TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 2, 2002) - Kyle Berck solidified his hold on the top spot in the O'Reilly Auto Parts/NCRA Late Model Series points lead with a convincing win at Heartland Park Topeka on Monday night - driving his backup car as he ran into ...
TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 2, 2002) - Kyle Berck solidified his hold on the top spot in the O'Reilly Auto Parts/NCRA Late Model Series points lead with a convincing win at Heartland Park Topeka on Monday night - driving his backup car as he ran into problems with his Ford-powered primary car Sunday. It overheated at Belleville, so Berck went back to Nebraska after the race to prep the backup car.
"It's been our backup car for awhile but early in the year it was the only car I had ready," he said. "We had some success with it and won some events with it."
Berck's success with the Chevrolet-powered racecar continued Monday as he easily won his heat from the outside of the first row and planted himself firmly on the pole for the feature. He lead the feature wire-to-wire for his fifth NCRA win of the season and ninth of his career.
Berck jumped out to a big lead on the first lap but it went for naught. MLRA pilot Jason Bodenhammer broke the front end of his machine on the backstretch, sending him high into the turn three wall, and bringing out a caution.
Berck didn't lose any momentum during the delay to move Bodenhammer's car as Kyle again jumped out to a big lead on the restart. Following Berck were Davey Nall in second and Jerry Breeden Jr. in third. Local driver Mike Taylor slipped into the fourth spot early.
Berck charged forwards, leaving the field some distance behind him. Nall also broke away from the others in second but he couldn't begin to keep up with Berck.
The action was heating up behind the leaders as several drivers were fighting for position. Breeden and Taylor squared off in a battle for third, while Alan Vaughn and Al Purkey, who started tenth, were dicing for fifth.
Berck first encountered lapped traffic on the eighth lap but it didn't even faze him as he weaved his way skillfully through the back markers to maintain his margin over Nall.
Behind them, Purkey had gotten around Vaughn into fifth, as they joined Breeden and Taylor in the battle for third. The four of them spent several laps racing each other just as hard as they could around the track. The running order would change depending on who had the better line, or they would run side-by-side in one combination or another, as they put on quite a show for the fans.
Silently moving through the field was Kelly Boen, winner the previous night on the historic Belleville High Banks half-mile. Boen started ninth and worked his way up to seventh on the sixth lap. Four laps later, Boen got around Taylor for sixth. On lap 12, Kelly slipped by Vaughn into fifth, going three-wide with Breeden (third) and Purkey (fourth). The next lap, Boen slid around Purkey and went side-by-side with Breeden before powering around him into third.
Attrition soon became a factor in the race. On lap 15, Breeden spun at the start/finish line and slid into the infield, ending his night. Two laps later, Taylor spun and continued, but no longer in contention for a top five finish. On lap 18, Nall, still running a distant second, slowed to the low side of turn three and stopped, finished for the night. This brought out the second caution of the race and set the stage for an eight-lap shootout.
All of a sudden, Berck had company up front as Boen was right on his bumper for the restart.
"I pulled my seatbelts down really tight because I knew with Kelly second, we had to get through (turns) one and two really hard," Berck said. "If we did, then we could just be on the gas."
Berck did just that - got a great jump on Boen and again pulled away to a comfortable margin.
"On the restart, I just really didn't have much for him (Berck). I don't know how to explain it; his car took off better than mine," Boen said. "It took me two or three laps to even get it going. By then, Berck was half-a-straightaway ahead of me."
Purkey moved alongside Boen at start/finish, looking for second. But Boen pulled away and held on to finish second in the 25-lap race.
While Berck and Boen checked out on the rest of the field, Purkey suddenly had a challenge from Jason Friesen. Friesen started 16th, had moved through the field and was now battling for third in the last few laps of the race. They ran nose-to-tail for a couple of laps before Friesen slipped by for the position at the line as they completed lap 21.
"Jason Friesen snuck by us on the bottom while I was trying to pass Kelly," Purkey said.
Friesen then put a little distance between himself and Purkey, and brought it home in third. Purkey held on to finish fourth with Vaughn in fifth.
