Championship picture coming into focus headed into final week at Lernerville
Championship races came into focus Friday night as Lernerville Speedway completed its penultimate night of points racing for the season. Sprint Cars, Late Models and Big Block Modifieds will be decided Aug. 25.
The Stocks were the only division of the four weekly classes to have its championship decided when Leechburg's Corey McPherson won his sixth feature of the season to clinch his fifth track championship.
“It feels really great to win another one,” McPherson said. “This takes all the pressure off of next week. This just shows that hard work pays off. My guys give me a great racer every week.”
Apollo's A.J. Flick crept closer to his second track championship. Even though Sarver's Carl Bowser took the feature, Flick finished third, two spots in front of Johnstown's Danny Shetler. Heading into next week's final night of points racing, Flick holds a nine-point lead over Shetler.
Defending track champion Jack Sodeman Jr. entered the night 13 points behind Flick. Last week at Sharon Speedway, Sodeman was injured in a crash, so he did not race. He was replaced by Darin Gallagher, who finished 12th in the feature to earn points for the car.
Sodeman's season could be done, but it depends on how he feels after a couple of compression fractures to his T3 and T5 vertebrae. A couple of years ago, Sodeman a similar accident at Lernerville when he had a compression fracture to his T3 and T4 vertebrae.
In Big Block Modifieds, Mat Williamson holds a 26-point lead over Brian Swartzlander. Williamson finished second in the feature, and Swartzlander finished third behind winner Jeremiah Shingledecker.
Late Models were first on the track, and Friday's feature was a microcosm for just how the season has gone. Six-time champion Alex Ferree led the first half of the race, then current points leader Michael Norris took the lead and claimed the victory. Norris holds a 35-point lead over Ferree heading into next week.
Things looked a bit dicey during hot laps when Norris went off the top of Turn 1 and had to be towed back to the pits.
“Honestly, I have to thank my crew for the work they did tonight,” Norris said. “I overdrove in hot laps, and they had some work to do. We bent some things and replaced the driveshaft and J-bar. I was a little nervous after the race when I saw Alex (Ferree) sitting in the infield.
“We made some contact out there, but Alex is super cool to race with and I knew the only way I was going to get by is if he made a mistake or had a bobble.”
Norris needs to do little more than show up next week and do well in his heat race to claim the title.
“He's just been that good this year,” Ferree said about Norris. “I've had years like that, and he and his dad are just doing a great job. Congratulations to them, but it does stink finishing second to him. He's just on an awesome tear.”
Shingledecker's victory was his first at Lernerville this season. He won the Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway in July and has been improving steadily.
“Summers are super busy for us for work, and we have not had as much time to work and get faster,” Shingledecker said. “And the other drivers are working to get faster, too. This is a newer car, and we are still trying to figure out how to get faster. It was nice to beat Mat (Williamson) under a green flag with the way he has been running this year.”
Bowser has had a rough year as he does more traveling, so the victory Friday, his 22nd at Lernerville, was a boost.
“There have been a lot of growing pains with this car this year,” Bowser, Lernerville's 2011 and '14 champion said. “I think since the Silver Cup race we have had good speed against better competition since we've been on the road more. We have really worked hard to get this car to driver nicer, and I think we are getting right to where we need to be, which is good because we have about 15 more races on our schedule.”
Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.