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Flick, McPherson locked in tight battle at Lernerville

Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
A.J. Flick, a Sportsman Stock driver from Apollo and currently in a points battle with defending champion Corey McPherson, takes a knee at his car and watches the rain drift over the track. Inside the No. 2 of Flicks car is a picture of his grandfather, Pee Wee Flick, a 1973 Lernerville Speedway Late Model Champion.

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By Thomas Zuck
Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The 2013 Sportsman Stock division illustrates how quickly things can change.

Last season Corey McPherson of Tarentum cruised to his first Lernerville Speedway championship. That's a simplistic view of the grind that goes into a championship run, but everything went right for McPherson.

McPherson scored five feature victories last season, equal to this season. His margin of victory over runner-up Jimmy Fosnaught was 39 points. This year McPherson is locked in a battle with Apollo's A.J. Flick, who finished fourth in last season's standings.

Each of the past two weeks, the pair were tied atop the standings.

“Last year was pretty smooth for me, and I think we finished every race,” McPherson said. “This year we only have one (did not finish) and I think I ended up being 22nd in that one, so we came away with very few points and that really tightened things up a bit.”

Last week McPherson suffered a flat tire and even though he stayed on the track and forced his car to finish the feature. When all was said and done, he finished 15th, while Flick finished third to take a 15-point lead in the standings.

“Racing is a lot of luck and you have to be in the right place at the right time,” Flick said. “There are circumstances that you just can't avoid sometimes if someone else makes a mistake.”

That was the case a few weeks ago when McPherson was caught in the first-lap melee that Flick managed to avoid.

“I was running fifth and the accident started in sixth and behind me,” Flick said. “So there you have the situation where you have to be in the right spot at the right time.”

McPherson had a different view of the incident.

“I'm not usually one to believe in luck, but that one was really bad luck,” McPherson said. “There was nothing I could do or anywhere I could go. I was against the wall and there were 12 cars caught up in that. We had about $500 worth of damage; the front end was messed up a bit.”

So what do these two do now that the championship race has flipped?

“Our car, I can't say it's outdated, but we built it from scratch four years ago and we try to keep up with the latest changes,” Flick said. “We are trying to keep up and make some changes that we have heard other drivers make. We've even done some things that my grandfather (1973 Lernerville Late Model champion Pee Wee Flick) did that worked in the past to try and give us an advantage.”

There is little chance McPherson will suddenly panic and change things drastically from what he has done the past couple of seasons.

“I just have to keep doing what I do and to make sure I keep with the weekly maintenance and to go over my check list,” McPherson said. “The biggest thing for me is that when I come to the track I have a clear head. Sometimes if I go out there and don't have a clear head there is no chance for me to win.”

The ace in the hole for Flick might just be his father, Mark, a champion in his own right. The elder Flick won Lernerville's V-8 Modified title in 1994 and also has won titles on the asphalt.

“It's incredibly important to have him there helping,” Flick said. “He has a ton of experience concerning what I'm going through. He's done it all.

“He's won championships and lost championships. He's raced on dirt and asphalt and can set up a car for both.

“His knowledge exceeds anything that I could know right now,” Flick added. “To be able to ask him a question, and to know that I will get an honest and truthful answer, means the world to me.”

For McPherson the last month of the season is just part of a lot that is going on in his life at the moment.

“There is a lot going on in life right now. I am in the process of building a house and I have a little one on the way, sometimes it is overwhelming. The best thing for me to do is to not think about it. Before I got here I didn't think anything about racing and now that I am here, it's time to race.”

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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