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.
November 12, 2012
As I perused my Facebook page, the words jumped out at me faster than any race car at the drop of the green flag.
From the Midwest Racing Scene;
“Spartan Speedway owner buys Michigan Legends Series. At the Fall MSPA meeting, it was announced that Spartan Speedway owner Jim Leasure has purchased the Michigan Legends Series from John Turnbull. Congratulations!”
Wow! Neither I nor anyone else in the racing community saw this one coming. Once the smoke cleared, I sat down with Spartan Speedway (and Michigan Legends series) owner Jim Leasure to discuss the purchase and what the future holds for 2013 and beyond. Just like the old sit com, here is the status of the Michigan legends “According to Jim”.
RT: “So Jim, I must say the announcement was a big surprise; what made you decide from owning a couple race tracks (Spartan & Springport) to buying a series.”
JL: “Well Rand, the racing environment has changed; you need to have growth and get younger people involved. One thing I’ve learned in business is that you can’t stand still; you need to be thinking ahead, with a clear vision of where you need to be 3-5 years down the road. You also need to think long term, and not expect instant results, as it takes time to get there. I have been thinking of doing this for quite a few years, so the timing was finally right. I think the Legends series is a great idea and something that will attract new drivers and fans. In the future, I also would like to add the Bandaleros to get young racers and their parents involved.”
RT: “I couldn’t agree more. While I love going to the races every single weekend, there really just aren’t enough diehards around like myself. The Legends have put on some great racing every time I have seen them. The big question from everyone involved with the Michigan Legends series wants to know is; what type of schedule are you planning?”
JL: “The deal just got done a few days ago, so I am still trying to determine where and how much traveling we will do. I really need to hear from the drivers and see where they would like to run. I’m not certain what to expect for a car count, so that is something I still need to know. At this time, I am looking to have Spartan Speedway be the Legends ‘home base’ with possibly up to 10 races here.”
RT: “Are you anticipating any races at Springport or Flat Rock? Currently the Legends series only races at paved ovals, but I had a couple people ask me about dirt or a road course. What are your thoughts about that? I know I would love to see them race again at Waterford Hills Road Racing.”
JL: “The decision at Springport ultimately needs to be made by Jeff Parish, but I would expect to see them there a few times. I really like working with Scott Schultz, Ron Drager and ARCA, so hopefully we will be at Flat Rock too. As far as dirt or a road course goes; not at this time. A road course is probably more possible than dirt, but like I said earlier, it really depends on what the drivers want to do. One thing do I know about operating a track is that I need to have happy drivers. “
(RT: I spoke with Scott Schultz from Flat Rock a couple weeks later and they are planning on scheduling the Legends for 4 races at the Level Pebble)
RT: “I understand you are also buying the Legend car dealership and parts business as well. Are you going to have a display set up at Spartan so people can see them up close? What about a rental program?
JL: “Everyone with 600 Racing in Charlotte, NC is on board with the purchase, so we will be the exclusive dealer for cars and parts in Michigan. We will set up a regular test program at Spartan to provide an opportunity for people interested in buying a car to be able to try one out. Having a regular track allows us to offer those tests the entire season, so that will be an advantage. As far as a rental program, are you crazy? I would be fixing wrecked cars all the time. (Laughs)”
RT: “Oh well, I was hoping you would let your website writer race one. What about the MCR Dwarf car series? Probably not going to be racing at Spartan, right? Always wondered, could they race at the same time as the Legends?”
JL: I have had a great relationship with MCR Dwarf series owner Steve Martin for many years, and one of the first things I did was contact him and tell him nothing will change with the Dwarf cars at Spartan. I respect Steve too much to do anything else. To answer your other question, the rules between the two are different enough, and INEX (Legends National Sanctioning Body) does not allow the Legends to run with other cars on the track, so the two series can’t race together.”
RT: “Thanks for the time Jim; any closing thoughts?”
JL: “I really feel optimistic for the future, and believe that momentum is heading in the right direction. We need to keep in mind that we are in the entertainment business and not just the racing business. As I know more about the Legends schedule etc., I will let you know.”
RT: One last thing, the Michigan Legends website will continue to operate, and I will be working together with long time Michigan Legends PR Director and good friend Dave DeHem. I will continue to provide the Spartan Speedway website writing for all divisions as in 2012, and Dave and I will collaborate on the Michigan Legends website content.
October 8, 2012
This week’s article is a 2012 season review of the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock division. This division consists of “street stock” type cars broken up into either two or three classes every week. The goal is to group cars running similar lap times, so they can compete fairly against other equivalent cars. Based on their lap times in qualifying, the cars are placed in either the “A”, “B” or “C” divisions.
Like they say, it’s no fun bringing a knife to a gun fight, so for the driver that is starting out, on a tight budget, or learning to race, the bracket racing format allows them to race competitively with cars of similar performance. The real beauty of a class like this is that cars are never obsolete and can move up or down a division depending on their lap times. I have seen this concept work very well for many years at Flat Rock Speedway, so I personally really embrace this type of racing.
First we will take a look at the A class which of course is for the faster cars. The year started out impressively for Josh Trammell, as the Battle Creek driver won three in a row in his black No. 82 Chevy. While Tramell appeared to have everything going his way, he had to fend off 2011 champion Damon Place, Dane Long, and Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman among others. The first one to break Josh’s streak was Ron Heeney. While Heeney doesn’t run every week, he is always a force to contend with in his red and black No. 70. As the first quarter of the season went by, both Damon Place and Mike Ammerman also found themselves in the Art Moehn winner’s circle.
As we entered the heat of summer, it was Mike “the Hammer” Ammerman turning up the heat a little further as he won multiple times with Ron Heeney also taking another couple wins. Finally as we entered July, Dane Long from Charlotte avoided the bad luck that had plagued him all season and finally won. Also winning for his first time of the year was Jimmy Scavarda. In addition to the regular Friday night races, the monthly Sunday Slugfest races were dominated all season by Todd Foote in his nice looking candy apple red No. 10 Chevy with Phil Bozell taking the win in the Harvest 300.
Besides all the drivers I already discussed, there was another driver racing hard every single week that I wanted to mention. I had the honor to be friends with one of Michigan’s greatest drivers of all time, Joy Fair from Pontiac, Mich. Joy’s crew chief for many years was Steve Prucnell, and I have known Steve and his wife Mary for several years. They race a blue No. 42 Chevy, and the cool thing they do is that Steve and Mary trade off every year which one gets to drive. 2012 was Mary’s turn at the wheel, and she did an admirable job finishing 4th in points.
While something or other had kept Damon Place out of victory lane all summer, he was consistent all season and was able to repeat as A champion with Trammell finishing second, followed by Chuck Ammerman in third. Trammell might have some regrets over his decision to skip a race earlier in the season.
In the Lipari Foods B Division, the story of the season, week in and week out, was Rob “Oil Can” Newman from Mason in his black old school flaming No. 17. Rich Kinch won the first two weeks, with Newman, Eric Wagner, James Sawade, and Craig Stephens also finding the Art Moehn winner circle. One of the most exciting wins of the year however, was when Haslett’s Davey Kelley took his very first feature win. Davey has toiled for many years as a hard working crew member, and at the young age of 53 finally decided to build a car and take the wheel himself. Personally, I found him to be one of the nicest and most excited drivers at Spartan, and it was obvious by the roar of the other racers as he took the checker, that he is widely respected in the pits. Newman hit a sweet spot in midsummer and reeled off multiple wins. Rob’s streak was ended by Marc Long in the No. 7 truck as and Marc closed out the summer win a few wins of his own. Others who won were Jason Luce and Harold Braman Jr.
One of the biggest challenges for track officials in this type of bracket racing is trying to foil sandbagging in qualifying. The breakout rule is one method, but mid season the track management made a great call and instituted a “C” division. This had the effect of grouping the cars with others that were similar and made for much better racing in my opinion. One driver that seemed to thrive in the C was Davey Kelley, as he won multiple times towards the end of the year in his charcoal grey, lime green, and purple No. 11. Finally taking the win at the Labor Day weekend Harvest 300 was Mike Findlay. Winning the B/C combined championship was Rob Newman over Jenn (Wilt) Flagg, and Davey Kelley.
While close, but not able to find their way into victory lane, a couple drivers that were always competitive every week and deserve a call out were Jenn Wilt (Flagg) , Arlo Hallam, and Tyler Hawkins among others too numerous to mention. All in all it was a great season, and let’s hope we get some more cars out there next season and pick up where we left off. This class has a tremendous amount of potential, and moving forward it can only get better.
September 25, 2012
This week, I wanted to do a 2012 Season review of the wingless Sprint cars and the Pony Stocks. Both of these turned out to be two of my favorite divisions this past season and they had some great racing in store for us.
First off, I want to go through the 2012 season for the Tripp’s Auto Shop Collision Center Sprint cars. Something about pavement wingless sprint cars have gotten me all warm and tingly since the very first time I ever saw them run hot laps, and if anything, that feeling has not waned over time. Spartan Speedway fans are pretty lucky to see them running as a regular division as “the track the stars call home” is one of the very few tracks in Michigan featuring them. The big story in this division in 2012 was two highly impressive young drivers; Trevor Berry and Hayden Reeves. Trevor had great equipment as he drove cars prepared by Fedewa racing, while Reeves drove the cars from the John Boy Hotchkiss stables. Once you put some aggressive talented young drivers in great equipment, it is always fun to stand back and watch what happens and neither one of these chauffeurs disappointed. On hand to give those two a run for their money were Gary Sherman, Tom Hernly Jr., & Doug Dietsch among others. Moving up to the Sprint division this season was 2011 Modified champion Leroy Ellis in his gorgeous No 50 red machine.
Trevor Berry, from Clio, Mich., was one of the most impressive rookie drivers I have ever seen, and I predict that you will be hearing big things about him in the future as he progresses up through the ranks. I was personally very interested in seeing him this year, because I watched his dad Dennis for several years racing at Toledo Speedway in the Iceman series. Berry won the first feature of the year with Reeves winning the second, so it was starting to look like maybe those two would be battling all season for the championship. Reeves, who is the son of former USAC and NASCAR driver, Stevie Reeves, was commuting to Mason for the races from his home in North Carolina.
Berry reeled off two more in a row before California hot shoe JoJo Helberg showed up at the end of June for the win, and showed both Berry and Reeves why he is considered one of the best in the country. With Helberg going off to race elsewhere, Trevor picked right up where he left off and won three more in a row while Hayden tried everything he could to get by while finishing second. While Berry was the winner of the coveted championship, Reeves ended up the season on a high note winning season finale in the Harvest 300. Berry won the championship with six wins, with second in the title run being Reeves with two wins, and Gary Sherman coming home third in points. If you love the sprint cars like I do, I think you will be very happy next season as rumor has it that they will be racing a lot more often.
Now, as far as the Boss Snow Plow Pony stocks go, this was probably week in and week out the most entertaining division I saw all season. If you had asked me before the season started, I really wasn’t expecting how good this division really is. I have seen the 4 cylinders race before at Flat Rock and Toledo, and frankly they just don’t draw that big of a field of cars. I kind of figured Spartan would be similar, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The season started out with a bang for Tyler Heeney, as the young driver from Stockbridge reeled off three wins in a row in the A division. Just when Tyler started to cool down, “Fireball” Brian Beckner heated up, took over the momentum in the middle part of the summer by winning a few himself to go along with the win by his brother Wayne in May. The first half of the season, the driver most frustrated seemed to be Mike Westphal of Fowlerville. Mike set fast time nearly every week, but found himself trailing the leader in second place time and time again. Finally in the last half of the season, Mike found his winning ways as he won a remarkable seven A features in a row.
In the B, it was Trina Wurmnest winning early in the season, with Lex Jarecki, DJ Marciniak and Ron Fizzell all really stepping up their games this year and finding the Art Moehn winners circle in the middle of the season. The last part of the season was a real free for all as we had a different winner almost every week. The B division were about as unpredictable as it gets with a total of 10 drivers all winning features!
One of the most gratifying parts of the season for me was seeing the improvement that the rookie drivers made throughout the season. I was very impressed with the progression made by DJ Marciniak, William Hartman, Jamie Larner and Cameron Garza, among others, as those drivers went from learning the ropes early on in the year, and then contending for wins as the season progressed. Anyhow, when the dust finally settled at the end of the season, it was Brian Beckner winning the A championship as Marciniak edged Wurmnest for the B title by the slimmest of margins. In the separate Sunday Slugfest championship, it was Brian Beckner winning the A, Wurmnest winning the B, and Edson Rowley III winning the Figure 8 over Ken Dollarhite.
Just to illustrate how competitive the season was in the Pony stocks, here is a summation of the winners; just shows that anyone can win any given night.
Brian Beckner, Wayne Beckner, Mike Westphal, Tyler Heeney, Aaron Taylor, Patrick Denison
Trina Wurmnest, Jerry King, Lex Jarecki, DJ Marciniak, Ron Fizzell, Abby Looman, Brian Boesel, Branden Moody, Zach Denison, Randy Kretzinger Jr.
Rob Miller, Edson Rowley III, Ken Dollarhite
Finally, I wanted to thank all the drivers in the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks for the great entertaining racing all season. Week in and week out, all the drivers drove their hearts out, going three wide, time and time again, and I loved every lap of it. All of you deserve my congratulations and admiration.
For 2013, I hope to see more of the same. Running for points can be very demanding. The dedication of those pursuing the championship and running every single week often means hoping that you don’t ruin your chances with a DNF, or maybe even having to skip a vacation weekend or a family obligation. Well, rumors have it that for next season, the Pony Stock division may be able to drop a couple of their worst finishes without taking a hit in the points.
September 14, 2012
Two of the most anticipated and entertaining events conducted at Spartan Speedway every season are the “Fun Nights.” The end of season finale was originally scheduled for Friday 9/7/12, but inclement weather forced postponement after the conclusion of the crowd pleasing School Bus Figure 8. The massive crowd all returned this Friday with their rain checks and packed the grandstand to see the Flagpole Race, Skidplate Race and the Trailer Figure 8. Also on tap were the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks and the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks.
In last week’s School Bus Figure 8, most all of the drivers were Spartan regulars in some of the other divisions. From a driver’s standpoint, the school bus races are about as much fun as anything that is legal. Rough driving is encouraged, they are supposed to wreck ‘em, and then don’t have to fix them. Does it get any more fun than that? Spartan Stock driver Dane Long took the win on the last lap by shoving the bus of Modified driver Chance Rice out of the lead as the large crowd roared in approval.
First off were the regular divisions, with the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks leading off the night with their 20 lap feature. Since this was a special race not involving any points (or rules) some of the competitors got a little creative with big clear sideboards and wings. Not sure they had any effect on a Pony Stocker on a quarter mile track like Spartan, but they certainly made me chuckle a little. 2010-11 track champion Todd Metz Jr. was one of those who modified his car with the appendages, and gave the rest of the field a real whipping. Metz, who hails from Charlotte, won easily over Tyler Heeney and Mike Westphal.
In the Lipari Foods 20 lap Spartan Stock feature, the field had a combination of both A and B division cars on the track. The lone A entry was Chuck Ammerman who started on the pole, but one lap down followed by several B division cars. Chuck of course won the “A” with Jason Luce winning the “B” in Patrick Dent’s cool old school looking Nova. Next up we had the Powder Puff races where the spouses/girlfriends of some of the drivers got to race their significant others race cars. Jessica Larner won in the Pony Stocks, while Stephanie Franklin took the Spartan Stock victory.
While the capacity crowd was enjoying themselves, carnage is what they came to see, and by gosh, carnage was what they were going to get. First we had the “Flagpole Race.” In this one, the track staff placed very large tires in the middle of the backstretch and also in the center of both ends of the track. Each driver not only had to circle the track in the usual manner, but also do a complete circle around each tire. The whole night was summed up perfectly by a fan in the stands behind me. As the field lined up, a fan named Chad yelled out “Only someone as dumb as me would do anything as stupid as this!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. The drivers managed to run into each other, the tires, the mud and the walls while they negotiated around the tires. In the end, Spencer Drake won in the Pony Stocks, while Scott Smith won in the 6/8 cylinder class.
