Thomas, Gipson, Berenbrock, Van Zalen take checkers; Billy Shotko named champion of School Bus Racing (round 1) MARNE, MI -- Tom Thomas got back to his winning ways Saturday night in the Coors Light Late Model feature, Casey Berenbrock showed...
Thomas, Gipson, Berenbrock, Van Zalen take checkers; Billy Shotko named champion of School Bus Racing (round 1)
MARNE, MI -- Tom Thomas got back to his winning ways Saturday night in the Coors Light Late Model feature, Casey Berenbrock showed his clout in the Standale Lumber Pro Stock feature, and two first-time winners, Brian Van Zalen and rookie Sean Gipson, claimed the checkered flags in the Standale Interiors Sportsman and Engine Pro Super Stock features, respectively. But the most exciting win of the night was possibly Billy Shotko's victory in the School Bus Race feature.
In the first of two School Bus Race nights (in conjunction with Reading Club Nights), the #74 bus of Paul Namey beat #12 Tim DeVos in the first heat race by a nose (...if DeVos's bus had a nose, it would have been a different story!). #27 Billy Shotko won the second heat and then held off #99 Todd Root in side-by-side racing to win the feature. Most of the 6-lap feature involved 3-wide racing and extensive bumping and rubbing. #30 Zach Dunson protested Shotko's feature win by using his bus to try to push Shotko out of the winners circle, but Dunson was ejected from the track by flagman Tony Postma (after Postma convinced him to open his door so he could be heard), and things settled down in time for Shotko to claim his toy school bus trophy. Round 2 of School Bus Races (or "Revenge Night") will be held on the next Reading Club Night, June 4.
The Standale Interiors Sportsman division raced an extra-long 25-lap feature in honor of Standale Interiors Sportsman night. #14 Mat McClarren jumped out to a big early lead, but #44 Brian Van Zalen closed in and took the lead on lap 9. Meanwhile, powerhouse #6 Terry Bockheim, winner of the first two features of the season, fell out of the race on lap 5 with car trouble. The first caution flag waved on lap 13 as fastest qualifier #2 Shawn Simon spun off the high side in turn 2, then another caution came out on lap 15 as #51 Sara Moerman and #63 Richard DeJong got together in turn 2, causing Moerman to spin, then #62 Charlie DeJong and #5 Jack Russell joined the fracas. Van Zalen, a 21-year-old from Wyoming in his third season at Berlin, held on to the lead and cruised to his first-ever feature victory by 1.228 seconds over rookie McClarren. #9 Jeff Sterken finished third, followed by Simon and #13 Brad Haney.
In a rare caution-free Engine Pro Super Stock 30-lap feature, #H7 John Smith Sr. led most of the way but broke on lap 25 and was done for the night. Rookie #45 Sean Gipson grabbed the lead with a 3-wide move on lap 25 and ran away with the lead, coming home with a surprise win. It was the first-ever feature win at Berlin for the 24-year-old from Grand Rapids, who raced for four years in the Sportsman division before moving up to the Super Stock division this season. #5 Jack Drolema Jr., who led the race early, finished second, followed by defending champion #1 Brian Wiersma, #88 Tim Sweeney and #98 Bob Bliss.
In the Coors Light Late Model feature, a plethora of crashes again this week slowed the pace to an average of just 32 miles per hour as it took 40 minutes to complete 50 laps. The crash-fest began on the first lap as #21 Johnny VanDoorn hit the wall. Several others were involved, including enough damage to #55 Joe Mazie, #26 Chris Muyskens and #15 Brian Maxim to send them off the track. Early leader #33 Dave Stehouwer held off #82 Tom Thomas for 11 laps but gave way on lap 12 as Thomas took over the lead. The two cars maintained their positions through several cautions until lap 39, when Tom's brother Scott Thomas got by Stehouwer for second position. Another melee occurred on lap 41 involving #57 Rick Senneker, #11 Leroy Magoon, #1 Randy Sweet and several others, and when it was all said and done, only 11 cars remained running at the finish. Tom Thomas won the main event after having to race his way into the feature last week through the Last Chance race; he was followed by Scott Thomas, Stehouwer, #27 Billy Shotko and #X Ray Clay.
In the final event of the night, the Standale Lumber Pro Stock feature, #55 Dave Lake came from the middle of the 22-car pack to threaten for the lead, but the winner of the first two Pro Stock features of the season couldn't get by #15 Casey Berenbrock, who claimed his first win of the season and proved he's a heavy hitter in the division. The 18-year-old from Conklin, MI, finished third in the point standings last season and is making an impact already this year. #71 Kyle Ballard finished third, followed by #49 Dave D'Avignon and #77 Andrew Nylaan.
Racing action resumes next Saturday night, May 14, as the MSA Supermodifieds make their first-ever visit to Berlin Raceway. Joining the supermodifieds will be points races for the Late Model, Pro Stock and Sportsman divisions. Tickets are $19 in advance and $20 at the gate for general admission (kids 3-12 are half price) Pit passes for those 16 and over are $25. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m.
Complete race results and point standings will be sent out on Monday and will be available online at www.berlinraceway.com on Monday.