Utica-Rome race report 2001-06-24

John Ramsey Wins First Feature In Eleven Years At Utica-Rome Speedway After Burley's Misfortune VERNON, NY - John Ramsey of Floyd took advantage of Todd Burley's misfortune and held off the furious late race charge of the legendary Jack Johnson...

John Ramsey Wins First Feature In Eleven Years At Utica-Rome Speedway After Burley's Misfortune

VERNON, NY - John Ramsey of Floyd took advantage of Todd Burley's misfortune and held off the furious late race charge of the legendary Jack Johnson to collect his first win since 1990 last Sunday in the DIRT 358-Modified division at Utica-Rome Speedway. Ramsey, 42, started sixth and retook the lead for the second time when the dominant Burley went up in smoke, but had to work hard to get it back for the third and final time from Johnson with just two laps to go. The crowd-pleasing win for the popular driver of the Fairway Farms machine was worth $1,500, and it marked a tremendous comeback from an off-season illness.

Also winning were Jamie Christian of West Winfield in the DIRT Sportsman non-point affair, John Pietrowicz of Phoenix in the DIRT Pro Stocks, Dave Mannise of Fulton in the Pure Stocks, and Dave Barrows in the Slingshots.

Wayne Reutimann Jr. and Joel Thomas paced the 30-lap headline DIRT 358-Modified feature down to the green flag from Starter Steve Rickett, with Reutimann racing out to the early lead. Ageless veteran Andy Romano took over on a lap 3 restart, but all eyes were on Todd Burley, who was putting on a whale of a show, coming from the twenty-third starting position. Aided by two different minor accidents causing yellows ahead of him, Burley took over sixth on lap 3, just as John Ramsey took the lead from Romano on lap 4.

Burley was on a mission to win his third feature of the season, and continued his furious march to the front, moving into second on lap 7. He caught race leader John Ramsey on lap 9 and with a slidejob, took the race lead, coming from twenty-third to first in just nine laps. Just as Burley started pulling away, last week's winner Jack Johnson made his presence known, and moved into forth by lap ten, and began battling for third with Jason Barney.

At the halfway mark, Burley was dominating, with Ramsey in second, Barney in third, Johnson in fourth, and Paul Jensen rounding out the top five. Just as Burley crossed the line on lap 20, blue smoke showed from his Mirabito Fuel Group machine, indicating a motor problem. Burley pulled pitside without causing a yellow, and it was a tough break, but it totally changed the complexion of the race, as Ramsey retook the lead one lap later.

The battle on the track focused on second position as Barney and Johnson had quite the dogfight, with Johnson taking over the spot on lap 23. Johnson quickly caught Ramsey, and with five to go, it appeared that yet another dramatical Utica-Rome finish was in the making. Could John Ramsey win his first feature in eleven years at the speedway or could the ageless veteran outsmart for his second consecutive win?

A late race restart with just three laps to go set the stages for the classical finish, with Johnson moving alongside Ramsey for the race lead as the entire grandstands rose to their feet cheering on their favorites. Down the backstretch they raced, side by side, with Johnson edging out from to lead lap 27. However, Ramsey never gave up, and drove it in deep in turn one on the highside and shot under Johnson down the backstretch to retake the lead. Ramsey did not give much room on the backstretch, and the pair drove it in deep in turn three racing for the win as they made slight contact. Ramsey eeked out in front, just as Johnson bobbled and banged into the outside wall. From there on out, it was all Ramsey, who crossed the finish line for his first win in eleven years at the speedway. Barney was a close second, with defending track champion Ron Holmes working hard after an early race incident to finish third. Johnson recovered to finish fourth, with Paul Jensen in fifth. Rounding out the top ten, it was Mitch Gibbs, John Barker, J.J. Michaels, Roger Phelps, and Gus Schmidt.

Down in victory lane, an appreciative Utica-Rome crowd gave Ramsey a standing ovation for his heart-stopping victory, a tremendous comeback from an off season near death illness. It was his first 358-Modified victory at Utica-Rome since July 29, 1990, and the second of his career.

"Wow, I haven't been up here in a long time," said a very excited Ramsey after his celebratory roof dance on his Slawiak powered Bicknell 2001x No. 25R. "Jack is awesome and I think we had a great clean race. He went in hot, slid up and our car stuck and here we are in victory lane. I would like to thank my family, crew, sponsors, fans for keeping the faith in me, and I am really glad to make the Utica-Rome fans cheer tonight. What a race, but I was sure nervous in those last few laps. This feels great."

Four cautions slowed the event, with the most serious incident being on lap 3 when Reutimann hit the turn four wall inflicting serious damage on his machine. Reutimann was ok, but the same could not be said for his TEO Pro Car. Pete Taylor, Roger Phelps, and Barney won the DIRT 358-Modified heats.

Jamie Christian came from the third starting position to lead the entire 20-lap distance of the non-point DIRT Sportsman feature last Sunday. Bill Trexler Jr. was second in his best finish in three years, followed by brothers Mike Button and Gordy Button in third and fourth, with defending track champion Kevin Crave in fifth. Dave Bargabos, Crave, and Jamie Christian won the DIRT Sportsman heats, while Shawn Donath won the consi.

John Pietrowicz started twelfth and won his second consecutive 15-lap DIRT Pro Stock feature, after taking the lead from early leaders Stan Clark and John Roese on lap 4. Chad Ray was second in his best career finish, followed by Gerry Newman, Bret Belden, and Jason Rood. Pietrowicz, Stan Clark, and Jerry Holmes won the DIRT Pro Stock heats and Jason Rood won the consi.

Art Newman Jr. grabbed the early lead in the 15-lap Pure Stock feature, with Herm Staats taking over on lap 2. However, no one could stop eight time track champion Dave Mannise, who started thirteenth, and took the lead on lap 6 from Staats. Mannise would lead the rest of the way, and held off the late race charge of Jeff Pastorella. At the checkers, Pastorella was second, Staats third, Wilczek fourth, and George Schulze in fifth. Jim Thomas, Wilczek, and David Pope were the Pure Stock heat victors.

Dave Barrows took the lead from Denny Tilison on lap 9 and won his first career 15-lap Slingshot feature event. Mike Teachout, J.J. Courcy, John Powers, and Dakota Wilcox rounded out the top five. Mike Waterman and Teachout won the heat races.

Notes - 123 cars, including 24 Modifieds, 28 Sportsman, 30 Pro Stocks, 27 Pure Stocks, and 14 Slingshots filled the Utica-Rome pit area to capacity on yet another beautiful Sunday evening. Ramsey's victory was the first for the Bicknell chassis at Utica-Rome this season. The count: Troyer 4, TEO 1, and Bicknell 1. Lebanon Valley standout Guy Sheldon returned to Utica-Rome for the first time to race in many years. Sheldon won the very first Sportsman feature on the shortened track in 1992. The Pro Stock division had their highest car count in at least five years for a regular show with 30 cars in attendance. Action continues next Sunday night July 1 with the Independence Spectacular, featuring Twin 20-lap features for the DIRT 358-Modifieds plus a gigantic fireworks display after the racing is over for the evening. Also in action will be the DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and Slingshots, with racing beginning at 6pm. To catch up on the latest news, point standings, driver rosters, action photos, and more, log on to the official website at www.newuticaromespeedway.com.

-NURS-

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Pete Taylor , Wayne Reutimann , John Barker