Berlin Raceway summary 2002-09-14

Eppink takes popular Super Stock victory; Late Model points race tightens. MARNE, MI - It was a night of popular victories at Berlin Raceway Saturday night, headlined by Ross Eppink, who won for the second time in his eight-year Engine Pro Super...

Eppink takes popular Super Stock victory; Late Model points race tightens.

MARNE, MI - It was a night of popular victories at Berlin Raceway Saturday night, headlined by Ross Eppink, who won for the second time in his eight-year Engine Pro Super Stock career - a popular win for the driver who has raced in several different divisions in his 27-year Berlin Raceway experience. Another popular victory was Dave Lake's MTA Sportsman victory, the second of his career. And finally, John Grega added to his pot of gold, winning the Coors Light Late Model feature just four days after taking home the highest ever payout in the state of Michigan for a Late Model race. The points battle in all three divisions now comes down to next week, the final points race of the season (followed on Sept. 28 by Championship Night, the final race of the season).

In the MTA Sportsman feature, #15 Sean Gipson led early with #55 Dave Lake riding on his bumper. Light rain caused the caution to come out after six laps, but the delay was short. On lap 8, Gipson hit #55 Chris Anthony hard in turn 2, forcing both cars into the wall and bringing out a red flag to stop the race due to the extensive clean-up. The lead was then turned over to #52 Bruce Chase. At the halfway point of the 25-lap race it was Chase in the lead, followed by #31 Mike Bursley, Lake, #86 Ray Melinn and #24 Lee VanDyk. On lap 17, Lake passed Bursley for second spot, and the battle for the lead shaped up as Lake took it away from Chase on lap 19. Melinn passed Bursley for third on the same lap, but Bursley moved back alongside Melinn and they raced side by side for several laps before Bursley took the third position back on lap 23. The checkered flag came out for Lake just as light rain began to fall again. The rain didn't dampen Lake's excitement at winning for the second time in his career, as the Howard City driver stopped in turn four during his victory lap and climbed all the way to the top of the catch fence to the cheers of the crowd. Chase finished second, followed by Bursley, points leader #9 Mike Root and Melinn. Root now leads the points race by 141 points, enough to clinch the victory over Lake by just starting next week's feature.

In the Engine Pro Super Stock feature, it took three tries to get the race started, as Ray Clay (driving the #42 car of Matt Piersma) and #33 Jerry Groeneveld got together before one lap was complete, forcing a complete restart of the race. The second attempt at the start went awry as #52 Jim Idema spun coming out of turn 4. Once the race officially got underway, #29 Steve Sunde started from the pole and led early. #51 Scott Otterbein, running in second, slipped his right tires off the top of the backstretch on lap 3, keeping the car straight but losing the second position to #3 Ross Eppink. Eppink passed Sunde for the lead on lap 7, and #26 Chris Muyskens came with him into second place. On lap 11, #22 Jeff Terrell and #77 John Smith Sr. got together in turn 3. Several other cars were also knocked around in the same incident. Eppink continued to lead at the halfway point, followed by Muyskens, Groeneveld, Sunde and #98 Bob Bliss. Muyskens and Groeneveld stayed tight with Eppink the entire second half of the race, giving him a run for his money on the final lap. But Muyskens and Groeneveld tangled coming out of turn 4 on the final lap, spinning across the finish line as Eppink took the victory - a very popular one in the pits for the 27-year Berlin Raceway veteran. It was just the second win ever in his 8-year Super Stock career (his only other Super Stock victory came four years ago). Groeneveld crossed the finish line in second, followed by Muyskens, Bliss and #9 Jeff Hennip. Despite the low finish for Clay, he still leads by enough points (128) over Hennip to also clinch next week by just starting the feature.

Two tries was all it took to get the Coors Light Late Model feature under way, as #28 Scott Thomas, #98 Bob Curry and #27 Billy Shotko crashed hard on the frontstretch. Curry's car went up into a ball of flames as it rolled out of turn 1, but Curry made it out of the car okay. Several other cars were caught up in the mess as well. A lengthy red flag delayed the race for the cleanup. On the official start, #161 Lee Anderson took the lead from pole-sitter #11 John Grega, followed by #47 Fred Campbell, #12 Tim DeVos and #16 Jack Gritter. Caution flew briefly on lap 12 as #94 Greg Usher slowed with a flat right front tire. By lap 20, #11 Leroy Magoon charged up to seventh from his 13th starting position.

Campbell challenged Grega on lap 29 trying a move to the outside, but wasn't able to complete the pass around the veteran. Caution came out again on lap 35 as the points leader Campbell got into the lapped #55 car of Joe Mazie in turn 2, spinning both cars. DeVos also suffered mild damage but was able to fix it in the pits under caution and not lose a position. Campbell came back out of the pits after the field had gone green, but promptly spun to bring out the caution again on lap 36. On the restart, Anderson and Grega pulled away from the field, with DeVos, Sweet and Magoon running a tight battle for the third position. Magoon finally got around DeVos for third, and Sweet came with him into fourth position. Grega, who won $20,000 in last Tuesday's Chris Bradley Memorial 100, took the lead on lap 44 and held on for his third win of the season ahead of Anderson, Magoon, #49 Dave Sensiba and Sweet. Campbell's 20th place finish tightened up the points battle, but Campbell still leads by 96 points with one week to go. Just 42 points separates second through seventh positions in the Late Model points battle.

Berlin Raceway will be back in action next Saturday night, September 21, with the final points race of the season, a weekly 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. The following Saturday, September 28, is Championship Night, as Berlin Raceway crowns the 2002 champions at the final race of the season.


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