Utica-Rome Speedway 2000 season review

by Doug Zupan VERNON, NY - The 2000 racing season at the New Utica-Rome Speedway on Route 5 in Vernon marked the second consecutive season led by Track Promoters Eric and Gisele Kingsley under the DIRT Motorsports banner. It was a season of ...

by Doug Zupan

VERNON, NY - The 2000 racing season at the New Utica-Rome Speedway on Route 5 in Vernon marked the second consecutive season led by Track Promoters Eric and Gisele Kingsley under the DIRT Motorsports banner. It was a season of intense stock car racing action with a disappointing record of seven rainouts.

Here is a week by week review of the 2000-racing season:

May 7 - Opening Night 2000 - Andy Bachetti blistered the Utica-Rome Speedway clay surface on the way to his first career win at the track in the season opening 40-lap special. Ron Holmes, Pete Bicknell, Ronnie Johnson, and Tim Clemons rounded out the top five. Tony Ross survived a last lap duel with Willy Decker to win his first career DIRT Sportsman event, while invader Frank Twing dominated to win his first career Pro Stock victory at Utica-Rome. Dave Mannise won the Pure Stock event.

May 14 - NICE N' EASY GROCERY SHOPPES Mother's Day Special - Danny Johnson opened the Sunoco Race Fuels 358-Modified Super DIRT Series at Utica-Rome with a huge victory in the 100-lap affair. Todd Burley, Ron Holmes, Pat Ward, and Tim Clemons were the rest of the top five. Willy Decker won his only DIRT Sportsman feature of the season, while defending champion Tom Denton visited victory lane for the first time in the 2000 season. Less than 24 hours before the show was to start, a severe thunderstorm with heavy rains flooded the entire infield and part of the turns, but track crews were able to pump the water out and miraculously pull the event off.

May 21 - Regular Show - Persistent rain showers and a miserable weather forecast forced Track Promoter Eric Kingsley to cancel the scheduled racing events. Little did everyone know it would be the first of a record seven rainouts.

May 28 - STADIUM INTERNATIONAL NIGHT - Ron Holmes used the pole starting position to his advantage and went on in convincing style to win his first 358-Modified feature of 2000 at Utica-Rome. Rounding out the top five, it was Todd Burley, Mitch Gibbs, J.J. Michaels, and Pete Bicknell. George Suprick won the ELS Super Sprint event, which was marred by a horrible flip by popular driver Gordy Button. Jamie Christian was the DIRT Sportsman victor for his first of the season, and Tom Denton won his second consecutive DIRT Pro Stock feature as did Dave Mannise in the Pure Stocks.

June 4 - Regular Show - Todd Burley advanced from 15th starting position to win a thrilling 358-Modified feature over Dale Planck, J.J. Michaels, Gus Schmidt Jr., and Steve Hulsizer. Jamie Christian won his second consecutive Sportsman feature, while Tom Denton and Dave Mannsie won their third consecutive Pro Stock and Pure Stock features respectively. In the much-anticipated debut of the Slingshot division, David Nimey won the Senior event and Brian Howland won the Junior division.

June 11 - Regular Show plus Family Autograph Night - Heavy rain showers moved into the Vernon area shortly after the gates opened, forcing speedway management to cancel racing for the evening. All scheduled events were reverted to June 18.

June 18 - Student Night - For the second consecutive week, rain showers forced the cancellation of the scheduled DIRT Motorsports sanctioned racing action. This was the third rainout out of the seven scheduled races at that date.

June 25 - Regular Show plus CNY Mini Sprints - You guessed it, another disappointing and frustrating rainout. What more can be said?

July 2 - Independence Spectacular - For the first time in a month, racing action returned to Utica-Rome with beautiful sunny skies and very happy drivers and race fans. The headline 358-Modifieds ran Twin 20-lap features, with two very happy and emotional winners. John Barker Jr. outpaced Steve Hulsizer to record the victory and a Syracuse Super DIRT Week spot in the first event. Following Barker and Hulsizer, it was Jim Rothwell, Dale Planck, and J.J. Michaels. J.J. Michaels led the entire distance and won the second Twin 20, and dedicated the win to his late father "Pops". Rounding out the top five was Mitch Gibbs, Gus Schmidt Jr., Dale Planck, and Billy Wilcox. Jamie Christian won his third consecutive Sportsman feature, while Dave Mannise won his fourth consecutive Pure Stock event. Frank Twing invaded Utica-Rome for the second time, and went home with his second Pro Stock feature of the year. J.J. Courcy and Weylyn Barrows won their first Slingshot features on the 2000-season.

