VERNON, NY- Alan Johnson benefited from a series of late race yellow flags that brought leader Bobby Varin back to him and allowed him the opportunity to make the pass for the win. Johnson took advantage of the opportunity and walked...
VERNON, NY- Alan Johnson benefited from a series of late race yellow flags that brought leader Bobby Varin back to him and allowed him the opportunity to make the pass for the win. Johnson took advantage of the opportunity and walked away with Turning Stone Casino 358-Modified Super DIRT Series victory on Tracey Road Equipment night. Jason Rood won the Pro Stock main with the Pure Stocks again yielding to Russ Marsden.
Todd Burley and Ray Bliss brought the 30-car starting field down to Matt Burdick's green flag for the start of the 100-lap Turning Stone Casino 358-Modified Super DIRT Series event with Bliss surprising many of the Utica-Rome Speedway fans by taking the early lead over track regular Burley. Bliss wasn't able to get away from Burley however as the Spencerport native hounded Bliss for the lead and was able wrestle it away on lap 3. But Bliss, in a very rare visit to the speedway, was not going to go away easily and by the next circuit, he was able to regain the top spot bringing 4th place starter Pat Ward with him around the fading Burley. Ward, the current Turning Stone Casino Super DIRT Series point leader, immediately began to apply pressure to Bliss and by lap 7, Ward was the leader. 3rd place starter Mitch Gibbs came with Ward around Bliss and by lap 8, Gibbs was being scored as the leader. A former Utica-Rome Speedway track champion and long-time track regular, Gibbs was looking to score his first win of 2004 at the speedway and end his season on a high note as he began to open up a slight lead over Ward. By lap 10, Alan Johnson began to enter the picture as he steadily made his way up to 2nd from his 9th place starting spot. Ward had slipped back to 3rd with car builder Pete Bicknell in 4th, and Brett Hearn coming from 11th to 5th.
The first caution of the event flew on lap 16 for the disable car of Russell Hendrickson, Jr. which eliminated any lead the Gibbs had built. Johnson immediately began to work over Gibbs for the lead on the ensuing restart and on lap 17; Johnson nipped Gibbs at the line to be scored as the leader. Gibbs wasn't done however as he powered by Johnson again and was again the leader as lap 18 went into the books. At this point the fans were being treated to a fantastic race up front with Johnson and Gibbs running side by side for the lead, with Ward, Bicknell, and Hearn all close behind. Johnson again was able to get by Gibbs on lap 20 to regain control of the field in his Eric Kingsley owned mount. At the one quarter point of the race, Johnson was still out front, now with Bicknell in 2nd, Gibbs back to 3rd, Hearn up to 4th, and Stewart Friesen charging from his 14th starting position to 5th. The second yellow of the evening came out on lap 28 for slowing car of Jamie Christian. A 2004 feature winner at the Utica-Rome Speedway, Christian's night was done with mechanical problems.
The lap 31 restart saw Friesen make his move towards the front, immediately moving into the 3rd spot and by lap 32, he was up to 2nd and coming after the leader Johnson. Friesen looked every bit of the dominant driver he has been throughout the 2004 season at Utica-Rome Speedway as he passed Johnson for the lead on lap 33. Friesen was able to open a slight lead as green flag racing continued, but a war for positions 2nd through 6th was being waged behind him. Although Johnson was able to cling onto the runner-up spot, heavy pressure was being applied from behind as Bicknell and Ward took turns trying to get by him. By lap 38, a new driver began to enter the battle for a top 5 position as Bobby Varin, who started 19th, made it a 6 car battle in the front of the field. Lap 39 saw Varin, using the extreme outside line, swing around Hearn for the 5th spot and look to continue his march to the front. Gibbs fine run ended a few laps later when he retired to the pits on lap 44. At the halfway point, it was still Friesen out front, with Johnson, Ward, Varin, and Bicknell filling out the top 5. Positions 6 through 10 were occupied by Hearn, Burley, Chuck Hebing, Ronnie Johnson, and Dale Planck.
