7.11.14 - Due to potential life threatening repercussions from my wife’s insistence that we were not celebrating our 28th anniversary at the race track, I was not in attendance at Spartan for the First Fun Night on Friday July 11. Nonetheless, I don’t want to leave Spartan fans wanting, so here is a mid-season recap of 2014.
Leading off are the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore wingless Sprint cars. While the division fell victim to a couple rainouts in May, the wheel to wheel racing has been pretty spectacular. Steve Irwin took the first win of the season in his blue Flying 0 machine, and week in and week out has been the car to beat leading in points. The “Bulldog” John Turnbull, picked up where he left off last year, and won the second race in the John Boy Hotchkiss owned No. 12 over a hard charging Chance Rice. In the third race of the year for the Sprints, Doug Dietsch, who has been close so many times, finally grabbed that well deserved, elusive, first win, by passing both Rice and Irwin in the late stages of the feature. As for Rice, he has been in contention every week and will be racing hard the second half looking for his first win in the sprints.
In the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds, we have seen a variety of drivers in the LaFontaine Ford Victory Lane, with Jordan Pruitt, Jon McNett, Brad Wyatt, and Jim Butler all earning feature wins. The “Governor” Dan Loughan has run strong all year, but so far, the Charlotte driver has yet to find the winner’s circle in his No. 72 while Travis Eddy is always a contender every time the green no. 78 unloads in the pits. Jon McNett is the current point leader at this stage of the season over John Ledwidge, but no one has really stepped up to put their mark on the season.
The newest division this season is the NAPA Auto Parts Bandolero series for 8-14 year old racers. Many of the drivers had little or no previous racing experience when the season started, and the improvement from week to week has been outstanding. Feature winners so far have been Logan Haughton winning the first race of the season, and then Parma driver Toby Tyler found his groove and has since won four in a row. Both Nathan Jenkins and Mason Ludwig are contenders every week still looking for that first win, but most importantly the big smiles on all the drivers is infectious.
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends, both Tony Monge and Matt Todd find themselves battling for the win week by week with each finding victory lane multiple times so far. Both Matt and Tony give it everything they have and have provided some very competitive entertaining racing every week. Grant Quinlan in his black No. 28 is a contender every time he unloads, and has also tasted victory this season. Points leader at this stage of the season is Matt Todd.
The Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks are often the most unpredictable division every week, but generally someone gets on a hot streak and rolls off multiple wins. Well that adage certainly held true in both the “A” and “B” divisions this season. In the ‘A”, last year’s champion, Brian Beckner, won on opening night, but since then it has been the Tyler Heeney show, as the Stockbridge driver has reeled off an impressive nine in a row in his No. 18 Neon. In the “B” Ryan “Flash” Gordon overcame a rash of mechanical issues the first few weeks before winning his very first feature and then, liking victory lane, backed it up with three more wins. Also winning in the ‘B” this year has been Mike Westphal, Tom Goward, Thomas Logie, Mariah Caswell, Wayne Parkhurst II, and Randy Kretzinger. Both Heeney and Parkhurst II are leading the points.
Finally, in the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks we have had a litany of winners. In the “A”, the dominant car week in and week out has been the No. 45 of Joe Barnhart, but also finding the winner’s circle has been Robby Johnston, Mike Ammerman, & Dane Long. Leading the points at this stage is Barnhart.
In the “B” & “C” we had a bunch of different winners so far with Jason Luce, Harold Braman Jr., Maegan Williams, Rob Kern, Jim Miller, Jesse Collinge, Troy Brehmer, & Bryan Jenks. Junior Gokee, while winless so far, is leading the points due to his week in and week out consistency.
7.04.14 - No other place I would rather spend the 4th of July than at the race track, so like others I found myself at Spartan Speedway on the holiday weekend. For those who enjoy fireworks there were plenty going on at the track as the tempers were explosive and the fuses were short. Scheduled to race this Friday night were the Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, Pony Stocks, and Bandoleros.
Leading off the festivities for the first feature race were the NAPA Auto Parts Bandolero division for 12 laps. These diminutive pint sized cars are raced by drivers 8-14 yrs. old. Starting on the pole and leading at the start was Joe Moody followed by Mason Ludwig and Kylie Beckner. The drivers were all charging hard for position and swapping spots back and forth, as Moody dropped to the tail with an issue giving the lead to Ludwig with Zach Parish on his bumper. As the race passed the halfway point, Toby Tyler had moved up to second and was setting his sights on Ludwig for the lead. Tyler was able to get by Ludwig on the outside for the lead and led the rest of the distance to earn his fifth in a row over Logan, & Ludwig, with Logan Haughton fourth and Moody in fifth. Heat races were won by Tyler and Nathan Logan.
Next up were the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds for 35 laps. Some of the drivers raced on the lightning fast Toledo Speedway Wednesday night, so they had a lot of work getting their cars set up for the cozy confines of Spartan. Starting on the front row was Terry Trost Jr. and Megan Carpenter with Trost jumping into the lead at the drop of the green. Carpenter was able to grab the lead on a restart as Jim Butler and Leroy Ellis moved up into second and third. Butler was able to take the lead himself on another restart a few laps later, and led over Loughan and Ellis. Butler and Loughan made contact with just a few to go causing Butler to spin and sending Loughan to the rear. As the laps wound down, it looked like it was going to be a tough two car battle for the win between Butler and Ellis, with neither giving an inch. There was one last one lap shootout between the two brothers and as they came out of four side by side, the two made contact with each other ,wrecking at the checker, with Butler taking the win with a bent wheel and flat tire. Ellis was second over Justin Kazmar, Matthew Vainner, and John Ledwidge.
The Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks hit the track for a pair of 25 lap features. In the “A” it was Jason Luce on the pole, but he surrendered the top spot to Hall of Famer Jay Woolworth. That didn’t last long as Jordan Harvey took over with Tim Lahar moving into second. This race had a lot of short tempers as Craig Stephens and Allan Troup made contact entering turn 1 sending Troup hard into the wall and causing damage on several others. As the safety crew cleared the track, the two drivers forcefully “complimented” each other’s driving talents. If that wasn’t enough, several laps later, Lahar made contact with Steve Prucnell. While Lahar took the blame, Steve had come through the previous crash with some right front damage, and apparently had enough, as he attempted to wreck Lahar under yellow causing yet more damage and ending his own night. Robby Johnston was able to grab the lead after surviving an earlier incident with Joe Barnhart, and took the win in No. 55 over John Kennedy, Chuck Ammerman, Jesse Collinge and Lahar.
In the “B” it was Chris Miller on the pole and leading at the start over Ken Dollarhite. Ken grabbed the lead for a few laps, but this race came down to a two car duel between Maegan Williams in her old school Chevelle and Harold Braman Jr. in his old school Camaro. The two put on a terrific battle the last half of the race, running wheel to wheel for much of the time. Harold managed to drive by with a couple laps to go and held Maegan off for the win. This was some really good clean hard racing; finishing third was Corey Coddington over Junior Gokee and Dollarhite. Heats were won by Kennedy, Collinge and Braman.
Finally, in the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks, we had a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A”, it was Laura Beckner on the pole and leading Jennifer Larner for the first several laps. To no one’s surprise, Tyler Heeney moved up through the pack, and took over the lead over Laura with Jami Larner holding down third. Once he got in front, Heeney took command as the Stockbridge driver won his eighth in a row over Laura Beckner, Jami Larner, Brian Beckner, and Lex Jarecki rounding out the top five.
In the “B” it was Ryan “Flash” Gordon showing his hot hand and blasting by everyone to take the lead. Gordon won his third in a row as he bested Troy Andrews, Tom Goward, Trina Wurmnest and Wayne Parkhurst II. Heeney set fast time with Trina Wurmnest, Laura Beckner and Heeney winning the heats.
6.27.14 - Spartan Speedway was blessed with perfect weather this last Friday, June 27, as the track welcomed the wingless Sprint cars, Michigan Legends, Bandoleros, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks to the high banked quarter mile oval in Mason. As a special treat for the kids, scheduled was the “Money Drop” where $1000 in one dollar bills was dropped from an overhead crane to the group of swarming of children. My guess is that a large portion of the winnings were spent in the concession or souvenir stands before the night was over.
The first race on the docket was the NAPA Auto Parts Bandolero division for their 12 lap feature. Cameron Leasure started up front in his No. 47 with last week’s winner, Toby Tyler, starting on the rear in his No. 6 as is the custom. Leasure led at the drop of the green followed by Logan Haughton and Danica LaPointe. Both Tyler and Mason Ludwig were moving up through the pack, with Tyler grabbing the top spot followed by Ludwig and Jon Parish. Toby pulled away with the laps winding down, as the 11 year old Parma resident scored his fourth in a row. Finishing second was Ludwig with Nathan Logan third, Parish fourth and Nate Jenkins rounding out the top five.
The “thunder and lightning” Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Sprint cars were pushed out on the track for their 30 lap feature event. Really an honor to see Hall of Famer Jeff Bloom in the field, as the legend from Bangor, Mich. has been mashing the gas since 1967. Don Hamilton Jr. started on the pole and led the first handful of laps before getting loose and surrendering the lead to Steve Irwin with Chance Rice moving to second. While Rice was all over the rear nerf bar of Irwin, Chance had to fend off Doug Dietsch as the top three were nose to tail. After repeated attempts, Rice was finally able to get side by side with Irwin on lap 20, but unfortunately, the pass was negated when the caution flag flew for an incident behind the leaders putting Irwin back in front. On the restart, Irwin again jumped out in the lead, but Dietsch was able to slip by Rice and then with just 2 to go, powered his way past Irwin for his first ever Sprint car win at Spartan. Rice was second followed by Steve Irwin, Bloom, and Hamilton. Doug Dietsch is always a contender every race, but victory lane has always eluded him until tonight. Heat race winners were Steve Irwin and Joe Irwin.
In the 30 lap feature for the Sawyer Superstore Michigan Legends, it was a two car duel between Matt Todd and Tony Monge. Todd led the majority of the race with Monge glued to his rear bumper as the two battled furiously for the top spot, with Levi Rouster trailing in third. Todd and Monge swapped the lead back and forth 3 times the last few laps, with Monge prevailing at the stripe as the two made contact both before and after the checkered flag. Tony Monge from Howell, Mich. won over Todd, with Rick Kilbourn third over Rouster and Greg Rudzik.
Next out on the track was the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A”, it was pole sitter DJ Marciniak leading over Laura Beckner and Nick Leonard. Marciniak was able to hold the point through halfway, but Tyler Heeney, with some three wide racing, made his way to the front on lap 13 and pulled away over Marciniak and Brian Beckner. Brian Beckner was able to grab second as they approached the white flag, but taking the flag for his seventh in a row was Heeney. Beckner was second with Marciniak third, Laura Beckner fourth, and Brian Boesel fifth.
