ESS: Grandview: URC Challenge report

Kevin Welsh wires big ESS/URC Challenge field at Grandview. BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. -- While you might think a wire to wire win in a 30 lap A-Main was total domination, it was anything but that for Far Hills, N.J.'s Kevin Welsh. Fighting off the ...

Kevin Welsh wires big ESS/URC Challenge field at Grandview.

BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. -- While you might think a wire to wire win in a 30 lap A-Main was total domination, it was anything but that for Far Hills, N.J.'s Kevin Welsh. Fighting off the challenges of lapped traffic and the charges of George Suprick and Tim Hogue, the second-year United Racing Club (URC) regular won the first Empire Super Sprints (ESS)/URC Challenge Series event Sunday night at the Grandview Speedway.

The exciting event was the first of the 2002 NAPA Auto Parts Thunder on the Hill Series which brought out a good sized crowd and a big field of 55 sprinters to the fast 1/3rd mile oval. With the success of the night, sprint fans can expect a return of the ESS/URC Challenge Series in 2003.

While all 30 tours of the Grandview oval could be classified "nail biting", it was a lap 26 caution proved to be the key moment for the 2001 URC co-rookie of the year. "That caution definitely helped me, I'm not going to lie. I had no idea if I could hang on with all the traffic that was ahead of me." said a very relieved Welsh in victory lane. "My car was good all night and I felt comfortable but I heard someone behind me just before the yellow and I knew this race wasn't mine by any means."

The driver doing the stalking was fellow URC mate Suprick with another URC chauffeur in Hogue not that far behind. Welsh took control from his outside pole starting spot right at the drop of the green with fourth place starting Suprick and pole sitting Hogue swapping the runner-up slot several times in the mid portion of the event. Just laps before the faithful lap 26 caution, Suprick and his cushion-hugging high line saw him become a serious threat to Welsh's first ever URC checkered.

"I was coming!!! There was no doubt that I was ready to line him (Welsh) up." exclaimed the driver of the Everlast Quality Stone #87 who was taking advantage of 19 consecutive green flag laps. "Kevin was down low trying to get by the slower cars while I think my high line was a little better. I was just hoping that it would stay green--unfortunately it didn't and Kevin took advantage of it."

When the yellow lights shined with 26 gleaming on the lap counter, Welsh saw a clear track no in front of him and a goal of the $2500 first place prize. "When the green came out I just went back to running my groove that I ran most of the race and hoping that it was good enough. Thankfully it was." noted the very happy victor. "This is a great way to get your first win, to win a Challenge Series event. We have been close so many times with URC, yes, we are still learning but we have a good team and I'm hoping that we can get some more wins down the road."

At the drop of the checkered flag it was Welsh's family owned Welsh Farms #18W five car lengths ahead of Suprick. Hogue's Tastykake #39 was just behind Supirck in a fine run for the second generation driver. The late race yellow was also key for Milford, DE.'s Greg Coverdale as he took to the outside of the track to go from sixth to fourth in the final four laps. Dave Ely made it a top five clean sweep for URC with the West Lawn, Pa. pilot in the Valley Forge, Inc. #5G. Sixth was the first ESS regular in Brian Dumigan and he made headlines coming from his 17th place starting spot to challenge late in the race, seventh was veteran Gary Gollub followed by former URC champion and Grandview small block regular in Dave McGough, Scott Pursell was ninth with ESS star Lance Yonge taking tenth with the Lane's Yamaha #5 after starting in 23rd.

A total of three cautions slowed the fast pace: On lap two, current URC point leader Bill Brian Jr. was involved in a four car jingle which also involved URC drivers Jeff Busby , Dave Gable and ESS regular Mike Stelter. Only Gable and Busby returned. On lap seven Curt Michael stopped on the back stretch with the Palladino #99. On lap 26, Gable and N.Y.'s Rob Dietrick got together..

The six heats were won by five drivers from URC and one from ESS, taking the wins were Doug Emery, Suprick, McGough, Welsh, Busby and Quebec's Alain Bergeron, the lone ESS victor. The twin C-Mains were taken by Midge Miller and Ed Aikin with Dietrick taking the 12 lap B-Main.

ESS/URC Challenge Notes: The strong field of 55 sprinters were made up of 37 drivers from URC, 16 from ESS along with five-time Thunder Series champion Billy Pauch in the backup JMO #3 and six-time ESS/URC Challenge Series winner Kramer Williamson making his first start of 2002 as a teammate to Emery with the Patterson Motorsports team. Pauch missed a transfer spot by one in the B-Main while Williamson couldn't get out of the C-Main--The A-Main field was made up of 18 cars from URC and 8 from ESS--Seven-time ESS champion Mike Woodring and Jason Clauss used provisionals to get into the A-Main lineup. Woodring took full advantage to come from his 25th place starting spot to finish in 11th--.The only flip victim of the night was ESS' Randy Years taking a wild tumble down the front stretch in the B-Main--It was a tough night for the top three in points with URC, Brian Jr., Michael and Trevor Lewis, all DNF's in the 30 lap feature--The combination of heat finishes and passing points made for an unique qualifying procedure, taking advantage was Gollub who finished fourth in his heat but passed enough cars to get credit for the third qualifying spot--Next up for the ESS Tour 2002 will be the first full point show of the new season this Saturday at the Canandaigua Speedway. The Advance Auto Parts/URC Series makes it's first stop of the year at the New Egypt Speedway also on Sat.

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Series Sprint
Drivers Billy Pauch
Teams Williams