Story By: GARY HEEMAN / LERNERVILLE SPEEDWAY – SARVER, PA – With the first cool temperatures of fall sending a preview in the air and a stacked pit area which contained 83 cars, the 2023 track champions all painted one more masterpiece before closing out their Fab4 regular seasons on Friday night at Lernerville Speedway as AJ Flick, Michael Norris, Rex King Jr., and Tyler Dietz each put an exclamation point on their championship seasons with a visit to Terry Bowser Victory Lane on Championship Night.
The regularly scheduled event night also played host to a pair of held over features from earlier in the season, making for a six-feature Friday as many of the Peoples Natural Gas Sprint Cars and Millerstown Pic-A-Part Pro Stock drivers performed double duty. Central, PA invader and 360 Sprint Car legend Mark Smith made another stop at The Action Track and produced his first feature win in 15 years at the Sarver speedplant in the Peoples Natural Gas Sprint Car main event, while Christian Schneider took the honors in the Millerstown Pic-A-Part Pro Stock make up feature.
Norris Saves Best for Last to Take Third Career Title
Out of the two titles up for grabs, the battle within the Precise Racing Products Late Models between Michael Norris and Tyler Dietz was the closest and most anticipated one of the evening. Norris brought a precarious three point lead into the 25 lap main event and drew the tenth starting spot while Dietz drew the pole, setting up a battle for all the marbles.
Dietz and Kyle Lukon brought the 19 car field to the initial green flag and once action commenced, Dietz and Lukon both sought the early lead with Dietz holding a slight advantage in the early going as Levi Yetter, John Garvin Jr., and Colton Flinner made up the chase pack behind them. Meanwhile, Norris vaulted forward with no hesitation, moving to the fifth spot ahead of Flinner with just two laps in the books. Dietz held his car firmly on the bottom of the speedway as Lukon looked for a momentum edge on the cushion as the two drivers swapped the lead until Levi Yetter joined the party at the front to make it a three car battle with 21 laps to go. Yetter then took the lead using the bottom groove to make his way underneath Lukon on lap six while Dietz shuffled back to third, immediately in the path of an oncoming Norris.
Norris was nearly flawless in his approach, using all grooves and exercising a perfect amount of patience when passing for position as evidenced with eight laps in the books when he glided by Dietz down the back stretch to take the third spot and moving right back to the top. Meanwhile, out front, Yetter was into lapped traffic while Norris and Lukon were dueling for the second spot with Lukon using the high line. Norris edged under Lukon for the spot at the halfway mark and appeared to have taken it, but danced on the cushion in turn four which turned his car slightly as his momentum scrubbed away which shuffled him back to the third spot with 11 laps to go. The slight miscue gave Dietz a new lease on life with regards to the points battle as it placed Norris directly in his path. Dietz made his way around Norris in turns one and two on lap 15 but yielded the position right back half a lap later as Norris crossed under and re-took the third spot.
With 10 laps to go, Norris had every reason to hold the position and cruise to the championship. But a caution restacked the field, giving Norris a good shot at a feature win while Yetter selected the low side of the surface to resume racing. When the green flag waved again, Yetter resumed command of the field while Norris used the bottom groove to make his way past Lukon with seven laps to go as the caution flag waved once again following a Clinton Hersch spin. Yetter got a good jump on the restart, but Norris brought the topside momentum around him and took the lead briefly before Yetter crossed under and took it back a lap later. Norris eventually emerged the leader with less than five laps to go and simply drove away from the field en route to clinching his third career track championship with a resounding feature win. Yetter and Alex Ferree rounded out the podium.
“Big thanks to my family and my dad for getting me into this,” Norris said. “This is really special for me and for Joe (Corrado) and my wife and everybody who helps me. First thing I gotta say was that I was expecting some boos. Levi’s on his way. I hated to take that one from him but I wanted to make him earn it and I’m sure there’s gonna be a time when he’s spanking me soon. Thanks to all those guys for running me clean and Dan for giving me a little bit of the top. This team has no quit. We’ve had a lot of adversity this year and had to pass a lot of cars and I’m just thankful to finish strong and get another win.
