Utica-Rome race report 2002-06-09

Schmidt, Shantel, Hencke, & Mannise claim feature wins at Utica-Rome Speedway on Big Frog 104 Night. VERNON, NY -- "The Heavy Hauler" Gus Schmidt Jr of Liverpool used the outside pole starting position to his advantage to claim the ...

Schmidt, Shantel, Hencke, & Mannise claim feature wins at Utica-Rome Speedway on Big Frog 104 Night.

VERNON, NY -- "The Heavy Hauler" Gus Schmidt Jr of Liverpool used the outside pole starting position to his advantage to claim the DIRT 358-Modified feature win last Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway on Big Frog 104 Night. Schmidt led the entire 30-lap distance to take home his first win at the speedway in nearly three years. The win for the driver of the Euclid Hotel & Restaurant No. 30 Troyer machine was worth $1,500 and it marked a tremendous comeback from injuries suffered in a work related accident a year and a half ago.

Other winners on the beautiful evening were Bill Shantel Jr of Canastota in the DIRT Sportsman, Buddy Hencke of Sand Lake in the Pro Stocks, and Dave Mannise of Fulton in the Pure Stocks.

Rookie Tony Ross and Gus Schmidt Jr led the 24-car DIRT 358-Modified feature down to the green flag from Jeremiah B. Frog from Big Frog 104, with Schmidt racing out to the early lead. Ross settled into second, while John Ramsey was in third, Mike Hulsizer in fourth, and Pete Taylor in fifth. The driver really making his presence known in the early stages was J.J. Michaels, who raced into fifth on lap 8. Michaels was flying, but so was current point leader Matt Sheppard who started twelfth and raced into fifth by lap 14.

At the halfway point of the 30-lap main event, Schmidt was the leader by a half straightaway followed by Ross, Ramsey, Mike Hulsizer, Matt Sheppard, and J.J. Michaels. Sheppard moved past Hulsizer for fourth several laps later. The first yellow played a factor in the outcome, as Dave Rauscher spun in turn two on lap 19, collecting Michaels, who was done for the night with heavy damage and a possible knee injury. On the restart, Sheppard shot himself out of a cannon and went right around Ramsey for third, setting his sights on second place driver Tony Ross as Schmidt once again pulled away.

The next yellow also played a factor in the outcome, as John Ramsey spun, collecting last week's winner Todd Burley who was making his charge to the front. Sheppard went right to work on Ross on the restart, as a tremendous four car battle for fifth ensued, featuring Jim Rothwell, Ryan Baye, Jason Barney, and Gordy Button. Button, who started fifteenth, was simply flying as he went right around everyone and into fourth with just 6 laps to go. Ross was able to close in on Schmidt with five laps to go, as Sheppard bobbled and fell out of the top five.

The battle for the lead intensified with three circuits remaining as Ross was right there, but Schmidt slammed the door coming out of turn four when Ross peeked to the outside. Schmidt was just too strong with his Morrison Performance powered machine on this night, as he held off Ross in the last two laps to take home the win, his first at the track since August 1, 1999. Ross held on for second in his best Utica-Rome finish ever, followed by Gordy Button who took over third with two laps to go. Mike Hulsizer was fourth and Jim Rothwell was fifth. Completing the top ten it was Sheppard, Mitch Gibbs, Ryan Baye, Jason Barney, and Jack Johnson.

"I just put my foot down at the end and went for it," said an excited Schmidt in the post race victory lane ceremonies on Big Frog 104 Night. The win marked a tremendous comeback for Schmidt, who was seriously injured in a work-related accident in November of 2000. "Everyone wondered if I knew what I was doing out there," he said in reference to his struggles during the 2001 season. "After that, I guess I do!"

One other yellow bunched up the field with five laps to go, when Dave Rauscher spun for the second time in the race. Jack Johnson, Tony Ross, and Gus Schmidt won modified heat races, while Rich Price and Paul Kinney took the consis.

Bill Shantel Jr won his first career DIRT Sportsman feature at Utica-Rome, which caused victory lane to erupt in a gigantic family celebration. Shantel came from the sixth starting position to take the lead from early leader Crankin' Craig Pritchard and rode on to victory in the 20-lap affair. Steve Kotary was second in his best Sportsman finish ever, followed by Paul Carey, Mike Button, and current points leader Jamie Christian. Ironically, none of the top three finishers had ever won a Sportsman feature, but were all graduates and winners in the former Street Stock division. Button, Steve Davis, and 16-year old Jessica Zemken won the Sportsman heat races while Dave Bargabos won the consi.

Buddy Hencke came from sixteenth to win his third consecutive DIRT Pro Stock feature. Hencke took the lead from early leader Mark Effner on lap 10 and led the remainder of the 15-lap distance. Effner was second, with Chad Ray third, Denny Smith fourth, and Jason Rood in fifth. The race was marred by a scary incident when Eric Vanderhoof erupted into a ball of flames out of turn four and was rear ended by Dan Hatch in front of the starters stand. Quick work by Vanderhoof as well as the track safety crew put out the fire. Both drivers were shaken up, but uninjured thankfully. Effner and Joe Palmer were victorious in the Pro Stock heat events.

Dave Mannise won his second 15-lap Pure Stock feature in a row at the speedway. Mannise came from the twelfth starting position to take the lead from mid race leader George Schulze on lap 12 to take home the win. Schulze was second, followed by Chuck Cushman, Jim Thomas, and Art Newman Jr. Thomas led the first five laps of the event until Schulze took command on lap 12. Pure Stock heat races were won by David Pope and Newman.

Coming up this Sunday June 16, Pepsi-Cola will present the 358-Modifieds, Sportsman, Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks plus the Northeast Extreme Freestyle Motocross Series. Gates will open at 4pm, with racing beginning at 6pm. For more information, contact the track office at (315) 829-4557 or log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com.

PIT NOTES: 34 Modifieds, 30 Sportsman, 23 Pro Stocks, and 16 Pure Stocks were on hand for yet another beautiful Sunday evening at Utica-Rome. One way radios will be mandatory for the Modified and Sportsman divisions beginning July 7. The frequency will be 154.515, which is the same as all area tracks. More details will follow on the One Way Radio System. The legendary Maynard Forrette was back in action at Utica-Rome one more time. Forrrette, who along with Dave Lape and the late Lou Lazzaro, is one of the three drivers to have won on both the asphalt and dirt surfaces at the speedway. Four different winners have graced victory lane in the Modified division to date: Gibbs, Button, Burley, and now Schmidt. The Modified chassis win count: Troyer 2, TEO 1, Bicknell 1. Schmidt turned the fastest lap in the feature with a 20.509 lap on the fast half mile.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Pete Taylor