Championship Special Edition (Part II)
In Part II of the 2013 Championship story, we will take a look back at the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks in all three of their divisions. While the number of contenders regularly racing week in and week out was relatively small, this turned out to be a very interesting season as the racing was quite unpredictable. Quite a few racers would show up unexpectedly for a race here and there, so you never knew who you were going to see until you walked through the pit gate. All of this culminated in the season ending Harvest 300, when EVERYONE showed up, as the pits were filled with 45 cars!
In the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock “A” division, it was the consistency of Battle Creek’s Josh Trammell that won him his very first Spartan Speedway championship in his red and white No. 82 Monte Carlo. Josh was the bridesmaid last season, so it was especially gratifying for him to win the crown this season. While coming home winless for the season, Trammell’s team mate and division Rookie of the Year, Travis Ainsworth finished second in points. Coming home third with help of a hot streak in mid season and a couple wins was Steve Prucnell in the midnight blue No. 42 Chevy. Ron “Old School” Heeney, in the beautiful Dodge Challenger bodied Red No. 70 was usually the fastest car on the track when he was present, but missed way too many races to be a regular season championship contender. Ron did win the Sunday Slugfest “A” title.
In the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock “B/C” combined division, “Just Davey” Kelley from Haslett won his very first championship in his sophomore season earning the title in his charcoal grey and lime green No. 11 Chevrolet. Just like the “A”, there were a lot of drivers coming up for a race or two, but Davey was consistent all season long with a slew of top 3 finishes and several wins all year. Finishing second behind Kelley was the young Junior Gokee, who also was named “Rookie of the Year”, with Cody Coddington coming home third in championship points. In the Sunday Slugfest championship battle, it was Bryan Jenks winning the “B” Slugfest crown in his red No. 9 machine, with Maegan Williams winning the “C” title in her old school looking silver No. 21 Chevelle.
Finally, in a summary of the Sunday “Specials“, Spartan fans were treated to some really great racing. In the May 26th Super Late Model 75 lapper, Indiana’s Tyler Roahrig came home with the win over Dave Stehouwer in second, and Justin Claucherty in third.
On June 30th, the “Track the Stars Call Home” was host to one of my very favorite series, the ARCA Gold Cup Late Models, for the “Chargin Charlie Ryan Memorial” 100 lapper. While leaders Scott Hantz and Brent Jack proceeded to take each other out on a mid race restart, it was a happy Flat Rock Speedway regular, Steve Cronenwett Jr., from Canton, Mich., driving the red No. 21, earning his first Gold Cup victory over
Dakota Carlson, and Eric Lee.
The big race of the season for the Performance Automotive Northwest Modified division was the Brian Heeney “Wild Child” Memorial 100 on July 21. Taking the win and pulling into the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane, was Nyle Weiler in the Silver and Blue No. 27 over Travis Eddy in second and third place Jordan Pruitt.
Round 4 of the Slugfest on August 11 featured the Super Late Models again for 75 laps. Former track champion Steve Dorer, who now resides in Lakeland Florida, took the win over Jimmy Gallagher and Dave Stehouwer.
Lastly, in a big announcement, Spartan Speedway track management has launched a new Spartan Youth Race Development program for 8-14 year old drivers in Bandolero cars next season. The Bandoleros, which will race 20 races next season, is a turnkey spec. series for youngsters. There are hundreds of the cars running at tracks throughout the US, and notable drivers who started their careers in the Bandoleros are such names as Joey Logano, and David Ragan among others.
Championship Special Edition (Part I)
Now that the 2013 race season at Spartan Speedway has finally ended, I wanted to take the opportunity to give all the track championship winners their due. Winning a track championship is the goal of most of the drivers at the start of the season, but it takes a lot of determination and discipline as the season progresses. In addition to the regular season championships, the special monthly Sunday Slugfest special races have their own separate championship awarded to those deserving drivers in the Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks. While a few of the champions are repeats from last year or prior years, for the others, it was something they had dreamed about ever since they started racing.
For the Michigan Legends, Spartan Stocks, and Pony Stocks, there was a new change this season that allowed the drivers to drop their two worst finishes of the season. While some people think that the season is the entire season and don’t agree; I personally like it, as someone who has family obligations or misses a race for other personal reasons doesn’t automatically give up on the championship.
Let’s start off first with the LaFontaine Ford Spartan Sprint cars. While Doug Dietsch contended for wins all season, the championship battle would come down to two drivers; “Lightning” LeRoy Ellis and “The Bulldog” John Turnbull Jr. Ellis, in his second year in the Sprint cars, and Turnbull, in his rookie season after a long career in Legends, were fast all year, and were neck and neck for the championship battle all season. Turnbull’s hopes were dashed a little in mid August when he flipped, and while he finally scored a deserving win in the last Friday night race of the season, it was Ellis’ season long consistency that garnered him the championship. Leroy Ellis, from Vermontville, won his very first Sprint championship to go along with his 2011 Modified crown, while Turnbull, from Brighton, had a terrific debut and won the Rookie of the Year title driving for car owner John Boy Hotchkiss. Finishing third behind Ellis and Turnbull for the championship was Doug Dietsch.
In the Performance Automotive Northwest Modified division, it was the “Governor” Dan Loughan starting things off with a bang in the early part of the season, but Midland’s Travis Eddy held the point lead in the first half of the schedule. Travis missed a couple races in mid season, thus giving up the lead to Loughan, with Jon McNett and Chris Ozanich right within striking distance. Last year’s dominating driver, Larry Wallace was fast as expected, but missed the middle part of the season, and while he won a few times, was never a championship contender. In the end, it came down to the last race of the season in a three way battle between McNett, Loughan, and Ozanich. Jon McNett in the No. 7 ended up taking the season title over Ozanich in second and Loughan in third. I was surprised to find out that Dan has never won a track championship in his storied career, and Chris has finished second an amazing SIX times!
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends presented by Turbo Blue, it was a new chapter in series history as Spartan track owner Jim Leasure purchased the series and added it as a regular division. In this inaugural season at Spartan, the pint sized speedsters put on a great show as Tony Monge and Matt Todd battled hard up front all season. The fourteen year old Canadian phenom, Grant Quinlan, showed up in June and dominated the races he was present for, but it was the consistency of Matt Todd that won him the season crown over Monge with Sean McPherson a ways back in third, after missing the last two races of the season. While Matt, from Canton, was not able to put his jet black No. 8 in Victory Lane , he won the 2013 season title based on his heat wins, fast times, and consistent top three finishes all season long.
In the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks, we had championships in play for both the “A” and “B” divisions. Week in and week out, this was often the most competitive division on the track, and the championship was hard fought all the way to the end. It seems that the race winners in the “A” would find their sweet spot and win several in a row, and then just as quickly, someone else would take over the mantle and do the same. Last year’s champion, Brian Beckner, continued his winning ways, and dominated the early part of the season, developing a rather substantial lead in the points. Week in and week out, William Hartman would often set fast time and run up front, but the wins were elusive for the young driver. Hartman was finally able to break through in the second half of the season, winning several in a row, while Tyler Heeney, at times was able to find victory lane with impressive drives, but just didn’t have the season long consistency he needed. Mike Westphal was fast, but ran a very limited schedule, so when the dust finally cleared, it was Brian Beckner coming home in front of Hartman and Heeney, winning back to back titles in his No. 11 Neon. In addition to winning the regular season crown, Brian also took home the Slugfest title as well.
In the Pony Stock “B”, the year was all Brian Boesel, as the Grass Lake driver dominated the last three months in his blue No. 33 Ford EXP, winning week after week in his sophomore season. Both Marq Eaton and Brad Robison contended every week, and found themselves in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane with feature wins, but could not challenge Boesel for the season championship. Brian “Brutus” Boesel won his first season title over Eaton, with Robison barely edging out Jennifer Larner for third by only two points. Boesel capped off a terrific season with his Combat Motorsports team, as he also added the Sunday Slugfest crown to his regular season championship.
Next week, I will discuss the champions in the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock divisions and also the winners of the Sunday Slugfest “Specials.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Now that the final races for the point championships have been decided and all the excitement of the Harvest 300 weekend has come to an end, there is only one event left at Spartan Speedway for the 2013 season. Traffic was backed up on College Road, the staff was parking cars on every square foot of the facility, and the line at the ticket booth was as long as I have ever seen. The largest crowd in Speedway history filled the stands for the final event of 2013 which was the second of two “Fun Nights.” The reason for all the fervor might be summed up in just one word; carnage. Yes, unbridled carnage, with a pair of Flagpole races, School Bus Figure 8, and finally the Figure 8 Trailer race.
For the opening acts this evening, we had the Pony Stocks and Michigan Legends starting things off with a couple of more traditional Spartan division races. In the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks, the rule book was thrown out the window and a couple cars showed up with some creative bodywork. The Neon of Todd Metz Sr. looked more like a World of Outlaws Sprint car with a top wing and a huge lexan sideboard and Mike Westphal’s Neon appeared more like a Late Model than a Pony Stock.
As the Pony Stocks hit the track for their “A” feature, it was Troy Andrews starting on the pole in the No 1 “Superman” Neon and leading at the drop of the green. Ron Fizzell soon took over second, but the man on the charge was Westphal, as he went three wide a couple times, and finally swept by on the outside for the lead. A little further back, Todd “Yogi” Metz Sr. was the fastest car on the track as he came from the rear and was sailing along in the outside groove picking off cars one by one. Metz was able to get by William Hartman for second, and set his sights for Westphal as the laps wound down. As the white flag flew, Westphal had Metz right on his rear bumper and when they came out of turn 4 for the checker, Mike found himself right behind a lapped car with “Yogi” Metz just nipping him at the line by a nose. The huge crowd cheered wildly at the dramatic finish, as “Yogi” Metz from Charlotte went to the Art Moehn Victory Lane to meet the fans joined by Westphal as the two friends re lived the last lap. Hartman was third, Fizzell fourth, and Andrews rounding out the top five.
In the Pony Stock “B” feature, DJ Marciniak took the lead from pole sitter Ken Dollarhite Sr., and pulled away from the field. DJ built an impressive lead, with Brad Robison also getting by Dollarhite and moving into second. Marq Eaton looked ready to challenge as well in his newly acquired pink No. 12, but got hit with a speeding penalty and was sent to the rear. After a late race caution for oil from Eaton’s car, Marciniak once again took off on the restart, with Jennifer Larner getting by Robison for second. Marciniak took the win over Larner and Robison, with Dollarhite in fourth, and Eaton in fifth. Heat races were won by Marciniak and Metz.
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends Series, the race started off with Rick Kilbourn taking the lead from the pole, but as the cars entered Turn 2 on Lap No. 4, 2013 champion Matt Todd made contact with Kilbourn after hooking bumpers. Unable to separate, the two leaders went spinning as third place Monge was unable to avoid Todd, causing all three to make heavy contact with the outside wall. Fortunately, none were injured, but all three machines were forced to retire from the event. Once the race was restarted, it was Levi Rouster taking the lead over Gregory Rudzik, and pulling away by a comfortable margin. Trevor Klauss made a late race charge to take second and that’s how they finished with Rudzik third and Gary Joppich finishing fourth. For Rouster, it was the Farmington Hills resident’s first race in over a year, and he thanked all the friends that helped him get the car to Victory lane. Heat race was won by Matt Todd.
Next up was the Powder Puff Pony Stocks. The eligible drivers for this race are the spouses, and girlfriends of some of the track’s regular competitors, with the stipulation that they have limited racing experience of their own. Randi Cartwright took the early lead with Teresa Beckner glued on her rear bumper. Beckner was able to slip by, but Cartwright stuck right behind looking for a way by. Beckner took the win with Cartwright second, Dedre Bohne third, Nicole Leonard fourth, and Katie Larner fifth. Seeing a Beckner in Victory Lane at Spartan is a pretty common sight, as Teresa celebrated her win with race sponsor David and Keisha Howe from Beacon Sales & Service along with Nifty the clown.
Well, it was now time for the carnage that the large enthusiastic crowd had been waiting for all evening. There were a pair of Flagpole races scheduled; one for the four cylinders, and another for the V6/V8 powered machines. In Flagpole racing, the drivers have to do a lap around the track and also a lap around each of the large tractor tires placed strategically at several spots. Of course, the predictable result is a multitude of slam bang incidents each and every lap as the race becomes a battle of survival. When the dust and burnt rubber settled, it was Howard Misner coming home on first place in his white No. 222. In the V6/V8 class it was Dominic Shauver surviving as the victor in the black and orange No. 91.
Next up was the race many of the youngsters in the stands had been waiting for all night; the School Bus Figure 8. As the busses lined up, you saw many of the top drivers from the track’s regular divisions behind the wheel. The lumbering behemoths rubbed fenders traded paint and survived some close calls at the intersection as the crowd roared with each near miss. In the end it was Pony Stock “A” champion Brian Beckner coming home the winner. (In the photos shown, Brian Boesel gets ready for the start while Brian Beckner displays the hardware for winning.)
Finally, to cap off a great night we had the Trailer Figure 8 as the grand finale of the season. The cars and trucks lined up in the pits with trailers filled with all kinds of cargo, including several boats, and a bicycle. The goal of course is to finish first, but if your trailer gets dislodged, you get disqualified. If you can’t get in front of the field and lead, the next best strategy is to knock the trailers off from the other racers. As the laps wound down and there were just two left on the track, the starter threw the white flag for the last lap. Flagpole winner Dominic Shauver thrilled the crowd with perfect aim on the last lap as he nailed the trailer knocking it off the leader and stole the win as the crowd roared in appreciation. Dominic celebrated his win in the No. 91 and as the crowd left and the lights dimmed, it capped off a great 2013 season at “The Track the Stars Call Home.”
Sunday, September 1, 2013
The final Sunday Slugfest race of the season at Spartan Speedway is the annual Labor Day weekend extravaganza called the Harvest 300 plus. I just spent all weekend in Columbus, Oh. at the Capri Club annual get together, and as I drove my 1973 Mercury Capri up to Mason on Sunday afternoon, I spent a lot of time anticipating what was going to be in store that evening at “The Track the Stars Call Home.” Let’s just say I was overwhelmed as I entered the overflowing pits with race cars seemingly parked everywhere. Sprints, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks were all scheduled to race tonight, and there were cars from other tracks all over Michigan and Indiana. I have been trying all season to convince many of my friends from my “other home track,” Flat Rock Speedway, to come to Spartan and was ecstatic to see several in attendance. While the regular season championships were decided last weekend, the separate Slugfest championships for the Sunday shows were still being hotly contested and all the contenders were hoping to bring home a hood trophy to hang in their garage.
First division this evening were the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of feature races. The 30 lap “B” feature was first with Ken Dollarhite starting on the pole and leading at the start. One surprise entrant was Wayne Beckner Sr. in the No 77 usually wheeled by Troy Andrews. It was Troy in the No. 1 car grabbing the lead followed by Marq Eaton and Ryan Gordon. It didn’t take very long for 2013 season champion Brian Boesel to slice through the field picking off cars one by one and finally taking the lead from Andrews. Troy wasn’t giving up, and had his Neon glued on the rear bumper of Boesel’s Ford EXP lap after lap, looking for a way past on the outside while Eaton and Gordon raced side by side for third. Boesel led the rest of the way to the checker, with Laura Beckner passing both Gordon and Andrews to capture second, with Andrews third, Gordon fourth, and Nick Leonard rounding out the top five. Brian “Brutus” Boesel had a dominating season taking both the regular season title and then following it up with the Slugfest crown.
