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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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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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