In the “B” it was Mariah Caswell leading at the start over Wayne Parkhurst II and heat race winner Jerry King. Last week’s winner Ryan Gordon moved up into the top three and got by Mariah for the lead, followed by Jennifer Larner and heat race winner Jerry King. Ryan “Flash” Gordon was able to hold off Larner with King third, Anthony Lane in fourth and Caswell in fifth. Gordon, who won his first feature last Sunday backed it up with another. In my decades of going to the track, I have seen it time and time again. Drivers finally breaking through for their first win, and then the following win(s) always seem to come easier.
Last races for the evening were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a pair of 25 lap features. In the “A” it was Craig Stephens on the pole and leading at the start, but surrendering the lead to Angelo Buchino. Mike Ammerman moved into second as Steve Prucnell and Joey Barnhart battled for third. The driver on the move was fast qualifier Dane Long in No. 7L. Long was able to pass both Buchino and Ammerman to seize the lead. It was Long winning his second of the season over Ammerman, Barnhart, Buchino and Prucnell.
Last but not least was the ‘B” with Harold Braman leading over Junior Gokee at the start. Gokee took the lead from Braman with Cory Coddington, Mark Carson and Jason Luce all battling behind. Luce picked them off one by one and took the lead from Gokee, with Bryan Jenks getting by Gokee as well a few laps later. Jason Luce took his second win of the year followed by Jenks, Gokee, Braman and Coddington. Heat race winners were Barnhart and Coddington.
6.22.14 - The weekly scheduled Friday night races at Spartan fell prey to inclement weather and were cancelled, but the weekend wasn’t a total loss, as the conditions were great for the once a month Sunday evening “Slugfest” series of races. Scheduled on this warm Sunday evening for Round #2 were the Modifieds, Spartan Stocks, Pony Stocks, and capped off with the Enduro Figure 8. Being a special Slugfest show, there were no heats as the fans were treated to 275 laps of feature racing.
First on the track were the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks with a pair of 25 lap feature races. In the “A” it was Laura Beckner starting on the pole and leading the early laps, but at the checker, it was déjà vu all over again, as Tyler Heeney continued his domination of the division this year. The young Stockbridge driver won handily over Wayne Beckner Jr.in second & Brian Beckner in third, followed by Brian “Brutus” Boesel, and then Lex Jarecki rounding out the top five.
In the Pony Stock “B”, Jerry King led the first half, but he had Ryan “Flash” Gordon glued to his rear bumper for much of the distance. Ryan was able to power his way past King and scored the first win of his career in his No. 21 Dodge Neon. The versatile Gordon also showed his array of talents as he was also the singer of the National Anthem to start off the night’s activities! Finishing behind Ryan was King with Wayne Parkhurst II in third, and Tim Misner barely edging Robert Jones for fourth. Gordon celebrated his first feature win in the LaFontaine Ford Victory Lane as he was congratulated by his fellow drivers for a job well done. Tyler Heeney set quick time for the evening.
The longest race of the night was the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds for 75 laps. Starting on the pole was Tony Pastorino with Brad Wyatt on the outside of the front row. Wyatt jumped out into the lead at the start and led the early laps over Jordan Pruitt and Jon McNett. The man on the move was “The Governor” Dan Loughan as he picked them off one by one on his way to the front. On one of the restarts after a yellow, Loughan was able to power his way past Wyatt and grabbed the top spot over Wyatt and Pruitt. While the drivers behind Dan were swapping positions back and forth, Loughan seemed to have the race in command over Pruitt, McNett and Joe Morisette. Pruitt was able to close up on Dan’s rear bumper, but didn’t seem like he was going to find a way past until a late race restart with 5 laps to go gave him one more shot. That was all he needed as the Gaylord, Mich. driver powered his way by on the high side as Pruitt took the win over Loughan, Morisette, McNett, and Travis Eddy. Jim Butler was the fast qualifier.
Next up were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a trio of features. In the 50 lap “A” we had Craig Stephens taking the early lead from the pole and leading for several laps, with Mike Ammerman getting by on Lap 16. Ammerman was never headed after that and led the rest of the way with Joe Barnhart second, Robby Johnston third, Josh Trammell fourth and Lou Stremme coming home in fifth. Remarkably the race was green all the way for the entire distance as Mike ‘The Hammer” Ammerman from Eaton Rapids took his first of the season in his No. 16.
In the 40 lap “B” it was the dueling old school Camaros of Tim Lahar and Jim Miller Jr. at the front with Nick Stremme, Tom Freeman Jr and Travis Ainsworth all battling behind them. Miller, who has many feature wins at Auto City Speedway in Flint, took the win in No. 9 over Lahar, Stremme, Ainsworth and Jason Luce. I really enjoyed getting to see longtime friend Tom Freeman and family for their first time out this season.
In the 30 lap “C” we had Flat Rock Speedway regular Troy Brehmer from Toledo earning a win with his no. 42, in his first visit to Spartan, over Pete Shong, Charlie Thom, John McConnell and Tami Hawkins.
Finally we had the wild and crazy Enduro Figure 8. There were a LOT of close encounters at the intersection with many near misses, but right around the halfway point there was a hard broadside collision between two teammates. The crowd got very quiet as Aaron Dancer was carefully removed from his car, but after regaining consciousness he was transported home with his family and later diagnosed with a broken hip. Once the race was resumed, it was Josh DeLong winning in his black No. 067 pickup over Aaron’s uncle ,Danny “AJ” Gaddis.
