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There have already been a number of driver changes around the area for next season.

While I have mentioned some of them, today I’ll take a closer look at what to expect when the 2017 sprint car season starts locally,.

The start of the driver changes began when the longtime team of York driver Cory Haas and York area businessman Michael Barshinger split near the end of the racing season.

The first real announcement of change came when Barshinger hired Lucas Wolfe to drive his cars in 2017. Wolfe left the Zemco team to drive for Barshinger, which then left that team searching for a driver.

Wolfe has been around for a number of years now. He spent quite a few of those years touring with the World of Outlaws. For the past several years, Wolfe has split his time between the Zemco car, which runs a limited schedule, and his longtime ride with Jim and Laura Allebaugh.

Barshinger, like Wolfe, has been around for a long time. He fielded cars for Johnny Mackison Jr. as far back as the 1980s. In recent years his team has pretty much concentrated on Williams Grove and Lincoln speedways with Haas as the driver.

It appears as if the team of Barshinger and Wolfe will compete more frequently in 2017, and move around a bit. Wolfe also still has the option of racing the Allebaugh car when Barshinger is not racing.

He drove that car in a number of 360 races in 2016, and may well do so again in 2017. Wolfe won four 410 sprint races and three 360 races in 2016.

Blaney to Zemco a surprise: The new driver of the Zemco car came as somewhat of a surprise. Multi-time All Star champion Dale Blaney has been signed to pilot the familiar No. 1 in 2017. Blaney just missed out on the 2016 All Star title after winning six races with Tony Stewart’s circuit this season.

Blaney’s future became uncertain after longtime mechanic George Fisher died just before the World Finals in October. His team disbanded, and Blaney was left searching for a ride.

While he has never been a regular in the area, Blaney and his family have long been popular visitors to the area. The family's visits to the area began in the early 1960s, when Dale’s father, Lou Blaney, would travel east from his Ohio home to race against the locals, usually in the early and late season. Lou Blaney won the Williams Grove National Open in 1966.

Later, while Dale was pursuing a basketball career, his older brother, Dave, would make frequent visits to the area, winning his fair share of local races before moving on to careers with the All Stars, World of Outlaws and eventually NASCAR. Since leaving NASCAR, Dave Blaney has again become an infrequent visitor to the area. Dave’s son, Ryan, was a contender for the NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2016.

Dale Blaney, like the rest of the family, pursued a sprint car driving career after injuries sidelined him from basketball. He has been a winner most everywhere he has traveled around the country, including this area. He has won locally, but there is one big one item missing from his resume. Unlike Lou and Dave, Dale has never won at Williams Grove. Perhaps that will change this year.

Haas lands on his feet with Trone: As for Haas, he has also landed on his feet. Haas will join forces with Hanover businessman John Trone for the 2017 season. Haas, a multi-time 358 sprint champion, has fared well in 410 sprint competition, with 15 career wins in those cars to go along with his 28 wins in the 358s.

John Trone is from the family that has been fielding the potent No. 39 racers around the area since the 1950s. His father’s team included drivers such as George Kessler, Dave Leppo, Bobby Hersh, Johnny Dubendorff, Ed Zirkle, Rick Schmelyun, George Weaver and Tommie Spriggle.

John Trone revived the team in more recent years and has also been a big supporter of racing around the area. John Trone has employed drivers such as Doug Esh, Tim Glatfelter and Greg Hodnett in recent years.

Dietrich to race for Buch in Florida: It was announced recently that Danny Dietrich will race in Florida in February, but he won’t be taking his familiar ride. Dietrich and Gary Kauffman have developed into a very solid winning team in the area, but they don’t do a whole lot of traveling.

So for Florida this year, Dietrich has teamed with Lancaster County car owner Tom Buch. Buch owns the No. 13 racer that was most recently driven by Tim Shaffer.

Brent Marks has announced that his team will pursue the full World of Outlaws schedule in 2017. After a number of years on the local circuit, with a few ventures out to test the waters, Marks will live his dream in 2017, racing full time with the Outlaws.

Marks has won 27 times on the local circuit.

Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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