Soon as the dust settled, it was time for the “Skidplate” races. Each car removed the rear tires and replaced them with a non turning wheel with a thick steel plate welded on the bottom. With the rear of the car dragging the ground and sliding wildly in a shower of sparks, it was just like watching Michigan drivers cope with the first big blizzard of the winter. In fact Todd Metz Sr. almost flipped his van before the race even started. Spencer Drake won again in the Pony Stocks and also gave the fans a series of thrills on the last lap. Drake did multiple 360’s, hit the wall on the frontstrech causing his hood to fly up, and then did another 360 into turn 1 collecting Zach Dennison in the process. Ron Fizzell won the skidplate race in the 6 cylinder class.
Last was the Figure 8 Trailer race. The field consisted of everything from Suburbans, Pickups, and even a Firebird; all of the vehicles had to tow a trailer the entire race. If the trailer lost a wheel or was dislodged from the tow vehicle, the driver was disqualified. After a frantic race which included many collisions, broken trailers and maneuvering around a big dislodged boat in the middle of the figure 8 track, the checked flag was given to the Firebird with driver Steve Utley.
Carnage and destruction was the order of the evening, and the fans certainly got all they wanted, as they filed out of the track after a great 2012 race season at Spartan Speedway; the “track the stars call home.”
September 7, 2012
I was intending to write about the Fun Night, but since it was cut short early by rain and is rescheduled for next Friday, I decided to pull ahead a season recap. Opening day on April 27 seemed like it was just a couple months ago, but before we knew it the season championship night was here. I remember when we were kids summer seemed to last forever (well at least until it was time for school to start), but now it seems to just fly by. No matter how you look at it, 2012 was certainly an exciting season at “the track the stars call home” Reviewed today are the Tripp’s Auto Shop Collision Center Late Models, with the other divisions to be covered later.
First off, outlaw bodied Super Late Models have traditionally been one of my favorite types of race cars for many years at Flat Rock and Toledo Speedways. Being this was my first year at Spartan full time, I was familiar with some of the racers, but not all of them, and so I was looking forward to seeing some new names and faces behind the wheel. As I strolled through the pits for the first race for the Late Models, I was excited to see Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer Andy Bozell along with his son Phil. Phil had a great 2011 season being named Midwest Racing Scene’s “Driver of the Year” and was hoping to continue the same for 2012. Also on hand for her sophomore season was last year’s top rookie, Dominique VanWieringen, along with Spartan regulars Dave Stehouwer, Jimmy Gallagher and Tim Ryan. It was also great to see the return of Chris Place and his gorgeous No. 11 after a severe snowmobiling accident several years ago.
Phil Bozell took the first win of the season, but the race was marred by a spectacular crash by Dominique as she made contact with Andy Bozell and slammed hard into the turn 3 wall. Fortunately, the young driver from Amherstburg, Ontario was uninjured, but the car was destroyed ending her season at Spartan prematurely.
If there was one race I was really looking forward to all season, it was the Memorial weekend first appearance of the ARCA Gold Cup Late Models at Spartan. I have seen these guys race thousands of laps before and personally know most of the drivers from Flat Rock and Toledo. While some of the Spartan regulars competed, several did not want to make the investment in safety equipment and the Hoosier slick tires. Maybe it was impossible for any race to live up the expectations I had set, but I was disappointed as the race was plagued by a multitude of cautions. Once the race could stay green, the competition was superb. The race came down to a great duel between Brian Nester and Mike Luberda, with Luberda able to pull off the big win.
The next appearance of the Tripp’s Auto Shop Spartan Late Models was the June Sunday Slugfest Stan Perry “The Godfather” 75. The race came down to an epic battle between two of the best with Dave Stehouwer doing everything possible to hold off Andy Bozell. Dave took the middle groove, making his car as wide as possible while Andy kept working the bottom. The two made contact several times, but Stehouwer was able to take the checker in first.
On July 13, the Late Models showed up for a regular Friday night event. Former 1997 Spartan champion Steve Dorer, who has been racing in Florida, showed up for the first time in quite a while and apparently felt right at home as he took the win over a hard charging Phil Bozell.
The Super Late Models had another special Sunday Slugfest event scheduled in late July with the “Chargin’ Charlie Ryan 75” Like it was in June, the inversion was very kind to Dave Stehouwer as he took the lead early and managed to hold off a very determined Jeff Hackworth.
It was now time for the determination of the 2012 season champion on August 24. Based on his two previous wins in the two slugfest races, Dave Stehouwer was the point leader, but Andy Bozell was certainly within striking distance. Dave was sent to the rear after making contact with another car, and just like that he found himself behind the 8 ball. As Andy took the lead and had everything going his way, Dave found himself having to desperately work his way back up through the field. Dave ran out of laps as Andy was crowned the season champion.
Finally we had the season ending Labor Day Harvest 300 with the Late Models going for 100 laps. Stehouwer was leading the Slugfest championship going in, but found himself in the same situation he did just a week earlier. Dave was sent to the back after contact with another car, and it looked like Andy might win this championship as well. Jeff Hackworth however, had something else in mind, and finished just one spot ahead of Andy to take the Slugfest title. Like a pair of bookends, Phil Bozell found himself taking the victory to go along with his win in the season opener. All in all, despite losing one race to weather early in the year, it was very exciting with both the regular season and slugfest points battles going down to just one or two positions. For Dave Stehouwer, the season had to be somewhat bittersweet, as the veteran won two of the three major slugfest races, but managed to lose both championships by just a few points.
September 2, 2012
The elite race at Spartan Speedway every season is the Labor Day weekend classic Harvest 300 Plus. Scheduled to race this evening were all the regular divisions including Sprints, Late Models, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks, with over 300 total laps of features on tap for the large enthusiastic crowd to enjoy.
For those who had accomplished outstanding seasons, this race was an opportunity to cap off a great 2012, while those who were left wondering , “what might have been” , this night was a chance to end the year on a high note. While the regular season champions were all crowned last weekend, there is a separate championship for the special monthly Sunday Slugfest events, and many were looking to end the season with bragging rights.
First out of the gates were the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks for their 25 lap B Feature. At the drop of the green flag, it was Zach Dennison and Randy Kretzinger Jr. up front going door handle to door handle for the top spot. Unfortunately for Zach, he was caught “speeding” and sent to the rear of the field as a penalty. While Kretzinger held the point up front, the fans concentrated on the battle a little further back, with both Trina Wurmnest and DJ Marciniak vying for the Slugfest season title.
Rather interestingly, the two both sported No. 17, and as they ran bumper to bumper, whoever finished ahead of the other would take the title. The two ran side by side for the last few laps, and as Kretzinger took the checker over Patrick Dennison, it was Trina managing to hold off DJ by just a single car length. For Randy, it was the second win of the year for the Holt resident, and I’m certain he is sorry the season is ending. As far as Wurmnest goes, it was sweet revenge, as she lost the regular season title to Marciniak in a real nail biter. Both DJ and Trina had fantastic seasons and should be proud of their accomplishments.
As soon as the cars left the track, it was time for the Pony Stock A feature. Jamie Larner started on the pole and led at the start with fast timer Aaron Taylor, Tyler Heeney and Mike Westphal all charging up from the rear. William Hartman was able to pass Larner and looked strong up front as Brian Beckner, Westpahl, and Heeney were going three wide for second. Westphal, who has been the hottest driver at Spartan the last several weeks, found a hole through the middle, took the lead and his seventh win in a row. Finishing second was Heeney with Hartman a fine third. Brian Beckner has had a great 2012 season, winning the Slugfest championship to go along with his regular season title.
Next up were the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modifieds for their 50 lapper. No surprise seeing Chance Rice. Larry Wallace and Chris Ozanich at the front as they have been consistently the fastest cars all season. Ozanich was forced to pit, with Justin Kazmer coming up to challenge Rice and Wallace. While Wallace has had the season of a lifetime, Rice has looked very strong the last several weeks and the young driver from Charlotte was able to hold to top spot as the race went past halfway. Larry of course, wasn’t content to ride in second, and made repeated attempts to seize the lead, but never could seal the deal.
Finally, on a lap 30 restart, with Chance on the inside and Wallace on the outside, Larry was able to clear Rice after running side by side for a few laps. Chance wasn’t giving up that easy stayed glued to his bumper with Kazmer sitting back hoping the top two would tangle. Larry slipped a little in Turn 2 giving Rice the lead back, but another restart was exactly what he needed as he returned the favor and re assumed the top spot. Larry took the high lane and gave Rice plenty of room on the bottom, but although Chance could pull even with him every lap, Larry used momentum to his advantage. Leroy Ellis was able to pass Kazmer for third, and on a couple restarts looked to be the fastest car on the track, as he challenged Rice, but was forced to pit late as the laps would down. Wallace took the Slugfest crown, along with his fourteenth win of the year, with Rice second, and Bobby Heyink taking third in a photo finish with Kazmer. Larry admitted to me after the race that he ran out of gas on the last lap.
The Tripp’s Auto Shop wingless Sprint cars were pushed off for their 40 lap feature with Steve Irwin starting up front. While season champ Trevor Berry was not competing this evening, the rest of the field was loaded and ready for battle on the quarter mile. Irwin took off from the drop of the green with Tom Hernley Jr. moving up to challenge for the lead. Hernley was all over the back of Irwin, but could not find a way around and finally relinquished the second position to Hayden Reeves. As Irwin and Reeves approached a lapped car, they both checked up, with Hernley taking advantage and seizing the lead.
Tom led in his gorgeous Shaheen Chevrolet sponsored machine, while Irwin unfortunately spun in Turn 2 after having a great race, thus allowing Doug Dietsch to assume second. Doug took the lead when Hernley got loose in turn 1, but it was short lived, as he soon did the same allowing Reeves to slide past. Reeves led the remainder of the way with Dietsch second and Jay Rohrback finishing third. The North Carolina driver was able to win his second feature of the year and looked impressive in the process.
Just when the dust settled from one feature, track management had the next one rolling out on the track. It was now time for the Tripp’s Auto Shop 100 lap Late Model feature race. Sonny Coito was very strong right from the get go, as he took the early lead over Steve Dorer and AJ Foote. Dave Stehouwer was leading the Slugfest standings going in, but contact with another car put him at the rear of the field. Coito looked very strong at the front as the Bozell’s ran side by side trying hard to pass Dorer for second. Finally Phil got by Steve, but contact between Dorer and Andy caused Andy to pit with a flat. Phil Bozell was side by side for the lead with Coito, as neither would give an inch, but after several laps running wheel to wheel, Phil finally cleared him on Lap 79.
While the top two pulled away, the battle for third was intense with Dorer, Jeff Hackworth and Phil Massuch all vying for the show position. Phil Bozell was able to prevail for the win over Coito, Dorer, Hackworth and Andy Bozell. Hackworth, who hails from Leslie, won the Slugfest championship by just a single point over Andy Bozell. Phil was able to back up last year’s Harvest win as the Portage resident celebrated with the fans in the Art Moehn Winner’s Circle.
The Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks were up next for their A, B, & C features. First up was the 20 lap C feature. This was a wild one as whoever led seemed to shortly encounter mechanical problems. Finally prevailing for the win was Mike Findlay from Standish who is normally a regular at Whittemore Speedway. In the 25 lap B feature we had Marc Long taking the win, but the real excitement of the race was Steve Prucnell. Steve started in the last row, drove aggressively through the field to second and was looking to challenge for the lead. After a red flag due to a hard crash by Harold Braman, Prucnell was forced to pit for a flat tire. Steve managed to drive up through the field again, but ran out of laps and finished second. Finishing third and winning the Slugfest title was Rob Newman.
Finally we had the 30 lap Spartan Stock A feature. Phil Bozell decided to bring out his Spartan Stock car and see if he could add another win on this night. Mike Ammerman led over Bozell and Kenny Head, but the top two made contact in Turn 1 causing Bozell to spin. Ammerman took the blame and Phil led the rest of the way for his second win of the night. Don Bergau must have felt like a pinball out there, as he was spun out several times, but still managed to finish second with Jimmy Scavada taking third. Winning the Spartan Stock Slugfest crown was Todd Foote.
The last race of the night was the Pony Stock Figure 8. This was one of the wildest races I have seen all season. Ken Dollarhite led while Edson Rowley and Ron Fizzell moved up through the field body slamming each other multiple times before taking each other out with steering damage. Brian Beckner than did everything he could to get by Dollarhite, but spun in the infield on the last lap letting Ken take the win over Mike Wine with Beckner in third. As the dust settled it was Rowley winning the Slugfest Figure 8 championship. All in all this was just a fantastic night of racing on the “track the stars call home.”
August 24, 2012
It doesn’t seem like that long ago since Opening Night at Spartan Speedway, but that night there sure were a lot of optimistic drivers that were hoping that a coveted season championship would be added to their resume. Staying on top of your game the entire season and not falling prey to bad luck makes winning one a real accomplishment. While a handful of drivers were anxiously hoping to maintain their position at the top of the standings, others were still trying to determine what had gone wrong. Either way, all were looking to win and close out the regular season on Championship Night. In addition, it was the second autograph night of the year, and the fans all swarmed on the track during intermission to meet the drivers and see the cars up close. It was also my pleasure to meet Michigan State Representative Deb Shaughnessy and her husband Steve as they enjoyed their very first visit to Spartan Speedway as guests of David Howe.
The Tripp’s Auto Shop Sprint car championship was decided last week, with Trevor Berry from Clio winning both the race and the season championship. The young rookie driver had an outstanding 2012 season, winning six of the eight races, and I predict that Trevor is a driver you will be hearing a lot about in the future. The Super Late Model, Modified, Spartan Stock, and Pony stock divisions however, were all scheduled to race tonight, and while some of the championship battles were tighter than others, the champions would all be crowned at the end of the evening.
First out were the Tripp’s Auto Shop Super Late Models for their 40 lap feature. The championship battle here was between Dave Stehouwer and Andy Bozell. There are very few drivers in the state of Michigan that have as many laps between them as these two veteran campaigners. Once the green flag flew, it was Jimmy Gallagher taking the lead from his pole position over Tim Ryan and Andy Bozell, with Stehouwer further back in the pack. Chris Place spun with help from Stehouwer, and Dave’s night now became a lot tougher as he was sent to the rear of the field for causing the caution.
Gallagher was able to hold the lead with both Andy and son Phil Bozell getting past Ryan for second and third respectively. Andy Bozell was able to take the lead on Lap 26, and stretched out his advantage over the field as Stehouwer tried desperately to move up enough positions to not lose his points lead. With Andy holding a comfortable lead over Phil, Dave need to get up to third place, but ran out of laps and fell short by just one position. At the finish, the top five were Andy Bozell, Phil Bozell, Gallagher, Stehouwer, and Justin Claucherty. In a classy move, Dave drew alongside Andy on the cool down lap and congratulated the Portage, Mich. driver for winning a very close championship. Heat race winner was Ryan.
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modified division it was a much different story. Larry Wallace had the season of a lifetime as the Corunna resident won a remarkable twelve features this season, and thus locked up the championship easily. The other drivers wanted to finish out the regular season with a win, so they were primed and ready for the start of the 35 lapper. Chance Rice started on the pole and took an early lead over Chris Ozanich and John Ledwidge. Rice stretched out his lead as Wallace moved up to third from his sixth starting spot, as the race stayed green all the way. Larry finally got by Ozanich for second, but without a yellow to close the gap; he never could get close enough to challenge Rice for the win. Chance took the checker for his second win of the season with Wallace second, and Ozanich coming home in third. Chance Rice, who hails from Charlotte, was in his first season in the Modifieds, and the young driver finished second to Wallace for the championship this season. The heat race was won by Ledwidge.