6.06.2014 - Another beautiful summer evening was in store for Spartan Speedway fans as the “Track the Stars Call Home” was the place to be for some great Friday night wheel to wheel racing action. Scheduled for the docket this week on LaFontaine Ford night were heat and feature races for the Modifieds, Michigan Legends, Bandoleros, Spartan Stocks, and Pony Stocks.
The first cars to get fired up and take the green flag were the NAPA Auto Parts Bandolero division for a 12 lap feature event. This is the first year the Bandoleros have competed at Spartan and the excited 8-14 yr. old drivers lined up for the start as their attentive parents paced nervously. Starting on the pole was Cameron Leasure, but behind him, Jon Parish made heavy contact with another car and was towed to the pits. The field lined up for a complete restart as Leasure led the first lap, followed by Logan Haughton, Mason Ludwig, and Nate Jenkins. First it was Haughton taking the lead, but quickly surrendering it to Ludwig, as last week’s winner Toby Tyler charged up from his last place starting position. Tyler made a bold move going four wide on the outside to grab the top spot. Tyler was able to pull away to a comfortable lead over Jenkins and Ludwig. After a tough battle, Ludwig was able to slide by Jenkins for second. Toby Tyler, from Parma, survived a late restart and took his third in a row over Mason Ludwig, as Nate Jenkins barely beat out Joe Moody at the stripe, with Nathan Logan finishing in fifth. Heat winners were Tyler and Zach Parish.
One of the most anticipated nights of the season are the “Autograph Nights” as the drivers all pulled their cars on the front stretch, as the fans swarmed from the stands to touch the cars and meet the drivers up close and in person. Really neat to see the young Bandolero drivers joining all the other drivers as they signed their autograph picture cards for young and old alike. Here we have Kylie Beckner, driver of the No. 11 Bandolero, signing autographs and greeting her fans.
Once the cars went back to the pits and the fans went back to their seats, it was now time for the Performance Automotive NW Modified division to hit the track for 35 laps. Tracey Hernly was on the pole in her Fox 47 car with Tony Pastorino on the outside. The two stayed side by side for a couple laps before Jim Butler muscled his way past both by going three wide, and took the lead followed by Brad Wyatt. Moving his way to third was Travis Eddy, as the top three ran nose to tail for several laps until Butler spun causing a caution flag. On the restart it was Wyatt on the inside and Eddy on the outside as the two ran wheel to wheel for several laps with neither able to pull ahead of the other. Unfortunately for Eddy, he was forced to the pits with engine trouble allowing Wyatt led the remainder of the distance uninterrupted. Wyatt, from Brownstown, won his first at Spartan, with Leroy Ellis barely edging Jon McNett for second, Jason Parish fourth, and John Ledwidge fifth. Heat race winners were Parish and Butler with McNett setting fast time.
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends 30 lap feature it was Matt Todd jumping out to an early lead in his white and black No. 8 over Grant Quinlan and Tony Monge. Quinlan, who dominated many of the races last year was unable to close the distance over Todd and soon had to defend his spot over last week’s winner, Tony Monge. Grant was smoking his front tire every lap as Monge was able to close up and dove to the inside with one lap to go to grab second. Matt Todd, from Canton, an engineer with Ford Racing, extended his points lead as he took the checker over Monge, as the race went caution free. Third was Grant Quinlan, followed by Rick Kilbourn, and Gregory Rudzik. Quinlan set quick time with Monge winning the heat race.
Next up were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a pair of 25 lappers. In the “A” it as Greg Studt taking the early lead from the outside pole in his black and red No. 33. Joey Barnhart showed why he was the driver to beat this season as he captured the top spot in No. 45 followed by Andrew Ritter in No. 87. The two drivers had a terrific duel as the pair ran side by side, but at the checkered it was Barnhart holding on for the win over Ritter, John Kennedy, Studt and Harvey.
In the “B”, it was Jim Sawade on the pole with Jr. Gokee on the outside. The two battled side by side for a few laps, but it was Bryan Jenks getting by both to take the lead. Jason Luce moved into second and closed up to Jenks. On the white flag lap, Luce inched ahead for the lead, but as the two entered turn 4 they made contact and slid across the line with Luce being awarded the win, Gokee getting second, and Jenks settling for third. Heat races were won by Jenks and Studt.
Finally we finished the night with the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for two 20 lap features. In the “A” it was Jamie Larner, Nick Leonard, and Brian “Brutus” Boesel battling for the lead with Troy Andrews and Brian Beckner charging up into the top five. Boesel was able to grab the spot, but just like the last few weeks, Tyler Heeney was able to move up from the rear, take the lead and won his fifth in a row. Second was Boesel over Jamie Larner, Brian Beckner, and DJ Marciniak.
In the “B” it was Mariah Caswell leading the early laps over Wayne Parkhurst II, Lex Jarecki, and Ryan Flash Gordon. Thomas Logie was the man on the move sliding his car sideways every lap on the outside and earned his first win over Gordon, Caswell, Jennifer Larner, and Parkhurst. Logie, who plans to share the No. 95 car with his daughter, also won the heat, and said he was “happier than a possum eating poop. ” Heeney won the other heat and also set fast time.
5.30.14 - Sunny skies and beautiful weather greeted Spartan Speedway race fans this Friday night as the “Track That the Stars Call Home” featured the Wingless Sprint cars, Michigan Legends, Bandoleros, Pony Stocks, and Spartan Stocks.
