The Fab Four took to the track for the final time in 2015 at Lernerville Speedway Friday night on a nearly perfect surface with a healthy amount of cars in the pits. Two season championships had yet to be decided coming into the evening and when the final checkered flags had waved both AJ Flick and Corey McPherson had earned the honor of being Lernerville Champions in the People's TWP Sprints and Millerstown Pic-A-Part Sportsman respectively.
But aside from the season ending points battles, the evening saw Nevada native Tanner Thorson cruising to victory lane in the sprints and it also saw Michael Norris put a 20 car field of late models behind him with authority. Mat Williamson made fans in attendance do a double take when they saw him in an unexpected car as he picked up his sixth win of the season, and Mike Miller returned to victory lane for the first time in two years in a thrilling battle with McPherson.
Peoples TWP Sprints
Nineteen year old Tanner Thorson had yet to visit Lernerville in his young open wheel career, and his performance bore little resemblance to a novice's timid first time out. And instead, looked more like a commanding performance from a strong invader.
Dan Kuriger lead the nineteen car field to the green flag and quickly asserted himself as the leader while behind him, Thorson and Jack Sodeman Jr. were in hot pursuit. But eyes were also looking at the middle of the pack in the early going as points leader AJ Flick and his closest pursuer, Brandon Matus stared seventh and tenth respectively. Sye Lynch then brought out the first caution on lap four, and on the ensuing restart, Thorson went to the inside of Kuriger and headed headed to the top side of the speedway with the lead. .
Meanwhile, Flick and Matus started moving forward from their starting spots with Matus needing to get by the season points leader to have any chance of coming home with a title. Thorson started to get into lapped traffic at the seven lap mark with Kuriger and Sodeman giving chase until the caution flag waved on lap 12 when Jared Zimbardi went over the banking in turn two.
When the action resumed, Sodeman moved from the top side to the bottom in an attempt to get around Kuriger while Thorson negotiated the next round of lapped cars. Sodeman made the pass for the second spot work on lap 20 and with Thorson facing side by side lapped traffic, Sodeman started to make up ground quickly on the leader as the laps wound down.
But Thorson was calm and collected and kept his lead throughout the final circuits, cruising to the victory by a 1.8 second margin. In the title chase, Matus would find his way around Flick, but was unable to put enough cars between them to make up any ground in the standings as Flick took home his first sprint championship in his second year in the division.
"It was great to get the win my first time here," Thorson said in victory lane. "The track was really fast in the heat race and in hot laps. It slicked a little on the back stretch but it's definitely a fast place here."
1. Tanner Thorson
2. Jack Sodeman Jr.
3. Dan Kuriger
4. Brandon Matus
5. Carl Bowser
6. AJ Flick
7. Brent Matus
8. Jared Zimbardi
9. Ralph Spithaler
10. Jim Morris
Precise Racing Products Late Models
With several regulars absent from the evening's festivities, the late model feature figured to be a wide open affair which it was, behind the eventual winner of course. Michael Norris started on the pole and did not look back in collecting his second win of the season, and it would be no easy task. Norris bolted out to the early lead while a very entertaining battle for the second spot quickly developed between Chad McClellan and Bump Hedman.
The two drivers would swap the position countless times in the early going, by slide job when necessary as Norris widened the gap until the caution slowed the action on lap four. On the restart, Norris elected the top side as Hedman challenged for the lead, but his bid came up short as Norris drove away and Hedman was left to battle a determined McClellan. Following another caution on lap eight, Norris selected the bottom on the restart in surprising fashion, but once again drove away. Behind them, Kenny Schaltenbrand had worked forward from his 11th starting spot to enter the top five.
The middle portion of the main event was caution marred and saw Norris keep selecting the bottom on restarts. Hedman and McClellan both took turns applying pressure on Norris for brief periods of time, but the leader responded when called upon and stretched out a sizable advantage when action stayed green. On a lap 20 restart, Norris went to the top with authority as Schaltenbrand made his way around McClellan following a bobble in turn two, and last week's winner, Matt Lux, finished his forward charge from his 14th starting spot to take the third spot. But at the end of 25 laps, Norris was clearly the best of the field and cruised to the victory.
"I couldn't really decide what was best on the restarts tonight," Norris said. "I should have been picking the top from the beginning. The car has been really fast but not really consistent and you have to first finish before you can finish first."
