Kittanning driver George goes wire to wire in win at Lernerville

| Saturday, July 12, 2014, 12:27 a.m.

Sprint Cars had their final tune-up before Tuesday's World of Outlaws Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup XXIII, and the feature had a blast from the past.

Rod George of Kittanning led from start to finish for his 44th career Sprint Car victory at Lernerville Speedway. The 25-lap main event featured a fantastic duel between George and defending track champion Brandon Spithaler, who finished second.

George's margin of victory was 0.259 seconds. Jack Sodeman Jr. finished third, Brandon Matus was fourth and points leader Carl Bowser rounded out the top five.

George — the 1986 and 2002 Lernerville champion — is not certain if he will race Tuesday, but he did relish his first Lernerville victory since July 2012.

“We are still not sure what we are going to do because I will be working 100 miles away, so it's not certain if we should race back and not be sure to make the race,” George said. “This is just the eighth night out for this car. Up at Mercer, we have won a couple and had a couple DNF. It's been a couple of years since we won here, and it's my home track, so it's always nice to win where I started.”

The night was successful to a certain extent for Bowser because the team was experimenting in preparation for Tuesday's big show.

“We were trying some things for where it was heavy out there,” Bowser said. “You just are not sure what type of track we are going to get Tuesday, but that is any dirt track. I feel confident heading into this race coming up. I think the car is as good as we have been here.”

When drivers prepare for a World of Outlaws show the main complaint is qualifying. And that's what Sodeman was focusing on Friday.

“It wasn't too bad out there (Friday),” Sodeman said. “We started sixth and finished third. (Friday) we were playing with things to focus on qualifying and trying to get the car better for that. It's tough with a dirt track because it can be one thing one day and completely different the next.”

Spithaler had a couple of opportunities to make a kamikaze move but chose not to.

“I think the late caution was bad for us,” Spithaler said. “I had a good restart, but I knew I couldn't catch him off the top in Turns 3 and 4. There was a lot of bit on the bottom of Turn 4, so that's I why I cut that corner the way I did.

“I think there were a couple of chances out there that I could have done a slide job, but I probably would have junked two cars. I think on that restart if we would have been the lead car, I don't think he would have caught us.”

George appreciated the hard but clean racing exhibited by Spithaler.

“We raced hard,” George said. “I'm never afraid to race with him because I know he is going to do all he can, but he won't do anything stupid.”

Matus was not happy with his car but wasn't sure what went wrong.

“We got a heavier track than we are used to,” Matus said. “I just didn't feel great on it. The car wasn't as good as it usually feels. In spots it got better, and every caution was good for us. I'm just not too pleased with it the way the car drives on a heavier track.”

In other action Friday, Michael Norris picked up his third career Late Model victory and first of the season. He beat defending champion Alex Ferree by about a half a second.

Jared Miley finished third, less than a second behind Norris. John Garvin Jr. finished fourth, and Brian Swartzlander was fifth.

Swartzlander made amends and outdueled Rex King Sr. to win his 84th career V-8 Modified feature at Lernerville, his second of 2014.

Swartzlander, a seven-time track champion, has struggled at times this season and is sixth in points.

In the final feature of the night, points leader Jimmy Fosnaught won his third Sportsman Stock feature of the season, fourth for his career.

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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