In the NAPA Auto Parts Bandolero division, it was Kylie Beckner starting up front as the field took the green for their 12 lap feature. Beckner led into the first turn as last week’s winner, Toby Tyler, made a strong move into second place, and wasting no time in sweeping past Beckner to lead the first lap. Tyler held the top spot with Nate Jenkins and Zach Parish following in his tire tracks, as the rest of the young drivers battled for position. Unfortunately, Mason Ludwig was forced to retire to the infield due to mechanical issues, but it didn’t appear to be very serious. Many of these young racers had little to no experience at the start of the season, and the improvement from week to week has been outstanding. Tyler led the remainder of the distance for his second in a row followed by Jenkins, Zach Parish, Nathan Logan in fourth and Joe Moody in fifth. Jenkins finished second for the third straight time in his white No. 42, as he has been a threat each and every week, while Zach Parish earns his best finish of the season in his flaming green machine. Heat winners were cousins Logan Haughton and Nathan Logan.
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Sprint Car division, it was John Turnbull starting on the pole for the 30 lap feature. After an aborted start when Anthony McCune spun harmlessly in Turn 2, Turnbull led the pack into the first turn on the restart. Turnbull remained in front while Jay Rohrback held second with Doug Dietsch in third. The driver on the move was Chance Rice, as the Charlotte, Mich driver powered his way past both Dietsch and Rohrback and moved to second. Dietsch followed Rice past Rohrback for third with fast qualifier Steve Irwin trailing in fourth. Turnbull remained in front, but had Rice in No. 36 stuck right to his rear bumper trying desperately to find a way past. Both drivers had a lot of experience racing against each other in Legends cars, but these powerful , ground pounding sprint cars are a whole other animal. Chance did everything possible to rattle Turnbull and find a way around the black No. 12 of the “Bulldog”, but John drove a terrific race and took the win. Rice finished a very close second followed by Dietsch, Steve Irwin, and a sixteen year old McCune in fifth. John celebrated with his dad, John and car owner John Boy Hotchkiss. Heat race winners were Rice and Turnbull.
Next up were the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends for a 25 lap feature. Gregory Rudzik started on the pole, but it was Tony Monge in No. 92 and Matt Todd in No. 8 that would battle for the lead. Monge held the point with considerable pressure from Todd, but was able to pull away for the victory over Todd, Rick Kilbourn, and Rudzik. Heat race winner was Monge with Todd setting fast time.
Lined up in the chute was the Lipari Foods Spartan Stock division for a pair of 25 lap feature races. In the “A” it was Joey Barnhart jumping into the lead over Chris Shannon, and John Kennedy. Barnhart was able to lead the entire distance, but it wasn’t easy as Shannon was glued to his bumper the entire time. Shannon tried the inside, outside, and every other side, but could not find a way around as those two had a terrific race. Barnhart took the win over Shannon, Kennedy, and Jordan Harvey.
In the “B” it was “Just Davey” Kelley on the pole with Junior Gokee on the outside front row. Gokee powered his way past on the outside to grab the lead with Kelley dropping back to second and Maegan Williams in third. The driver on the move was Bryan Jenks as his drove his red No. 9 past Kelley and Williams to move to second and drove to the outside of Gokee. The two ran wheel to wheel for a few laps before Jenks slipped by and seized the lead. Williams moved to second with Kelley and Gokee battling for third. Jenks took his first of the year over Williams, Kelley, Gokee and Jack Kuhn in fifth. Heat race winners were Chris Shannon, and Maegan Williams.
Last up were the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of 20 lappers. In the “A” division, Tyler Heeney has dominated all season, and he wasted no time in taking the lead over Wayne Beckner Jr., and brother Brian Beckner. Brian managed to get past Wayne for second, but Heeney was gone building a rather substantial lead in his customary outside line. Nick Leonard moved to third with Wayne Beckner Jr., and Brian “Brutus” Boesel battling side by side for fourth. Heeney took his fourth win in a row in his Neon with Brian Beckner second, Leonard third over Wayne Beckner and Boesel rounding out the top five.
In the “B” it was Thomas Logie leading at the start followed by Marq Eaton and Wayne Parkhurst II. Logie was running his red No. 95 sideways through the corners like he was driving on dirt, but unfortunately was black flagged for “speeding” and sent to the rear. Randy Kretzinger Jr. moved past Parkhurst for the lead with a hard charging Troy Andrews battling Eaton and Parkhurst for second. Troy stayed glued on the rear of Randy’s green No. 57, and tried everything he could to get by, but at the stripe it was Kretzinger, Andrews, Logie, Parkhurst, and Eaton. Heat race winners were Parkhurst II and Heeney with Heeney also setting quick time.
The Memorial Day weekend signifies the start of summer, but first we all need to take a moment to honor and reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. While all the talk in the national racing world was the Indianapolis 500, World 600 and the Monaco Grand Prix, Spartan Speedway race fans visited the “Track the Stars Call Home” to watch their favorites and witness some entertaining racing action. Scheduled this beautiful Friday evening were the Bandoleros, Pony Stocks, Flagpole races and the debut of the “Road Rage” events.
First to get flagged off were the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of 20 lap features. Week in and week out, the Pony stocks are one of the most competitive divisions at the track, and tonight was no exception. In the “B” division, it was Chris Jones on the pole in No. 222, but the drivers were way too anxious, and after several failed attempts, race director Bill Lackey decided a single file restart was a smart move. When the green flag dropped, it was Jennifer Larner leading the first lap over Jim Misner and Tom Goward. While Goward slipped past Misner into second, Troy Andrews was slicing up through the field from the rear picking positions up one by one in his Batman themed grey and black No. 1 Neon. Larner in No. 3 had built up a rather substantial lead, but Goward and Andrews were closing quickly as the laps wound down with just five to go. Finally Tom was able to gain position under Jennifer and grabbed the lead in his No. 66 +3 black Neon. Goward took the checker first, with Larner holding off Andrews by inches for second, with Jerry King fourth and Misner rounding out the top five.