1. 10-Michael Norris; 2. 9-Levi Yetter; 3. 1C-Alex Ferree; 4. 00-Kyle Lukon; 5. 77-Tyler Dietz; 6. 1Z-Logan Zarin; 7. 48-Colton Flinner; 8. J4-John Garvin Jr; 9. 55-Chris Schneider; 10. 10K-Zachary Kane; 11. 44-Joe Petyak; 12. 11-Joshua Powell; 13. 81-Mike Miller; 14. 9K-Clayton Kennedy; 15. (DNF) 16-Clinton Hersh; 16. (DNF) 29-Ken Schaltenbrand; 17. (DNF) 27T-Tony White; 18. (DNF) 24-Tyler Wyant; 19. (DNS) 01-Ron Hall
King Jr. Dominates En Route to Third Championship
Rex King jr. came into the Diehl Automotive Big Block Modified main event with a 20 point lead over Garrett Krummert and needed to simply drive clean and avoid catastrophe to claim his third division championship. However, he had no intentions of riding around to capture the title.
King started third behind a front row comprised of Colton Walters and Dave Murdick and when the green flag waved, Dave Murdick emerged as the early leader at the flag stand ahead of Walters with King and Chas Wolbert deadlocked in a battle for third. The action was short lived as Jeff Miller and Chad Reitz found themselves facing the wrong way in turns one and two and when racing resumed, Murdick held the lead as King made his way past Wolbert and began taking looks under Murdick for the lead. King pulled the trigger on a pass with four laps in the books as Murdick, Will Thomas, Steve Feder and Justin Shea comprised the rest of the top five in the early going.
Out front, King was working in the middle groove as his first batch of lapped traffic began becoming larger in his view as he began amassing a 2.7 second lead over Murdick with 10 laps down. King eased patiently thought tdhe lappers while adding more cushion to his impressive lead as he worked the low to middle groove to perfection. Behind him, Murdick had his hands full as Thomas began to apply pressure to Murdick’s back bumper. Murdick was able to hold off his pursuer through the lapped traffic as the laps wound down while King moved his lead to an impressive 6.1 second advantage as he never looked back en route to the division title and his third feature win of the season.
“This car was really good tonight, hats off to my brother who finally listened to me and did something,” a delighted Kin said in Terry Bowser Excavating Victory Lane. “He did a good job and hit on something we’d been working on. We’d been running top three all year it seems like, it just hadn’t been firing off and tonight it fired off, we were really good and the track was phenomenal. Garrett Krummert is a hell of a racer, a big money team like that with him and Will, it’s nice to beat them guys and I can race clean with them.”
1. 165-Rex King Jr; 2. 61-Dave Murdick; 3. 9-Will Thomas; 4. 45-Steve Feder; 5. 14S-Justin Shea; 6. 29-Garrett Krummert; 7. 37MD-Jeremiah Shingledecker; 8. C3-Chas Wolbert; 9. 83-Brian Swartzlander; 10. 18-Colton Walters; 11. 20P-Mike Kinney; 12. 9R-Chad Reitz; 13. 5A-Austin Eyler; 14. 75-Jeff Miller; 15. 13-Rick Regalski; 16. 35-Steve Slater; 17. 60-Tom Holden; 18. 8M-Macey Adamik; 19. (DNF) 64B-Rodney Beltz
Smith Makes the Haul Worth It in Peoples Sprints
The regularly scheduled Peoples Natural Gas Sprint Car feature had a bit more on the line than normal as an extra $500, added by Lernerville supporter Fast Andy in memory of Dave Hartman, spiced up the the intensity as Flick had already both clinched the title and had one feature win on the night. Flick was looking to make it two wins and a special one at that as Hartman’s Fence by Maintenance Serivce business had been a longtime friend and partner of both the speedway and Flick’s racing team. However, stopping by from Central, PA was Mark Smith who had last won a feature at The Action Track 15 years ago and brought a fast hot rod and a desire to win on the haul with him.
Jeremy Weaver and Brandon Matus started up front and when action got underway, Matus cruised on the top side of the surface to the early lead at the flag stand while behind him, Weaver, Smith and Dan Kuriger and Dan Shetler made up a formidable chase pack. Coming forward with authority was Flick who started 12th on the grid and had worked his way to the sixth spot in less than five laps. Meanwhile, Smith had made his way around Weaver and locked his radar on Matus for the lead with the leader staring at thick lapped traffic. Matus found his way through the lappers with relative ease but Smith was relentless in his pursuit as the lap 10 mark approached.
Flick was still coming forward like a banshee as he made his way by Carl Bowser and then Weaver for the fourth spot as he used the high side of the speedway as his preferred way around. Out front, Smith slid cleanly in front of Matus on lap 11 and made the lead stick at the flag stand just before the yellow flag came out for Adam Herb. Flick had managed to take the third spot before the caution and when action got back underway he made his way around Matus for second while keeping Smith within reach as the two front runners embarked on a battle for the win which was interrupted by Brandon Fredericks who brought out the yellow flag just two laps later. When the green flag waved, Flick made the switch to the bottom groove in turns one and two looking to build up enough momentum to run down Smith which worked to his advantage as he minimized the gap between the two with less than nine laps to go.
