By Shawn Brouse
Port Royal – The advent of this weekend’s Tuscarora 50 sprint car races at Port Royal Speedway will determine who is the 2014 track titlist and the title fight couldn’t be any closer as the races draw near.
Both men have a win at the historic oval already this season.
Harrisburg’s Layton is already a two-time Port Royal rack champion, having scored the laurels for Middleswarth racing in 2010 and in 2012.
If he would be able to take over the point lead and claim the crown with the conclusion of this weekend’s All Stars Sprints races, it would be an unprecedented eighth career track title for his car owner, Dave Middleswarth.
Aside from Layton’s two titles, the Middleswarth stables garnered crowns with Keith Kauffman as their driver at the track in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2007.
Middleswarth already holds the distinction of being the most successful car owner in the sprint car track title category at the oval and a triumph by Layton this weekend would just add to the team’s legacy.
Lafferty, a self-owned racer from Pennington, Nj., is looking for a first ever track title however after taking over the point lead from Mike Wagner at the track on August 30.
It would be quite a feather in Lafferty’s career cap to tie up the crown with the running of the 50 races this Friday and Saturday.
Traditionally, Lafferty has performed better than Layton on slick track surfaces like the one that the Port Royal oval usually produces over the course of the 50 events.
And not to be counted out at this point is 2006 track champion Mike Erdley of Elizabethville, who sits just 50 points out of the lead coming into the weekend.
Erdley too sometimes excels at slick track surfaces and on the heels of his car owner’s just released retirement announcement effective at the end of the season, the Cinderella story of the Tuscarora 50 weekend at Port Royal lays in his hands.
A 50-point deficit is certainly not insurmountable as the point lead has changed by at least that margin during each of the last two races contested so a come-from-behind title for the mild-mannered, Dauphin County pilot Erdley and his owner Randy Lisi is a very legitimate possibility.
Defending track champion Blane Heimbach currently sits fourth in season points, at a 120-point deficit to the tied leaders.
A bad night by any or all of the previously mentioned trio could thrust Heimbach right back to the top of the standings, a position he held for over three-quarters of the 2014 season since it began in April.
The All Star Circuit of Champions Sprints will be in attendance for both nights of 50 weekend action as part of the climax of the 160th annual Juniata County Fair that surrounds the speedway.
Friday’s Night Before The 50 sprint car program will pay the winner $5,000 to win the 30 lap feature event and $400 just to start.
Packer’s Concessions of Centre Hall is sponsoring a $200 fast time award for the fastest Night Before The 50 qualifier in time trials.
The super late models are also on the Friday card with group time trials slated in warm ups.
Saturday’s 47th annual running of the Tuscarora 50 will see a total event purse of some $42,000 posted for the sprinters including a paid B Main.
Sponsored by Ramsey’s Car Washes, the Tuscarora 50 main event will pay $12,000 to win and $500 just to start.
Each lap of the Tuscarora 50 will pay $25 to lead and the Packer’s Concessions fast timer for the 50 will receive a $300 cash award.
The econo lates will join the 410 sprints for the 50, racing in a special, rare, topless event.
Admission to the Juniata County Fair that surrounds the speedway is FREE both nights with adult race general admission priced at $25 on Friday and $30 on Saturday. Students ages 12 – 18 are admitted to the races for JUST $5 both nights.
Camping is available adjacent to the fairgrounds for the economical flat price of only $30, regardless of length of stay.
Gates for both racing programs will open at 4 pm.