In the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock 25 lap A feature, it was Damon Place hoping to back up his championship from last year with another as he entered the evening with the point lead over Josh Trammell. Erik Cooley started on the pole, and at the drop of the green, led early over Place and Matt Kirchen. Place and Kirchen had a side by side duel for second, but it was Ron Heeney who had the car to beat this evening, as he passed both Kirchen and Place. Heeney set his sights on Cooley and while the two raced side by side for a couple laps, Erik got loose on lap 19 causing both him and Heeney to spin. Cooley was sent to the rear, and Heeney was able to lead the rest of the way to the checker. While Damon Place had a very frustrating season as far as wins go, the Leslie driver was able to win the season title for the second year in a row. As far as Trammell goes, the Battle Creek driver won several times this season, but might be second guessing his decision to skip a race in May. Kirchen came home first in the heat race.
In the Lipari Spartan Stock B feature, it was Jen Flagg starting on the pole with point leader Rob Newman taking the early lead over Mark Carson and Marc Long. Marc Long didn’t take long to get the lead as he made a bold move on the inside going three wide. Long, from Charlotte, took the win over Newman and Carson, with Newman, from Mason, securing the “B/C” championship. The heat race was won by Harold Braman Jr. in his fantastic looking old school 70’s Camaro. In the Lipari 20 lap “C” feature, it was once again “Just Davey” Kelley winning a wild one over Arlo Harlem and Tyler Hawkins. The 53 year old rookie from Haslett had an outstanding season winning five features this season plus tonight’s heat race.
Last, but never least, were the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks for their 20 lap “A” and B” features. In the A we had DJ Marciniak borrowing an A car in an attempt to gain extra points as he was in a tight battle for the “B” championship. DJ took the early lead, but it was the fast cars charging up from the rear of the field that provided the excitement. Both Mike Westphal and Tyler Heeney made aggressive three wide passes on the outside as they worked up through traffic. After being denied for much of the season, Westphal from Fowlerville took his fifth win in a row, and probably wishes the season wasn’t ending for quite a while. Brian Beckner clinched a well deserved Pony Stock A championship over brother Wayne Beckner Jr. Both Brian and Wayne are great ambassadors for the divison and assist many other drivers.
In the Pony Stock “B”, it is always fun to have a new winner, and after racing hard for several years, it was finally Randy Kretzinger’s turn to enjoy his first feature win. It wasn’t easy, as Randy was sent to the rear once for a “speeding” penalty, and then had to drive back up to the lead, while being careful at the same time to not repeat his transgression. The point battle in the “B” took a strange twist. Trina Wurmnest had led most of the season over DJ Marciniak, but found herself playing catch up after Marciniak raced in the “A” this evening. Trina had to finish third or better to tie DJ, and raced pretty aggressively, but came up one spot short in fourth place. Kind of a shame that we couldn’t see the two of them racing each other head to head for the title. Heats were won by Heeney, Patrick and Zach Dennsion. It was a great night of racing and I had the pleasure to enjoy the races with longtime friend Tom Chaput, who I have known since our days at MSU.
August 17, 2012
Hey, Tell Me About Your First Car!
Everyone remembers their first, and most of us have fond (or maybe not so fond) memories of their very first car. Mine was a 1972 Mercury Capri that my aunt Lois was selling. I was so smitten by it, that I went out and found another one a dozen years ago, and have restored it to take to car shows etc. I spoke with several racers at MIS, Spartan, and Toledo to find out what they remembered about their first street car. I had an absolute blast talking to all the racers for this article.
Ken Schrader; “My dad had a used car business, so I had stuff to drive, but the first one that was really mine was a 1965 Dodge Window Van. It was great because I could haul around my dirt bike in the back.”
Todd “The Onion” Bodine; NASCAR driver; “Mine was a 1972 Chevelle 4 door hardtop with big rust holes in the floor & trunk and saggy springs. My brother Geoff and I drove it from Stafford Speedway (Ct.) to Richmond (Va.) one time and had to drive the whole way with all the windows down, so the fumes wouldn’t go through the rust holes.
Brian Keselowski, NASCAR driver; “I had a 1987 Chrysler LeBaron. It was a piece of crap & I mean a total piece of crap. It was my sister’s car and after she wrecked it and blew it up it was just sitting there. I was 14 working in my dad's race shop for $20 a day, and wanted to work on it so I had something once I got my license. I think it ran on 2 cylinders and leaked more oil than it burned gas. In high school I had a class where we made a video. (author; the Keselowski brothers attended Rochester HS, my alma mater) My dad (Bob) had a 1973 Charger and in my video I miraculously transformed my LeBaron into his Charger. I only had it a couple months and replaced it with a 1992 LeBaron. I loved that one; it was a 6 cylinder, but fast!” (author: What about your brother Brad?) Brian; “Brad had a 1994 LeBaron which was my mom’s old car.”
Abby Looman aka “Little Miss Dangerous” Spartan Pony Stock driver; “My very first car is still the car that I am driving!! His name is Fabio. It's a blue '06 Ford Taurus. That car has been so reliable for me! I can run it to the very end and it won't run outta gas. I have had it for 3-4 years and the only things that have happened to it were the water pump and alternator. Darren and I did the alternator ourselves. That was an adventure!”
Frank Kimmel, 9 time ARCA champion; “My first car was a 1967 Pontiac Firebird. I blew the engine the first week I had it, and put in a 283 Chevy engine. Ask my brother (Bill Kimmel, Crew Chief) about his. He took it over to the High School and did some laps around the cinder running track.” Bill Kimmel; “It was a ’66 Impala. My dad was so mad that he took away both the car and my license after just one day.”
Brian Boesel, Spartan Pony Stock driver; “1978 Olds Cutlass with a 455 engine. I turned it into my first street stock race car when I was 18 yrs. old to race at Lorain County Speedway in Ohio. So, not only was it my first street car, it became my first race car too!”
Joy Fair, Michigan racing legend, also my friend and hero; “I had a Ford Model T that I found in a field and paid $5 for. I took it home and my dad couldn’t believe I wasted good money buying it. I rebuilt the whole thing and drove it for quite a while. (author: I miss ya everyday, buddy)
Larry Wallace, Spartan Speedway Modified driver; “A 1932 Ford five window coupe. I got it when I was 13 and didn’t yet have a license. I just about wore out second gear driving around in a field. I drove it on the street anyway and got tickets. You know, I still have it! We drive it around for fun, and I am working on getting it finished. It was a ‘Model B’ with a 4 cylinder, and I thought about making a V8 street rod, but decided to keep it original since I’ve had it that long. It even still has the mechanical brakes” (author; “Larry showed me some pictures and I can’t believe he still has it!”)
Chance Rice, Spartan Speedway Modified driver; “It’s a 1985 Porsche 944. I still have it, but just got a Chevy HHR. Now I have A/C that works! Going to keep the Porsche and have some fun with it.”
Ralph Young, retired ARCA driver and former ARCA championship crew chief for Benny Parsons; “I had a 1949 Dodge with a flathead six. It was a lot of fun going to football games and stuff with it, but the engine would lock up all the time and I always needed a push from everyone to get it going.”
Jeff Bloom, Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame Sprint Car driver; “Mine was a ’55 Chevy with a six cylinder. One day I decided to do some laps around the high school cinder running track. I got caught by the principal, and he made me pick the cinders all up and put them back on the track.” (author; Jeff and Bill Kimmel could have had a pretty good race with each other, I guess!)
David Howe, owner of Beacon Sales & Service and sponsor at Spartan; “I had a 1974 Plymouth Barracuda with a 340 engine. It’s all restored and I still have it.”
James Hylton, Finished second in NASCAR Cup points three times and winner of 1972 Talladega 500; “1936 Ford 5 window coupe. They had cable brakes back then, so I put 1948 Ford running gear and engine in it. The 1948 engine was better than the 1936 with 100 horsepower and I had 3 carburetors on it.” (author; James still competes every week in ARCA at the age of 77!)
Dave Stehouwer; Spartan Super Late Model driver; “Mine was a 1963 Pontiac Tempest, but I didn’t have it very long. I totaled it on the very first day I drove it. My dad had a used car lot, and picked this car out for me and fixed it up. It had a 326 engine. My dad asked me to go pick up some parts for him. I was 16, so I decided to take the long way home past my girlfriend’s house. I was getting on it a little, got to the top of a hill, and there was a 1964 Ford just parked there in the road. I tried to swerve, but hit it so hard that the trunk of the Ford was pushed all the way to the back wheels. I had to call my dad and have him come and get me. After that I had a 1962 Corvair 4 door with big holes in the floor and an automatic. (author; I could tell from his voice that he really liked that Tempest, and after all these years still regretted what happened to it. Also, I think he still hates that Corvair)
Trina Wurmnest, Spartan Pony Stock driver; “My first was a hand-me-down from my sister. It was a VW Bug bright orange and they called it the great pumpkin at Dansville High School. During Halloween they decorated it as a pumpkin. In the winter time I had to cover the motor when I parked it to keep the motor warm and covered myself up when I drove it.”
Matt Crafton, NASCAR Truck Series driver; “Mine was a 1991 Chevy S-10. Nothing special really, just a truck.”
Dan Loughan, Spartan Modified driver; “I had a 1965 Pontiac Tempest. It was bought and paid for before I ever had a license. I had a 326 c.i. engine and I used to do a lot of street racing with it. I would drag race it 12-14 times a night and even wired up a switch so I could turn off the brake lights in case I needed to avoid the police.”
Karl Busson, 1967 IMCA Sprint champion driver and winner of 1968 Little 500; “My first was a 1932 Ford roadster with a Mercury engine and three carbs. I had no fenders on it, so I used to get pulled over a lot. I ended up putting a chopped and channeled ’32 Ford 5 window coupe body on it, and also changed the Ford Flathead to a Buick engine.”
Bill Venturini Sr., 2 time ARCA champion driver and team owner. Father of TV commentator Wendy; “Mine was a 1964 Pontiac Bonneville 4 door. I only had it four months and then got a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 with a 428 engine and 4 speed. There were only 48 cars built like that, and I am trying to find one to buy right now”
Jim Froling, Toledo ARCA Sportsman driver; “I had a 1981 Buick Century that I got from my grandfather. It was a good running car, but for some reason, every time I drove by a Bill Knapp's or Sign of the Beefcarver restaurant, it kept trying to pull in the parking lot for the early bird special.”
Mike Westphal, Spartan Pony Stock driver; “My first car was a 1983 Mustang 4 cyl 4 speed. I bought it for $400 and from the outside it didn’t look like a car that had been sitting for ten years, but it sure ran that way. (the girls liked it though!) I drove it for two weeks and the clutch went out so we fixed it, and then it made it three weeks before the trans blew up. I sold it for $800 so it kinda worked out for me.”
Darrell Basham, long time ARCA driver, “My dad picked up a 1958 Chevrolet Convertible for me. It wasn’t the best, but man I felt so cool driving it around.”
Dennis Whisman, ARCA Figure 8 driver; “I had a 1967 Camaro that once belonged to my sister. It looked fast with red paint and mag wheels, but it only had a six cylinder, so it was actually pretty slow. The exhaust was loud, so it didn't sound too bad, but I always had these guys with muscle cars pull alongside to try and race me. They always got ticked off when I wouldn't take their bait.”
August 12, 2012
While Friday’s regular Spartan show was cancelled due to rain, the monthly fourth leg of the special Sunday Slugfest series was conducted under beautiful sunny skies. Scheduled was the 6th annual Brian Heeney ”Wild Child” Memorial 100 for the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore 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. Also on board for the evening besides a great field of Modifieds were the Pony Stocks, and Spartan Stocks.
After a last chance “B” Feature won by Jay Palumbo, 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. In the stellar field were drivers from Canada, Gaylord, Port Huron, Petoskey, and Sault St. Marie, along with the regular Spartan weekly warriors. In the field to represent the Heeney family were Brian’s father Bill, Brian’s uncle Jim, and Brian’s sister, Tracey Hernley. Justin Kazmar set fast time and started in row 6 alongside this year’s dominating driver Larry Wallace. Larry has won a remarkable 11 of 13 features this season at Spartan and was looking to add the biggest modified division race of the season to his impressive season resume.
At the drop of the green, Chris Ozanich took off in the lead followed by Jordan Pruitt and John Ledwidge. Most of the drivers seemed to be pretty patient in the early laps and were content to ride to save their tires. While Ozanich held the point, counting his lap leader money, Pruitt was right on his rear bumper looking for an opening. Other than a close call when the last place car spun directly in front of the top two, Ozanich maintained the lead, while Pruitt tried repeatedly to get a nose inside, and after several attempts Jordan finally took the lead on Lap 42. After the yellow waved for the halfway refueling break, the drivers cinched their belts tighter for the final 50 laps.
On the restart, Pruitt spun in Turn 2 causing a melee behind as the field scattered. Pruitt was sent to the rear as Dan Loughan got his spot back and lined up in second, with Wallace in third. Wallace muscled his way inside of Loughan, and then set off after Ozanich. Wallace caught him and once again made an aggressive inside move for the lead in turn one. The two banged wheels and ended up stuck together in the center of turn two. Wallace was sent to the rear and Ozanich resumed the top spot as it looked like everything was going his way. Unfortunately for Chris, it all went wrong quick on lap 73 after a short red flag for an incident in four. His car would not refire as a push truck pushed him around for two laps before sending him in the pits for the rest of the race in a crushing blow after leading nearly the entire race. Loughan assumed the top spot, and as the laps wound down, both Pruitt and Wallace tried to drive back up to the front, but it was the “Governor” Loughan prevailing by a quarter lap as the checker flew. Following Dan across the line in second was Bobby Heyink in a fine drive, with Pruitt third, Wallace fourth, and Kazmar fifth.
Dan, who hails from Charlotte, was joined in victory lane by Heeney family members and beaming sponsor David Howe representing Beacon Sales & Service. It was Dan’s first win of the season and the son of racing legend Johnny Logan couldn’t have picked a better one to win. In victory lane, he mentioned that he raced frequently against Brian Heeney and was honored to win.
In other action this evening, Tyler Heeney from Stockbridge, Brian’s cousin, was a fitting winner in the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stock ‘A” feature over Ron Fizzell, while Grass Lake's Brian Boesel gained his very first feature win in the Pony Stock ‘B” feature in a photo finish over Jeremy LaFontaine. LaFontaine was making his first visit to Spartan in two years, and let’s hope he returns soon. Brian Boesel and his Combat Motorsports team have been trying very hard this season for a feature win and all the work finally paid off as he put his black No. 33 Ford EXP in the Art Moehn Chevrolet Winner's circle. Trina Wurmnest finished third in the “B” and continues to lead DJ Marciniak in a very close Pony Stock "B" points battle, while in the "A" division it's a family affair, as Brian Beckner leads over brother Wayne. DJ has shown a lot of speed this season and credits the Beckner brothers for their help and advice.
Todd Foote continued his Slugfest success in the $1000 to win 50 lap Lipari Foods Spartan Stock “A” feature over Josh Trammell in second and Don Bergau in third. Rob Newman was victorious in the “B”, with Haslett's Davey Kelley the winner in the “C.” In the final race of the night, it was Rob Miller finding victory in the Pony Stock Figure 8 event over a hard charging Edson Rowley III.
I will not be attending Spartan next Friday as I have a job working at MIS on the NASCAR race weekends. I am in charge of a group of volunteers that performs pre race pit road and track tours for the corporate hospitality group. I do, however, have an extra special treat for the website, as I have spent a couple years interviewing a wide variety of racers about their very first street cars. I had a lot of fun getting these drivers to talk about their first cars and I think you will find it very entertaining.
August 3, 2012
The Spartan Speedway race fans got to enjoy another fantastic night of racing this last Friday, August 3. On the schedule this evening was the ground pounding Sprint cars, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks.
