By Eric J. Westendorf Sarver, PA (May 25, 2007) On the grounds of an old amusement park, Legendary, nay Hall of Fame, Promoter Don Martin built what he dreamed would be the greatest dirt racing facility in the country. His vision was to provide a showcase venue for the spectacle that is dirt track racing, while catering to and creating an environment for families to spend a quality evening together. An otherwise quiet rural town in the southeastern corner of Butler county, Sarver, PA is home to Don Martin’s Lernerville Speedway. Martin’s name is still attached to the speedway in honor of his dedication to local racing and family entertainment. Though Mr. Martin has passed on, his spirit is alive and well at the track he made famous. His dreams have not faded, they have simply been passed down to those whom took the reigns after his passing. Now, in the capable hands of Gary Risch Jr., who grew up less than a mile from the 4/10-mile oval, the speedway is about to host the “Biggest Stock Car Race in Western Pennsylvania History.”
Firecracker 100 will add to already Rich History of Late Model Racing at Lernerville Speedway!
Long considered a national sprint car venue, the Lernerville Speedway has hosted World of Outlaws Sprint Car races for almost three decades. The signature event of the speedway is the aptly named Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup. The Silver Cup is one of the biggest single day shows on the Outlaw circuit; paying $30,000 to win and attracting drivers from both Ohio and Eastern Pennsylvania to compete with the local racers and touring Outlaw regulars. But over the past few years, Lernerville has slowly been evolving into a hotbed for Late Model racing as well. Recent events for both the World of Outlaws and MACS series races have drawn 50+ car counts. Based on the success of these events, demand has increased for a late model race similar in size and scope to the Silver Cup. However, with car counts so high, a one-day show is not feasible and until now, a two-day show was not in the cards. But that will all change on June 29 & 30, as the Firecracker 100 and Uncle Sam 30 will kick off an extended Fourth of July weekend, marking the culmination of Lernerville’s evolution into a national late model venue. Still more than a month away, the entry list is rapidly approaching 50 cars that reads like a who’s who of national late model drivers. Scott Bloomquist, Billy Moyer, Tim McCreadie, Chub Frank, Steve Francis, Rick Eckert and newcomers Shannon Babb and Chris Madden headline the list of elite drivers headed to Lernerville Speedway to do battle with local hotshoes Alex Ferree, David Scott, Jared Miley, Dutch Davies and defending track champion Lynn Geisler.
To date, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series has invaded the “Action Track” seven times; twice in each of the past three years and once already in 2007. Chub Frank has had the most success, winning two of the seven World of Outlaw-sanctioned races, as well as 2 MACS series races at the track in the same time frame. Other winners include Tim McCreadie, Dale McDowell, Rick Eckert, Billy Moyer, and most recently Shannon Babb.
Despite the fact that Lernerville has until recently been known nationally for its sprint car racing, late models have always been a vital part of the speedway’s success. Dating back to the opening of the facility in 1967, drivers such as Bob Wearing Sr., Blackie Watt, Dick Swartzlander and countless others blazed the trail continued on by Ed Ferree, Ben Miley and Lynn Geisler.
Far and away, the all-time leader in feature wins at the Lernerville Speedway is the great Bob Wearing Sr. Known in the racing community as “Mr. Invitational”, for his prowess in big ticket races, Wearing won a grand total of 179 feature events at the Action Track, 117 of which came in a late model. He claimed five Late Model Track Championships between 1971 and 1981, before focusing more attention on Big Block Modifieds. In that division he would win 62 features on his way to 3 Track Championships. He would later win a sixth Late Model Track Championship in the twilight of his career in 1997.
The only other driver to win 100+ features in Late Model competition at the Lernerville Speedway is Reigning Track Champion Lynn Geisler. In all Geisler has won 106 late model features to date, and five Late Model Track Championships in his famous #1Cochran ride.
Over the past decade, drivers such as John Flinner, Gary Lyle, Nick Jones and David Scott have joined Geisler as perennial powers in the division.
In that time, the sensational, if controversial, John Flinner has put his stamp on the division, winning an unprecedented five consecutive track championships from 2001-2005. Flinner has thus far been inactive during the 2007 season, but many believe he will make a return in time to defend his home turf for the biggest race the track has ever seen.
The Late Model division at Lernerville in 2007 has been dominated thus far by Alex Ferree. “Awesome Alex” has won five of six races and finished second in the only race he did not win! His meteoric rise to success has overshadowed the blossoming talents of Jared Miley, Matt Lux, Dutch Davies, and Jared Hawkins.
If the names Ferree and Miley sound familiar, it is because they are second-generation drivers following in the footsteps of greats Ed Ferree and Ben Miley. Ed Ferree, father of Alex, won Late Model Track Championships in 1985 & 1986, as well as 21 features in his career at Lernerville. He would likely have won many more had he not moved on to asphalt racing, eventually on the NASCAR level. Ben Miley, uncle of Jared, was Lynn Geisler’s biggest rival for more than two decades in the local late model scene. At Lernerville Speedway, Ben is credited with 34 feature wins in Late Models, winning Track Championships in 1984, 1988, and back-to-back championships in 1995 & 1996. Earlier in his career he won a Track Championship in the now defunct Semi-Lates division.
Combine the well-established history of the late model division with the top quality of the racing surface and facilities and it’s easy to see why the Inaugural Firecracker 100 is generating so much buzz and hype as the ‘Biggest Stock Car Race in Western Pennsylvania History’. But local racing historian Walt Wimer disagrees, "’Biggest Stock Car race in western Pennsylvania history’? NO!! This is going to be the biggest Late Model race ever in the entire Northeast!” Wimer goes on to predict, “This one will rank right up there with those biggies held to the west and south of the Keystone State!”
Local radio personality Don Gamble, host of Rappin’ on Racin’ and Trackside, (as well as being a former driver & car owner), is equally as optimistic, stating, “It is possible that the Firecracker 100 could produce the largest late model field ever in the Tri-State Area. The excellent late model racing at Lernerville has only been a preview of coming attractions!”
If these two staples of the Western PA dirt-racing scene are excited, you know it’s a big deal. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness history in the making. Call and purchase your Firecracker 100 Reserved Seat 2-day tickets today by calling the Lernerville Speedway office at (724) 353-1511.