Utica-Rome season opener race report

Dale Planck returns to victory lane at Utica-Rome Speedway, Tim Clemons, Buddy Hencke, and Herm Staats also victorious. VERNON, NY- After dominating at the Utica-Rome Speedway during the mid-1990's, Dale Planck returned in 2003 hoping to regain...

Dale Planck returns to victory lane at Utica-Rome Speedway, Tim Clemons, Buddy Hencke, and Herm Staats also victorious.

VERNON, NY- After dominating at the Utica-Rome Speedway during the mid-1990's, Dale Planck returned in 2003 hoping to regain some of his past glory. Planck dominated a caution plagued 40 lap Super DIRT Week 358-Modified Championship qualifier, while Tim Clemons, Buddy Hencke, and Herm Staats also collected wins on the opening night of the 2003 season. Gates-Cole Insurance sponsored the night's activities.

Willy Decker and John Ramsey led the 26 car field to the green flag with Ramsey gaining the early advantage. On the second lap, a multi-car wreck involving Scott Brady, 2002 track champion Matt Sheppard, Ryan Baye, Mark Flach, Joel Thomas, and Larry Welling bunched the field. Willy Decker took the lead on the restart and continued to lead until Kory Gurney spun on lap 4. The lap 4 restart saw a 10 car pileup on the frontstretch, involving Rich Salisbury, Mitch Gibbs, Ray Zemken, Ryan Baye, Kevin Crave, Dave Rauscher, Mark Flach, Steve Davis, Kory Gurney, and Scott Brady. Gibbs, Davis, Flach, and Salisbury were eliminated for the evening.

Planck took the lead on lap 4 restart and continued to lead when the caution flew again on lap 5 when David Orr, Ray Zemken, RC Faigle, Kevin Crave, and Dave Rauscher tangled in turn 4. Planck continued to lead on the ensuing restart, and easily outdistanced the competition until the end despite several cautions that put Johnson on Planck's bumper.

The best battle of the night was for second, with John Ramsey and Jack Johnson thrilled the fans to a great side by side battle for many laps. Johnson finally took second from Ramsey on lap 34 and held it until the checkered flag. At the checkered it was Planck, Johnson, Ramsey, Todd Burley, and Pete Taylor. Filling out the top 10 were Brady, Rauscher, Jeff Kotary, Crave, and Gurney.

At the green of the DIRT Sportsman feature, Jamie Christian jumped to the early over fellow front row starter Paul Carey. Christian continued to lead until he went pitside on lap 8, giving the lead to Tim Clemons. Clemons easily held off Carey to win the feature event. Jessica Zemken crossed in third, with Bill Shantel Jr and Jim Roberts crossing in fourth and fifth. John Scarborough, Butch Reiter, Tim Nye, Billy Price, and Jeremy Vunk crossed in positions sixth thru tenth.

Polesitter Buddy Hencke jumped out to the early lead in the DIRT Pro Stock event, with third place starter Jason Rood falling into second early in the race. Rood and Hencke continued their rivalry from the 2002 season with Rood pressing Hencke for the lead on several occasions. Hencke held on to the end with Rood, Jim Normoyle, Jerry Holmes, and Eric Vanderhoof finishing in the top 5. Filling out the top 10 were Bret Belden, Jerry Pepper, Stan Clark, Eric Nelson, and Wayne Archer.

Dave Pope and Dave Mannise led the charge to the green flag in the Pure Stock event with Mannise gaining the early advantage. Pope took the lead on lap 6 and continued to lead until lap 11. Pope and Mannise got together coming out of turn 4 coming to lap 12, with both getting crossed up. Herm Staats took advantage of the situation and sped on by to gain the lead. Staats held off Mannise to the checkered, with Mark Davison, Pope, Waylan Wilczek completing the top 5. Mark Barker, Art Newman, Cody Streeter, Frank Hyatt, and Ted Crawford finishing in the top 10.

NOTES- 29 DIRT 358-Modifieds, 18 DIRT Sportsman, 27 DIRT Pro Stocks, and 19 Pure Stocks entered the pits for competition. Willy Decker, John Ramsey, and JJ Michaels won the DIRT 358-Modified heats. Jamie Christian and Paul Carey took the DIRT Sportsman heats. DIRT Pro Stock heats were taken by Buddy Hencke, Jim Normoyle, and Jason Rood. Dave Pope and Dave Mannise were victorious in the Pure Stock heats. Tonight's event marked the beginning of the historic oval's 42nd season of operation.

Next at the "Action Track of the East" is a regular show DIRT 358-Modifieds, DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks plus the Central New York Mini-Sprints presented by the Crossroads Community Church on Sunday May 4th. Gates open at 4 p.m., with racing beginning at 6 p.m. For more information, log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com or call the speedway office at (315) 829-4557.

-urs-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Jim Roberts , Pete Taylor