In the 30 lap Pony “A” we had pole sitter Jami Larner beating the field into Turn 1 and leading the first lap. Tyler Heeney was the man on the move in the early laps surging up through the field into second sweeping by everyone on the outside. Tyler took the lead on lap 4 and pulled away to big lead as the rest battled furiously further back in the pack. Fast qualifier William Hartman and 2013 champion Brian Beckner burst through the rest of the field and set their sights on Heeney. Tyler’s once seemingly insurmountable lead kept shrinking every lap as both Hartman and Beckner drove their hearts out trying to catch Heeney. With Hartman right on his bumper, Tyler made slight contact with a lapped car with seven to go, which was just the opening Hartman needed to seize the lead. Hartman took the win over Heeney with Brian Beckner third, Aaron Taylor fourth, and Larner fifth. Hartman had a great run down the stretch winning several features, but with his third place finish, Beckner added the Slugfest title to his regular season championship, as he parked his No. 11 Beacon Sales & Service Spare Time Neon into the Art Moehn Victory Lane.
Lined up next in the chute ready to go was the Performance Automotive NW Modified division for 50 laps. Jason Parish started on the pole and took off at the drop of the green as 2013 season champion Jon McNett was right in his tire tracks, with Michael Piette in third. McNett tried nearly every lap to dive inside of Parish, but finally after a few unsuccessful tries, McNett finally got by and pulled away in the lead. Jon lost the lead to Parish on a lap 18 restart, and then spun by himself with the whole field scattering to avoid him. Fast qualifier Travis Eddy had been methodically moving up through the pack, but was forced to retire with mechanical issues. Parish survived an incident with Dennis Uhlman and kept the top spot with Dan Loughan in second and Piette in third at the halfway point. Loughan was eventually forced to the pits, giving second up to Walt Obrinske Jr. and Larry Wallace taking over third. Wallace was able to pass Obrinske for second and closed up the gap to Parish. Larry did everything he could to get by, but ran out of laps as Parish took the win. Obrinski was third with Brad Wyatt fourth, and Damion Lytle fifth. Obrinske was not very happy as he expressed his displeasure with Wallace after the race, as Jason, who hails from Eaton Rapids, headed for a Victory Lane celebration with his dad, Ron.
Just as soon as one race ended, it was time for the next as the LaFontaine Ford wingless Sprint Cars were pushed off for their 30 lapper. Missing this evening were 2013 champion LeRoy Ellis and runner up John Turnbull Jr. Starting on the pole was Ryan Davis, but it was Steve Irwin in the electric blue Flyin’ No. 0 taking the lead with Greg Taylor second and Davis in third. Irwin pulled away while fast qualifier Doug Dietsch passed both Davis and then Taylor as the race was all green. Irwin had pulled away to a rather substantial lead, and while Doug was the fastest car on the track, he just couldn’t erase the gap and Steve took a well deserved win. Irwin, from Fenton, Mich., has run very well this season, but bad luck prevented him from finding victory lane until tonight. Second was Dietsch, with Taylor third, Davis fourth, and Don Hamilton in fifth.
There are few (if any) race cars I like more than outlaw bodied Super Late Models, so when the field of 17 cars assembled on the front stretch for driver introductions, I was hoping it would be an epic 100 lap contest. Leslie driver Chris Place started on the pole in his gorgeous No. 11 alongside the No. 94 of Evan Barrett. Further back, we had fan favorite Dave Stehouwer, Flat Rock’s Derek Wiley, and Phil Bozell, behind the wheel of his dad’s No. 83. Also in the starting lineup was Indiana’s Bobby Stremme, and the winner of the last Late Model race at Spartan, Florida driver Steve Dorer.
Chris Place charged into Turn 1 as the green flag flew and took the lead over Barrett, as the rest of the field jockeyed for position. Place managed to maintain the lead for the first quarter of the race with Mike “Bubba” Brooks taking over second followed by Barrett, Stehouwer and Tim Ryan. Brooks was putting a lot of pressure on Place for the lead, getting under him multiple times, but Chris held him off and continued in the top spot. At the halfway mark, it was Place, Brooks, Ryan, Stehouwer and Justin Claucherty holding down the top five spots. While Place was able to hold off the advances of Brooks, he had his hands full as his biggest margin was just a few car lengths at best.
As the laps wound down, Ryan was putting considerable pressure on Brooks for second, but the man on the move was fast qualifier Phil Bozell as he moved up to fourth and trying his best to get by Ryan for third. Phil first passed Ryan and then Brooks with just 10 to go, and stuck on Place’s rear bumper waiting to make his move. Finally on Lap 92, Bozell moved past Place and took the lead. Everything went very wrong on Lap 97 as Jim Heeney had his throttle stick and hit the Turn 2 wall extremely hard demolishing several water barrels causing a red flag. The hit was so hard that the water drenched the fans along the fence and even rained down on the street stocks lined up in the chute. The crowd erupted in cheers as Jim emerged from the car, but I doubt it will ever race again. While the track crew did a herculean effort to get the track cleaned up, officials elected to call off a restart and declared Phil Bozell the winner. Phil had engine trouble in his own car the previous night, and ended up borrowing his dad Andy’s car for the Harvest race. Place was second after a fantastic run, with Brooks third, Ryan fourth and Claucherty fifth.
The last features this evening were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks with a trio of features; A, B & C. Walking through the pits, there were 45 quality Spartan Stock cars, with many visiting the track for the very first time. Sixteen started the 25 lap “A” feature with Patrick Dent on the pole and Greg Studt on the outside. There was contact in the front row at the start causing the field to scatter, but when they lined up again it was Studt taking the lead. Greg held it for a few laps before Jimmy Scavarda got by, but just a couple laps later, it was Robby Johnston in No. 55 taking over the lead followed by Ron Heeney in second. That’s the way they finished with Scavarda in third, Damon Place fourth, and Robert Hardy coming home fifth. Ron Heeney won the “A” Slugfest championship to go along with his quick time of the night.
In the 30 lap “B”, we had 14 cars taking the green with Rob Newman on the pole and leading the early laps with Jason Luce second and Tanner Tallarico close behind in third. Luce swept into the lead on lap 12 with Jake Thompson moving up to second and Tallarico holding third. The race was green all the way until a late race caution with just four to go, lined everyone up for a double file restart. Tallarico made contact with the leader Luce coming to the restart resulting in Luce to losing control and falling back a few spots with Thompson surging into the lead followed by Tallarico and Jay Woolworth. That was how they finished, but the fireworks were just starting as Luce slammed into Tallarico on the cool down lap and Tallarico returning the favor at the other end of the track. Both were disqualified putting Jake Thompson’s Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame grandfather, Jay Woolworth in second with JD Dennis third, Bryan Jenks fourth, and Mark Swan fifth. Thompson celebrated in Victory Lane in his No. 28 with grand dad Jay Woolworth. The “B” Slugfest crown went to Bryan Jenks.
Finally, the last race of the night was the 25 lap Spartan Stock “C” with 15 starters. Mike Wines started on the pole and led at the start, but Ken Dollarhite soon took over the top spot for a lap, with Doug Fox then taking his turn at the front. While Fox managed to pull away from Junior Gokee and Dollarhite, the racing further back in the pack was wild. Fox led the rest of the way as the Indiana driver took the win with Jr. Gokee second, Maegan Williams third, Mark Childers fourth, and Davey Kelley fifth. The “C” Slugfest champ was Maegan Williams in her No. 21 Chevelle
One of the best nights of racing I have ever seen, and it was great seeing all my Spartan friends along with some newcomers from other tracks like Flat Rock, South Bend, New Paris, and Kalamazoo. A special call out to friends Tim Moore, Tom Freeman, Rich Frantz, Greg Studt, and Chris Diovardi for coming up and racing at the “Track the Stars Call Home”
Friday, August 23, 2013
Hard to believe that Labor Day is coming soon and Season Championship night at Spartan Speedway is already here this Friday, August 23. While we still have the prestigious Harvest 300 next Sunday and also the last Fun Night to look forward to, this Friday marked the end of the points battle when the season champions in each division would be crowned. It seemed like it wasn’t that long ago when the season opened in April and all the racers had thoughts of winning a championship. While some of the championship contenders had an insurmountable lead, other divisions were up in the air as the drivers took a deep breath and wondered if fate would be their friend or foe this evening. Scheduled at the banked quarter mile were many of the track’s regular divisions; Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, and Pony Stocks.
The first division to hit the track for their 35 lap feature was the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds. Point leader Jon McNett had a narrow margin with both Dan Loughan and Chris Ozanich within striking distance. John Ledwidge started on the pole and led for the first couple laps until Larry Wallace was able to slip by and assume the top spot. McNett was able to get by Ledwidge for second with Ozanich back in fourth and Loughan trying to work his way up from his eighth place starting position. While McNett was breathing down Wallace’s neck for the lead, in the big picture, all he had to do was finish ahead of Ozanich in fourth, with Loughan mired back in mid pack. The lead trio hit heavy traffic, but Wallace was able to maintain his lead by several lengths as the race stayed green and the laps wound down. Ozanich was finally able to grab third from Ledwidge, but at the checker it was Wallace, in the black No. 55, taking the win over McNett and Ozanich, with Ledwidge in fourth, and Bobby Heyink in fifth. Jon McNett took the championship; Chris finished second in points for the sixth time, and surprisingly, Dan has never won one yet in his stellar career. Heat winners were Loughan and Steve Crane.
Next division on the track was the LaFontaine Ford wingless Sprint Cars for 30 laps. “Lightning” Leroy Ellis led the point battle with the “Bulldog” John Turnbull Jr. growling at his heels hoping to snatch it away. Gary Sherman started on the pole and took off at the drop of the green with Turnbull moving to second and Steve Irwin to third. Turnbull showed no ill effects from getting upside down last week, as he made an aggressive inside pass of Sherman and took the lead on lap 3. Turnbull pulled away from the field by several lengths as Sherman, Irwin, Doug Dietsch and Ellis all raced wheel to wheel trying to catch the leader. As the laps went by, Turnbull had a comfortable lead as Dietsch moved to second over Sherman and Ellis. Leroy was finally able to clear Sherman, but at the checker, it was Turnbull taking his first Spartan win of the season with Dietsch second, Ellis third, Sherman fourth, and Irwin moving back up to fifth after an earlier spin. For Turnbull, it capped an impressive rookie season, as the Howell resident moved up from a long career in Legends to the Sprints this season. While this was his first trip to victory lane in the Little Diablo Salsa/Marketing Associates/Bailey Racing Engines No. 12, he has been knocking on the door all season. After climbing the flag stand to the cheers of the fans, John celebrated by standing on top of his car in the Art Moehn Victory Lane, with his dad John Sr., and car owner John Boy Hotchkiss beaming in excitement. As for the championship, Leroy Ellis, from Vermontville, was able to add the Sprint crown to his previous Modified title in just his second season in a sprinter as he was very consistent contending for wins every race. While Turnbull came up just a little short in the points, finishing second, he did earn rookie of the year. Sherman won the heat race with Turnbull taking the fast car dash.
In the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks, first we have the “A” division battling for 20 laps. Brian Beckner dominated much of the season and started the race with a very healthy margin in the championship points. Tyler Heeney took the lead over William Hartman and Beckner; those three have been the cars to beat nearly every week this season with all three having multiple wins. Heeney and Hartman raced door to door the last several laps with Hartman diving inside on the white flag lap to win at the stripe by a nose in a great finish. Finishing behind Hartman and Heeney was Brian Beckner in third, DJ Marciniak in fourth, and Cameron Garza in fifth. Brian Beckner, in his Beacon Sales and Service Neon followed up his 2012 championship with another over brother Wayne Beckner in second.
In the 20 lap Pony Stock “B” it was Jennifer Larner taking the lead from pole sitter Mariah Caswell with point leader Brian Boesel moving to second. Boesel, who entered the race with a health point margin, has just dominated the division in his sophomore season, winning seven in a row. Brian wasted no time, passing Larner for the lead and pulling away by several car lengths in his blue No. 33 as Larner and Marq Eaton battled side by side for second. Boesel, from Grass Lake, won both the race and his first season championship with Larner holding off Eaton for second, Nick Leonard in fourth, and Lindsay Fizzell rounding out the top five. Heats were won by Brian Beckner and Boesel. Brian “Brutus” Boesel pulled his Varsity Ford/Missy’s Grass Shack/Big City Towing Ford EXP in Victory lane as he celebrated with girlfriend Amanda Smith, crew chief Stuart Wiley and the rest of the Combat Motorsports crew.
Last of the divisions to race this evening was the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks. In a 20 lap “A” feature marred by way too many cautions; it was point leader Josh Trammell taking the early lead from teammate and pole sitter Travis Ainsworth. Ron Heeney, in the red No. 70 Challenger looked to be the fastest car on the track, but was the cause of several cautions causing him to be sent to the rear more than once. Trammell had Heeney right on his bumper for the lead, was spun out by Heeney, but was given his spot back and led the rest of the way. Trammell took the win and the championship in his Auto Lab No. 82 as the Battle Creek resident celebrated on the front stretch and then did a smoky burnout for the fans. Mike Ammerman was second, Heeney third, Steve Prucnell fourth, and Ainsworth fifth.
In the 20 lap “B” it was Junior Gokee leading early over Davey Kelley with Jim Gokee Sr. in the No. 911 Michigan State police car in third. Kelley had steering trouble and was forced to relinquish his second spot to Gokee Sr, and Mark “Farm Boy” Carson. Carson took the lead from Junior with Rob Newman moving up to third. There was a scary moment as the car of Junior Gokee lost a rear wheel and axle which bounced own the track and cleared the catch fence in the pit grandstand. Fortunately, it didn’t hit anyone, and when the race resumed it was a two car battle between Carson and Newman. Newman in the flaming No. 17 cleared Carson for the win in the late laps with Gokee Sr in third, Kelley in fourth, and Maegan Williams in fifth. Heats were won by Ron Heeney and Junior Gokee.
For Davey Kelley, it was his first championship in only his sophomore season as he won the championship rather handily. (I’ve been trying to find a good time to use this picture of him trying to outrun the police car of Jim Gokee all season!)
It was a great night to be back at Spartan after my weekend off working at MIS. Look for complete coverage of the championship winners with photos in an upcoming article in a few weeks. Next weekend we have racing on Friday with the Michigan Legends Championship night and then on Sunday on Labor Day weekend, we have the biggest race of the season, the Harvest 300!