The two looked set to battle to the final set of turns for the win until Flick’s car flipped softly in turn four as he tangled with the cushion with five laps to go. Flick was no worse for the wear and Smith was left with a handful of laps to stay out front to collect the win. When action resumed, Bowser, no in the second spot, followed Smith around the high side but could not make up any ground as Matus made one final bid to catch Bowser for second, but out front it was all Mark Smith who kept his car smooth and fast en route to the feature victory.
“We’ve been having a bunch of troubles,” Smith said. “I tore this car up at Big Diamond last week and I thrashed all week getting it back together. I didn’t have a motor and this motor here is for sale if anyone wants to buy it. It’s fresh, it’s the first night out on it so I figured I’d just use it this weekend and see how we can do with it and go from there. Track’s awesome; I love this place, I’d run out here every week if I could. “
1. 19R-Mark Smith; 2. 11-Carl Bowser; 3. 13-Brandon Matus; 4. 12-Darin Gallagher; 5. 08-Danny Kuriger; 6. 29-Dan Shetler; 7. 35W-Jeremy Weaver; 8. 3J-Jacob Begenwald; 9. 23JR-Jack Sodeman Jr; 10. 20B-Cody Bova; 11. 33-Brent Matus; 12. 25-Jarrett Rosencrance; 13. 44-Pete Landram; 14. 22R-Ryan Fredericks; 15. 76-Davey Jones; 16. 05-Adam Herb; 17. 22C-Jon Carpenter; 18. M4-Louie Mattes; 19. 2-AJ Flick; 20. 4K-William Kiley; 21. 1-Brandon Fredericks
Dietz Leaves No Doubt in Pro Stocks
With little else to gain in Friday’s regularly scheduled Millerstown Pic-A-Part Pro Stock main event, Tyler Dietz could have elected to not press for the win in Friday night’s Millerstown Pic-A-Part Pro Stock main event. And, anybody in attendance that thought they’d see that scenario play out, apparently have not been watching Dietz over the years. The now four time track champion started third on the grid behind a formidable front row made up of Brett McDonald and Chris Schneider and when action got underway, Brett McDonald led the way at the flag stand but was overtaken by Schneider immediately afterwards.
Dietz made his way around McDonald as well and jumped right into the battle for the lead with Schneider until Tim Bish’s car sent flames from the back side, bringing out the first yellow flag of the 20 lap main event with four laps down. On the ensuing restart, Schneider elected to use the high side leaving the low groove to Dietz who was able to take the lead at the flag stand before the caution flag waved again for a pile up in turn four containing eight cars. There were no injuries and little serious car damage to speak of. Dietz was now in command of the field with five laps down as he elected the top side of the surface to restart. When action resumed, Dietz bolted out to a five car length advantage over Schneider with behind them, McDonald, Brett Hutira, and Cody Koteles rounded out the top five, each looking for their first career win at Lernerville.
Larry Kugel brought the yellow with an unassisted spin with eight laps in the books and when the green flag waved again Dietz rolled back to a five car length lead over Chris Schneider as Brett Hutira made his way around Brett McDonald for third as did Koteles who took over the fourth spot. Koteles wasn’t done there though as he made his way under both Hutira and Schneider just past the halfway point and began his pursuit of Dietz out front. Koteles was in need of perhaps another caution which never came as Dietz kept up a relentless pace up front in a performance that was familiar to everyone in attendance as he finished a smooth, clean and fast performance to take a seventh feature win in 2023 with Koteles and Schneider rounding out the podium.
“It’s definitely our best season that we’ve ever had,” Dietz said. “There’s nothing to hang our heads about, there’s no shame in finishing second to Michael (Norris), he’s one of the best Late Model drivers here in history. Wish we could have pulled it off but I’m super happy and proud of my guys for the year that we had.”
1.00-Tyler Dietz; 2. 1K-Cody Koteles; 3. 55S-Chris Schneider; 4. 4B-Brett Hutira; 5. 25-Brett McDonald; 6. 56-Christian Schneider; 7. 84S-Joshua Seipple; 8. 26-Mike Bordt; 9. 155-Tyler Schneider; 10. 5-Jackson Billyk; 11. 68-John Peterman Jr; 12. 7A-Tom Robertson; 13. 4JR-Jacob Billyk Jr; 14. 55-Brandon Connor; 15. 57-Jeff Hay; 16. (DNF) 00L-Cole Miller; 17. (DNF) 0-Larry Kugel; 18. (DNF) 948-Joey Zambotti III; 19. (DNF) 12M-Trevor McCann; 20. (DNF) 11B-Tim Bish; 21. (DNF) 8C-Brandon Doland; 22. (DNF) 77H-Heath Close; 23. (DNF) 27-Jacob Dietz; 24. (DNS) 4-Jacob Billyk
Flick Cruises in Peoples Sprint Car Make Up
AJ Flick had clinched his seventh track title before the drop of the green flag of the 25-lap feature held over from July 28 and started fourth on the grid as the field rolled onto the track. However, there was no holding back on his part as he came ready to race and completely intent on making a go for double feature wins. Cody Bova started on the front row alongside Darin Gallagher and when the green flag waved, Gallagher rocketed to the early lead while Flick put Bova behind him for the second spot.
