The USPRO Racing Series closed out their initial season Sunday afternoon at Tri City Speedway in Auburn, Mich. Bob Varney was the winner of the 75-lap finale held on the semi-banked 9/16 mile oval. Mark Kortz won the first USPRO championship by 29...
The USPRO Racing Series closed out their initial season Sunday afternoon at Tri City Speedway in Auburn, Mich. Bob Varney was the winner of the 75-lap finale held on the semi-banked 9/16 mile oval. Mark Kortz won the first USPRO championship by 29 points over Mike Carter.
Mike Carter, who had already locked up the Rookie of the Year title, trailed Kortz by only nine points at the start of the race. Kortz and Carter were the only two drivers with a chance at the championship. No additional points were award for qualifying because the field was lined up by the point standings.
Carter grabbed the lead from polesitter Kortz going into the first corner. Fifth place starter Bob Varney moved around Shaun Whitney on lap five and quickly caught Carter and Kortz. The trio battled for the lead until lap 12 when Varney moved pass Kortz to take over second position.
A caution flew on the same lap when fourth place Whitney broke a panard. He did a masterful job of keeping his car off the wall when the tire shredded.
On the restart Carter pulled ahead several car lengths, leaving Varney and Kortz battling for second. Eight laps later when Rick Everidge hit the turn five wall, the pair was able to catch up to the leader, again.
Varney and Carter raced hard for the lead over the next four laps before Varney wrestled the top spot from Carter on lap 25.
Meanwhile, Rob Buckley, Robbie Johnson and Rod Laney were making their way to the front. Buckley, who started eighth, was up to fourth; Johnson had moved from 12th to fifth; and Laney, a Tri City regular, had moved from last (15th) to sixth.
The long period of green ensued allowing Varney to lengthen his lead over the rest of the field. He had more than a straightaway lead over the battle for second between Carter, Kortz, Buckley and Johnson.
Points leader Kortz and Buckley tangled in turn five on lap 42, while racing for position. When questioned about the accident, neither driver would admit to being at fault, so both drivers were sent to the rear. If the race had ended at this point, Carter, instead of Kortz, would have been the champion.
The restart saw Varney again move out to a five second lead over second place challengers, Carter and Johnson, who were racing heavily for position. Lap after lap Johnson would dive low on Carter but he could never quite complete the pass.
Carter experienced his own set back in his quest for the USPRO championship on lap 55. Racing side-by-side with Johnson, Carter's car spun and backed into the backstretch wall receiving considerable rear end damage. After talking to both drivers the officials determined that Johnson played no part in Carter's spin so he was given his spot back. Carter was sent to the rear of the field but he was never again a factor in the race.
Meanwhile, Kortz had moved up to fourth and raced closely with third place Laney for the next nine laps. He was finally able to move into third on lap 64.
Varney and Johnson put on a good show for the final laps but Johnson was never able to complete a pass and settled for second place. Varney won his second USPRO feature of the year ... he won the series first race and the season's last race.
Mark Kortz finished third and with it, the USPRO Series championship. He lead the points since the second race. The USPRO title is only Mark's second championship and his first traveling series title in a racing career that spans 20 years. His other championship was 10 years ago at Owosso (Mich.) Speedway in the Late Model Division. "This is the first time I raced here. We had a good car, but lack of experience kept us from challenging for the win. Most of the drivers gave me plenty of room and raced me very cleanly as I moved my way back towards the front. There were a couple that didn't but for the most part everyone did a good job out there today," said the driver of the U.S. Air Force, Phelps Towing, Knutson's Sporting Goods, Speedway Motors, Prolxmedia, Jim's Service Center Taurus. The Brooklyn, Mich. driver finished the season with two each of wins, seconds, third, and one each sixth and 15th. He also had two fast times. Mark also has the distinction of being the series only triple digit car.
Bob Varney won his second USPRO feature of the year, only the second driver two win two points races in the series initial year. (Note: Mike Carter won two races also, but one was a non-points race at Spartan.) In the first three races of the season it looked like Varney was going to be a contender for the championship, with a win and two second places. But the next five races were his downfall with three DNFs. With his win today, the Richmond, Mich. driver moved up one position in points and finished the season in fourth. "We worked really hard to get the car right. It was real quick once we got it dialed in. It was about being patient as I moved towards the front. Picking cars off one by one and not to force it. Today is my son Brandon's birthday ... this win is for him," said the driver of the Ford Racing Performance Parts-Roush Racing, Budweiser-Main Beverage Taurus. "I really started getting loose off the corners during the final 20 laps. I had a real good spotter today. My cousin Jack Varney Jr spotted for me and did a terrific job helping me navigate all the lapped cars. With ASA acquiring us, I might have won the first USPRO sanctioned race and the last one."
Mike Carter missed winning both the USPRO championship and the Rookie of the Year titles by 29 points. The Highland, Mich. driver will have to settle for just the Rookie of the Year title, which he won by 75 points over Shaun Whitney. "I'm going to put the accident down as a racing deal, but in the end it probably wouldn't had made any difference, because Mark (Kortz) ended up finishing third. The car didn't handle very good after backing it into the wall, then we either lost the exhaust or had a plug wire go, so we were down on power and got lapped. It's not the way we hoped to finish the season, but second isn't all that bad. I'm looking forward to next season," said the driver of the Champion Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Carter, a former ARCA Truck driver who has been out of racing for the past two seasons, had a series high three fast qualifying times (and track records). He finished all eight point races in the top 10 ... a win, a second, a third, two fourths, a fifth, a ninth (today's finish) and 10th.