Heading up the program tonight were the Tripp Auto Shop Collision Center Sprint Cars for a 30 lap feature. It was good to see driver JoJo Helberg from California back again at Spartan after a few weeks. JoJo is considered one of the best pavement shoes in the country and was looking to repeat his win from last month. This year’s dominating driver in the division is young Trevor Berry, who has found the winners circle four times this season. Unexpectedly, the popular 20 year old was strapped in to Tommy Fedewa’s Sassy Grass No. 42 machine instead of his own No. 7. Trevor’s dad Dennis, a Michigan Motorsport Hall of Famer, told me why; “We found an engine problem in the garage late last night, and couldn’t get the parts to fix it. Tommy told me ‘Don’t chance it, go ahead and take my car.’ So here we are. We had some trouble getting Trevor used to it, so I’m a little anxious tonight.”
The real treat for me was seeing the No. 26 Sprinter belonging to Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer Jeff Bloom sitting in the pits. Jeff, who is a three time winner of the prestigious Little 500, told me that he hasn’t run a non winged sprint race other than the Little 500 for quite a while, but decided to give Spartan a go. It was also a nice surprise for me seeing friend Bill Jackson in the pits helping Jay Rohrback in his 6k. JoJo Helberg set fast time this evening, and drew an invert of six, thus putting Jim Heeney on the pole for the feature.
At the drop of the green however, it was young Hayden Reeves taking the point. While Hayden has been overshadowed by Berry this season, the talented young driver from North Carolina has been very impressive in his freshman season and sits third in points. Berry wasted no time as he shot into second behind Reeves, and somewhat patiently looked for an opening. After a short yellow due to a spin by Gary Sherman, Berry took the lead from Reeves on Lap 9 with an inside pass on the restart. Hayden wasn’t giving up, and when Berry bobbled with lapped traffic, Reeves pulled alongside and challenged Trevor, but was unable to clear him. Berry regained his composure and pulled away leaving Hayden to try and defend his spot from a hard charging Helberg. JoJo finally got by Reeves for second, but had nothing for Berry, as the Clio resident won by a straight away. It was his fifth out of seven in his first season in the Spartan Sprints, as he posed in the Art Moehn Chevrolet winners circle with his dad Dennis, and Tommy Fedewa. Finishing second was Helberg with Reeves coming home third.
Besides the performance of Trevor Berry this season, the other big story line has been Larry Wallace in the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modified division. Larry had won an amazing seven in a row until his streak was broken last week by Chance Rice. Chance had finally captured his first modified win last week, and as he carefully affixed the “Spartan Speedway Winner” decal to his car before the race, you could tell he was determined to try and back it up with another. When the 35 lap race started, Wayne Haughton was the early leader followed by “Governor” Dan Loughan, Wallace, and Rice. After Loughan and Wallace raced side by side for a couple laps, Wallace got by on the outside and set out after Haughton. First Wallace and then Loughan passed Haughton, but Larry was not to be denied and pulled away to win by a full straight away. It was Larry’s eleventh win out of thirteen races this season as he celebrated with his wife Dianne in the winner’s circle. Dan Loughan took a well deserved second, with his son in law Wayne Haughton finishing third in his first time out at Spartan this season. I wonder who Jessica Loughan Haughton was rooting for? Probably just that they didn’t inadvertently take each other out!
Next up were the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks for their 20 lap A feature. Young Cameron Garza was the early leader and was doing a fantastic job at the front. The 14 year old has shown a lot of improvement since the beginning of the season, and he was able to hold off a hard charging Jami Larner and Ron “Shrek Fizzell” for quite a few laps. Unfortunately for Garza, he was black flagged for “speeding” and sent to the rear of the field. Fizzell, who showed up with a nice new paint job on his orange Saturn, inherited the top spot on the ensuing restart over Larner and Randy Kretzinger Jr. As Randy tried hard to pass Fizzell, the man on the move was fast timer Mike Westphal as he sliced and diced his way up through the field. Mike wowed the fans by shooting through the middle between two cars at one point, and then jumping three wide on the outside in his Neon. Mike took over from Ron on Lap 16 and led the remainder of the distance. The Fowlerville native, who works as an auto detailer, has really come into his own the last month as he won his third out of the last four. Fizzell, who was racing in the “B” for the first half of the season, was second with Brian Beckner taking third.
In the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stock 20 lap “B” feature, it was 2011 champion Ken Dollarhite with the early lead over Trina Wurmnest and DJ Marciniak. Marciniak passed Trina on the outside for second and then chased down Dollarhite for the lead. DJ finally was able to power his way past Ken on the outside to assume the top spot while his large contingent of vocal fans in the stands erupted in cheers. Marciniak pulled away to a rather substantial lead as one of his crew members, worried that he might break out, stood by the flagstand waving frantically at him to slow down. DJ took a well deserved win over Dollarhite in second with a fine finish by Troy Andrews in third. With the win, Marciniak took back the point lead over Wurmnest as the two are neck and neck for the top spot.
Unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock features, but here are the results. Jimmy Scavarda in his no. 72 was able to take his first win of the season in the “A” feature over Josh Trammell with 2011 champion Damon Place taking third. In the “B” it was Rob “Oil Can” Newman winning with Scot Newsom second and David Elliott coming home in third. Finally in the “C” Feature, it was Davey Kelley taking a popular win in his No. 11 over Tyler Hawkins and Arlo Hallam.
Finally, talented Spartan photographer Racing Woody has put together something really cool for the youngsters this season with his Spartan Speedway Coloring and Activity book. If you have a child in your life that likes racecars (who doesn’t!) they would love having a copy of this. Included for coloring are line drawings of some of Spartan’s favorite racers from all the divisions. While I haven’t colored them in yet, my favorites are Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman with the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine in the background, and the School Bus raced by Dominique Van Wieringen along with her stylish fedora. The book, which sells for a very affordable price, is available at Woody’s photo booth under the grandstands, along with photos of all your favorite cars and drivers.
July 27, 2012
Another great night of racing at Spartan Friday night, with the wingless Sprints, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks , and Pony Stocks all competing on the ”Track the Stars call Home. ” It had rained earlier in the day, and the skies looked overcast, but the rain held off for the entire evening. The track featured Shaheen Chevrolet Night with several employees getting the opportunity to wave the green flag from the flagstand.
I have loved wingless pavement Sprint cars for a long time, so I really enjoy Spartan hosting the Tripp Auto Shop sprinters as a regular division. The big story this year so far is 20 year old rookie phenom, Trevor Berry, from Clio, dominating this season with 4 wins. As the sprints lined up in the pits ready to be pushed off for the feature, I was especially excited to see Berry’s car sporting one of my Joy Fair Memorial stickers. It was also nice to see both Tom Hernley’s drop dead gorgeous Shaheen Chevy sponsored sprint car, as well as veteran Jay Rohrback in the feature this evening. In the 30 lap feature, it was Hayden Reeves taking the lead from the pole with Berry trying to move up from his sixth place start. Berry looked pretty aggressive as he first got by Leroy Ellis and Gary Sherman in relatively quick order, and set sail for second place Doug Dietsch. A caution for water on the track from Berry getting a wheel into the puddle in the infield bunched the field, and on the restart Berry passed Reeves and never looked back. Finishing second was Reeves with Dietsch third.
As Berry celebrated in the Art Moehn Chevrolet winner circle, the Modifieds took to the track for their 35 lap feature race. Like usual, the question once again was “Can anybody beat Larry Wallace?” as the veteran campaigner from Corunna has won a remarkable ten out of eleven features this year. Starting on the pole for the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modifieds was Tracey Hernley, with Wallace starting deep in the field. Chance Rice took the lead over Hernley and set sail as the pack battled furiously for position behind him. While Rice sped away to a comfortable lead, Wallace was stuck in sixth unable to get by the side by side rows in front of him. Wallace was able to pick off cars one by one and got up to third place, but ran out of laps, as Rice took the first modified victory of his career. Finishing a strong second in a great drive was Hernley, in the Fox 47 sponsored machine , with Wallace in third.
In the Lapari Foods Spartan Stock division, the big news was the addition of a “C” Feature race. This ensures that the cars racing in each division are more evenly matched thus making it a fairer and more entertaining race. While that means that the entries are now spread over three divisions, instead of two, in my opinion it was a big success as the cars in each class all seemed like they belonged. In the 20 lap “A” feature, it was Dane Long finally getting his first win of the season in a well deserved victory, holding off a hard charging Josh Trammell. Long, who hails from Charlotte, has been struck by bad luck all season, but finally put one in the win column.
Dane’s brother Marc, decided he wasn’t going to be overshadowed, as he prevailed in the 20 lap ‘B” feature by a car length over an impressive Mary Prucnell. The “B” feature was marred by a vicious crash in turn 3-4 by Dale Wagner in hot laps. Dale, who works for and is sponsored by Shaheen Chevrolet, brought his beautiful Chevy out for the first time this season, and was hoping to have a good night in from of his friends and co workers. Not only was this Mary Prucnell’s best finish, she also had the pleasure of winning her very first heat race to boot. In the 20 lap “C” Feature, Davey Kelley from Haslett won his second of the season as the 53 year old rookie in his charcoal grey, lime green and purple Monte Carlo prevailed over Jen Flagg’s Monte Carlo. Davey had built up a pretty decent lead, but an engine misfire allowed Flagg to close within a car length to make it exciting. All three Spartan Stock features were decided by jus a single car length, so the decision to split into A, B, & C sure looked like the way to go.
The last division to hit the track was the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks. Mike Westphal, from Fowlerville, finally got the monkey off his back two weeks ago, winning his first feature and then backed it up tonight with a dominating win over Randy Kretzinger Jr. and Wayne Beckner Jr. Mike, who told me he had 20 second place finishes before finally winning, now seems to have things finally going his way. In the “B” feature, it was Ron “Shrek” Fizzell from Laingsburg, putting his Saturn in victory lane yet again, over Jerry King, and Ken Dollarhite. Zach Denison had a great race and took the checked in second place, but was DQ’d for breaking out of his qualifying time the last two laps of the race.
I wanted to specifically thank both Davey Kelley and Mike Westphal for making me feel so welcome this season , and also congrats to Mary Prucnell , and also her husband Steve, who have been friends of mine the last couple years. FYI, Steve was the crew chief for my hero and friend Joy Fair for many, many years.
One last thing I wanted to mention was that the Rough Rider Lawn Mower Racing group had some of their awesome machines on display in the concourse this evening. Jim Baley took the time to show me some of their racing mowers, and take my word for it, there are some serious racers, and the level of craftsmanship rivals any race cars I have seen. They have the engines getting 50 HP or more, and hit speeds of 50 mph. Their race schedule has them racing in Potterville every couple weeks, and I encourage everyone to go check them out sometime.
July 22, 2012
Sunday’s action at Spartan Speedway brought us Round #3 of the monthly “Slugfest Series” with the “Chargin’ Charlie Ryan Memorial 75” Super Late Model special. Charlie Ryan Jr. was one of Spartan’s most beloved drivers and passed away unexpectedly in 2004 at the young age of 40. In his honor, the track initiated a memorial race as a tribute and it has special meaning to those who knew and raced against Charlie. Also scheduled to compete of “the track the stars call home” were the Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks.
Eleven Super Late Models lined up for the 75 lap feature under a total invert. In a nice touch, Charlie’s famed red No. 24 car paced the field as his fellow Tripp’s Auto Shop Late Model drivers all lined up behind anticipating the start. Veteran Dave Stehouwer started on the pole with his familiar patriotic No. 33 and took the lead at the drop of the green. There was no one who wanted to win this one more than Tim Ryan, Charlie’s brother, and 2011 track champion, and Tim was able to take over the second spot and started reeling in Stehouwer. While Tim slowly ate into Dave’s lead lap by lap, the rest of the field was jockeying hard for position with last week’s winner Steve Dorer, in third, followed by Jeff Hackworth and Andy Bozell. Ryan caught Stehouwer, and tried everything he could to find a way around the wily veteran, however he inexplicably spun by himself in Turn 3 as the top two approached lap 50.
If Stehouwer thought he could breathe a little easier, he was mistaken, as Jeff Hackworth took up right where Ryan had left off, and gave Dave everything he could handle, and then some more. The two put on a terrific duel the last 25 laps with Stehouwer holding the point in the middle groove, while Hackworth tried repeatedly to gain an advantage on the bottom. Time, and time again, Jeff would dive inside and get all the way up to Dave’s door, but could never seal the deal, as Stehouwer would use his momentum and rocket on by to maintain the spot. Hackworth put on one last charge with five to go, but to no avail as Stehouwer took the win to match the one last month in the Stan Perry Memorial 100. Rounding out the top five were Dorer, Andy Bozell, and Jimmy Gallagher.
Next up were the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks for their A and B features. In the 25 lap “A” feature, the 4 cylinder buzz bombs put on a great show, with Brian Beckner, and fast timer Mike Westphal, both coming up through the field to challenge early leader Cameron Garza. Westphal was forced to pit with an overheating problem, but Brian Beckner was able to take the lead over Garza, and cruised to the victory over Aaron Taylor and brother Wayne Beckner Jr. In the 25 lap “B” feature, Trina Wurmnest took the lead on lap 8 and looked like she was on her way to the win, but a late caution on lap 20 put Ron Fizzell side by side on the front row with Trina. Ron was able to seize the advantage on the restart and took the win in his Saturn. Wurmnest salvaged second with DJ Marciniak in third. Many of the Pony stocks took to the Figure 8 track for a special 15 lapper with Rob Miller taking the win over a hard charging Edson Rowley III.
The Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks hit the track for their 30 lap A & B feature events. Jimmy Scavarda took the early lead at the start followed by Terry Humphreys and Chuck Ammerman. Terry took the lead for a few laps, but Ron Heeney was the one on the charge and took over the top spot on lap 15. Todd Foote, who has won both previous Slugfest events this season, worked his way up and tried to catch Heeney, but had to settle for second as Ron took the checker for the win. Finishing a strong third was Humphreys. In the “B” feature, Rob Newman took over from early leader Davey Kelley and pulled away, but a caution on lap 9 gave Kelley another shot. Strangely, on the restart, Newman appeared to be content to run his car just hard enough to run side by side with Kelley for the remainder, and waited until the last lap to pull away with ease and take the win.
The fans ended a perfect evening at the track with some School Buses racing around the oval for 12 laps.
July 20, 2012
Friday was another beautiful day of weather at Spartan Speedway. The track and fans have been blessed with beautiful weather this season. While the heat has been a topic of discussion, their has only been 1 night lost to rain so far which is a huge improvement over last season.
First off, in the Friday MCR Dwarf car feature, Rob Roney set fast time, as he has done in every race this season! but it was Craig Curtis taking a well deserved win in the 25 lap feature. Curtis had to recover from a spin on Lap 3, and came all the way from the rear of the field to the lead on lap 14. Curtis, who hails from St. John, took the win over Eric Hoffman with Stephen Bobeck capturing third. The MCR Dwarf cars usually put on a whale of a competitive race and tonight was no exception.
Larry Wallace did it yet again as he captured his tenth feature win of the year in the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modifieds. Larry started fourth in the 50 lap feature with Chance Rice setting fast time. Wallace took the lead on lap five and led the rest of way in the caution free event. Larry has won a remarkable 10 of 11 this season; the only race he did not win he still finished second! The $300 bounty was not claimed and will not be continued. Finishing second was Damien Lytle with the "Governor" Dan Loughan coming home in third Larry has had one of the most remarkable seasons I have ever seen; it is just him and his wife Diane showing up at the track every week, and he certainly isn't outspending everyone. He has the ability to run every lap very consistently with near identical times.
