leader Corey McPherson and Brett McDonald.

The action returns on Tuesday, August 3 as Lernerville plays host to a ‘Test and Tune’ night plus a full program for the Blazczak Home Heat Mini Stocks. Racing starts at 7:30 PM while the grandstands are free.

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Dirt Racing

Campbell Claims Grove Win; Locke Doubles in 358s

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Williams Grove

WILLIAMS GROVE, PA (July 30, 2021) – Matt Campbell held off the heavy hitters to score his second career 410 Sprint Car victory at Williams Grove Speedway. Although he was scored as the leader for all 25 laps, he had to survive the attacks by Danny Dietrich a third of the way through the race and then he had to fend off Lance Dewease in the closing laps. It was Campbell’s first win since taking over the reins of Jerry Parrish’s car following the retirement of his long-time driver, Brain Montieth.

“I was watching the track to see if the rubber was coming in,” Campbell said. After he had trouble passing a lapped car, he knew that it was time to move down in the rubber. On the final two restarts, Campbell had Dewease right behind him. So, Campbell had to keep the car pinned to the inside. “I heard Lance try to roll the top on me, but I just stayed in the rubber.”

Campbell and Dewease were on the front row by virtue of their heat race wins. Third place starter, Danny Dietrich, was also a heat winner. Next to him was Anthony Macri. Jared Esh and Aaron Bollinger were in the third row, with T.J. Stutts and Alan Krimes in the fourth. The fifth row featured Devon Borden and Freddie Rahmer, Jr. The sixth row paired Lucas Wolfe with Dylan Norris.

Campbell jumped out to the lead, but Dewease got a poor start, losing several positions on the opening lap. That put Macri and Dietrich ahead of him, with Bollinger, Rahmer, Esh, Stutts, Borden, and Wolfe fanned out behind him.

With Campbell leading Dietrich, it took Dewease several laps to get rolling. He worked into third, passing Macri with eight in the books. Around that same time, Dietrich caught up to Campbell and he started throwing slide jobs at the leader. Although Dietrich did draw up alongside Campbell a few times, he was never able to slide up in front of him to take the lead away.

“Danny definitely raced me clean,” Campbell noted. “I could see him half way through the corner and I knew if I got on the gas I would pull him off the corner.” The strategy worked for Campbell, and he was able to retain the lead despite the thrusts by Dietrich.
After Dietrich’s bids for the lead failed, he started falling back to Dewease. Dewease chased him through the middle stage of the race before overtaking him with seven laps remaining.

Dewease started to close in on Campbell, and cautions on laps 20 and 22 erased the margin completely. On the first restart, Dewease tried to poke his nose inside of Campbell entering turn one, but Campbell pinched down and did not give Dewease an opening. On the second restart, Campbell committed to the inside line and Dewease went high to try to drive around him. But, Campbell’s car was good in the rubber and he was able to put a couple of car lengths between them.

Campbell went on to the win, besting Dewease by 0.512 seconds. Dietrich was third, followed by Rahmer, Stuttsm Wolfe, Chase Dietz, Macri, Mark Smith, and Bollinger. Macri gave up his top five position when he had to pit to replace a flat right rear tire during one of the final restarts.

The B Main winner was Chris Arnold.

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Derek Locke had a much easier time of it, especially in the non-stop nightcap for the 358 Sprints. That one he led wire-to-wire. He patiently worked his way to the front in the opening feature, which was a make-up event from a rained out race a couple of weeks ago. The pair of wins were his fifth and sixth of the season at Williams Grove, and he is undefeated in feature event competition. His winnings for the night were $4,000, better than all but Campbell.

“I was a little tight early, and I had to figure out how to drive teh track,” Locke said after his win in the make-up race. “About halfway through, I knew that I had a good car.” As for the second feature, Locke said that it was a matter of luck because he drew the pole. However, his strategy was to save the tires, and he was never seriously challenged, lapping all the way up to the seventh place car. “I could pass in the rubber,” he explained.

In the opener, Brett Wanner and Cody Fletcher were on the front row, with Rich Eichelberger and Nat Tuckey in the second. Kody Hartlaub and Steve Owings were in the third row, with Travis Scott and Chad Criswell in row four. Matt Findley and Locke were in row five. Row six paired up Tyler Brehm and Devin Adams.

Wanner took the early lead, with Owings, Eichelberger, Fletcher, Tuckey and Hartlaub trailing. Wanner’s lead did not last for long, as his car slowed after just a couple of rounds. Owings inherited the lead, with Eichelberger, Fletcher, and Tuckey fighting for the next few positions.

Meanwhile, Locke was carefully moving forward. He reached sixth by lap seven and he was into the top five at lap ten. By the halfway mark, he was fourth, and he climbed to third on lap 14. A restart bunched the field up for him, and he took over second on lap 17. On the next circuit, he was in the lead.

Locke completed the remaining laps without any difficulty. Owings held on for second, followed by Eichelberger, Fletcher, Scott, Criswell, Tuckey, Chris Frank, Findley, and Hartlaub.

In the nightcap, Locke was on the pole and Findley was next to him. Zachary Cool and John Stehman were in the second row, followed by Justin Foster and Devin Adams. Tuckey and Criswell were in row four, with Frank and Scott next. Eichelberger rolled off in eleventh, and Owings made it an even dozen.