In the “A”, it was Mike Westphal on the pole in No. 5 with Trina Wurmnest, returning for her first race of the season, on the outside of the front row. Those two battled side by side for a few laps followed by Laura Beckner, but it was Tyler Heeney storming up from the rear of the field as he blasted by all of them for the lead on lap 3. While the drivers back in the pack were racing wheel to wheel for position, no one had anything for Heeney, as he pulled away and led the rest of the way over Brian Beckner and Jami Larner. Heeney took the win over Beckner and Larner, with Wayne Beckner Jr. in fourth and DJ Marciniak in fifth. Heat race winners were Ryan “Flash” Gordon, Tom Goward, and Jami Larner, with Heeney setting fast time.
Next up were the NAPA Auto Parts Bandoleros for 12 laps with 9 cars lining up for the feature . On the pole was Cameron Leasure in No. 47. Cameron took the point as the young drivers got the green flag, but Jon Parish in No. 36 took the lead over Nate Jenkins in no. 42 and Leasure. Jenkins slipped by Parish and took the lead, as Toby Tyler moved up to fourth from the rear of the field following Logan Haughton in third. Jenkins had built up a decent lead as Tyler moved up to second and begin closing up on Jenkins. With just two laps to go, Tyler caught Jenkins and was able to make the pass on the last lap to take the win. Toby Tyler, son of Martha and sprint car legend Bill Tyler, won his first in Bandoleros with Nate Jenkins second, Logan Haughton third, Mason Ludwig fourth, and Jon Parish rounding out the top five, followed by Cameron Leasure, Joe Moody, Kylie Beckner, and Zack Parish.
The tractor tires were moved into position for the pair of Flagpole races with a 4 cylinder and a V6/V8 class. In this race a large tractor tire is placed in three places on the track and the drivers must circle the tire each lap. After a lot of pushing and shoving, it was Wayne Parkhurst II surviving the mayhem in first place in his No. 13 black Neon.
In the V6/V8 Flagpole race it was Tim Hurrell taking the win in his black and orange No. 24 after a terrific duel with Dominic Shauver trading the lead and sheet metal back and forth several times.
Last up were a pair of “Road Rage” races. These run a maximum of 12 laps, but with a catch. There is a pace car leading the pack the entire race; the drivers are free to bump, bang, and even spin the others, but cannot pass the pace car. At any moment, the pace car will pull off the track, and the drivers have just two laps to battle for the win. In the 4 cylinder road rage, it was Wayne Parkhurst II repeating his flagpole win. In the V6/V8 class, it was a wild and woolly one with plenty of action the last two laps, but when the dust finally settled and the smoke cleared, it was Hugh Brayton in No. 26 in Victory Lane. Hugh is related to the late Scott Brayton, the Indy 500 veteran, who tragically lost his life in 1996.
After two straight weeks of rain, it was great to get to Spartan Speedway this last Friday night for some great racing. While the temperatures were unseasonably chilly, at least it was dry, as race fans were treated with the ground pounding Sprint Cars, Michigan Legends, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks. In addition, it was the night many have been anxiously awaiting, as the newest division, the Bandoleros for 8-14 year olds, finally got to go out for their first feature.
After the conclusion of qualifying and the heat races, the first feature of the evening lined up, as nine of the NAPA Auto Parts Bandoleros lined up for their 12 lap feature. While the parents and grandparents wished they could be in the car with them, and their schoolmates cheering them on, the young racers took the green flag and headed into the first turn. It was brothers Zach & Jon Parish at the front, followed by Kylie Beckner in No. 11, with the rest of the pack hot on her heels. Logan Haughton caught up to Beckner, and behind them battling hard for position were the cars of Nate Jenkins and Mason Ludwig. After working hard for a few laps, Haughton, Jenkins and Ludwig all got by Zach Parish and started looking for a way to get past Jon Parish as the trio traded spots nearly every lap. The caution flew for a couple incidents as the young drivers learned the limits of their cars, but on the restart, it was Haughton taking the lead with Jenkins right on his bumper. Nate did everything he could to get by, but at the stripe it was Logan Haughton in No. 52 taking the win with Nate Jenkins a close second, Mason Ludwig in third, followed by Jon Parish, Kylie Beckner, Zach Parish, Joe Moody, Nathan Logan and Cameron Leasure. Heat race winners were Nathan Logan and Logan Haughton.
Next up were the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends series for a 20 lap feature. Starting on the pole was Gregory Rudzig with Rick Kilbourn on the outside front row. Kilbourn in No. 54 took the lead at the drop of the green with Matt Todd also getting by Rudzig. Rick led the first seven laps before Matt, in his white and black No. 8, motored by for the top spot. A little further back, it was Tony Monge putting pressure on Kilbourn, but at the end it was Matt Todd from Canton, Mich. prevailing over Kilbourn in second, followed by Monge and Rudzig. Todd was also the heat winner and set quick time to boot.