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Round No. 4 of the Spartan Speedway Sunday Slugfest series was conducted on August 11. Always exciting to see the outlaw bodied Super Late Models return to the quarter mile in Mason for a 75 lap showdown. Also in store for race fans were the MCR Dwarf Cars, Spartan Stock, and Pony Stocks. If that wasn’t enough, the grand finale was a 30 lap Enduro Figure 8; just looking at all the entrants in the pits you knew this was going to be a no holds barred knock down drag down event that would really live up to the “Slugfest” moniker.
The Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks were the first feature races on the schedule. In the 25 lap “A” Travis Ainsworth in No. 81 started on the pole. There was a big incident in Turn 4 on Lap 5 with 5 cars involved resulting in the car of Josh Trammell perched on the front of Steve Prucnell’s machine. All went to the pits except for Prucnell who was able to continue after Trammell’s car was removed. When the race restarted, Greg Studt jumped to the lead over leader Craig Stephens while the rest of the field battled behind those two with Friday’s winner, Damon Place moving to third.
The fireworks exploded when Prucnell was shoved into the Turn 1 wall after contact with Jimmy Scavarda. Steve decided he would walk out on the track to express his admiration for Jimmy’s driving skills. As the grandstands waited in anticipation, Steve then thought Scavarda might enjoy seeing his helmet as he hurled it through Jimmy’s windshield with perfect aim. As Steve left the track with his wrecked car, the crowd roared in appreciation for his pitching acumen. Once the race restarted, Mike Ammerman took over the lead over Ben Raber and Ron Heeney. Ammerman led for several laps, before he was hit in the rear by Raber, sending Mike hard into the Turn 4 wall. Mike swerved into Raber under yellow and then, as Raber was sent to the rear of the field, Ben stopped at the start/finish line to argue his case. Apparently, the track officials finally had enough, sending out a wrecker to remove Raber’s car from the track as Ben gestured in anger. On the restart, Heeney was able to take the lead from Ammerman and led the rest of the way. Ammerman was second with Place third, Studt fourth, and Scavarda fifth.
(Regarding the Prucnell/Scavarda incident; I have mixed feelings. Note: Steve is a good friend of mine, and while I don’t condone his behavior, I must admit that the crowd will be talking about that long after they remember who won the race.)
In the Spartan Stock “B” for 30 laps it was Dan Baschal on the pole, but it was Tyler Hawkins taking the lead before being overhauled by the truck of Brandon Biddinger. Indiana’s Nick Stremme moved up to second with Rob Newman in third. Biddinger was able to hold the lead for several laps, but finally Stremme got by and appeared to have the upper hand as the laps wound down. Unfortunately for Nick, he developed a flat LF tire, but stayed out and tried everything he could to stay ahead of Brandon. Biddinger got by on the last lap and took a very close win as the two made contact in turn 4. Biddinger from Stockbridge earned his first win with Stremme second, Bryan Jenks in third over Rob Newman and Mark Carson in fifth.
In the 25 lap MCR Dwarf Car feature, Bo Smith started on the pole, but the race developed into a two car duel between Troy and Eric Hoffman. They traded the lead back and forth a few times as Stephen Bobeck lurked behind in third looking for an opportunity as the top three ran nose to tail. The trio put on a fantastic race and as they came out of turn 4 headed for the checker, The Hoffman’s made contact with the lapped car of Mike McManman Sr., with the Hoffman’s wrecking and Bobeck in the No. 07 sliding across the line backwards to take the win. It took the series officials several minutes to sort out the finishing order, but it as Bobeck in first with Junior Gould second, Troy Hoffman third, Kim Hughes fourth, and Eric Hoffman fifth. Heats were won by Kevin Ayers, Jon Wylie, and Eric Hoffman.
Now it was time for the headline race of the night which was the 75 lap Super Late Model contest. Starting on the pole was Jim Heeney with Chris Place on the outside front row. As the green flag flew for the start, it was Chris out dragging Jim into Turn 1 and leading the first lap. Chris maintained the top spot in the early laps with Jimmy Gallagher moving into second and Steve Dorer to third. Gallagher was all over the rear of Place’s car looking both low and high for a good opportunity to get by. Finally, Jimmy was able to seize the lead, with Dorer getting second and Tim Ryan taking third as Place fell back to fourth. Things went downhill quickly for Place on lap 26, as he was tagged in the rear and spun into the water barrels in Turn one. Fortunately, it looks like the water barrels prevented severe damage, but Chris was done for the night.
On the restart, Gallagher once again led over Ryan and Dorer with Tim looking inside, but not able to clear Gallagher as the laps clicked by. At the halfway point it was Gallagher, Ryan, Dorer, Bobby Stremme, and fast qualifier Dave Stehouwer rounding out the top five. Ryan spun on lap 51 giving second spot up to Dorer, as the leaders got prepared for a restart with only 25 laps to go. Gallagher once again took the lead on the restart followed by Dorer and Stehouwer. Jimmy got loose coming out of turn 4 on Lap 58 with Steve taking advantage and slipping into the lead. Dorer survived a couple late restarts after spins by Evan Barrett, and took the win by several car lengths over Gallagher, Stehouwer, Stremme, and Ryan. Steve, who now resides in Lakeland, Florida, comes back up to Michigan for some racing during the summer was a Spartan track champion 19 years ago!
In the 20 lap “A” feature for the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks, Jami Larner started on the pole and led the first several laps. Current point leader Brian Beckner surged into the lead followed by his brother Wayne, while Tyler Heeney used his favorite outside lane and moved to third. Heeney was sailing on the outside, and passed Brian for the lead while Wayne and Larner battled side by side for third. As the laps wound down, Heeney pulled away into a comfortable lead with William Hartman charging up through the field to third. At the finish it was Heeney, Brian Beckner, Hartman, Larner, and Wayne Beckner in fifth.
In the Pony Stock “B”, it was Brian Boesel taking the lead from the outside front row starting spot over Jerry King. Brian has dominated the last few weeks and is the current point leader in the “B” division. As Boesel pulled away by a few lengths, Marq Eaton was able to get past Jennifer Larner and King to move up to second. Marq was able to close the gap to Brian as Trina Wurmnest also moved up through the pack to third. Brian “Brutus” Boesel was able to hold off Eaton for the win with Wurmnest crossing the line in third. Unfortunately, Trina was disqualified for “speeding” moving King up to third, Lindsay Fizzell to fourth, and Larner to fifth.
The last event of the evening was the Enduro Figure 8 for 30 laps. In my 30 years of watching races, this may have been the wildest race I have ever seen. Talk about total mayhem! Danny Gaddis, who has raced ARCA Figure 8 for many years at Flat Rock was a participant, and here is what he had to say.
“Through MANY,MANY years of racing figure 8 cars, I'd thought I'd experienced it all, the good, and the really bad, and the wildest of all wild, But I gotta say, last night at Spartan Speedway was the most insane thing I've ever been lucky enough to take part in. It was nothing close to what I'd expected, and I would have NEVER drove "someone else's" car in it had I known lmao, But we started dead last and had her up to the top 4 with 8 to go when the car just stopped running, I was all smiles”
Surviving in the black truck for the win was Josh Delong with Ted Kraynak second, Matt Sairls third, Dominic Shauver fourth, and Mike Gauthiar in fifth. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend Spartan this upcoming weekend due to my job at MIS for the NASCAR races, but I will be back the following week.
Friday, August 9, 2013
Spartan Speedway was blessed with perfect weather this last Friday, August 9, as the track welcomed the wingless Sprint cars, Modifeds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks to the high banked quarter mile oval for Shaheen Automotive night. The Sprint Car racers were especially appreciative for the sunny skies as they have been plagued with rain for the last several weeks. There were more Sprinters in the pits than at any time this season, including one notable newcomer with a legendary racing name. That would be young Jarett Andretti, who along with his father John, the Indy 500 and NASCAR veteran driver, made the long trip from North Carolina to race at the “Track the Stars Call Home.”
After qualifying and heat races, the track welcomed the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club (MARFC) as their members enjoyed a great night of racing at Spartan. The fan club has been in existence for 47 years and provides members free admission on our special Fan Club nights at our 18 member tracks throughout the state. All of this for the low cost of a membership, making the MARFC “The best value in racing” (Note: I am on the Board of Directors) In appreciation, the club awards a helmet bag to a driver of the track’s choice, and this night it was Davey Kelley, driver of the no. 11 Spartan Stock.
First feature race of the night was the Performance Automotive NW Modified division for 35 laps with 22 of them lined up and ready for the green. It was Craig Curtis jumping out to the lead from the front row starting spot followed by Jon McNett in second. This race was plagued with cautions as there were incident after incident causing several restarts in the first ten laps. Once everyone settled down, it was still Curtis and McNett with a hard charging Jordan Pruitt in third. Pruitt made a banzai move to take the lead from McNett, as the two raced side by side before making contact causing both to spin. McNett was sent to the rear, while Pruitt got the spot back and he continued to lead. Now it was Chris Ozanich putting the heat on Pruitt with Dan Loughan trailing in third as the laps wound down. Pruitt in the black No. 8 led the rest of the distance, with Ozanich second, Loughan third, Curtis fourth, and Jim Butler in fifth. Travis Eddy set quick time with Ozanich taking the win in the dash. Heat winners were Damion Lytle and Trei Deubel. Pruitt, from Gaylord, celebrated in the Art Moehn victory lane and told me excitedly that he had won elsewhere, but it was his very first win at Spartan after ten years of trying.
Next up were the LaFontaine Ford Sprint Cars with a season high 18 cars in the pits for 30 laps. Unfortunately on Shaheen night, the Shaheen sponsored car of Tom Hernly Jr. wrecked earlier in the night and was unable to start. Kevin Feeney started on the pole and led at the drop of the green, but like the modifeds, there was a flurry of caution flags in first third of the race with a few of the top cars being eliminated. Feeney maintained the lead on the restarts with pressure from Greg Taylor, Steve Irwin, and Leroy Ellis. The story of much of the race was John Turnbull, as he stormed up through the field from the rear a couple times only to get caught up in multiple incidents. Feeney spun by himself in Turn 2 putting Ellis in the lead with Taylor right in his tire tracks. Taylor, from Brooklyn, finally powered his way past Ellis with two laps to go to take his very first win, with Ellis second, Turnbull coming all the way back to third, Gary Sherman fourth, and Jarett Andretti rounding out the top five. Heats were won by Feeney and Tom Fedewa with Doug Dietsch setting fast time.
Lining up next were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A” feature, it was Steve Prucnell on the pole and leading at the start. Steve spun out giving the lead to Damon Place in his yellow No. 24. with Josh Trammell in second. The car on the move was the red Challenger of Ron Heeney, as Ron passed Trammell and set his sights on Place with five to go. Place was able to hold off Heeney by a couple car lengths as the 2012 champion from Leslie took his first win of the season. Heeney was second, with Trammell third, Robby Johnston fourth, and Prucnell fifth.
In the Spartan Stock “B” 20 lapper, it was Jen Flagg on the pole with Rob Newman leading the early laps. The race soon developed into a three car battle over several laps with Newman on the outside, Harold Braman Jr. on the outside and Bryan Jenks trying to figure out how to get by either one. Newman seemed content to maintain his outside position until the end of the race, but he and Jenks made slight contact letting Braman surge into the lead and ultimately the win in his old school Camaro No. 771. Newman was second, Jenks third, Davey Kelley fourth, and Tami Hawkins fifth. Heats were won by Jenks and Heeney with Johnston setting quick time.
Last but certainly not least were the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A” it was DJ Marciniak on the pole taking the lead at the start over John Ward Jr., and Brian Beckner. On lap 12, last week’s winner, William Hartman swept by on the outside with a three wide pass to take the lead with Mike Westphal moving into second. Hartman was able to pull away with a comfortable lead as Westphal had to contend with the late race charge from Tyler Heeney. At the finish, it was Hartman, Westphal, Heeney, Brian Beckner, and Wayne Beckner.
In the Pony “B” 20 lap contest, Mariah Caswell started on the pole and led early. She was passed first by Jerry King for the lead before Marq Eaton got by both Mariah and Jerry to take his turn in the front. Marq pulled away by a few lengths, but the car on the move was Brian “Brutus” Boesel in his Ford EXP as he motored from the rear of the field picking off cars one by one. As the race neared the white flag, Brian closed right up to the rear bumper of Eaton looking for a way to get by. Normally Boesel always sticks right to the bottom and Eaton likes the outside, but in an interesting twist, both decided they would switch to take away the other guys line. The caution flew with just one lap to go, so it became a one lap shootout for the win. Boesel managed to dive under Eaton on the backstretch and win by a foot with Brad Robison taking third, King fourth and Ron Fizzell fifth. Hartman was the fast qualifier with heats won by Gary Martin, Boesel, and Westphal. There was a scary moment in one of the heats, when track photographer Woody had to dive out of the way of a spinning car in the infield, but all were OK.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Friday August 2 at Spartan Speedway was the place to be on Friday night as “the track the stars call home” featured the crowd pleasing Flagpole racing and Skidplate racing events, as well as three of the track’s regular divisions. Competing on the banked quarter mile in Mason were the Michigan Legends, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks.
First off were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks, as they lined up in the chute, and entered the track for their 20 lap feature race. Starting on the pole was Travis Ainsworth in the No. 81 with Greg Studt starting alongside in his No. 33. As starter Doug Allen displayed the green flag, the field roared into the first turn with Studt pulling ahead to lead the first lap. Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman moved up into second as Steve Prucnell, Josh Trammell, and fast qualifier Damon Place all battled furiously for third.
Greg Studt had his little Chevy V6 screaming as he pulled away from the pack and stretched out his lead by several lengths. Ammerman maintained second, but had both Prucnell and Place glued to his bumper as they raced door to door looking for a way past the No 61 “Mystery Machine.” Damon finally managed to clear Ammerman, and set his sights on Studt, but just couldn’t close the gap, as Greg earned his first win at Spartan. Place was second with Ammerman third, Prucnell fourth, and Joe Jones fifth with all 20 laps going green all the way.
Studt, from Flat Rock, Mi., a two time Figure 8 champion at Flat Rock and Toledo Speedways, celebrated in the Art Moehn Victory Lane with his dad Bob. Greg’s dad, Bob Studt, is the all time ARCA Figure 8 winner with multiple wins at Spartan himself. Their car, which normally races at Toledo in the “X” Car division, is somewhat of a “Frankenstein” with an ARCA Figure 8 chassis, Chevy V6 engine, and a body salvaged from an old Harold Fair Late Model.
In the 20 lap Spartan Stock “B”; it was Jen Flagg starting on the pole with Junior Gokee on the outside. Gokee led the first lap in No. 74. Gokee’s lead was short lived, as Jason Luce took command with Rob Newman on his bumper, and John Kennedy lurking behind in third. Newman and Luce raced side by side for several laps before Newman took the lead, but Luce wasn’t giving up and gave Rob everything he could handle. The car on the move was Kennedy as he drove his brown and yellow Olds past both of them several laps later and seized the lead. Kennedy took his third win of the season in his “barn find” Olds with Luce second, Newman third followed by Bryan Jenks in fourth and “Just Davey” Kelley rounding out the top five. Heats were won by Kennedy and Studt.
