VERNON, NY - Todd Burley of Spencerport clinched his first career DIRT 358-Modified track championship last Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway with his sixth victory of the 2001 season on NYSSCA Night. Burley, 30, came from the twelfth starting...
VERNON, NY - Todd Burley of Spencerport clinched his first career DIRT 358-Modified track championship last Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway with his sixth victory of the 2001 season on NYSSCA Night. Burley, 30, came from the twelfth starting position and took the lead from Gus Schmidt on lap 16 to lead the remainder of the 30-lap distance. The dominating win for the driver of the Mirabito Fuel Group No. 89b Troyer machine was worth $1,500.
Also winning were Willy Decker of Vernon in the DIRT Sportsman, John Pietrowicz of Phoenix in the DIRT Pro Stocks, Jeff Pastorella of Westmoreland in the Pure Stocks, and Denny Tilison of Cobleskill in the Slingshots.
John Barker and Jim Rothwell brought the headline 30-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature down to the green flag from Starter Dick Sweet, with Barker taking the early race lead. Making great advances of position by the end of lap two were Todd Burley and Jack Johnson. Both drivers, who started twelfth and fourteenth respectively, were already racing side by side for the eighth position as lap two was completed. Jim Rothwell caught Barker and took over the race lead on lap 3, as Barker and Gus Schmidt raced for second. Barker pulled away from Schmidt and began pressuring Rothwell for the lead as the next few laps ticked by. Barker and Rothwell were racing hard, and Barker was able to edge out ahead on lap 7 to lead. However, the third and fourth place cars of Schmidt and J.J. Michaels had reeled in the top two as an entertaining four-car battle for the lead ensued. They were all racing together, but Schmidt was able to pull a quick inside lane move to go around Rothwell and Barker for the lead on lap 8.
Schmidt, who started eighth, opened up a sizable lead over the next several laps. Making his presence known in the top five on lap 11 was Todd Burley, who raced into fifth. On a restart just one lap later, Burley, on the outside, pulled a thrilling three wide move in turn one and raced right into second position. Jack Johnson and Mitch Gibbs had their own battle for fifth over the next few laps, as they exchanged the spot several times.
At the halfway mark, the top five was Schmidt, Burley, Barker, Michaels, and Gibbs, but Burley was flying and had already caught Schmidt. Burley went underneath Schmidt in turn three and took over the race lead as they completed lap 16. The war for fifth between Gibbs and Johnson raged on, but Johnson won out after a lap 18 restart when he went right around Gibbs to take fifth and began dogging Michaels for fourth. Johnson seemed to be on a mission in the orange No. 12a as he got by Michaels and went right to work on Barker to take over third on lap 21. Johnson was still flying, as he caught Schmidt on lap 23, and applied serious pressure over the next few laps. Johnson appeared to be faster but just could not get by Schmidt as Gibbs had got by Michaels and Barker four fourth with just two laps to go.
A final lap restart set up a possible battle for the win, but Burley was just too strong for the competition as he raced on to his sixth win of the 2001 season at Utica-Rome and put a lock on his first ever DIRT 358-Modified track championship. Schmidt held off Johnson on the final lap for second and Johnson had to settle for third. Gibbs came from thirteenth to finish fourth with Barker in fifth. Completing the top ten it was Michaels, Aaron Excel, Roger Phelps, Jason Barney, and Wayne Reutimann Jr.
In victory lane, a happy Burley commented, "We are really happy tonight. The car was just garbage in the heat race, and we changed about four or five things after the heat. That was tough to do, cause we had a short intermission. This Morrison motor and new Troyer 4-Link were just flawless tonight." The win for Burley was the ninth of his career at Utica-Rome, spread out over three seasons of competition.
Three yellows slowed the event, only for minor spins and one flat tire, suffered by Ryan Baye who was second in points heading into the night. Barker and Johnson won the 358-Modified heat races.
Willy Decker came from the seventeenth starting position and took the lead from Steve Way on lap 10 enroute to his third DIRT Sportsman feature win of the season at Utica-Rome. Craig Pritchard led the opening lap of the 20-lap caution filled affair, until Way took command on lap 2. Points leader Tim Clemons finished second, with former track champion Jamie Christian in third. Bill Shantel Jr. and Paul Carey continued their recent good runs with fourth and fifth respectively. Clemons, Pritchard, and Carey copped the heat race wins. Clemons holds a 72-point lead over Jamie Christian with just two points races remaining in the division.
John Pietrowicz returned to the speedway from an absence of over a month to take home his third 15-lap Utica-Rome DIRT Pro Stock victory of the season. Pietrowicz started in fourteenth and quickly worked his way to the frontside of the grid and took the lead from Mark Effner on lap 11 to lead the rest of the distance. Second was Mark Effner, third was Bret Belden, fourth was Wayne Archer, and fifth was Chad Ray. Effner and Jason Rood were the heat race winners. The battle for the track championship in the DIRT Pro Stocks has heated up. With only three points shows remaining, Bret Belden has took control over Jerry Holmes by 18-points in the standings.
Jeff Pastorella continued his dominance of the Pure Stock division by winning his eighth feature of the year. Pastorella came from ninth on the starting grid and took the lead from Art Newman Jr. on lap 5 to lead the remainder of the 15-lap distance. Waylan Wilczek, David Pope, Jim Thomas, and Les Lewis rounded out the top five. Newman and Pope won the heat races.
Denny Tilison continued his march to the Slingshot track championship with his second 12-lap victory of the 2001 season. Mike Waterman, Mike Teachout, Jackie Botindari, and Randy Marsh completed the top five, while Botindari won the lone heat event. Waterman led the first nine circuits of the feature event until Tilison took over on lap 10.
The first New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) member to cross the line in each feature was awarded an extra $50 for their efforts. Todd Burley, Willy Decker, Mark Effner, Jeff Pastorella, and Denny Tilison copped the awards. Wild card winners worth an extra $25 were also given out to Jack Johnson, Mitch Gibbs, Aaron Excel, Jamie Christian, Bill Knapp, and Randy Marsh.
NYSSCA also inducted Sonney Seamon, Bernie Miller, and Jon Button into the coveted NYSSCA Hall of Fame. The evening also celebrated the speedway's 40th anniversary, and many cars and stars of the speedway's past were on hand for the much-anticipated "Night of Legends". More information on the 40th anniversary celebration will be released in the near future.
Notes - 20 Modifieds, 28 Sportsman, 22 Pro Stocks, 18 Pure Stocks, and 9 Slingshots were on hand on a Sunday evening when racing was not excepted due to severe storms all over the Central New York area. Racing was completed at 9:15pm, and unbelievably, the rain never arrived until one hour after the races ended. The Modified chassis win count: Troyer 9, TEO 5, and Bicknell 1. Six different drivers have won in the headline DIRT 358-Modifieds to date, including Todd Burley (6), Jack Johnson (3), J.J. Michaels (2), Mitch Gibbs (2), Danny Johnson (1), and John Ramsey (1). Coming up this Thursday is the Tracey Road Equipment / Freightliner Selec Trucks 100-lap Big Block Modified Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series event. Also in action will be the DIRT Pro Stocks in a regular points event. Time trials begin at 6:45pm, with racing taking the green at 7:30pm. Next Sunday, a regular program of DIRT 358-Modifeds (Final Points show for Mods ONLY), DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and Slingshots will be presented at 6pm. For more information, contact the speedway office at (315) 829-4557 or log onto www.newuticaromespeedway.com.