Now it was time for one of my favorite divisions as the Sawyer Superstore Spartan Sprints were pushed out onto the track for a 30 lapper. Rookie Anthony McCune was on the pole in No. 44 with Steve Irwin on the outside in his Flyin’ 0 machine. Irwin grabbed the lead from McCune as the field completed the first lap. Chance Rice, who has raced both Legends and Modifieds in his young career, has stepped up to the sprints this season and moved up to second with John Turnbull in third. The top three were all nose to tail, waiting for someone to slip so they could grab the advantage. Turnbull finally decided it was time to make a move as he slid underneath Rice and took the second spot glued right to Irwin’s rear nerf bar. McCune made contact with Don Hamilton Jr. putting the young McCune head on into the water barrels in turn 1 and showering the pit grandstands. Fortunately, Anthony was uninjured, and on the ensuing restart, it was Irwin once again at the point with Turnbull right in his tire tracks. John gave Steve everything he had, but Steve held him off and took the win. Turnbull was second, with Rice third, followed by Doug Dietsch and Hamilton rounding out the top five. Dietsch set fast time with Irwin taking the heat race win.
The Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks lined up in the chute for a pair of 20 lap features. In the “A” division, we had Nick Leonard on the pole capturing the early lead, with Marq Eaton and Brian “Brutus” Boesel right behind in third. Other early challengers were Troy Andrews in the Batman inspired No. 1 & Laura Beckner. Opening night winner Brian Beckner muscled his way through the pack from deep in the field, and took the point, followed by Tyler Heeney, with Boesel in third over Eaton. Heeney made his move with 5 laps to go and grabbed the top spot over Beckner as the Stockbridge driver earned his first feature win of the season. Brian Beckner was second, Boesel third trailed by Wayne Beckner Jr., and Eaton in fifth.
In the “B”, it was Howard Misner in No. 84 starting up front and leading over Mariah Caswell as the racing behind them in the pack was furious. Mike Westphal in the sinister looking flat back 5x made his move from deep in the field and passed first Caswell, and then Misner for the lead. Westphal scored his first of the season with Misner second, Ken Dollarhite Jr third, Caswell fourth and Wayne Parkhurst Jr rounding out the top five. Heat races were won by Heeney, Caswell and Westphal, with Heeney also fastest in qualifying.
The last division slated for this evening’s festivities were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a pair of 25 lap features. In the ‘A” it was Jordan Harvey on the pole with Chuck Ammerman on the outside. Dane Long wasted no time at all as he surged to the lead followed by opening night winner Joe Barnhart. Dane Long aka “The Disturbed One” had it hooked up perfectly in his No. 7L as he led the rest of the way trailed by Barnhart, Harvey and Ammerman.
In the “B” it was Junior Gokee on the pole leading at the start over Jason Luce and Jesse Collinge. Collinge was able to pass both and take over the lead while Gokee and Luce traded second back and forth several times. Jason debuted a beautiful No. 13 and looked fast this evening, but unfortunately for Luce, both he and Collinge wrecked avoiding an incident with a lapped car. This forced Luce to retire from the race while Collinge continued with heavy damage to the right rear quarter panel of his really cool old school Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. Collinge managed to survive for the win over Gokee and Corey Coddington. Collinge climbed out in the winner’s circle in amazement over the damage to his car. Barnhart set fast time.
The snow has melted, the grass is green, and the day we have been waiting for since last fall has finally arrived; Opening Day at Spartan Speedway! For those of us with the need for speed, nothing signals the start of spring like race day, and after the most brutal winter I can remember in a long time, it was great to walk through the pit gate and see all the new cars and drivers. The best part of Opening Night is of course, taking the opportunity to see all the friends that were missed over the winter. Scheduled to race this evening at the banked quarter mile the “Track the Stars Call Home”, were the Modifieds, Michigan Legends, Spartan Stocks and Pony Stocks.
After the drivers meeting and heat races, it was time for the first feature event of the evening as the Performance Automotive NW Modifieds pulled out onto the track for their 35 lap feature. Starting on the pole was Megan Carpenter in her No. 8 with Tony Pastorino on the outside front row in No. 19. Carpenter and Pastorino went side by side at the drop of the green and it was Tony leading the field for the conclusion of the first lap. Pastorino was able to hold on to the top spot for the first half of the race, as Jon McNett and Chris Ozanich battled wheel to wheel for second, with Travis Eddy and John Ledwidge trailing the lead pack by just a few car lengths. McNett was able to pull ahead of Ozanich, and was putting a lot of pressure on Pastorino for the lead, but just couldn’t get by. With ten laps to go, McNett finally powered by on the outside and took the lead. Once he got in front, Jon McNett in the No. 7 was never headed, and the 2013 track champion took the win over Pastorino, with Ozanich, Eddy, and Ledwidge rounding out the top five. McNett also set fast time with Dan Loughan taking the heat race win.
In the Sawyer Chevrolet Superstore Michigan Legends 30 lap feature race, it was Tony Monge rocketing into the lead from the front row with Canadian drivers Josh Indig, and Grant Quinlan battling side by side for second. Quinlan sat glued on the rear bumper of Monge waiting for an opening, and finally decided to make a move as he took over the top spot on lap 9. Monge fell back into second, but it was a hard charging Matt Todd who passed Monge and set his sights on Quinlan. Todd was nibbling away at Grant’s lead, but it was looking like he might run out of laps. Both Todd and Monge had a few more shots at Quinlan during late race restarts, but Grant was too strong and took the checker. The young Ontario, Canada driver won several times at Spartan last year in the Legends, and picked up right where he left off last season winning both the feature and the heat race. Todd finished second over Monge, Rick Kilbourn, and Gregory Rudzik.