In the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stock division, first race was the “A” feature for 20 laps. Pole sitter DJ Marciniak led at the drop of the green, but point leader Brian Beckner wasted no time and jumped into first over his brother Wayne, with Patrick Denison trailing in third. Mike Westphal and fast qualifier William Hartman got by Dension, and battled side by side for third. Once Brian Beckner gets the lead, everyone else is usually racing for second, as Brian in No. 11 has been virtually unbeatable in the middle part of the season, but Westphal and Hartman were having none of that this time. They both managed to pass Wayne Beckner and set their sights on Brian. Hartman moved past Westphal, and with 5 laps to go, caught Brian, and after a side by side battle, nosed ahead for the lead and the win. Hartman, from Laingsburg, in his orange and yellow Chevy Cavalier, took a well deserved first feature win, with Westphal edging Brian Beckner at the stripe by inches for second. Wayne Beckner was fourth with Tyler Heeney coming home in fifth.
In the 20 lap Pony Stock “B”, current “B” points leader, Brian “Brutus” Boesel took the lead from pole sitter Brian Osbourne on the first lap using his preferred bottom groove. Hot on the heels of his blue Ford EXP were Trina Wurmnest, Jerry King, and Brad Robison all racing hard for the runner up position.
While Boesel was able to pull away from the pack by just a couple lengths, Robison and Wurmnest swapped second back and forth, with Lindsay Fizzell in fourth looking for a way past. Boesel led the entire distance with Wurmnest taking second, Robison third, followed by Fizzell and finally Troy Andrews in fifth. The Grass Lake driver has won four features this season and expanded his points lead. Heat winners were Boesel, and Wayne Beckner Jr., with Hartman winning the fast car dash.
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Michigan Legends series, Gary Joppich started on the pole for the 30 lap feature race and led the first lap. The race developed into a two car battle at the front between fast qualifier Sean McPherson in the black no. 13, and Matt Todd in the black no. 8. Sean held the lead with Matt glued on his rear bumper, with Cole Landau holding third waiting for either of those two to make a mistake. While McPherson was able to hold the top spot, he had Todd breathing all over him as the two maneuvered through lapped traffic. As the laps wound down, those two jockeys had a terrific battle with the lead remaining at one car length or less. In the end, it was “Sean Mac” from Riley, Mi. taking his first of the season with Todd second, Landau third, Greg Rudzik fourth, and Griffin Brown fifth.
In the Pony Stock Powder Puff race, the wives and girlfriends of the track’s regular drivers got a chance to experience racing at Spartan. The six drivers have very little racing experience, but they all did a great job in the 8 lap event. Coming home first, in the black and orange No. 17, was Randi Cartwright, with Missy Davis second, Teresa Beckner third, Amanda Smith fourth, and Nicole Drobney in fifth.
Finally, in the ‘fun” events of the evening, we had Flagpole and Skidplate racing. In the V6/V8 Flagpole, Dominic Scauver survived the carnage to come home in first with Patrick Denison doing the same in the 4 cylinder class. In the skidplate event, it was Dension once again the victor.
Friday, July 26, 2013
One of the most anticipated nights of the season at Spartan Speedway is “Kid’s Night” sponsored by Beacon Sales & Service and presented by Frankie D’s. Racers and sponsors donate bikes to be given away to lucky youngsters in attendance with the able assistance of the racetrack’s clown brigade. This evening, there were 60 beaming kids as they took possession of their new bikes and took a victory lap around the track. Also scheduled for laps around the high banked quarter mile in Mason on Friday July 26 were the Modified, Sprint car, Spartan Stock, and Pony Stock divisions. Unfortunately rain ended the evening before all the feature races could be concluded, but the racing, like usual, was exceptional while it lasted.
As the engines fired for the first racing of the evening, it was the Performance Automotive Northwest Modified division for the fast car dash. This race pits the top four qualifiers in a shoot out with fast timer John Ledwidge starting at the rear. At the checker, it was Larry Wallace in front of the pack in his jet black No. 55, as the 2012 track champion made his return after missing most of this season. In the Modified Heat race, it was the “Oz Man” Chris Ozanich coming home the winner in the No. 0z
Next up were the ground pounding LaFontaine Ford wingless Sprint cars for their heat races. Very nice to see Tom Fedewa back in competition; the 2011 track champion missed most of last season, but “Tom Cat” looked ready and loaded for bear in the No. 71 machine. Tom looked like the time off hardly affected him at all, as he passed the field from the rear to win the first heat race.
In the second heat for the Sprint cars, there was a scary incident at the beginning as Doug Dietsch in No. 0 got airborne after contact with Gary Sherman’s No. 37, almost getting upside down in the process. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but four cars were forced to retire with damage. (Crash photo by Racing Woody) After a lengthy red flag for track cleanup, it was fast qualifier, the “Bulldog” John Turnbull Jr., taking the heat win in his black No. 12
In the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks, we had Marq Eaton, Patrick McNamara, and Brian Beckner all taking the heat race wins with William Hartman setting quick time. Lipari Foods Spartan Stock heat contests had Dave Miller and Josh Trammel both earning wins.
After the bike give away and the heat races, it was now show time as the Performance Auto motive NW Modifieds pulled out for their 35 lap feature event. With fast qualifier John Ledwidge rolling an inversion of 5, it put the 12X of Craig Curtis on the pole with Larry Wallace on the outside. At the drop of the green, the pair ran side by side, but Wallace was able to clear Curtis and assume the top spot with Jon McNett holding down third. As the lead trio pulled away, Ledwidge and Ozanich were able to get past Megan Carpenter for fourth and fifth respectively. The racing stayed all green as Larry was able to pull away by a few lengths over Curtis with Ozanich battling McNett hard for third. The first yellow of the race flew on lap 33 as McNett spun in turn 2, but Wallace took command on the restart and led the last couple laps to score his second win of the season. Curtis came home second with McNett third, Ledwidge fourth, and Dan Loughan in fifth.
The Lipari Foods Spartan Stock 20 lap “A” feature was flagged off next, with Steve Prucnell in the deep blue No. 42 leading early, and Josh Trammell in glued right on his rear bumper. Trammell in the red and white No. 82 jumped to the outside while Prucnell stayed glued to the bottom, but just as Trammell started to inch up beside Prucnell, it started to sprinkle. The skies opened up heavily on Lap 11 and the race was red flagged. Track officials did everything they could to dry the track in hopes that the rain would cease, but it was to no avail as the remainder of the races were cancelled. Prucnell was awarded the win with Trammel second, Chuck Ammerman third, John Kennedy fourth and finally Travis Ainsworth fifth. It was a frustrating end to the evening for the rest of the Spartan Stock, Sprint car, and pony stock racers as they had to load up their cars and wait for next Friday night at the “Track the Stars Call Home”.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
While Friday’s regular Spartan show was cancelled due to rain, the monthly third leg of the special Sunday Slugfest series was conducted under beautiful sunny skies. Scheduled was the 7th annual Brian Heeney”Wild Child” Memorial 100 for the Performance Automotive Northwest Modified Division. Brian Heeney, nicknamed the “Wild Child”, was a popular Spartan competitor who tragically lost his life several years ago in an auto accident. In the field representing the Heeney family was Brian’s father Bill, Brian’s uncle Jim, Brian’s sister, Tracey Hernley, and Brian’s cousin Tyler. Also on board for the evening besides a great field of Modifieds were the Michigan Legends, Pony Stocks, and Spartan Stocks.
After a last chance “B” Feature, won appropriately by Bill Heeney, the field of 22 Modifieds lined up on the front stretch. Sixteen cars qualified by time, with four transferring from the B and two provisionals. Fast qualifier Travis Eddy rolled an inversion of 9, putting Nyle Weiler on the pole, with last year’s winner, Dan Loughan, alongside on the outside. At the drop of the green, it was Weiler pulling ahead for the lead over Nick Clemens with Loughan holding down third. Second fast qualifier, and a strong favorite for the win, Chris Ozanich, was forced to retire with mechanical issues on lap 8. As the race neared the 25 quarter way mark, the front of the field showed some patience, as the top seven ran nose to tail looking for an opening, but not prepared to force the issue.
Remarkably, as the race neared the halfway refueling break, the only caution flag was for a minor incident at the very start of the race. At the halfway point, the top 5 were Weiler, Clemens, Loughan, Jordan Pruitt, and Bobby Heyink. As the field took off at the restart, there was an incident in turn 2 that collected several cars, but it was Weiler taking right up where he left off, assuming the lead once again. Travis Eddy was a man on the move by passing Heyink for fourth , Loughan for third, and then setting his sights on Clemons. Also picking up a spot was Pruitt, as he was pressuring Eddy for third sitting glued on his rear bumper. As the laps wound down, both Eddy and Pruitt made a final charge into second and third respectively, but neither had anything for Weiler, as the Vermontville, Mich. driver took the win in his No. 27. Eddy was second, with Pruitt third, Clemens fourth, and Jon McNett fifth. Weiler talked about how much he enjoyed racing with Brian Heeney and also said, “It was scary looking back at all the guys behind me, but I just had to remind myself to keep my cool”
In the 30 lap Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends feature, it was once again the Grant Quinlan show, as the Ontario, Canada young driver won his fourth feature event in a row in rather convincing fashion. Grant started on the rear of the field, but he and Sean MacPherson quickly moved up through the pack to pass early leader Cole Landau. Once he got in front, Quinlan was able to put some distance between himself and McPherson in second, as Sean had to contend with a challenge by Tony Monge. Monge and McPherson had a terrific duel for second, swapping the spot back and forth the last couple laps, but it was Quinlan taking the checker first with Monge second, McPherson third followed by Matt Todd and Gary Davenport. McPherson won the heat race.
In the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks 20 lap “A” feature, we had pole sitter DJ Marciniak taking the early lead over Jami Larner, with Trina Wurmnest holding down third. Tyler Heeney was a man on a mission, as the Stockbridge driver aggressively raced up from the rear of the field into the top five. Also making a charge from the back to the front was Mike Westphal, Wayne Beckner and points leader Brian Beckner. Using both the high and low grooves, Heeney sliced through the pack, moving from fifth to the lead in just a couple laps. Once in the lead, Tyler pulled away, with Westphal also breaking free of the pack and trying to reel him in. Mike was able to pull on the outside of Tyler, but came up just a few feet short at the line. Wayne Beckner was third, with William Hartman fourth, and Brian Beckner rounding out the top five.
In the Pony Stock 20 lap “B”, Ken Dollarhite Jr out dragged pole sitter Ryan Gordon at the start. Points leader Brian Boesel wasted no time at all, as he drove up into second followed by Jennifer Larner in third. Boesel and Larner both got by Dollarhite and raced hard for the top spot with Marq Eaton trailing right on their bumpers. Larner tried to pass Boesel on the outside, but fell back as Eaton challenged her for second. Boesel maintained the lead as Eaton, Larner and Brad Robison all battled for second. At the checker, it was Grass Lake, Mi. native Brian “Brutus” Boesel taking the win in his blue No. 33 Ford EXP, with Eaton second, Robison third, Larner fourth and Dollarhite fifth.
The last features to hit the track this evening was the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a trio of 20 lap features. In the “A”, it was Steve Prucnell taking the early lead from pole sitter Chuck Ammerman. Steve led the first several laps before being passed by both Josh Trammell and Ron Heeney. Heeney, in the red Dodge Challenger No. 70, dove under Trammell for the lead and led the remainder of the race. Trammell was second, Robbie Johnson third with Prucnell fourth and Mike Ammerman fifth. In the “B”, Maegan Williams started on the pole with Rob Newman taking the early lead. Patrick Dent, in his blue Chevy Nova No. 6 grabbed the top spot from Newman. Greg Studt, in his six cylinder No. 33, moved up to second from the rear of the field, with Craig Stephens taking third. Behind those three, it was Mark Carson in fourth and finally Bryan Jenks rounding out the top five.
Finally, in the 20 lap Spartan Stock “C”, “Just Davey” Kelley led at the drop of the green, but a great battle developed between Kelley, Craig Lange, and Jason Luce and those three battled nose to tail and wheel to wheel. Lange in No. 76 finally emerged in front, but it was hard fought the entire race. Lange took the win, as the Flat Rock Speedway regular from Taylor, Mich, decided to try out Spartan for the very first time. Second was Luce, with Davey Kelley third, Tom Freeman Jr. fourth, and Matt Kelley in fifth. Very gratifying to see Tom Freeman in No. 44 get out on the track for the first time in a couple years, as I have been friends with him and his dad for a few years.
One more thing I wanted to mention. Occasionally, in my race reports, I list a feature winner that ends up not being correct due to post race disqualification etc. There was a situation last week regarding the Pony Stock “B” winner Troy Andrews in No. 77. Troy had inadvertently “broken out” of his qualifying time on the very last lap of the feature. The penalty for that is disqualification, but in this case the track officials missed calling the penalty. Later in the week, (after the fact) it was brought to their attention as all the timing results are listed on the website. I'm not sure Troy really wants me to comment, but I was really struck by the situation and wanted to share.
Even though it was his very first win, Troy made the decision that it wasn’t right to accept the win under those circumstances, and doing so would be hypocritical to what he teaches his kids about good sportsmanship. In a society that emphasizes winning at all costs, and “it isn’t cheating unless you are caught”, hearing this was very refreshing. I really commend Troy for his integrity, and hope he gets to celebrate the win he deserves very soon this season.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Another great night of racing at Spartan Speedway on Friday July 12 as the “Track the Stars Call Home” welcomed the Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, Pony Stocks and GLS Mini Cups. After the heat races were concluded, the track honored first time feature winners (L to R) Dan Baschal, Bryan Jenks, Junior Gokee, and Brad Robison with some nice trophies.
After an entertaining Martial Arts exhibition at intermission following the heat races, it was time for the evenings feature races on Uncle John’s Hard Cider Night. First off were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a pair of 20 lap feature races. In the “A”, it was Steve Prucnell starting on the pole in No. 42, and beating the field into Turn 1 at the drop of the green. Steve was challenged for the top spot by Mike Ammerman the entire race, but the Macomb, Mich. driver held him off and managed to lead the entire distance, earning his second win in a row. Ammerman was second, with fast qualifier Allan Troupe third and Cory Coddington coming home in fourth.
In the 20 lap “B”, it was Jr. Gokee on the pole in his No. 74 leading the field to the green. Maegan Williams in her silver Chevelle took over from Gokee, but her lead was short lived as she was forced to pit with mechanical issues. John Kennedy in his brown and yellow Olds Cutlass inherited the top spot and set sail, pulling away from Steven Herr and Bryan Jenks. Jenks was able to get past Herr for second, but had nothing for Kennedy as John led the remainder of the race. Kennedy, who hails from Jenison, went 2 for 2 at Spartan in this car, which had sat for 11 years before being resurrected earlier this season. Jenks was second with Herr third, Davey Kelley fourth, and Travis Ainsworth fifth. Heats were won by Mike Ammerman, and winning her first, Maegan Williams.
