Utica-Rome race report 2002-06-23

Steve Hulsizer wins Utica-Rome on seven cylinders. VERNON, NY -- Steve Hulsizer, 35, of Brewerton claimed his first 30-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature victory of the 2002 season last Sunday night at Utica-Rome Speedway on Skip's Trailer Sales / ...

Steve Hulsizer wins Utica-Rome on seven cylinders.

VERNON, NY -- Steve Hulsizer, 35, of Brewerton claimed his first 30-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature victory of the 2002 season last Sunday night at Utica-Rome Speedway on Skip's Trailer Sales / Rothwell's Used Auto Sales Night. Amazingly, Hulsizer was running on seven cylinders due to an electrical problem on his skipping Pence & Associates / Bicknell No. 88 machine. Nonetheless, he held off a hard charging Mitch Gibbs, who himself drove the last half of the race with a severely bent front axle. The popular first win in three years for Hulsizer was worth $1,500.

Jeff Kotary and Pete Taylor led the 30-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature down to the flags of Starter Matt Burdick with Taylor racing out to the early race lead. John Ramsey took control on lap 9, but by lap eleven Steve Hulsizer, who charged through the field from seventh, took the lead. Gordy Button was also flying in the early stages of the event, charging from his fourteenth starting spot to fifth on lap 7. Two laps later, Button flew from fifth to third and set his sights on Ramsey and Hulsizer.

By this time, you could hear popping noises coming from the Hulsizer No. 88 machine, and it seemed like Hulsizer would be pulling into the pits before too long. However, Hulsizer kept his foot down and by the halfway point, he was the leader over Ramsey, Button, Mark Flach, Mitch Gibbs, and Matt Sheppard. Gibbs, who narrowly avoided being in an earlier race pileup, was having problems of his own as his right front tire was bent inward at a 45 degree angle, later found out to be a bent axle. Gibbs kept going forward and moved into third on lap 18, with Button taking over second.

It appeared that Button was faster than Hulsizer as he pressured him for the lead, but Gibbs was right there was well in a three-car battle for the lead. However, Button broke on lap 21, causing a yellow. Button returned without losing a lap in the pits. On the restart, Gibbs went right to work on Hulsizer as the fans rose to their feet. Hulsizer's banging and popping motor sounded horrible but he kept on plugging away, holding off Gibbs. Matt Sheppard raced into the third spot at this time, and rapidly began closing in on the first two cars.

The nose from Hulsizer's motor was getting worse as the final few laps clicked by with the skipping noise becoming louder and louder. In the last four laps, Gibbs had his work cut out as he was racing hard with Sheppard for second, but somehow, he held him off with the damaged steering system. At the line, it was Hulsizer for his first victory at Utica-Rome since July 4, 1999.

Gibbs was second, in what was an amazing display of driving. Sheppard, who made a mid-race pit stop, finished third despite a bent tie rod. Ramsey was fourth with Mark Flach in fifth for his best career finish at Utica-Rome. Jim Rothwell was sixth with yet another good finish, with Aaron Excell, Tony Ross, Paul Kinney, and Gordy Button completing the top ten finishers.

Hulsizer did not like his chances to keep the lead as the laps winded down. "None, zero," he said about his third career win at the track. "I did not think the chances were any good at all. I did not think it was going to go the distance. No way." Hulsizer felt that the problem was electrically based. "I knew it was electrical because I grabbed some wires under the dash and it clear up a little bit. It might be a broken plug or something, or even a switch," the happy driver said.

Hulsizer had everyone laughing, as he commented, "I had a couple guys in the pits telling me before the feature to 'drive it like you hate it.' They've been making fun of me lately, they wanted me to drive it like I was mad."

Ramsey, Gibbs, and Taylor won the Modified heat races. Eight yellows slowed the feature, the most serious on lap 11 which piled up seven cars in turn four. The incident eliminated contender Todd Burley and several others from competition.

Defending track champion Tim Clemons of Gloversville finally broke into the winner's circle in the DIRT Sportsman division after leading the entire 20-lap distance from the pole of the non-point affair. Jamie Christian was closing fast but finished second, with Steve Way in third, John Christian in fourth, and Dave Bargabos in third. Clemons, Kevin Crave, and Jamie Christian were the heat race winners.

Jim Normoyle of Salsbury Center won his first career Utica-Rome 15-lap Pro Stock feature in the regularly scheduled event last Sunday. Normoyle, who started fourth, took the lead on lap 2 from Eric Vanderhoof and led the remainder of the event. Vanderhoof was second, followed by lady racer Gerry Newman, Bill Knapp, and Mark Hoffman. Normoyle and Bret Belden were victorious in the heat races.

Newcomer Denny Smith of Trout Creek copped his first ever Pro Stock feature at Utica-Rome in the rain-delayed feature from last week. Smith started ninth and took the lead from early leader Eric Vanderhoof to lead the remainder of the 15-lap distance. Dave Moyer was second, Joe Palmer was third, Jason Rood was fourth, and Brian Belden was fifth.

In the regularly scheduled Pure Stock feature, Chuck Cushman of Rome started sixth and claimed the 15-lap victory. Jeff Thorp was second, followed by Dave Mannise, George Schulze, and Dave Pope. Ricky Trexler led the first two circuits before Dave Pope took over on lap three. Cushman took the lead on lap 9 and led the remainder of the event, his second victory of the year. Rick Condes and Ricky Trexler were the heat race winners.

In the rain delayed Pure Stock event from June 16, an excited Art Newman Jr of Utica came from fifth to take home his first career Pure Stock victory in a wild, wreck filled, affair. Dave Pope, George Schulze, Chuck Cushman, and Ted Crawford completed the top five. Pope led the first three laps until Jeff Thorp took command on lap four. Ricky Trexler took over the lead when Thorp and second place driver Dave Mannise got hooked while battling for the lead. Ted Crawford led on lap 9, but Newman took the lead for good the next lap.

Coming up this Sunday June 30, the 358-Modified division will compete in Twin 30-lap features including the rained out event from June 16. Also in action on Walton's Farm & Auto Repair Night will be the DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks with the gates opening at 4pm and racing set for 6pm. For more information, contact the track office at (315) 829-4557 or log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com.

PIT NOTES -- 27 Modifieds, 24 Sportsman, 22 Pro Stocks, and 17 Pure Stocks were on hand for the hot evening. Utica-Rome Sportsman regular Mike Button claimed the Super DIRT Series feature win at Weedsport. Button opened the series with a victory last Wednesday at Utica-Rome. The legendary Jack Johnson, who was smoking heavily in the later stages of his heat race, did not start the feature due to motor problems. Six different winners have graced victory lane in the Modified division to date: Gibbs, Button, Burley, Schmidt, Danny Johnson, and now Steve Hulsizer. The Modified chassis win count: Troyer 3, Bicknell 2, TEO 1.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Pete Taylor