Robbie Johnson returned to the seat of the Trout-Higgins #14 Birch Machining, Bus Stop Inn Monte Carlo after missing the last two races. He and Rod Laney share the Performance Friction Hard Charger Award, with both drivers moving up 10 positions each. "The car was real good in the feature. We worked on it all weekend, because it wasn't very good when we first got here." said the Birch Run, Mich. driver who finished second. Although Robbie only ran five races, he finished every lap that he attempted to run with a win, a seconds, two thirds, and seventh. The #14 car ended the season with the most feature wins, but it was spread between three different drivers: Johnson, Freddie Campbell and Jeff Bozell.
Rob Buckley finished fourth, moving up six positions from his 10th starting position. "This is my first time at the track. It is a tricky track to get around. It's always fun when you have a good car and ours was this year. We had a good year. I'd also like to congratulate Mark on his championship." said the Mason, Mich. driver.
Rod Laney turned his career best finish in the USPRO series finishing fifth. Laney drove Galen Beauch's #58 to a fifth place finish, after being as high as third. "The car got way too loose. It was great the first 35 laps or so but at the end it was a handful."
Of the regular 16 drivers, all the drivers were from Michigan except three drivers from Indiana. Steve Shlater Jr was the highest points finisher of the Indiana contingent, finishing sixth in points, and passing fellow Indiana driver Rick Everidge on the final race. "I was just holding on at the end. We're happy with the sixth place finish. The car was just too loose. This is the strangest track I've ever seen," said Shlater Jr.
Brent Hook finished seventh in the race. He accomplished something this season that none of the other drivers that ran the full season were able to do. Brent completed every lap, 425 laps, enroute to a third place finish in points. Going into the race Mike Carter and Rick Everidge had also completed each lap, but Everidge crashed early in the event and Carter lost a lap in today's race. Hook said after the race, "The car got very loose. We even tried pitting hoping to fix it, but nothing helped. I think the car got worse, but the driver got better. I wasn't sure I liked this place when I first went out and all I can say is it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to run every race here." (Note The Trout-Higgins #14 that Robbie Johnson was in tonight completed every lap that the car entered with three drivers, Johnson, Freddie Campbell and Jeff Bozell.)
There was one new driver in today's race, Don Miller, a limited late model driver from Auto City. "That is the most fun I've ever had in a race car. I loved it. Our car is legal to run Auto City's Limited Late Model division and I didn't have to change anything. They let me run today, even though I have a steel body, so I'll have to by a fiberglass one to race next season, but that's the only change I have to make, other than take some weight out of the car." The Freeland, Mich. driver didn't do bad, finishing 12th.
Jim Woodin ran out of fuel with three laps remaining because of a fuel pickup problem.
Three cars did not finish the event. Rick Everidge crashed in turn five, finishing last after completing 20 laps and finished 15th. Three laps later, Dave Peffers dropped out because of suspension problems, and was credited with 14th. Shaun Whitney finished 13th. He broke a panard bar and shredded a tire. The crew had to jam the bolt from the panard back in. Shaun returned to the race but only ran another 14 laps and retired after completing a total of 25 laps.
Two drivers had problems in Saturday's open practice session. Bill Tomlinson back his car into the wall in the first practice. The crew was able to repair the car and Bill finished eighth. The other driver getting in trouble was Jake Louden who was unable to compete because of severe front end damage.
USPRO Racing Series
Tri City Speedway
Oct. 5, 2003
Bob Varney, Robbie Johnson, Mark Kortz, Rob Buckley, Rod Laney, Steve Shlater Jr, Brent Hook, Bill Tomlinson, Mike Carter, Jim Woodin, Don Miller, John Musser, Shaun Whitney, Dave Peffers, Rick Everidge
Final Points: Kortz, 907; Carter, 878; Hook, 832; Varney, 326; Whitney, 803; Shlater Jr, 797; Everidge, 781; Tomlinson, 762; Peffers, 722; Buckley, 636
<pre> USPRO Racing Series October 5, 2003 Race #9 Tri City Speedway Auburn, Mich. 9/16 mile semi-banked oval (5-corners)
Laps Money Fin. Start CAR Driver Sponsor completed won Points 1 5 61 Bob Varney Ford Racing Performance Parts-Roush Racing Taurus 75 $1,100 120 2 12 14 Robbie Johnson Birch Run Machinery Monte Carlo 75 800 116 3 1 113 Mark Kortz U.S. Air Force Taurus 75 700 112 4 10 43 Rob Buckley Old Tyme Deli Monte Carlo 75 600 108 5 15 58 Rod Laney Garber Buick Monte Carlo 75 500 104 6 7 92 Steve Shlater Jr. Engineered Systems Inc. Taurus 75 450 101 7 3 17 Brent Hook Tough Coat Monte Carlo 75 425 98 8 8 3 Bill Tomlinson (R) Camart Auto Sale Monte Carlo 75 400 95 9 2 44 Mike Carter (R) Champion Chevrolet Monte Carlo 75 375 92 10 13 76 Jim Woodin Holibaugh Racing Monte Carlo 75 350 89 11 14 58 Don Miller (R) Miller Motorsports Monte Carlo 75 325 0 12 11 48 John Musser (R) A & T Towing Monte Carlo 75 315 87 13 3 72 Shaun Whitney (R) Drettman Ranch Monte Carlo 25 310 85 14 9 57 Dave Peffers (R) Peffers Racing Monte Carlo 23 300 83 15 6 63 Rick Everidge Everidge Motor Sales Grand Prix 20 300 81
Note: Positions determined by point standing. Points include qualifying, feature and entry points. Amsoil Fast Qualifier Award: not awarded Performance Friction Hard Charger Award: Johnson and Laney, 10 positions Top Rookie: Johnson Lap Leaders: Carter, 1-24; Varney, 25-75 Cautions: six