It was an interesting win for Kyle Berck. He was in a backup car, which necessitated a few extra changes at the shop before leaving for Topeka, putting him on the road later than planned. He was late getting to the track and didn't get any hot laps.
"We were here once two years ago so we just pulled our notes from that race," he said. "I had a lot of confidence going into tonight. I changed some stuff on the car that I thought would help and it did. Between the heat race and the feature, we really didn't adjust much. Everything just went our way tonight."
Boen was so impressed with Berck's pre-race game plan - showing up a half-hour late and missing hot laps - that he jokingly told the crowd afterwards he may try it himself sometime.
"I did reel Berck in a little bit after the restart. He made a couple of mistakes and I got within 6-8 car lengths of him," Boen said. "Really, I had nothing for him. Even if I caught him, I probably couldn't have passed him. He was just better than me."
The O'Reilly Auto Parts Speedway was rough going through turns three and four, especially early in the race, and Purkey had trouble adjusting to it.
"I try to drive a nice, smooth line but this makes it really difficult," he said. "It turned out to be a pretty good race track by the end of the feature. If we could race on it now, we'd be in pretty good shape."
Despite this, Al was pleased with his car and the results.
"We had a good, solid run. We got to third and probably had a second place car but we didn't catch any breaks," he said.
Jerry Breeden Jr. pulled away late from John Kuchor and Kelly Boen to win the first heat race. Topekan Mike Taylor lead from the pole to win the second heat. Kyle Berck did about the same in the third heat, grabbing the lead from the outside of the second row and holding it to the checker.
Even though there were only 24 cars on hand, the NCRA added a B feature to give the fans more racing. The seven-car field contained six Topeka drivers with the four transfer spots going to locals. Tom Grist won from the pole, while Paul Flower held off Mike Gish and Artie Munoz for second through fourth positions.
Defending series champion and current season points runner-up Delbert Smith was also late getting to the track. Like Berck, Smith wasn't able to get any hot laps either. He was fourth in his heat and started 11th in the A, but wasn't a factor as he dropped out early and finished 19th.
Heat 1 (8 laps) - 1. Jerry Breeden Jr., Salina, Kan.; 2. John Kuchor, Henderson, Colo.; 3. Kelly Boen, Henderson, Colo.; 4. Delbert Smith, Wichita, Kan.; 5. Al Purkey, Coffeyville, Kan.; 6. Jason Friesen, Sutton, Neb.; 7. Keith Oney, Alma, Kan.; 8. Mike Gish, Topeka, Kan.
Heat 2 (8 laps) - 1. Mike Taylor, Topeka, Kan.; 2. Alan Vaughn, Belton, Mo.; 3. Jason Bodenhammer, Centerview, Mo.; 4. Eddie Tidwell, Ada, Okla.; 5. John Hempel, Nodaway, Iowa; 6. Tom Grist, Topeka, Kan.; 7. Artie Munoz, Topeka, Kan.; 8. Chris Kratzer, Lyons, Kan.
Heat 3 (8 laps) - 1. Kyle Berck, Marquette, Neb.; 2. Mike Conkwright, Manhattan, Kan.; 3. Davey Nall, Phillips, Neb.; 4. Dean Moore, Grand Junction, Colo.; 5. Steve Kosiski, Papillon, Neb.; 6. Paul Flower, Topeka, Kan.; 7. Robert Garst, Topeka, Kan.; 8. Bob Miller, Holton, Kan.
B feature (8 laps) - 1. Grist; 2. Flower; 3. Gish; 4. Munoz; 5. Garst; 6. Oney; 7. Miller. Did not start - Kratzer.
A feature (25 laps) - 1. Berck; 2. Boen; 3. Friesen; 4. Purkey; 5. Vaughn; 6. Kosiski; 7. Conkwright; 8. Moore; 9. Hempel; 10. Kuchor; 11. Taylor; 12. Tidwell; 13. Gish; 14. Grist; 15. Munoz; 16. Flower; 17. Nall; 18. Breeden Jr.; 19. Smith; 20. Bodenhammer.