In the Boss Snow Plow Pony stocks, Mike Westphal finally shed the bridesmaid label and won his very first A feature. Mike has set fast time nearly every week, but that first win had eluded him so far. He sheepishly told me a couple weeks ago that he has finished second 20 times in his career. Tyler Heeney took a wild ride into the water barrels in Turn 1, and in a herculean effort had his car repaired for the Sunday race. Finishing behind Westphal were the Beckner brothers, Brian and Wayne Jr. Westphal set a new track record for the Pony stocks during qualifying. In the Boss Snow Plow B 20 lap feature Lex Jarecki took the victory in the Pony Stock B feature over last week’s winner DJ Marciniak and 2011 champion Ken Dollarhite
In the Lipardi Foods Spartan Stocks, Ron "Old School" Heeney took the A feature win in their 25 lap event over the Ammerman brothers, Mike and Chuck aka "Shaggy". Damon Place and Josh Trammell took themselves out of contention with a tangle on lap 17 with Trammell able to come back after a trip to the pits to remove the nose to salvage a top 5. It was a tough race as nearly every car in the field either spun or had contact causing a caution. In the Lipardi Spartan Stock B feature Harold Branham Jr. won in his sweet old school looking 70’s Camaro over Rob "Oil Can" Newman and Freddy Grove in third.
July 13, 2012
It was another great night of racing at Spartan Speedway this last Friday. Scheduled on the banked quarter mile this evening were the Super Late Models, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks. I spent some really enjoyable time before the races talking with several drivers about their very first street cars. Look for this story to be completed in a few weeks.
After the heat races were completed, it was time for the feature events to roll off. First up was the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock A 25 lap feature. Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman and Mary Prucenell started on the front row with Mary taking the early lead at the drop of the green. Her lead was short lived as Josh Trammell motored by on Lap 3 with Prucenell and Ammerman following close behind. Trammell was able to pull away from the rest of the field as Dane Long and Damon Place battled for second. Place was glued on the rear bumper of Long’s Chevy and tried everything he could to get by, but just couldn’t get past. Trammell had everything his way tonight as the Battle Creek driver took the checker with Long second and Place third. It was a night to have Monte Carlo bodywork as the top three were all driving similar looking Chevrolets. Josh had a good night as he also won the heat race.
In the Lipari Spartan Stock B feature, it was newlywed Jenn Wilt at the point in her beautiful rose colored Chevy. Patrick Dent in his old school looking blue Nova ended up taking the lead away from Jenn, and pulled away from the field as fast qualifier Marc Long tried to track him down. Long stuck his truck right on the rear bumper of Dent, and as the two approached lapped traffic, Marc went three wide on the front stretch to take the lead. As the laps wound down, Dent tried valiantly to get back by, but Long had too much for him. The final order was Marc Long, Dent, and Rob Newman in third. The heat race was a nail biter as Long passed Dent on the last lap in a photo finish at the stripe.
Next up were the Tripp’s Auto Center Super Late Models. It was quite a surprise to see Steve Dorer unload his No. 10 in the pits. Dorer was the 1997 Spartan Champion and is now living in Lakeland, Fla. competing in the FASCAR series at New Smyrna and other Florida race tracks. Steve, son of Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer Joe, has also raced in the CRA series and won the prestigious Anderson Redbud 300 last season. Steve decided to make his Spartan homecoming worthwhile as he took off at the drop of the green and led the entire distance. 2011 Kalamazoo Speedway champion Phil Bozell didn’t make it easy, as he stuck his car on the rear bumper of Dorer looking for a way to get by, however Steve was able to hold him off and take the victory. Finishing behind Dorer and Phil Bozell was Jimmy Gallagher. Heat was won by Dorer with Andy Bozell setting fast time.
The Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modifieds were now lining up for 35 laps with Tony Pasterino setting the fast time for the first time in his career. Larry Wallace has been THE story of the year at Spartan as he has been phenomenal winning 9 of 10 so far this season. The track has placed a $200 bounty for anyone who can beat Larry with the amount increasing $100 per week. As Pasterino rolled a 5 for the inversion, there was a collective sigh as everyone knew that meant Wallace was going to start on the pole. Showing up for the first time this season was Jon McNett and 2011 Modified champion Leroy Ellis, as they both were hoping to collect the bounty. In another surprise, Chance Rice has split with car owner and teammate Dan Loughan and is driving another car for the rest of the year. Well, to no one’s huge surprise, Wallace took off at the start and led the rest of the way. Ellis in second and Chance Rice in third had a terrific duel with Ellis prevailing over the young Rice, but Leroy was unable to get any closer than a few car lengths of Wallace and took second with Rice third. Heat winners were Wallace and Jim Kennedy. The bounty for this upcoming race will now be increased to $300.
Lat up were the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks. In the 20 lap A feature, it was Chris Taylor starting up front with Patrick “Baja” Dension seizing the lead followed by Wayne Beckner Jr., and Tyler Heeney. Fast timer Mike Westphal was moving up through the field, and after a door to door battle with Heeney, took over the third spot and tried to reel in the top two. Beckner was glued to the rear of Denison, and tried everything he could as the top three raced nose to tail. Denison was able to hold on for the win with Beckner Jr. second and Westphal third.
In the Pony Stock B feature, it was a battle of the 17’s with Trina Wurmnest leading in her blue 17T Neon over D.J Marciniak in his black No. 17 Neon. The two raced side by side for several laps with Marciniak taking a popular first ever win. Heats were won by Wayne Beckner Jr., Ron Fizzell, and first time heat winner Brian Boesel in his neat Ford EXP.
July 6, 2012
I have had a great time at Spartan the first half of the season, but personally, the highlight of the year was seeing Davey Kelley win his very first feature a month ago. Davey spent many years as a crew member before deciding to strap on a helmet himself; so I guess it wasn’t a big surprise to see the pits erupt in cheers when he took his first win in the Spartan Stock B division. The drivers get all the glory, but good luck having a race without all the hard working crew members. With that in mind, I wanted to tell a little about their story, and took the opportunity to interview Spartan crew member Mike White.
Mike crewed for Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame driver Jim Hettinger for a couple decades, and now helps Jim’s son, Chris Hettinger. If that wasn’t enough commitment, he took a big leap this year and decided to try his hand as a car owner. He owns the beautiful black and red No. 27 Modified that Chris has raced this season.
RT: How did you get involved with the Hettinger’s?
MW: “Jim’s dad Keith owned a body shop and my dad was getting some work done there. I was in grade school at the time and Keith showed me a couple quarter midgets that Jimmy and his sister Sue were racing. I had never seen anything that cool, and on the way home I told my dad; “Jimmy has to be the luckiest kid in the world!” Of course, my dad’s response was ‘Get over it; you’re not getting one.’ Jim and I ended up going to Ypsilanti HS together and became very good friends. After we both got out of the service in the early70’s, Jim started racing Midgets and I’ve been helping him ever since.”
RT: You and Jim were pretty successful racing all over the country, weren’t you?
MW: “In 1976 we ran the Midgets, Sprint Cars, and even Silver Crown cars all named the Spirit of Ypsilanti, but Jim eventually decided to concentrate on the midgets. We ran all over the Midwest and even down in Florida and did pretty well. His biggest win was the big Hoosier Dome indoor race and one of the televised ESPN races at IRP. I had a full time job with Ford in the engine dyno lab and couldn’t always go every week, but helped as much as I could. One of the most memorable moments was when we took the midget to Columbus Motor Speedway in Ohio. We had an old Cube Van and must have used 6 qts. of oil on the way down. We ended up thrashing on the race car all night, but set fast time, won the dash, heat, and feature. All the way home, we just laughed about how crazy of a day it was.”
RT: Jim retired from driving, and his son Chris decided to follow in his footsteps racing at Spartan, right?
MW:” They lived in Mason for many years and Chris went to Mason HS, so Spartan was always their home track. Jimmy needed help with Chris’ racing, and with me not living all that far away, I was happy to help. I pretty much do whatever needs to be done. Chris raced Late Models, Sprints, and Modifieds last year, and I helped them on all three. Kept us pretty busy jumping from one to the other; this year he is just driving my Modified.”
RT: So after all that, you decided it was a good idea to own a race car yourself?
MW:”I must be crazy I guess; I found a good car at a price I couldn’t refuse, so here I am. We decided to use the No 27 as that was Jimmy’s number way back in his quarter midget days. The season started out decent, but we blew our only engine a few weeks ago, and that was a big setback. We have Beacon Sales & Service and Topical Review Books as sponsors, but as a Ford retiree it is a little tough financially to buy a new motor, if you know what I mean. We hope to get something together and get it back on the track soon.”
Thanks Mike for the time, and hope to see you, Jim, and Chris back out racing the No. 27. All you guys are a class act.
June 29, 2012
Spartan Speedway has some of the most loyal supporters in racing, and this was the opportunity to give something back to the fans with Beacon Sales Kid’s Night this last Friday. Featured was the annual “Bike Night” and with generous donations by the racers, local community, and the track, there were 70! lucky youngsters wheeling home their new rides with a big grin. To add some festivity as well, the Spartan Speedway clowns were in force entertaining the fans, both young and old, and even climbing the starters stand to flag off the races. In my over thirty years of going to the races, I’ve heard a few disgruntled drivers complain about the “clowns” in the flag stand, but tonight they might have had a point!
For the older “kids” like me, author Rick Sigsby was on hand selling his outstanding book titled “Living on the Edge, A History of Auto Racing in Michigan.” Considering the rich history of our sport in Michigan, Rick has written about a long overdue subject, and in my opinion has done a fantastic job, covering racing from 1903 to the present; from Henry Ford to Brad Keselowski. While he does cover Indy stars like Gordon Johncock, and NASCAR racers like Benny Parsons, his focus is on the great short track racers in the state. The best part about the book is that Rick was able to get the drivers to tell their story in their own words, with drivers like John Benson Sr. & Jr., Butch Miller, Bob Senneker, Bill Tyler, Ed Howe, Mike Eddy, and my personal hero and friend Joy Fair, among many others all contributing.
Of course, there is a reason Spartan is called, “The Track the Stars Call Home,” and there is no name more synonymous with Spartan Speedway than that of Fedewa. Rick has a chapter on the entire family, including patriarch Willie, Gary, and Tim. Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer Gary was gracious enough with his time to autograph copies of the book, and share stories with the fans as they entered the track for the evening’s races. This is a book any race fan would want, and I recommend it highly. At only $15, it is a bargain, and available at www.rsigsby.com.
Racing this Friday were the thunder and lightning Sprint cars, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks. I really love the Tripp’s Auto Shop Sprint division, and was excited to see driver Jo Jo Helberg, from Santa Rosa, Cal., make his first appearance of the 2012 season at Spartan. Jo Jo has proven to be one of the best pavement sprint drivers in the country, sitting on the front row and leading much of the prestigious Little 500 last month, so it was a treat seeing the California hot shoe tackle the quarter mile of Spartan. This year’s rookie sensation, Trevor Berry, has dominated the division this season, but was not able to hold off Helberg’s black No. 7 Beast machine, as the Jo Jo took the win in the 30 lap event. Berry trailed in second, with Holt driver Gary Sherman in third.
Larry Wallace has dominated the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modifieds this season winning a remarkable 7 of 8 features. As a result the track has placed a $100 “bounty” with the bonus being awarded to anyone who can beat Larry. Well, the bounty went unclaimed as Wallace won once again in the 35 lap event, with the bounty rolling over next week at $200. Young driver Kyle Drake had a great night finishing second, with veteran John Ledwedge coming home in third. Speaking of bounties, Ron “The Bounty Hunter” Heeney won the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock A feature over Josh Trammell, and Dane Long. In the Spartan Stock B feature, Rob “Oil Can” Newman was able to prevail over Marc Long’s truck in second and Bryan Jenks finishing third.
The Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks usually provide the most entertaining racing of all, and once again it was point leader Brian Beckner winning his fifth A feature this year in his red Dodge Neon. Second again was perennial bridesmaid Mike Westphal, with Tyler Heeney following in third. In the Pony Stock 20 lap B feature, Brandon Moody was victorious over Ron Fizzel, and Abby Looman. Next week is the popular “Night of Destruction” with School Bus Figure 8, Trailer Figure 8, Flag Pole and Skid Plate races.
June 24, 2012
Spartan Speedway hosted Round No. 2 of their Sunday Slugfest specials with the Stan Perry “The Godfather” Late Model 75 on June 24. This race marked just the second appearance of the outlaw bodied Super Late Models this season with a nice field of 15 first class machines. Stan Perry, who resided in Edgerton, Oh., was a fan favorite and regular competitor at Spartan. Stan tragically lost his life in 2007 at the age of 60 after racing at Spartan that same evening.
Competing at Spartan this Sunday in his honor were Stan’s son Bud, his son in law, Jack Landis, and Brian Nester who was driving a car with Stan’s familiar white and green No. 10 including Stan’s name on the roof. In addition to the Late Models, the support races this evening were the Spartan Stocks and the Pony Stocks on both the oval and in a special Figure 8 feature.
At the drop of the green, pole sitter Evan Barrett, from Jackson, led the first 3 laps followed by Dave Stehouwer in his familiar patriotic No. 33 colors. Stehouwer, who has raced at Spartan since the 70’s, and probably has more laps here than anyone else in the field, took the lead followed by Bud Perry, Andy Bozell, and fast qualifier Justin Claucherty. Sentimental favorite Nester, who nearly won the Spartan ARCA Gold Cup race last month, pulled into the infield on Lap 26 with steam pouring from under the hood. Brian competed the prior night at Flat Rock in the Joy Fair Memorial 100, and his engine just couldn’t handle the strain of back to back long distance races.
Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer, Andy Bozell moved into second on the restart and glued himself on the rear bumper of Stehouwer and those two were the story for the remainder of the event. Lap after lap, the two leaders ran bumper to bumper, with Stehouwer using the middle groove and Bozell trying to get a nose under him in turns 1 & 2. The two veterans made contact multiple times, with Andy never getting far enough alongside to complete the pass, and Dave using his momentum and pulling back in front coming out of turn 2. As the laps wound down, Stehouwer made his car as wide as possible, and when the white flew, Bozell gave him one last shot in the quarter panel in frustration as they drove to the checker. After the race, Dave said “I sure like beating Andy Bozell; I thought I gave him a lot of room, but looking at my quarter panel, he didn’t think so. Means a lot to win the Stan Perry race, Stan always raced me hard and clean.”
The Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks A feature saw Aaron Taylor win his first of the season in a thrilling finish with Mike Westphal. Taylor and Westphal ran side by side for several laps with Taylor winning by inches in a photo finish. In the B feature, Ron Fizzel took his Saturn to the win over RJ Miller, and Dexter Marciniak. The Lipari Spartan Stocks also had both A & B features with Todd Foote winning the 30 lap A in his Candy Apple red Chevy over Josh Trammell and Damon Place. The Spartan Stock B feature saw first time winner Craig Stephens pulling ahead by a few feet on the last lap for the win over Rob “Oil Can” Newman as the two ran side by side for the last several laps
The last race of the evening was the Pony Stock Figure 8 15 lap feature. Frankly, when I saw six cars lined up, I wasn’t expecting to see much excitement. Well, Edson Rowley III sure proved me wrong, as the Jonesville driver started dead last and thrilled the crowd with his daring passes and ultra aggressive driving style. Edson, who enjoys racing on road racing tracks like Waterford Hills, as well as ovals, seemed to thrive on the Figure 8 course, turning right as well as left, and had the crowd cheering his exciting win as he kicked up dirt and slid sideways through the corners. Speaking with him after the race, he said they had just put the engine in the car the night before. It was obvious to me that Edson is someone who has fun, loves to entertain the fans, and really “gets it.”
