Steel City Round Up Recap - Lernerville’s biggest stars shine brightest!
Butch Lambert’s “Last Ride” caps not only the season, but his career
Series Champions Crowned as 2013 season comes to a close
Sarver, PA (November 6, 2013) Over 260 drivers, their crews, families, friends and thousands of the finest race fans in the world braved the wind and cold two weekends ago during the three-day DIRTcar Round Up Steel City Stampede to bring the 2013 season to an exciting, but bittersweet end. When the final checkered flag of the 2013 season waved, a total of 10 drivers celebrated their victories in Sheetz Victory Lane and an 11th
driver was honored on the track and in Sheetz Victory Lane as he prepared to take his “Last Ride” around the Action Track.
In addition, three drivers were recognized as the BRP Modified Tour, RUSH Dirt Late Model Series and UEMS Modified Series all crowned their 2013 Champions. There were two drivers, unfortunately, that appeared to win their respective races; only to be disqualified during post-race inspections. Overall, however, the 5th
Annual DIRTcar Round Up Steel City Stampede was a successful and exciting end to the 2013 racing season in Western Pennsylvania.
As they have so many times on Friday Nights over the past several years, some of the biggest stars of Fab Four Racing shined the brightest during the Steel City Stampede. Alex Ferree continued his torrid stretch of dominance in the Precise Late Models with his fourth straight win and sixth since winning the Mid-Season Championship on June 21. Danny Holtgraver, who spent the entire summer travelling with the All Star Circuit of Champions, came home to claim $3,000 and his first Stampede Belt Buckle after putting on a clinic in the Peoples TWP DIRTcar Sprints. Brian Swartzlander prevailed over 2013 Track Champion Mat Williamson to score his first Steel City Stampede Belt Buckle, fifth win of the season and 82nd
of his career in the Diehl/BRP Tour Modifieds. Chris Schneider hit the 20-win milestone with an impressive victory over a talented field of Sportsman/Stock cars that once again boasted the biggest car count of the event!
The Steel City Stampede also marked the “Last Ride” of Butch Lambert who rose from the then Pure Stock ranks to race with the FASTRAK and RUSH Late Model Series in recent years. During the Pure Stock portion of his career, Lambert won 22 features en route to three Track Championships in a five year period. Lernerville and RUSH Late Model Series officials took time out of an otherwise streamlined program to honor the fan favorite during the RUSH Dash and again during the four-wide salute to the fans. The pomp and circumstance motivated Butch to charge from 16th
on the grid to a fourth place finish. And while his wife Robyn and daughter Madison will enjoy having Butch home more often, we here at Lernerville Speedway hope his “retirement” is tenuous and short-lived!
After heat races and B-Mains set the starting line-ups for nine A-Main features, the main events started with the Precise Racing Products DIRTcar Late Models racing under ULMS sanctioning. And while the ULMS title had already been decided, the $3,000 Stampede Belt Buckle was up for grabs! Big Block Modified converts Russell King and Brian Swartzlander brought the field to green with King taking the early lead. King had already picked up a $3,000 Late Model win at the Action Track this season by scoring the Uncle Sam 30 victory during the Firecracker 100 weekend, but his time at the front was limited. Recently crowned Track Champion Alex Ferree, winner of three straight Fab Four features to close the regular season, was on the move through a stout front few rows of regional Late Model stars. Ferree quickly dispatched long-awaited returnees John Britsky and Matt Lux, then Swartzlander and John Garvin Jr.; all in the first four laps. A caution on lap seven set the table and Ferree devoured King to take the lead at the flagstand by a nose to complete lap eight. A handful of cautions kept Ferree honest, but he was never seriously challenged. Ferree cruised to Sheetz Victory Lane in the Joe Corrado-owned Blue Mountain Energy/Frankland Rear-End #10 for the fourth straight time and sixth time this season. Ferree’s $3,000 win is the 25th
of his career.
2011 Stampede feature winner John Garvin Jr. came home with a strong second place run to salvage, (pun intended), what has been a frustrating second half of the season for “The Recycler”; though there has been word of unbridled success at a local, but private, go kart track. Brian Swartzlander finished third ahead of Jared Miley and Matt Lux. The Precise/ULMS top ten rounded out with John Britsky, Tommy Beck, Colton Flinner, Dan Swartzlander and Chris Rhodes. Flinner, nephew of local Late Model legend John Flinner, was making just his second start in a Super Late Model and his first at Lernerville Speedway.
