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Bits & Pieces By: Linda Fennell

Lernerville Firecracker Report

The 8th Firecracker 100 at the Lernerville Speedway is in the books and Mother Nature provided for the most part beautiful weather. The Firecracker is becoming a tradition for most fans from multi-states. This year's version had drivers from 15 different states. With the racing season for some drivers starting in Arizona in January and for others speedweeks in Florida the end of June and the three day Firecracker schedule gives many teams a chance for a break from traveling. With all the special activities everyone seem to enjoy themselves. Besides the partying, live entertainment, fireworks, kick ball and horseshoe tournaments, teams, drivers and fans connect during these three days. During the kick ball tournament Mason Zeigler showed his athletic skills and helped raise $1800 for the Jeff Gordan Kid's Foundation.

The racing started Thursday night with 55 cars registering at the World of Outlaw trailer. Casey Roberts made the long tow from Georgia. Roberts hot off a second and a win with his new Longhorn chassis found the action track tough to master. Although disappointed with his performance he and his family had a great time at the Firecracker. Club 29 cars dominated this year with World of Outlaw point leader Darrell Lanigan winning on Thursday and the rain shortened Firecracker 100 on Saturday. Jimmy Owens parked his Club 29 #20 in victory lane on Friday. For Lanigan his Thursday victory was his 6th in his last 15 starts. Mike Marlar was the overall fastest with a 16.221 on Thursday. Alex Ferree was the only Lernerville regular to make the feature through his heat race finish, while Jared Miley and Dave Hess Jr. advanced with great B Main runs. Local driver Michael Norris and crew worked hard getting a car ready after his spectacular flip last Friday. The feature run had Jonathan Davenport leading the way the first half of the race with Scott Bloomquist and Darrell Lanigan settling in second and third. Around lap 20 Bloomquist had grabbed the lead only to be passed by a strong running Darrell Lanigan. Behind Lanigan were Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens, Davenport and Mike Marlar from 7th. Thursday's L'ville race was Owens first Firecracker appearance since 2009. Congratulations to Jared Miley for giving the crowd a show to finish 7th in the main event. Good to see John Flinner and Gary Lyle back behind the wheel.

On Friday the same 55 cars were pit side and it was local competitor John Garvin Jr. with the fastest time of 16.849 seconds. Garvin along with Russ King made their way into the big dance through their individual heat races. Also moving into the feature was The Truth Gregg Satterlee. Heat five brought out a red flag as Dream winner Dale McDowell after losing his hood on the front stretch backed his familiar #17m into the pit wall between turns 3 and 4 hard. McDowell was not hurt and he reported later although there was lots of damage to his Dream winning car the frame was not bent. His crew went to work getting their back up car ready to go for Saturday. B Main one had Jared Miley with a daring outside pass on John Blankenship as the pair advanced. Davey The Juice Johnson who has both a Lucas Oil and a World of Outlaw victory in 2014 holds off Eric Wells and in B Main three it was Austin Hubbard and Morgan Bagley taking the final positions. On both Thursday and Friday four provisionals were used by WOO Teams. With Owens and Bloomquist on the front row fans were anxious for the drop of the green flag. All bets were down. Owens lead every lap to win his first ever Lernerville Action Track checkered flag. It was his eighth career WOO victory. Not a good night for Jared Miley and Mason Zeigler as the pair tangled hard in turns one and two. Following Owens were Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie, two time Firecracker winner Jimmy Mars and Chub Frank. Frank's fifth place finish was his third in his last four WOO starts.

Hats off to the track for two nights of running off the show in a timely fashion. Everyone this writer talked to enjoyed the live music both nights. What made both nights interesting was that other than the top dogs different drivers filled some of the remaining feature positions.

