With the scent of bonfires in the background, and numerous leaf showers from the trees in turn one, the final curtain drew on the 2014 Lernerville season Saturday night with a huge crowd on hand.. And when the dust settled, Brian Swartzlander had ended an up and down season on a high note with his second consecutive Steel City Stampede championship.
Over 300 cars took part in 8 features plus an enduro in the annual DIRTcar Roundup in Sarver that saw Rod George garner his 45th Lernerville feature victory while Russ King took home $3,000 and a belt buckle for his late model win. And Chris Schneider checked out early in the 25 lap open stock feature to add yet another stampede trophy to his collection.
But one of the great things about this annual season ending bash, is the opportunity to see the things you don't often find at Lernerville. Chad Ruhlman bested a 44 car RUSH late model field and the Kyle Strickler put on a clinic in the Renegades of DIRT-UMP modified series feature.
All in all, it was a great night to be at Lernerville one last time to enjoy one final taste of the dirt, and to see the boys of summer, (doesn't belong to just baseball ya know), letting it all hang out for one last ride.
At the start of the regular season, Brian Swartzlander and Mat Williamson were the prohibitive favorites to tangle for the Lernerville modified championship. And then, the season started. The favorites suffered some bad luck and mechanical gremlins that took both out of the chase by mid summer, during which time, Rex King Jr took the opportunity and shut the door with authority, earning his first track championship.
So it seemed fitting that the two pre-season favorites would finish 1-2 in the final race of the season, almost as if to say "we're late, but we're here!"
Swartzlander started on the pole for the 30 lap, $3,000 to win feature, flanked by New York invader Tom Sears Jr. Following an early caution for Rex King Sr, Sears went around Swartzlander up top in turn two while behind them the battle for third waged on between Brian Weaver, Chad Brachmann and Williamson.
Sears Jr then waged his own battle with Swartzlander who'd drawn back tight to the #62. The two were almost inseparable until lap 10 when Swartzlander went topside to get back around Sears Jr.
As Swartzlander entered lapped traffic, Williamson and Brachmann both started to reel in the leader after they'd managed to get around Sears Jr as the laps wound down. Swartzlander's night was almost made into a bad memory very late in the race when Shawn Fleeger spun in front of the leader in turn two, but the veteran modified pilot maintained his cool and avoided disaster. Swartzlander hung on to claim the victory as Williamson had whittled his considerable lead to a mere .6 seconds at the end of 30 laps.
Fastest Lap: Chad Brachmann: 17.165 on lap 8
Hard Charger: Mat Williamson (+5)
1. Brian Swartzlander
2. Mat Williamson
3. Chad Brachmann
4. Tom Sears Jr
5. Rex King Jr
6. Jeremiah Shingledecker
7. Brian Weaver
8. Steve Feder
9. Rodney Beltz
10. Rick Richner
Coming into this one, there was a buzz in the crowd talking about someone named Lynch, and it wasn't Ed jr! Young Sye Lynch turned heads with his heat win on Friday evening's portion of the weekend, and his performance placed him third on the starting grid behind the formidable front row of Rod George and Carl Bowser.
Lynch acquitted himself very well in the feature too, but to take home a cherished stampede buckle is not an easy task in any division let alone when a legend and a young legend in the making start ahead of you.
George took the green flag like he'd been shot out of a cannon, stretching out an early lead until the dreaded red flag appeared on the third lap when AJ Flick ended up on his side in turn two.
Flick was alright, and when the feature resumed, Lynch was able to get around Bowser for second while George maintained his advantage. Lynch held off Bowser's attempts to get the position back until lap 10 when they both approached lapped traffic and Bowser was able to dive underneath Lynch to take the position.
Charging form 6th spot at the same time was one Andy McKisson who'd moved into the top 3 with his lap 15 pass of Lynch as George's lead began to shrink. Bowser had been working through the lapped traffic decisively in the race's later stages and had closed the gap to less than half a second as the white flag flew, but he could draw no closer as George crossed the line first at the end of 25 laps to claim the victory.
