By Mike Leone
IMPERIAL, PA-The 34th annual “Jook George Steel City Classic” presented by All Interior Painting for the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply RUSH Dirt Late Model Series presented by Born2Run Lubricants was held on Saturday night at Pittsburgh’s PA Motor Speedway. Race #15 of the 2023 Flynn’s Tire Touring Series schedule was the first visit of the season to “Dirt’s Monster Half-Mile” and attracted 42 cars from six states plus Ontario, Canada. Special thanks to event coordinator Branden Lockwich, who brought over $21,300 to the event, which was added to the typical RUSH Tour purse thanks to so many gracious sponsors and contributors. For the first time, the event paid $600 to-start and was streamed live by The Cushion.
After a terrifying crash battling for the lead in lapped traffic at last year’s “Jook George Steel City Classic”, Michael Norris redeemed himself on Saturday night. Norris started fourth in the 50-lap feature, took the lead with a three-wide pass on a restart on lap 17, and went on for his third event win in the last four years! Norris earned $6,010 from the base purse, $1,000 for contributing to the event from Lockwich and track owner Blair Cress, Jr., along with an additional $238 in lap money and other bonuses for a total of $7,248! Norris now has five career Flynn’s Tire Touring Series victories with all five coming at Pittsburgh as he won also the 2021 “Bill Hendren Memorial” and the 2022 “Herb Scott Memorial”.
“This feels good but I’m happy for Nico (Dabecco) and my sister (Mindy) as I’ve been tearing the crap out of this car the last couple months,” expressed the 31-year-old Sarver, Pa. standout. “I thought the track was awesome. It was pretty bottom dominant in the heats and was hard to pass, but it cleaned up really well. I love this place when it’s like this- I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. I can’t thank Nico, Vinny, my sister, Tyler, uncle Bernie and Timmy enough for working on this thing and letting me come down here and have fun. Thanks to all the fans for coming out and Branden (Lockwich) for putting this deal on. This is awesome to race for this kind of money in a crate car close to home. Also thanks to the new owner- I really appreciate all the work he’s putting into it.”
Ben Policz rocketed into the early lead past pole-sitter Mike Wonderling with Zach Gunn, Norris, and Colton Flinner in tow. Gunn moved under Wonderling for second on lap two. Flinner, who started sixth, was on the move as he passed Norris and then Wonderling for third on lap three. Gunn closed in on Policz on lap four and Flinner joined the battle as the top three began to distance themselves from the field on lap five. Lapped traffic came into play on lap 10 as Policz maintained the lead in search of his first career Tour victory. Dan Lepro slowed to bring out the first caution of the event with 16 laps scored.
When racing resumed on lap 17, Norris went fourth to first with a three-wide pass of Gunn and Policz for what would be the winning move, while Flinner moved into second. Norris and Flinner were side-by-side for the lead on lap 18 with Norris holding on. Thirteenth starting Daryl Charlier was on the move. Charlier came into contention when he drove around Policz for third on lap 20 then one lap later did the same to Flinner in turn four. Charlier found himself 1.9 seconds behind Norris. Norris caught lapped traffic on lap 28, but a caution for Cody Dawson, who got into the fence, brought out the event’s second caution with 29 laps scored.
Kyle Lukon started in 22nd and was making his way forward. Following a caution for a spin by Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr., Lukon raced into third on lap 32. Lukon then snuck under Charlier for second on lap 34 before Charlier got into the fence on lap 35 allowing Policz and Brandon Burgoon to move into third and fourth. Burgoon had run a quiet race going, but was able to keep pace with the front runners. He then made his presence known when he passed Policz for third on lap 37. The event’s final caution was for a medical emergency in the grandstands with 44 laps completed.
Back under green, Norris resumed his lead, while Lukon and Burgoon raced side-by-side for much of the last six laps. Burgoon finally cleared Lukon driving around him in turn two on lap 49. Norris though had too much of an advantage built up as he took the checkered flag first by 1.380 seconds in the ND Motorsports-owned, Millerstown Pic-A-Part/Integra Shocks/Brian Daugherty/Todd’s Auto Body/Cory Fox Trucking/Ingram Engines -sponsored Rocket Chassis #N1.
“I was riding early and a couple of those guys got by me,” acknowledged Norris. “I was kind of waiting to burn some fuel off and the top was still kind of crumby in the beginning. I figured I’d try the top on the restart so I went into (turn) one and never lifted. The car could have been a little better, but it was good enough to get the job done and that’s all that matters. I also have to thank my wife. She’s been putting up with a lot. She’s here tonight and I’m really glad she is. This is for all the women in racing- it’s testing.”