July 9 - FEDERATED AUTO PARTS Night - Promoter Eric Kingsley was forced to cancel the racing action for the fifth time of 2000 when persistent rain showers and a forecast for more rain made any racing impossible at the speedway.

July 16 - NICE N' EASY GROCERY SHOPPES Night - Ron Holmes advanced from the ninth starting position and survived a thrilling duel with Andy Bachetti to win his second 358-Modified feature of the season at Utica-Rome. After the top two, it was Tim Clemons, J.J. Michaels, and Dale Planck. 16-year old Paul Kinney won his first career Sportsman feature, while Jerry Holmes won his first Pro Stock feature on the season as did Chad Ray in the Pure Stocks. Todd Land won the NYS Slingshot tour race, while Larry Wight became a first time winner in the Junior Slingshots.

July 23 - SCHMIDT TRUCKING/EUCLID HOTEL & RESTAURANT Night - Ronnie Johnson won his first career Utica-Rome Speedway 358-Modified victory after a spectacular side by side dogfight with Roger Phelps that lasted half the 30-lap event. Phelps held on for second, while Ron Holmes, Tim Clemons, and Ted Lamb Jr. rounded out the top five. Jamie Christian won his fourth Sportsman event of the season as did Tom Denton in the Pro Stocks. Jeff Pastorella held of Dave Mannise to win his first Pure Stock feature of the season, while A.J. Kingsley took the Junior Slingshot honors.

July 30 - BIG A AUTO PARTS/NYSSCA Night - For the dismal sixth time of the 2000 campaign, early afternoon rains and a forecast for more rain forced speedway management to cancel the races.

August 6 - FEDERATED AUTO PARTS/NYSSCA Night - Heavy rains during the afternoon forced Track Promoter Eric Kingsley to cancel the evening's scheduled racing program for the second consecutive week. It was the seventh rainout of the 2000 season, and it was very disappointing to say the least. In 2000, there were more rainouts at Utica-Rome than the past three years added together (6). However, thankfully it was to be the final rained out event in 2000, and in 2001, Utica-Rome will have much better luck with Mother Nature.

August 13 - PEPSI-COLA Night - Todd Burley started fourth and went green to checkers in his brand new Troyer mount to win his second 358-Modified feature of the season at Utica-Rome. It was the first green to checker event at Utica-Rome in quite some time. Billy Wilcox, Tim Clemons, J.J. Michaels, and Mark Schoonover completed the top five. Kevin Crave was a first time winner on the season in the Sportsman, while Tom Denton took his fifth in the Pro Stock division. Chad Ray won his second feature on the season in the Pure Stocks, while J.J. Courcy capped the Senior Slingshot event and A.J. Kingsley the Junior Slingshots.

August 17 - ULMS Late Model Showdown - The United Late Model Series (ULMS) made their first ever appearance at the speedway, and Bob Close won the 40-lap event in convincing style. Rounding out the top five, it was Ed Carley, Al Brewer, Mike Wonderling, and Gene Sharpsteen. Jamie Christian won the companion DIRT Sportsman feature, his fifth on the 2000 season.

August 20 - FOREIGN AUTO PARTS/TOM GOULD MEMORIAL Night - Twenty-year old Jason Barney took advantage of several mistakes by point leader Ron Holmes and went on to his first career 358-Modified feature win at Utica-Rome in thrilling style. In doing so, Barney became the youngest driver to ever win a Modified feature at Utica-Rome. Holmes recovered for second, while Todd Burley, J.J. Michaels, and Mitch Gibbs filled out the top five. Tim Mayne and Bret Belden won their first features of the season in the Sportsman and Pro Stocks respectively, while Dave Mannise won his fifth Pure Stock event of the year. David Nimey won the Senior Slingshot feature and A.J. Kingsley won the Junior Slingshot event.

August 24 - NICE N' EASY GROCERY SHOPPES Night - In the much anticipated return of the DIRT Big Block Modifieds, Danny Johnson proved why he is the man to beat on the DIRT Motorsports circuit by beating his nemesis Steve Paine to the finish of the 100-lap Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series event. Jack Johnson, Brett Hearn, Alan Johnson, Bob McCreadie, Mitch Gibbs, Pat Ward, Vic Coffey, and Frank Cozze rounded out the top ten. In the companion DIRT Sportsman event, Jim Spano won his first career Utica-Rome feature after a tight battle with Dan Yankowski.

