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Lernerville Speedway Crowns Four Track Champions

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Scott Stiller/Pittsburgh Racing Now

SARVER, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – History was made Friday night at Lernerville Speedway with Brian Swartzlander picking up his eighth track Championship and two drivers picking up their first.

Swartzlander entered the night tied with Rex King Jr in the Diehl Automotive Big Block Modified standings so every position had an impact on the title fight.  Jeremiah Shingledecker set the early pace with Swartzlander behind him in second place.  Swartzlander took a couple of looks underneath Shingledecker but couldn’t make the pass allowing Shingledecker to remain out front to grab his fourth win of the season.  Swartzlander’s second place finish locked up the big championship prize, the eighth of his Hall of Fame career, the most of any driver in the 50-years of racing at Lernerville Speedway.  King Jr couldn’t match the pace of Shingledecker or Swartzlander and came home with a sixth-place finish.

“It was nerve-wracking tonight,” said Swartzlander.  “You’d think after winning some championships, I think we’ve won 15 or 16 (total), it wouldn’t be nerve-wracking.  I was nervous all night tonight.  One little thing can cost you.  I had to be a little careful, but Jeremiah was pretty good.  The Championship was first.  This is pretty exciting.  It doesn’t get old that’s for sure.”

In the Peoples Gas DIRTcar Sprint feature, it didn’t take Sye Lynch long to get his Mosites Motorsports machine out front, grabbing the lead and setting the early pace.  Championship contender Carl Bowser was flexing his muscle as well, quickly moving up to second place with his sights set on Lynch. Points-leader Jack Sodeman Jr and AJ Flick, who was third in points coming into the evening, made steady progress up through the field into the top 5.  Midway through the feature Bowser caught Lynch and the pair traded slide jobs, even making slight contact at one point.  Lynch managed to hold off Bowser, who at that point had to contend with Flick. Flick got around Bowser for second as Lynch took home the checkered flag.  Sodeman Jr came home with a solid fourth place finish to pick up his second championship, his first coming in 2016.

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“We did what we needed to do there in the feature,” said Sodeman, a second-generation racer whose father Jack was a wheelman in his day.  “We weren’t the fastest car.  We didn’t win the battle, but I guess we won the war.  We had a little bit better luck than some of the other guys.  It always feels good when you end (the season) on good terms.”

In the Millerstown Pic-A-Part DIRTcar/RUSH Pro Stocks main event, Tyler Dietz held a four-point lead over defending champion Corey McPherson, who started on the pole position. McPherson bolted out to the early lead as Dietz methodically worked his way through traffic.  Dietz caught McPherson and passed him for the lead on lap 9. McPherson was able to get close a couple of times but never mounted a serious challenge as Dietz took home the victory and his first track championship.

“It means a lot to me,” said Dietz from Terry Bowser Excavating Victory Lane.  “I grew up down the road and now I’m a Champion.”

Ken Schaltenbrand also picked up his first track championship, locking up the title last weekend, so Friday night was all about the race win.  Colton Flinner must have got the message as he led all 25-laps to pick up his second victory of the season.

“I’m just happy and so glad it’s all over and the pressure is off me now,” said Schaltenbrand.  “Early in the year we broke a driveshaft and I thought we were done right there as far as points and it started turning around and we came and back here we are.  It feels awesome.”

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Local Racing

Pennsylvania Racing Economic Impact Surveys Released

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PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania (MCP) is sending out economic impact surveys to Pennsylvania race tracks, teams and racing related entities.

The data collected from the surveys will be compiled by Washington & Jefferson College professors Rob & Leslie Dunn, who along with the MCP, will produce a study on the range and economic impact of the racing industry in the Keystone State.

The economic impact study will be a valuable tool for race tracks, teams and marketing professionals in their efforts to attract partners, sponsors and other assets that may be available throughout the State.