Fastest lap: Rod George: 14.170 in lap 5
Hard Charger: Brandon Spithaler (+9)
1. Rod George
2. Carl Bowser
3. Andy McKisson
4. Brandon Spithaler
5. Sye Lynch
6. Brandon Matus
7. Michael Wagner II
8. Dan Shetler
9. Brent Matus
10. Dennis Wagner
Three drivers who've dominated the weekly late model at Lernerville for the last few years found themselves starting in the top six as the green flag flew on the 25 lap late model feature. Alex Ferree, Jared Miley and Russ King have had their fair share of wins and/or track championships in recent history, and from a fans perspective, there couldn't be a better way to end the season than to watch them all duel with $3,000 on the line.
King put pole sitter Doug Eck behind him on lap two and never looked back to snag the victory, but it would be no easy chore.
Through the first 10 laps, it appeared King would have smooth sailing and then Ferree was able to mount a furious charge that saw him take a look underneath King on almost every lap, looking for just enough momentum to complete the pass for the lead.
But King, who primarily rode the top shelf for most of the feature, held his ground and kept Ferree at bay to collect his first career stampede victory, surviving a blanket of lapped traffic ahead him on the final set of turns to earn the win.
Behind them, Miley had rocketed from his sixth starting spot to third in a mere two laps, but could draw no closer, settling for a third place finish while Kenny Schaltenbrand moved forward from the tail of the field following an early caution to take a hard fought fifth place run.
Fastest Lap: Russ King
Hard Charger: Garrett Krummert (+6)
1. Russ King
2. Alex Ferree
3. Jared Miley
4. Garrett Krummert
5. Kenny Schaltenbrand
6. Doug Eck
7. Dave Murdick
8. John Flinner
9. Dan Swartzlander
10. Ed Ferree
A huge field of 49 stocks got sorted out and whittled down to 24 after bmain action Saturday night. And in one of those bmains, invader Nate Smith managed to make the show by posting a win in a caution marred race. And although Chris Schneider claimed yet another stampede victory when all was said and done, Smith almost pulled off a huge upset.
Randy Wyant and Bob Schwartzmiller brought the field to green in the 25 lap main event that saw the former retain the lead while the latter fell back through the field.
Former track champion Mike Miller looked to be in position to win his first feature of the season in the final race as he climbed from his fifth starting spot to second in the early going. But, as Wyant maintained his lead, Schneider was lurking behind both of them.
It wouldn't take much longer before Schneider was in complete control of the race as he took the lead from Wyant on lap five and never looked back. By this point the heavy hitters had become players in the mix for second as Corey McPherson and Jim Fosnaught both engaged with Miller for the runner up spot, all hoping that something might befall Schneider on his way to victory lane.
But as the laps wound down, Smith who'd come from the 18th starting spot, made his way though the field, taking the second spot from Miller on lap 12. And although Schneider was the class of the field on this night, Smith made a race of it falling three seconds short of Schneider at the line.
Fastest Lap: Chris Schneider: 18.362
Hard Charger: Nate Smith (+16)
1. Chris Schneider
2. Nate Smith
3. Corey McPherson
4. Mike Miller
5. Jim Fosnaught
6. Aaron Easler
7. Randy Wyant
8. Joe Kelly
9. Pat Hanley
10. Rob Shook
RUSH Late Models:
Chad Ruhlman ruled the evening in the $2,000 to win, 30 lap RUSH Late Model main event to collect his first ever touring series event win. Ruhlman came from the 13th starting spot in the win and once he was out in front, he was gone for good.
After a caution filled early going which saw pole sitter Bryce Davis night end in a collision with Jared Hawkins on the second lap in turn two, Ruhlman methodically climbed the ladder in the early going while Hawkins took control of the early part of the race.
After a caution near the race's 1/3rd mark, Ruhlman dove below Hawkins in turn four on lap 10 to take the lead which he'd never relinquish. Meanwhile, behind them Daryl Charlier and Rick Singleton battled for third with front row starting Erick Andrus in the top five mix through the middle portion of the feature.
By the time lapped traffic came into play, Ruhlman was driving a perfect race and he made it through in convincing fashion with a car that was good in all grooves as he pushed forward to a straightaway advantage over Hawkins and the pack behind him.
