Auto City Speedway was the host for the fourth race of the USPRO Racing Series Thursday. The night began with a fly over by the Selfridge Air National Guard who also provided an Honor Guard to present the colors. The traveling circuit recorded its...
Auto City Speedway was the host for the fourth race of the USPRO Racing Series Thursday. The night began with a fly over by the Selfridge Air National Guard who also provided an Honor Guard to present the colors. The traveling circuit recorded its fourth different winner in four races when rookie Robbie Johnson celebrated his 18th birthday by taking the checkered flag in the Air National Guard 50.
For the first time the USPRO Series ran heat races. Mike Simon won the first heat followed by Dave Peffers, James Johnson, Galen Beauch, Brent Hook, John Musser and Rick Everidge. The second heat was won by Bob Varney followed by Steve Shlater Jr, Shaun Whitney, Rob Buckley, Robbie Johnson, Bill Tomlinson, Mark Kortz and Mike Carter.
The top nine qualifiers drew for position for tonight's race. R Johnson, who qualified third, drew the pole position. Seventh place qualifier Steve Shlater Jr drew the outside pole position. Fast qualifier Mike Carter drew the fifth starting position.
R Johnson surged into the lead at the drop of the green flag followed closely by the rest of the field.
Points leader Mark Kortz, who had dropped back to eighth in the opening laps, began his journey towards the front moving into third by lap 22. A battle ensued between Kortz and second place runner Steve Shlater Jr at this time. Lap after lap the duo fought for the second position. The battle came to an end when a yellow came out on lap 36.
Dave Peffers and James Johnson tangled in turn two on lap 37 bringing out the fourth and final caution. As the lead cars came out of turn four to take the caution flag, R Johnson braked hard causing the rest of the field to stack up behind him. Kortz had nowhere to go and ran into Shlater Jr. Shaun Whitney was also damaged after running into the rear end of Kortz's car in the incident.
A red flag was thrown to untangle the cars and allow USPRO officials to "adjust" the sheet metal on the several cars that received damage in one of the two accidents. Kortz was the only driver who was unable to continue and was towed back to the back pits.
Shlater Jr was given his second spot back and Whitney was put back into sixth spots back even though work had been done on their cars during the caution-red period. (If the USPRO officials stopped a car and performs the work, the driver is given his position back providing they were not the cause of the caution.)
Shlater Jr's apparent top three finish vanished on the restart. The accident left him with an ill handling car and he eventually finished 11th.
R Johnson jumped out to a half straightaway lead on the restart over second place Mike Carter. He continued to build his lead and when the checkered flag fell R Johnson had nearly a straightaway lead over Carter.
Robbie Johnson gave himself a great 18th birthday present when he won the race tonight. The Birch Run, Mich. driver is the youngest driver currently running in the USPRO Series, and set several records tonight. He set the following records:
* Youngest winner (18)
* First rookie to win a feature
* First driver to lead all 50 laps.
"I wasn't originally scheduled to run tonight's race. Brian Campbell was suppose to run it, but it was decided recently that I'd run the remainder of the year in the car. Tonight is my third late model feature win, but it's my biggest victory. I've won a weekly feature at both Dixie and Whittemore Speedways. I'm not sure I'll ever have a better car than tonight, it was as close to perfect as it could be. The car would stick where ever I put it," said R. Johnson driver of the#14 Birch Machining, Sign Depot, Bus Stop Inn Monte Carlo. Freddie Campbell drove the same car to the victory in USPRO's race #3 at Spartan Speedway two weeks ago.
Mike Carter turned a 15.40 second lap in qualifying which was good for fast qualifying time. The Highland, Mich. driver is the first driver to repeat as fast qualifier. His other fast time was at Thunder Valley Speedway. "The car was really good in traffic. At the start of the race the car was great but after that red it just tightened up too much. It developed a push and I was unable to contend for the win so I had to settle for second place. It was my career best finish," said the driver of the Champion Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Rob Buckley finished third tonight, also his career best finish. "The car handled well all race long. It was a really good car. Something strange was going on with the engine. It kept cutting out halfway down the straightaways. I really enjoyed racing this track it's so big and fast," said the driver of the Old Tyme Deli Monte Carlo.
Bill Tomlinson was an ecstatic fourth place finisher. It was Bill's career best finish, but race day didn't start out very good for the Schoolcraft, Mich. driver. Before he could get onto the track for practice laps he broke the master cylinder and the clutch line and spent the entire practice fixing his car. He had only two warm-up laps prior to qualifying on the challenging 7/16 mile track. Tomlinson turned in the sixth fastest speed, 15.50 seconds. For the feature he drew the fourth starting position and raced in the top seven all race long. Bill ultimately finished fourth. "I didn't think it was going to be our day. With the master cylinder and clutch line breaking at the start of the day. Then the radios didn't work right, I could hear my dad but he couldn't hear me. The car was real good at the start of the race, then it went away towards the end. The car's in one piece so I don't have to work on repairing it after this race, just set-ups. That's great!" said the driver of the CarMart Auto Sales, Michigan Swim Pool & Spas, Advanced Poured Walls Monte Carlo.
Shaun Whitney's Drettman Ranch, Race Fab, Mark Mackley Automotive Monte Carlo got tangled up in the lap 37 incident and sustained sheet metal damage as a result. The braces broke loose on the right side and his 'friendly' car waved at the fans for the final laps. "The damage wasn't bad, just sheet metal and some of the bars (braces). The car handled well but developed a bad push when the tires got hot," said the driver from Saginaw, Mich.
James Johnson bent the rear end of this #15 Monte Carlo when he tangled with Dave Peffers and Justin Holibaugh on lap 37. Until that time he said it was the best car he's ever had. J Johnson finished eighth.
Dave Peffers remarked that tonight's car was his best ever. The driver of the unsponsored #57 Monte Carlo gave thanks for the help from his friend Joe Jones who came up tonight to help set up his car. Peffers finished 10th.
For the top two points men, Mark Kortz and Bob Varney it wasn't a good night. Varney's car suffered ignition problems, forcing him to drop out on lap 11 and dropping him to third place in the points. ~~~ Kortz said his car, which was involved in the lap 37 incident, suffered right front damage and took everything but the frame.
Jason Holibaugh who ran only 13 laps at Spartan because of ignition problems, ran the entire raced today. "It's been a year since I've run a 50 lap feature and I'm pretty tired. I had a good time out there tonight, the track was a lot of fun to drive." said the driver of the #04 Monte Carlo.