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Nowak comes on strong in Quick 16 at Lancaster

When Mike Nowak entered Friday night’s IHRA weekly drag racing program at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway, he realized there would have to be an improbable chain of events to see him become a factor in Lancaster’s Quick 16 class season points championship battle.

When the night was over, those events materialized and have given Nowak a shot at upending points leader Steve Ferstl for the Quick 16 crown during the Oct. 10 season-ending Pro-Mod-A-Palooza event.

Nowak came into Friday’s action fourth in points with 260, trailing Ferstl with 330, teammates Dave Lawler and Robert Bauer III, 280, and defending Lancaster Quick 16 champion Vic Puglia Jr., 270.

Nowak took destiny into his own hands and maximized his potential point gathering opportunity Friday by going all the way to the Quick 16 final and beating Bill Leber Jr. for the victory. Meanwhile, he also received major outside help.

First, due to drag racing commitments elsewhere, neither Lawler nor Bauer showed up Friday at Lancaster and therefore gained no points. Secondly, Ferstl and Puglia both suffered first-round losses Friday and only gained their attendance and qualifying points but did not get any from the elimination round.

While it will still be an uphill battle, Nowak has now jumped to second in points, 30 behind Ferstl, 370-340, going into the season finale next month.

With four elimination rounds likely on Oct. 10 and with a round win worth 10 points per round, Nowak would have to win that day and Ferstl again lose in the first round for Nowak to grab the title. If they tie in final points, Ferstl would win the championship based on more wins at Lancaster this season. He has three Lancaster wins currently and Nowak one.

Making Nowak’s success Friday all the more improbable was the fact he was battling mechanical issues.

“There’s a noise coming from the rear end,” Nowak said. “It’s either the ring and pinion or a bearing. It got noisier each round but I guess I’ve gotten luckier each round too. It will need a new one. I just didn’t even check it. I didn’t want to know. I just kept racing.

“I got 30 points to make up in one race, which is tough. If Steve wins two rounds, he’s got it won so I’ll do the best I can on the 10th of October and see what happens. This is my first win here this year but my second final. I lost to Robert Bauer III earlier this year.”

Nowak found some humor in Friday’s developments.

“Steve will be praying for rain on Oct. 10 and I’ll be praying for sunshine,” Nowak said.

Mod class point leader Dale Eckert also took care of business Friday and won the Mod final over Roger Kieffer to extend his points lead. Eckert now appears to be in the driver’s seat for his ninth Lancaster Mod season championship in the last 10 years as he now leads Jeff Kerl in points, 1,000-950.

“I got a lot of confidence this year,” Eckert said. “I did a couple things to the car different and I got my support from my son Nolan and our friend” Dan Knab. “I got my wife, Rachael, in the stands tonight and I think she brought me good luck. Our son Andrew is also here.

“This will be nine championships here if I get the championship. But it’s never over until the fat lady sings, as they say, and Kerl is a tough competitor so I got to keep on going and just keep on winning.”

On Aug. 21, Eckert pulled off a drag racing rarity at Lancaster by winning in two different classes on the same night. Eckert emerged victorious in both the Mod and Top classes that evening.

“That was my highlight of the year,” said Eckert. “I was really happy when I doubled up that night. It made my night.”

One driver who has already secured his 2015 Lancaster class season points title is Lucas Salemi, who clinched the Bikes/Sleds class title early in Friday’s eliminations and then for good measure advanced all the way to the final before losing to Rob Brandel.

The two classes that will provide the most point championship drama during the Oct. 10 finale will be Top and Street. Mike Sobczynski and Jan Winkowski came into Friday’s Lancaster Top class competition tied for the point lead and both lost in the third round Friday and remain deadlocked following eliminations with 860 points apiece. Rick Szewczyk won Friday’s Top final.

In Street, Winkowski’s nephew, Cody Winkowski, came to Lancaster on Friday sporting a narrow 10-point lead over Nick Morrissey. Morrissey suffered a red light loss in the first round while Winkowski won two rounds before losing in the third. He carries a 30-point advantage into the points finale. Louie San George captured Friday’s Street final.

Also at Lancaster on Friday, the TNT Super Series made a special appearance with Jon Jablonski defeating Tyler Halleen.

Elsewhere, James Michael Friesen and Brandon Sherwood both turned in stellar performances during Ransomville Speedway’s King of the Hill season finale race Saturday. Friesen, the 2015 Ransomville Sportsman co-champion, captured the $1,500-to-win 75-lap Sportsman feature while Sherwood, the track’s 2015 Street Stock titlist, triumphed in the $1,500-to-win 75-lap Street Stock main event.

Chris Leone won the 4-Banger class race Saturday at Ransomville and successfully defended his Ransomville 4-Banger season point championship.

Other Ransomville victors Saturday were Butch Zimmerman, Parts Plus Pro Stocks, and Noah Walker, Novice Sportsman.

Over their last two special event only seasons, Little Valley Speedway had scheduled a combined 10 race events over those years at five races per season. When this past Saturday’s season ending program fell victim to a rain cancellation it marked the fifth time over the last two years that a Little Valley event has been washed away by wet weather. That’s an average of one out of every two races.