posted May 21, 2001 09:45 AM
BURLEY DOMINATES FOR FIRST WIN OF THE YEAR AT UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY
VERNON, NY – Todd Burley, 30, of Spencerport used the pole starting position to his advantage and claimed last Sunday’s 30-lap feature event for the mighty DIRT 358-Modifieds at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Burley took over the lead from Gus Schmidt on lap eleven and held off the late race charge of the legendary Jack Johnson in lapped traffic for his first win of the season, worth $1,500.
Also taking home feature wins were Tim Clemons of Gloversville for his third in a row in the DIRT Sportsman, Jerry Holmes of West Winfield in the DIRT Pro Stocks, Dave Mannise of Fulton in the Pure Stocks, and Brian Thomas of Vernon in the Slingshots.
Todd Burley and Gus Schmidt led the 25-car starting grid for the 30-lap DIRT 358-Modified feature down to the green flag from Starter Chip Burdick, with Schmidt racing out to the early lead, Burley settling into second and defending track champion Ron Holmes settling into third. Already by lap 5, Jack Johnson, who started in the twenty-third position, had made his way into the twelfth position. Johnson was simply flying around the outside edge of the speedway in his Mopar powered orange No. 12a, with Burley catching the race leader. On a lap 10 restart, Burley took the lead after a thrilling side by side battle with Schmidt. Johnson was on a mission, as he moved from sixth to fourth on the next restart on lap 12, and picked off third place car Ron Holmes just one lap later.
At the halfway mark, Burley was the leader in his Mirabito No. 89b, followed by Schmidt, Johnson, Holmes, and Jason Barney. Johnson took over second on lap 17, and it seemed as though no one could stop his determined charge to the front. However, Burley pulled away from Johnson just as fourth place car and defending track champion Holmes began smoking and pulled into the infield on lap 20. As the laps ticked by, the real battle on the track was for fifth between Roger Phelps and Paul Jensen, with Jensen taking the spot in the final rundown.
With just three laps to go, Burley encountered heavy lapped traffic, with Johnson in hot pursuit and closing in. However, Burley held off the charge by the legendary 57-year old driver and went on to his first victory of the season at Utica-Rome, the fourth of his career. Following Burley, it was Johnson, Schmidt, Barney, Jensen, Phelps, Pat Ward, Ryan Baye, and Joe Slawiak, and Aaron Excell. Four minor yellow flags slowed the event, the most serious being a spin by Jeff Kotary, who collected Wayne Reutimann and Chad Ward. Burley, Schmidt, and Ronnie Johnson won DIRT 358-Modified heat races, while Phelps won the consi.
In victory lane, a very happy Burley commented, "We are really happy right now as this was a big win for the Mirabito team even though we started up front. This Morrison motor flies and our Troyer 4-Link car really likes the track, even though we were a bit off on the chassis tonight. I knew Jack started about dead last, and I was worried there about him being there at the end."
Johnson, a former co-owner of the speedway when it was known as New Venture International Speedway in 1985, was happy with his great run from near dead last to second in his Witz Roofing TEO No. 12a. "This Mopar power is awesome but it is tough to gear, I think we were a little off tonight. We’ll be back here in two weeks, I enjoy running here."
Tony Ross jumped out to the early lead in the 20-lap DIRT Sportsman feature, but Tim Clemons was on a mission to win three features in a row. On a lap 4 restart, Clemons dove underneath Ross to take the lead and began pulling away. Several laps later on a restart, Ross broke a suspension part, giving second to Willy Decker. Eight cautions slowed the feature, with the most serious being a blown motor by Paul Kinney, who collected Tom Denton and Shane Donath in the smoke screen on the backstretch. Decker came close enough to Clemons several times during the event to mount a bid for the lead, but Clemons was just too strong. At the line, it was Clemons for the hat trick, followed by Decker, Mike Button for his best career finish in third, Jamie Christian, and Bill Shantel Jr. Clemons remains undefeated this year in the Sportsman division, with a total of six career wins, three of them coming this season. Ross, Shawn Donath, and Mike Button won the Sportsman heat events, while Daryl Hagen took the consi win.
Jerry Holmes, who started third, took the lead from Jason Rood on lap 3 of the 15-lap DIRT Pro Stock feature and went on to dominate for his second win of the early season. With his win, Holmes became the all-time Pro Stock feature winner at the speedway with a total of 20 victories. For most of the event, the race was for second and rookie driver Mark Effner in the former Tom Denton machine, took the runner up spot, followed by Bret Belden, Wayne Archer, and Dave Moyer. Dave Meeks, Rood, and Holmes were victorious in the heat races.
Defending track champion Dave Mannise, who started fourth, took the lead from Waylan Wilczek on lap 3 of the 15-lap Pure Stock feature and went on to his first victory of the season and number 71 of his career. Second was Jim Thomas, followed by Jeff Pastorella, George Schulze, and Bill Mason. Bobby Newman and Wilczek copped the Pure Stock heats.
Brian Thomas won his first career Slingshot feature after a wild battle in the 15-lap event. After Thomas, it was Denny Tilison, rookie driver Mike Teachout, J.J. Courcy, and A.J. Digsby. Randy Marsh won the lone Slingshot heat.
