Utica-Rome 2004 review, 2005 preview

Utica-Rome Speedway Enjoys Successful 2004 Season, Looks Ahead To 2005 VERNON, NY- The 2004 season at Utica-Rome Speedway actually started during the off-season with a steady flow of press releases announcing a series of incentive programs,...

Utica-Rome Speedway Enjoys Successful 2004 Season, Looks Ahead To 2005

VERNON, NY- The 2004 season at Utica-Rome Speedway actually started during the off-season with a steady flow of press releases announcing a series of incentive programs, the new track surface, and the formation of a huge point fund for the DIRT 358-Modifieds. A hefty $10,000 was going to the 358-Modified track champion at the end of season, with the 10th place finisher in points getting $1,000.

20 year old Niagara-on-the-Lake native Stewart Friesen started his quest for the $10,000 358-Modified championship in fine style by winning the first 4 events of the season at Utica-Rome Speedway. Overall, Friesen graced victory lane 8 times in the potent Madsen Overhead Door ride en route to his first ever 358-Modified title at the Vernon half mile.

Vermont native Dave Camara made the trek every week to the Utica-Rome Speedway and even though he was running up front every week, he was unable to go home with a victory. His top 5 and top 10 finishes matched that of the champion Friesen during the point season with 11 and 13, respectively, helping him finish 2nd in the overall standings. Camara took home a hefty $6,000 for his second place finish in the point standings.

The 3rd place finisher in points was also unable to find victory lane in 2004, but Mitch Gibbs also used consistent finishes to help his cause in the standings. The Nice n' Easy Grocery Shoppes numbered 2g found his groove late in the season and was threat every week in the second half of the season. Gibbs collected $4,000 for his efforts.

Spencerport's Todd Burley has always been fast at the Vernon oval, and 2004 was no different. Burley netted 2 wins on the season on his way to his 4th place finish in the standings and received $2,500 at the season ending banquet.

Filling out the top 5 in the standings was Brian Weaver from Windsor NY. Weaver stated at the beginning of the season that he came to win races, and he was able to collect 2 wins throughout the season. The southern tier standout was awarded $2,000 for his 5th place finish in the overall standings.

The rest of the top 10 were Mark Flach, Bobby Varin (2 wins), Jamie Christian (1 win), Willy Decker, and Gus Schmidt.

The race of the year was when the Turning Stone Casino Super DIRT Series made a midweek stop on August 26. Bobby Varin charged from the 19th position to lead in the early stages of the 100 lap affair only to have a series of late race cautions end his bid for the victory. Alan Johnson took home the win in a race that saw 12 lead changes among 8 drivers.

Jessica Zemken continued the year of the "young guns" at the Utica-Rome Speedway as the 18 year old driver started the season with 3 race win streak in the Sportsman division. She finished the season with 4 wins and the overall points champion. Veteran Sportsman competitor Mike Button finished 2nd in the standing, netting 3 wins throughout the season. Paul Carey had a career season in the Sportsman division, grabbing his 1st career win and backing that up with 2 more wins by the season's end, including a win in the Sunoco Race Fuels Sportsman Super DIRT Series. Another driver that picked up his 1st career win is Billy Price and managed a 4th place finish in the standings. Rookie driver Kenny Stafford also netted his 1st win and a fine 5th place finish in his first full season of competition. Steve Way (1 win), Jeremy Vunk, Bill Shantel, Jr. (1 win), Butch Reiter, and Tim Nye filled out the top 10 in the Sportsman point standings.

Like Friesen and Zemken, Roy Fifield started the season with a win streak that would launch him into a points lead that he would never relinquish as he won the first 5 Pro Stock events and finishing the season with 6 wins and the Pro Stock championship. Multi-time Utica Rome Speedway Pro Stock champion Bret Belden did not manage to find victory lane at the speedway in 2004 but was consistent enough to finish second in the overall standings. Oneida's Jason Rood was also a model of consistency throughout the season, having four 2nd place finishes before winning the last events of the season, including the Empire Sports Network Super DIRT Series event on Labor Day Weekend. The late season run cemented a 3rd place finish in the standings for Rood. Tom Denton returned to the Pro Stock ranks in 2004 looking for the success he enjoyed in past years. Denton managed to grab 1 win for the season while be in the running for many more, and he finished 4th in the standings. 2003 champion Jerry Holmes managed only 5th place finish in the standings in 2004 despite winning 4 times. The constancy that Holmes displayed in 2003 escaped him this past season. Finishing out the top 10 were Dave Moyer, Bob Mills (1 win), Brian Belden, Ryan Lund, and Mark Effner.

Even though he missed the opening 2 nights of Pure Stock competition at the Utica-Rome Speedway in 2004, when Russ Marsden did show up he was virtually unbeatable. Marsden won 11 of the next 13 events and grabbed the point lead on the last night of competition to become the 2004 Pure Stock champion. Chris Cunningham finished 2nd in the standings, winning once and having a handful of top 5 finishes. After winning the opening 2 events, Dave Pope led the chase for the championship until the final night of competition when he fell to 3rd in the standings. Veteran Pure Stock campaigner Chuck Cushman was the 4th place finisher in the standings, netting 1 win for the season with fan favorite Jim Thomas finishing out the top 5. The remainder of the top 10 was Bob Bird, Art Newman, Rick Condes, Dave Janczuk, and Phil Norman.

After a successful debut in June, the IMCA Modifieds were signed on for the remainder of the season as a regular division. George Catanzano immediately adapted to the fast Utica-Rome Speedway, grabbing 4 wins en route to his championship. Kevin Buff finished in the runner-up position while grabbing 1 win on the season. Aaron Jacobs, Skip Pabis, Jojo Donato rounded out the top 5 positions in the overall the standings. Sean Lias (1 win), Dale Caswell (1 win), Bill Anderson, Lyle Smith, and Chris Thurston were the remainder of the top 10 in the standings.

Chuck Powelczyk was the Four Cylinder Super Stock champion in their inaugural season at the speedway on the strength of his 6 wins. Joey Delacruz, Jack Hill (2 wins), Jim Money (4 wins), and Lee Hartzog chased Powelczyk in the standings.

The season concluded in November at the Turning Stone Casino Resort with the annual Awards gala where nearly $50,000 was handed out in point money and bonuses. At the banquet, several announcements were made concerning the improvements at the speedway. The surface was reconfigured, evening out the transition in the banking in the turns, new fencing put up for the spectators, and the turn 4 wall being extended as a safety measure for the drivers. Also in late December, an announcement was made concerning the sanctioning of the speedway. DIRT Motorsports was not returning as a sanctioning body, and the speedway will operate as an independent in 2005.

To keep up to date on information concerning the speedway in the off-season, log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com throughout the winter months of call the speedway at (315) 829-4557.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Bobby Varin