Points Champions decided: Campbell, Clay, Root take titles; will be crowned next Saturday on Championship Night. MARNE, MI - On the final points night of the season, champions were decided in all three divisions Saturday night at Berlin Raceway.
Points Champions decided: Campbell, Clay, Root take titles; will be crowned next Saturday on Championship Night.
MARNE, MI - On the final points night of the season, champions were decided in all three divisions Saturday night at Berlin Raceway. Although none of the three points battles offered nail-biting down-to-the-wire finishes, the Coors Light Late Model feature race did just that, as Lee Anderson pulled out the victory by just six thousandths of a second over Fred Campbell in what was arguably the most exciting race finish of the 2002 season. Ross Meeuwsen and Paul Schaffer also won features Saturday night, while Campbell, Ray Clay and Mike Root claimed the season points championships in the Coors Light Late Model, Engine Pro Super Stock and MTA Sportsman divisions, respectively.
In the MTA Sportsman division, #9 Mike Root came into the evening with a 141 point lead over #55 Dave Lake and only needed to take the green flag in the feature race to secure his first-ever points championship. The Grand Rapids native did that and more, qualifying seventh fastest and finishing second in the feature race. #15 Scott Root led early, splitting pole-sitter Mike Root and #8 Paul Schaffer to go three-wide to take the lead on lap 2. Lake followed and moved into second place. Caution came out on lap 6 as #24 Lee VanDyk tried to make it three wide but spun. Caution again on lap 12 as #89 Kirk Meissner spun on the frontstretch. On lap 19, Lake came up on the inside of Scott Root for the lead, and the two cars got together on the frontstretch. Root shot up into the wall to bring out the caution, and it looked as though Lake would take the lead when the race went green. But Lake was sent to the back of the field for rough driving, and #4 Nick Shotko inherited the lead. On the lap 19 restart, Shotko lost control and hit the frontstretch wall, bringing out the caution once again. Schaffer then inherited the lead, which looked like a bad place to be in this race as the three previous leaders met with misfortune. But Schaffer was able to hand on for the victory, his first of the year and second in his three-year career. Mike Root came home second, followed by #52 Bruce Chase, #16 Jamie Gritter and #88 Jason Smith. In the season points race, it was Root who claimed the championship by 157 points over second place Dave Lake, followed by #55 Chris Anthony in third, 323 points behind the leader, VanDyk 330 points back in fourth and Scott Root 359 points back in fifth. Root, 27, claimed his first championship in four years as a Sportsman driver after finishing fourth in points in 2001.
In the Engine Pro Super Stock division, #X Ray Clay came into the final points race with a 128 point lead over #9 Jeff Hennip and also needed just to take the green flag to lock up the points championship. In the feature, #14 Jon Arendsen started on the pole and led for more than half the 30-lap race, but it was #32 Ross Meeuwsen on the move, advancing from his eighth place starting position all the way up to pass #33 Jerry Groeneveld for second place on lap 18, then taking the lead just one lap later from Arendsen after racing side-by-side with the leader for a lap. Caution came out on lap 27 as #8 Billy Eppink spun coming out of turn 4, coming to a stop sideways on the track and right in the path of the oncoming #98 Bob Bliss, who ducked inside and narrowly avoided T-boning Eppink's car. On lap 29, Otterbein spun on the backstretch to bring out another caution, then on the final lap #29 Steve Sunde's car flew over the backstretch to bring out the yellow/checkers as Meeuwsen crossed the finish line for his fifth victory of the season, followed by Arendsen, Groeneveld, #26 Chris Muyskens and #7 Ray VanAllsburg. Clay, from Grandville, came home a disappointing 21st, two laps down, but claimed the season points championship by a 104-point margin over Hennip. Bliss finished third in points, 161 points behind the leader, followed by Groeneveld, 162 points back in fourth, and Muyskens, 164 points back in fifth. It is Clay's first points championship in 11 years at Berlin (3 years in Super Stocks). He finished third in Super Stock points a year ago.
In the Coors Light Late Model division, veteran Fred Campbell won his second straight track championship and a record 10 championships overall in 27 years racing at Berlin. The Battle Creek native who turns 50 next month came into the day with a 96-point lead over 5-time track champion #1 Randy Sweet, but he ran the race as though the championship was on the line. #79 Jake Meyerink and #16 Jack Gritter, racing in his final points race and next-to-last race of his 28-year career, started on the front row and waged a side-by-side battle for the lead on the first lap. The two cars got together in turn 3 of the first lap, spinning and causing a huge pile-up before the first lap was complete. A dozen cars were involved, with #12 Tim DeVos, #30 Brian Clay and #35 Kyle Anderson suffering the worst damage and putting them out of the race. The race restart saw Gritter take the lead, which he would hold for more than half the 50-lap race. #47 Fred Campbell was on the move, starting from sixth position and moving up to pass #88 Tim Yonker for second on lap 26, then positioning himself to challenge for the lead. Gritter held him off for three laps but Campbell passed for the lead on lap 29.
Meanwhile, #161 Lee Anderson, who started fifth and was caught up in that first-lap wreck but avoided damaging his car, was the fastest car on the track, passing Yonker for third then passing Gritter for second on lap 35. He continued to move up, riding on Campbell's bumper for the final laps of the race. Anderson made his move with just a half lap to go, making it three wide in heavy traffic in an attempt to get around Campbell. Anderson and Campbell raced side by side, with Anderson on the inside, weaving in and out of lapped traffic to the finish line, where Campbell encountered the slower lapped car #82 of Scott Thomas. Campbell couldn't slow or he would lose the race, and opted instead to push Thomas across the finish line. As the two cars spun down into turn one, the photo finish went to Anderson by just .006 seconds for his first win of the season. Gritter finished third, followed by Sweet and Yonker. Campbell claimed the points championship by 110 points over Sweet, followed by #11 Leroy Magoon and #82 Tom Thomas, tied for third 132 points behind the leader, and Yonker, 134 points back in fifth.
Berlin Raceway will be back in action next Saturday night, September 28, with the final race of the season, Championship Night, a non-points show of Coors Light Late Model, Engine Pro Super Stock and MTA 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.