Berlin Raceway race reports 2004-06-05

A Night for the Veterans Stehouwer, Wiersma, Melinn each claim first victory of the season MARNE, MI -- Last week it was Berlin's youth who took home the hardware. This week it was the veterans. Three veteran drivers claimed victory Saturday ...

A Night for the Veterans
Stehouwer, Wiersma, Melinn each claim first victory of the season

MARNE, MI -- Last week it was Berlin's youth who took home the hardware. This week it was the veterans. Three veteran drivers claimed victory Saturday night, and the combined 58 years of experience won for the first time in a combined 32 years. Dave Stehouwer, a 31-year veteran from Wyoming, won the Coors Light Late Model feature for the first time since 1986; Coopersville's Brian Wiersma, an 18-year veteran, won the Engine Pro Super Stock feature, his first win since claiming a Late Model feature in his rookie year in that division in 1999; and Wyoming's Ray Melinn won for the first time in his 9-year career in the Standale Lumber Sportsman division.

In the special 50-lap Standale Lumber Sportsman feature, #86 Melinn led the first half of the race but couldn't shake #4 Nick Gebben, who stayed on his tail. On lap 3, #77 Andrew Nylaan and #24 Lee VanDyk, along with several others, spun to bring out the first caution. At the lap 25 halfway point, Gebben made a move inside to take the lead over Melinn, but three laps later fell off the pace and pulled into the pits with a clutch problem. Melinn regained the lead and held it the rest of the way, claiming the Powerflex Trophy presented by Hastings Manufacturing Co. sponsored by Engine Pro for the first time in his 9-year racing career. Ballard came in second, followed by #21 Terry Van Haitsma, #55 Dave Lake and #15 Scott Root. #20 Dave Hull won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 9 positions to finish 9th in the feature. Van Haitsma sits atop the points leaderboard with a solid 98-point lead over Lake.

The 50-lap Coors Light Late Model feature proved every bit as popular a finish as the Sportsman race, as #33 Stehouwer, in his 31st year racing at Berlin, won the Fel-Pro Trophy presented by The Federal Mogul Group sponsored by Engine Pro for the first time since 1986. Early single-car spins by #88 Tim Yonker on lap 6 and #16 Tim Steele on lap 12 slowed the pace, which never quickened as eight total cautions lengthened the time of the race to 51:57. The hardest crash came on lap 45 when Steele had a right front flat and hit hard into the turn 1 wall. Stehouwer led from start to finish and was able to hold off #101 Joe Bush through all the restarts. Bush finished second, followed by #47 Fred Campbell, #12 Tim DeVos and #11 John Grega. #55 Joe Mazie won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 10 positions. Bush takes over the points lead by 28 points over #82 Tom Thomas, who had a disappointing 16th place finish in the race.

The 30-lap Engine Pro Super Stock feature saw the field finally settle down and run cleanly, slowing just three times for cautions. Wiersma, who returned to the Engine Pro Super Stock division this year for the first time since winning the 1997 and 1998 Super Stock championships, claimed his first Clevite Trophy presented by The Dana Corp. sponsored by Engine Pro of the season and first at Berlin since winning as a Coors Light Late Model rookie in 1999. Wiersma charged to the front from his eighth starting position, earning the Valvoline Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions of any car in the field. #76 Warren Speet finished second, followed by #9 Nick Shotko, #71 Brandon Braisted and #98 Bob Bliss. Wiersma retains his points lead, holding a 60-point lead over Shotko.

Berlin Raceway's regular divisions are off next week as the American Speed Association (ASA) will make its way to Berlin Raceway next Saturday night, June 12. The ASA National Series will run a 300-lap feature and the new ASA Late Model Series will run 100 laps. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate for general admission and $30 for pit passes. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m.

-br-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Tim Steele