Saturday and the Firecracker 100 was upon us. Hard to believe with all the rain in this area the Firecracker was having beautiful weather. Heat races for Saturday are lined up from the Thursday and Friday finishes. First heat had many thinking it was going to be a rough night as drivers were not giving an inch. Chub Frank and Shane Clanton tangled off turn two bringing out the first yellow flag. Clanton suffered a flat and headed for the pits for a tire change. All was looking well until he returned to the track and rubbed Chub's car letting him know of his unhappiness. WOO Officials ruled Clanton DQ sending him to the pits. Owens, Ferree and Clint Smith earned the first three Firecracker spots. Lanigan, McDowell in a back up car and Mike Marlar were top three in the second heat. Bloomquist, Fuller and Davey J scored in heat three. Heat four went to Blankenship, Eckert and McCreadie. Heat five to Davenport, Stone and Miley. Heat six to Kent Robinson, Mars and Wells. Add Chub, Hubbard, Hess Jr, Satterlee, Mike Benedum, Chase Junghans through their B Main finishes and the field was set. Fans enjoyed a highly contested battle in B Main #2 between Gregg Satterlee and Morgan Bagley. Satterlee prevailed. With track points leader Ferree and mid-season feature winner Dave Hess Jr. making the big show on their own, track provisionals went to John Garvin Jr. and Mike Pegher. It was time for a little track prep when rain started to fall. The run in vehicles were summoned off the track. Hopefully the rain wasn't going to spoil the Firecracker 100. Track crew along with the cooperation of the Uncle Sam drivers the track was prepared. Finally the green flag waved Lanigan took the lead until a 15 lap restart when Jonathan Davenport pushed his Longhorn chassis out in front. Davenport would control the front spot until the rear end let go around lap 67. From there it was Lanigan in pursuit of his first ever Firecracker win. Sprinkles fell a few times but they became too much on lap 91 forcing officials to call the event. Behind Club 29 was Bloomquist, Blankenshp from 9th, McDowell from 11th and Jimmy Mars. Bloomquist scored the trifecta finishing second all three nights. It was a tough night for the qualifying locals as all dropped out early. Rain postponed the Uncle Sam 30 until August 29th when the World of Outlaws late models return to Lernerville.

Being involved with the Firecracker from its inaugural announcement, I have personally seen this baby grow. Late model fans have to be proud to have an event like this in western Pennsylvania. Mark your calendars and make your plans early for 2015.

Thanks for reading......Linda email to:

Reflections of the 25 Years of the Pittsburgher 100

A “Silver Anniversary” is always memorable and with the 2013 edition of The Pittsburgher 100 at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway many memories were brought back. After the announcement from NDRL's John Kennedy to resurrect the event back to its status of 10 years ago, there was plenty of buzz circulating through the dirt late model areas.

Pennsylvania Motor Speedway was the baby of its parents Nick & Emma Garin. It was Nick’s lifelong dream after the closing of local dirt track Heidelberg Speedway to build the track. The Garin’s love for Pittsburgh’s dirt auto racing grew at the facility each year. Then in 1989 the Garin Family created an event for dirt auto racing fans to cap off the season. The show paid more money and drew much interest from fans and drivers from around the country. Thus the Pittsburgher 100 was born. Pittsburgh is a great city with lots to do and its fans are very passionate about its sports venues. You don’t have to go far to talk about the Pirates, Pens and Steelers. Special events are also well attended so why not a pinnacle dirt auto race for its fans also. In 1989 with the announcement of the Inaugural Pittsburgher 100 there was plenty of buzz. Drivers and fans came long distances to compete or see one of the first high dollar payouts for the late models in our area.

During those 25 years fans got to see the best of the best late model drivers from near and far. In fact, from the hometown of Imperial, PA, just a few miles from the track, Davey “The Juice” Johnson holds the record of four Pittsburgher 100 victories going into the 2013 version. Scott Bloomquist from Mooreburg, TN had three victories in the record books.

As the years went by different sanctioning groups such as the World of Outlaws, Lucas Oil, MACS, and UFO have all been involved. Through those years times have changed for promoters, drivers and fans as the economy has affected all. With the passing of Emma Garin, the Miley Family, who also has the love and passion for local dirt auto racing, purchased the speedway. The Mileys continued the tradition of the annual Pittsburgher. Scheduling and Mother Nature can be quick to destroy events.

My memories were watching the inaugural Pittsburgher in the stands with my nephew Chad who then was six years old. He is now 30, is married and has a son. Add the Baker family whose children Frankie and Ariella are grown and leading their own lives as well as Jean & Walt Stasiak who are no longer with us. Those were special times but through the twenty-five years this race has lost some of its luster.

Besides Scott Bloomquist and Davey Johnson who now have four victories each, other winners were Bob Wearing Jr., Donnie Moran (2), Tim Hitt (2), Rick Aukland (2), Todd Andrews, Chub Frank, Matt Urban, Bart Hartman (2), Shane Clanton, Josh Richards, Steve Baker, Keith Barbara, and Gregg Satterlee.

In 2013 along came NDRL's John Kennedy. He and the Miley Family came to an agreement where the 25th Silver Anniversary Pittsburgher would take place the second week in October. The silver celebration would consist of two completely packed shows. The Friday NDRL portion would pay $10,000 with $25,000 going to the Saturday Pittsburgher 100 winner. In addition, the NDRL 2013 point champion would be crowned. Joining the NDRL late models would be the RUSH Late Models and the UEMS mod series.

Shortly after their announcement the buzz for this event started. Twenty-five years after its inaugural show, and many changes to the economy and dirt track auto racing, fans had much to be excited about in our area. Again the buzz was circulating among drivers and fans for this second weekend show in October.

