2022 Greg Hodnett Classic/PA Speedweek at Port Royal Speedway

PA Speedweek Notebook: Marks on Historic Pace; Norris' Growth

PA Speedweek Notebook: Marks on Historic Pace; Norris' Growth

Brent Marks has the chance to make history and join an elite group of Sprint Car drivers if he can claim the 2022 Pennsylvania Speedweek championship.

Jul 1, 2022 by Brandon Paul
PA Speedweek Notebook: Marks on Historic Pace; Norris' Growth

For the third time in four days, Brent Marks emerged Thursday at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway as the unassailable force of Pennsylvania Speedweek, again outrunning Kyle Larson for the win without much of an issue.

The Myerstown, Pa., driver entered the week 73 points behind national 410 wins leader Anthony Macri in the miniseries standings and with six wins to his 2022 credit.

But now Marks and his Murray-Marks Motorsports team have swung open the floodgates — a 62-point lead on Macri with three PA Speedweek races remaining — and trending toward the shore of Central Pennsylvania history.

If Marks and his 62-point lead goes unscathed the rest of the way — tonight at Williams Grove Speedway, Saturday at Port Royal Speedway and Sunday at Selinsgrove Speedway — he’d join elite company in winning his first PA Speedweek title.

Currently, Fred Rahmer, Lance Dewease, Greg Hodnett, Stevie Smith and Steve Smith are the only drivers in Pennsylvania Posse history to have won a Williams Grove National Open, a Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal and a PA Speedweek championship.

Marks, the 2015 Tuscarora 50 winner and ‘19 National Open winner, would cement himself in that special category among the quintuplet of National Sprint Car Hall of Fame members.

“We really want to win this championship,” Marks said. “We were so close last year and lost it. We definitely want to win this. And the way to do that is to win races, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Marks’ excellence doesn’t have to stop there, either, since the 31-year-old’s yet to run off the podium this PA Speedweek. Three more top-three finishes would mark the third time in 31-year miniseries history that a driver finishes on the podium from start to finish.

Fred Rahmer is the lone driver to assemble a PA Speedweek of perfect podiums. However, he only needed to run five races in 1993 and three races in 2008 to accomplish the feat. Marks has the uncharted opportunity to do it in 10 races, weather permitting.

For greater context, Larson, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion, entered this PA Speedweek having won six of his last eight miniseries races dating to 2020. Larson left Hagerstown on Thursday again runner-up to Marks in a race he led the most laps (21 of 30).

On Monday at Lincoln Speedway, Larson led 18 of 30 laps, but couldn’t hold back the 13th-starting Marks. On Wednesday at Port Royal, Larson ran second to Marks during the feature until he pushed his car too hard to the point of suffering a flat right-rear tire.

“Obviously, you’re disappointed, but you get beat by probably the best car and driver in Sprint Car racing right now,” Larson said, then shifting to a lighthearted tone. "It’s tough to hold your head too low. It’d be neat to see him on the road a little bit and go beat up on cars like Sheldon (Haudenschild), (David) Gravel, (Brad) Sweet, a lot of guys, then maybe I could have won a couple more this week. No, he did a great job.”

Marks’ father, Jeffrey, says he’s never seen his son, now second nationally at nine 410 wins, more organized.

“It’s incredible,” Jeff Marks said. “For somebody that can do anything wrong. It’s just one of the times in his life that everything rolls right. He has it all together. No doubt about it. Right motors. Right combination. Everything’s working good for us.

“I thought Hagerstown was going to be the dealbreaker. The next three tracks, Macri’s fast, Brent’s fast, (Justin) Peck’s fast. The next three races are up for grabs. Whoever wins the next three, Brent’s going to be right there anyhow. It’s going to be hard to catch him at this point, unless something goes bad.”

Thursday’s win at Maryland’s Hagerstown — a fixture on the PA Speedweek schedule since 1992 — six miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line gives Marks wins in five different states, too.

On April 2, he won at the Texas-based Devil’s Bowl Speedway with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, as well as June 10 at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, also with the Outlaws.

He won with the Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park on June 18 and Central Pennsylvania’s main three venues, Williams Grove, Lincoln and Port Royal.

