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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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RUSH Late Model Series Enhancing ‘Track Pack’ Program For 2021

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PULSAKI, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The RUSH Late Model Series is bringing back and enhancing their ‘Track Pack’ program for 2021.

The ‘Track Pack’ program debuted in 2016 and continued through the 2019 season before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the program in 2020. Each of those four years, $800 was split amongst the top five RUSH members with $300 to the champion at each RUSH weekly-sanctioned track.

In 2021 RUSH Late Model weekly-sanctioned tracks top-six will share in $2,500!  RUSH weekly member racers will accumulate points at each event and at the end of the year the top six in member points will split $2,500 with $1000 going to the champion followed by $500, $400, $300, $200, $100 for positions 2-through-6. These monies will be awarded over and above any other championship monies drivers will receive.

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“We’ve always known the strength of RUSH lays within our weekly tracks and the racers who support them,” said RUSH Director Vicki Emig. “During the pandemic, the average car counts at our weekly tracks were very impressive as most all tracks increased. In the past the ‘Summer Chase’ gave just 10 racers additional monies, but we feel by taking that money and adding another approximate $14,000 to the ‘Track Pack’ we can allow substantially more racers the ability to take home additional weekly monies at the end of the year.”

Prior to COVID-19 RUSH had announced the Touring Series Championship point fund would double to $35,500 with a record $12,000 going to the champion! This will now take place in 2021. The Touring Series schedule continues to come together and is expected to be similar to 2020’s before the pandemic.

The 2021 season is expected to be the richest in RUSH Racing Series history, which includes the RUSH Late Models, Sprint Cars, Sportsman Modifieds and Pro Mods, with additional programs and events planned throughout.

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Motivated Maresca Masters Bridgeport

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BRIDGEPORT, NJ (November 8, 2020): Mike Maresca, the 2020 Fonda Speedway champion from Pottsdam, NY, scored his first career Big Block Modified victory in the final race of the season at Bridgeport Motorsports Park. The win was only worth $5,000 to him becasue he neglected to pay the Gambler’s Fee when registering for the race.

“I’ve always enjoyed coming to Bridgeport, even when it was 5/8ths,” Maresca said. He dedicated the win to the late track manager, Danny Serrano, noting “he was an awesome fan and a good friend.” Maresca went on to say that he received a text from Serrano the day before he died, and that he drew inspiration from it.

Jack Lehnar and Rich Rutski were paired on the front row for the start of the fifty lapper. Behind them, in the second row, were Ryan Watt and Ryan Krachun. Jimmy Blewitt and Jared Umbenhauer were in the third. Richie Pratt, Jr. and Mike Mahaney were in row four, followed by Maresca and Jeff Strunk. Then came Eric Kormann and Davey Sammons. Dillon Steuer and Matt Stangle were in row seven.

Lehnar led Watt into the first corner and they were followed by Umbenhauer, Rutski, Pratt, and Maresca on the opening lap. A two-car tangle at the back of the pack slowed the action.

When racing resumed Lehnar led the next eleven laps, but Watt was pressing him every inch of the way. Watt ‘s familiarity with the new configuration led him to the high side and he rode the rim in turns one and two to gain the lead while Lehnar hugged the inside. Soon after Watt assumed control, a caution slowed the pace again.

Watt pulled away on the ensuing restart, with Lehnar and Maresca fighting for second. Blewitt, Pratt, Umbenhauer, Krachun, and Mahaney trailed. Maresca moved into second just before another caution slowed the pace.

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Surprisingly, Watt took the inside line for the lap 18 restart, and that proved to be his undoing. Maresca blasted into the lead at the drop of the green and he held control all the way to the finish. While he was on cruise control, Watt stayed close. Behind them, Blewitt, Pratt and Krachun were locked in a battle for third.

The final two cautions came out with 27 laps in the books. When the racing got going again, Maresca stretched his lead, and Watt also separated himself from the rest of the field. Pratt slipped ahead of Blewitt. Krachun continued along in fifth.

The final 23 laps were run without any caution. While the top five remained static, positions six through ten were changing hands. Track champion, Billy Pauch, came on to grab sixth, bringing Dominic Buffalino with him. Billy Pauch, Jr., Strunk, and Ryan Godown completed the top ten.