Coming up this Sunday May 27, the Utica-Rome Speedway will have a regular program of DIRT 358-Modifieds, DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks plus WWF Monster Truck Madness, featuring the Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock trucks plus FREE monster truck rides for kids. The Slingshots will not be in action this Sunday. The gates will open at 4pm, with racing taking the green at 6pm. For more information, contact the speedway office at (315) 829-4557 or log onto the official track website at www.newuticaromespeedway.com.
Notes – 106 cars, including 28 Modifieds, 28 Sportsman, 35 Pro Stocks, 17 Pure Stocks, and 8 Slingshots were on hand for the evening’s racing action, which was completed by 9:45pm. Returning to the speedway to race for the first time since his scary flip a year ago at the start of the Sprint Car feature was popular local driver Gordy "Panic" Button, who was seriously injured in the incident last season. He raced the Geoff VanRiper No. 14g Sportsman, and finished a very respectable sixth in the feature, nearly putting both Button brothers in the top five. The most serious incident of the evening came in the Pro Stock feature, when Charlie Pike made contact with Gerry Newman, sending Pike flipping out of the ballpark on the backstretch, causing a red flag. Both drivers were uninjured but both machines suffered extensive damage. Ronnie Johnson qualified his father’s legendary No. 12a machine in the heat race, taking the win, but relinquished the car to his father, who qualified through the consi. Jack was running late, coming from the Spring Fling 50 at Rolling Wheels, where he finished tenth. Ronnie, who really enjoys racing at Utica-Rome, expects to be out later on this season when he can get his 358-Modified program solidified. J.J. Michaels, the winner in the 40-lap season opener on May 6, continued to have bad luck for the second week in a row. Last week, the popular driver fell out of the 100-lap Super DIRT Series event, and also suffered motor problems on Saturday at Fulton Speedway. Sunday morning, they borrowed a motor from Roger Phelps and continued to have problems at Utica-Rome after arriving late, and finishing dead last in the feature. Invader Pat Ward started nineteenth and finished seventh, with Roger Phelps rebounding from a hair raising heat race incident to come from seventeenth to sixth in the feature. Burley’s win makes it three victories for Troyer Engineering at Utica-Rome, with wins going to Michaels, Danny Johnson, and Burley.
NEW UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY RACE SUMMARY
RACE DATE: MAY 20, 2001
DIRT 358-Modifieds (30 Laps) – TODD BURLEY, Jack Johnson, Gus Schmidt Jr., Jason Barney, Paul Jensen, Roger Phelps, Pat Ward, Ryan Baye, Joe Slawiak, Aaron Excell, John Ramsey, Andy Romano, Bill Shantel Sr., Chad Ward, Mark Flach Jr., Joel Thomas, Steve Hulsizer, Ron Holmes, Wayne Reutimann Jr., Jeff Kotary, Mike Hulsizer, Pete Taylor, John Barker Jr., Dan Fassett, J.J. Michaels. DNS – Ronnie Johnson.
Lap Leaders – Schmidt (1-10), Burley (11-30).
DNQ – Nick Vatalaro, Dave Clark, Rich Price.
Unofficial Point Standings – 1)Todd Burley 112, 2)Roger Phelps & Gus Schmidt Phelps, 4)Ryan Baye 92, 5)Paul Jensen & Jason Barney 86.
DIRT Sportsman (20 Laps) – TIM CLEMONS, Willy Decker, Mike Button, Jamie Christian, Bill Shantel Jr., Gordy Button, Shawn Donath, Bill Trexler Jr., Paul Carey, Butch Reiter, John Christian, Jim Rothwell, Jim Roberts, Jessica Zemken, Tom Denton, Todd Thomas, Jim Lavalla, Shane Donath, John Kinsella, Paul Kinney, Steve Way, Tony Ross, Daryl Hagen, Dan Yankowski, Kevin Crave, Steve Davis, Pete Nowicki Jr., Brian Johnson.
Lap Leaders – Ross (1-4), Clemons (5-20).
DNQ – Terry Falter.
Unofficial Point Standings - 1)Tim Clemons 120, 2)Jamie Christian & Willy Decker 106, 4)Mike Button 88, 5)Bill Shantel,Jr. 86.
DIRT Pro Stocks (15 Laps) – JERRY HOLMES, Mark Effner, Bret Belden, Wayne Archer, Dave Moyer, Jim Normoyle, Eric Vanderhoof, John Roese, Chad Ray, Jason Rood, Brian Belden, Chuck Jones, Steve Cossellman, Gus Gould, Ray Fancher, John Pietrowicz, Doug Grimaldi, Dave Meeks, Heath Carney, Gerry Newman, Charlie Pike, Steve Zajac, Stan Clark. DNS – Bill Knapp, Zig Kellum.
Lap Leaders – Rood (1-2), Holmes (3-15).
Pure Stocks (15 Laps) – DAVE MANNISE, Jim Thomas, Jeff Pastorella, George Schulze, Bill Mason, Rob Seavy, Art Newman Jr., Joe Bono, Bob Gloska, Nathan Peckham, Ricky Trexler, Tim Nye, Waylan Wilczek, Bobby Newman, Dan Hatch, Mark Jennings, Herm Staats.
Lap Leaders – Wilczek (1-2), Mannise (3-15).
Slingshots (15 Laps) – BRIAN THOMAS, Denny Tilison, Mike Teachout, J.J. Courcy, A.J. Digsby, Joe DeJohn, Randy Marsh, Mike Waterman.
Photo: John Clifford Photo - Todd Burley (headshot)