Berlin Raceway race notes 2003-08-23

Surprise Senneker collects first win Meeuwsen wins record 12th; VanDyk beats Lake for $1,500 prize MARNE, MI -- Lee VanDyk took the big prize in the double-length Hitches By George Sportsman feature Saturday night, walking away with a ...

Surprise Senneker collects first win
Meeuwsen wins record 12th; VanDyk beats Lake for $1,500 prize

MARNE, MI -- Lee VanDyk took the big prize in the double-length Hitches By George Sportsman feature Saturday night, walking away with a $1,500 first-place prize, but it was a surprise Senneker who stole the show with a win in the Coors Light Late Model feature. The night marked the return of legendary Bob Senneker to Berlin Raceway after a four-year hiatus, and anticipation grew as the final race of the evening neared. But a problem during the final Late Model practice laps just before the drop of the green flag ended Senneker's night early, leaving his 23-year-old nephew Terry Senneker Jr. to steal Uncle Bob's thunder with a win in just his seventh attempt of the season.

In the Coors Light Late Model feature, #22 Brian Campbell led for the first 17 laps of the 50-lap race, then #37 Terry Senneker took over, opening up a two second lead through the halfway point with the help of lapped traffic between his car and the #22 of Campbell. Senneker's lead built up to 3.1 seconds before a lap 34 caution flag for #1 Randy Sweet, who spun across the start-finish line while running in the top five, erasing Senneker's healthy lead. After the restart, #101 Joe Bush was strong, passing #47 Fred Campbell and #12 Tim DeVos for third place on lap 40, then moving by Brian Campbell into second on lap 44. But Bush was no match for Senneker, who went on to win the Engine Pro/Federal Mogul Speed Pro trophy by a 3.5 second margin over Bush. Senneker has shown great improvement in the second half of the season after starting just two races in first half. In his last five races, he has finished, in order: 10th, ninth, fourth, second and now first. Brian Campbell finished third, followed by #28 Scott Thomas and #55 Chris Anthony. #82 Tom Thomas won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 13 positions in the feature. Tim DeVos still holds a solid 174-point lead with three points races remaining.

The Hitches By George Sportsman feature was extended from 25 to 50 laps and the prize money was raised to almost four times the normal winning payout thanks to a race sponsorship by Chase Plastics Inc. #55 Dave Lake, last week's winner, was on the move early, up from seventh to second by lap 11. Lake took the lead from #25 Scott Root on lap 24. The second caution of the race came out on lap 32 for debris on the track (the first was for #9 Mike Root, who flew off the backstretch after contact with #30 Zach Dunson on lap 9), and after returning to green, the top three cars of Lake, Scott Root and #24 Lee VanDyk ran nose-to-tail in a tight pursuit of the $1,500 prize. On lap 43, VanDyk took second from Root, who then faded back several car lengths to join the second group of cars on the track. Then things got interesting. VanDyk pulled up alongside Lake in turn two of the final lap, and the two cars raced side by side through the backstretch. Then in turn 3 the cars got together, causing Lake to spin and bring out a yellow flag instead of a checkered. Lake was sent to the back of the field as it was his spin that brought out the caution. A green-white-checkered restart meant a one-lap sprint to the finish, and VanDyk held on to take the Engine Pro/Hastings Manufacturing Powerflex trophy and $1,500 prize without a challenge. Three rookies took the next three positions, with #77 Andrew Nylaan finishing second, Dunson in third and #4 Nick Gebben in fourth. #86 Ray Melinn rounded out the top five. VanDyk also won the Valvoline Hard Charger award after starting 10th. He extended his points lead to 60 over second-place Mike Root.

In the Engine Pro Super Stock feature, points leader and division dominator Ross Meeuwsen started on the pole, an amazing feat in itself after destroying his car in a nasty wreck last Saturday. But rookie #19 Nick Szotko was the fastest car on the track, climbing from his 10th starting spot up to fourth by lap 5. Szotko took third from #29 Steve Sunde on lap 13. The first caution occurred at the halfway point of the 30-lap feature as #8 Billy Eppink spun on the backstretch, then another caution on the restart as #36 Dan Groeneveld got into the #52 of Jim Idema in turn 2. On the next restart, Szotko jumped up alongside #13 James Haney in a battle for the second position, and two laps later Szotko claimed sole possession of second place. Meeuwsen and Szotko then marched away from the field. Szotko managed to close to within two tenths of a second on Meeuwsen by lap 23, but the experienced Meeuwsen held on to take his record 12th feature win and Engine Pro Trophy in 16 events this season. Meeuwsen celebrated by turning donuts from turn 4 all the way down to turn 1. Haney finished third, followed by Sunde and #3 Ross Eppink. Szotko was named Valvoline Hard Charger for advancing eight positions. Meeuwsen has all but locked up the championship, leading Bob Bliss by 297 points with two races to go. Meeuwsen just has to show up to win the championship.

Complete race results and point standings can be found online at www.berlinraceway.com.

The Auto Value Super Sprints return to Berlin Raceway next Saturday night, August 30, in addition to Coors Light Late Model and Hitches By George Sportsman divisions. Tickets are $15 in advance and $16 at the gate for general admission and $25 for pit passes. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m.

-br-

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