Utica-Rome Speedway report 2001-07-29

VERNON, NY - Former track champion Mitch Gibbs of North Norwich came from the fourteenth starting position to claim his first DIRT 358-Modified feature win of the 2001 season last Sunday in a borrowed car at Utica-Rome Speedway on Euclid Hotel &...

VERNON, NY - Former track champion Mitch Gibbs of North Norwich came from the fourteenth starting position to claim his first DIRT 358-Modified feature win of the 2001 season last Sunday in a borrowed car at Utica-Rome Speedway on Euclid Hotel & Restaurant/Schmidt Trucking night. Gibbs, 38, took the lead from a dominant Gus Schmidt with five laps to go when Schmidt bobbled off the cushion in turn one. The win for Gibbs, who was subbing for the injured Roger Phelps in the Beesmer's Furnature/TEO No. 99, was worth $1,500.

Other feature winners on Euclid Hotel & Restaurant/Schmidt Trucking night were Tim Clemons of Gloversville in the DIRT Sportsman, Bret Belden of West Edmeston in the DIRT Pro Stocks, Jeff Pastorella of Westmoreland in the Pure Stocks, and Mike Teachout in the Slingshots.

Bill Shantel Sr. and Chad Ward paced the 30-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature down to the flags of Starter Dick Sweet, and Andy Romano, who started fourth, went right around the front row on the outside to take the early race lead. Meanwhile, Mitch Gibbs, starting in fourteenth, passed seven cars on the outside groove on lap 1, and with the help of two minor cautions, was setting in third by the end of lap 2. Reutimann was putting pressure on Romano for the lead, but Gibbs was right there and took over second, but Reutimann regained the position for several more laps.

On the move was Gus Schmidt, who moved into fourth on lap 3 and was highly motived to win because it was his sponsor's night. Schmidt caught Reutimann and Gibbs and took over second lap 6, and immediately set his sights on Romano, the race leader. On lap 10, Schmidt's furious pace continued, as he took the lead from Romano, and opened up a huge lead. The battle between Reutimann and Gibbs continued, with Gibbs taking over third on lap 14.

At the halfway point of the 30-lap event, the top five was Schmidt, Romano, Gibbs, Reutimann, and Jason Barney. Gibbs was still racing with a head of steam for his second week in a row behind the wheel of the Phelps machine, as he raced into second on lap 16, putting Romano back in third. On a restart the same lap, Gibbs peeked underneath Schmidt but Schmidt quickly pulled away as the race wore on. Barney had moved into third, and making their moves from deep in the pack were Jack Johnson and point leader Todd Burley, who started fifteenth. Just as Johnson took over fifth from Romano on lap 25, the complexion of the race changed dramatically when Schmidt suddenly bobbled in turn one and drove over the cushion, handing the race lead to a surprised Gibbs.

On a lap 25 restart, Johnson, Burley, and Baye went three wide in a wild move that put Burley into contention in the fourth position. Burley was just flying around the speedway, and he took over third from Barney just one lap later as he began reeling in Schmidt with just two laps to go. He caught Schmidt on the final lap, and went right around him for second, but from there on out, it was all Gibbs, who raced on to his first victory of the 2001 season at Utica-Rome, the fifteenth of his career, spread out over six winning seasons. Burley had to settle for second, with a disappointed Schmidt in third. Johnson, who started twenty-third on the field after a heat race incident, got around Barney with two laps to go to take fourth, with Barney in fifth. Completing the top ten were J.J. Michaels, Ryan Baye, Wayne Reutimann Jr., Andy Romano, and Ted Lamb Jr.

"I don't think we would have gotten by Gus," said a happy, but surprised Gibbs, who also had won his second consecutive feature at Afton Speedway on Friday night. This was the second consecutive week of Gibbs subbing for Roger Phelps, as Gibbs' own No. 2g machine has set on the sidelines due to a blown motor back on July 1. Last week, Gibbs finished in third in the Beesmer's Furnature/TEO/Morrison Performance powered machine, and he was certainly appreciative of the opportunity to drive the car. "This is a good race team, and the car worked good high and low. At the end I think the top was better," said the popular driver who was the 1996 track champion.

Point leader Burley, the runner up, commented, "Traffic was tough tonight, and it was hard getting up to the front."

Schmidt was all smiles after the event, as he raced to a podium finish on his sponsor's night and came back from a nasty flip on the backstretch just two weeks ago. However, he did jokingly offer one comment by saying, "I'm gonna be fired after what happened tonight, but I think that flip was a good thing because this car is ten times better than the other one."

358-Modified heat wins went to Gibbs, Baye, and Schmidt.

Tim Clemons won his sixth DIRT Sportsman feature event of the season in a caution filled 20-lap affair. Clemons came from the eighteenth starting position to take the lead from youngster Paul Kinney on lap 8 and held off a closing Willy Decker in the final laps for the victory. Bill Trexler Jr. was third, Jamie Christian was fourth, and Bill Shantel Jr. was fifth. Brian Murphy was the early race leader, leading the first five laps of the event. Kinney, Mike Button, and Donnie Wetmore Jr. were the heat winners while John Kinsella won the consi.

Former track champion Bret Belden ate into the points lead of Jerry Holmes with his first 15-lap victory of the 2001 season in the DIRT Pro Stock division. Belden started twelfth, took the lead from Mark Effner on lap 7, and held off the furious late race charge of Mark Hoffman for the victory. Hoffman held on for second, with Holmes in third, Wayne Archer in fourth, and Brian Belden (Bret's brother) in fifth. Bill Knapp led the opening two circuits of the event. Jason Rood and Effner won the Pro Stock heats.

Current Pure Stock points leader Jeff Pastorella padded his points lead with yet another 15-lap victory in the division. Veteran Jim Thomas was the early race leader until George Schulze took command for several laps, until Pastorella, who started tenth, took control with two laps to go for his sixth victory of the year. Schulze had to settle for second, followed by Waylan Wilczek, Jim Thomas, and David Pope. Schulze and Pastorella were the heat race victors.

Mike Teachout took the lead from early race leader Mike Waterman on lap 10 and rode on to his second victory of the 2001 season in the 15-lap Slingshot event. Watermen held on for second, followed by point leader Denny Tilison, A.J. Digsby, and defending track champion Jackie Botindari. Digsby won the lone Slingshot heat event.

Notes - 23 Modifieds, 33 Sportsman, 20 Pro Stocks, 20 Pure Stocks, and 8 Slingshots were on hand for Euclid Hotel/Schmidt Trucking night on a beautiful Sunday evening. Track promoter Eric Kingsley is working on a deal for an all-new rock free blue clay surface to be put down within the next two weeks. It was announced that veteran track flagger Dick Sweet will be the head starter for the remainder of the season. Mitch Gibbs expects to be behind the wheel of his own No. 2g this Sunday, with the possibility of Roger Phelps returning. The Modified chassis win count: Troyer 7, TEO 4, and Bicknell 1. Coming up next Sunday August 5 is Pepsi-Cola night featuring the DIRT 358-Modifieds, DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and Slingshots. Race time is set for 6pm. For more information, contact the speedway office at (315) 829-4557 or log on to www.newuticaromespeedway.com.

kk-Doug Zupan

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Series Stock car
Drivers Wayne Reutimann