|All Pictures Courtesy of Pat Miller Photography|
Sarver, PA (July 1, 2017) A storm system seemingly split up and avoided Lernerville Speedway on Friday night just as action was getting underway, and because of that blessing, fans in attendance were treated to a different kind of Fab Four that produced some fantastic racing.
AJ Flick managed to lap all but seven cars en route to his first career Non-Winged Sprint Car victory as he bested a field of 33 cars in dominant fashion. In RUSH Late Model action, last week's Precise Racing Products Late Model feature winner, Russ King relinquished the lead and found a way to get it back and hold off a determined Mike Pegher Jr. to collect a $2,000 winner's check.
Meanwhile, a first time winner found Terry Bowser Excavating Victory Lane in the RUSH Sportsman Modified touring event as Anthony Gillespie was able to hold off Brandon Ritchey in the late stages of the 20 lap main event. And in Millerstown Pic-A-Part DIRTcar/RUSH Pro Stock action, Tyler Dietz found a way to make his way to the front with authority and stay there to collect his second win of 2017.
BOSS Traditional Sprint Cars
Having come so close in two previous chances at winning a Buckeye Ohio Sprint Series event at Lernerville in previous years, including two runner-up performances, AJ Flick seemed to be once again a favorite for a podium finish on Friday night. And from the start of the 25 lap main event, Flick was not only a front runner, but quickly put the field behind him in dominant fashion. The young Winged Sprint Car pilot put all but seven cars at least a lap down, looking like a driver who had been driving a Non-Winged car for years on end en route to his first career win in BOSS Series action.
Gale Ruth Jr. and Arnie Kent paced the 22 car field to the initial green flag, however not even a lap into the main event the red flag came out as Matt Cooley and Mike Miller found themselves both on their side in turns three and four. Both drivers were able to get out of their cars under their own power.
When action resumed, Ruth got out to the early lead running the bottom to middle grove with Flick putting pressure on him almost immediately, coming forward in relentless fashion from his sixth starting spot. Flick made his move for the lead just before the five lap mark, putting Ruth and the rest of the field behind him while the caution flag came out for a Riley VanHise spin in turn two.
Flick looked as if he'd been shot out of a cannon on the restart while behind him, Michael Fischesser began to challenge Ruth for second and Carmen Perigo surged forward from his seventh starting spot to take up the fourth position. Perigo managed to slide around both Fischesser and Ruth to take his place behind Flick who was running at a blistering pace out front. But behind all of the action at the front of the field, 2016 winner Justin Owen and BOSS Series points leader Dustin Smith were maneuvering through the field with relative ease and charging toward the front with precision and purpose.
Owen started 13th on the grid and Smith had to race his way into the program from the back of the bmain, starting from 19th position, and both looked as if they might find a way to hunt down Flick for the win as the laps wound down. Owen was able to make the most serious challenge as he slid Perigo for the second spot on lap 16.
Owen was in desperate need of a caution though as Flick did not lose one bit of momentum dealing with lapped traffic, putting the car where he needed to while making it look easy. Owen's wish was granted with 21 laps in the book when Joe Butera spun at the bottom of turn four. However, Flick pegged the restart and preserved the victory.
"I had so much unfinished business here from last year and I wasn't going to be very happy with myself if I couldn't pull it off," Flick said in victory lane. "You just pretend you hear noises and drive the wheels off it, it's all you can do. I kind of have a little bit of an edge I think, to a degree, maybe not over the BOSS guys but I came from the street stocks and I more or less had to run it the same way that I did here. I went into turn one in hot laps and the thing just pushed like a truck, we changed the car a bunch. I made some real key moves in hot laps to get to the lead in the feature and I was just able to hold them off from there.
Jack Sodeman Jr.
Gale Ruth JR.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Late Model Touring Series
Weekly Super Late Model Competitors Russ King and Mike Pegher Jr. were on hand to join the 30 RUSH touring Late Model drivers on hand on Friday night, and they put on a performance that had fans on the edge of their seats in both heat race and main event action.
King and Pegher brought the starting field to the green flag for the 30 lap main event with 2016 feature winner Bryce Davis tucked behind them in the third spot. King darted out to the early lead as pack behind him scattered wide while jockeying for position when seventh starting Bruce Hordusky spun in front of the field causing a seven car pileup with two laps complete.
On the restart, series title contender John Waters began taking looks under under Davis for third while up front King held a three car length advantage over Pegher. Davis made his way back around Waters and then put the pressure on Pegher as the two made contact on the front stretch while Davis was able to power around Pegher and set his sights on the leader until the caution flag waved for Jason Knowles.
Davis was able to pull even with King on the back stretch following the restart and then squeaked by him coming out of turn four on the high side on lap six to take the lead.
But King would not lose sight of the new leader while Waters started taking looks under Pegher for the third spot. The two leaders were able to gain some substantial separation as they approached lapped traffic together at the 10 lap mark. Behind them, Mike Duritsky and Daryl Charlier put on a back and forth battle for the fifth spot until Charlier moved up top and made his way around at the lap 16 mark. Almost instantly afterwards, Duritsky spun bringing out the the caution flag which stayed out two more times on restart attempts afterwards.