1. Michael Norris
2. Kenny Schaltenbrand
3. Matt Lux
4. Bump Hedman
5. Tony Burke
6. Dan Swartzlander
7. Chuck Sarver
8. Herman Bertolini
9. Bill Kessler
10. Greg Kent
Diehl Automotive Group Modifieds
Mat Williamson arrived in an unfamiliar looking car to many fans, but to die hard modified fans, the familiar Page Trucking #7 is a noticeable entry and on this night, it contained a driver that has had a remarkable season en route to a track championship.
Williamson quickly assumed the early lead with Jeremiah Shingledecker hot on his heels in the early going. Behind them, Steve Feder looked to make it a three car battle as he stayed within striking distance of the leaders. Shingledecker relentlessly chased Williamson, never letting him out of his sight while Feder kept closing the gap on him until a caution on lap seven reset the scene. On the ensuing restart, Shingledecker made for the top of the speedway as if he'd been shot out of a cannon, but still could not completely reel in Williamson while behind them, Brian Swartzlander had gotten around several cars in a hurry and had moved into the top five from his ninth starting spot.
Swartzlander would be able to make the pass for third on lap 13, but could get no closer, and with no more restarts and not much in the way of lapped traffic for Williamson to pick around, he would have to settle for the podium spot while Shingledecker threw everything but the kitchen sink in his attempt to reel in Williamson which could come up short. Williamson would take a two second advantage across the line when the checkered flag waved and also took home an extra $1,000 courtesy of Turners Premium Iced tea for winning the most features in 2015.
"We hurt a motor here last Friday and then hurt it a little more in Cornwall on Sunday so I talked to Rick that night and we put the deal together," Williamson said in reference to his taking the wheel of the Page Trucking car. "You're kind of a sitting duck starting up front but you'll take em when you can get em and I know Jeremiah is always going to run me clean, he's one hell of a race car driver, so when he starts outside of you on a restart you have to really hit your marks for the rest of the race and that's what we did tonight."
1. Mat Williamson
2. Jeremiah Shingledecker
3. Brian Swartzlander
4. Steve Feder
5. Rick Regalski
6. Garrett Krummert
7. Rex King Jr.
8. Carl Murdick
9. Shawn Fleeger
10. Rodney Beltz.
Millerstown Pic-A-Part Sportsman:
It had been a long time since Mike Miller had found victory lane at Lernerville. The veteran driver had experienced several close calls and heartbreaks, but had also nights when bizarre mishaps had ruined his evenings almost before they'd started. But on this night, Miller rekindled memories of classic wins he's had over the years, sneaking up on the field and striking at the last possible moment.
Wayne Carbo set out to the early lead while behind him, a swarm containing Corey McPherson, Terry Young, Brett McDonald and Miller were jockeying for position. McDonald tucked himself in the second spot early on and had to fight off a charging McPherson who then managed to get around not only McDonald, but Carbo on lap five to take the lead. Miller then emerged from the pack to move into second on lap six as McPherson used the low to mid groove to his advantage in stretching out a significant lead towards the halfway point.
McPherson's closest competition in the points championship battle, Jim Fosnaught then entered the picture from his ninth starting spot to take the third spot away from McDonald on lap 13. McPherson looked to be in command until it suddenly appeared that Miller was making up ground quickly, using the bottom of the speedway. As McPherson was about to enter heavy lapped traffic, the caution flag waved on lap 16, setting up a potential fantastic finished which was realized when Miller was able to wrest the lead away from McPherson on lap 18, but the battle was not over as McPherson put his car back up on the top side in a desperate attempt to pass Miller. But his attempt would come up short buy a very slight margin at the finish line as Miller held on to take the win. McPherson would earn the season points championship by virtue of his second place finish.
"That second restart helped me close the gap up on Corey, he's been so tough to beat here these last few years," Miller said. "I normally run the top but the bottom was actually better for me. It's been pretty frustrating these last two years, it's nice to be back in victory lane."
1. Mike Miller
2. Corey McPherson
3. Brandon Wearing
4. Wayne Carbo
5. Jim Fosnaught
6. Terry Young
7. Brett McDonald
8. Joe Kelley
9. Bob Egley
10. Jeff Miller