MARNE, MI -- Rockford's Tim DeVos took home the top prize of $10,000 after using patience and tire strategy to win the 100-lap Chet Mysliwiec Memorial Invitational at Berlin Raceway Saturday Night. The race, presented by Engine Pro and Late Model...
MARNE, MI -- Rockford's Tim DeVos took home the top prize of $10,000 after using patience and tire strategy to win the 100-lap Chet Mysliwiec Memorial Invitational at Berlin Raceway Saturday Night. The race, presented by Engine Pro and Late Model Digest, was postponed twice from its originally scheduled date of September 27. The race paid a record $88,000 in total prize money, plus an additional $30,000 in prizes from Engine Pro, making it one of the premier short track races in the country.
A total of 49 cars including NASCAR Busch Grand National driver Chad Blount, who finished 27th in the Busch event earlier Saturday in Charlotte, NC, before flying to Michigan and arriving at the track just in time to qualify his car, fought for a slot in the 28-car main event. Blount crashed early in one of the two 50-lap qualifying races and was done for the night.
The #88 car of Tim Yonker and #12 DeVos, Berlin Raceway's 2003 Coors Light Late Model champion, were the top two qualifiers in time trials, and both won their respective 50-lap qualifying races (and earning $1,000 in the process). A random drawing by the top 12 drivers placed #82 Tom Thomas on the pole for the 100-lap main event, while DeVos started 10th. Thomas, of Grandville, MI, jumped to a huge lead early, not holding anything back in running up his lead to more than 3 and a half seconds after just 15 laps. #11 Leroy Magoon was on the move early, starting sixth and moving up to fourth on lap 6 and then into third on lap 9. #32 Ross Meeuwsen brought out the first caution on lap 16 for a single-car crash in turn 4. Shortly after the restart Magoon powered his way into a distant second place behind Thomas, who again shot out to a healthy lead.
Dave Sensiba's #49 car brought out caution #2 on lap 49 for a spin on the frontstretch, wiping away Thomas's 6-second lead. At the halfway point, the top five were Thomas, Magoon, #101 Joe Bush, #47 Fred Campbell and Yonker. DeVos was practicing patience, sitting in ninth position. But the halfway signal was DeVos's green light, and he moved up into the top 5 by lap 60. The third caution of the race came out on lap 60 for a frontstretch spin by Magoon, then on the restart DeVos displayed what he had been holding back, shooting into third place on the first green-flag lap. Meanwhile, Thomas was coming back down to earth, unable to shake Campbell and DeVos and stretch out his lead again. The top three ran close together, and Campbell took the lead away from Thomas on lap 72. One lap later DeVos passed Thomas for second, then on lap 76 DeVos claimed the lead from Campbell.
The leaders strung out until lap 90, when #28 Scott Thomas brought out the final caution flag of the race when he blew a tire on the frontstretch. Sensiba, running behind Thomas, got into the back of the #28 car as it slowed, and Thomas spun. After pitting to change the tire, Thomas retaliated by running into Sensiba under caution - actually driving up on top of Sensiba's rear quarter panel - and was black flagged for the move. The final 10 laps played out in DeVos's favor, as his patience in the first half of the race saved his tires so he easily drove to the checkered flag to take the Engine Pro/Federal Mogul Speed Pro trophy and the $10,000 top prize. Campbell finished second, followed by #161 Lee Anderson, Tom Thomas and #61 Bob Holley. Just 10 cars finished on the lead lap. Sensiba, despite the drama near the end of the race, finished 11th to win the Valvoline Hard Charger award by advancing 15 positions from his provisional starting spot. It was DeVos's second $10,000 race win of the season, having also won Berlin's other premier event, the Meijer/Tony's Pizza 100 on June 10.
In the 50-lap combined Hitches By George Sportsman/Engine Pro Super Stock feature presented by The Screen Print Department, Sportsman #25 Scott Root of Sparta, MI, led the first half of the race, which was slowed by cautions on laps 6, 9 and17. Root brought out the caution and the end to his lead by crashing into the turn 3 wall on lap 28. Root had problems again on the restart, spinning on the frontstretch. A second try at the restart resulted in a four-car crash going into turn 1 involving Sportsman drivers #71 Dan VanderMolen, #89 Kirk Meissner and #40 Dave Cutler as well as Super Stock #3 Ross Eppink. #23 Sportsman Mike Bursley, driving a rare double by also competing in the Late Model division tonight, took over the lead once the race was finally under way again.
Drivers were warned by officials that due to time constraints if another altercation caused a caution, the race would end with the final results reverting back to the last completed lap. That happened on lap 42 as #9 Mike Root of Grand Rapids, MI, challenged Bursley for the lead, driving to the outside of Bursley but going too high and driving off the backstretch to bring out caution. Bursley, of Walker, MI, claimed the Engine Pro trophy ahead of Root, #98 Super Stock Bob Bliss, #77 Sportsman Andrew Nylaan and #36 Super Stock Jerry Groeneveld. Groeneveld won the Valvoline Hard Charger award after starting in 26th position. The race took 55 minutes to complete 42 laps, while the Late Model feature completed 100 laps in just 46 minutes.
Berlin Raceway's 2003 season is now complete. Next up is the annual end-of-season Driver Awards Banquet, scheduled for November 7. The banquet is sold out.