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

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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.”

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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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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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