The Peoples TWP DIRTcar Sprints pushed off next without three-time defending event winner Dale Blaney who scratched from the A-Main due to engine issues after taking heat in the GF-1/Ti22 Performance #2 Sprinter earlier in the evening. With the certainty of a first-time event winner, Eric Williams and Cory Good battled for the lead early, but Brandon Matus and Carl Bowser would quickly make their way to the front. Matus took the lead on lap three and Bowser came to second on the lap four restart.
But unbeknownst to them, All Star Danny Holtgraver was charging from mid-field in his return to his home track in his family-owned KARGO/Kistler Racing #D4 after taking it easy the first few laps as the pack spread out around the 4/10-mile speedplant. Once the cars got strung out and taking advantage of the single-file restarts, Holtgraver quickly sliced and diced his way to the front, but Matus and Bowser had set a torrid pace. However, Holtgraver passed Matus’s car 13 on lap 13 to take the lead and then proceeded to cruise to a $3,000 payday. Impending rain rushed the fan favorite out of Sheetz Victory Lane just about as fast as he got there, but the rain would only make a brief, but dubious appearance; more on that shortly!
Matus and Bowser chased Holtgraver to the checkers for podium finishes ahead of 2013 division wins leader Jack Sodeman Jr. and Mike Lutz. Eric Williams, Dan Shetler, Cory Good, Brent Matus and Bill Kiley rounded out the Peoples TWP top ten.
After a brief rest, Brian Swartzlander strapped into his MEI Enterprises #83 Modified for the BRP Tour finale of the Diehl Auto Group DIRTcar Northeast Modifieds. With 81 wins to his credit, Brian Swartzlander is clearly a Sheetz Victory Lane VIP, but hadn’t done so yet during the Steel City Stampede. That would all change though, as he took the lead just three laps into the 30-lapper, but while Ferree and Holtgraver before him cruised to the checkers, Swartzlander would have to hold off his newest rival in 2013 Track Champion Mat Williamson to score his 82nd
career feature win.
Williamson made his way to third on the lap eight restart, then into second two laps later. He then reeled in Swartzlander in heavy lapped traffic on lap 12. They cleared lapped traffic for a few circuits, before catching another pack of cars on lap 18. A caution cleared the track for the rivals on the lap 19 restart and the Canadian Sensation took full advantage of the opportunity to take the lead off turn four to complete lap 19. Williams held the lead despite a few cautions and restarts until lap 26 when Swartzlander drove around Williamson exiting turn two and into the lead down the back straightaway. Williamson slowed dramatically in turn two; due to running out of fuel. With Williamson out of the picture, former Track Champion Jeremiah Shingledecker became a factor briefly, but after contact with Swartzlander coming to the green flag on the restart, Shingledecker was sent to the tail. Instead, he elected to take it to the pits, relinquishing second place to Rex King Jr.; queue the aforementioned rain!
On the second attempt to restart lap 28, the sprinkles/drizzle made the track slick enough to send Swartzlander, King and a few others sailing off turn three after charging full speed down the back straightaway. Due to the unique circumstances, everyone involved was permitted to restart from their previous positions. But a thrilling three-car battle between King, Dave Murdick and Eric Gabany allowed Swartzlander to cruise to his 82nd
career win and his first Stampede Belt Buckle.
Murdick prevailed to take runner-up honors over King Jr. and Gabany. Justin Wright finished fifth ahead of Bob Warren, Ricky Richner, Brad Rapp, Kevin Hoffman and Steve Barr whom rounded out the Diehl/BRP top ten. Chad Brachmann was scored as DNF in 19th
after logging 23 laps, but was crowned 2013 BRP Modified Tour Champion.
With their 2013 Series Championship still on the line, the RUSH Late Model Series rolled to the green flag with heavy hitters Max Blair and Mike Pegher Jr. starting first and third. Blair took the early lead, but Pegher and Jacob Hawkins were in hot pursuit. Pegher still had title aspirations, but Hawkins only had the checkers in mind and he dispatched Pegher and Blair in short order after the lap seven restart to take the lead exiting turn two on lap nine. Once at the point, Hawkins would never again be seriously challenged on his way to an apparent $2,000 payday. But while Hawkins celebrated his win in Sheetz Victory Lane, the euphoria was short lived as his car failed post-race inspection.
