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.”
Mother Nature Wins The Weekend In Western PA
PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Mother Nature is putting a damper on the early portion of the Western Pennsylvania dirt track racing season as both Lernerville Speedway and Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway were forced to cancel their racing programs on Friday and Saturday night.
The inclement weather has forced Lernerville to postpone the Lernerville Grand, the 1,000th Sprint Car race in The Action Track’s storied history, two weeks in a row. Lernerville will host Military Appreciation Night on Friday, May 15, 2021 where Fab4 Racing will be on track.
PPMS was able to get in a full slate last weekend but has already made the decision to cancel Saturday night’s action. Racing will resume on Saturday, May 15, 2021, for an Action Event featuring the Rohrich Automotive RUSH Late Model Dirt Series, the Hobby Stocks, the Penn Ohio Pro Stocks, the Crawford Auto Repair Four Cylinders, and the All Ways Safe Young Guns.
UPDATE: Add Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio to the cancellation list thanks to the weather. An identical “Super Series” show will be coming up next Saturday night (May 15) as the “410” Sprint Cars return for $3,000 to-win along with the Gibson Insurance Agency Pro Stocks, HTMA/Precise Racing Products RUSH Sportsman Modifieds, and the Whelen Econo Mods. Pits open at 4 p.m. and grandstands at 5. Sprint Car group qualifying will take place at 6:30 p.m. with heat races at 7.
Hafertepe Hammers All Stars At Tri-City Raceway Park; Ruhlman Rush Sprint Star
FRANKLIN, PA (May 2, 2021): Sam Hafertepe, Jr. scored his first win with the FloRacing All Stars Circuit of Champions in thirteen years of competition with the series. The All Stars program was presented courtesy of Krill Recycling LLC of Fennelton, PA.
Taking the Gary Glass Automotive/Washington House RUSH Sprint Car feature was Chad Ruhlman aboard the Tim Engels machine from Franklin, PA.
“Running out front was the place to be,” Hafertepe said. He explained that track position gave him better opportunities to navigate around some difficult track conditions.
Sam Hafertepe, Jr. and Ian Madsen led the All Star field to the green flag. Row two belonged to Tyler Courtney and Matt Farnham. Starting in the third row were Cap Henry and Bill Balog and they were followed by Hunter Schuerenberg and Justin Peck. Cale Conley and Sye Lynch started in row five with Carl Bowser and Kyle Reinhardt in row six.
Hafertepe bolted into the lead followed by Courtney, Madsen, Farnham and Peck. Before the racers could settle in, however, Reinhardt flipped his machine in between turns one and two. He was not hurt, but neither he nor track favorite Jack Sodeman, Jr. were able to continue.
Hafertepe assumed the lead again with Madsen, Farnham, and Henry in tow. Peck was applying the pressure and he began his move to the front. He reached fourth by lap four and third by lap five.
A caution for the lazy spin by Lynch in turn four bunched the field up and gave Peck an opportunity to challenge the leaders. He was hounding Courtney while Hafertepe ran out front by himself. Peck moved into second on lap seventeen before the pace was slowed due to Cory Eliason stopping in turn two.
On the ensuing restart, Peck made a bold move in turn one, but he snagged a rut and flipped his machine ending an impressive run up from the eighth starting spot.
Hafertepe completed the remaining eight laps without further ado. Courtney posted his best All Stars finish to date, second. Madsen crossed in third and gained enough points to take command of the All Stars series championship. Balog and Henry were fourth and fifth. Schuerenberg was sixth followed by Conley, Paul McMahan, Paige Polyak and Wise.
McMahan was the All Stars Hard Charger with thirteen positions advanced. Brandon Matus took the Fisher and Father NAPA Auto Parts Pro Performer Hard Charger award at plus five.
Balog, Farnham, Schuerenberg, and Henry were victorious in the heat races for the All Stars. Bob Felmlee nailed the second turn wall in his heat race, inflicting major damage on the car. Felmlee was unhurt. Lynch spun while racing second in his heat, but he was able to restart and made the transfer to the A Main.
Hafertepe, Jr. and Madsen captured the twin Dashes for the All Stars.
The B Main winner was McMahan. Dan Shetler was unhurt in his crash in turn one during the B Main.
The evening’s fastest qualifier overall was Justin Peck, with a lap of 14.998 in Group C. It was a new track record. He was the only driver to crack the 15 second mark. Courtney was the fastest in Group A, Madsen in Group B, and Lynch in Group D.
Teenager Nolan Groves and Brian Hartzell paced the Gary Glass Automotive and Washington House RUSH Sprint Car feature. Gale Ruth, Jr. and Chad Ruhlman were in the second row with Tyler Newhart and Rod George in the third row.
Ruhlman and Hartzell battled for the early lead with Ruth and George in hot pursuit. Ruth was the man to watch, going from third to first on lap four. However, Ruth was crowded and got into the outside wall, bending two wheels. He limped off the track after leading just one lap.
Ruhlman and Hartzell resumed the battle for the lead, but soon a new challenger appeared. Rod George showed everyone that he still remembered the fastest way around the big half mile. He took second on lap nine and chased down Ruhlman.