Next up were the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds for 35 laps. Point leader Dan Loughan started on the pole and after a side by side battle with Jon McNett, was able to inch ahead and take the early lead over McNett and Megan Carpenter. While the top three raced nose to tail, further back we had Justin Kazmar moving to fourth, with fast qualifier Chris Ozanich, and Damion Lytle battling side by side for fifth. On a double file restart after a short caution flag, McNett seized the lead from Loughan and took his turn at the front. Carpenter was having her best race this season, holding down third, but Ozanich finally slipped by and put the pressure on Loughan for second. As the race wound down, there was a big wreck in Turn 1 collecting several cars; most were able to continue. On the ensuing restart, Loughan and Kazmar got together on the frontstretch putting both out of the race with damage. In one of the most humorous incidents I have seen this year, as Loughan was on the hook getting towed back to the pits, track official Donnie Dendinger stopped him to hand him one of his springs. McNett withstood a hard challenge by Ozanich to score the win with Megan Carpenter having a great run in third, Tracey Hernley fourth, and Bill Heeney fifth. Heat winners were Bill Heeney and Lytle.
In the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks “A” , the real question on everyone’s mind was ; ”Does anyone have anything for Brian Beckner?” as the driver of the No. 11 Neon has won eight features so far this season. John Ward Jr., returned to racing after a few years in the military (stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan) starting on the pole in the No. 3 blue Neon. After fighting his way from the rear, Brian Beckner took the lead with William Hartman and Tyler Heeney right on his rear bumper. Beckner pulled away as Heeney and Hartman raced wheel to wheel with Tyler finally getting by for second. Heeney was clearly the fastest car on the track as he gradually closed the gap with Beckner and finally caught him. Using his preferred outside line, Heeney got alongside Beckner as the two ran side by side with just a couple laps to go. Hartman was lurking right behind the top two and William tried a bold three wide move going into Turn 3. Hartman and Beckner touched slightly, as Heeney took advantage leading the last lap. Beckner was second with Hartman third, Ward Jr. fourth, and Cameron Garza fifth.
In the “B” feature, it was Chris Jones leading the field at the start, but Mariah Caswell soon took over and led the first lap over Jennifer Larner and Ken Dollarhite Jr. Gary Martin got by Dollarhite as Caswell retired with mechanical issues. Larner and Troy Andrews swapped the lead back and forth, but it was point leader Brian “Brutus” Boesel moving up from the rear into second. Andrews and Boesel had a terrific back and forth, side by side, duel with Larner and Marq Eaton racing for third. “Trojan” Troy Andrews was able to hold off Boesel and took his very first feature win as he celebrated in the Art Moehn Victory Lane. Boesel was second, followed by Eaton, Larner, and Martin. Pony Stock heats were won by Jennifer Larner, Boesel, and Heeney, with Tyler also setting quick time.
Last feature of the evening was the GLS Mini Cups. After a terrific race, it was 2012 champion Morgan Baird in his Carl Edwards look alike No. 99 Subway car taking the win over Tyler Minnex, Elliott Pritchett, Stephanie Hile, and Jarrod Pritchett. Heats were won by Mason’s own Minnex and Darren Bohne, with Baird setting fast time.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Cars were lined up way down College Road, and the lines were long at the ticket office, as the largest crowd of the season descended on Spartan Speedway for one of the most anticipated events of 2013. It was time for the First Fun Night of the season and the capacity crowd was ready to have a big helping of carnage to go along with their racing this Friday evening.
Scheduled for entertainment were some slam bang School Bus Figure 8 racing, Flagpole racing, Powder Puffs, and the Trailer Figure 8 special. In addition, on the docket were the Michigan Legends and Pony Stocks to showcase a couple of the track’s regular divisions. The first sign that it was going to be a special night was the appearance of a hot air balloon over the speedway as the crowd all waved in unison at the occupants.
The first feature race to hit the track was the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks. These stock bodied 4 cylinder front wheel drive cars are one of Spartan’s most popular divisions, and they always put on a great show. The 20 lap “B” feature was first, with Mariah Caswell starting on the pole in her blue No. 32. It didn’t take long for action to heat up as Ken Dollarhite Jr made contact with another car on Lap 1, got airborne, and slid through the infield. All were able to continue as they lined up for another try. Mariah maintained the lead for the first half of the race before being challenged by “Trojan” Troy Andrews with Jennifer Larner lurking in third. Caswell and Andrews raced side by side for the lead with Brian Boesel moving past Larner to third. Andrews took the lead, followed by Boesel, as the two pulled away from the rest of the field. Unfortunately for Troy, he ran two laps well under his qualifying time and was penalized for “speeding.” That put Boesel in the lead, with Larner and Brad Robison right in his tire tracks. Brian “Brutus” Boesel led the rest of the way in his blue No. 33 Ford EXP as the Grass Lake driver won his first feature of the year. Robison was second, Jennifer Larner third, Caswell fourth, and RJ Miller rounding out the top five.
The Pony Stock “A” feature was next for 20 laps with last week’s winner, Marq Eaton, on the pole. It was Trina Wurmnest however, grabbing the early lead over Cameron Garza, Brian Beckner and Randy Kretzinger. Just like he has all season, Brian was flying through the field in his No. 11 Neon, and took the lead on the outside after starting deep in the field. Kretzinger moved up to second with fast qualifier Tyler Heeney in third. At the halfway point, Beckner had a good lead over the rest of the field, but Tyler was soon able to grab second and set his sights on Brian. Using his preferred outside line, Heeney closed right up on the rear bumper of Beckner looking for an opening, while Kretzinger, Garza, and William Hartman all battled for third. Heeney made a last lap charge, but came up short by just a foot at the line, with Wayne Beckner finishing third, Kretzinger fourth, and Wurmnest fifth. Brian Beckner, from DeWitt, has been nearly unbeatable, winning his eighth feature of the year as he celebrated in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane. Heat race winners were Caswell, Lindsay Fizzell, and Heeney.
The last “regular” division to race was the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends series. This was an Inex Asphalt National Qualifier event with the winner getting a guaranteed spot in the prestigious national race at Lake Erie Speedway. As the pint sized speedsters lined up for their 30 lap feature, it was Sean McPherson on the pole and leading at the start with Cole Landau taking second. Sean held the lead until Lap 8, when Grant Quinlan in No. 28 took the top spot. Grant set sail and pulled away to a substantial lead as McPherson, Tony Monge, and Matt Todd all fought hard for second. Those three traded spots nearly every lap, but at the end, it was Quinlan winning, as the Ontario youngster won his third in a row. McPherson took second by a bumper at the line, with Todd third, followed by Monge and Landau. Heat race was won by McPherson with Quinlan setting quick time.
The Pony Stock Powder Puff race was next up. This race gives the wives, girlfriends, and relatives a chance to get behind the wheel and see what it is really like on the track. While most had little experience, all did a great job and there were a lot of smiles after the race. Coming home first was Teresa Beckner over Randi Cartwright, Wendy Larner, Amanda Smith and Dedre Bohne. Let’s hope that some get the “fever” and build a car of their own for next year.
Finally it was time for the races the massive crowd had been waiting patiently for all night. The Flagpole race was next with both a 4 cylinder and V6/V8 class. 4 large tractor tires were placed on the track, and each car had to circle each of the tires every lap. With that many cars trying to maneuver tightly around the tires, they managed to hit the tires, the wall, and even each other as the fans roared in excitement. Just to spice it up a little more, one of the cars erupted in flames with the driver triumphantly climbing on the roof to the cheers of the crowd. In the 4 cylinder class, it was Rob Miller winning over Howard Misner, Ken Dollarhite Sr, Randy Kretzinger, and Jerry King. In the V6/V8 class, we had Kelly Hollister in first, followed by Don Austin Jr, Russ Grandy, Nick Thomas, and TJ Hurrell.
In the School Bus Figure 8, the busses were driven by many of Spartan’s regular drivers as they got a chance to run something a bit unusual. Brian Boesel led at the start, but it was Wayne Beckner Jr. in the Beacon Sales and Service bus seizing the top spot and leading the first half. The “Disturbed One” Dane Long was moving up from the rear in his Kitsmiller RV bus and finally caught Beckner in traffic. The two traded paint as they ran side by side while dodging several close calls in the intersection. Dane managed to shove his way by, but Wayne stayed glued on his rear bumper and beating on it nearly every lap. Beckner’s bus finally took too much abuse, as it slowed with smoke streaming from the front, as Long took the win. Chris Taylor was second, with Gary Hollis third, William Hartman fourth, and Jami Larner fifth.
The last event of the evening was the Trailer Figure 8. As the cars entered the track, the fans were buzzing on what target looked more appealing; was it the camper, the boat, or the payload of 55 gallon drums? Well none of them survived, but when the dust finally settled, it was Kelly Hollister backing up his flagpole win with another in his black No. 66. Second was Nick Thomas followed by Jared Smith, Mike Gauthier, and TJ Hurrell.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Sunday, June 30, was the date for the 2nd Spartan Speedway Slugfest series, as the track hosted the ARCA Gold Cup Outlaw Super Late Models for the “Chargin’ Charlie Ryan Jr. Memorial 100.” Some of the very best drivers and cars from Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, all converged on the quarter mile in Mason for the second race in the ARCA Gold Cup series, and the only one conducted away from their home tracks of Flat Rock and Toledo. I have seen the Gold Cup cars race countless times at both Flat Rock and Toledo, and consider many of the drivers as friends, so this is the one race of the season at Spartan I really look forward to the most. Also competing this evening were the Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks.
Charlie Ryan Jr. was one of Spartan’s most popular drivers when he tragically passed away in 2004 at the young age of 40. In his honor, Spartan runs their biggest Super Late Model race in his memory. In attendance this evening were many family members, including dad, Charlie Sr., mother Shirley, and brother Tim who was racing this evening. In a fitting tribute, Charlie Jr’s last race car did a lap around the track for the National Anthem, and paced the field for the start of the race.
First feature to line up was the ARCA Gold Cup series with 21 cars starting the grueling 100 lapper. Mike Root laid down a blistering qualifying lap of 12.546 sec., but with an inversion of 11, that put Spartan regular, Jimmy Gallagher on the pole with Jimmy Thiel on the outside front row. As the command to start the engines was proclaimed, and the field lined up in formation, it was Thiel leading the charge at the drop of the green. There was a caution the first lap in Turn 1 as Nick Bailey and Tim Ryan got together, but damage was slight and both were able to continue with Ryan taking the blame, and going to the rear.
On the restart, Thiel took command with Gallagher right on his bumper looking for a way by. Finally on Lap 18, Gallagher took command with Harold Fair Jr. and Brent Jack side by side for third. Unfortunately, soon after, Theil got into the quarter panel of Gallagher causing both to spin in Turn 2. Neither driver took responsibility, so both went to the tail end. On the ensuing restart, Fair Jr. in No. 71 slowed as the field stormed by; both Harold and Mike Root were forced to pit putting both several laps down. At the front, it was Brent Jack inheriting the lead followed closely by fellow Hoosier, Scott “Hurricane” Hantz, and Toledo’s Nick Bailey
Hantz was able to power his way past Jack to the lead on a Lap 30 restart and took the lead. Hantz and Jack seemed to take the Slugfest moniker seriously as they crowded each other on several restarts and traded paint a few times with neither giving an inch to the other. At the halfway point, it was Hantz, Jack, Bailey, Craig Everage, and Steve Cronenwett Jr. rounding out the top five. Finally, on a lap 63 restart, Jack got into the left rear of Hantz, causing both to wreck in turn 4 sustaining significant damage. While both were able to continue, neither was a threat for the win, as the red No. 21 of Steve Cronenwett Jr. took the point with Bailey alongside for a restart. Bailey tried a neat cross over move and almost pulled it off, but ended up getting himself crossed up and spinning to the infield. With Root being the only car lapped, he received several “Lucky Dogs” and eventually made up 4 laps!
While Cronenwett led over Everage and Eric Lee; there was great wheel to wheel racing throughout the pack. Dakota Carlson and Tim Ryan made great drives from the rear of the field, picking off cars one by one, as both moved into the top five. With 25 laps to go, Carlson passed both Lee and Everige to take second, and set his sights on Cronenwett. As the laps wound down, Dakota had a couple good chances on late race double file restarts, but just didn’t have enough for Cronenwett. Finishing third was Eric Lee, with Ryan fourth, Everage fifth, followed by Hantz, Scott Pemberton, Justin Claucherty, Jack, and Bailey. For Cronenwett, it was the Canton, Mich. driver’s very first Gold Cup race win, as he met with the Ryan family and celebrated with his family, and crew.
That was just the first feature; it was now time for the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stock “A” 20 lap feature. Troy Andrews started on the pole, but it didn’t take long for Mike Westphal to grab the lead and pull away. Mike was the dominant driver in this division last season, and had decided to try out the Spartan Stocks for 2013. Mike missed several races getting his car ready, so he thought he would bring out his No. 5 Pony Stock and have some fun. Well, that he did, as the Fowlerville resident won easily in his No. 5 Neon, and celebrated in the Art Moehn Victory Lane. Mike also was presented the Charlie Ryan Jr. Hard Charger award by Charlie and Shirley Ryan. Finishing second, was Tyler Heeney, followed by Wayne Beckner Jr., Brian Beckner, and Aaron Taylor.
In the 20 lap “B”, it was Jennifer Larner and Ryan Gordon somehow finding their cars locked together in Turn 2 at the start of the race. The cars were beating and banging the entire race, but when the dust cleared it was Tom Goward in No. 66 winning his third feature of the season. This is Tom’s first season at the wheel, as he took the win over Marq Eaton, Gordon, John Ward, and Brian “Brutus” Boesel. Heats were won by Boesel, Jami Larner, and Dennis Motes in his very first race.
Finally, the last division to hit the track were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for three 20 lap features. This was the most cars I have ever seen in this division this season, with many visitors from the Detroit area, as well as Indiana. Let’s hope they enjoyed themselves and come back again. In the ‘A” division, it was Chris Rugg on the pole along with South Bend’s Bobby Stremme, the brother of NASCAR driver David. The driver of the race was Steve Prucnell in the deep blue No. 42. Steve led most of the distance, surviving several late race restarts to win his first. This was a very special win for me as Steve and his wife Mary have been friends for a few years. Steve was the crew chief for my friend and hero, the legendary Joy Fair.
In the Spartan Stock “B”, it was my distinct pleasure to see a few visitors from Flat Rock Speedway make the long tow to Spartan to race this evening. I go to Flat Rock most Saturday’s, so seeing friends Scott Selmi, Rich Frantz, Corey Duane, and Greg Studt all in the same feature, almost made me think I was at the wrong track. It was Indiana’s Nick Stremme starting on the pole, but Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman took the win over Stremme, with Selmi third, Jason Luce fourth, and Frantz in fifth.
The last race of the evening was the Spartan Stock “C”. Flat Rocker Nick Bradley led early, but it was Bryan Jenks getting the win over Maegan Williams, Brandon Biddinger, Harold Bramen Jr., and Davey Kelley. This was really nice to see, as Bryan has had a terrible year so far with a couple torn up cars earlier this season. Heats were won by Kelley, Rich Frantz, and Chris Rugg. All in all, this was the most enjoyable night of racing I have seen at Spartan since started coming every week.