Speaking of the pack, Michael Lake and a 22nd starting Mike Pegher Jr had quietly moved forward to the top five as the laps ticked off as they both overtook Hawkins and Charlier to thrust themselves into the top 5.
In other RUSH news, Ryan Montgomery, by virtue of his showing up at the event, took home the season honors as the RUSH Touring Late Model Champion in 2014.
Fastest Lap: Bryce Davis; 17.912 in lap 1
Hard Charger: Mike Pegher Jr (+18)
1. Chad Ruhlman
2. Michael Lake
3. Alan Dellinger
4. Mike Pegher Jr
5. Jared Hawkins
6. Daryl Charlier
7. Rick Singleton
8. Josh Double
9. Will Thomas
10. Ryan Montgomery
Renegades of DIRT Modifieds:
During the course of the festivities at Lernerville on Saturday night, TDN correspondent Josh Bayko had commented to me "Just get on top of those turn two bumps and ride the top against the last of the cushion", upon watching some bumps emerging in the midsection of turns one and two as the evening progressed.
Kyle Strickler "The high side tickler" completely agreed with the idea.....
The Mooresville, NC native made the long tow to Sarver for the weekend and the IMCA Supernationals winner gave everyone a small, first hand glimpse of just what he's capable of in taking apart a 30+ car field over the course of the weekend show.
Strickler started outside row one alongside Rich Michael Jr and wasted absolutely no time, leading the 20 lap main event from green to checkers to collect the victory and wrap up the 2014 Renegades of DIRT Modified Tour Championship.
Owensboro, KY native Tyler Nicely and Micheal Jr engaged in a battle for second place early on which Nicely would take for good on lap four while behind them, Micheal Jr would fall out of the running on lap 12.
Tour regular Travis Dickson then got around Evan Taylor on lap thirteen en route to taking the final podium spot while going unchallenged over the final seven laps.
But the night belonged to Strickler who's fastest lap was half a second faster than anyone else in the field.
Fasted Lap: Kyle Strickler; 18.464
Hard Charger: Jason Fosnaught (+7)
1. Kyle Strickler
2. Tyler Nicely
3. Travis Dickson
4. Evan Taylor
5. Jonathan Taylor
6. Jon Sluka
7. Mark Dickson
8. Bob Moskey
9. Kyle Bedell
10. Robbie Evans
RUSH Sportsman Modifieds:
The Inaugural RUSH Sportsman Modified season came to an end Saturday night. And out of all the features on the card, this one had some point standing intrigue.
Two New York natives, Greg Martin and Adam Hilton, decided early in the season to make the trek to our area and participate in the first season series and they were separated by a mere three points heading into the final touring series event.
Martin and Larry Kugel brought the field to the green flag with Hilton tucked right behind them starting third in the 15 lap feature. And early on it Martin in command as Hilton made his way around Kugel on lap two and set his sights on Martin and the championship.
And Hilton managed to whittle away at Martin's lead until a lap 11 caution, re-stacked the field, making for one last four lap dash to the title.
But Martin stayed cool and held off Hilton to take a one and a half second margin to the final checkered flag.
Being the champion of the inaugural season is really special," stated the 33-year-old Wilson, New York victor. "This is a great Series and it's really going to grow. There's a great foundation, it has a lot of support, and everyone really believes in it. Adam (Hilton) can get around here real well. We were only here one other time and I didn't fare so well so sitting there with four to go I wasn't sure what would happened. This is a great event and I'm honored to win here. The support I got from my guys this year was just great and I really have to thank them."
Martin collected $500 for the win and $3,000 for the touring series title.
Fastest Lap: Adam Hilton- 18.881 in lap 4
Hard Charger: Jeremy Zufall (+2)
1. Greg Martin
2. Adam Hilton
3. Larry Kugel
4. Jeremy Zufall
5. Rocky Kugel
6. Chelsie Kriegsich
7. Steve Burns Jr
8. Michael Kristyak
9. Will Shaffer
Further Stories and Pictures forthcoming:
For Our Complete Photo Page from Saturday night, courtesy of Pat Miller, Click Here:
For RUSH Crate Late Model/Sportsman Results Click Here:
For complete results from ALL divisions from Lernerville.com Click Here: