Utica-Rome speedway report 2000-07-23


by Doug Zupan

VERNON, NY - Second generation driver Ronnie Johnson, from Duanesburg, NY, thrilled Utica-Rome Speedway fans with a spectacular career first victory over Roger Phelps in the DIRT 358 Modified feature event on Euclid Hotel & Schmidt Trucking Night on Sunday July 23. Other feature winners on the evening included West Winfield's Jamie Christian in the DIRT Sportsman, Bridgewater's Tom Denton in the DIRT Pro Stocks, Westmoreland's Jeff Pastorella in the Pure Stocks, and Fulton's A.J. Kingsley in the Junior Slingshots.

Tim Murphy Jr. and Ted Lamb Jr. paced the 24-car DIRT 358 Modified 30-lap feature starting field down to the flags of Starter Chip Burdick, and right away Lamb grabbed the lead on the backstretch. On lap 2, Pete Taylor spun in turn two, collecting Andy Bachetti, Todd Burley who was in Mitch Gibbs' car, Bob Bennett, and Joe Slawiak. Burley, Taylor, and Bennett were done for the night, while Bachetti and Slawiak were able to continue. On the restart, Roger Phelps leaped into second, as he took the spot from Murphy. Coming from deep in the field were point leader Ron Holmes and Dale Planck, and Planck took over third on lap three from Murphy. Gus Schmidt was running well, and he took over the fourth spot on lap 6. On lap 7, Matt DeLorenzo spun coming off of turn four, collecting Bachetti, who was done for the night with his battered racer. One lap later after the restart, Schmidt shot himself out of a cannon and moved into second. However, Ronnie Johnson, who started in ninth, was now into the top five, running on the outside in third. Schmidt, Phelps, and Johnson went three wide, with Phelps coming out as the leader of lap 8. This left a 2-car battle for second between Schmidt and Johnson, but Johnson won that battle a lap later. Johnson was flying, as he set his sites on the front running Phelps, whom was looking for his first win of the season. On lap 13, Johnson caught him, and a torrid battle began that really got Utica-Rome race fans up out of their seats. With Johnson running low, and Phelps high, the pair dueled it out over the next twelve laps, exchanging the lead several times nearly every lap. Johnson first inched his car out front on lap 14, but Phelps came out of turn four better on the high side to lead.

At the halfway point, the top five was Phelps, followed by Johnson, Schmidt, Holmes, and J.J. Michaels. One lap later, Michaels pulled into the infield, with an undisclosed problem on his car. He was done for the night, and it was a bad break for the runner up in the point standings. On lap 17, Johnson dove into turn three on the low side and took the lead, but again Phelps was faster coming out of four. Johnson kept the intense pressure on Phelps, and it seemed as though Johnson was faster. On lap 20, Schmidt jumped the cushion, allowing Holmes to get by for the third spot, entering Holmes into the all-out battle for the win. As Holmes set his sights on the leaders on lap 23, Phelps went high in turn one, allowing Johnson to take the lead. But Phelps again powered his way off the fourth corner and held his lead by a half car-length. Johnson was right where he needed to be, as he diamonded the first turn, and leaped into the lead to the approval of the Utica-Rome race fans. With three to go, Holmes looked underneath Phelps, but Phelps held him off. However, on lap 28, Schmidt slowed, ending his great run, but it set up a two-lap shootout to the finish. On the final restart, Holmes went side by side with Phelps for second, but Phelps kept the spot as Johnson pulled away. As the double checkers flew, Johnson was the winner, followed by Phelps, Holmes, Tim Clemons, and Lamb.

Johnson's popular win was the first of his career at Utica-Rome, where his father, Jack Johnson is the all-time Big Block Modified winner and a former owner.

After his big win, the happy Johnson commented, "Man, this is the best prepared track I have been on. I'd like to thank Brian Goewey and the rest of the Nice N' Easy Grocery Shoppes team for giving me a great car. It has taken us half this year to get this Teo Pro Car sorted out and setup right for this track, but a few weeks ago we started running good. Then last week I was running third and spun out. We've just made a lot of changes and done a lot of hard work on this car, and I really hope to have a few more good runs here before the season is over."

Roger Phelps was all smiles as he was being interviewed, and he offered one comment that pretty much summed up the entire race, which was his best finish of the season - "I've won races that weren't that much fun. Wow, what a race! I'm glad to see Ronnie win, I've been good friends with his dad over the years."

