May 9, 2002
Season Opener At SC Speedway
It was opening night of the 2002 racing season at Scotland County Raceway and it showed - not the track itself but on the track where a number of pile ups and car problems slimmed down the field for the checkered flag in nearly all of the six feature races.
As for the track, it drew praise from nearly every driver that entered the winner circle as the likes of Tommy Elston and Mark Burgtorf gave first year promoter Terry Hoenig excellent reviews. Hoenig gave much of the credit to Ryan Clark and his crew who did a wonderful job on their first official day on the job.
The season opener drew a large crowd to the grandstands but only managed a car count of 81 racers.
The hobby stock division was the main draw with 23 cars entering the night. Unfortunately that number dwindled rather quickly. Twenty cars made it to the track for the green flag in the main event. But a huge pile up in turn one and two took out a number of the front running cars including the 43s car of Jeff Soper of Kahoka who was running in second at the time of the crash. The 20 car of Larry Newman as well as the 77 of Bruce Summers were taken off on wreckers.
Frontrunner Tony Becerra took advantage of the yellow flag and the extended delay to head to the pits and return to action but he would not be so lucky later on. Soper also was able to get back into the race at the rear of the line along with Becerra but also "ran into" some tough luck later in the race.
The crash took the top five cars out moving the 98 car of Larry Asher, Jr., to the head of the pack along with 71G Curt Guiles with just 15 cars remaining running. Roger Dresden, who earned the nickname "The Dominator" last year at Scotland County with a lengthy win streak, remained in the middle of the pack, avoiding the collision. He looked poised to make a run before having to leave the race later with car troubles.
On the restart Asher jumped out in front with Guiles challenging hard. But in turn four Guiles lost control coming out of the turn. The car held off the spin but veered down the track towards the infield. He brought he car back up the track where it was hit hard by the 43s car of Soper, bring out the second caution of the event and ending the race night for both drivers.
In those few laps Soper had been making up some ground from the rear of the pack as had been Becerra and the 11 car of Mark Holt, all of which had went from front to back after the first pile up.
Becerra had moved all the way up to fifth while Holt was ninth coming out of the second restart with 13 cars remaining.
Holt proved to be the car to watch as he was moving up the pack quickly using a good line in turns three and four to pick off several cars moving all the way up into fifth place all the while Asher was holding onto the lead.
The field was trimmed even further with a collision in turn three that finally ended the night for Becerra as well as the 9 car to leave just 10 cars running on the third restart.
The 98 car was still maintaining the lead while all this went on, holding off the charge of Jim Hooper in the 23L car. But Hooper was not to be denied as passed Asher on what proved to be the second to last lap of the event. Holt was in tow behind the 23L and moved into second place. He looked poised to real in Hooper as well before spinning coming out of turn four. That brought out the fifth yellow flag for the event prompting track officials to throw the checkered flag on the race leaving Hooper in the winner's circle.
Asher took second followed by Duane Miller in the 3M, Bobby McCartney in the 1M and PJ Hudson, Jr., in the 99H car.
Heat race wins went to Soper, Dresden and Hooper.
In the B modified class the night belonged to Jim Hooper in the 66 car as he never faced a true challenge, leading the event from start to finish from the pole.
The true battle on the night was for second place as Chris Larson came from his third row starting spot to dual it out with the 10JB car Joe Bliven. The later held to the high line in turns three and four able to hold off the low run of Larson to beat him back to the line and finish second. Larson was third followed by 2G Trent Grotz and 77H Bob Hightower. Jerry Reese of Memphis was sixth while rookie driver Logan Trueblood was eighth.
Larson and Hightower won the two heat races.
The Miller Lite A-Modified class was the third event to take the track but was second to none as far as racing action on the night.
Some of the best drivers in the Midwest put on a top show for the fans as Steve Grotz, Mark Burgtorf and Tony Fraise all went head to head for most of the event giving the crowd some thrilling entertainment.
Grotz jumped out to the early lead quickly moving up from his second row starting position speeding up the middle of the pack to take the front spot.
He looked to be the fastest car on the night but ultimately was reeled in by the likes of Burgtorf and Fraise to make it a three-car race.
Bob Dale of Gorin moved up from the fourth row at the start of the contest to pull into third place behind Grotz and Fraise early in the event while Jardin and Jim Fuller were also holding their own in the middle of the pack in fifth and sixth positions.
Jim Fuller and Jim Roach got together in turn one bringing out the caution flag and sending both to the rear of the pack on the restart. That didn't last long as both racers quickly moved up the 14-car field back into a battle for a top five finish.
All the while this was happening the 69m car was steadily moving up the ladder from a fifth row starting spot.
It ultimately looked as if Burgtorf and Fraise would be stuck battling for second place while Grotz held on to a comfortable lead. Burgtorf finally got by Fraise and got a little luck when the 9G car spun out in turn for bring Grotz back to the pack for a restart.
The 22G and 69M cars went down the front stretch neck and neck for several circuits before Burgtorf finally was able to make the pass on the back stretch coming off turn two with just five laps to run.
Fraise followed the lead after the white flag flew and pulled into second place on the final lap, forcing Grotz to settle for third. Jim Lynch of Bloomfield may have been better than fourth with a few more laps to race as his 77 car was moving up quickly as well. Roach was fifth followed by Jim Fuller and Dale.
Burgtorf and Grotz were the victors in the two heat races.
The stock car division is going to need a little infusion of new faces in order to make it through the year as only seven cars entered the field for the season opener. The class ran into similar trouble in Memphis last year and was discontinued.
Despite the low car number the racing action was still readily available.
Mike Robinson in the 78R car started on the inside of the front row and quickly moved to the head of the class. He never really faced a challenge on the night. That was not the case for the second place spot as the 11 car of Dennis Harwood was pitted against #78 Josh Walker as well as the 1 car of Heath Huggins and the 28K ride of Don Kanselaer.
Kanselaer brought out a yellow with a spin in turn four. However he was able to make up the difference on the restart and ultimately finished third.
Walker was not to be denied as he passed Harwood midway through the race and held off Kanselaer for second. Harwood finished fourth and Shawn McEwen was fifth.
Robinson picked up the heat race win.
The Pepsi-Cola Late Models feature boiled down to a two-car dual as Tommy Elston and Tony Fraise were as close as their car numbers, 45 and 45DW for the entire race before Elston managed to pull half a dozen car lengths ahead for the final two laps to take the checkered flag. Elston looked like he was in trouble late in the race when he got involved with a lapped car. Fortunately for him the 45 car took a little body damage on the left side and more importantly did not lose a tire allowing him to pick up the victory.
Fraise finished second on the night and did take some consolation in the fact that Elston drew his finish spot from the entry lottery to send Tony home with the $100 in cash.
Jason Krigbaum finished third in the #11 car holding of Thad Trump in the #46. Those two drivers were pitted against the 3W car of Rich Westhoff in a hard fought battle for third place for much of the contest.
The finale of the night was the two-man cruiser class that saw the Memphis tandem of Jody Small and Tony Briggs take the win. The duo had piloted the 35 car at the front of the pack all night until the final lap when the 87 car of Peters/Peters got by into the lead. That all changed in turn one when the two cars got together forcing 87 out of the race and allowing the 35 car to take the checkered flag.
The team of Stott and Kropf was second in car #2 folllowed by the 34H of Hudson and Arnold and the 65 car of Hudson and Elenbaas. Stott and Kropf won the heat race.