Burgoon earned $3,000 aboard the Ken Chernik/Bob Bentz #5x for his best career Tour finish in second. “This is definitely great for us,” stated the 38-year-old McDonald, Pa. racer, who leads the City Chevrolet Track Pack points at Pittsburgh with three victories. “The way the race started out, I didn’t know how it was going to go and where to be on the race track. I saw Michael (Norris) move up and figured I’d follow him for awhile. I stayed up there the rest of the race and hoped the way the restarts fell I’d be on the outside because after awhile I felt terrible on the bottom. The car felt good most of the race up top and we started plugging away one after another. It took me awhile to get around Kyle (Lukon) to time it right. I had to be up far enough so he could see me above him. I probably would have needed 50 more laps to catch Michael. I have to thank Ken and Bob along with my whole crew and sponsors.”
Lukon was third for $2,000 as it was his second straight top four Tour finish. Lukon not only earned the $50 Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger gift card, but an extra $150 cash in memory of Kyle Stramaski from Jesse Marshall and Bryant Hank. Flynn’s Tire Tour points leader, Jeremy Wonderling, fought his way from 10th to 4th to earn $1,500 plus a $104 bonus from Kristen Peifer. After leading the first 16 laps, Policz dropped to fifth for $1,400 plus $110 for leading lap 10 in memory of Jook George and $100 for finishing second in the dash for a total of $1,610.
Zach Gunn was sixth for $1,300. In his first ever Pittsburgh start, 13-year-old Tour regular Brock Pinkerous went 14th to 7th for $1,200 plus a $107 bonus from Scott Gunn in memory of Dave and Mary Lynn Nicholas. Pinkerous was also the highest finishing rookie of the race adding an additional $400 in memory of Tub Charlier from the Charlier Family for a total of $1,707. Flinner dropped to eighth for $1,150. Justin Chance went 18th to 9th for $1,100 driving a second entry for Phil Lukon. After starting 21st, Joe Martin came home 10th for $1,000 plus a $110 bonus from the Jook George Family.
Cory Sines subbed for his brother Chad and finished 15th to receive a spoiler kit from Ontime Body & Graphic. After getting as high as second from 13th and then failing to finish, Charlier was chosen as the TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night” recipient and received $100 aboard Cole Petrelle’s second entry. John Waters was the recipient of the “Nosed Out” contingency for being the first feature non-qualifier and received a $100 Performance Bodies gift card.
Flynn’s Tire Tour regular Ashton Briggs rebounded from failing to qualify for the feature by leading all 10 laps of the D&V Jewelers Non-Qualifier. The 19-year-old Erie, Pa. racer earned $500 for his second career Non-Qualifier victory in his Farmulated CBD/CFR Racing/Fredonia Chrysler Dodge Jeep/Kunco Landscape/Briggs Transport-sponsored #11A. Fifth starting Brian Huchko finished second in his first Tour start. Canadians Brandt Graham and Craig Graham finished third and fourth respectively as the duo also received $125 each for the longest tow award in memory of former Pittsburgh owner Matt Miley. Brandt Graham continues to lead the D&V Jewelers “Wheelman” Bonus Event Challenge Series standings. Colby Beighey finished fifth.
Central Ohio driver Justin Chance made his first RUSH start of the season and set fast time overall against the 42-car field in FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Qualifying with a lap of 19.225 to earn $100 from FK Rod Ends and $100 from Our Cars Auto Detailing & Tire Service. Zach Gunn, Burgoon, Mike Wonderling, and Norris won the FK Rod Ends heat races for $38 as Lockwich put up an extra $13 in memory of long time Pittsburgh race fan Dean Rump.
Martin and Lukon won the last chance B mains for $50. Mike Wonderling won his first Sunoco Dash and not only received a $100 Sunoco fuel card, but also $404 from the Beatty Family in memory of former racer John Beatty. Both Mike and Jeremy Wonderling also received a $100 Sunoco fuel card in the random drawings for the Tour regulars, while the $50 Sunoco fuel cards went to Logan Zarin, Chris Lander, Michael Reft, and Zach Gunn.
Special thanks to Zach Yost for photographing the event. Also, Corey Simmons provided 500 glow sticks for the fans to light up the sky during the four-wide tribute to Jook George.
The Flynn’s Tire Touring Series was scheduled to race on Sunday night at Eriez Speedway for the $3,000 to-win “Manufacturers Night” presented by MSD Performance with more than $27,000 in valuable giveaways; however, that event was postponed to a later due to impending thunderstorms. On Tuesday, Woodhull Raceway will host the “Darwin Davis Memorial” presented by Davis Electric & Lighting and Empire Crushing. The $4,000 to-win Platinum event has a rain date of Wednesday.
