Area racers look for checkered flag at Firecracker 100
Let's face it. The World of Outlaws Firecracker 100 for Late Models is one of the most difficult events for local drivers.
On June 26-28, local drivers will test their mettle against the best drivers in the country.
It's not just the level of competition. It's the grind of three nights of racing. It's qualifying, heat races and B-Mains.
If you make it to the 100-lap main event, you have to hold on tight, stay out of trouble and somehow make it to the finish. No local driver has taken the checkered flag in a World of Outlaws Late Model event at Lernerville.
Sure, World of Outlaws star Josh Richards has said that Lernerville is like his home track, but he has been on tour for so long that he is on another level — as evidenced by his sweep of all three night races last season.
Chub Frank uses Lernerville for testing, but he too has been on tour for too long to be considered local.
What we are talking about is one of the weekly drivers taking it right to the Outlaws like Ed Lynch Jr. did in 2002 when he stunned the Outlaws with a victory in the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup.
The top finish for Lernerville's weekly drivers came in 2012 when Jared Miley, who started 23rd, finished eighth.
After that, you must go back to the inaugural Firecracker in 2007 when Dave Hess Jr. finished 11th. Matt Lux finished 13th in 2009. Gregg Satterlee finished fourth last year, but he has spent the past few seasons chasing the big races. He won two Outlaws features last season and finished 13th in points. Four-time Lernerville champion Alex Ferree is under no illusion of how his success at Lernerville will transfer to this event.
“They are too much for me at my level of experience,” Ferree said. “I just hope I have a lot better year than I did last year. I don't want to get planted in the B-Main and then get my whole left front ripped off.”
Ferree used a provisional spot in last year's main event, and after getting his car somewhat in shape, he ran one lap under green and parked it. Ferree's best finish was in the first Firecracker when he started 27th and finished 20th.
“It's really tough because you can think you are running great, and then these guys come in and show you what can be done,” Ferree added.
“These guys do this for a living, it's how they put food on the table. We are out here doing this as a hobby, and they run a hundred times per year.”
John Garvin Jr. likes the Firecracker because it is a no-pressure event. In 2012, Garvin started 27th and finished 19th. Last year, Garvin ended in 24th place.
“I think I actually run better because I don't put pressure on myself,” Garvin said.
“We have 60 or 65 cars that come in, and about 60 could win the race. I think I put more pressure on myself on a regular night because I know I can win. I'm not saying that I can't win the Firecracker, but the chances are slim.”
In 2009, Russell King was the World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year, and he knows what to expect from this event. He is looking for a similar finish to last year, when he won the Uncle Sam 30 for cars that did not get into the main event.
“I think it's great, and I am going to shoot for that this year,” King said. “I don't think I want to bang around out there for 100 laps. I'm good winning the Uncle Sam, and I hope this year they have it before the main event because I'd love to sit up there and drink beer and watch that race.”
Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.