Next up were the Lipari Foods Spartan Stocks for a pair of features. In the 25 lap “A”, it was Steve Prucnell leading early over Jordan Harvey and “Shaggy” Ammerman. Steve managed to hold the point for several laps, but Robbie Johnston and Joey Barnhart were storming up from the rear of the field. Both Johnston and Barnhart passed Prucnell, and those two had a terrific battle up front. Johnston was able to keep the lead, but had Barnhart glued right on his rear bumper. Barnhart did everything he could, short of wrecking him, to get by Johnston, but came up short by less than a foot at the line. I was really impressed by these two drivers as they raced extremely hard, but raced each other with respect. Johnston wins over Barnhart in a great finish as the race goes green to checker with Johnston, from Montrose, taking the Polish Victory lap . Finishing third was Prucnell with Allen Troup fourth and Harvey fifth.
In the Spartan Stock “B” 20 lapper, Brian Jenks leads at the start and battles early with Corey Coddington and Maegan Williams. Both Coddington and Williams get by Jenks, and trade the lead between them, before Maegan takes command at the front of the field. Coddington survived an incident with Jr. Gokee, and maintained second, but had nothing for Williams as she led the rest of the way and pulled her silver Chevelle into the LaFontaine Ford Victory Lane. I really like this old school Chevelle as this car would have looked right at home 25 years ago at Spartan. Second was Coddington with Norman Shong third followed by Junior Gokee and Tami Hawkins. Heat race winners were Barnhart and Harvey with Barnhart also setting quick time.
Finally to cap off the night we have the Boss Snow Equipment Pony Stocks for a pair of 20 lappers. In the “A” it was Troy Andrews taking the early lead from pole sitter Laura Beckner. Andrews, Brian Beckner, Tyler Heeney and Wayne Beckner Jr. all jockeyed for position, but it was defending champion Brian Beckner taking the win in his black No. 11 Neon. Second was brother Wayne, with Heeney third, Andrews fourth, and Randy Kretzinger Jr. coming home in fifth. Heat race was won by Laura Beckner.
In the 20 lap Pony Stock “B” it was a fantastic end to the evening as Mariah Caswell took her first ever feature win after a race long side by side battle with Marq Eaton. Finishing behind those two was Wayne Parkhurst II and Edward Farnsworth. Nothing is more exciting than a first time winner, and Mariah was just giddy with excitement as she shared her win with family and friends. Mariah also won the heat race. Personally, I couldn’t help but get caught up in her exuberance, so it was a great end to opening night of 2014.
Welcome back to Spartan Speedway for another great season in 2014. This has been the longest winter I can remember, so like all of you, am I ever ready for race season to begin! Will this snow ever melt??? I am happy to be back writing the weekly race reports this season… or depending on your outlook, Jim couldn’t find anyone better, so you are stuck with me for another year. We have a few changes in the next few weeks before opening day to talk about in 2014, but the big news I wanted to discuss first is the addition of a new division.
I’ve been around race tracks for a few decades, so I have seen a lot of changes over the years, but we can all agree that bringing in new racers and fans is critical to the future of our sport. With that in mind, Spartan has initiated the “Spartan Youth Race Development Program” and in conjunction, the Bandolero division. The Bandolero was launched in 1997 as a companion to the Legends cars, and have been raced on tracks throughout the country; this season, they are now officially part of the Michigan Legends. The Bandolero, or “Bando” for short, is a spec. race car designed for ages 8-14 that will be racing weekly at Spartan. Notable drivers like Joey Logano, David Ragan, and others started out racing Bandos which provided them a great stepping stone to Legends, and then up the ladder to ARCA etc.
Most of you have seen the cars on display in the concourse last season. The Bandos are a spec. series turnkey racecar powered by a 30 HP sealed Briggs & Stratton engine and a length measuring just under 11 feet. They have a full fendered body, including a full roll cage and a racing seat for safety. In order to keep the competition fair, the cars will be stored on speedway property and maintained by the Spartan Speedway staff. They will be released to the racers on Friday afternoons with only minor adjustments allowed to the chassis. While the intent is to store the cars during the week on speedway property, arrangements can be made to bring them to school show and tell, company functions etc. As of late March, 9 cars have been sold already, with several more expected before the start of the season in late April, so there will be plenty enough to put on a great show.
The first question I always get asked is; “how much $$?” Well, there are a couple different options on obtaining one. Of course, one can be purchased outright, complete & ready to race for just under $7000. While working at the recent Motor City Hot Rod & Racing Expo in Novi, I spoke with a few parents who had been running their youngsters in Go Karts. They had told me that when they added up the cost of the karts, tires, engines, and all the associated travel costs, that the Bandos were very affordable in comparison. More importantly, compared to a kart, the Bandos with a cage were much safer.
The next question inevitably, is “What if my kid starts out all gung ho, but loses interest?” I know when I was that age, I tried everything from playing the Clarinet, to collecting coins & stamps, to model rockets, and frankly most of them didn’t hold my interest for too long. With that in mind, we have developed a lease program that allows a parent (or grandparent) to lease one for a night, a full year, or even a partial year, with the ability to walk away if needed. In addition, let’s say there is more than one budding young racer; the car could be shared between a brother & sister, or a couple cousins etc., so they all could get the use out of one car. Finally, one other option is a company sponsorship; perhaps your employer or local business would be interested in sponsoring a young racer by paying for the lease and having their company logo on the side of the car. If the Bandolero sounds like something you are interested in, details on all of these options can be found on the website, and I encourage anyone to come out to the track and see the cars in person.
Finally, since the drivers will have limited or no racing experience, there is a mandatory orientation/safety session to acquaint them with the cars, track rules, racing etiquette, and race procedures. There will be practice, heat races and feature races each night; also included is free admission every week to the driver. In conclusion, I am very excited to see the Bandoleros race this season, and hoping to see everyone come out to the races to watch them with me.