Varin's outside groove seemed to get faster the longer the race continued under green as quickly moved into 2nd on lap 51 but this seemed to was Johnson up as he quickly raced back by Varin took the lead back on lap 54. Varin slipped backed to 4th as Ward also was able to get by and moved into 2nd, sending Friesen to 3rd and Varin to 4th. Bicknell was back to the 5th spot, with all the top 5 cars dueling in one tight pack. On lap 60, Varin was still using the high lane around the speedway and moved back up to 2nd and then was able to by Johnson for the lead a lap later on the 61st circuit. For the first time all race long, the race leader was able to open a comfortable lead on the rest of the competitors. As lap 75 was going into the books, Varin was comfortably out front with Ward, Johnson, Bicknell, and Burley trailing. After 53 laps of consecutive green flag racing, the 3rd caution of the race slowed the field down on lap 84 as Mark Flach was unable to exit the racing surface. Friesen immediately ducked into the pits for a new right rear tire. The green lights blinked on again on lap 87, and now Ward was in 2nd and looking to steal the victory to extend his slim point lead. The yellow again flew on lap 89, again bunching field together and seemingly setting up a dash for the win. Varin was able to hang on to the top spot again when racing resumed on lap 91, but Johnson now seemed to have new life as he got by Ward immediately after the restart and easily caught Varin. Surprisingly after utilizing the top side for the majority of the event, Varin switched lanes and went to the bottom while Johnson went to the top. Just as Johnson was pulling up on Varin for the lead on lap 95, Brian Weaver's racer suddenly slowed which brought out the yellow again. Lap 98 saw the green lights come on again and Johnson again went to the topside as Varin went to the bottom lane again. Johnson had just completed the pass as Todd Thomas lost a left front tire in turn 1 which again caused the field to go yellow. At this point, the DIRT requirement for all series events to end with a green-white-checkered finish was causing the race to run longer than the scheduled 100 lap distance. A lap 102 restart was quickly aborted when Dave Camara made contact with the front stretch wall and came to a stop. Again the field was gathered back up, and on lap 106, the final restart of race saw Johnson remain out front with Ward quickly moving into the runner-up spot as Varin slipped to 3rd. Johnson sped away for the $3000 victory with Ward in the 2nd spot. Varin barely clung onto 3rd over Bicknell as Friesen recovered from his pit stop to finish in 5th.
Eric Vanderhoof led the opening lap of the companion Pro Stock feature and would remain there until 11th place starter took over on lap 6. Vanderhoof's fine run was ended on lap 9 as he and Jim Normoyle made slight contact which sent Vanderhoof into the turn 4 wall. Tom Denton was collected in the incident with heavy damage on both Denton' and Vanderhoof's machines. Rood was able to fend off point leader Roy Fifield to secure his 2nd consecutive Pro Stock victory at the speedway. Fifield was 2nd, with Normoyle, Bret Belden, and Dave Moyer chasing.
Bob Bird and Jim Thomas took turns leading the first 2 circuits of the Pure Stock main event. By lap 3, Dave Pope was the leader as he was looking to secure the 2004 Pure Stock track championship. Russ Marsden was the leader by lap 8 with Pope's night ending a lap later with rear end problems. Chuck Cushman gave chase for the remaining 6 laps but could not keep pace with Marsden as he netted his 10th win of 2004. Cushman was 2nd, Art Newman in 3rd, Bird in 4th, and Rick Condes in the 5th position.
NOTES- Todd Burley toured the speedway in what is believed to a track record setting 19.059 seconds for the fast time of the night. Chuck Hebing was second fastest time trailer with a time of 19.097 seconds. Stewart Friesen, Pete Bicknell, and Dale Planck were the victors in the 358-Modified heats with Paul Kinney taking the consolation event. Bobby Varin's run was rewarded with a spot in the Sunoco/ A-plus 358-Modified Championship at Super DIRT Week, along with the Bert Hard Charger Award. Varin's accomplishment is even more stunning considering he went off turn 4 in his heat event at nearly full throttle. Varin sustained just minor damage and was able to continue. Pat Ward's 2nd place finish allowed him extends his point lead in the series to an unofficial 10 points. There were an astounding 12 lead changes among 7 drivers in the 108-lap affair. 7 cautions slowed the event for a total of 22 laps with 5 of the caution periods coming in the last quarter of the race. Bob Mills and Ryan Lund took the Pro Stock qualifiers while Russ Marsden and Art Newman was the winner of the Pure Stock heats.
TRACEY ROAD EQUIPMENT RACE SUMMARY
TURNING STONE CASINO 358-MODIFIED SUPER DIRT SERIES FEATURE FINISH (108 LAPS)- ALAN JOHNSON, Pat Ward, Bobby Varin, Pete Bicknell, Stewart Friesen, Chuck Hebing, Todd Burley, Brett Hearn, Ronnie Johnson, Dave Rauscher, Richie Pratt, Willy Decker, Paul Kinney, Brian Weaver, John Lazore, Ken McGuire, Dave Camara, Mark Flach, Todd Thomas, John Ramsey, Dale Planck, Mike Ward, Ray Bliss, Gus Schmidt, Mitch Gibbs, Tom Perrego, Jamie Christian, David Orr, Russell Hendrickson Jr., and Mark Tily. DNQ- Rich Salisbury, Joel Thomas, Steve Way, Don Mattison, and Paul Jensen.
DIRT PRO STOCK FEATURE FINISH (15 LAPS)- JASON ROOD, Roy Fifield, Jim Normoyle, Bret Belden, Dave Moyer, Bob Mills, Ed Ostrander, Bill Knapp, Dale Guernsey, Scott Tifft, Jeff Witt, Todd Fey, Ryan Lund, Brian Belden, Eric Vanderhoof, Tom Denton, and AJ Digsby.
PURE STOCK FEATURE FINISH (15 LAPS)- RUSS MARSDEN, Chuck Cushman, Art Newman, Bob Bird, Rick Condes, Jim Thomas, Dave Janczuk, Phil Norman, Frank Hyatt, Shawn Dunn, Ricky Marshall, Dave Pope, Walter Koperda, and Chris Cunningham.