Friday, June 21, 2013
While I spent last weekend at MIS, it was good this Friday, June 21, to get back to Spartan Speedway for another great Friday night of racing. Scheduled for this beautiful summer evening were the Modifieds, Michigan Legends, Spartan Stocks, and Pony Stocks. In addition, it was “Oldtimer’s Night” as the track honored all those great racers that provided so many thrills back in the day. Track historian, Marty Blume, had his fantastic picture collection on display, as many of the former racers reminisced with their former friends and foes.
As an avid racing historian myself, I especially enjoyed seeing the fine collection of restored race cars from the Vintage American Racing Cars group on display and was looking forward to seeing them run some laps at “The Track the Stars Call Home.” My favorite car of the night was the Gary Fedewa restored yellow Dowker Roadster No. 71 originally driven by racing legend Sammy Sessions. Piloting this legendary machine tonight, and winning the VARC feature, was John Boy Hotchkiss. John actually worked on this car in the 70’s and said it was a real honor getting the chance to sit behind the wheel and turn some laps.
The first feature race out of the gates was the Performance Automotive NW Modified division for 35 laps. Starting on the pole was Megan Carpenter in her No. 8, and she led the field into Turn 1 at the drop of the green. On Lap 3, John Ledwidge powered by to take the top spot, followed by Chris Ozanich and Jon McNett in third. Fast qualifier Dan Loughan moved up to third and started putting the pressure on Ozanich for second. After following Chris for several laps, Dan was able to slip by and glued himself on the rear bumper of Ledwidge looking for an opening. After the two ran side by side for a couple laps, Loughan was able to get by on Lap 17, and led the rest of the distance. Finishing second was Ledwidge with Ozanich third, McNett fourth, and Carpenter fifth. It was the Charlotte resident’s third win of the year so far this season as he took over the points lead. Heat race winner was Jim Kennedy with Ledwidge winning the 4 car dash.
Next out of the chute were the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends for 30 laps. Gary Joppich started up front and led the first lap before being overtaken by Josh Indig and Cole Landau. Tony Monge and Grant Quinlan both swept by Landau and put the moves on Indig for the lead. It was Tony first getting by for the lead with Grant right in his tire tracks. Quinlan made his move on Lap 8, passing Monge on the inside, and taking over. Sean McPherson and Monge traded second back and forth for several laps before Matt Todd moved up and challenged Monge for second. Todd’s night ended badly with 5 laps to go, however, as his engine erupted in flames causing him to stop on the frontstretch. As Matt bailed out, Spartan’s safety team put out the fire and the race resumed. Quinlan was never challenged as the 14 year old Canadian won his second in a row with McPherson second followed by Monge, Landau, and Indig. Heat race was won by Quinlan with Todd setting quick time.
In the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks “A” 20 lapper, we had Ron Heeney in the No. 70 Dodge Challenger passing pole sitter Travis Ainsworth as Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman in No. 61 and Josh Trammell in No. 82 battled hard for second. While Heeney had his way at the front of the field, Josh finally slipped by Chuck for second, and that was how they finished. Russell Mudge III was fourth with Ainsworth rounding out the top five. In the 20 lap “B”, it was Dan Baschal in the yellow No. 13 winning his first feature at Spartan in 25 years! As a nice contrast to 14 year old Grant Quinlan’s win, Dan, who started racing at Jackson Speedway in 1976, celebrated his 70th birthday in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane. Finishing behind Baschal was Davey Kelley, Cory Coddington, and Jr. Gokee. Heat races were won by Chuck Ammerman, and Kelley. Fast qualifier was Trammell.
Finally, it was time for the last division of the night, the always entertaining and unpredictable Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks. Leading early was Jami Larner, but just like he has all season, it was Brian Beckner powering his way past for the lead. Lex Jarecki, Randy Kretzinger and Wayne Beckner all battled hard for second as Brian pulled away to a big lead. Brian took the checker as the DeWitt driver won his seventh feature in a row. Wayne was second, with William Hartman third, Jarecki fourth, and Larner fifth.
In the 20 lap “B”, it was Laura Garza on the pole, but last week’s winner Marq Eaton took over and led the remainder of the 20 laps, with several of the field all getting hit with speeding penalties. Finishing behind Eaton were Lindsay Fizzell, DJ Marciniak, Jennifer Larner, and Mariah Caswell. Heat winners were Brian Beckner, Lindsay Fizzell, and Brian “Brutus” Boesel. Fast time was set by Tyler Heeney.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Due to the commitment of my NASCAR race weekend position at MIS, I was not able to attend the races this last Friday, June 14, at Spartan Speedway. I will however have the results of the events at the end of this column. FYI, it was really cool to see Spartan Speedway racers John Ward, Matt Vainer and Mariah Caswell all working in the pits at MIS helping a living legend like James Harvey Hylton in his last season behind the wheel.
I did want to take the opportunity to discuss the ARCA Gold Cup Super Late Model series and a couple of their upcoming races. The series is appearing at Spartan on Sunday, June 30, for the hundred lap “Chargin’ Charlie Ryan Memorial.” The ARCA Gold Cup Series has some of the very best outlaw Super Late Models in the Midwest with drivers from Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana and everyone who loves Late Models will not want to miss this one.
Charlie passed away on 2004 of natural causes at the young age of 40 following a race at Spartan. His funeral service was conducted at the track with the blessing of track owner Paul Zimmerman and 1000 of his family, friends, and fans in attendance. Unfortunately, while I did see him race occasionally, I never had the opportunity to get to know Charlie. I did see how popular he was with Spartan Speedway fans and racers, so it was certainly an honor for me to meet with his mother Shirley a couple weeks ago. Shirley Ryan shared a family collection of articles and photos of her son with me, and afterwards, I got a much better understanding about him and why he was so loved by the Spartan Speedway fans. Very nice lady, and it was my pleasure to finally meet her; the Ryan family is very excited to see his memory honored, and will be in attendance for the race.
While I did not personally know Charlie, I was honored and privileged to be friends with another legendary Late Model racer named Joy Fair. While Joy raced and won many times at Spartan over his long career, he was more closely associated with the Flat Rock and Toledo Speedways. Being from his home town of Pontiac, Mich., I had watched him race for years, and he was my racing hero. We developed a personal friendship after he retired from racing in 1999, and I enjoyed spending hours with him at his business in Pontiac. Very few people are lucky enough to become friends with one of their heroes, so I consider myself blessed to know such a great man. Joy passed away in Dec. 2011, and the ARCA Gold Cup series is honoring his memory at Flat Rock, on June 22, with the “Joy Fair Memorial 100.” FYI, No. 42 Spartan Stock driver Steve Prucnell served as Joy’s crew chief for many years.
It was “Discount Friday” at Spartan this last Friday with the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks, Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks, and also a few fan favorite novelty races; Flagpole Racing, Skidplate Racing, and Powder Puffs. In the Spartan Stocks, it was Chris Shannon winning the “A” Division feature followed by Josh Trammell, Mike Ammerman, and Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman. In the “B” feature it was Davey Kelley, Russel Mudge III, Jason Luce, Junior Gokee and Bryan Jenks rounding out the top five.
In the Pony Stocks, we had Brian Beckner winning his fifth “A” feature in a row, with the rest of the top 5 being; Wayne Beckner Jr., William Hartman, Jami Larner, and Randy Kretzinger Jr. In the “B” it was Brad Robison winning his very first feature followed by Anthony Lane, Chris Hall, Lindsay Fizzel, and Ryan Gordon. In Pony Stock Powder Puff, we had Randi Cartwright over Dedra Bonene, Teresa Beckner, Stephanie Gordon, and Wendy Larner. Patrick Denison won the 4 cylinder Flagpole with Josh Sheppard winning in the V6/V8 Flagpole event. Finally Patrick Denison was the winner in the Skidplate race.
Friday, June 7,2013
Friday night, June 7, saw another great weekend of racing at Spartan Speedway in Mason, Mich. Competing on the tight banked quarter mile oval of “The Track the Stars Call Home” were the Michigan Legends, wingless Sprint cars, Spartan Stocks , and the Pony Stocks.
After the conclusion of qualifying and the heat races, the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends took to the track for their 30 lap feature event of the night. Starting on the pole was Trevor Klaus with Gary Joppich alongside. Joppich took the lead at the drop of the green, but it was Sean McPherson in front at the end of the first lap. Tony Monge, who is two for two so far this season, charged up to second and put the pressure on Sean Mac with Grant Quinlan moving up to third. Monge took the lead from McPherson, but it was short lived as Quinlan swept by both of them on Lap 6 to grab the top spot. Monge and Matt Todd battled side by side and swapped second place a couple times while Quinlan set sail and pulled away to a comfortable lead. Quinlan led the rest of the way with Todd second, Monge third followed by Sean McPherson and Cole Landau. The 14 year old driver from Canada scored a decisive win and is looking forward to coming back again to race. Heat race was won by Quinlan with Todd setting quick time in qualifying.
Next up on the track were the LaFontaine Ford wingless Sprint Cars for 35 laps. It looked like an outstanding field with 16 of the potent machines and several new faces in the pits. Doug Dietsch started on the pole and led the field into the first turn at the start. Dietsch was incorrectly called for a penalty for exceeding his qualifying time, and after a discussion with the officials, the penalty was rescinded and he was placed back in his rightful place at the front. As Dietsch settled back into the lead, it was John Turnbull Jr. who was slicing up through the field to fourth place, picking off a car every lap or so in an impressive bit of driving. Steve Irwin in the Flying No. 0 finally got by Dietsch for the lead followed by Geoff Kaiser with Turnbull also getting by Dietsch for third a couple laps later. The lead trio went three wide for the lead with Turnbull coming out ahead, but a caution at the other end of the track negated the pass. On the ensuing restart, Kaiser jumped out in front as mayhem occurred behind. Irwin and Turnbull made contact in Turn 1 with JoJo Helberg and Kyle Feeney also getting involved; all but Feeney were able to continue. Kaiser was able to hold the lead with Dietsch, Leroy Ellis, and Turnbull all fighting hard for second behind him. Geoff Kaiser, from Ft. Wayne, Ind. took the win with Dietsch in second, Ellis third, Turnbull fourth, and Helberg rounding out the top five. Heats were won by Dietsch and Steve Irwin with Turnbull setting fast time.
Next up on the chute were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a pair of 20 lap feature races. Starting on the pole for the “A” was Steve Prucnell in No. 42. Steve took the lead over Mike Ammerman at the start, with Josh Trammell holding down third. Trammel in his red and white No. 82 wasted no time and passed both of them to take over the lead. Trammell pulled away from the field with Ammerman and Prucnell battling for second.
Trammell, who calls Battle Creek home, won his third of the season, with Mike Ammerman second, Prucnell third, Joe Jones fourth, and Chuck Ammerman fifth.
In the 20 lap “B” feature, it was Tyler Hawkins on the pole with Davey Kelley taking the early lead. Rob Newman, in his old school No. 17, trailed by Jason Luce, took over the top spot, and those two battled hard for several laps. Newman was locking up his wheel in every corner and finally slowed with a flat. Cliff Sleeper was the car on the move, and once he passed Luce, it was clear sailing for the Lansing driver as he scored his second win of the season. Finishing second was Luce followed by Russel Mudge, Kelley, and Cory Coddington. Heats were won by Prucnell and Newman with Trammell setting fast time.
As the evening’s races wound down, it was the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks lining up for their 20 lappers. In the “A” it was DJ Marciniak starting on the pole with Ryan Gordon taking over at the green. Just like the last few weeks, it was Brian Beckner slicing up through the field from his last row start, and moving aggressively towards the front. Beckner took the lead on lap 4, but it wasn’t easy after that. As Tyler Heeney was the fastest car on the track and closed tight up on Beckner’s rear bumper. Heeney tried to make the outside groove work and pulled even, but couldn’t complete the pass as Beckner won by just a nose. Jami Larner was third with Wayne Beckner fourth, and William Hartman fifth.
In the “B” it was Chris Jones on the pole with Ken Dollarhite Jr. leading the first lap. Dollarhite had a wild race, flying through the grass at one point, but maintained the spot over Brad Robison and Marq Eaton. Eaton was able to seize the lead with Dollarhite slipping back to second and Jennifer Larner holding third. Eaton pulled away and dominated the remainder of the race winning over Larner, Jerry King, Robison, and Dollarhite coming home fifth. It was the Michigan Center’s driver first ever feature win, and he celebrated in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane with his girlfriend Amanda and dog Chase. Heats were won by Mariah Caswell, John Ward, and William Hartman. Fast qualifier was Brian Beckner.
The evening concluded with Lex Jarecki winning the Spectator Drags.
Next week, is Discount Friday with Spartan Stocks, Pony Stocks, Flagpole Racing, Skidplate racing and Powder Puffs. I will not be at the track as I will be working at MIS for the NASCAR race weekend. See everyone the following week!
Friday, May 31,2013
Now that we are past the Memorial weekend and getting into June; for me, it marks the beginning of another summer and time for some warm weather. Things were also getting heated up at Spartan Speedway on Friday May, 31, as the “Track the Stars Call Home” had the Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks scheduled to compete on the banked quarter mile. In addition, it was one of the favorite nights of the year for the fans, as it was “Autograph Night” when they get to walk on the track see the cars up close, and mingle with all the drivers.
Once the qualifying and heat races were completed, it was time for the features. The first divisions to head out on the track were the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of 20 lappers. In the “A”, it was Ron “Shrek” Fizzel in his Saturn starting on the pole and leading the field to the green flag. Cameron Garza wasted no time getting to the front as he took the lead from his outside front row starting spot. Garza had to withstand a charge on the outside from Jami “Superfly” Larner, but maintained the lead. Once again however, it was Brian Beckner driving up through the field and taking the lead and ultimately the win. The DeWitt driver is really on a roll as he took his fourth in a row. Garza was second over Tyler Heeney, Wayne Beckner, and Fizzel rounding out the top five.
In the “B” we had Jennifer Larner starting on the pole, with last week’s winner Tom Goward racing side by side on the outside. Goward was able to finally get by, as the rest of the field raced three wide behind for third. Goward, who won his very first time out last week, went two for two for his second win in a row in his No. 66 (+3) Neon. I joked with Tom and his wife where that number came from, and Tom explained “ She wanted No. 69, and I wanted no. 66, so we compromised with No. 66 (+3)” I then of course asked “Why wasn’t the compromise 69(-3)!” Trina Wurmnest came home second, with “Trojan” Troy Andrews third, DJ Marciniak fourth and Marq Eaton fifth.
After the fans swarmed the track for autograph session on the frontstretch, the track was cleared for the 35 lap Performance Automotive NW Modified feature race. Justin Kazmar, in No. 96 started on the pole and led the remainder of the field to the stripe. Dan Loughan jumped up to second with Chris Ozanich third. On the ensuing restart after a Lap 8 caution, Loughan seized the top spot from the outside, with fast timer Jon McNett also getting by Kazmar for second. Travis Eddy moved up to third as the top three pulled away from the rest. While the trio battled hard for position as the laps wound down, that is the way they finished, as the “Governor” Dan Loughan, from Charlotte earned his second win of the year. Kazmar settled for fourth with Ozanich fifth. As he celebrated in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane, Dan looked somewhat perplexed as to why his whole air filter assembly decided to sail itself right off the car during the race.