Race teams are needed to take part in the survey!  Here is link to the team survey: https://forms.gle/XWTehM4nsKGfzTC58

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Fans are also asked to help the MCP in the efforts.  Here is a link to the fan survey so take a few minutes of your time to support race tracks and teams in this endeavor: https://forms.gle/vEcZR5XJbQHKPBLLA

Marketing and media professionals have a survey that the MCP is asking them to complete.  Here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/EX32bbXubANUaUGr7

Race tracks are also participating in the survey, if a track has not received a survey directly from the MCP, here is a link to that survey: https://forms.gle/fkhuwgg3EDvFTGuR7

The Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania hopes to have the Economic Impact Study completed by the start of the 2021 racing season.

Editors Note: Robert Johnson of the Motorsports Council of Pennsylvania will be one of the guests on the next episode of The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.

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Local Racing

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek Is Coming Back

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SHIPPENVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Five local dirt tracks are teaming up to bring back Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek for the 2021 season.

Michael’s Mercer Raceway (Mercer, PA), Thunder Mountain Speedway (Brookville, PA), Lernerville Speedway (Sarver, PA), Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH) and Tri City Raceway Park (Franklin, PA) are the five tracks where the owners and promoters have aligned to bring back the event for the 410 Sprint Cars.

“The ‘410 Sprint Car’ division in the local area has been through many ups-and-downs over the last two decades, but there’s no doubt it’s as strong now as it ever was”, said Dave Willoughby, Sharon Speedway’s General Manager. “You see our guys competing for spots up front everywhere they go, and that even includes out at some of the tougher Central PA tracks.”

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Additional details will be released in the near future regarding the established point fund and other race night details.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Wednesday, June 2nd – Michael’s Mercer Raceway
  • Thursday, June 3rd – Thunder Mountain Speedway
  • Friday, June 4th – Lernerville Speedway
  • Saturday, June 5th – Sharon Speedway
  • Sunday, June 6th – Tri City Raceway Park

Western Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek was previously run from 1993-2000 by the All-Star Circuit of Champions.

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Indy Autonomous Challenge Race Car Unveiled

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Indy Autonomous Challenge/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The world’s first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature Dallaras as the race cars.

Energy Systems Network (ESN) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this week unveiled the official race car that will be autonomously driven by scores of university teams in the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) at the Racing Capital of the World on Oct. 23, 2021.

Dallara has been the sole racecar supplier of the Indy Lights series since 2002, and now the modified Dallara IL-15 is the official IAC racecar.

“Dallara is the best racecar engineering company in the world, yet designing the chassis for autonomous racing was really challenging,” explained Stefano dePonti, CEO and general manager of Dallara USA. “Dallara loves innovation and technological challenges, and we share the IAC’s passion for education and motorsports.”

“The Dallara-built IAC racecar is the most advanced, fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed,” stated Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of ESN, and co-organizer of the IAC. “Our IAC sponsors are providing radar, lidar, optical cameras and advanced computers, bringing the value of each vehicle to $1 million.”

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One of the teams competing in the challenge is the Panther AV RAS-ing team from the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

Panther AV RAS-ing is part of more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, PhDs and mentors who excel in artificial intelligence software that have responded to the challenge.  The challengers represent 39 universities in 11 countries on four continents and 14 U.S. states.

The IAC is scheduled for October 23, 2021, at the IMS, with a qualifying simulation race during the Indy 500 week in May. The total IAC prize purse is $1.5 million: $1 million awarded to the winning team of the October IAC race, and an additional $500,000 for winners of the hackathons and simulation races.

“The IAC is going to bring the best minds from around the world to solve a very complex problem, right here at the Racing Capital of the World,” said IMS President J. Douglas Boles. “As the birthplace of motorsports’ innovation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a fitting setting for this event, and we can’t wait to see the winning entry cross the Yard of Bricks into history.”

Two companies headquartered in Western Pennsylvania are sponsors of the event.  Ansys, a global leader in engineering simulation that is headquartered in Canonsburg, and Aptiv, an autonomous vehicle company who is relocating from O’Hara Township to Hazelwood Green.

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