There were five heats, and the wins went to Lehnar, Umbenhauer, Krachun, maresca, and Sammons. The pair of B Mains were split by Tyler Dippel and Danny Bouc.

Steve Davis romped to the win in the 602 Crate Sportsmen. This time,he had to battle with teenager Anthony Tramontana. They locked wheels going through turn one midway through the race, and Davis was able to break free. However, Tramontana spun out. Davis continued on for the victory, his second of the weekend. Paul Mancini was second, with Stacy Jackson, Steve Kemery, and Travis Hill completing the top five. Dan Fleming, Adam White, Sammy Martz, Jr., Howie Finch, and Wayne Weaver were the next five to cross the finish line.

T.J. Henry copped the Outlaw Stock feature. Lee Allen was second, closing out the season with just one finish outside teh top five. Mike Hughes got his second third place finish of the weekend. Jimmy Doer and John Parker were fourth and fifth.

The USAC Speedsters competed in a pair of feature events. The make-up race went to Kenny Miller, III, with Louden Reimert, Jared Silfee, Briggs Danner, and Ryan Godown chasing him home. Miller was set to start on the pole for the nightcap, but he pitted and had to go to the trail for the satrt. That moved Steve Buckwalter to the front row, and he was unbeatable from there. Godown was second this time, followed by Jeff Hartman, Reimert, and Tim Iulg.

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Local Racing

Yankowski Wins, then Crashes at Bridgeport in Mod 100; Cologiovanni Holds Off Smith in Sprints

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Alex Yankowski Racing

BRIDGEPORT, NJ (November 7, 2020): Alex Yankowski experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in the final moments of the Danny Serrano Memorial 100 at Bridgeport Motorsports Park. Moments after the sixteen-year-old pilot from Covington Township, PA took the checkered flag for the biggest win of his young career, he was involved in a spectacular crash that heavily damaged his potent Big Block Modified.

Also picking up wins were Paulie Cologiovanni in the United Racing Club 360 Sprint Cars and Steve Davis in the 602 Crate Sportsmen Invitational.

Yankowski started the century grind deep in the pack, twenty-third to be exact. Through the first half of the race, he drove very conservatively. “I tried to ride around and save the car,” he explained. Even after the midpoint, Yankowski did not appear amongst the leaders. It was not until about 57 that he cracked into the top ten. The car really came to life in the final thirty laps. By that time, he reached fifth, and he had probably the fastest car on the track.

A restart on lap 73 had him in fourth spot, but not for long. When the green light flashed on, he darted into second and was pressing veteran Ryan Godown for the lead. Yankowski dove low in turn three four laps later and slid up ahead of Godown. The rest was history.

Yankowski had to fend off a challenge from Ryan Watt in the final laps. Watt drew up beside him in traffic once, but the youngster rolled the top in turn one and opened up a three car length advantage coming off the second corner. Watt never got close again.

On the cool down lap, Yankowski was following some lappers that were fighting for position on their final circuit. Peter Britten spun in turn four and Yankowski went high to avoid him. Yankowski got into some lose dirt out by the wall and he got sucked in. He climbed the wall and the nose of his car got above the concrete and into the catch fence. The fence did its job of keeping the car on the track, but Yankowski mowed down a couple of posts that held the chain link fence and cables. The right front wheel was torn off and the car tumbled to a halt by the flagstand. Fortunately, no other cars struck Yankowski’s mangled machine. He climbed out unscathed and walked over to the ambulance. After spending some time getting checked out, he waived out the ambulance door to the adoring crowd before emerging for his post-race interview.

“We had a good car, obviously not so good now,” he said with a smile. Yankowski promised to get it patched up for Sunday’s fifty lap finale.

Ryan Krachun and Jimmy Horton led the field to the green flag, followed by Mike Mahaney and Danny Bouc. Jeff Strunk and Jojo Watson were in the third row, with Watt and Dwayne Howard in row four. Jared Umbenhauer and Danny Sammons were next, followed by Dom Buffalino and Dillon Steuer.

Krachun led the way until turn three on the opening lap. He rapped the outside wall and turned the lead over to Horton. Soon thereafter, Krachun stopped his car due to the damage it sustained.

