by Doug Zupan VERNON, NY - The headline DIRT 358 Modified division at the New Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon provided some of the most competitive and intense racing action in the history of the speedway. Here is a look at the top fifteen in...
by Doug Zupan
VERNON, NY - The headline DIRT 358 Modified division at the New Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon provided some of the most competitive and intense racing action in the history of the speedway.
Here is a look at the top fifteen in 2000 season point standings listed with hometown, major sponsor, chassis, and engine builder:
1. Ron Holmes
- 519 Points - (Oneida, NY - Ralph's
Collision/Bicknell/Precision) - Ronnie "Hot Shoe" Holmes had his best season ever at Utica-Rome, capped off by his first career DIRT 358 Modified Track Championship. Holmes had two feature wins, along with seven top fives and eight top tens. He also had excellent runs in both 358-Modified Super DIRT Series events at Utica-Rome, finishing third in the first and leading the second until he dropped out with a blown motor. Holmes recently represented Utica-Rome at Eastern States Weekend at Orange County Fair Speedway, finishing thirteenth in the 358 race, and eighteenth in the Eastern States 200, after giving the speedway much TV time and publicity.
2. Dale Planck
- 501 Points - (Homer, NY - Kroll Logging/Bicknell/Bogan) -
"The Natural" had an off-season by his standards in 2000, starting off without his major sponsor from the previous three years. However, Dale persevered and on August 27, he debuted a brand new Bicknell 2001 chassis, which really helped Dale turn up the wick with a second that night and finally his first and only win of the season on the final night of points September 3. His consistency, combined with his late season good runs vaulted the defending track champion up to second in points with seven top fives and ten top tens. Dale could be real tough at Utica-Rome in 2001 with the new Bicknell chassis, if he can find proper backing during the off season.
3. J.J. Michaels
- 496 Points - (Baldwinsville, NY - Schmidt Trucking/Troyer/Morrison) -
J.J. Michaels was racing with a heavy heart in 2000 because of the off-season loss of his likable father "Pops", but the popular driver had an excellent season with one win on July 2 along with nine top fives and nine top tens. Michaels was leading the point standings by six points over Ron Holmes heading into the final race on September 3, but unfortunately he broke a part in the rear suspension while racing for second in the feature, putting himself out of the track championship hunt. Michaels should be back in 2001; most likely with some new equipment that will keep him in winning form.
4. Billy Wilcox
- 483 Points - (Watertown, NY - F.X. Caprara Car Companies/Troyer/Morrison) -
In his first full season at Utica-Rome as a regular, Billy Wilcox turned a lot of heads with a handful of excellent and consistent performances including two top fives and nine top tens. Wilcox loves it at Utica-Rome, and after a very solid effort and performance in 2000, he should be back in 2001 looking for his first career Utica-Rome feature win.
5. Tim Clemons
- 474 Points - (Gloversville, NY - Jake Spraker Used Cars/Bicknell/JPM) -
Tim Clemons moved up to the 358's from the Sportsman division, where he had two feature wins in 1999. He quickly came onto the scene as one of the top drivers in the 358 Modified division at Utica-Rome, finishing in fifth in his first two races. Clemons really enjoys coming to Utica-Rome, and this year he had five top five finishes, his best finish being third on two different occasions.
6. Roger Phelps
- 467 Points - (Fulton, NY - Gypsum Express/Teo/Morrison) -
Long time racing veteran and 1998 Utica-Rome Track Champion, Roger Phelps had a difficult year at Utica-Rome in 2000 with no feature wins. His only top five finish was a second following a exciting duel with Ronnie Johnson on July 23, but his consistency of seven finishes in the top ten kept him right up there in season points. Phelps hopes to have a much better season in 2001.
7. Gus Schmidt, Jr.
- 439 Points - (Liverpool, NY - Schmidt Trucking/Troyer/Morrison) -
"The Heavy Hauler" Gus Schmidt Jr. did not win at Utica-Rome in 2000, but he definitely made his mark with some bad luck. Schmidt was leading the feature on August 20 by a straightaway margin, until contact with a lapped car sent him around and out of contention for the win. The aggressive driver had two top fives and six top tens, his best finish being third in the second Twin 20 feature on July 2.
8. Ronnie Johnson
- 418 Points - (Duanesburg, NY - Nice N' Easy Grocery Shoppes/Teo/Bedell) -
Ronnie Johnson missed two shows during the regular points season, but he still finished a solid eighth in points (tied with John Barker Jr.). Towards the middle to end of the 2000 season, Johnson came on like gangbusters, with a thrilling victory over Roger Phelps on July 23. Ronnie had two top fives and seven top ten finishes on the 2000 season, and he could be a force to be reckoned with in 2001. When his legendary father Jack Johnson won the Super DIRT Series 100-lap season ending special on September 22, the Johnsons became the first father-son team to win features in the same year at the speedway.
