Berlin Raceway race notes 2004-06-16

Benson wins Spring Memorial 125; Waltrip finishes 16th in first-ever Berlin Raceway appearance MARNE, MI -- Grand Rapids' own Johnny Benson claimed victory Wednesday night in the Spring Memorial 125 presented by Meijer and Tony's Pizza, the ...

Benson wins Spring Memorial 125; Waltrip finishes 16th in first-ever Berlin Raceway appearance

MARNE, MI -- Grand Rapids' own Johnny Benson claimed victory Wednesday night in the Spring Memorial 125 presented by Meijer and Tony's Pizza, the longest Coors Light Late Model race in Berlin Raceway history. Benson drove to victory in his #10 Aaron's Rents car that he built especially for racing several times a year at Berlin Raceway.

NASCAR Nextel Cup star Michael Waltrip made his first-ever appearance at Berlin, finishing in 16th position, the first car one lap down, after battling a loose race car for all 125 laps. Waltrip signed hundreds of autographs in several autograph sessions throughout the day to the delight of the 6,330 fans in attendance.

The 125-lap Memorial, with a 28-car Coors Light Late Model field, began at 8:40 p.m. as the threat of rain that had dampened the afternoon dissipated. A second-lap crash by #26 Chris Muyskens off the backstretch and into the barrier foam brought out the first caution of the day. Back under green, Benson, who started in 10th position, charged through the field, moving up to 5th position by lap 10. Cautions on lap 11 for a #33 Dave Stehouwer miscue off the backstretch, then again on lap 30 as #32 Ross Meeuwsen spun in turn 2, slowed the pace.

Benson took the lead from the #101 car, points leader Joe Bush, on lap 39 and held the lead all the way to the mandatory caution flag for pit stops on lap 75. Teams were given a 5-minute time limit in the pits to re-fuel and make necessary adjustments before restarting the race for the final 50-lap shootout. Benson gave the crowd a scare as cars started rolling off the grid for the restart, experiencing a transmission problem but managing to get it going and back to his lead position before the green flag.

Benson held his lead until lap 90, when Bush passed him to regain it. But Benson never backed off, looking inside as Bush chose the high line. Benson was able to pull even with Bush in the corners but Bush pulled away on the straightaways. With 20 laps to go, Benson pulled alongside Bush and the two cars ran side by side for several laps before Benson took the lead for good on 114 and went on to win the Fel-Pro Trophy presented by The Federal Mogul Group sponsored by Engine Pro.

Meanwhile, Waltrip's battle with a loose car kept him near the back of the lead lap most of the race. The mandatory 75-lap caution saved him from being lapped by Benson, but Benson got him on lap 119 to put him the first car one lap down, where he finished in 16th position. He amused the crowd and media after the race by posing with Benson's car, trophy and the checkered flag in the winners circle as Benson was busy with a radio interview.

Second-year Hudsonville driver Terry Van Haitsma continued his domination of the Standale Lumber Sportsman division, winning a double-length 50-lap feature prior to the Spring Memorial 125 main event. Van Haitsma collected his fourth Powerflex Trophy presented by Hastings Manufacturing Co. sponsored by Engine Pro in seven races this season. He started in eighth position and charged to the front, taking the lead on lap 18 and never relinquishing it. Van Haitsma holds a 117-point lead over Dave Lake in the season standings.

Berlin Raceway is back in business Saturday night, June 19, as the Sunoco Super Series (150 laps) and USA Modified Series (50 laps) come to town. Berlin's regular Standale Lumber Sportsman division will also 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.

Complete race results and point standings can be found online at www.berlinraceway.com.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Johnny Benson