When Ricky Weiss takes the track with his super late model Thursday for the opening night of the Firecracker 100 weekend, it will be his first lap at Lernerville Speedway.
That has been the case at most places this year in his rookie season on the World of Outlaws circuit, but he has proven to be a fast learner.
Weiss, a Manitoba native, has five top-5 finishes and nine top-10s in his maiden campaign and will look for his first World of Outlaws victory when the series rolls into town Thursday-Saturday for the 13th annual Firecracker 100 weekend.
Thursday and Friday’s preliminary features are 30 laps and pay $6,000 to win. Saturday’s 100-lap finale pays $30,000 to the winner.
Weiss is fourth in the points standings and is the leading rookie.
He will use the preliminary nights to get adjusted to the Buffalo Township oval before chasing after the big prize Saturday.
“You kind of get your feet wet the first night, and then the second night you make tweaks to the car and driving adjustments,” Weiss said. “By the third night, you should be pretty familiar with it. The longer the races are, the better we seem to be.”
Weiss cut his teeth in racing in the upper Midwest and is the reigning Wissota series champion in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He caught the eye of many in the racing world after pulling off a surprise victory in last year’s $50,000-to-win North/South 100 at Florence (Ky.) Speedway.
For this season, Weiss has relocated to Tennessee, where he has been working out of three-time Firecracker 100 champion and dirt late model legend Scott Bloomquist’s shop. Weiss runs Sweet-Bloomquist race cars, and he has credited Bloomquist with helping him get acclimated to touring life.
“We’re fortunate to know people like Scott that have been to all of these tracks to get a little bit of information that way,” Weiss said. “It is tough not seeing the places before, but we seem to adapt pretty quickly. If we have a couple good laps in hot laps, that usually means our night is going to go pretty good.”
Bloomquist has missed most of the racing season while recovering from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident but returned to action last weekend at Eldora Speedway for the Dream and could be at Lernerville to try for his fourth Firecracker 100 win.
Weiss had a strong weekend at the Dream, winning a preliminary feature Thursday night, and was as high as third in the 100-lap finale Saturday. He got bumped out of the groove on a late restart and had to settle for seventh.
He nearly had his first World of Outlaws win a couple of weeks earlier at Wayne County Speedway in Ohio, but after a long side-by-side battle with Darrell Lanigan, Brandon Sheppard worked past them late and stole the win.
Sheppard, a New Berlin, Ill., native, has been dominant in the Rocket Chassis house car, winning eight of the 14 World of Outlaws races contested so far this year, but he never has won at Lernerville.
Sheppard also found Victory Lane at the Dream finale, taking home $150,000.
Weiss, who has won four nontour events this year, has been on the cusp of breaking through for a World of Outlaws win and hopes that can come at Lernerville.
“We’ve had a couple top three’s, but our team is strong enough that we should be able to pick up a couple wins this year,” Weiss said. “Hopefully they are in the bigger shows, so we can make a statement about where our team should be at.”
Chase Junghans of Manhattan, Kan., comes into the Firecracker weekend second in points. He won his first Outlaws feature at Lernerville in the Friday night prelim race during the 2015 Firecracker weekend.
Lanigan, the ’14 Firecracker winner, is third in points, and defending champion Chris Madden is fifth. Madden recently switched race teams. He was replaced at his old team, Skyline Motorsports, by ’10 Firecracker champ Shane Clanton, who is sixth in the World of Outlaws standings.
In addition to the World of Outlaws late models, the RUSH Series crate late models are on the Firecracker 100 weekend card for the first time.
The RUSH cars qualify Thursday and run heats Friday to set up the 50-lap $10,000-to-win Bill Emig Memorial main event Saturday. The $10,000 prize is the richest payday in the history of crate late model racing in the Northeast.