Gallagher looked to perhaps have the magic formula for keeping Flick out of victory lane early on as he gained a good deal of separation over Flick in the early going as he entered light lapped traffic with seven laps down and looking confident out front in the process. However, Flick found his rhythm just a few laps later and began heavy pursuit of Gallagher with 10 laps down as Bova, Carl Bowser, and Brandon Matus rounded out the top five. Flick began taking looks underneath the high side running Gallagher at the halfway mark but was unable to come up with a pass for the lead until the lap 14 mark when he slid up coming out of turn two for a clear advantage. Meanwhile, Brandon Matus moved ahead of Bova for the fourth spot and set his sights on the third running Bowser. Once out front, Flick left no doubt as to who had the fastest car in the field as he simply drove away unchallenged, rolling up a 3.5 second gap between himself and Gallagher which afforded him enough of a cushion that a bobble on the back stretch where he jumped a small cushion with four laps to go did not cost him at all. Gallagher and Bowser rounded out the podium as Flick crossed the line in front, collecting his seventh win of the season in the process.
“We won the championship two years ago and didn’t win a race,” Flick said. “We made it a goal to try and get better in that category. Our consistency was always there and this year we’ve been more consistent as the tracks change. This was a huge curveball today being thrown out as the first feature of the day but we made some quick adjustments after hot laps.”
1. 2-AJ Flick; 2. 12-Darin Gallagher; 3. 11-Carl Bowser; 4. 13-Brandon Matus; 5. 29-Dan Shetler; 6. 20B-Cody Bova; 7. 08-Danny Kuriger; 8. 3J-Jacob Begenwald; 9. 33-Brent Matus; 10. 44-Pete Landram; 11. 25-Jarrett Rosencrance; 12. 4K-William Kiley; 13. M4-Louie Mattes; 14. (DNS) 11M-Nathen McDowell; 15. (DNS) 55*-Matt Sherlock
Schneider Tops Field in Pro Stock Make Up
Christian Schneider doesn’t always make it to The Action Track every week, but when he does, he’s a threat to win. Having already won a Pro Stock feature earlier in the year, the talented, young pilot looked to be a good bet cash his second winner’s check as he started on the front row of the 20 lap make up event from August 11, alongside Joshua Seippel, and when racing commenced, Seippel took the early advantage which lasted exactly one lap as Schneider made his way around to take the lead just past the flag stand after lap one.
Schneider then went to work opening up a commanding lead over Tim Bish, Chris Schneider and Tyler Dietz. Schneider approached his first batch of lapped traffic with 10 laps down and glided through them with precision and purpose without losing any momentum. Meanwhile Chris Schneider made his way around Bish for the second spot and began hunting Christian for the lead. Bish headed pit side with five laps remaining, making it a two car battle to the finish as the white flag waved and the leader found himself looking at lapped traffic in all grooves. However, he managed to patiently cut through the cars one more time en route to victory lane for his second feature win of the season.
“I’m sitting there trying to look behind me wondering when are these guys coming, I knew they’d be coming soon,” Schneider remarked regarding Chris Schneider and Dietz. “So I just tried to hit my marks each lap and keep it steady. We did it!
1. 56-Christian Schneider; 2. 55S-Chris Schneider; 3. 00-Tyler Dietz; 4. 27-Jacob Dietz; 5. 8C-Brandon Doland; 6. 4-Brett Hutira; 7. 84S-Joshua Seipple; 8. 12M-Trevor McCann; 9. 25-Brett McDonald; 10. 948-Joey Zambotti III; 11. 00L-Cole Miller; 12. 68-John Peterman Jr; 13. 5-Jackson Billyk; 14. 4JR-Jacob Billyk Jr; 15. 4B-Jacob Billyk; 16. 155-Tyler Schneider; 17. 26-Mike Bordt; 18. 57-Jeff Hay; 19. 11B-Tim Bish; 20. (DNS) 47-Darren Coast