June 22, 2012
There is little I enjoy more than racing history, so Friday night was a special treat for me as Spartan Speedway hosted their annual Oldtimer’s Night with track historian Marty Blume. Marty has assembled an extensive picture and memorabilia collection of both Spartan and the former Jackson Speedway much to the pleasure of area enthusiasts. In addition there was a nice display of vintage Midgets, Silver Crown cars, and Modifieds that took to the track for exhibition laps. The former racers in attendance were introduced to the crowd during intermission and the first time feature race winners this season were also recognized and awarded special trophys.
It is great to honor those great former racers who were an integral part of why Spartan is called “The Track the Stars Call Home.” For example, there is nothing better than hearing first hand stories from racing legend Wayne Landon, on how he helped start the career of two time Indy 500 winner Gordon Johncock. Teenager Johncock saw Wayne’s car and asked him if he could drive it. Wayne told him “No, this one is mine, but I’ll help you build your own.” Gordon showed up at the gas station and Wayne told him to go over to the toolbox to get started. Gordon then picked up a steering wheel and said, “This is the only tool I’m going to need.” Landon then informed the youngster that wasn’t how things were going to work, and then he helped him build Johncock’s very first race car. Great stuff!
As far as the evening’s races were concerned, we had MCR Dwarf cars, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks on the race card this evening. The first feature to get the green was the Sawyer Chevrolet Modifieds for a 50 lap feature. Larry Wallace has dominated so far this season and when the invert had him starting on the outside of the front row, it seemed pretty clear that his streak might be extended. Well, that is exactly what happened as Wallace took the lead at the drop of the green and led the rest of the way. It wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds because Chris Ozanich did a great job moving up through traffic to close the gap, but came up just a bit short at the line followed by John Ledwedge in third. Wallace has now won a remarkable 6 of 7 this season. Heats were won by Wallace and Ron Parish.
The MCR Dwarf cars always put on a great show and their 25 lap all green feature was one of the best races I have seen all year. Josh Tinker was the early leader until Eric Hoffman took over the top spot over Steven Bobek and fast timer Rob Roney. Those three are separated by just one point each in the season standings, and they waged a ferocious three car battle for the remainder of the race. Roney and Bobek swapped the lead back and forth a couple times until Roney tried an aggressive inside pass in turn 1 and spun into the infield. Bobek led the rest of the way for the win over Hoffman with Roney finishing third. Heat winners were Roney and Dave Wilie.
Next up were the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks for their 20 lap A feature. This division is known for wild racing, and tonight was no exception as Tyler Heeney, Brian Beckner and Mike Westphal waged a three car battle for the lead. The racing back in the pack was just as crazy with three and even four wide action at times. Beckner and Heeney ran side by side for many laps with Westphal on the bumper of both. Fast qualifier Westphal had to pull off with an overheating problem, and eventually Brian was able to clear Tyler to capture his third in a row. Tyler finished second with Wayne Beckner Jr. in third. In the B feature, Lex Jarecki and Patrick Denison waged a terrific duel for most of the race with Lex prevailing for the win. Finishing second was Patrick with B point leader Trina Wurmnest coming up through the field to finish third. Heat winners were Jami Larner and Jerry King by inches over Zach Denison.
Last division of the night was the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks. In the 25 lap A feature, Mike “The Hammer” Ammerman made it look easy up front, but the racing for second between Ron Heeney, Donny Ritter, and Josh Trammell was frantic. Those three waged a bumper to bumper battle the entire distance for the runner up spot with Heeney finally prevailing over Ritter and Trammell. Mike Ammerman won his third straight of the season, and it was great to see Ritter’s nice looking No. 1 machine make an appearance for the first time this year. In the B feature, Rob Newman took the win leading most of the way, but Davey Kelley gave him everything he could handle. Davey tried everything he could, but came up just short at the line by a few feet in an exciting end to the night. Heats were won by Chuck “Shaggy” Ammerman and Mason’s own Earl Wagner.
June 15, 2012
I wasn’t able to be at Spartan Speedway this last weekend as I was working at Michigan International Speedway for the ARCA, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup races. As a result, I have deviated from my typical race results articles, and instead thought I would write something celebrating Father’s Day. Racing is the kind of sport where many racers come from a strong family history in the sport. After looking at some of the current stars at Spartan, I realized that amazingly, we have four of them who are sons of Michigan Motorsport Hall of Fame inductees!
First of all, there is no name more synonymous with Spartan Speedway than that of Fedewa. Gary Fedewa is a racing legend, having won hundreds of features and an estimated 40 track and/or series championships in his signature No. 42. Not content with specializing in either open wheel or stock cars, Gary was equally successful in both, on dirt and pavement. Gary was inducted in the MMSHOF in 1989. His son Tom is equally versatile having competed in Late Model stocks earlier in his career and now driving the famed No. 42 Sprint Car in Spartan’s wingless Tripp's Auto Shop Sprint division. Tom had an unprecedented season in 2011 sweeping every single race at Spartan in the Sprint cars.
One of the most impressive drivers I have seen in several years has dominated the wingless Sprints this season winning 3 of the first 4 feature events. 19 year old Trevor Berry, from Clio, Mich., is the son of 2012 MMSHOF inductee Dennis Berry. Dennis spent his career in short track stock car racing winning the prestigious Iceman Series championship for three straight years from 1993-95. Like many others, Trevor started out in the quarter midgets and karts, and I first saw this young man compete in the Fort Wayne, Ind. winter indoor races. Dennis, who can usually be found helping Trevor at the track, told me that the Sprinter was a natural progression from their quarter midget days. Don’t be surprised to hear big things from this young man in the future.
Continuing the open wheel heritage, Spartan modified driver Chris Hettinger is the son of 1998 MMSHOF inductee Jim Hettinger. Jim also started in quarter midgets and moved up to a full sized midget (is that an oxymoron?) in 1972. Jim soon established a reputation as one of the finest shoes in the Midwest winning multiple championships and well over a hundred features in the diminutive machines. His most notable accomplishments were winning the prestigious Hoosier Dome invitation in 1994 and one of the nationally televised Indianapolis Thursday Night Thunder events in 1993. Chris competed in Sprints, Late Models, and Modifieds last season, but is sticking to the Mods this season driving for car owner Mike White, who was a crewmember for Jim for several decades.
Up next is Spartan Sawyer Chevrolet Modified driver Dan Loughan, who is the son of 1986 MMSHOF inductee Johnny Logan. Johnny was one of the most talented Supermodified drivers in the country in the 60’s and 70’s winning hundreds of races at Spartan and elsewhere. He was one of the Michigan invaders, along with Gordon Johncock and Sam Sessions, which dominated the famed Oswego, NY speedway in the 60’s and changed Supermodifed racing forever. Dan, nicknamed the “Governor”, is one of the most respected members in the pits at Spartan and frequently advises the younger drivers in his division. This season, he is mentoring young driver Chance Rice in a Beacon Sales & Service team car to his own No. 72.
One more worthy of mention is young Sprint driver Hayden Reeves. Hayden, the son of 1992-93 USAC Midget champion Stevie Reeves, is also competing in the Spartan Sprint division this season and has one win to his credit so far in 2012. He is driving the No. 75 Turtle Wax machine for car owner John Boy Hotchkiss. Hayden commutes to Spartan from his home in North Carolina where his dad is the raceday spotter for NASCAR driver Paul Menard. Dad Stevie has also competed in both the NASCAR Busch GN series as well as the Indy Racing League.
Winning this last week on June 15, Margaritaville Night were the following;
Tripp Auto Shop Sprints; Trevor Berry
Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modifieds; Larry Wallace
Lipari Foods Spartan Stock A Feature; Mike Ammerman
Lipari Foods Spartan Stock B Feature; Rob Newman
Boss Snow Plow Pony Stock A Feature; Brian Beckner
Boss Snow Plow B Feature; Lex Jarecki
Next week is Oldtimer's Night. Come and check out track historian Marty Blume's great collection of photos and memorabilia and bring you own.
June 8, 2012
Another beautiful evening at Spartan, as the fans enjoyed a special treat courtesy of track owner Jim Leasure. Up and coming country music star, DeWayne Spaw, provided a great intermission concert in the infield much to the delight of the crowd. As far as the on track action goes, the fan favorite non wing Sprint cars showed up for their third feature of the season, joined by the Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks.
So far this season, the Tripp's Auto Shop wingless Sprint cars have had a lot of surprises. Last season, Tommy Fedewa swept every feature; however this year we have witnessed a couple of very impressive rookies standing in victory circle. The two previous races for the Sprint series have been won by newcomers Trevor Berry and Hayden Reeves, so the real question in the grandstands was whether the veteran Fedewa would finally pick up where he left off last year. Exciting to see a couple other drivers give the banking a whirl, as dirt specialist Dustin Daggett and Canadian star Ryan Litt made their first appearances of the season. I spoke with Dustin, and he feels a little out of his element on pavement, but was enjoying the challenge.
Spartan 2011 Modified champion Leroy Ellis built a beautiful sprinter over the season, and jumped out to an early lead in the 30 lap feature in his red no. 50. Berry however blasted by Ellis on lap 7 and never looked back as he won for the second time in 2012. Tom Fedewa tried valiantly to get by Ellis for second, as the two waged an epic back and forth duel, but Leroy was able to hold him off for lap after lap. Fedewa dropped out as mechanical problems ended his race early. Berry in his white No. 7 took the checker in first with Ellis finishing second, and Doug Dietsch coming home in third. I have been very impressed with Berry this season and firmly believe the Clio, Mich. driver is one you will be hearing a lot from in the future. The sprinters are flirting with the 11 second mark as Berry set fast time with a blistering lap of 12.081 seconds. Heat races were won by Daggett and Jim Heeney.
A fine field of Sawyer Chevrolet Modifieds lined up for their 35 lapper with pole sitter Chris Hettinger in his red & black No. 27 leading at the wave of the green. Chris Ozanich in the No. 0 machine took over the top spot over Hettinger, but once again Larry Wallace was the car to beat. Larry stalked Ozanich patiently for many laps, looking for an opening and, finally found it, passing Ozanich for the lead on lap 28 and leading the rest of the distance. The “governor” Dan Loughan was stuck to the rear bumper of Hettinger for lap after lap, and the two had a great battle for third with Hettinger barely holding on to the spot at the checker. Wallace is now an amazing 4 for 5 at Spartan this season, with Ozanich and Rachel Carpenter victorious in the heats.
Brian Beckner won his second Boss Snow Plow Pony Stock A feature of the season in a great bumper to bumper three car duel with Tyler Heeney and Mike Westpahl. Heeney and Westphal raced side by side for several laps with Tyler edging Mike for second at the line. After the race, Heeney and Westphal excitedly relived their battle while grinning wildly. Fast timer Westphal has been a contender every week, and after upgrading to a new car over the winter, has been very strong so far. Mike told me after the race that he has had 15 second place finishes while still looking for that elusive first win. Ron Fizzell won the Pony Stock B feature over a hard charging Zach Denison and Brian Boesel. Heat winners were Fizzel, Wayne Beckner Jr., and William Hartman.
The Lipari Foods Spartan Stock A feature was somewhat of a crashfest with a big pile up at the start. Once the field got straightened out and restarted the racing was good. When the dust finally settled, Mike “The Hammer” Ammerman in his No. 16 won his first of the season over Josh Trammell and Damon Place. Several of the cars managed to finish with major body damage, most notably Dane Long, whose car more resembled a modified with half the body missing, and Damon Place who held on to third with the right side of his body flapping wildly in the wind.
The Lipari Spartan Stock B feature had a great story line as Davey Kelley won his very first feature win ever in his Merindorf Meats sponsored charcoal grey and lime green No. 11. Arlo Hallam in a nice black & silver machine did everything he could to finish second with Jenn Wilt coming home in third. Heats were won by Kelley and Trammell.
Kelley has worked as a crew member for many years with Ron Parish and others. Well, he decided he finally wanted to try his hand at the wheel, and the 53 year old rookie! earned a very popular win as the pits cheered him on wildly. I took the opportunity to speak with Davey before the race and I have never seen a driver more exuberant and having the time of his life. In my opinion, Davey epitomizes everything that racing is supposed to be about.
Every week I try and speak with a few more of the competitors and this week was no exception as I met Davey Kelley, Dustin Daggett, Mike Westphal, and Tom & Tracey Hernley. I truly enjoy meeting each and every one of you, so if I haven’t met you already please stop me in the pits and introduce yourself. Also, I love racing history, so I have a big shout out to Chris Place who gave me a very interesting box of correspondence from the fifties concerning the Fish Carburetor Co. Thanks Chris!
I have a job at MIS on NASCAR weekends, coordinating pit road and track tours for corporate hospitality, so next week I won’t be able to make it to the track, but will submit a story concerning some Spartan Speedway history.
May 27, 2012
The very first ARCA Allegiant Air Gold Cup Series outlaw bodied 100 Super Late Model race was conducted at Spartan Speedway Sunday as round one of the track’s monthly Slugfest Series. On a hot Memorial Day weekend, the drivers tried their best to live up to the Slugfest moniker as the race was plagued with cautions. When the dust finally settled, and the checkered flag was thrown, Mike Luberda Jr., from Au Gres, Mich., in his LeClair Fuels No.40, was able to claim the historic first Gold Cup race held away from the series home tracks of Flat Rock & Toledo.
I have seen these drivers compete for thousands of laps, so I think the yellows were caused by the combination of bad fast race cars competing on a hot, slick, unfamiliar track. Fortunately, the laps under yellow did not count, so the crowd was able to see 100 laps of green flag racing. While it was frustrating to have the constant flurry of restarts, the racing was very good and the fans saw a very entertaining and unpredictable race.
The front row of Eric Lee and Brent Jack took the green with 21 of the finest super late models in the region lined up behind them for the 100 lap event. The field was packed with great drivers and cars from all parts of Michigan and Indiana. The Spartan fans were pleased to see track regulars Dave Stehouwer, Jimmy Gallagher and Tim Ryan defend their home turf. The two jacks, Brent and Jack Varney Jr. were the early leaders, as the rest of the field battled furiously for position. One of the strangest incidents I have ever seen occurred during a lap 18 yellow. As the top two lined up side by side for a double file restart, with Varney on the inside and Brent Jack on the outside, Varney inexplicitly swerved into the side of Jack launching his own car in the air and causing the whole field to scatter.
It soon became apparent that the double file restarts were going to have a huge role in the outcome. ARCA mandates that the leader always starts in the inside; at their home tracks, it’s always the preferred spot, so no one would ever choose differently. At Spartan however, the outside lane had the advantage on every restart. Time and time again, the top two would swap positions on every restart. At the 50 lap mark, the top five were Lee, Luberda, Claude Plante, Brian Nester, and Ron Allen. Nester in the Stan Perry tribute white and green No. 10 was exceptionally impressive as he was able to pick off car after car after starting 17th.
Nester took the lead from Luberda after a lap 60 restart and as the laps would down, it looked like it was going to come down to a duel between those two shoes. The restarts seemed to start deeper and deeper into turn three, and Nester was the only one who could maintain the lead from the inside spot as Luberda failed to take advantage. The last caution on lap 94 led to the final restart, and Luberda was finally able to muscle his way past Nester for the lead, as Brian slammed into the rear of Mike in Turn 1 in a combination of frustration and/or retaliation.
As the checker finally flew at the completion of the 100 laps, the top five were Luberda, Plante, Mike Root, Lee, and Steve Cronenwett Jr. Kudos to Plante, as he stayed out of trouble, and drove a fantastic race. After the race Mike told me that the restarts were tough as the drivers had a lot of wheelspin. “ I decided to just let him (Nester) go and wait for the end. My spotter told me that there were 13 laps left and it was time to go. I did what I had to do to win the race.”
In the other races that evening; Todd Foote won the Lipari Spartan Stock A feature in his beautiful candy apple red and chrome No. 10 Chevolet. Damon Place tried hard to get past but had to settle for 2nd with Charlie Ammerman in 3rd.