After joining Hawkins on the RUSH podium, second place finisher Dennis Lunger Jr. was later awarded the feature win and the $2,000, Belt Buckle and Plate that goes along with it. Pegher’s third, turned second, place finish was enough to surpass incumbent points leader Ryan Montgomery to claim the 2013 RUSH Series Title. Chad Ruhlman ended up with a third place finish and as mentioned above, sentimental favorite Butch Lambert charged from 16th
on the starting grid to an impressive fourth place finish in his “Last Ride” around the Action Track. Polesitter Max Blair held on to score a fifth place finish ahead of John Waters, Josh Holtgraver, Ryan Montgomery, Nico Debacco and Andrew Wylie.
On most Friday Nights, Chris Schneider can be found in the pits, helping his many SS Chassis clients in the Sportsman/Stock division. But when the big money is on the line like in the Steel City Stampede, Schneider dons his firesuit and jumps into his seasoned, yet seemingly superior #55 stock car. Despite a loaded field of regional stock car stars, Schneider ran way with the 20-lap A-Main to score a $1,000 payday and his second Belt Buckle after taking the lead in the first turn on the first lap. The win was the 20th
of Schneider’s career; which at best has been occasional over the past decade.
2011 Track Champion Mike Miller capped his strong second half of the season surge, (that included three feature wins down the stretch), with a runner-up finish. Veteran driver Paul Schreckengost piloted the Valasek #V2 to a podium finish in third, while 2012 Stampede Belt Buckle winner Alan Dellinger drove Joe Kelley’s Saturday Night #100 ride to a fourth place finish. Bob Sloss finished fifth ahead of Chris Withers, Bob Egley, Joe Kelley, Joey Zambotti and Rusty Moore.
Steve Dixon iced his UEMS Championship cake with a dominant win over brothers Jonathan and Evan Taylor. Dixon started fifth, but took the lead down the back straightaway on the opening lap and never looked back. Jonathan Taylor beat brother Evan to the checkers, while Carl McKinney and Vic Vena rounded out the top five.
Former Pure/Street Stock winner Ralph Engel Jr. took the checkered flag in the 305 Sprints over “Triple Duty” Mike Miller; Miller also competed in the 410 Sprints as well as the aforementioned second place finish in the stocks. CJ Jones, 2012 Stampede winner Adam Kekich and Greg Dobrosky rounded out the top five.
Hired gun Andrew Smith made the trek from Georgia to compete in the Steel City Stampede and after winning the 4-Cylinder feature, he later ran away with the Enduro 100 before failing post-race inspection. Eric Boozel, Dan Jackson, Travis Creech and John Shannon scored top five finishes in the 4-Cylinders.
Alan Knepper became the only repeat winner from the 2012 Stampede, (which was actually completed in April of this year), by taking the checkered flag in the Mod Lites over Tracy Fritter, Braden Dillinger, Lynn Knepper and Tyler Frankenberry.
The High Speed Hoedown that is the Steel City Stampede came to a thrilling end with the rolling demolition that is the Enduro 100. Over 60 cars took the green flag and after 100 laps of carnage, Andrew Smith appeared to win the race, but was later disqualified for having tire stagger. As such, the win was awarded to second place finishing Adam Noland; matching his father’s feat from earlier this fall and during the 2010 Stampede. After a few others were disqualified for tire stagger, the official top five drivers were Dave Hogg, Tim Gillette, Jody Bevington and Brian Tobac.
And with that final checkered flag, the 2013 season came to a close. Now all the attention has turned to the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina for this weekend’s World Finals! If you’re not going, be sure to tune into DIRTVision.com
to watch local drivers like Danny Holtgraver, Jack Sodeman Jr., Gregg Satterlee, John Garvin Jr., Brian Swartzlander, Jeremiah Shingledecker and more do battle against the best of the best in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint cars, World of Outlaws Late Models and Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds! Also, if you aren’t doing so already, be sure to follow us on Twitter @Lernerville for World Finals updates all weekend!
Photos Courtesy of John Stivason/Stivason Photos