SARVER, Pa. — For the second consecutive year, Michael Norris outdueled the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series stars on his home dirt in the Friday night feature during Firecracker 100 weekend at Lernerville Speedway.
This time it was a different car, but the same winning ambition and driving skill his Western Pennsylvania fans are so accustomed to seeing, and those family, fans and friends were there again Friday to see him pick up the $6,000 win.
Norris held off a hounding Mason Zeigler and a hard-charging Brandon Sheppard over 30 laps to pick up his second series victory.
“There were a lot of heroes, in my book, behind me, and that’ll get you rattled pretty quick,” a smiling Norris, 27, said. “I just tried to pretend like it was another Friday night, another 25 or 30 laps here, hit my marks and drive as fast as I can.”
In what was almost a mirror result of his big Firecracker victory last year, Norris again set the second-fast time overall in Qualifying, won his Drydene heat race, redrew inside row two and led 26 laps en route to the checkers. But just as it was for him last year, the win did not come easily.
Norris had to survive several restarts after cautions and even one red flag, but he held his ground on the top side of the track, narrowly skating the cushion for most of the green-flag action while defusing the pressure bombs behind him on each restart.
“Restarts were tricky because I didn’t really know where to go,” said Norris. “Once we got rolling, I felt like I got a good enough rhythm that they were really going to have to work to get by me, but I wasn’t sure to go high or low or anything like that. At the end of the day, we’re standing here and super blessed to be here.”
Norris is now two-for-two in the Todd Cerenzia-owned No. 02. Last Friday night, he made his debut behind the wheel of the blue-and-green Rocket XR1 at Lernerville and ran away with the show, picking up his second win of the season.
He’s normally seen behind the wheel of his family-owned No. 72, but that operation went sour after his engine expired in night one of Dirt Late Model Dream competition at Eldora two weeks ago.
Norris said he got in touch with Cerenzia through Brian Daugherty of Integra Shocks, who he spoke with after his Dream weekend came to an early end. Daugherty mentioned Cerenzia’s name and, after some deep thought and conversation, the new team materialized just one week ago.
“At the time, I didn’t think anything of [the partnership], and on the ride home from the Dream I was thinking more about it,” Norris said. “It sounded like it was going to be more of a possibility, and the next thing I know, I was driving up on Tuesday to put my seat in it.”
Zeigler served as the thorn in Norris’s side for much of the race, planting himself on the No. 02’s bumper for almost every restart. He grabbed the early lead but quickly gave it up to Norris after trading slide jobs out front.
“It was all about just slinging it in there, getting the nose pointed straight and trying to keep from pushing,” Zeigler said. “Norris did a really great job of keeping it out front and not making any mistakes.”
Tacking on his 12th top-three finish in 15 World of Outlaws races this year, Brandon Sheppard drove the wheels off of his Rocket1 Racing ride Friday night, coming from the 12th starting spot to finish third.
“All in all, we came from 12th, so we were passing a little bit,” said Sheppard. “A few guys fell out, we passed a few cars and it just worked out for us tonight.”
Feature (30 Laps) – 1. O2-Mike Norris [$6,000]; 2. 25z-Mason Zeigler [$3,000]; 3. 1-Brandon Sheppard [$2,000]; 4. 14-Josh Richards [$1,750]; 5. 29-Darrell Lanigan [$1,500]; 6. 2-Brandon Overton [$1,400]; 7. 22-Chris Ferguson [$1,300]; 8. 7-Ricky Weiss [$1,200]; 9. 28-Dennis Erb [$1,100]; 10. 6m-Tim McCreadie [$1,000]; 11. 18-Chase Junghans [$900]; 12. 29s-Ken Schaltenbrand [$850]; 13. 1T-Tyler Erb [$800]; 14. 17M-Dale McDowell [$775]; 15. 49-Jonathan Davenport [$750]; 16. 25-Shane Clanton [$700]; 17. B1-Brent Larson [$660]; 18. 97-Cade Dillard [$640]; 19. 99B-Boom Briggs [$620]; 20. 157-Mike Marlar [$600]; 21. 22s-Gregg Satterlee [$600]; 22. 111-Max Blair [$600]; 23. O-Rick Eckert [$600]; 24. 1x-Chub Frank [$600]; 25. 6-Blake Spencer [$110]; Hard Charger: 28-Dennis Erb[+14]