Hovis Auto & Truck Supply RUSH Late Model “Jook George Steel City Classic” for the Flynn’s Tire Touring Series Race #15 (50 laps, $7,010 to-win): 1. MICHAEL NORRIS (Dabecco N1) 2. Brandon Burgoon (Chernik/Bentz 5x) 3. Kyle Lukon (184) 4. Jeremy Wonderling (3J) 5. Ben Policz (14B) 6. Zach Gunn (14G) 7. Brock Pinkerous (555) 8. Colton Flinner (Bentz/Chernik 60) 9. Justin Chance (Lukon 184C) 10. Joe Martin (Snyder 10s) 11. Noah Brunell (31) 12. Michael Reft (9R) 13. Mike Wonderling (18) 14. Tim Shaffer (45) 15. Cory Sines (15) 16. Tony Musolino (Dobnak 42) 17. Austin Hauser (51) 18. Tom Klein (77) 19. Daryl Charlier (Petrelle 184D) 20. Tommy Schirnhofer, Jr. (8s) 21. Jacob Gunn (14G) 22. Cody Dawson (36) 23. Cole Petrelle (184) 24. Bryce Davis (94) 25. John Mollick (4J) 26. Dan Lepro (2L). (Note: Cody Dawson took the Tour provisional and Cole Petrelle took the Track provisional.)
D&V Jewelers Non-Qualifier (10 laps, $500 to-win): 1. Ashton Briggs (11A) 2. Brian Huchko (60H) 3. Brandt Graham (14) 4. Craig Graham (98) 5. Colby Beighey (36) 6. Chuck Medved (2M) 7. Chris Lander (18L) 8. Jim Rasey (Wrightsman 21J). DNS: John Waters (LeBarron 11), Dave Goble (20G), Frank Magill (05), Tony Magill (5), Ben Scott (80), Logan Zarin (Beach 33X), Kassidy Kamicker (72B), Cody Koteles (1K).
Car Count: 42
Feature Margin of Victory: 1.380 seconds
Feature Lap Leaders: Ben Policz (1-16), Michael Norris (17-50)
Ontime Body & Graphic “Spoiler Alert” Spoiler Kit: Cory Sines
Performance Bodies “Nosed Out”: John Waters
Precise Racing Products “Pedal Down” Hard Charger ($150 “In Memory of Kyle Stramaski from Jesse Marshall & Bryant Hank): Kyle Lukon
Sunoco Fuel Card Winners: Jeremy Wonderling ($100), Mike Wonderling ($100), Michael Reft ($50), Chris Lander ($50), Zach Gunn ($50), Logan Zarin ($50)
TBM Brakes “Tough Brake of the Night” ($100): Daryl Charlier
Rookie of the Race “In Memory of Tub Charlier” presented by Charlier Family ($400): Brock Pinkerous
Longest Tow “In Memory of Matt Miley” ($250): Craig & Brandt Graham
Leader on lap 10 “In memory of Jook George” presented by George Family ($110): Ben Policz
Leader on lap 17 presented by Stephen Shelppman ($50): Michael Norris
Leader on lap 22 presented by Trevor Herr ($100): Michael Norris
9th place on lap 3 presented by Erika Ulrich at Edward Jones Investments ($50): Bryce Davis
11th place on lap 3 presented by Erika Ulrich at Edward Jones Investments ($50): Daryl Charlier
4th place from Kristen Peifer ($104): Jeremy Wonderling
7th place “In memory of Dave & Mary Lynn Nicholas” presented by Scott Gunn ($107): Brock Pinkerous
10th place “In memory of Jook George” presented by George Family ($110): Joe Martin
FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Flight A Qualifying (Track record 18.652 by Daryl Charlier on 7/3/21): 1. 17G-Zach Gunn, 00:19.404; 2. 14G-Jake Gunn, 00:19.478; 3. 4J-John Mollick, 00:19.490; 4. 5X-Brandon Burgoon, 00:19.661; 5. 31B-Noah Brunell, 00:19.702; 6. 9R-Mike Reft, 00:19.707; 7. 36B-Colby Beighey, 00:19.859; 8. 11L-John Waters, 00:19.911; 9. 10S-Joe Martin, 00:20.028; 10. 36-Cody Dawson, 00:20.080; 11. 60-Colton Flinner, 00:20.206; 12. 77-Tom Klein, 00:20.240; 13. 8S-Tommy Schirnhofer Jr, 00:20.250; 14. 184P-Cole Petrelle, 00:20.336; 15. 184D-Daryl Charlier, 00:20.415; 16. 15-Cory Sines, 00:20.530; 17. 20G-Dave Goble, 00:20.534; 18. 60H-Brian Huchko, 00:20.716; 19. 80-Ben Scott, 00:21.020; 20. 98-Craig Graham, 00:21.405; 21. 18L-Chris Lander, 00:23.436
