Berlin Raceway season opener preview

Berlin Raceway season begins Saturday; strong Coors Light Late Model field headlines 2002 season. MARNE, MI -- Berlin Raceway's 2002 season gets under way Saturday, April 27, as the local Coors Light Late Model, Engine Pro Super Stock and ...

Berlin Raceway season begins Saturday; strong Coors Light Late Model field headlines 2002 season.

MARNE, MI -- Berlin Raceway's 2002 season gets under way Saturday, April 27, as the local Coors Light Late Model, Engine Pro Super Stock and Michigan Truck Accessories Sportsman divisions take the track.

Gates open Saturday at 11 a.m., with practice and qualifying in the afternoon and the first race action beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $11 in advance or $12 on the day of the race. Children 12 and under are half price. Spartan Brand caps will be given away to the first 1,000 fans through the gates beginning at 3 p.m.

The Late Model division in particular promises to field one of the most talented group of drivers in recent memory, as a total of 10 drivers representing 25 championships, including all three champions from the 2001 season (Fred Campbell, Late Model; Rick Eding, Super Stock; Cort Corwin, Sportsman) will compete in the Coors Light Late Model division.

Leading the Coors Light Late Model field are nine-time and defending track champion Campbell and six-time track champion Randy Sweet, who plans to make a strong run for another championship. Also headlining the Late Model field will be two-time track champion Joe Bush, returning to Berlin Raceway after competing last season at Kalamazoo.Bush will be teammates with Terry Senneker, as both drive for the strong T.A. Gentry team. In addition, the heated battle between 2001 Sportsman champion Cort Corwin and second-place finisher Billy Shotko will move up to the Late Model division in 2002.

Other former champions scheduled to run Coors Light Late Models include Tim DeVos, Tom Thomas, Scott Thomas, Brian Wiersma and Tim Sweeney.

The Engine Pro Super Stock points battle also looks to be strong, as 2001 third place finisher Ray Clay, fourth place John Smith Sr., sixth place and former champion Bob Bliss and seventh place Jeff Hennip can all be considered championship favorites.

A large rookie class is entered in the Michigan Truck Accessories Sportsman division, where the favorites for the points battle should be last year's third through fifth place finishers, Dave Lake, Mike Root and Joe Dochod, respectively. Root and Dochod both enter the season with brand new cars.

Facility Improvements
New for the 2002 season are a second round of improvements to the facility, focusing mainly on driver and pit conveniences after last year's fan convenience and safety upgrades. Improvements include new permanent restrooms in the pits, upgraded electrical systems throughout the pits, a re-built tech area in the pits, barrier-free seating areas in the grandstands and on-site administrative offices.

Racing Format
Modifications to the racing format are also in store for the 2002 racing season. As in the past, points will be awarded for qualifying, feature and consolation races in all divisions. The Super Stock and Sportsman divisions will now receive points for their finish in heat races, while the Sportsman feature race is expanded from the top 20 time-trial qualifiers to the top 22 qualifiers (the Super Stock entry list is small enough that all drivers will advance to the feature).

The Late Model division will no longer run heat races; instead a Last Chance race will be held. The top four finishers of the non-points Last Chance race will transfer into the Late Model feature, joining the top 24 time-trial qualifiers to round out the feature field of 28.

The top 10 drivers in the Coors Light Late Model division points will receive one provisional to be used at any time during the season to get into a feature if they have not already qualified into it via time trials or transferring from the Last Chance race.

Driver Winnings A $24,000 contingency program, the first of its kind at Berlin Raceway and designed to reward drivers for performance-based criteria, is in place for the 2002 season. In addition, the end-of-season driver points fund payout has been increased by $10,000 (points fund sponsors remain the same for 2002: Port City Racing, Hoosier Tire and Van Manen Oil). The points fund and contingency awards bring the total points fund purse for 2002 to more than $64,000.

Finally, the weekly payout for all three divisions has increased by a total of more than $20,000 for the season.

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