Ruhlman and George went back and fourth for several laps before Ruhlman seized control again. Soon thereafter, George’s car began to sputter and he had to retire from the race with nineteen laps down. However, while he and Ruhlman were entertaining the fans, Brad Church, Arnie Kent, and Newhart were fighting for third.
George’s misfortune set up a green checkered finish. Ruhlman completed the final lap, with Hartzell in second. Church, Kent, and Blaze Myers completed the top five. Newhart, Ricky Tucker, A.J. MacQuarrie, George, and Steve Pedley rounded out the top ten.
In the Rush Sprint Car heat races, Nolan Groves and Rod George captured the wins. Donovan and Bauer Auto Group of Titusville presented the heat races. There was no B Main.
Remember that there will be no racing at Tri-City Raceway Park on May 9 in observance of Mother’s Day. Action will resume on May 16, with a Sunday Thunder program featuring the Shawgo Real Estate LLC 410 Sprint Cars, the Krill Recycling LLC 358 Modifieds, the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Pro Stocks, and the 4 Your Car Connection Mini Stocks. May 16 will also be Military Night with all veterans and current members of the armed forces admitted free of charge with proper identification. May 23 will be a special program for the ULMS Late Model Series and the 305 Sprint Cars. The 305 Sprints will have double features. The month of May will conclude on May 30 with another Sunday Thunder racing event.
Flo Racing All Stars (25 laps): Sam Hafertepe, Jr., Tyler Courtney, Ian Madsen, Bill Balog, Cap Henry, Hunter Schuerenberg, Cale Conley, Paul McMahan, Paige Polyak, Zeb Wise, Sye Lynch, Brandon Spithaler, Carl Bowser, T.J. Michael, Brandon Matus, Frankie Nervo, Justin Peck, Matt Farnham, Lee Jacobs, Lucas Wolfe, Kyle Reinhardt, Jack Sodeman, Jr., Gary Taylor. DNQ: Skyler Gee, George Hobaugh, Greg Wilson, Brent Matus, Brett Brunkenhofer, Ken Rossey, Darin Gallagher, Dan Shetler, Michael Bauer, Bob Felmlee.
Gary Glass Automotive/Washington House RUSH Sprints: Chad Ruhlman, Brian Hartzell, Brad Church, Arnie Kent, Blaze Myers, Tyler Newhart, Ricky Turner, A.J. MacQuarrie, Rod George, Steve Pedley, Gale Ruth, Sr., Gale Ruth, Jr., Nlan Graves, John Mollick (DNS).
Justin Peck Wins Buckeye Cup At Sharon Speedway
HARTFORD, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Justin Peck led wire-to-wire to win the FloRacing All Star Circuit of Champions ‘Buckeye Cup’ Saturday at Sharon Speedway.
Peck withstood a challenge from second place finisher Cole Duncan before pulling away to claim the victory, his second in the ‘Buckeye State’ after winning at Attica Raceway Park in April.
“We were able to put a whole night together,” said Peck. “We qualified good enough tonight where we just had to transfer through our heat race to make the dash, and that’s the name of the game. You need to put yourself in a position early and start up front in these things. We fine tune things as the night goes on. I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Peck jumped out to the early lead with Hunter Schuerenberg, Cole Duncan, Dave Blaney, and Ian Madsen giving chase before encountering lap traffic on lap 11.
The lap traffic was just enough to impede Peck as Duncan and Blaney started closing in, eventually catching him on lap 16.
“I tried to lose that race there pretty early on by running the top and smacking the wall,” said Peck. “I actually knocked the ladder out of the car before we even got ten laps in. I just had to smarten up a little bit after that. I knew we had a fast race car. I just needed to finish the race.”
Peck started pulling away by lap 22 as Duncan, Blaney, Madsen and Zeb Wise fought it out for the remaining podium spots. Duncan crossed the start/finish line in second place followed by Blaney in third, however Blaney was eventually disqualified for missing the scales after the race. Blaney was credited with a 25th place finish.
The All Stars continue their Pennsylvania – Ohio weekend with at stop at Merle Black’s Tri-City Raceway Park in Franklin, PA.
A-Main (30 Laps):
1. 13-Justin Peck ; 2. 22C-Cole Duncan ; 3. 11-Ian Madsen ; 4. 10-Zeb Wise ; 5. 17B-Bill Balog ; 6. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg ; 7. 81-Lee Jacobs ; 8. 4-Cap Henry ; 9. 5-Paul McMahan ; 10. 26-Cory Eliason ; 11. 97-Gary Taylor ; 12. 3C-Cale Conley ; 13. 42-Sye Lynch ; 14. 7BC-Tyler Courtney ; 15. O8-Dan Kuriger ; 16. 11B-Carl Bowser ; 17. 29-Michael Bauer ; 18. 28-Skylar Gee ; 19. 6-Bob Felmlee ; 20. 5K-Adam Kekich ; 21. 8M-TJ Michael ; 22. 22-Brandon Spithaler ; 23. 12-Darin Gallagher ; 24. 23JR-Jack Sodeman Jr. ; 25. 10B-Dave Blaney  Lap Leaders: Justin Peck (1-30)