PAT WARD HOLDS OFF LARRY WIGHT TO SCORE FIRST WIN OF THE SEASON AT UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY
VERNON, NY- Pat Ward took home his first win of the season at Utica-Rome Speedway on July 19th after holding both Mother Nature and his teammate Larry Wight. It was Ward’s first win of the season following a handful of strong runs inside the top five and his 23rd win over eight seasons at the track. Mike Lalonde Electrical and Perfex Corporation sponsored a night that also saw Rocky Warner in 602 Sportsman, Heath Carney in the Open Sportsman, and Mike Welch in Pro Street Stocks all visit victory lane in an exhilarating night of racing action.
The Stampede Steakhouse Modified feature event began with Matt Burdick’s starter flag waving over the front row duo of Chris Mackey and Pat Ward. Ward, starting on the outside, used his position to dig into the top side of the racing surface and take the lead. Mackey tried to keep side by side with Ward, but he had his runner up spot taken by the early charging Larry Wight, who started in fifth. Ward was motoring away from the field and Wight when a caution on the fifth circuit for a spinning machine slowed the field. On the restart, Ward chose the top again.
Wight wouldn’t let him rebuild his lead, however. He made it stick on the bottom side of the speedway and was pulling right alongside his teammate as the two drove around the speedway. The two battled side by side, lap after lap, but Ward never gave any ground to Wight, always edging him out as they exited the turns. Their battle was being watched by the current points leader Matt Sheppard as he tried to reel them in. He was trailed by defending track champion Stewart Friesen, who was circling the bottom. A caution on lap 12 tried to mix things up, but the battle at the front stayed the same. Ward was still just that much stronger than Wight as the two drove out of the turns, still getting a run off of the top side of the speedway.
A third yellow with nine laps remaining bunched the top cars together for the final time. On the restart, Ward stuck to his tried and true line, but Wight changed it up and followed him on the top. Driving off of the top and swinging it to the bottom, Wight edged closer and closer to the elder Gypsum driver, closing in as the race entered the final five laps. Diving to the bottom of three and four, Wight tried to power past Ward, but the leader still had the advantage on the top, and pulled away. The win was Ward’s first of the season. With Wight in second, Sheppard, Friesen, and Vic Coffey crossed the line in the top five. Mackey, Mike Bowman, Danny Varin, Tim Mayne, and Pete Taylor trailed in the top ten.
The 602 Sportsman came to the green with Stephen Denton and Kyle Kiehn at the head of a strong field of 22 cars. Kiehn took the lead of the first two laps, but Chris Cunningham took possession of the top spot after a pass on the bottom. Cunningham was looking to check out on the field but a yellow flag erased his lead on lap seven. The restart saw him take his lead once more, but he the charging machines piloted by Matt Janczuk and Rocky Warner were navigating to the top five. Following another caution on lap 14, both Janczuk and Warner filled on the podium spots behind Cunningham. Out of the three, Warner used the restart the best to his advantage and overtook Janczuk before beginning to work on Cunningham. Warner was able to complete the pass for the lead and the win on lap 17. Cunningham settled for second and Janczuk with third. They were followed by Jason Rood and Kiehn.
Heath Carney and Tom Tophoven started on the front row of the Open Sportsman feature, with Carney holding the lead for the first three laps before conceding that lead to Mike Richmond. Richmond was able to drive away from the rest of the field, but Claude Hutchings Jr., the points leader going into the race, was charging up through the pack. He took the second spot as the race neared the halfway mark. A yellow on lap 13 for a tire on the racing surface gave Hutchings the opportunity he needed to close the gap on Richmond. With the leader on the top side, Hutching clung to the bottom and was gaining on Richmond as a handful of laps remained. Richmond was able to hold him off, however, until he bobbled in turn two on the final lap. Hutchings was had enough the drive by on the bottom down the backstretch, but contact between the top two in the final two turns, taking out the duo and handing the victory to Carney, who was running third. Steve Way, Craig Pope, Jack Miller, and Jeremy Vunk finished in the top five.
Frank Hyatt and Bill Trexler III brought the Pro Street Stocks to their starting green flag. Trexler led the first two laps, but A.J. Digsby, coming from fifth, took the lead on the third circuit. He was followed closely by Glenn Forward, taking second a lap after Digsby took the lead. Digsby looked to be in good position since Forward wasn’t gaining on him, but a yellow flag a lap before halfway gave forward a second chance. The restart was just the opportunity Forward, as he jumped to the outside and swung by Digsby for the lead. He began to pull away. Behind him, Mike Welch was making moves in the pack and raced up to the final podium spot when the second and final caution of the race on lap 17 slowed the field once more.
When the green flag waved once more, Welch wouldn’t let Forward take off like he did before on the restart, staying close to the leader as he entered turn one. Forward fought Welch back on the top, and maintained the lead as the race reached the final circuit. Forward dug his tires into the top groove, but Welch stuck his car on the bottom and pulled alongside as the two entered the west end of the speedway. Coming out of the turn, they raced neck in neck as they came to Matt Burdick’s checked flag. At the line, Welch beat out Forward by mere feet as the nose of his race car crossed first. Forward took the runner up spot, trailed by Digsby, Mark Effner and Chris Carr.
Next Sunday, Park’s Paving and Rasmussen Rents/Broedel Energy sponsor a regular show of Stampede Steakhouse Modified, 602 Sportsman, Open Sportsman, and Pro Street Stocks plus the CRSA Sprint Cars. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and racing starts at 6 p.m. For further information, visit www.uticaromespeedway.com or call (315) 829-4557.
MIKE LALONDE ELECTRIAL AND PERFEX CORPORATION NASCAR WHELEN ALL-AMERICAN SERIES RACE SUMMARY
STAMPEDE STEAKHOUSE MODIFIEDS FEATURE FINISH (30 LAPS)- PAT WARD, Larry Wight, Matt Sheppard, Stewart Friesen, Vic Coffey, Chris Mackey, Mike Bowman, Danny Varin, Tim Mayne, Pete Taylor, Mike Mahaney, Andrew Ferguson, Matt Hulsizer, and Rob Bellinger.
602 SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)- ROCKY WARNER, Chris Cunningham, Matt Janczuk, Jason Rood, Kyle Kiehn, Rocco Leone, Stephen Denton, Glenn Forward, Connor Cleveland, Cody Clark, John Christian, Corey Barker, Beth Bellinger, Brandon Kuhn, Nick Krause, Daryl Nutting, Aaron Jacobs, John Baker, Brent Joy, Nick Guererri, Alan Fink, and A.J. Filbeck.
OPEN SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)- HEATH CARNEY, Steve Way, Craig Pope, Jack Miller, Jeremy Vunk, Jim Rothwell, Randy Shantel, Lucas Heintz, Claude Hutchings Jr., Tom Tophoven,and Mike Richmond.
PRO STREET STOCK FEATURE FINISH (20 LAPS)- MIKE WELCH, Glenn Forward, A.J. Digsby, Mark Effner, Chris Carr, Chuck Cushman, Bill Trexler III, Frank Hyatt, Dwight Johnson, Travis Welch, Dana Camenga, Jerry Streeter, Kavin Winton, Jim Thomas, Gus Hollner, and Ernie Staelens.