On the final restart, King and Davis started to wage an intense battle for the win as the two partook in a flurry of slide jobs and door to door racing. King emerged with the lead, making the pass on lap 20 while Davis started falling back out of contention. Pegher moved underneath him to take the second spot back and Waters would do the same in the waning laps to take the third spot.
King and Pegher found themselves in lapped traffic towards the finish, but King was able to stay smooth and consistent while Pegher ran out of laps as King took his second win in a row at The Action Track, collecting the $2,000 winners check.
"I got surprised, I thought we'd be on the bottom there and before I knew it Bryce snuck around me so I was trying to be a little bit patient," King said. "We had a couple restarts and we bumped coming out of two, I slid him and he slid me back. These things are almost in a way, harder to drive than Super Late Models because you don't have the power to bail yourself out so if you get them a little bit crooked ,you bog them down. I was just trying to be smooth and he (Davis) seemed to be getting tighter and tighter."
Mike Pegher Jr.
Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC RUSH Sportsman Modifed Touring Series
Anthony Gillespie had never won a RUSH weekly or touring event in his first year as a competitor, but he's been opening eyes in the early portion of the season. On Friday night, he showed why as he stayed patient in the early part of the 20 lap RUSH Sportsman Modified feature and then fended off a strong challenge from Brandon Ritchey en route to Terry Bowser Excavating Victory Lane.
Billy Myers started on the front row alongside Nick Ritchey and it was Meyers who would take the early lead with Ritchey on his tail and Chas Wolbert up high on the surface, challenging the top three. The pace was brought to a halt when Ritchey brought out the caution with three laps down.
On the restart, Shayne Izzo withstood a scary moment when his car caught fire after he had charged forward from his eighth starting spot to take second. The initial caution came out for a Jeremy Weaver spin on the front stretch. Izzo was able to get himself out of the car on his own power.
Gillespie made the best of the restart and took the lead from Meyers, coming from fourth to the lead while behind him, Kole Holden began making his way forward from his fifteenth starting spot. Holden would make a pass four fourth on lap eight, but his progress was slowed by a caution for Chelsie Kriegisch who broke with nine laps in the books.
The battle up front was just heating up. On the restart, Gillespie elected to start low, putting Brandon Ritchey topside. Gillespie got a good start but was not able to shake Ritchey who began to take looks under the leader. The two made contact in turns three and four and afterwards Ritchey had found himself in the lead on lap 11. The caution came out yet again when Weaver spun in turn four with 14 laps down.
Gillespie stayed relentless in his pursuit of Ritchey and took the lead for good on the restart as Wolbert and Holden applied stout pressure to Ritchey for the second spot. But out front, Gillespie was too strong to be overtaken as a last chance bid for the lead from Ritchey came up just short in turn two with one lap to go.
"This means everything to me," Gillespie said. "I've been racing since I was 15 in a mod lite and this is my first full year in the RUSH series and I just love it."
Millerstown Pic-A-Part DIRTcar/RUSH Pro Stocks
Tyler Dietz had seen his share of unfortunate moments at inopportune times in 2017. Despite a previous feature win and some podium finishes, Dietz's consistency had been an issue for him of late. But on this night, he was as good as he'd been all year and perhaps a little bit better in his performance that saw him take his second feature win of the year.
Heath Close and Paul Schreckengost started up front and made little progress as Brett McDonald spun in front of the field, collecting Terry Young before a lap could be completed. On the restart, Schreckengost got out to the lead with Close, Brunell, and Jim Fosnaught applying pressure running the bottom groove. Working in and around all of them was one Aaron Easler who came forward from his fifth starting spot. Easler made his way to third before the caution flag came out for Corey McPherson and John Hartman with four laps in the books.
Dietz's pivotal moment then came on the restart when he moved from fifth to first before the caution flag waved again for a McPherson spin on the front stretch. When action resumed, Dietz kept the lead while a four wide battle ensued between Joey Zambotti, Fosnaught, Brunell and Schreckengost for the third spot behind Dietz and Easler.
Dietz kept the field behind him through three more restarts, while moving forward with authority was McPherson. The reigning track champion worked through the field with relative ease in the second half of the 20 lap feature while Easler would slip off the back stretch, surrendering second to Fosnaught on lap nine. Behind the leaders, McPherson was confronted with a swarm of cars to deal with and made it through, taking the third spot while pounding the cushion. He dove under Easler for position on the back stretch with two laps to go and then finished his charge with a breathtaking pass of Fosnaught on the top side of turn four coming to the checkered flag.
But out front, it was all Dietz who was fast, and managed the lead to perfection, taking his third career victory at Lernerville.
"I've been struggling the last couple weeks and had some bad luck and put some bad setups in the car so I just went back to the basics tonight and got a little lucky," Dietz said. "Whenever Schreckengost had the outside there, I could get a good jump if I just went with him and he just gave me my line perfectly there in that corner where I didn't have to lift and I knew that I could clear him and it just happened to work out right. I normally don't take chances like that, but I needed a good run tonight.