Crave returns to defend Utica-Rome Sportsman Championship

VERNON, NY - 2000 Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Sportsman track champion Kevin Crave will be returning to the speedway this season to defend his first career track crown. However, he will have his hands full as division has grown leaps and bounds and...

VERNON, NY - 2000 Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Sportsman track champion Kevin Crave will be returning to the speedway this season to defend his first career track crown. However, he will have his hands full as division has grown leaps and bounds and this year is looking to be at its highest level of competition ever.

Crave, of West Winfield, only won one feature event last season, but he will be back with a new team with a potent Bicknell 2001x machine. His rival and seven-time 2000 feature winner Jamie Christian will return with the John Hodge owned team, and will also be one to watch this season.

Other top Sportsman teams returning this season include popular local driver Willy Decker of Vernon, plus Paul Kinney, Steve Davis, Paul Carey, John Kinsella, Craig Pritchard, Ray Zemken, Jessica Zemken, Billy Shantel, Jr., and many others.

One of the big off-season rumors about the Sportsman division is that all-time winner and former track champion Jim Rothwell and three-time winner Tim Clemons would be returning to the division. The rumors are true, as both drivers will be back in full force, upping the level of competition even more.

Tom Denton, the 1999 and 2000 Utica-Rome DIRT Pro Stock track champion will be moving up into the Sportsman division this year. Denton will be behind the wheel of the 2000 Troyer machine that Crave won the track championship with, and the popular Denton could very well be tough in his rookie campaign.

New drivers besides Denton include Todd Thomas, Ryan Phelps, Mike Button, Mike Burnett, and multiple others. Speedway management is expecting close to 40-teams on a weekly basis.

Todd Thomas, the son of Utica-Rome Modified driver Joel Thomas, will be in his rookie season in the DIRT Sportsman division at Utica-Rome. Todd has warmed his father's Modified up in the past, and is very excited to race in the Sportsman this year, behind the wheel of a Troyer chassis.

Ryan Phelps, the 17-year old son of Utica-Rome veteran Modified driver Roger Phelps, will be making his stock car racing debut in the Sportsman division at Utica-Rome. Phelps has driven Microds, Dwarf Cars, Four Cylinders, and most recently Slingshots, and could be one to watch as he has a well-known racing family behind him.

The name Button is certainly no stranger to Utica-Rome race fans, as Gordy "Panic" Button scored numerous Modified and Sprint Car victories at the speedway. However, Gordy is on the sidelines searching for a ride, but his brother Mike, the inaugural Mr. DIRT Sportsman champion in 1990, will be competing weekly at Utica-Rome in the Sportsman division. Although never a winner at Utica-Rome, Button will be one of the top dogs when he gets used to the tricky Utica-Rome half mile. Button numerous wins and track championships between Canandaigua, Rolling Wheels, and Cayuga County Fair Speedways.

The competition in the DIRT Sportsman division at Utica-Rome looks to be at an all-time high. Car counts have rebounded tremendously over the past few years, and the DIRT Motorsports sanction has really helped the division. Utica-Rome regular Sportsman teams will have quite a challenge in defending their home turf against the invading "Dig Safely New York" Sportsman Super DIRT Series teams scheduled to visit the speedway for a special 30-lap event on Sunday May 13.

For more information on the 2001 racing season, which begins Sunday May 6 at the Utica-Rome Speedway, contact the speedway office at (315) 829-4557 or log onto www.newuticaromespeedway.com.

-URS-

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