9. John Barker, Jr.
- 418 Points - (Fulton, NY - Sweet Inspirations Drive Inn/Troyer/Barker) -
"Mr. Nice Guy" John Barker returned to victory lane for the first time since 1998 on July 2. He enjoyed a consistent season at Utica-Rome with two top fives and eight top tens, and he says that 2000 will be his last season as a car owner and has sold his car. Barker, however, loves to race, and is looking for a top-notch ride for 2001.
10. Todd Burley
- 380 Points - (Spencerport, NY - New England Race Fuels/Troyer/Morrison) -
Todd Burley did not qualify for the Opening Night 2000 race on May 7. However, in the next three races, Burley amassed a portfolio of two seconds and one thrilling win over defending Track Champion Dale Planck on June 4. Things were looking great for Burley until his entire 358-Modified racing operation was stolen after a Super DIRT Series race up in Cornwall, Ontario Canada. Burley jumped around in several different rides over the next few races at Utica-Rome, never really having much success. Finally, he got a new car and totally ran away with the feature event at Utica-Rome on August 13. Had his personal racing equipment not been stolen, he could have been higher up in points with more than his six top five finishes.
11. Jason Barney
- 379 Points - (Constantia, NY - Stadium International/Teo/Moshier) -
"Racin' Jason Barney finally achieved his first career DIRT 358 Modified victory in an upset over Ron Holmes on August 20. In doing so, he became the youngest driver to win a Modified feature event at Utica-Rome at age 20. Barney had one top five and four top tens this year and he could be a driver to watch for in 2001.
12. Mitch Gibbs
- 376 Points - (North Norwich, NY - Mirabito Fuel Group/Teo/Morrison) -
Mitch Gibbs was not a weekly regular at Utica-Rome in 2000, and he did not come close to his six feature wins in 1999. However, the former track champion certainly made his mark with one feature win, five top fives, and seven top ten finishes.
13. Jim Rothwell
- 359 Points - (South Plymouth, NY - Skip's Used Cars/Troyer/Butler) -
Jim "Rocky" Rothwell struggled throughout most of the 2000 season at Utica-Rome, but the former Late Model and Sportsman track champion had a handful of good runs with one top five and three top tens. His best finish came on July 2, when he finished third to John Barker and Steve Hulsizer after leading half the 20-lap event. Rothwell should be back for 2001, and he hopes to improve on his effort in 2000.
14. Andy Romano
- 303 Points - (Johnstown, NY - Andy's Speed Shop/Bicknell/Morrison) -
Nine weeks before the beginning of the 2000 season at Utica-Rome, Andy Romano had a triple bypass surgery, but when the gates opened at Utica-Rome on Opening Night May 7, the ageless veteran was there and back behind the wheel. Romano, who is a former two-time feature winner on the old one-third mile asphalt oval at Utica-Rome, had a best finish of sixth on July 16 along with one other top ten finish. Romano has a goal of winning on the dirt at Utica-Rome, but he sold his No. 7 shortly after the last race, and his racing is up in the air for 2001.
15. Steve Hulsizer
- 302 Points - (Brewerton, NY - Pence Associates/Troyer/Bloss) -
"The Man in Black" had a tough 2000 season, with only two top fives. His best finish was a close second on July 2 to John Barker Jr. in the first Twin 20 feature event. Towards the middle to end of the season, the former Sportsman track champion suffered from car troubles and failed to qualify for several events.
<pre> 2000 Season DIRT 358 Modified Feature Winners
Driver Wins Dates Ron Holmes 2 5/28, 7/16 Todd Burley 2 6/4, 8/13 Danny Johnson * 2 5/14, 8/24 Andy Bachetti 1 5/7 John Barker, Jr. 1 7/2 J.J. Michaels 1 7/2 Ronnie Johnson 1 7/23 Jason Barney 1 8/20 Mitch Gibbs 1 8/27 Dale Planck 1 9/3 Jack Johnson 1 9/22
Chassis & Engine Breakdown
Chassis Top 5 Engine Top 5 Bicknell 3 Morrison 2 Troyer 2 Precision 1 Bogan 1 JPM 1 Chassis Top 10 Engine Top 10 Troyer 5 Morrison 5 Bicknell 3 Precision 1 Teo 2 Bogan 1 JPM 1 Bedell 1 Barker 1 Chassis Top 15 Engine Top 15 Troyer 7 Morrison 7 Bicknell 4 Precision 1 Teo 4 Bogan 1 JPM 1 Bedell 1 Barker 1 Moshier 1 Butler 1 Bloss 1
Feature Wins By Chassis
Chassis Wins Troyer * 6 Teo 5 Bicknell 3
* Total includes Big Block Modified Win.