During the years from 1989 and 2012 the top prize monies fluctuated from $20,000 to win down to $7,000, while ticket prices increased just like postage stamps at $.25 in 1989 to $.46 today. Also gasoline in 1989 was $1.12 a gallon to current costs of $3.49. Around half of the original 1989 drivers are not active. Drivers like Freddy Smith and others who have retired after their Hall of Fame careers and Jack Boggs who is gone but never forgotten. Jack’s son, Jackie set fast time on Saturday. He told a DirtonDirt reporter that he has not had much luck this season, but was wearing his lucky 1996 model racing uniform.

Friday night’s race had Jason Feger from Bloomington, IL dazzling the crowd with his strong run. Feger, who was driving a Bob Pierce chassis, was making his first appearance with the NDRL Series. Josh Richards finished second after a heated battle with series point leader Billy Moyer who faded to fourth. Dale McDowell rode home in third after making his first run in ten years at Dirt’s Monster Half Mile. Eddie Carrier rounded out the top five. Keith Barbara was the top local driver finishing ninth. Other locals making the dance on Friday were Gregg Satterlee (12th), Mason Zeigler (15th), Alex Ferree (19th), Davey Johnson (21st), Michael Norris (22nd), Mike Knight (24th) and Chub Frank (25th).

On Friday problems started early for Scott Bloomquist as his distributor malfunctioned after just a half of hot lap. The problem forced the team to unload their back-up car. The Friday night crowd was a good one as usually high school football rules on that day. Alex Ferree was disqualified for the height of his rear deck spoiler after winning heat number one. Crate late model driver Colton Flinner moved up to the late model ranks to compete in his first Pittsburgher. Colton was thrilled racing with the drivers he grew up watching. He follows his uncle John into the Pittsburgher record books. Garrett Krummert debuted a new Swartz chassis under his #29, Audie Swartz was on hand to help turn the wrenches. Jackie Boggs was forced to the pits with motor woes after climbing to fourth in the feature.

NDRL provided much entertainment with fireworks both nights. There were flaming pyrotechnics that amazed everyone, a driver wiffle ball game, a visit from the Pirate Parrot, a driver autograph session, and a concert by country music star Cody McCarver.

The Pittsburgher should have had more local support and the fact that it did not get it was sad. The fact that it is the end of the season, projected race costs and that many are out of parts and motors reflect the sign of the times. Fans were treated to a stellar field as drivers from ten different states took the green for the 100-lapper. Ten different drivers representing sixteen Pittsburgher victories were signed into the pits. Past winner Rick Aukland was also there but was driving an emod. This turnout shows just how strong the history is for the event. The 4-wide parade lap always gives me goosebumps.

Scott Bloomquist and Billy Moyer led the field to the green. Moyer was the early leader until Bloomquist took over on lap 12. There were lots of battles between drivers throughout the race. Bloomquist, Moyer and Jason Feger ran top three until Feger drove his #25 to the pits with engine troubles. Kent Robinson driving the #7R finished 6th on Friday and 3rd Saturday night for a great performance from a driver with very few laps at the track. Eddie Carrier Jr. was fourth while Rick Eckert collected fifth place monies.

The best local driver was Gregg Satterlee (6th) followed by Mason Zeigler (11th), Jared Miley (12th), Brandon Burgoon (13th), John Garvin (17th), Alex Ferree (19th), Chub Frank (21st), Keith Barbara (23rd), and Davey Johnson (24th).

In victory lane icon Scott Bloomquist talked about leaving the Lucas Oil Series during the season. He told the crowd that he is working with Penske Shocks. Keeping up with change requires staying quiet as new things were tested. Scott likes the big track of PPMS and thanked his fans for welcoming him during the activities in the vendors’ area earlier in the day. He turned his fastest lap on his final go around. Winner of the inaugural Pittsburgher, he now has claimed the Silver Anniversary title also.

NDRL crowned their 2013 point champion and awarded Billy Moyer with the title check of $20,000. Moyer was quick to thank John Kennedy for putting the NDRL Series together. He was appreciative of the high dollar events that were run this season. Moyer told the crowd that you need to bring your A-Game when you race at PPMS, Dirt’s Monster Half Mile. He also compared the Pittsburgher 100 event to the World 100 at Eldora Speedway. What a great compliment.

I am sure NDRL John Kennedy found things he would like to tweak that may have popped up behind the scenes. For their efforts of resurrecting this event, Mr. Kennedy and his staff should be commended. Their hard work brought the NDRL a great crowd.

For this writer it brought back wonderful memories and created special new ones. Comments can be emailed to:

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