JJ Michaels voted "Driver of the Week"

VERNON, NY - Popular driver J.J. Michaels of Baldwinsville, the winner in the opening night 40-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature this past Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway, has been honored by DIRT Motorsports as the Little Trees DIRT Driver of the Week...

VERNON, NY - Popular driver J.J. Michaels of Baldwinsville, the winner in the opening night 40-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature this past Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway, has been honored by DIRT Motorsports as the Little Trees DIRT Driver of the Week for the first time in his career.

"It's an honor to be voted Little Trees DIRT Driver of the Week," said Michaels who drives a five-year-old Troyer chassis weekly at Fulton and Utica-Rome Speedways. "I know there are many other guys out there just as deserving so we are very fortunate to receive this award."

J.J. Michaels and his yellow Morrison Performance/Troyer No. 31 enroute to his big win, and the Little Trees DIRT Driver of the Week award. Notice the loose roof mount. Photo: John Clifford

The win in the Utica-Rome opener for Michaels was nothing short of a miracle, as the team found a cracked cylinder head on their only motor (built by Pat Morrison) early Sunday morning, not even arriving at Utica-Rome until shortly before the heat races.

"I owe a big thanks to Pat Morrison, my brother Lou, and our main crewman Scott Shuster. We found some problems Sunday morning and those guys worked real hard all day to get us there. We didn't think we'd even be at Utica on Sunday night."

Michaels started twelfth on the heads up starting grid. He slowly but surely worked his way to the front of the pack, passing top drivers Todd Burley, John Barker, rookie Matt Sheppard, defending track champion and early leader Ron Holmes, and eventually the legendary Jack Johnson after a thrilling battle for the lead. Johnson and Michaels swapped the top spot several times, but Michaels took command for good on lap 21 of the 40-lap affair, just before Jack Johnson pulled out with motor problems.

"I'd have to say the race we had with Jack for the lead was really neat, that kind of stuff gets the fans pumped up," said the popular driver. "It was really cool racing with a legend in racing for the win!"

Michaels led the rest of the way, only to bobble several times with a few laps to go in turn one because of a dark spot on the track created when the lights on the turn one light pole went out. Holmes was reeling him in, but Michaels' lead was never in real danger and he for his first victory of the year, worth $1,800.

J.J. Michaels does a roof dance with three fingers raised to salute the late Dale Earnhardt in victory lane at Utica-Rome Speedway this past Sunday after his huge 40-lap victory in the $1,800 to win season opener. Photo: John Clifford

In victory lane, a very excited Michaels did a roof dance on his yellow Troyer No. 31 with three fingers raised into the air, saluting late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, who was memorialized earlier in the evening.

"We had an awesome car tonight, but it felt terrible in the heat and it just didn't wanna go. I was just picking my way to the front, and I was thinking a top five would have been great. It's tough to win here, especially when you have all the fast guys lined up in front of you. You've got Jack, Burley, Ronnie, and that young Sheppard kid, and it was really tough to get to the front, but it worked out well, and it was a lot of fun. I'd like to dedicate this win to Dale Earnhardt, and also to my dad."

The win for Michaels was the nineteenth of his career at the spacious Utica-Rome half-mile oval, moving him up to tenth on the all-time modified feature win list, tying him with the legendary Jerry Cook.

"You gotta love this place," said Michaels. "The race track was three lanes wide again, and we used it all. That is what makes racing at Utica so much fun, if the car isn't working somewhere, you can move it around."

Michaels joins an elite group of drivers from across the DIRT circuit including Steve Paine, Brett Hearn, Kenny Tremont, Chuck Bower, and Dave Leckonby who have already been honored by DIRT this season as Little Trees Driver of the Week.

Last season at Utica-Rome Michaels appeared to be on the verge of winning his first track title, but a broken torsion arm in the final points race while running third ended any hopes for glory. However, after flying to victory lane in the 40-lap lidlifter at Utica-Rome, he has again established himself as a favorite for the championship.

Michaels (31) had to pass rookie sensation Matt Sheppard (9s) and other top runners including Todd Burley (89b) and the legendary orange No. 12a of Jack Johnson to get his huge win! Photo: John Clifford

This Sunday, Michaels will hope to defend his home turf from all the invading stars of the DIRT Motorsports circuit, as the opening event of the Sunoco Race Fuels 358-Modified Super DIRT Series comes to town for a 100-lapper sponsored by Nice N' Easy Grocery Shoppes. Of all track regulars, Michaels has one of the best records in past Super DIRT Series events, leading nearly all the event in 1999 only to have his tires go away and fall to third at the end of the race. However, he has got to be considered a favorite to win the event, and all eyes will be on the local driver this Sunday.

With the Little Trees DIRT Driver of the Week award, Michaels will receive plenty of media attention, including honors on the nationally recognized TV program called This Week on DIRT, which is written and produced locally by DIRT Motorsports. In addition, Michaels will now be eligible for the Little Trees DIRT Driver of the Year award, bestowed to a driver at the season ending banquet held at Turning Stone Casino on November 10.

Utica-Rome Speedway track management would like to congratulate J.J. Michaels for being this week's Little Trees DIRT Driver of the Week award winner!


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Series Stock car
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Brett Hearn , John Barker