Berlin Raceway race review 2002-05-18

Root claims victory on MTA Sportsman Night; Keltner, Grega also see checkered flags. MARNE, MI -- Mike Root drove to victory in the MTA Sportsman division Saturday night at Berlin Raceway, winning an action-packed 50-lap race on MTA Sportsman ...

Root claims victory on MTA Sportsman Night; Keltner, Grega also see checkered flags.

MARNE, MI -- Mike Root drove to victory in the MTA Sportsman division Saturday night at Berlin Raceway, winning an action-packed 50-lap race on MTA Sportsman night. The 27-year-old Grand Rapids native, who finished fourth in the 2001 points standings, jumped out to a commanding points lead in the young 2002 season with a 53-point advantage over Dave Lake.

A crowd of 3,843 endured the bitter cold and were rewarded with top-notch competition all night long, as 2001 Engine Pro Super Stock runner-up Matt Keltner held off a charging Ross Meeuwsen for the win, and Fruitport's John Grega, a dirt track racer on Friday nights, transitioned well to asphalt on Saturday and claimed the Coors Light Late Model feature.

In the MTA Sportsman feature, which was extended from the regular 25 laps to 50 laps for MTA Sportsman Night, cautions on lap 7 (spin by #45 Sean Gipson and #12 Steve Walters) and lap 11 (#31 Craig Matthews hit the turn 4 wall) slowed action early. Then on lap 14, with #66 Joe Dochod and #40 Dave Cutler battling for the lead on the backstretch, Dochod spun in turn 3, causing Cutler to slow and get hit from behind by last week's winner, #23 Andrew MacIntosh. The cars completely blocked the track between turns 3 and 4, and with nowhere to go, other cars piled on and turned the wreck into a 9-car pile-up. The race was red flagged to clear the wreckage. Others involved were #19 Nick Shotko, #88 Jason Smith, #71 Dan VanderMolen, #1 Randy Veldman, #10 Jay Gipson and #16 Jamie Gritter.

The #55 car of Dave Lake took the lead on the restart, with #8 Paul Schaffer battling Root for second. Root took second from Schaffer on lap 18. A lap 22 crash involving #55 Chris Anthony, #86 Ray Melinn and #71 Dan Vander Molen slowed action again, then on lap 26 Root took the lead for good. He quickly stretched his lead to 10 car lengths over second place Lake.

A final caution on lap 47 brought an end to the race as it reached a time limit. As Lake tried to hold off #15 Scott Root for second place, Lake's car spun coming out of turn 4 and slammed the wall hard on the driver's side. Lake was not seriously injured. Mike Root claimed the checkered flag as scoring reverted back to the last completed lap, followed by Lake, Scott Root, Smith (driving a car without much of a front end due to the earlier wreck) and #31 Mike Bursley. Smith was awarded the Valvoline Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions from start to finish (from 19th to fourth).

In the Engine Pro Super Stock feature, #97 Matt Keltner of Newaygo added to his impressive seven wins in 2001 with his first win of the 2002 season. Cautions on lap 4 for a Greg Jewett spin and on lap 8 for a Billy Eppink spin set up Keltner to claim the lead from #98 Bob Bliss on the lap 8 re-start. #32 Ross Meeuwsen came with Keltner, and for the final 22 laps of the 30-lap event, fans were treated to exciting side-by-side racing as Keltner and Meeuwsen never let up. Keltner took the checkered flag by a quarter-panel and celebrated with his signature donuts on the frontstretch. Meeuwsen finished second, followed by Bliss, #X Ray Clay and #76 rookie Warren Speet.

Clay won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing seven positions, and Clay also took over the points lead by 5 over Meeuwsen.

In the Coors Light Late Model feature, #11 John Grega started from the pole and led the first five laps (which included cautions on the first and third laps). The #161 car of Lee Anderson, last year's points runner-up, took the lead on lap 5 and it looked as though Anderson would run away with the victory.

After racking up nearly a half-lap lead by mid-race, Anderson was slowed as he came upon cars at the end of the lead lap, allowing Grega and the rest of the field to close the gap. Grega passed for the lead on lap 30. Then on lap 35, after 32 laps of green-flag racing, #16 Jack Gritter spun on the backstretch to bring out the caution. Grega and Anderson maintained their 1-2 positions until lap 41, when #11 Leroy Magoon passed Anderson for second place. A lap 49 caution for a slow car on the frontstretch set up a 2-lap shootout with the lap 49 restart. Grega held off Magoon for the win, with a charging #1 Randy Sweet finishing third, followed by Anderson and #101 Joe Bush. The #7 of Alan Fricke won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 15 positions from last to 13th.

Sweet maintains his points lead after two races in the Coors Light Late Model division.

The 2002 Berlin Raceway season continues next Saturday night, May 25 as MTA Sportsman, Engine Pro Super Stock and Coors Light Late Model divisions race for an increased purse on Spring Championship night. Tickets are $11 in advance and $12 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.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Jason Smith , Alan Frick