Berlin Raceway race notes 2004-05-15

Sweet, Smith, Van Haitsma rule the night Benson runs out of laps, finishes 4th MARNE, MI -- Six-time Coors Light Late Model Champion Randy Sweet claimed victory for the first time in a year, sophomore Terry Van Haitsma won his second straight...

Sweet, Smith, Van Haitsma rule the night
Benson runs out of laps, finishes 4th

MARNE, MI -- Six-time Coors Light Late Model Champion Randy Sweet claimed victory for the first time in a year, sophomore Terry Van Haitsma won his second straight (and second ever) Standale Lumber Sportsman feature, and 17-year Berlin veteran John Smith Sr. won his first Engine Pro Super Stock race in two years Saturday night at Berlin Raceway on Engine Pro Super Stock Night presented by Engine Pro. A crowd of 5,276 braved the chilly but finally dry weather for the show.

The Coors Light Late Model division ran a double-length 100-lap feature to make up laps postponed due to rain on April 24. The impressive field included all the Berlin regulars as well as NASCAR Nextel Cup veteran Johnny Benson of Grand Rapids and 3-time ARCA RE/MAX Champion Tim Steele of Coopersville. The 32-car field made for heavy traffic on the 7/16 mile oval, and it took pole-sitter #1 Randy Sweet only 18 laps to begin lapping the tail end of the field. Benson, who started in 31st position after taking a provisional, moved up to 23rd position by lap 20 and then patiently made his way up to 17th by lap 40. Meanwhile Steele, who started last in 32nd by using a provisional, was not so fortunate, going a lap down on lap 21 and coming into the pits on lap 32 with handling problems.

On lap 35 the #82 car of Tom Thomas took the lead from Sweet in a two-car battle that would last 100 laps. Benson had moved up to 10th place by the half-way point. The race was slowed by four single-car cautions up to the half-way point, then on lap 52 a four-car crash between turns 3 and 4 involving #18 Lee Anderson, #21 Brian Maxim, #55 Joe Mazie and defending points champion #12 Tim DeVos brought out the red flag. Sweet regained the lead on lap 57 and by lap 70 the two lead cars had pulled away from the field by a half a lap. The other great battle on the track was for fourth place between veterans #47 Fred Campbell, #11 John Grega and Benson, a battle that lasted the final third of the race. Benson got by Grega on lap 91 and then moved around Campbell for fourth on lap 99. A final caution came out on lap 99 for a spin by #32 Ross Meeuwsen, setting up a showdown between the top six cars. #101 Joe Bush, in third, had been the fastest car on the track the final few laps and was closing in on the leaders before the caution, but he was not able to get by Sweet and Thomas on the final sprint. Sweet, of Kalamazoo, came home with the Fel-Pro Trophy presented by The Federal Mogul Group sponsored by Engine Pro for the first time in a year (his last win was on May 17, 2003). Thomas finished second, followed by Bush, Benson and Campbell. Just 12 of the 32 cars finished on the lead lap. Benson won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing the most positions (27) from start to finish. Bush retains the points lead over Thomas, Sweet, #22 Brian Campbell and Grega.

In the Engine Pro Super Stock feature, a special 50-lap feature on Engine Pro Super Stock Night presented by Engine Pro, 17-year veteran John Smith Sr. of Sand Lake claimed the Clevite Trophy presented by The Dana Corp. sponsored by Engine Pro for the first time in two years, leading every lap from the pole position. A handful of single-car cautions slowed the race early, but the hardest crash of the event came on lap 43 involving #9 Nick Shotko and #98 Bob Bliss between turns 3 and 4, bringing out the red flag for clean-up. On lap 46, #14 Arendsen slipped off the backstretch and into the foam barrier, and the yellow/checker was thrown four laps shy of the scheduled 50-lap completion due to the late hour and falling temperatures. Smith rolled to victory, followed by #1 Brian Wiersma, #5 Ray VanAllsburg, #13 James Haney and #76 Warren Speet. #71 Dan VanderMolen won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 8 positions to finish 11th. Wiersma leads Speet in the point standings by 34 points.

In the 25-lap Standard Lumber Sportsman division, second-year driver #21 Terry Van Haitsma of Hudsonville claimed his second straight Powerflex Trophy presented by Hastings Manufacturing Co. sponsored by Engine Pro. The hardest crash of the night came on lap 17 as #4 Nick Gebben and #24 Lee VanDyk both hit the frontstretch wall hard. #23 Chris Koslek was also involved. Both Gebben and VanDyk were transported to the hospital for observation and were released overnight. Van Haitsma, who started from the fifth slot, won for the second time in his career ahead of 17-year-old #15 Casey Berenbrock, #40 Dave Cutler, #20 Dave Hull and #77 Andrew Nylaan. #89 Kirk Meissner won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 13 positions from last starting position to 9th. Van Haitsma holds a commanding 59-point lead over Berenbrock, also a second-year driver, in the point standings.

Berlin Raceway will be back in action next Saturday night, May 22, for a weekly show presented by Van Manen Oil. Coors Light Late Model, Engine Pro Super Stock and Standale Lumber Sportsman divisions will compete. Tickets are $11 in advance and $12 at the gate for general admission and $25 for pit passes. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m.

-br-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Johnny Benson , Tim Steele