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Lernerville Speedway ready to open 50th year of racing

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 11:45 p.m.
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Brian Swartlande (83) of Leechburg, makes his way around the track during the Modified heat at Lernerville Speedway on Friday, July 29, 2016. Swartzlander won his feature race.
World of Outlaws
World of Outlaws driver David Gravel said Lernerville Speedway has “always been one of my favorite places.”
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Rex King Jr (165) passes Tom Winkle (28) during the modified heats at Lernerville Speedway in Buffalo Township on Friday, May 27, 2016.

Lernerville Speedway will drop the green flag Friday night to usher in its 50th season of racing.

The Tomson family, who bought the track in May 2015, replaced World Racing Group as owners. The family has made some additional changes to the track's management. Most notably, Father Tim Tomson, pastor at St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks, has replaced Gary Risch Jr. as promoter and general manager.

“I learned that racing fans, and racers are the salt of the earth,” Tomson said. “I also learned, by viewing the kids involved in racing, that they don't have time to get into trouble because they are in the garage helping on the cars or at the track working on the cars with their families. We also learned that racing is just one big extended family.”

Making racing more family-friendly has been a constant refrain since the purchase of the track, and the Tomsons continue to adjust things to attract as many families as possible.

“For the kids, we have brought back the Kid's Club. We will also have the Monster Trucks at the track this season,” Tomson said. “Last year, we had the tractor pull show. Kids under 10 are still free to get in, and in August we will have a go-kart display to help introduce kids to racing.”

Lernerville always has done a good job balancing the weekly racing series with the bigger shows such as the World of Outlaws.

It also is the only track in America to run the big three divisions each week — 410 Sprint Cars, Late Models and V-8 Modifieds.

Lernerville made an adjustment to Friday's schedule because Sharon Speedway has a Lucas Oil Late Model event.

“We have a nice relationship with the other tracks around, Sharon Speedway and (Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway),” Tomson said. “We're all trying to promote racing in the tri-state area.”

In the span of 10 seasons, the three-day World of Outlaws Firecracker 100 for Late Models has turned into a major event and maintains its spot in the middle of the schedule, June 22-24. The first two nights are highlighted by $6,000-to-win features and the final night's main event will pay $30,000 to win.

While the Firecracker 100 has staked its claim as the track's signature event, there are other big-name shows that help balance the schedule.

Tony Stewart's All Star Sprints will be at Lernerville on May 5. The World of Outlaws Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup XXVI is July 18. WoO Sprint Commonwealth Clash was not on the schedule last season but it returns Sept. 23.

The Monster Truck show is May 20, and the U.S.A. East Truck and Tractor Pull event is Aug. 27. The final night of points racing for the weekly shows is Aug. 26. Bus races are scheduled for June 6, and Sept. 9. Autumn-Motive Fest is Sept. 16.

The season will conclude Oct. 12-14 with the ninth annual DIRTcar Round Up Steel City Stampede with nine divisions taking part.

Tomson also said physical improvements have been made to the facility and the track. Three hundred bleacher seats have been fixed, a French drain has been installed to help prevent water from leeching onto the racing surface, more clay has been put on the track and safety improvements have been made to the barrier in Turn 4.

“It really is the simple things that you can improve on to help make things, and life, better,” Tomson said. “I think everyone is excited, and we pray that God cooperates with the weather and a safe season for our drivers. This really is a great deal for family entertainment. For about $50 a family of four can come and enjoy themselves.”

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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