Mason’s own Eric Wagner in his black No. 44 Monte Carlo won the Spartan Stock B Feature in a great race over Rob Newman in 2nd. Early leader David Kelley did a fine job in his drop dead gorgeous dark grey Merindorf Meats sponsored No. 11, finishing 3rd after leading early.
In the Boss Snow Plow Pony Stock 25 lapper, Tyler Heeney, from Stockbridge, won his fourth A feature win of the season over Brian Beckner in 2nd and and Wayne Beckner Jr. in 3rd. Brain Beckner tried everything short of wrecking Heeney, trying multiple times to pass on both the outside and inside, but had to settle for 2nd as Tyler drove a flawless race in his red No. 19 Dodge Neon.
The 15 lap Pony B feature was extremely entertaining with three wide racing at times. Jeff Metdipenningen led early before breaking, Randy Kretzinger Jr got a flat tire after making contact with leader Dexter Marciniak while attempting a pass. Marciniak finally prevailed for the hard fought win in a car trailing smoke for the last couple laps. Finishing behind Dexter was Chris Taylor in 2nd and Abby Looman in 3rd.
In the last race of the evening, 8 cars took the green for the Pony Stock Figure 8. Ken Dollarhite and Rob Miller ran nose to tail for the top spot for many laps. The intersection proved challenging for some of the drivers as they decided discretion was better than valor and came to a dead stop instead of risking a collision. After battling for several laps, Rob Miller finally got by Ken for the lead and took the checkered flag. Dollarite was 2nd with John Ward finishing 3rd.
May 25, 2012
Spartan was blessed with another beautiful evening of weather for the start of Memorial weekend, and the fans were especially excited for the first of two scheduled Autograph Nights. The stands emptied during intermission, as the fans swarmed the track to see the race cars up close, and to meet the drivers across all the divisions. Scheduled to race on the banked quarter mile were the ground pounding non winged Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, and Pony Stocks.
The Tripp Auto Shop & Collision Sprint cars were returning for their second time this season, however a few of the drivers were missing, as both Kyle Feeney and Jimmy McCune were off racing in the prestigious Little 500, and Tom Fedewa was off somewhere doing something. Trevor Berry, son of Michigan stock car champion Dennis, won earlier in the month in his very first time out, and was looking to back it up with another. Unfortunately, the evening started out badly for Steve Smith as he made contact with Gary Sherman in the four car dash and slammed head on into the turn one wall. Smith was uninjured as the pit grandstand spectators were showered with a geyser of water when he demolished the judiciously placed water barrels.
In the feature, rookie Hayden Reeves started on the pole driving the No. 75 owned by John Boy Hotchkiss, and took off like a rocket at the green, followed by Sherman, and Berry. Berry found himself doing some agricultural racing as he was forced into the infield in Turn 4 while at speed, and making it look like nothing, was able to merge back with the field near the starting line. No one had anything for Reeves however, as he took the checker and drove his Turtle Wax sponsored machine into the Art Moehn Chevrolet winners circle. Reeves, the son of USAC champion and former NASCAR driver, Stevie Reeves, is running the entire Spartan season flying up from his home in North Carolina. Finishing second was “Lightning” Leroy Ellis, with Berry driving his way back up to third. Sherman won the dash with Mike Astrauskas winning the heat.
Larry Wallace continued his domination this year as he won his fourth feature of the season in the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Modified 35 lap feature. The “Governor” Dan Loughan started on the pole in No. 72 and led early, until Ron Parrish got by on a double file restart after an incident in turn 4 between the Carpenter sisters. Wallace was in a great side by side battle for several laps with Chance Rice for second, but the veteran from Corunna in his wicked black No. 55, passed first Rice and then Parish and pulled away for the win. Heats were won by the “Rooster” Matt Vainner and Jim Kennedy.
Damon Place has run very well this season in the Lipari Spartan Stocks; however, so far, the Leslie driver has been snake bit with bad luck. Well not tonight, as he took a well deserved win in his bright yellow No. 24 Chevrolet over Mike Ammerman and Dane Long. The drivers did a great job as the entire 25 laps went green. The Spartan Stock B main was won by James Sawade in his old school street stock No. 2B to go along with his earlier heat win. The other heat winner this evening was Josh Trammell.
The Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks never fail to entertain and Brian Beckner decided that it was his turn this week as he passed his brother Wayne, last week’s winner, for the lead, and ultimately the win, in a caution free 20 lap A feature. The DeWitt driver and his Beacon Sales & Service No. 11 were able to hold off a hard charging Aaron Taylor and Mike Westphal. “Little Miss Dangerous” Abby Looman in her No. 43 looked to have the B Feature locked up until a late race restart allowed Lex Jarecki to shove his way past her for the win. Jarecki however, was disqualified for a post race tech infraction; the win was therefore taken away and awarded to Looman. Heat winners were Ron Fizzell, Brandon Moody and R.J. Miller.
I’m still getting to meet and introduce myself to all the drivers as the season progresses, but it takes time, so please stop me and say hello when you see me in the pits. To those who I have spoken with so far this season, I’ve enjoyed talking to each and every one of you and looking forward to seeing you race this season. I took the opportunity this week to speak with Brian Boesel, (who has a unique Ford EXP pony stock), Doug Dietsch, Hayden Reeves, Abby Looman, Leroy Ellis, Gary Sherman, and Randy Kretzinger Jr. among others.
One last note; a condensed version of my weekly race report columns are also published in the Midwest Racing Scene weekly newspaper. The photos of the feature winners from the Art Moehn Chevrolet Winner’s Circle from Woody’s are also included. If you are interested in a print copy to show your sponsors, friends, neighbors, relatives, co workers, or even the hot guy/gal you are trying to impress, you can pick up a copy at the souvenir stand or at the pit gate.
This Memorial Day Weekend
Spartan race fans have an extra special treat scheduled for the first Slugfest Sunday event of the year over the Memorial Day weekend. The ARCA Gold Cup Series is venturing out for their very first race away from their two ARCA owned and operated tracks of Flat Rock and Toledo. As many of you may know by now, those two tracks have been my home away for home for over twenty years, and I have seen nearly all of the Gold Cup races that have been run. For those who aren’t very familiar, I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the series and some of the top drivers that will be competing next weekend at Spartan.
The ARCA Allegiant Gold Cup Series has consisted of five 100 lap Outlaw bodied Super Late Model Races with three of them at Toledo and two at Flat Rock. This year, for the very first time, there will be one conducted at another track, as a sixth race has been added at Spartan. The series was created by ARCA President Ron Drager, and General Manager Scott Schultz in an attempt to attract some of the best Late Model drivers throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. While the individual race winners earn a guaranteed starting spot in the prestigious Glass City 200 in the fall at Toledo, the real goal is the championship in ARCA’s 60th season.
Here are some of the drivers that Spartan fans can expect to see next weekend.
Dennis Strickland; Dennis is the defending champion from last season, and the Carleton Mich. driver is a threat to win every season. Dennis works as a truck driver for one of his sponsors, Trenton Forge, and his red/black No. 90 is one of the best looking cars in the field. One cool bonus for winning the championship is that ARCA rewards the driver with a test at Daytona in February; "It was an experience I will not forget" he said, as he logged 42 laps with his best over 180 mph.
Joe Hawes; Joe, who hails from Brownstown, Mich., has been racing Late Models for 28 years and his black & yellow No. 53 Dodge has been a staple at all the Gold Cup races since the series first started. The former Toledo and Flat Rock track champion works as a mechanic, and is sponsored by his own company, Joe's Enterprise. This season, Joe is also guiding his son Steven who started his first race at Flat Rock a few weeks ago in a sister car to Joe’s.
Scott Hantz; Scott from Pleasant Lake, Ind. has been one of the top drivers in the country for the last decade winning countless races and championships in his white and orange No. 72. The “Hurricane” started his own team this season, and is hoping to regain his winning form at Spartan after a tough finish in the season opener at Toledo. Frankly, Scott is one of the best and classiest drivers I have ever had the pleasure to see race at any level.
Paul Pelletier; Paul and his Limelight Motorsports team have found the winner’s circle in the first two Late Model races at Flat Rock Speedway this season. Paul, who calls Trenton, Mich. home, has been very strong at the quarter mile of Flat Rock winning multiple track championships, so the team has momentum and they are looking forward to competing at Spartan’s quarter mile in the bright green No. 44. Paul also works as a truck driver during the week.
Harold Fair Jr.; Harold, who resides in Milan, Mich. is one of the best Super late Model drivers in the Midwest having found victory lane twice in the Glass City 200 as well as winning two Gold Cup championships. His white and red No. 71 is maintained by his dad, Harold Sr. who was a long time ASA competitor and many time winner in the 80’s & 90’s.
Mike Root; Mike, from Grand Rapids, Mich. is always tough to beat in the Gold Cup series having won back to back championships in 2009 & 2010. Mike and his red No. 9 always seem to be content to hang around in the top five in the first half, and then to come on strong the last twenty laps or so.
Brent Jack; the Auburn, Ind. driver has competed for the last several years with his bright blue No. 41 machine. Always a threat to win, Brent is hoping that a strong finish at Spartan can propel him to that elusive Gold Cup championship that he has coveted for several years.
Chad Guinn; Chad will be competing once again this season in the Bailey PB Fabrication No. 0. Chad hails from Monroe, Mich. and is a three time champion in the ARCA Truck Series. Always a strong contender in the Gold Cup events, this jockey is hoping to find his way into the Art Moehn winners circle at Spartan.
Derrick Griffin; South Bend, Ind. This young 20 yr. old speedster has been setting track records at Toledo, and everywhere else he shows up, and was the winner of the 2010 Stan Perry memorial at Angola. The 2011 CRA champion has also started in the Nationwide Series in NASCAR and his black No. 16 will be a car to watch on Sunday.
Stan Yee Jr; The second generation driver from Roseville, Mich. pilots the famed family owned No. 33. For several decades, anytime the cars owned by his father Stan Sr. were unloaded, they often found themselves in winner's circles throughout the country. The Stan Yee Memorial Gold Cup race is annually run at Flat Rock in honor of Stan Sr. who is a Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer. Stan Jr. has competed at Spartan previously in the Harvest 300, so he is looking forward to a good finish.
Anyhow, I couldn’t mention every driver that has entered, but you can expect a great race. Entries are coming in every day, but I’m not yet sure how many Spartan regulars are planning on entering. The Gold Cup does use slick tires and mandates head/neck safety equipment, so some of the Spartan drivers are determining if the added expense makes sense. Since most of the visiting drivers have not raced here before, I think that the Spartan SLM drivers could very well win their race due to their familiarity with the track.
As a footnote, I had originally been planning on attending the Indy 500, and was dismayed that I was going to miss this race. Out of the blue, I received a call from a friend who told me that he and his 73 year old father had been talking about going to the “500” for years and decided this was going to be the year. He asked about finding ticket brokers and a hotel room closer than Ft. Wayne etc. He was stunned when I told him he could take my tickets and my hotel reservation as I said “Tim, this is your lucky day because the ARCA Gold Cup 100 is at Spartan and I don't want to miss it!”
May 18, 2012
The weather was once again outstanding as Spartan welcomed the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club for their annual fan club night at the track. As the club PR Director, I like to call MARFC “The best value in racing” as our members receive free admission to approx. twenty racing events every season for the low cost of an annual membership. I also had the great pleasure to sit for the races with two of our new members that recently moved to East Lansing from Seattle, and visited Spartan for the very first time. Ed and Sarah said they had a fantastic time and promised me that they planned on coming back regularly.
On tap this evening was the Turbo Blue Michigan Legends, Modifieds, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks. First out of the gate were the Legends for 30 laps with Guy Fire taking an early lead over Matt Todd and Loren Short. All three made contact with each other on the front stretch resulting in Fire slamming hard into the turn one wall. The red was thrown, but fortunately the young driver was able to emerge uninjured. Short assumed the lead, but the real movers were John Turnbull Jr. and Bryan Nuckles. Those two got around Short on lap 13 and never looked back. Nuckles tried valiantly to close the gap as the two worked through traffic, but Turnbull Jr., from Howell, was too strong and took the checker in his No. 12. The heat winners were Tony Monge and Turnbull Jr.
The Sawyer Chevrolet Modifieds lined up for their 50 lap feature with John Ledwidge starting on the pole. This one went green all the way and nobody had anything for Ledwidge’s red No. 34 which led every lap. Larry Wallace, the winner of all three this season, managed to get up to second, but could never close the gap as Ledwidge, from Ann Arbor, garnered his first modified win after many years of racing Late Models. Ledwidge and Jim Kennedy won the heat races.
The Lipari Spartan Stocks took the green for their 25 lapper. Three time winner Josh Trammell and Damon Place spun into the infield in Turn 3 with Place losing a fender in the process. Josh was able to take the lead, but Ron Heeney was right on his bumper and was able to pass Trammell for the top spot on Lap 8. Fast qualifier Dane Long in his No. 7 got by Josh to take second, and set his sights on Heaney. Long made it exciting, as he went to the outside on the last lap and just came up short by a foot at the line. Eric Wagner in No. 44 won the B main, with the heats going to Trammell and Rob Newman.
Last up were the wild and wooly Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks. Nobody has beat Tyler Heeney all season, and when he took an early lead it looked like it was his night once again. Wayne Beckner Jr., however, had other ideas, and not only did he take the lead from Tyler, he brought his brother Brian along with him. Wayne in No. 47 took the checker followed by Brian Beckner and Heeney in third. The B main was won by first time winner Lex Jarecki in No. 7, with the heat winners being Heeney and Branden Moody.
Next week features the Friday races plus the Sunday Slugfest with a first ever appearance by the ARCA Allegiant Gold Cup Late Models for a 100 lapper.
May 11, 2012
It was another great night of racing Friday night at Spartan; “the track the stars call home.” The weather was outstanding as the Tripp’s Auto Center Super Late Models made their first appearance of the 2012 season. I just love outlaw bodied super late model racing, and after having seen tens of thousands of laps at tracks like Toledo, Flat Rock and Spartan, it was exciting to walk through the pit area with anticipation over the upcoming season. I think having the Super Late Models and Sprint cars alternate week to week is fantastic and gives the fans a lot of variety.
On hand in the pits were the machines of Michigan Motorsports Hall of Famer Andy Bozell, and his son, 2011 Kalamazoo Speedway champion Phil. Both are planning on being regular competitors at Spartan this season, and are a great asset to the Super Late division. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, 16 year old Dominique VanWieringen, was on hand with her beautiful jet black Finley Racing No. 95. Next to her pit stall was long time Spartan competitor Chris Place in a drop dead gorgeous No. 11. After taking a hiatus from driving for a few years, Chris is primed and ready for action in 2012, along with Tim Ryan’s No. 14, Jimmy Gallagher’s No. 25, and veteran Dave Stehouwer in his familiar patriotic No. 33.
After qualifying and heat races, the crowd settled down and got ready for the feature events of the evening. The Tripp’s Auto Center Super Late Models were the first to leave the chute and after some hot laps to heat the tires, jockeyed into position for the start. While I would have hoped that the car count was a little stronger; that is not unusual this early in the season. The ones that were on hand however, were certainly top caliber, with many of the very best in the region planning on competing regularly this season at Spartan.
Ohio driver Bud Perry took the early lead in his Jack Landis owned No. 10 machine, followed by Dominique VanWieringen and Andy Bozell in close pursuit. It all went wrong, so very wrong, on lap 11 when Andy Bozell’s No. 83 and Dominique’s No.95 made contact in Turn 3 sending both hard into the wall with heavy damage. Bozell was able to limp back to the pits, but the hushed crowd waited nervously for word on Dominique. With much relief, the popular young driver from Amherstburg, Ontario, emerged and waved to her cheering fans, as the pace car drove her around to the pits. After the restart, Perry was able to continue his lead for several laps, but had Phil Bozell glued to his back bumper, looking for an opening. Phil finally was able to dive inside on Lap 34 to take the top spot, and led the rest of the way in his red No. 8. Perry held on for second with Dave Stehouwer in third. The heat was won by VanWieringen.