Locke bolted to the lead on the initial start and he was never headed. The field got strung out, with Findley holding second for most of the contest. Later, he gave way to Frank. Findley crossed in third, with Stehman and Foster following. Tuckey and Scott were the last two drivers on the lead lap. Criswell, Owings, and Cool completed the top ten.

The 358 Sprint heat winners were Eichelberger and Locke. There was no B Main.

Next week, Williams Grove Speedway will present the Billy Kimmel Memorial for teh 410 Sprints and the Super Late Models. On the 13th, no racing is presently scheduled due to the Knoxville Nationals. August 20, racing will resume with the 410 Sprints paired up with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. The All Star Circuit of Champions will be in on August 27 for the Jack Gunn Memorial Twin 20s.

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Dirt Racing

Marks Makes Posse Proud

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WILLIAMS GROVE, PA (July 24, 2021): Brent Marks declared his allegiance to the Pennsylvania Posse in victory lane at Williams Grove, much to the delight of the substantial crowd on hand for the finale of the 20th Summer Nationals at Williams Grove Speedway, The fans were in a forgiving mood because, regardless of affiliation, he was the first Pennsylvania driver to defeat the World of Outlaws at the Grove in over two years.

Marks was a bona fide member of the Posse before leaving to spend a couple of seasons with the Outlaws. For 2021, his plan was to follow the All Stars Circuit of Champions aboard the CJB Motorsports entry. However, the driver from Myersdale, PA is back in his family-owned Sprint after parting company with the CJB team earlier this season. While Marks spends most of his time racing locally, he does wander off on occasion, such as his recent journey to Eldora Speedway for the King’s Royal events last week.

“The track was very tricky tonight,” Marks said. “We had a lot of trouble with lapped cars,” he added. He also acknowledged his good luck, as he twice lost the lead to last night’s winner, Sheldon Haudenschild. The two lead changes occurred well before the scoring loop and neither was counted as official. On one occasion, Marks was bailed out by a caution for one of those troublesome lapped cars and, on the other, Haudenschild popped a wheelie going down the back stretch after taking the green and Marks gathered himself back up to drive past while Haudenschild fought to regain control.

Haudenschild positioned himself for a repeat performance, starting the thirty lapper on the pole. Donny Schatz was on his flank. Lance Dewease got to start seven rows closer to the front this night, and Marks was lined up next to him. David Gravel was in the third row, along with Carson Macedo. Anthony Macri and Lucas Wolfe had row four, and Aaron Reutzel was matched with Troy Wagaman, Jr. Devon Borden and James McFadden were in row six.

Schatz got the early advantage over Haudenschild, Marks, Dewease, and Macedo. By the time the field got to the scoring loop, though, Marks was into second, and Macedo moved ahead of Dewease.

Schatz reached lapped traffic quickly, catching the backmarkers on lap six. Soon thereafter, Marks was on his tail. Marks took a run at the leader, but could not make the pass. He came back in turn one on lap eight, but he got up over the cushion, and he lost second to Haudenschild briefly. Marks rallied back in turn two and regained second heading down the back stretch.

A couple of laps later, Macedo took a look to the inside of Haudenschild for third. Macedo could not make the pass in turn four and Haudenschild scooted away.

Three Rivers Karting

The top six got into single file formation as they worked through traffic. Schatz was the leader, followed by Marks, Haudenschild, Macedo, and Dewease. Gravel and Mcfadden were battling for sixth, with Macri lurking close behind them.

Marks made a bid for the lead in turn one with twenty laps completed. He slid up ahead of Schatz to a thunderous ovation. Haudenschild repeated the maneuver two laps later to take second.

Haudenschild began to catch Marks, who was having his share of troubles with the slower cars he encountered. Haudenschild dove low into turn one and made a slide job to get past Marks. Unfortunately, Freddie Rahmer, Jr. was up on the cushion, and Haudenschild could not clear him. There was contact and Rahmer got into the heavy dirt above the groove. As he came to a stop on the outside of turn two, Haudenschild darted toward turn three.

The resulting caution put Marks back on the point for the restart, but Haudenschild was not quite done yet. When racing resumed, he tried another slider on Marks, but he could not complete the pass. He got a good run off the inside of turn two and surged ahead. As he was doing so, the front wheels raised up and Haudenschild had to struggle to maintain control. He did, but Marks was able to motor by him heading toward turn three.

While that action was going on up front, Dewease dropped to the inside and he tried to pick off Macedo in turn one. He got alongside, but lost his momentum. Macedo pulled away, and now Dewease was under attack from McFadden and Gravel. The cluster of three came off turn four and Dewease was stuck in the middle, fighting to save his position in the top five. He was successful, but he could not catch Macedo in the remaining laps to attempt another pass.

Marks made the appointed rounds without further challenge from Haudenschild. Third went to Schatz, followed by Macedo and Dewease. Macri grabbed sixth in the final laps. McFadden was seventh, then came Gravel, Reutzel, and Wolfe.

The four heat winners were Haudenschild, Marks, Macri, and Macedo. The dash victor was Haudenschild who also set the fastest time in qualifying, at 17.262 seconds. The B Main winner was Logan Schchart, who also garnered the hard charger award. He advanced nine positions in the A Main.

Williams Grove Speedway will return to action on July 30, with a Sprint Car Doubleheader. The 410s will be joined by the 358s on York Racing Club night. The Billy Kimmel Memorial will be held on August 6, featuring the 410 Sprints and the Super Late Models.

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