August 27 - Regular Show - Mitch Gibbs held off a late race charge by defending track champion Dale Planck to win his first feature of 2000 at the speedway. After the top two, it was Jack Johnson, J.J. Michaels, and John Barker Jr. In the 30-lap UFPO "Dig Safely" Sportsman Super DIRT Series event, Steve Gray took home his first career Utica-Rome win over Chris Schultz, Dan Yankowski, Jamie Christian, and Justin Haers. Jerry Holmes won his second of the season in the Pro Stocks, while Mark Effner won his first career Pure Stock feature event. David Nimey and A.J. Kingsley won the Senior and Junior Slingshot features respectively.

September 3 - "NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS" - J.J. Michaels went into the final night of points leading Ron Holmes by just two markers, so everyone knew it would be a night of drama as the battle for the track championship saw center stage. Michaels was right where he had to be in the feature to win the title, but a broken rear suspension put him out of the action. Dale Planck held off the incredible charge of Jack Johnson, who started eighteenth, to win his first feature of the season at Utica-Rome. Mitch Gibbs, Ron Holmes, and Ted Lamb Jr. completed the top five drivers, but Ron Holmes went home with his first career Utica-Rome 358-Modified Track Championship. Jamie Christian won his sixth Sportsman feature of the season, but Kevin Crave took the honors in the Track Championship war. Jerry Holmes won his third Pro Stock feature of the 2000 campaign, but fifth place finisher went home with his second consecutive Pro Stock Track Championship. Mike Lauterborn won his first career Eastern Limited Super Sprint feature at Utica-Rome, while Ryan Phelps and Kyle Reuter took their first wins in the Slingshot division. Jackie Botindari and A.J. Kingsley were crowned the 2000 Senior and Junior Slingshot Track Champions, respectively. The Pure Stock feature was rain delayed to September 17 and would count toward track points as the final show.

September 17 - Mr. Title Races Night - Doug Emery took home his first Utica-Rome / Eastern Limited Super Sprint victory in a highly bizarre Sprint Car main event, while Jamie Christian capped off a great season at Utica-Rome with his seventh win this year in the 25-lap Mr. Sportsman event. Jerry Holmes won the Mr. Pro Stock 25-lap extra distance special, while Jeff Pastorella took the rained out Pure Stock feature and John Pietrowicz won the Mr. Pure Stock feature go. Dave Mannise won his fifth consecutive Pure Stock Track Championship, his eighth overall.

September 22 - TRIPLE B WELDING Night - The final show of the 2000 season will go down in history as being one of the most dramatic races in the long and storied history of Utica-Rome Speedway. Danny Johnson came from a consi starting position to lead on lap 28, and Johnson continued to lead through the halfway point, when signs of smoke began developing on his machine. As Danny began slowing on lap 84, the lights around the entire speedway blacked out, and all the cars came to rest on the frontstretch. Luckily there was no damage and no injuries, but when the lights came back on Johnson was pushed to the pit area and done for the evening. This left local favorite and Track Champion Ron Holmes with the lead, but he too had problems when he exploded his powerplant just after being passed by Jack Johnson for the lead with eight laps to go. Johnson, who was driving a Mopar powered Teo car, led the final few laps. However, Brett Hearn closed right on in, creating a half-car photo finish at the checkers. It was Johnson's first win at Utica-Rome since 1987, and incredibly, he along with his son Ronnie, became the first father-son team to win races in the same year at the speedway. Completing the top ten, it was Dale Planck, Todd Burley, J.J. Michaels, Pete Bicknell, Kenny Tremont Jr., Steve Paine, Vic Coffey, Andy Bachetti. Bret Belden dominated and defended his home turf leading all laps in the 25-lap ARANY Pro Stock Super DIRT Series event. Butchie Irwin, Tom Kuck, Jim Normoyle, and Andy Dembek completed the top five.

Congratulations to..

New Utica-Rome Speedway 2000 Track Champions

DIRT 358 Modifieds - Ron Holmes - Oneida, NY

DIRT Sportsman - Kevin Crave - West Winfield, NY

DIRT Pro Stocks - Tom Denton - Bridgewater, NY

Pure Stocks - Dave Mannise - Fulton, NY

Senior Slingshots - Jackie Botindari - Weedsport, NY

Junior Slingshots - A.J. Kingsley - Fulton, NY

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Series Stock car
Drivers Brett Hearn , John Barker