It's not often that a driver can lead in points at his home track along with being the point leader with a travelling series . Evans City native Brandon Spithaler has done just that.
Going into the Mid-Season Championship event tonight at Lernerville, the 21-year-old student at Youngstown State University holds a slim 5-point lead over Eric Williams, the latest winner in the sprint cars.
On Saturday at Pittsburgh's PA Motor Speedway, Spithaler will attempt to hold on to an even slimmer 1-point margin over Tony Beaber when the Buckeye Outlaw Super Sprint Series, without the top win, visits the "Monster Half-Mile" near Imperial.
Spithaler credits his father, Frank, Tom Burkey, the owner of his wingless car, and Rich McConnell for improving on the setup of the car at Lernerville where, before 2013, Spithaler had only finished in the top five once in two and a half seasons.
"As a driver, I am learning every week," Spithaler said. "We've always run better at Mercer than at Lernerville in the past."
While having only one win at Lernerville this season, the No. 22 team has only finished outside the top 10 once in six races, which propelled them into first place going into the Mid-Season Championship.
In the BOSS Series, Spithaler drives the No. 57 for Burkey, who also supplies the motor for Brandon's wing car.
Spithaler and Burkey teamed up a few years ago after a chance meeting at the Chili Bowl midget car event in Tulsa, Okla.
Winning a BOSS show at Mercer in 2012 and again in 2013, along with a top-five finish at PPMS, shows the team is headed in the right direction with its short track program, .
The Mid-Season Championship today at Lernerville has something for everyone. For the fans, it's close racing. For the winners of tonight's features, it's a provisional starting spot in division's premier event, and the same goes for the leader in points at the end the race.
With the Firecracker 100 for the Dirt Late Models less than a week away, John Garvin Jr., the point leader and most recent winner, and Alex Ferree, who is 27 points behind Garvin, have a shot at capturing a provisional spot in Pennsylvania's highest-paying event for the Dirt Late Models by leading the points at the half-way mark.
Then again, either Garvin or Ferree could win the event outright, allowing another driver to be awarded the provisional spot.
The sprint cars will be running for provisional spots in the Don Martin Memorial on July 16 and the Big Block Modifieds and DIRTcar Sportsman division vie for spots in major events later this season.
Wingless sprints return
The BOSS wingless sprint cars return to PPMS at 7 p.m. Saturday with the track's other five divisions.
The return of 61-year-old Johnny Beaber, a western Pennsylvania racing legend, to the seat of a sprint car will be one of the highlights of the BOSS Series event.
Dog Hollow closes
Jim Michny, owner of Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown, announced earlier this week in a news release that the track is closed, effective immediately.
Michny cited a slow economy and a decline in spectators and drivers as the reasons for the closing.
Unfortunately for fans of dirt track racing in western Pennsylvania, the closing of DHS signals a growing trend of tracks across the country that have closed, leaving Lernerville Speedway as the only dirt track racing on Fridays.
Motordrome Speedway is back in action with five divisions and the Super Cup cars make an appearance at the Smithton oval at 8 p.m. today.
DJ Johnson: DJ1360rpm@aol.com.