Given the team’s robust state, could Marks return full-time with the World of Outlaws as soon as next year?

"He talks about that,” Jeffrey Marks said. “But we find out that chasing the money, the term we use, he’s actually making out better. Because if you know it’s going to rain somewhere because you have to run that series, we just jump courses and go where we want to go. We’re chasing the money right now.”

Norris eyeing Grove title

If there was an award for most improved Central Pennsylvania Sprint Car driver at the end of the season, Dylan Norris would be one of the strongest candidates.

After just two top-five finishes his first two seasons combined in the 410, the 18-year-old has two wins this season and is in the mix for the track title — 30 points behind Freddie Rahmer — at Williams Grove Speedway heading into the heart of summer.

“I feel confident now we can win most races on given nights,” said Norris, who drives for Central PA businessman and BAPS Motor Speedway owner, Scott Gobrecht. “Now, we take that and try to turn it into consecutive top-10s. Top-fives is the goal, because if you put yourself in position, you’ll pick off wins. Honestly I feel it’s a harder task being a top-five car every night, everywhere you go. I don’t want to be that guy that wins one race and then 20th the next 10 races.

“I think that’d be super cool to win the Williams Grove points championship at only 18. You don’t want to points race, but that’s how you win championships, to run top-fives and top-10s every night.”

Photo: Dylan Norris makes his way around Hagerstown Speedway during Thursday's PA Speedweek event.

This week, Norris is competing in his first full PA Speedweek, where he’s stepped out of his comfort zone and raced tracks such as Grandview, Port Royal and Hagerstown he had little to no previous experience at.

Norris started the week with finishes of sixth and 13th at Williams Grove and Lincoln, and has since been embattled with the grind that comes with 10-straight nights of racing — finishing 19th on Monday at Lincoln, 20th at Grandview, seventh in the B-main at Port Royal and 22nd at Hagerstown.

The recent graduate of South Western High School in Hanover, Pa., often reminds himself that Anthony Macri, too, endured his shake of hard times as an inexperienced, teenaged Sprint Car racer.

In fact, Norris’ two wins is the same career amount that Macri, now the nation’s 410 wins leader, had when he was also 18.

“That honestly is the biggest reminder, as much as we want to be winning these races and stuff, I’m only 18 and been doing this for two years now,” Norris said. “Anthony Macri is one of the best around here that stays here, and he started somewhere, too. He used to tear up a lot of race cars and didn’t run good at times, and now look at him. I’m too young to remember, but Marks was like that, too, when he started. It takes time. We call it the growing pains.”

A healthier lifestyle has helped Norris, who’s lost more than 60 pounds since last winter, take the next level.

“I’d say that’s been the biggest thing,” Norris said. “Although it’s been a tough week for that … living off Sheetz and gas station food. As I said, dieting a little bit. I could do better, but I like food. I’ve cut out soda completely, drinking a lot of water. Gatorades occasionally.”

Norris said that he’d love to one day travel with the Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions. Until then, it’s about racing outside his comfort zone, such as Port Royal, a track he raced for just the third time Wednesday.

“Hopefully they can get (the race) in Saturday,” Norris said of potential wet weather. “I’d like to go back there and learn. That’s all that this is about — making shows. … It’s about learning these places and seeing these places that for years to come will help.”

PA Speedweek through race seven of 10: 1. Brent Marks (919); 2. Anthony Macri (857); 3. Justin Peck (789); 4. Lucas Wolfe (622); 5. TJ Status (577); 6. Danny Dietrich (573); 7. Freddie Rahmer (562); 8. Chase Dietz (436); 9. Kyle Larson (431); 10. Ryan Smith (420).

Odds and ends

Dave Blaney finished 23rd at Hagerstown in six laps of action. The former NASCAR Cup Series driver is expected to race for the third time this week tonight at Williams Grove. … Kyle Larson was shutout of PA Speedweek victory lane for the first time since 2019. Larson led 39 laps between four races at Lincoln, Grandview, Port Royal and Hagerstown — concluding the ledger with a pair of runner-ups and pair of DNFs. … Lance Dewease returns to Williams Grove this evening, a six-time PA Speedweek over the last eight miniseries races at the historic half-mile.