Berlin Raceway race notes 2005-04-16

Berlin Raceway's 2005 season starts with a bang Campbell, Sweeney, Lake, Bockheim take home checkers on opening night MARNE, MI -- Berlin Raceway's 55th season roared to life Saturday night as the season opener was met with great weather and a...

Berlin Raceway's 2005 season starts with a bang
Campbell, Sweeney, Lake, Bockheim take home checkers on opening night

MARNE, MI -- Berlin Raceway's 55th season roared to life Saturday night as the season opener was met with great weather and a nice crowd of 4,520 fans. Familiar names filled victory lane, which for the first time in the track's distinguished history was visited by champions in four separate divisions.

Twenty-six-year-old Brian Campbell led the 50-lap Coors Light Late Model feature from wire to wire to win the first Coors Light Late Model feature of the 2005 season. #22 Campbell started on the front row alongside #33 Dave Stehouwer, who held second position until lap 11 when Campbell's father, 10-time track champion #47 Fred Campbell, made the pass into second place and set his sights on his son for the lead. It never materialized, though, as the top two positions stayed the same through three caution flags (for the slow #6 Jerry Weavers Jr. car on lap 14, a spin involving #15 Brian Maxim and #11 Leroy Magoon on the frontstretch on lap 18 and a long slide by #1 Randy Sweet on lap 22). Then on lap 48, 2003 points champion #12 Tim DeVos passed Fred Campbell for second place, but he wasn't able to catch the #22 car of Brian Campbell, who went on to victory by a .913 second margin over DeVos. The race lasted just 26 minutes. It was the first career Late Model feature win for Campbell, a 26-year-old from Wyoming who is in his sixth year racing at Berlin and fifth year in the Late Model division. He's driving a new car with a new team this season and, if he were to compete full-time at Berlin, would be one of the favorites to win a championship after two consecutive fourth-place points finishes. Campbell plans to race just part-time at Berlin and also compete in the travelling ASA Late Model series. Fred Campbell finished third, follo wed by #222 Caleb Bisacky and #28 Scott Thomas.

The return of Kentwood's Tim Sweeney to Berlin Raceway and the Engine Pro Super Stock division after a couple years off was a positive experience to say the least. Sweeney, the 1997 Sportsman champion, jumped to the Late Model division in 1998 and raced there for several years before taking the 2003 season off. In 2004 he dabbled in the Super Stock division, racing in just four features and finishing as high as sixth place. That seems to have set him up for a promising 2005 season in Berlin's second-highest division. Sweeney, driving the #88 car, qualified sixth fastest and started the race from the second row. Sweeney methodically picked off the leaders, passing #13 James Haney for third position on lap 7 then getting around #H7 John Smith Sr. on lap 11 for second position. He took the lead on lap 17 of the 30-lap feature by passing #12 Phil Greene and charged to the checkered flag, winning by almost a 3-second margin over defending division champion #1 Brian Wiersma. Haney finished third, followed by #19 Nick Shotko and Smith.

In the 25-lap Standale Lumber Pro Stock feature, #40 Cutler started on the front row and jumped out to the early lead. Caution came early as #89 Kirk Meissner and #71 Kyle Ballard tangled on the second lap of the race. Lap 16 proved to be a challenge, with caution waving twice for spins, first by #99 Todd Root and second by #23 Andrew MacIntosh. #55 Dave Lake took lead on the third try at completing lap 16 with a heads-up restart, passing #15 Casey Berenbrock, Cutler and #7 Kevin DeGood quickly to take the lead. It appeared that Berenbrock and Cutler weren't aware that the green flag was coming out at that time and didn't get a jump on the re-start. Lake went on to win the inaugural Standale Lumber Pro Stock race. The Howard City driver is in his 14th year racing at Berlin. He is driving a new car this season and attempting to break through for his first division championship after finishing secon d or third in points in each of the last four seasons. Lake and his Pro Stock competitors previously competed in the Sportsman division but chose to step up to this new advanced division when the huge Sportsman field was split into two divisions after last season.

In the Standale Interiors Sportsman feature, #6 Terry Bockheim prevailed at the end, leading only the last lap - the one that counts - in the 15-lap feature. He passed rookie #2 Shawn Simon on lap 15 to secure the victory. Simon finished second, followed by rookie #15 Mat McClarren, #33 Allen Davis and rookie #13 Brad Haney. Bockheim, from Grand Rapids, is in his 19th season racing at Berlin and figures to be the early favorite in the Sportsman division. He's finished as high as fifth in points in the division (1998) and won his first feature race in 2002. Bockheim is coming off a 13th place points finish last year in what was then a combined division before it spun off an advanced division, the Pro Stocks, due to high car counts and the disparity in the division.

Racing action resumes next Saturday night, April 23, for a weekly points race. Tickets are $11 in advance and $12 at the gate for general admission (kids 3-12 are half price) Pit passes for those 16 and over are $25. Gates open at 11 a.m. and the first race begins at 7 p.m.

Complete race results and point standings will be sent out on Monday and will be available online at www.berlinraceway.com on Monday.

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