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.”