Modified heat races were won by Schmidt, Johnson, Planck, and Burley, while John Barker Jr. and J.J. Michaels won the Modified Consis.

Dave Bargabos used his outside front row starting position to take the lead at the start of the 20-lap DIRT Sportsman feature, and Dan Yankowski settled into second. On lap 4, point contender Willy Decker and Tim Mayne were hooked together in turn four, but after a quick yellow and untangline, they were both able to continue. Bargabos, who was looking for his first career Sportsman victory, resumed his lead on the restart, but a quick yellow came out two laps later, when Chad Phelps and Geoff VanRiper spun together on the frontstretch. When the green lights came back on, a three wide battle for the lead began, with Bargabos, Kevin Crave, and Yankowski. Bargabos kept the top spot, but Crave kept the pressure on him while Yankowski settled into third. On lap 9, Crave tried again for the lead, but Bargabos seemed to be a little faster. Moving into the top five by this point was Jamie Christian, who started seventeenth, and kept reeling in the top two cars. With five to go, Crave bobbled in turn four, giving second to Christian, and Christian set his sights on Bargabos. With two to go, Christian looked underneath Bargabos, but Bargabos held him off for that lap. Heading into turn one on the final lap, Christian took the lead on the inside and drifted high, but Bargabos made a slingshot move off the corner to get ahead of Christian as they sped down the backstretch. Christian drove deep into turn three, and stole the win from Bargabos. After the top two, it was Crave, Yankowski, and Ron Richardson rounding out the top five. For Christian, it was his fourth win on the season at Utica-Rome. However, during post-race technical inspection, Christian's car had some questionable findings, and an appeal was filed with DIRT Motorsports headquarters.

Sportsman heats went to Bargabos, John Kinsella, and John Christian, and Andrew Howard won the lone Sportsman Consi.

John Kiskiel jumped into the early lead of the 15-lap Pro Stock feature event, an excellent race that would see five different leaders. On lap 2, Wayne Archer, took the top spot, but a quick yellow came out for Gerry Newman, who spun on the backstretch. On the restart, Kiskiel looked underneath Archer, but Archer held the lead. Tom Denton and Jerry Holmes were on the move from deep in the pack, and by the halfway point, they reached the top five and made it a seven-car battle for the win. Bill Knapp took over the second spot and stole the lead from Archer on lap 7. A lap later, it was Jason Rood scored as the leader, but Denton, who started eleventh, was right on his back bumper. With four to go, Denton went side by side with Rood for the lead, and when Rood bobbled in turn one, Denton took over the lead. He was never challenged for the remainder of the way, and went on to his fourth victory of the 2000 season at Utica-Rome. After Denton, it was Rood, Archer, Jerry Holmes, and Bret Belden rounding out the top five. Rood and Holmes won the Pro Stock heat races.

David Pope was the early leader in the 15-lap Pure Stock feature, but Jeff Pastorella was on the move. Pastorella started in tenth, and by lap 4, he went past Pope for the lead. Dave Mannise, coming from deep in the pack followed Pastorella on by Pope for second. On a late race restart, Mannise peeked under Pastorella, but Pastorella was able to hold on for the final laps and get his first victory of the season at Utica-Rome. Mannise was second, followed by Chad Ray, Herm Staats, and Mark Effner. Ray, Jim Thomas, and Bobby Newman were the Pure Stock heat race victors.

A.J. Kingsley grabbed the lead at the start of the 12-lap Junior Slingshot feature event, and went on to his first career Utica-Rome win. He was followed by Larry Wight and Weylyn Barrows. Kingsley won the lone Slingshot heat race.

Coming up this Sunday July 30 at the New Utica-Rome Speedway, Big A Auto Parts will present a regular show of DIRT 358 Modifieds, DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, & Slingshots. It will also be New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) Night and Thomas Gould Memorial Night. The gates will open at 4pm and racing will begin promptly at 6pm.

For more information, contact the speedway office at (315) 829-4557 or visit the official internet website at www.newuticaromespeedway.com.

Notes - 35 Modifieds, 32 Sportsman, 18 Pro Stocks, 25 Pure Stocks, and 3 Slingshots filled the pit area with 113 cars on a beautiful summer evening where there was finally no chance of rain. Andy Bachetti, Gus Schmidt, and Willy Decker participated in an autograph session behind the grandstands during intermission. Hundreds of fans got autographs from the trio.