Now it was time for the fastest division, the LaFontaine Ford wingless Sprint Cars, to get pushed out for their 30 lap feature event. It was the purple No. 24 of Cody Hoover starting on the pole and leading at the start. Hoover managed to keep the lead until Lap 7, when the “Bulldog” John Turnbull took over in No. 12 with fast qualifier Leroy Ellis storming up through the field to second and Jim Heeney in third. Turnbull was able to hold off Ellis for several laps, but finally surrendered the lead on Lap 15, and dropped back to second. Doug Dietsch hounded Heeney for third as both Ellis and Turnbull separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Finally on Lap 24, Heeney finally succumbed and gave up the spot to Dietsch, but it was “Lightning” Leroy Ellis in the red No. 50 taking his second win of the season. The Vermontville resident was a three time Modified champion before taking the plunge to the Sprint cars last season. Turnbull, in his first season in the Sprints, has been very impressive so far, finishing in second with Dietsch third, Heeney fourth, with Steve Irwin rounding out the top five. I enjoyed finally getting the opportunity to meet long time sprint car owner John Hotchkiss who is working with Turnbull this year.
The last division scheduled this evening was the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks. In the 20 lap “A” division it was Pat Dent in his blue No. 6 Nova getting the lead from the pole over Josh Trammell. Trammell was able to slip past Dent and take the lead with Ron “Old School” Heeney moving up to second. Heeney, in his red No. 70 Dodge Challenger, dove inside Trammell on Lap 8 to nose ahead and take his turn at the front. Trammell wasn’t giving up, and stuck right on the rear bumper of Heeney, but Ron was never headed and won his second in a row, after the debut of the beautiful new Challenger last week. The Leslie driver gave the fans a treat with a “Polish Victory Lap”, as made famous by NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki. Trammell was second, with Chuck Ammerman third, Steve Prucnell fourth, and Dent fifth.
The last race of the night was the Spartan Stock “B” for 20 laps. Davey Kelley started up front and led at the start over Travis Ainsworth. It was Cliff Sleeper getting past Travis and putting pressure on Kelley. Sleeper passed Kelly on the outside with Kyle Worley also getting by Davey as well. Sleeper had pulled away from the others, but Worley was able to close the gap, and finally pulled up right on the rear bumper of Cliff’s No. <3. Sleeper elected the outside lane on a restart, and that was all Worley needed as he inched ahead in his white No. 15 and took the lead. Sleeper stayed right on his rear bumper, and even had one more shot on another restart, but it was Worley taking the checker in first. Sleeper was second, with Kelley third, Russell Mudge fourth, and Cory Coddington fifth. Worley, who lives in the Detroit Downriver suburb of Southgate, is a regular competitor at Flat Rock Speedway. Kyle decided to come up to Spartan for fun and sure succeeded. I spend most of my Saturday nights at Flat Rock, so I’m hoping more of their drivers bring their cars up on Fridays this season.
If you have been attending the races at Spartan recently, you may have seen the Bandolero cars on display on the concourse. Several have been purchased by the track management for sale, so this is the perfect division for the youngsters to enjoy the thrills of racing. In addition, for those who always wanted to drive a race car around Spartan, there are regular opportunities every Friday afternoon to try out a Legends car for several laps. This would be a perfect gift for any race fan and the cost is only $95.
Finally, I have to take this opportunity to mention something; while the racing at Spartan is fun and spectacular, I always make sure I wear hearing protection when I’m at the track. Nothing was better this evening than to see all the youngsters meeting the drivers and getting autographs and goodie bags, but please parents, make sure your little ones have hearing protection.
Sunday, May 26,2013
Spartan Speedway holds their standard weekly races every Friday night, however once a month during the summer, they also hold a special series of Sunday races called the Slugfest Series. These Slugfest races offer the race fans something a little special. The first one of the 2013 season was conducted on Sunday May 26, and as a special treat the fans got to see the bad fast outlaw bodied Super Late Models for the first time this year. These aerodynamic outlaw style bodies are unique to the Great Lakes States and make them some of the fastest most powerful stock bodied cars racing anywhere. In addition, the Michigan Legends, Spartan Stocks, and Pony Stocks were also on the card this evening.
Hitting the track for the first feature race of the evening was the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock 20 lap “A” division. As I walked in the pits before the race, there were a couple cars that really caught my eye. First off was the stunning drop dead gorgeous red No. 70 Dodge Challenger of Ron Heeney. The car had just been completed, and is literally one of the most beautiful race cars I have ever seen. If that wasn’t enough, it was very good to see the car of friends Greg Studt and his dad Bob who normally race at Flat Rock Speedway.
Greg Studt started on the pole in his No. 33, but it was clear from the drop of the green that the Figure 8 car was a little outclassed as Ron Heeney in the No. 70 Challenger blasted by and took over the lead. The “Bounty Hunter” Heeney had Phil Bozell and Friday’s winner Josh Trammell in his tire tracks as the laps clicked by, but was never headed and took the win. Finishing fourth was Ben Raber with Damon Place in fifth. Great to see Damon bring his car out for the first time this season. Phil Bozell was fast qualifier.
Now it was time for the Spartan Stock “B” division to take to the asphalt for their 20 lap feature. Jr. Gokee started on the pole with his dad, Jim Sr. on the outside in the No. 911 former Michigan State Police car. Jason Luce in No. 13 decided to break up the Gokee pair with a daring pass right up the middle for the lead on a lap 6 restart. Friday night’s winner Cliff Sleeper finally got around Jim Gokee Sr for second, and then set his sights on Luce. Maybe a little too close as he drove hard into turn one and the two made contact casuing both to collide. Both were able to overcome the mishap and finished 1-2, with Sleeper barely edging Shawn McCall for third, Davey Kelley coming home in fourth and Jr. Gokee in fifth.
Now it was the race everyone had been anticipating, the Super Late Models for 75 laps. Happy to finally get the opportunity to meet Mike Russell from the Outlaw Racing Assoc. who was here to help promote these outlaw bodied rockets. Unfortunately, fan favorite Tim Ryan had mechanical trouble in practice and was unable to start, but the field was strong with fast qualifier Tyler Roahrig, Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer Andy Bozell, his son Phil, Spartan regular Jimmy Gallagher, Chris Place and others.
Starting on the pole was Doug True in No. 93 with longtime Spartan competitor Dave Stehouwer starting alongside. After a quick yellow when True spun his tires and was hit by Dick Bissett, the field got going with Stehouwer jumping out in front. Just like last season when he dominated the Slugfest races, Stehouwer is very tough to pass when he is leading. True was forced to retire to the pits while running second as Gallagher then took up the challenge. Lap after lap, Dave took the outside allowing Jimmy to pull alongside on the bottom, but was able to hold him off and maintained the lead. Gallagher’s car couldn’t take the strain as he retired and now it was Justin Claucherty moving up to second with Andy Bozell in third.
Tyler Roahrig got into the rear of Andy moving him up the track with Bozell getting revenge and returning the favor by spinning out Tyler. While all this was going on, Stehouwer maintained the lead with Claucherty doing everything possible to get past on the inside. Justin made inadvertent contact with Stehouwer, backing off to let Dave gather it up allowing Roahrig to get by. As the laps would down, it was Stehouwer making his car as wide as possible, while Roahrig tried desperately to find a way past. Finally with just 6 laps to go, Tyler dove inside and took over the point leading the rest of the way to the checker. Stehouwer was second, with Claucherty third, Phil Bozell fouth, and dad Andy rounding out the top five. Roahrig, a third generation driver from Indiana, pulled his blue No. 24 machine into the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane as he celebrated his win with the fans and signed autographs.
That might be a tough act to follow, but if anyone was up to the task, it was the Sawyers Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends series. Starting on the pole in the 30 lap feature was Erik Jones in No. 74. Erik is one of the most talented young drivers in the country winning the prestigious Snowball Derby in Florida earlier in the year, and was hoping to add a Spartan trophy to his growing list of accomplishments. Jones, from Byron, Mich., led the first few laps, but could not hold back the charge of Tony Monge in the red No. 92 and surrendered the lead. It looked like a repeat of the previous Legends race earlier this year with Monge leading and fast qualifier Matt Todd trying desperately to close the gap. Todd in the black No. 8 clearly had the fastest car on the track, as he closed the gap to a couple lengths, but ran out of laps as they finished 1-2 for the second time this season. Third was Sean McPherson with Jones fourth and Mike Occhipinti in fifth.
The last division scheduled was the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A”; Tyler Heeney and Jami Larner swapped the lead as they raced side by side, with Ron Fizzell and Brian Beckner charging up from back in the field. Beckner first passed Ron, and then Jami to take over second and set his sights on Heeney for the lead. Buckner and Heeney raced door to door for a few laps with Beckner edging out for the top spot. Heeney wasn’t giving up, and battled back on the outside, but at the checker, it was Brian, from DeWitt, winning his third in a row. Second was Heeney with Wayne Beckner third, Larner fourth, and Fizzell in fifth. Brian Beckner set fast time.
In the “B”, it took a while to get settled down as the field could not complete a single lap without a caution. Once they finally got going, it was newcomer Lindsay Fizzell and Ryan Gordon battling at the front. Tom Goward passed both and took his turn up front until Gordon re assumed the lead. Unfortunately for Ryan, he was a little too fast under his qualifying time, and was hit with a “speeding” penalty putting him at the back. Goward took back over at the front with Brian Boesel, Fizzell, and Trina Wurmnest all fighting for second. As the lead pack approached a lapped car on the last lap, the field scattered; Goward took the checker over Wurmnest and Boesel. Finishing fourth was DJ Marciniak with Marq Eaton in fifth. Tom Goward was ecstatic in Victory lane winning in only his second start in the No. 66 Neon and celebrating with the Beckners. I was very impressed with both Lindsay Fizzell and Ken Dollarhite Jr., as they both ran very well in their very first race.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Spartan Speedway opened the first leg on their Memorial Day weekend doubleheader starting with their Friday night program. Scheduled to appear at the banked quarter mile paved oval were the Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, Pony Stocks, and making their first appearance of the season, were the GLS Mini Cups.
After the conclusion of qualifying and the heat races, it was time for the feature events. The first division lined up and ready to race was the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for their 20 lap “A” feature. Starting on the pole was John Ward in his blue No. 3 Dodge Neon. When he is not racing at Spartan, John is a crew member in the ARCA series for 78 yr. old NASCAR legend James Hylton. James was the NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 1966, finished 2nd in points to both Richard Petty and David Pearson, and won NASCAR races at Talladega and Richmond.
It was Lex Jarecki taking the top spot from Ward at the start, with Aaron Taylor also getting by for second. As the front of the field raced door to door, it was 2012 champion Brian Beckner charging up to catch the top two and mount a challenge for the lead. Just after the halfway point, Beckner first got around Taylor and then set his sights on leader Jarecki. Brian jumped to the outside of Lex, and in a very aggressive move, and then dove down underneath Lex to take the lead. Brian, who hails from DeWitt, was able to pull away and score his second win of the season followed by Jarecki, Taylor, Jami Larner and brother Wayne Beckner in fifth.
In the Pony Stock “B” it was Mariah Caswell on the pole in her blue No. 32. Ron “Shrek” Fizzell bypassed Mariah for the lead on Lap 6, with Brad Robison moving up to third. Fizzell then had to withstand a furious challenge by Cameron Garza as the two warriors drove door to door with Garza inching ahead at times, but never able to clear Fizzell. Cameron made one last charge, but Ron was able to hold him off by inches in his primered no. 36 Saturn (when ya going to paint that thing Ron?) It was the Laingsburg drivers first win this season. Third was Jerry King followed by Marq Eaton and Brian Boesel.
Heats were won by DJ Marciniak, Wayne Beckner, and Mariah Caswell. Happy to see Mariah get her very first win in three years of racing!
Next up were the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds for 35 laps. It was Travis Eddy jumping out to the lead from his front row start as the field headed for the first turn. Eddy was followed by John Ledwidge with Jon McNett holding off the rest of the field in third. Fast timer Jordan Pruitt moved up to third place and closed up on the rear of McNett, while Eddy pulled away to a comfortable lead. Pruitt spun and went to the rear giving McNett another shot at the leader on the restart. The two ran side by side, but Jon had nothing for Travis as Eddy took his first of the season. McNett was second followed by Justin Kazmar, Ledwidge, and Dan Loughan. Great drive by Kazmar to get back to third from the rear of the field after an early spin. Eddy, son of Michigan short track legend, Mike, calls Midland, Mich. home. Heats were won by McNett and Megan Carpenter.
Next on tap were the GLS Mini Cup cars for 25 laps. Don’t let their looks fool you; these diminutive versions of NASCAR racers may look like toys, but trust me they can put down some very quick laps! Many of them were painted to replicate their big brothers in NASCAR. Defending champion Morgan Baird in the Carl Edwards look alike No. 99 set fast time, and moved up to the front early in the race to take the lead. Unfortunately, he was forced to the pits with a broken fuel line handing the top spot to Tyler Minnex in No. 42. Minnex and Tim Phillips in a Dale Earnhardt Gold No. 3 ran side by side for a few laps before Phillips took over. Kyle “Flipper” Trinklein was able to get right behind Phillips looking for a way by as the laps would down. Finally, Trinklein dove under Phillips with just two to go to take the win. The youngsters enjoying the Art Moehn Chevrolet/Honda Victory Lane seemed fascinated by the Mini Cup cars as they crowded around Kyle for autographs. Finishing second was Minnex, with Phillips, Justin Carley and Stephanie Hile rounding out the top five. Heats were won by Trinklein and Baird.
Finally, last up were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock division for a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A” division, Chuck Ammerman started up front, but once again it was the Josh Trammell and Scott Rugg show. The two ran side by side for much of the race, but this time it was Trammell inching ahead and holding off Rugg despite an engine miss in the closing laps.
In the “B” it was a real wild and wooly one under a full moon, with Junior Gokee on the pole and Jim Gokee on the outside in No. 911; a former State Police cop car complete with a bubble on the roof. Jr. Gokee took the lead, and after a yellow, it was Jason Luce finding a way in through the middle of the Gokee’s and taking the lead. Luce maintained the lead, and after a battle with Davey Kelley on a restart was able to re assume the top spot. This is when things went downhill quickly. Under caution a few laps later, Luce was hit (under yellow) by Mark Carson, getting a flat tire in the process. While Jason pitted for new rubber, Carson then inexplicably hit Kelley under caution! On a final restart with one lap to go, Carson forced Kelley into the wall in turn four, as both Brian Jenks and Eric Wagner started wrecking as they slid across the line. It was a surprised Cliff Sleeper taking the win. Felt real bad for Bryan Jenks as he ended his night with two heavily damaged cars.