On the ensuing restart, Watson used the outside line to pass Horton. Watson held sway until lap 41, when Bouc assumed command. Bouc continued out front until lap 59, when Godown blasted by. Godown had started in twenty-fifth position and he steadily moved forward through the first half of the race, Some of his moves in traffic were simply amazing.

Godown got a scare on lap 68 when he brushed the wall between turns three and four. He kept the car moving and did not lose his lead. Bouc did cut into the margin, but he was not close enough to seize the opportunity to pass the leader.

The turning point of the race came between laps 70 and 77. Two quick cautions bunched the field up on laps 70 and 73, giving Yankowski the chance to pick off some competitors in bunches. As noted, he moved into second on a restart and took the lead with 23 laps remaining.

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Watt was also coming forward in the stretch run. He was second by lap 85 and he did close in on the leader once. But, after Watt showed his nose beneath a lapped car, Yankowski fought back and he completed the rest of the laps with a comfortable margin.

Following Yankowski and Watt were Godown, Bouc, and Strunk. Frank Cozze, Mahaney, Matt Stangle, Rick Laubach, and Billy Pauch completed the top ten.

In the final race of the year for the URC Sprints, Alex Bright started on the pole, with Austin Bishop by his side. Cologiovanni was lined up third, with J.J. Grasson next to him. Chuck Hebing and Tim Tanner were in the third row, with R.J. Jacobs and Briggs Danner in the row behind. Then came Tyler Ross and Troy Betts and Ryan Smith and Derek Locke.

Bright jumped out front, followed by Bishop, Cologiovanni, Grasso and Hebing. Bright blew his engine while leading and turned the lead over to Cologiovanni with ten laps complete. Hebing gave chase until the halfway mark. That was when Ryan Smith took over second.

Smith got a couple of shots at the leader and he was able to execute a slide job in turn one once to grab the lead. However, Cologiovanni turned back under Smith in turn two to regain the lead. From that point on, Cologiovanni drove defensively. “I couldn’t really tell where somebody was catching me,” he said. “So, I was driving a defensive line. A couple of times, I got up in the marbles and clipped the wall, but I cut off two and was pretty fast.”

Cologiovanni led Smith to the checkers. Danner came on for third, followed by Hebing and Locke. Sixth went to Jason Schultz. Then Tyler Ross and the two title contenders, Josh Weller and Adam Carberry. Troy Betts completed the top ten.

Smith’s combined finishes of fifth on Friday and second on Saturday earned him the Midge Miller Memorial trophy. Smith said that this weekend was the most fun that he had in a Sprint Car all season. Readers may remember that Smith lost the ride in the Mike Heffner number 72 410 Sprinter just before the month of money in Pennsylvania.

Carberry clinched the points championship despite struggling throughout the race. His cause was aided somewhat by attrition. Plus, his rival, Weller, was caught up in an incident with Grasso just before the halfway sign. Weller’s car sustained some damage to the right rear corner which affected its performance. He brought the wounded car home one spot ahead of Carberry, but that was not enough to overcome the thirteen point deficit.

Heat winners in the Sprint Car ranks were Bishop, Cologiovanni, Ross, and Bright. Schultz won the B Main. Two Central PA favorites were eliminated in heat race action. Lucas Wolfe had an oil leak which led to a fire. Mark Smith was involved in a minor skirmish that damaged the right rear suspension and flattened a tire. Neither Wolfe nor Smith answered the call for the B Main.

In the Sportsmen Invitational, the first 28 laps were run off without any interruptions. Steve Kemery led that entire distance. However, the fireworks came after that. Second place runner Steve Davis went on the offensive on the restart. There was plenty of contact between the two racers over the final two laps. While they roughed each other up, Peyton Talbot made a charge for the win. He came up just a couple of feet short at the checkers.

Davis got the win, much to the disappointment of the remaining fans. Kemery and Talbot followed. Dan Fleming, Ryan Simmons, Sammy Martz, Jr., Howie Finch, Danny Buccafusca, Matt Peck, and Jim Houseworth rounded out the top ten.

Buccafusca, Davis, and Kemery were the heat winners for the Sportsmen. Davis won the dash to earn the pole position for the feature.

Bridgeport Motorsports Park will close out its season on Sunday with a fifty lapper for the Modifieds. Sportsmen, Street Stocks, and Speedsters will also be on the card. Racing will begin at 3 p.m.

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