FK Rod Ends “Shock the Clock” Flight B Qualifying ($200 for fast time): 1. 184C-Justin Chance, 00:19.229; 2. N1-Michael Norris, 00:19.427; 3. 3J-Jeremy Wonderling, 00:19.438; 4. 14B-Ben Policz, 00:19.454; 5. 72B-Kassidy Kamicker, 00:19.601; 6. 05-Frank Magill, 00:19.690; 7. 184-Kyle Lukon, 00:19.978; 8. 42-Tony Musolino, 00:19.986; 9. 555-Brock Pinkerous, 00:20.048; 10. 45-Tim Shaffer, 00:20.085; 11. 18-Mike Wonderling, 00:20.091; 12. 1K-Cody Koteles, 00:20.257; 13. 33X-Logan Zarin, 00:20.305; 14. 51-Austin Hauser, 00:20.671; 15. 14-Brandt Graham, 00:20.753; 16. 21J-Jim Rasey, 00:20.922; 17. 2M-Chuck Medved, 00:21.029; 18. 2L-Dan Lepro, 00:21.054; 19. 94-Bryce Davis, 00:21.110; 20. 11A-Ashton Briggs, 00:21.630; 21. 5-Tony Magill, 00:21.767.
FK Rod Ends Heat 1 (10 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $38 to-win): 1. 17G-Zach Gunn; 2. 60-Colton Flinner; 3. 4J-John Mollick; 4. 184D-Daryl Charlier; 5. 8S-Tommy Schirnhofer Jr; 6. 10S-Joe Martin; 7. 31B-Noah Brunell; 8. 20G-Dave Goble; 9. 36B-Colby Beighey; 10. 80-Ben Scott. DNS:18L-Chris Lander
FK Rod Ends Heat 2 (10 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $38 to-win): 1. 5X-Brandon Burgoon; 2. 14G-Jake Gunn; 3. 9R-Mike Reft; 4. 77-Tom Klein; 5. 15-Cory Sines; 6. 11L-John Waters; 7. 60H-Brian Huchko; 8. 36-Cody Dawson; 9. 184P-Cole Petrelle; 10. 98-Craig Graham.
FK Rod Ends Heat 3 (10 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $38 to-win): 1. 18-Mike Wonderling; 2. 94-Bryce Davis; 3. 3J-Jeremy Wonderling; 4. 555-Brock Pinkerous; 5. 184C-Justin Chance; 6. 2M-Chuck Medved; 7. 5-Tony Magill; 8. 184-Kyle Lukon; 9. 33X-Logan Zarin; 10. 72B-Kassidy Kamicker; 11. 14-Brandt Graham.
FK Rod Ends Heat 4 (10 laps, Top 5 transfer to A, $38 to-win): 1. N1-Michael Norris; 2. 14B-Ben Policz; 3. 42-Tony Musolino; 4. 45-Tim Shaffer; 5. 2L-Dan Lepro; 6. 51-Austin Hauser; 7. 11A-Ashton Briggs; 8. 21J-Jim Rasey; 9. 05-Frank Magill; 10. 1K-Cody Koteles.
Last Chance B Main 1 (10 laps, Top 2 transfer to A, $50 to-win): 1. 10S-Joe Martin; 2. 31B-Noah Brunell; 3. 11L-John Waters; 4. 36B-Colby Beighey; 5. 20G-Dave Goble; 6. 60H-Brian Huchko; 7. 184P-Cole Petrelle; 8. 36-Cody Dawson; 9. 80-Ben Scott; 10. 98-Craig Graham; 11. 18L-Chris Lander
Last Chance B Main 2 (10 laps, Top 2 transfer to A, $50 to-win): 1. 184-Kyle Lukon; 2. 51-Austin Hauser; 3. 11A-Ashton Briggs; 4. 21J-Jim Rasey; 5. 14-Brandt Graham; 6. 2M-Chuck Medved; 7. 05-Frank Magill; 8. 5-Tony Magill. DNS: 33X-Logan Zarin, 72B-Kassidy Kamicker, 1K-Cody Koteles.
“John Beatty Memorial” Sunoco Dash (6 laps, $404 to-win plus a $100 Sunoco fuel card): 1. 18-Mike Wonderling; 2. 14B-Ben Policz; 3. 17G-Zach Gunn; 4. N1-Michael Norris; 5. 5X-Brandon Burgoon; 6. 60-Colton Flinner; 7. 14G-Jake Gunn; 8. 94-Bryce Davis.