BUFFALO TWP — There are times when John Flinner yearns for yesteryear.
The Zelienople driver of the No. 48 Late Model ranks third on Lernerville Speedway’s all-time victory list in that division with 41. He remains the only driver in any division to win five successive points championships here, doing so from 2001-05.
“I remember getting out of my car in victory lane and getting booed,” Flinner said. “I didn’t like it then. I miss it now.
“Looking back on it, those days were kind of fun.”
Flinner will turn 53 in October. He’s never officially retired, but has not run regularly at Lernerville since early in the 2011 season.
He returned to the track for the Firecracker 100, but did not qualify for any of the three feature races that weekend. Flinner ended the weekend by finishing ninth in a 12-car B-Main.
“Rusty ... really rusty,” he said in describing his performance. “I suck out there right now.
“But in terms of coming back to Lernerville, seeing and talking with so many familiar faces, that’s been fun. We figured out an oil leak in the car and fixed it. That was good. My racing? That’s been bad.”
But he won’t give it up. Not yet.
“I still can’t even say the word,” Flinner said. “If I had the help, I’d be back out here next weekend.”
But finding a consistent crew has been a difficult task for Flinner. Josh Holtgraver, an active young racer himself and a good friend of Flinner, helped him out in the pits for the Firecracker 100 weekend.
Holtgraver is the cousin of current Sprint driver and former Lernerville track champion Danny Holtgraver.
“If it wasn’t for Josh and his dad, I wouldn’t be out here now,” Flinner said. “I’ve been friends with that family forever.
“He (Josh) called me and said the Firecracker 100 was coming and we needed to be here.”
Holtgraver believes Flinner could still be a consistent force in the Late Model division at Lernerville.
“All he needs is to get back into it and race every weekend,” Holtgraver said. “John is an incredibly talented driver. He races with an edge, with confidence.
“He knows what he’s doing out there. He just needs to build up the seat time again. If he did that, he would get better quickly.”
Holtgraver should know.
“The guy held me in victory lane when I was a baby,” he said, grinning. “I’ve known him all my life. I’ve looked up to him.”
For Flinner to get back on the track, he needs bodies to help him in the shop.
“We can take care of things when we’re here (at the track),” Flinner said of his family. “But I need people to help get the car ready during the week.
“I don’t blame guys for not wanting to commit the time. There’s no glory in it. There’s no pay. And there’s other things to do in life. I appreciate any help I get, any time I get it.”
Lernerville Speedway Points Standings
(top 15 through July 4)
Carl Bowser 275, Brandon Matus 263, Jack Sodeman Jr. 258, Mike Lutz 215, Dan Shetler 193, Brent Matus 185, Scott Priester 156, Brandon Spithaler 153, AJ Flick 150, Cory Good 149, Billy Dietrich 142, Eric Williams 137, Jared Zimbardi 93, Pete Landrum 91, Francis Sesco 85
Alex Ferree 294, Russ King 260, Mike Pegher 230, John Garvin Jr. 224, Brian Swartzlander 188, Ken Schaltenbrand 185, Chuck Sarver 183, Jared Miley 178, Garrett Krummert 167, Gary Lyle 157, Michael Norris 150, Dave Murdick 145, Dan Swartzlander 120, Tommy Beck 115, Doug Eck 110
Rex King Jr. 271, Dave Murdick 264, Rex King 260, Jeremiah Shingledecker 232, Mat Williamson 230, Brian Swartzlander 221, Tom Winkle 208, Brad Rapp 203, Steve Feder 172, Mike Turner 157, Rick Regalski 151, Bob Warren 143, Rodney Beltz 140, Carl Murdick 126, Ralph McBride 111
Jim Fosnaught 275, Corey McPherson 267, Rob Shook 262, Mark Sanders 248, Terry Young 228, Joe Kelley 205, Pat Hanley 191, Aaron Easler 190, Joey Zambotti 179, Mike Miller 175, Brett McDonald 171, Bob Egley 152, Brian Stivenson 135, Jeff Miller 133, Neil Tristani 128