Berck's 'Roller Coaster' Ride Ends in Xtreme Victory TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2004) -- Kyle Berck started on the pole, fell back a few spots and then charged to the front to win the Northern Xtreme DirtCar Series race at East Bay Raceway Park ...
Berck's 'Roller Coaster' Ride Ends in Xtreme Victory
TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2004) -- Kyle Berck started on the pole, fell back a few spots and then charged to the front to win the Northern Xtreme DirtCar Series race at East Bay Raceway Park Wednesday.
The win was Berck's first in the East Bay Raceway Winternationals. Berck does most of his racing at Nebraska Raceway Park in Greenwood, Neb.
"This was an unbelievable roller coaster of a race," Berck said, shaking his head.
Goodyear is the exclusive tire supplier for Xtreme. The 63-car field included drivers from 23 states.
Berck was involved in a four-car incident on the 30th lap of the 50-lap feature race and rejoined the field behind the leaders. He picked his way through traffic and regained the top spot with 41 laps complete when then-leader Don O'Neal's car dropped out of the race due to mechanical problems.
From that point on, Berck fought off challenges from Davey Johnson before finally taking the victory. Johnson won the Gemini Hard Charger Award for gaining the most positions during the race. Johnson started 23rd in the 24-car field. Jeff Smith finished third, Billy Drake was fourth and Jimmy Mars took fifth.
"This is our first year ever racing down here in Florida," said Berck. "We' ve been here a lot of years and watched."
Justin Fantozzi, Goodyear's sales and marketing manager for late model dirt, said, "That is the basis behind Goodyear's Xtreme program, a first time winner. We have created a situation where the teams are racing on equal footing, in terms of their tires. That means any team with a hot driver and a good chassis setup can win one of these races."
Wednesday's pleasantly warm temperatures and evening breezes created a different racing surface from that which the drivers experienced Monday and Tuesday. The change gave the teams a chance to race on the harder rubber compounds in Goodyear's tire lineup.
"We saw a totally different racetrack tonight," Fantozzi said. "But the racing was just as good, if not better tonight. I've been very pleased with the basic fundamentals of the package we're offering."
Berck won the race in his backup car. His primary car had problems early in the night, forcing his team to pull its second car out of the team hauler. In other seasons, that might have represented a problem because so much time was spent preparing tires for a race. But under Xtreme rules, teams are not allowed to do anything to their tires except mount them on wheels and bolt the wheels on their cars.
That rule, and Goodyear's production consistency, meant that Berck was able to start the main event with the same opportunities, in terms of his tires, as every other driver on the track.
"I learned some stuff on tires tonight," said driver Brian Birkhofer. "I'm kind of glad the race track got into the condition it did. Now everybody knows a lot more."
Birkhofer tested tires for Goodyear as the company prepared for the 2004 season. He started 19th in Wednesday's main event and had to weave his way through the field before finishing eighth.
"I've never seen any tire company so involved with the little guy," Birkhofer said. "Usually they get involved with some of the superstars in the sport and you wouldn't see them checking anything but what the big guys say. The big guys probably know the most but, you know, sometimes it doesn't hurt to get feedback from other people."
"We're here for all the competitors," Fantozzi said. "Our job is to help level the playing field and we've done that."
Thursday's race will be the second race of the 2004 Stacker2 Xtreme DirtCar Series schedule.