RACE DATE: JULY 23, 2000

DIRT 358 Modifieds (30 Laps) - 1)RONNIE JOHNSON, 2)Roger Phelps, 3)Ron Holmes, 4)Tim Clemons, 5)Ted Lamb Jr., 6)Billy Wilcox, 7)John Barker Jr., 8)Dale Planck, 9)Jeremy Smith, 10)Jason Barney, 11)Steve Hulsizer, 12)Andy Romano, 13)Jim Rothwell, 14)Matt DeLorenzo, 15)Tim Murphy Jr., 16)Gus Schmidt, 17)Joe Slawiak, 18)J.J. Michaels, 19)Mike Hulsizer, 20)Andy Bachetti, 21)Mike Gillette, 22)Pete Taylor, 23)Todd Burley, 24)Bob Bennett.

Lap Leaders - Lamb (1-7), Phelps (8-24), Johnson (25-30).

Did Not Qualify - Maynard Forrette, Randy Storms, Bob Utter, Danny Fassett, Joel Thomas, Nick Vatalaro Jr., Rich Price, Rob Hughes, Bill Shantel Sr., Mike Jacobs, Mark Schoonover.

Unofficial Point Standings (Top 5) - 1)Ron Holmes 372, 2)Dale Planck 330, 3)J.J. Michaels, 4)Tim Clemons, 5)Roger Phelps 303.

DIRT Sportsman (20 Laps) - 1)JAMIE CHRISTIAN, 2)Dave Bargabos, 3)Kevin Crave, 4)Dan Yankowski, 5)Ron Richardson, 6)Paul Carey, 7)Craig Pritchard, 8)John Christian, 9)Brian Murphy, 10)Andrew Howard, 11)Willy Decker, 12)Butch Reiter, 13)Steve Davis, 14)Steve Way, 15)Paul Kinney, 16)Chad Phelps, 17)Jim Roberts, 18)Tim Mayne, 19)Rick Keller, 20)Shawn Donath, 21)Geoff VanRiper, 22)Mark Tily, 23)Donnie Wetmore Jr., 24)John Kinsella.

Lap Leaders - Bargabos (1-19), Ja. Christian (20).

Did Not Qualify - Jim Lavalla, Pete Lyon, John Powers, Ron Cettner, Bill Shantel Jr., Jordan Bennett, Ed Ferris, Rick McCready.

Unofficial Point Standings (Top 5) - 1)Willy Decker 283, 2)Kevin Crave 272, 3)Jamie Christian 254, 4)Craig Pritchard 242, 5)Paul Carey 236.

DIRT Pro Stocks (15 Laps) - 1)TOM DENTON, 2)Jason Rood, 3)Wayne Archer, 4)Jerry Holmes, 5)Bret Belden, 6)Bill Knapp, 7)Dave Moyer, 8)Stan Clark, 9)John Roese, 10)John Kiskiel, 11)Doug Grimaldi, 12)Eric Vanderhoof, 13)Richard Stevenson, 14)Chuck Jones, 15)Gus Gould, 16)Dave Meeks, 17)Brett Haman, 18)Gerry Newman.

Lap Leaders - Kiskiel (1), Archer (2-6), Knapp (7-8), Rood (9-10), Denton (11-15).

Pure Stocks (15 Laps) - 1)JEFF PASTORELLA, 2)Dave Mannise, 3)Chad Ray, 4)Herm Staats, 5)Mark Effner, 6)Jim Thomas, 7)Bill Mason, 8)Waylan Wilczek, 9)Les Lewis, 10)Ray Fancher, 11)Rob Seavy, 12)Dan Hatch, 13)Bill Gibson, 14)Art Newman Jr., 15)Scott Simzer, 16)Walt Koperda, 17)Jeremy Bargabos, 18)Bobby Newman, 19)David Pope, 20)Ron Poland Jr., 21)Dan Congden, 22)Cali Hall, 23)Bill Lashen, 24)Matt Spisak, 25)George Wright.

Lap Leaders - Pope (1-3), Pastorella (4-15).

Junior Slingshots (12 Laps) - 1)A.J. KINGSLEY, 2)Larry Wight, 3)Weylyn Barrows.

Lap Leaders - Kingsley (1-12).

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Series Stock car
Drivers Jim Roberts , Pete Taylor , Brian Murphy , Andrew Howard , John Barker , Jeremy Smith