The Sawyer Superstore Modifieds were up next, with Chance Rice as the early leader in his white and green No.36. Larry Wallace took no time getting into the second spot in his black No. 55, and on a double file restart, Wallace shot around the outside to take the lead from Rice and never looked back. Rice and his teammate, the “Governor” Dan Loughan, battled furiously for second place in their matching Beacon Sales cars. Wallace was able to maintain his perfect 2012 season, winning his third in a row, with Rice second and Loughan third. Heats were won by Rachel Carpenter and Jason Parish.
The Boss Snow Plow Pony stocks lined up for their 20 lap feature. This division usually offers the wildest racing of the night and the drivers did not disappoint as they swapped paint and positions frequently. The lead pack was going three wide at times with Jami Larner, Aaron Taylor, and Mike Westphal all vying for the top spot. While those three battled door to door, Tyler Heeney was moving up through the pack and finally took over the lead in an aggressive pass. The top three were lined up nose to tail the last several laps, with Taylor and Heeney making contact in turn 4 on the last lap. Heeney won his third in a row as he held on for the win in a close finish over Beckner, and Taylor.
The Pony Stock B main was just as exciting in their feature. Trina Wurmnest, who won her very first feature on opening night, backed it up with another, as she was able to prevail over a hard charging Brandon Moody and Brad Robison. Last week’s winner, Jerry King, was the car on the move, getting by Wurmnest at one point, but was hit with a penalty for exceeding his qualifying time, and never could catch back up with Trina’s blue 17T Dodge Neon. Heats were won by King, Robison, and Taylor.
The last feature event of the night was the Lipari Spartan Stocks. It seemed like everything was going Josh Trammell’s way once again as something would befall all his challengers. Dane Long took the lead from Josh on Lap 16, but had a flat tire thus giving the lead back to Trammell. The real story was Ron Heeney in his No. 70. Just when it looked like he had Trammell passed, he spun in turn 4 putting him at the rear. Ron drove back up to the front and glued himself on Trammell’s bumper, but Josh was flawless as he survived a couple late race restarts and sped to his third win in a row over Heeney and Damon Place . Lastly, Rob “Oil Can” Newman won the B main in a race over a hard charging Pete Shong. The race was marred by a hard crash for Codie Sleeper entering Turn 1. The heat was won by Joe Barnhart.
May 4, 2012
Spartan Speedway Fans were greeted with the first appearance this season of the popular Sprint car division. Few tracks have the ground pounding pavement sprinters appearing as a regular division, so seeing them at Spartan is something all race fans need to come out and experience in person. As for the other divisions, it was déjà vu all over again as the Modified, Spartan Stock, and Pony Stock A drivers all repeated their feature wins from last week’s opener.
Personally, there is nothing I enjoy more than non wing asphalt Sprint Car racing, and as I entered the pits it was very exciting to see seventeen of the rip snorting beasts unloaded and ready for action. The general mood in the pits and the stands was; “Who has anything for Tom Fedewa this season? “ The popular Leslie resident and third generation driver was undefeated last year, and the rest of the racers worked feverishly all winter looking for more speed. There were a couple notable rookies primed and ready for battle including Hayden Reeves, son of two time USAC Midget champ Stevie Reeves, and Trevor Berry, son of Michigan stock car ace Dennis Berry. In addition, while no one could ever call Leroy Ellis a “rookie”, and keep a straight face, the 2011 Modified champion will be competing in the Sprint division this year.
The first feature race to get the green was the Sawyer Superstore Modifieds for 35 laps. Long time Spartan campaigner Ron Parish, in his No. 31, took the early lead from pole sitter Matt Vainner with Larry Wallace and Chris Hettinger hot on his heels. Wallace was finally able to take the lead from Parish with an inside pass and pulled away while the action in the rest of the pack heated up behind him. Parish made some valiant tries for the lead on a couple double file restarts, but Wallace in his black No. 55 held tough and was never threatened the rest of the way. Larry continued where he left off last week winning back to back with Parish second and Chance Rice coming home in third to go along with his heat win.
The Lipari Spartan Stocks took to the track for their 25 lap A main feature with Mary Prucnell leading the way at the green. Brothers Marc and Dane Long, who had a sibling rivalry issue in the heat race, took their turn at the front of the field in Marc’s black No 7 truck and Dane’s identical car. Terry Humphreys was able to get by both of them for a few laps, but just like last week, Josh Trammell and Damon Place were again the class of the field. 2011 champ Place tried lap after lap to get around Trammell, but could never complete the deal, as the Battle Creek driver won for the second week in a row. Trammell’s black No. 82 was followed across the line by Place and Humphreys in third. In the Lipari Spartan Stock 15 lap B Main, Jackson’s Rich Kinch was also able to repeat his win from last week. Heat winners were Rob Newman and Trammell.
Now it was time for the Tripp Auto Shop wingless Sprint 30 lap feature. The field of seventeen cars was pushed off for the start. Toledo veteran Jimmy McCune in his yellow No. 88 took the lead early as Steve Smith, Gary Sherman and rookie Trevor Berry all chased after him. In the meantime, Tom Fedewa’s family owned No. 42 was wasting no time as he picked off cars one by one from his deep starting spot. On a lap 10 restart, Trevor Berry in his white No. 7 took off like a shot from a cannon, as he went from fifth to the lead over McCune in just a few laps. Fedewa took second and valiantly tried to catch Berry, but the youngster from Clio was able to hold him off and score his first Sprint victory. Afterwards, as his dad beamed with pride, the 20 year old told me that this was his very first Sprint race start. Heat races were won by Doug Dietsch and McCune.
The last races of the night were the Pony Stock features and like always, they never fail to provide a lot of entertainment, as anything can and usually does happen. After some great side by side, two and three wide racing, Tyler Heeney made a great pass for the lead on the outside. Brian Beckner and Mike Westphal had the crowd roaring as they made contact on the last lap sending Beckner flying through the infield and back on the track in turn 2. Heeney, from Stockbridge, took the win as Westphal and Beckner glared at each other with contempt after the checker. The B main was won by Jerry King in a last lap pass over Jami Larner. Heat winners were Brian Beckner, Trina Wurmnest, and Zachary Denison.
April 27, 2012
For a race fan like myself, there are few things I look forward to as much as I do opening night. It has been a long several months of anticipation since the last checkered flag fell last season, but seeing all the shiny new cars and smiling faces in the pits and the stands is always uplifting. Spartan Speedway got off to a great start to the 2012 season this Friday, April 27, under beautiful clear sunny skies and cool temperatures. On the schedule were the Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, Pony Stocks, and the Michigan Legend cars.
I have been to a lot of openers in years past, and let’s face it; opening night has often been fraught with challenges, to say the least. A combination of a green track, new drivers, and new cars running laps for the very first time, all have the potential to create a situation for racers that I sometimes joke is like Michigan drivers coping with the first big snowstorm every winter. This was not the case, as I thought all the Spartan drivers did an outstanding job as they showed a lot of patience; there were few cautions, and almost everyone took their car home unscathed.
After the heat races were completed, and the race teams got a feel for how all the changes they made all winter were going to work, it was time for the features. First off were the Turbo Blue Michigan Legend series for their 25 lap feature. Tony Monge started on the pole and led the early laps, as 2011 champion Chance Rice, and John Turnbull Jr. followed closely in his tire tracks. The top three ran nose to tail for much of the race as Rice and Turnbull looked hard for an opportunity to slip past. Finally, on lap 18, Rice was able to get a wheel under Monge, and took the lead, bringing Turnbull with him. Chance was able to pull away by several lengths, and the Charlotte resident took the checkered flag in his orange No. 36 followed by Turnbull and Monge. Heat races were won by Turnbull Jr., and Columbus Ohio’s, Bryan Nuckles.
The Lipari Spartan Stocks were next on the agenda as they hit the pavement for their 25 lap feature race. Mary Prucnell took her turn driving this season from her husband Steve, and started on the pole. Mary was able to lead for a few laps, until Marc Long in his No. 7 truck took over the top spot, followed closely by Damon Place and Marc’s brother Dane. Place and Dane Long both took turns leading, but it was Josh Trammell who was the big mover, as he picked them off one by one. Trammell took the lead from Dane on lap 19 and the Battle Creek driver pulled away for the win in his black No. 82. Dane Long finished second followed by Damon Place in third. Heats were won by Trammell, Pete Shong, and Joshua McConnell.
The Sawyer Superstore Modifieds lined up for their 50 lapper with the “Rooster” Matt Vainner starting on the pole. Vainner led for a few laps until Chris Hettinger took over, followed closely by Dan Loughan, and Larry Wallace. Loughan took the lead from the outside on a restart with Wallace right on his bumper. Larry got a wheel under Loughan on Lap 29, but the two made contact causing Dan to spin in turn 4. Loughan got his spot back while Wallace was sent to the rear for causing the caution. Loughan continued up front as Wallace made a spirited drive through the field. The fans were spellbound the last few laps, as the two raced side by side, with Loughan on the inside and Wallace on the high side. Wallace was able to take the checker by inches in a thriller as he passed Loughan right at the line with Hettinger taking third. Todd Jackson, who towed all the way from Sault St. Marie, won the fast car dash with Loughan winning the heat.
Next up was the Lipari Spartan Stock B Main 20 lap feature event. Car owner/driver Mike Curtiss worked hard all winter building a new car, but unfortunately he injured his back while fitting the seat belts. Longtime friend Rich Kinch lent a hand and filled in for Mike as the car hit the track for the very first time. They must have nailed the set up perfectly, as Kinch was able to take the checker in the Breast Cancer Awareness pepto bismal colored pink No. 34 machine.
The Boss Snow Plow Pony Stocks always put on a good show and the 20 lap A main was no exception. Tyler Heeney took the win in his red No. 19 Neon over a hard charging Mike Westphal with Brian Beckner in third. The last race of the evening was the 20 lap Pony Stock B main. A couple of contenders were penalized for running well under their qualifying times, and when the dust settled, Trina Wurmnest took the checker for a well deserved win in her blue No. 17 Neon. I have seen many victory lane celebrations, but Trina showed as much jubilation as I have ever seen as she celebrated her very first feature win. Heat winners were Wayne Beckner Jr., Brian Beckner, and Dexter Marciniak.
One last thing I wanted to mention. Spartan decided this season to move the Art Moehn Chevrolet Winners Circle behind the grandstand. This gives the fans an opportunity to enjoy the celebrations, meet the drivers, and see the cars up close and personal. Not only that, it allows the racing program on the track to move along quicker. All in all, I think it is a fantastic idea.
Personally, I would also like to thank Jim Leasure, Bill Lackey, Ed Inloes, the rest of the Spartan Speedway staff, fans, and racers for providing me such a warm welcome this season.
April 23, 2012
The high banked Spartan Speedway paved quarter mile oval has long been a top destination for race fans and the upcoming 57th season in 2012 looks like it will be even more exciting than ever. The track, located in Mason, Mich. south of Lansing, will once again be racing every Friday night, starting with opening night on April 27. In addition, the popular Slugfest series will return, featuring a major event scheduled for one Sunday a month.
Spartan’s five divisions offer a little something for everybody this season with non winged Sprints, Late Models, Spartan Stocks, Modifieds, and Pony Stocks. I doubt there is a more quintessential American race car than a fire breathing Sprinter, and Spartan is the only track in Michigan featuring them as a regular division. 2011 champion Tom Fedewa had an outstanding year last season, and the popular veteran will be looking to repeat in 2012. The Sprints will alternate with the Late Models every other week as the headline class, thus giving the fans a lot of variety from week to week. 2011 Late Model champion Tim Ryan will defend his crown over last year’s runner up Jimmy Gallagher, veteran Dave Stehouwer, and rookie sensation Dominique VanWieringen, among others.
Spartan decided to try something different last season creating the Spartan Stock division, and by all accounts it was a big success. Using the ABC qualifying format as the guideline, the Spartan Stocks allow drivers to race against other cars that are in the same general speed category, depending upon their time. Spartan is known for their large competitive fields of Modifieds, and more of the same is on tap for this season. Last year had an outstanding group with a total of 37 drivers taking the green during the course of the season. Spartan also features one of the biggest fields of the four cylinder FWD Pony Stocks in the state, and this division is always very entertaining to watch.
There are a few big specials on the schedule for the Sunday Slugfest series. Leading off on Memorial weekend is the very first visit of the ARCA Gold Cup Late Models to Spartan. I have watched these drivers for many years and am really looking forward to this one, as the best from Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana will be trying to win the 100 lapper. The Late Models also have the Stan Perry Memorial 75 and the Charlie Ryan Memorial 75 on the schedule this summer, with the Modifieds getting their turn with the Brian Heeney Memorial 100 lapper as well. The Slugfest series wraps up with the season ending Harvest 300.
Spartan is very fan friendly, as owner Jim Leasure has moved the winner’s circle behind the grandstand to allow the fans to get up close and personal with the race winning cars and drivers. Not only does Spartan have the nicest grandstand I have ever seen (it came from MIS), they are also cooler friendly, so come and see some great racing this season at “the track the stars call home,” Spartan Speedway.
April 9, 2012
My name is Rand Thompson and I wanted to introduce myself as the writer for the Spartan Speedway website this season.
I have enjoyed visiting Spartan for many years, and I am really looking forward to meeting the fans in the stands and prowling around the pits talking with the racers.
I have been around short track racing most of my life, but most of my time has been spent at Toledo and Flat Rock Speedways.
Spartan is a fantastic track with some great racers and fans, so I am definitely looking forward to the 2012 season at “the track the stars call home”
I have been a long time race fan since 70's when I finally convinced my Dad to take me to the Indy 500. All it took was the pageantry of Jim Nabors singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" and Tony Hulman commanding "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines", and from that moment on, I was hooked for life. I also became a big MIS fan after I made my Mom take me to the track for my birthday (Isn't there something I can just buy you instead?), and went to the races there as much as possible. My wife, Lori, and I enjoyed our trips to MIS so much; we relocated to the Irish Hills area from Pontiac in the early 90’s, and currently live just 10 minutes from the speedway.
Growing up in Pontiac and Rochester, I naturally gravitated towards local legend Joy Fair as my favorite driver, and was fortunate enough to spend many hours in his garage as a friend. Joy was one of the most successful drivers in Michigan and won many races at Spartan in his illustrious 50 year career. I will be selling a memorial sticker this season in tribute to Joy with the profits going to the American Diabetes Association. My favorite driver currently is Brad Keselowski (we went to the same high school!) and was a big fan of his dad Bob as well. I enjoy all kinds of racing, but if I had to pick a favorite series, it would have to be ARCA.
Aside from sitting in the grandstands and watching the races for many years, I am honored to serve as the Public Relations Director for the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club. The MARFC is the best value in racing as our members are able to receive free admission to 18 racing events this year at tracks throughout Michigan for just the low cost of a membership. I also have a fun job at MIS on race weekends in charge of providing pre race pit road and track tours for the MIS Corporate Partnerships Hospitality group. I have also spent some time the last few years as a feature writer for the MARC Times and the Midwest Racing Scene.
In my professional life, I am an alumnus of Michigan State, and currently work as a Quality Engineer for Orchid Orthopedics in Holt. When not at the races, I enjoy reading and collecting racing & automotive history books, contributing to the Dayton (Oh.) Speedway Lives! website, attending car shows in my restored 1973 Mercury Capri, and spending time with my two spoiled dogs.
I have had the pleasure to have met some of you so far, and am looking forward to meeting the rest of the Spartan family. Please don’t be shy and feel free to stop and say hello when you see me. Aside from the weekly race reports, I intend to do some driver profiles and an occasional historical article about some of the stars from the past that raced at Spartan. Lastly, my intent for the website is to make it interesting for you, so I readily welcome any and all suggestions about what topics you would like to see covered.