Sye Lynch hoping to follow in dad’s footsteps at Lernerville |
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Sye Lynch hoping to follow in dad’s footsteps at Lernerville

Jerin Steele
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Ed Lynch Jr. of Apollo earned a major victory July 24, 2002, at Lernerville Speedway in Buffalo Township. Lynch defeated nationally-known World of Outlaws drivers to capture the 35th annual Don Martin Silver Cup.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Ed Lynch Jr. of Apollo holds his 4-year-old son, Sye, after defeating the World of Outlaws on July 24, 2002, in the Don Martin Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway. Sye Lynch will compete in the event Tuesday.
Tribune-Review file
Ed Lynch Jr. is photographed in the Lernerville pits on Friday, July 10, 2015.

Every year, Ed Lynch Jr. gathers with family and friends to watch his win in the 2002 Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville, but he doesn’t need the video to recall every detail of the night he beat the World of Outlaws.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” He said.

Lynch took the best shot the Outlaws could give, with challenges from Mark Kinser, Joey Saldana, Donny Schatz and Aliquippa native Tim Shaffer, and withstood them all to earn a historic win in front of a loud and packed house.

It’s a night that’s forever entrenched in Lernerville lore, and 18 years later, it remains the only time a weekly driver has beat the Outlaws sprint cars at the Buffalo Township speedway.

It’s a fond memory for the retired driver known as “The Apollo Rocket,” and Lynch is looking forward to making more as a mentor for his son, Sye, who quickly has made his name known in local racing.

Sye, who has two wins at Lernerville this year, is part of the local contingent that will battle the Outlaws when they roll into town for this year’s Silver Cup on Tuesday.

The race pays $25,000 to the winner.

Sye was 4 when his dad won the Silver Cup, but he has vague memories of the race.

“The main thing I remember is that on the white flag lap, I couldn’t see in the grandstands because everyone was standing,” Sye said. “Obviously, I was little, so I was too short to see him coming to the checkered, but I do remember running to victory lane.

“He had a dominant night. He won his heat, his dash and led about the whole feature. The biggest thing was that he stayed up front. It was an all-around perfect night.”

Kinser, who had won five of the six previous Silver Cups, got the jump on Lynch and took the lead but made a rare mistake on Lap 3, sliding off the banking in Turn 2. That allowed Lynch to take the lead, and he withstood challenges from Saldana and Schatz.

The trio was locked in a tense battle until Saldana and Schatz tangled while running second and third and collected fourth-place running Randy Hannagan to bring out a caution. That set up one last restart with Shaffer, a former Lernerville track champion who was a full-time Outlaw in 2002. Shaffer and Lynch raced side-by-side for a couple of laps before Lynch pulled ahead for victory.

After the race, a group of fans who had been cheering loudly most of the night gathered by Lynch’s car in the pits.

“I think we stayed until two o’clock in the morning signing autographs,” Ed said. “Everyone was an Ed Lynch Jr. fan that night. That wasn’t always the case. At a local show … it was like A.J. Foyt said, ‘If people are booing you, then you’re doing something right.’ ”

Sye grew up working on his dad’s car, and once he got an opportunity to drive his No. 42 car a few years ago, Sye showed speed. He has raced with the Outlaws before and relishes the opportunity.

“The World of Outlaws are the best in the world and always have been,” Sye said. “To share the same track with them means everything. These are guys that I’ve looked up to my entire life. There are a lot of people who would beg to have a chance to share the same track with them, but it’s more than that. These guys are competitors. They’re not out there to make friends, so you have to be just as competitive as them and have your equipment as good as theirs.”

One of the many traits Ed had as a driver was the ability to qualify well in big races, and Sye also has shown that ability, which will be important Tuesday.

When the All Star Circuit of Champions came to town a couple of weeks ago, Sye qualified fifth at Lernerville, but he had to scratch because of mechanical issues. The next night at Sharon (Ohio) Speedway, Sye was second fastest, which set up his entire night. He won his dash to earn the pole for the feature and finished sixth.

“My dad has taught me some very important lessons on qualifying,” Sye said. “It has to do with setup, and it has to do with how you perform in the car. It’s a completely different mindset and should be treated as such. You have to have your adrenaline up because when you take the green flag, you’re on the clock, so you have to go.”

Ed looks back at that July night when he bested the Outlaws with great pride, and he takes more pride watching Sye follow in his footsteps.

“It’s very rewarding because we did all the work in our little garage at home,” Ed said. “We did everything that we could to put our best foot forward and race the racetrack and not worry about the competition. That’s the best advice I can give my son. After that, you let you let your talent do everything else. That’s what Sye’s doing now. He’s doing everything out of his own pocket like his old man did.”

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