Friday, May 17, 2013
After a week off due to inclement weather last week, it was once again race time at Spartan Speedway this Friday, May 17. This Friday was “Red Carpet Night” which is when the track staff all honor the many Spartan Speedway sponsors that support racing at ‘The Track the Stars Call Home” , and allow us all to enjoy this great sport. Scheduled to compete this evening were the LaFontaine Ford wingless Sprint cars, Performance Automotive NW Modifieds, Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks, and the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks.
The first feature event to fire up and roll off was the Spartan Stock “A” division for 20 laps. Starting on the pole was Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman. Josh Trammell slowed at the start and went to the pits with issues, but his fans were relieved as he roared back on the track and rejoined at the tail end. Damion Lytle was the early leader chased by Scott Rugg, but this race was plagued by caution after caution after caution. I won’t go into all the ugly details, but after a total of eight, yes I said eight! yellows, the race ended mercifully with Scott Rugg from Vicksburg taking the checker followed by Chris Rugg, Joe Jones, Steve Prucnell, and Trammell rounding out the top five. Tim Lahar blew his engine in his Camaro rather spectacularly, but deserves a call out for pulling out of the way and keeping the oil out of the groove.
In the 20 lap Spartan Stock “B” feature, it was Travis Ainsworth on the pole taking the lead at the drop of the green. Jason Luce soon took over the top spot, but the story of the race was the John Kennedy brown and yellow No. 35 Olds. Amazingly, the car had been sitting for eleven years when it was decided to bring it out this Friday. John changed the battery, filled it up with fuel, changed tires, and went racing without doing anything else to the car. After a side by side battle with Luce, Kennedy took the lead with Luce, Harold Braman, and Rob Newman all trailing. Luce soon retired with mechanical trouble, but Kennedy took an easy win, with Braman edging Newman for second, followed by Steven Herr and Davey Kelley finishing fifth. Not sure that Kennedy wants to do anything else to that car now.
The “C” feature was a four car contest as Jim “Junior” Gokee and Tyler Hawkins battled side by side for most of the race with Gokee Jr’s No. 74 machine prevailing for his first ever feature win in a close finish over Hawkins. Third was grandfather Rick Gokee, with Maegan Williams fourth in her Chevelle. Heats were won by Scott Rugg, Newman, and Luce with Trammell setting fast time.
Hitting the track next were the ground pounding LaFontaine Ford Sprint cars for 30 laps. Doug Dietsch in his black No. 0 started on the pole, but as the field roared past the start, his car inexplicably slowed causing Don Hamilton to slam into his rear and get airborne while everyone else scattered. As they tried again for another restart, this time it was Cody Hoover taking the lead. Jim Heeney took over the top spot the next lap with Leroy “Lightning” Ellis also getting by Hoover for second on lap 7. Heeney remained up front with Ellis and John Turnbull hot on his heels for the next dozen laps, but finally Ellis was able to make the pass in turn 1 and led the rest of the way. Heeney was able to hold off Turnbull for second, but as they entered the last turn before the checker, John ‘Bulldog” Turnbull was able to just edge Heeney by a nose. Dietsch salvaged fourth with Greg Taylor coming home on fifth. This was Vermontville native Leroy Ellis’ first win in a sprinter after several years of competing in the modifieds. As Turnbull brought his car to the pits after the race, he discovered a bent front axle and tie rod from the lap 1 incident. Heat winners were Heeney and Jay Rohrback with Ellis setting fast time.
Lining up in the chute were the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds for 35 laps. Larry Wallace was the dominating driver last season, so when he started on the pole, it looked like déjà vu all over again, as his jet black No. 55 is very tough to beat when he starts up front. Jon McNett gave him everything he could handle at the start, but just couldn’t clear him and fell back to second. Both Jordan Pruitt in No. 8 and Travis Eddy in No. 78 chased down Wallace in traffic, as the top three were lined up nose to tail, but that was the way it ended, with Wallace taking his first win of the season. After the plethora of yellows in the preceding races, the modified drivers showed them how it should be done as they raced the entire distance caution free! Pruitt came home second after a great battle with Eddy with McNett in fourth and Chris Ozanich in fifth. Heat winners were Wallace and Bill Heeney.
Finally the 4 cylinder buzz bombs of the Pony Stocks took to the track for a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A” division, it was Troy Andrews starting on the pole. His lead was short lived as the Beckner brothers wasted no time getting to the front with Brian leading and brother Wayne Jr. right on the rear bumper of his Dodge Neon. Those two pulled away from Cameron Garza in third and Jami Larner in fourth. Wayne tried everything he could to find a way past Brian, but as the checker flew it was 2012 champion Brian “Fireball” Beckner taking his first win on the season. Garza held off Larner for third with Tyler Heeney finishing fifth.
The last race of the evening was the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stock “B” Ken Dollarhite started up front, but it was Brian Boesel in his Ford EXP battling Brad Robison’s Neon in the early laps, with the rest of the field battling furiously for third. Last year’s “B” champion, DJ Marciniak swept by first Robison and then Boesel on the outside and led the reminder of the 20 laps. Boesel came home second with Robison third, followed by Dollarhite and Trina Wurmnest. Heats were won by Dollarhite, Wurmnest and Brian Beckner.
It was great seeing the excitement with the first time winners, and I certainly had a great night hanging out with Smilin’ Jack at the picnic tables. Looking forward to the double header on the upcoming Memorial holiday weekend, but let’s not forget the reason for the holiday and the sacrifice made by our military. Racing both Friday night and Sunday. Hoping to see you there!
Friday, May 3, 2013
Another great night of racing at Spartan Friday night May 3, with the Michigan Legends, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks , and Pony Stocks all competing on the ”Track the Stars call Home. ” The weather was outstanding and it finally seems like spring has finally arrived.
After qualifying and the heat races were concluded, it was time for the features as the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds took to the track for their feature race. Starting on the pole for the 35 lapper was Damion Lytle in his No. 599 with last year’s dominating driver, Larry Wallace, on the outside of the front row. As the green flag dropped, the front row stayed in formation for a couple laps before Wallace inched his way out front and took the lead. Chris Ozanich recovered from an early spin to take second on Lap 10 and put pressure on Wallace for the top spot with John Sarppriacone Jr. in third and Travis Eddy in fourth. Finally, after a Lap 12 double file restart, Ozanich was able to grab the lead from his inside front row position. Larry tried valiantly to get back by Chris as the laps wound down; staying glued on his rear bumper looking for a way past, with Eddy right behind in third hoping those two would slip up. Ozanich ran a perfect race, as the Lansing resident took the checker, with Wallace in second and Eddy third, followed by Sarppriacone and John Ledwidge rounding out the top five. Heat winners were Mike Stenberg and Wallace, with Dan Loughan setting fast time.
In the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock division 20 lap “A” feature, it was Battle Creek’s Josh Trammell in No. 82 and Scott Rugg in No. 49 putting on a great show the entire race. Following in third was Steve Prucnell in No. 42 who debuted a brand new car that hit the track for the very first time. Rugg and Trammell ran nose to tail, and side by side the entire race, swapping the lead a couple times before Rugg finally prevailed at the stripe. The two drivers were so evenly matched that their best race laps were within .001 second! Prucnell, who alternates driving every other season with his wife Mary, trailed in third, with Tim Lahar fourth, followed by Shawn McCall in fifth.
In the 20 lap “B” feature, it was Mason’s Rob “Oil Can” Newman taking the win after trading the lead with Damion Lytle. Lytle, who was doing double duty in both the Spartan Stocks, and Modifieds, was penalized for “speeding” while leading, and was sent to the rear of the field. Newman led the rest of the way with Eric Wagner second, and Lytle, Tyler Hawkins and Bryan Jenks completing the top five. In the Spartan Stock 20 lap “C” feature, it was Jim Gokee and Harold Braman leading from the drop of the green. Jason Luce went three wide to take the top spot and led the rest of the way, with Braman finishing second, Gokee third, Maegan Williams fourth, and Austin Jenks in fifth. Setting fast time in the Spartan Stocks was Trammell, with heat winners being Cliff Sleeper, and Rugg.
Next up were the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends Series for 30 laps. These pint sized speedsters always put on a great show, and this was no exception. The series was purchased over the winter by track owner Jim Leasure, and I am really looking forward to seeing them competing as a regular division for 2013. Gary Joppich and Gregory Rudzik were early leaders, but the story of the race was Tony Monge and Matt Todd as these two jockeys put on a whale of a race for the lead. Monge and Todd traded the lead back and forth a few times in a terrific duel, as fast timer Bryan Nuckles, from Columbus Ohio, lurked behind in third. At the stripe, it was Howell Michigan’s Monge earning a well deserved victory with Todd second, Nuckles in third, followed by Sean McPherson and Cole Landau. Heat winner was Monge.
The last division to hit the track was the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks. In the 20 lap “A” feature, it was Cameron Garza taking the early lead over Brian Beckner and Tyler Heeney. Heeney first passed Beckner, and then finally got around Garza for the lead on a double file restart. Tyler pulled away from the rest of the field in his Fox 47 sponsored Dodge Neon and led easily for the rest of the distance. Finishing behind Heeney was Garza, Lex Jarecki, William Hartman, and Wayne Beckner Jr.
In the 20 lap “B” feature it was a thriller, as Jeff Metdepenningn and John Ward waged a terrific two car duel. The two warriors ran side by side for the last half of the race with Jeff’s black No. 7 just edging out John at the checker after a late race two lap shootout. Finishing third was Brian Boesel, followed by Jerry King and Brad Robison. Hartman set quick time, with Garza and Metdepenningn as heat winners. It was great ending to a fantastic night as Jeff celebrated with car owner Arnold Kirsch in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Winner’s Circle.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Nothing signals the beginning of spring like opening night at the races and like the rest of us, I have
been anxiously waiting the 2013 race season at Spartan Speedway, and finally it is here! This winter has
dragged on way too long; by the way, if anyone spots that Punxatawny Phil character, you best tell that
rodent he better not show his face around here for awhile if he knows what’s good for him.
Scheduled for the Friday April 26th 2013 season opener at the “track the stars call home” were the
wingless Sprint cars, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, and Pony Stocks. All the racers spent the off season
working very hard getting their cars ready, and I always enjoy seeing all the new paint schemes and
especially the new faces in the pits. You never know for sure who is going to show up on opening night
until they sign in at the pit gate.
After qualifying and the heat races, it was time for the feature races. First off this evening was the
LaFontaine Ford Sprint cars for 30 laps. The field looks wide open this season, as last year’s champion,
Trevor Berry, and runner up Hayden Reeves, are both off pursuing other racing endeavors. One
newcomer to keep an eye on is John Turnbull Jr. John has won countless races and championships in the
Michigan Legends Series and should be a force in the fire breathing sprinters this season.
After the push truck got all the cars fired up, the field assembled for the first feature race of the year.
Starting on the front row was pole sitter Don Hamilton in No. 31 with No. 7 Joe Swanson alongside. As
the drivers jumped on the gas and hurtled into the first turn, it was Swanson taking the top spot and
leading the field for the first lap. “Lightning” Leroy Ellis moved up to second in his gorgeous red No. 50,
and set his sights on Swanson as the duo sliced through lapped traffic. The “Bulldog”, John Turnbull
Jr. made his move on lap 15 passing both Jim Heeney and Jay Rohrback on the outside for third. At
the halfway mark, the top five were Swanson, Ellis, Turnbull, Rohrback, & Heeney. Ellis tried valiantly
to catch Swanson, but could never get close enough to mount a challenge as Swanson took the win
followed by Ellis, Turnbull, Heeney and Rohrback. Joe Swanson towed all the way from Warsaw Indiana
with his The Car Company/Swanson Engines No. 7; let’s hope he makes the trip more often this year.
Heat races were won by Ellis and Rohrback, with Heeney setting fast time.
Next up were the Performance Automotive Northwest Modified for 35 laps. It was nice seeing Michigan
short track legend Mike Eddy in the pits helping his son Travis with his No. 78. The “Governor” Dan
Loughan started on the pole and led the field into turn 1, followed by John Ledwidge and Damion Lytle.
Lytle moved up into second while Ledwidge and Eddy side by side for third. Last year’s champion, Larry
Wallace, got as high as fifth before leaving the track with mechanical troubles. Loughan had things
covered up front as Eddy and Ledwidge had a furious battle swapping the third spot several times. At
the checker, the top five were Loughan, Lytle, Eddy, Ledwidge, and Chris Ozanich. Dan, who hails from
Charlotte, was joined in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Victory Lane by long time sponsor David Howe with
Beacon Sales & Service. Travis Eddy set fast time with heats won by Ledwidge and Mike Stenburg.
The Lipari Foods 20 lap Spartan Stock “A” feature lined up with Tim Lahar in his No. 20 Camaro taking
the early lead, followed by Patrick Dent in his old school Nova, and Josh Trammell. It took 6 laps for
Trammell to pass both on the outside, and the Battle Creek driver set sail for the rest of the way with a
dominating performance in his red and white No. 82 Auto Lab Chevy Monte Carlo. Finishing second was
Dent with Lahar in third with Cliff Sleeper fourth, and Roy McCall fifth.
In the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock “B” feature; it was Jim Gokee jumping out to an early lead followed
by Davey Kelley and Tyler Hawkins. Kelley and Hawkins both passed Gokee on lap 6 and ran bumper
to bumper for the remainder of the race. Kelley was able to maintain the top spot after several double
file restarts and the Haslett resident took the win in his No. 11 grey and lime green machine. Finishing
second was Hawkins with James Sawade coming home in third followed by Bryan Jenks, and Gokee .
Heats were won by Trammell and Travis Ainsworth, with Trammell setting fast time.
Finally to cap off the evening, it was time for the wild and wooly Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks in a
pair of 20 lap features. Previous champion John Ward returned after a hiatus of several years and led
the field to the green in the “A” division with his Petty blue No. 3 Neon. Hot on his heels were Ron
Fizzell and DJ Marciniak. Last year’s champion, Brian Beckner, wasted no time moving to the front, by
attempting to go three wide on the outside. Brian and Marciniak made contact before Beckner’s No.
11 bounced wildly through the turn 4 grass, careening back on the track, as everyone scattered. After
a short caution for debris, Ward led with Wayne Beckner and Tyler Heeney right on his rear bumper.
Wayne Beckner and Heeney both got around Ward, with Wayne taking the win over a hard charging
Heeney, and Ward trailing in third followed by Jami Larner and Fizzell.
Last but not least we ended the night with the Pony Stock “B” feature. Ken Dollarhite started on the
pole and led at the start until being overtaken by Laura Garza in her No. 9. Garza’s lead was short lived
as she inexplicably hit the wall very hard just before the start finish line. The crowd became very quiet
hoping she was uninjured, and then roared with relief when she climbed out and waved to the fans.
On the restart, Jerry King in No. 15 was able to pass Dollarhite for the lead, with Ryan Gordon in third.
King would lead the rest of the way, but Brad Robison made things very exciting as he closed right up on
King’s bumper, but ran out of laps. King would take the win followed by Robison in second and Gordon
in third followed by Troy Andrews and Brian Boesel in fifth. Heats were won by Heeney, Gordon, and
Fizzell with Wayne Beckner setting quick time.