Champions, competitors take final laps of 2002; Gritter's retirement takes center stage . MARNE, MI - Berlin Raceway's 52nd season came to a close Saturday night with an evening of exhibition racing and the passing of the torch. Veteran racer...
Champions, competitors take final laps of 2002; Gritter's retirement takes center stage .
MARNE, MI - Berlin Raceway's 52nd season came to a close Saturday night with an evening of exhibition racing and the passing of the torch. Veteran racer Jack Gritter retired after a 32-year racing career, passing his car down to his son, Jamie Gritter, who will move up from the MTA Sportsman division to the Coors Light Late Model division in 2003. But before Gritter's final lap, a full slate of non-points racing took place on Championship Night, with the top 20 drivers in each division lining up in order of their season points finish to start the feature races. Fans also got in on the action, as several drivers from each division gave away the hoods off their cars to fans throughout the night.
In the MTA Sportsman feature, 2002 Berlin Raceway Sportsman Champion Mike Root started on the pole, but it was #55 Dave Lake, who started on the outside front row, that took a big lead and held it throughout the caution-free race. #55 Chris Anthony moved up to second early in the race, followed by #15 Scott Root. Scott Root then passed Anthony, but could not make a charge on Lake, who won for the third time this season. Scott Root finished second, followed by Anthony, Mike Root and #31 Mike Bursley. Following the race, the top three points finishers of the season, Mike Root, Anthony and Lake, finished off the MTA Sportsman season by presenting the hoods off their cars to lucky fans chosen via random drawing in appreciation for the fan support throughout the season.
In the Engine Pro Super Stock feature, 2002 points champion Ray Clay started on the pole and led every lap of the race to take his first checkered flag of the season. The 30-lap feature also went caution-free. Points runner-up #9 Jeff Hennip finished second, followed by #32 Meeuwsen, who powered through the field from his eighth starting position to finish third.#33 Jerry Groeneveld finished fourth and #98 Bob Bliss finished fifth. After the race, Clay, Hennip and #51 Scott Otterbein gave the hoods off their cars to lucky fans.
The Coors Light Late Model drivers were formally introduced on the track for the final time in 2002, and the crowd gave a warm round of applause to #16 Jack Gritter, who was running in the final race of his 32-year racing career tonight. After Gritter gave the command for drivers to start their engines, the Late Model feature cars rolled off the starting grid for the last time in 2002.
#1 Randy Sweet, the points runner-up, led from the start after lining up on the outside front row beside points champion #47 Fred Campbell. Quick yellows on lap 14 and 42 for backstretch spins were the only cautions of the race, while the top few positions remained the same throughout the race, The most exciting racing occurred among positions four through six, as on lap 45 of the 50-lap race, #22 Brian Campbell passed #161 Lee Anderson for fifth place then got side-by-side with #11 Leroy Magoon. Campbell and Anderson then both passed Magoon for fourth and fifth place, respectively, on lap 49. But that's as far as they got as the laps wound down with Sweet still in the lead, followed by Fred Campbell, Tom Thomas (driving Vern Slagh's #67 car after engine damage to his own car from debris on the track during practice), Brian Campbell and Anderson. Afterwards, Tim DeVos, Thomas, Tim Yonker and Sweet all donated the hoods off their cars to fans.
Then it was time to honor Gritter for his retirement. After a backwards lap to acknowledge his fans, Gritter was presented with a rocking chair, complete with 5-point safety harness and his #16 decals. Gritter also received a car hood autographed by all the drivers and officials and a leather Berlin Raceway jacket. The night was capped off with a long-standing Berlin Raceway tradition, the Mechanics Race (non-drivers, usually pit crew members, borrow race cars to compete), the final race of the 2002 season. After several cautions for fender benders and spins, Mark Reeder, driving the #13 James Haney truck, was eventually crowned champion.
Berlin Raceway's 2002 season is now completed.