Berlin Raceway race report 2003-05-10

Benson takes checkered flag to make it two in a row at Berlin. MARNE, MI -- Johnny Benson returned to his home track of Berlin Raceway Saturday night for the first time since recording his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory last November, and he...

Benson takes checkered flag to make it two in a row at Berlin.

MARNE, MI -- Johnny Benson returned to his home track of Berlin Raceway Saturday night for the first time since recording his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory last November, and he delighted the crowd on Tribute to Johnny Benson Night by winning once again. Benson has now made it two straight at Berlin after winning a 100-lap feature last August 14.

Benson, in the #10 car, held off #1 Randy Sweet for the win in the 75-lap Coors Light Late Model race. The event, sponsored by Comerica Bank, raised $5,000 for the Todd Senneker Memorial Foundation in memory of the late 2001 Berlin Raceway Rookie of the Year who lost his life in early 2002 in a snowmobile accident. The foundation awards a scholarship to a graduating senior at Wayland Union High School.

Scott Root of Sparta and rookie Brandon Braisted of Wyoming won the Hitches By George Sportsman and Engine Pro Super Stock features, respectively.

In the Coors Light Late Model 75-lap feature, Benson started fourth but moved to second by lap 6 and passed #98 Bob Curry for the lead on lap 16. Meanwhile, NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Dick Trickle struggled with a loose set-up but managed to stay on the lead lap despite his 29th-place provisional start. By lap 20 it was Benson in the lead, followed by Curry, #11 John Grega, Sweet and #24 Ray Clay in the top five. Two laps later a four-car pile-up in turn 1 brought out the caution, saving Trickle from going down a lap to the speedy Benson, who appeared to be running away with the show.

After the re-start, Sweet slowly ate away at Benson's huge lead, catching up to him by lap 37 and testing him on the outside in Turns 3 and 4 every lap for 8 laps, but Benson managed to keep the lead each lap with a quicker car coming out of Turn 4. Sweet backed off on lap 45, but when Benson was slowed by lapped traffic, Sweet seized the opportunity and took the lead on lap 50. Benson re-took lead 6 laps later as the two cars pulled ahead of the field by a straightaway. Benson claimed the checkered flag to make it two in a row at Berlin, followed by Sweet, #101 Joe Bush, #12 Tim DeVos, Grega and Clay in sixth. Trickle finished 15th. Terry Senneker was named Valvoline Hard Charger by advancing 18 positions. DeVos retains his points lead by a 50-point margin over Sweet.

The 30-lap Engine Pro Super Stock feature actually began before the Late Model feature but was completed after Late Models due to a hard crash in the Turn 3 wall by #51 Scott Otterbein and #8 Paul Schaffer. Safety crew workers were forced to remove the roof of Otterbein's car in order to extricate him, but he was alert and talking. He was transported to the hospital for observation with head and neck pain. #13 James Haney, #29 Steve Sunde and #33 Jerry Groeneveld were also involved. The Late Model feature was then moved to the track after a lengthy Super Stock red flag in order to ensure the completion of the main event as threatening weather was approaching. After the Late Model feature, in the second try at a start for the Super Stocks, another hard crash delayed the race before one lap was complete as #32 Ross Meeuwsen, #71 Brandon Braisted, #14 Jon Arendsen and #17 Craig Fricke spun into the Turn 4 wall. Since one lap must be completed before the race is officially started, all cars that were able to be repaired took their original start position rather than being moved to the back of the field, meaning Braisted, who had suffered only minor damage, was able to start from his pole position. Once the race finally got under way on the third try, it took just 12 minutes and 34 seconds to complete, as Braisted, a rookie, led wire to wire on his way to victory. Meeuwsen, who overcame damage from the earlier wreck as well as a heat race wreck, managed to pull out a second place finish, followed by #98 Bob Bliss, #X Ray Clay and #3 Billy Eppink. Sunde won the Valvoline Hard Charger award and 5 bonus points by moving up 8 positions from his 16th starting position to finish 8th. Meeuwsen continues to lead in the point standings by 45 points over Bliss.

Clay completed a rare double by racing in both the Late Model and Super Stock features. The defending Super Stock champion finished an impressive fourth in the Super Stock feature and sixth in the Late Model feature.

In the 25-lap Hitches by George Sportsman feature, a caution on lap 12 slowed the race as rookie #21 Terry VanHaitsma slammed into the frontstretch outside wall. On the restart, #15 Scott Root passed #89 Kirk Meissner, who had led the race up until that point, for the lead. But it was #55 Dave Lake and #24 Lee VanDyk who were charging towards the front, advancing from their 11th and 12th place starting positions all the way to 4th and 5th, respectively. Problems persisted on lap 18, as caution came out for the second time, then three subsequent tries at re-starting the race resulted in cautions. Lake was involved in one of the cautions, leaving him out of the chase for the checkered flag. Officials then shortened the race to 20 laps due to time contraints, leaving just two laps to run once green flag racing resumed. Root managed to hold off the strong car of VanDyk for the win. Meissner finished an impressive third, followed by defending champion #9 Mike Root and #4 rookie Nick Gebben. #75 Bob Swanson won the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 11 positions. VanDyk leads the points race by 57 over Mike Root.

Berlin Raceway will be back in action next Saturday night, May 17, with Engine Pro Super Stock Night, a 50-Lap Super Stock feature as well as Coors Light Late Model and Hitches By George Sportsman divisions. 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.


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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Dick Trickle , Johnny Benson