November 20th, 2005

Race of Champions Dirt Sportsman Tour Year in Review
By Brett Deyo

BINGHAMTON, NY- Born in early March as a stepchild of the Race of Champions Dirt Modified Tour, year one of the RoC Dirt Sportsman Tour's existence was a success story in its own right.

With nine events on the schedule at six different venues, competitors turned out in droves for the first season; over 150 drivers took part in at least one event. The races paid $1,000-to-win and ranged from 30- to 40-laps. The competitors that followed the entire Tour provided a unique blend of drivers from typically mutually exclusive different areas.

When was the last time, for example, a Sportsman regular from Pennsylvania's Big Diamond Raceway paid a visit to a year-end event at Fonda Speedway, located in upstate New York? In 2005, the RoC Dirt Sportsman Tour made it happen. Keystone State driver Jason Hamilton etched his name as the Tour's first champion. The Erwinna, Pa., native didn't win a RoC event, but consistency was his biggest ally.

The second-year Sportsman driver scored five top-five finishes and was outside of the top 10 only once, at Utica-Rome (N.Y.) Speedway on Sept. 11. A ninth-place finish at Fonda was a key to Hamilton's championship; Kyle Weiss was an early casualty when he lost a right-front wheel and Arnie Slade was 15th.

Finishing fifth in the Nov. 6 finale at Five Mile Point sealed the title for Hamilton, 29, who split the Tour between his own No. 15 Teo-Pro car and Doug Flurer's No. 16. It was his second career championship, having won the 2004 New Egypt (N.J.) Rookie Sportsman title after making the move up from the 270cc Micro-Sprint ranks. Trailing Hamilton (433 points) were Arnie Slade (401), Kyle Weiss (391), Shaun Walker (355) and Jeff Geiges (312).

The top point-getters from the RoC Dirt Sportsman Tour will be honored at the Binghamton Regency in Binghamton, N.Y., on Sat., Jan. 7 as part of the RoC Awards Banquet.

For further information, contact the RoC Dirt office at (607) 238-0432 or visit the website:

Race No. 1 - Penn-Can Speedway/Susquehanna, Pennsylvania (Mon., May 30):
Postponed from its original April 24 date, the Race of Champions Dirt Sportsman Tour's inaugural race took place on Memorial Day at Penn-Can Speedway, with 49 cars in the pit area. In the end, it was track regular Brian Decker who motored around Arnie Slade on a key restart 19 laps into the 40-lap main. Slade and Jason Hamilton ran with Decker in the race's second half, but the hometown driver held on for the historic $1,000 top prize. Slade, Hamilton, Kyle Weiss and Kevin Bates rounded out the top five.
Entries: 49
Lap leaders: Slade (1-19), Decker (20-40).
Heat winners: Bates, Paul Rooney, Slade, Decker, Alex Konopka, Danny Creeden.
Consi winners: Brad Grim, Ryan Olsommer, Jessica Zemken.

Race No. 3 - Five Mile Point Speedway/Kirkwood, New York (Wed., July 13):
Chalk this one up as the biggest win in Brad Grim's career. Two months after notching his first-ever win, Grim returned to the limelight in the 40-lap RoC Dirt Sportsman stop at Five Mile Point. New Jersey's Jeff Geiges and Grim swept around Brian Puckett on lap 13 to run one-two. Grim, driving his No. 611 Dirt Wheels chassis, hounded Geiges until diving to the inside in turn three on lap 29. Slight contact was made and Grim took a lead he wouldn't relinquish en route to a $1,000 payday. Geiges, Puckett, Kyle Weiss and Jimmy Horton IV filled out the front five.
Entries: 41
Lap leaders: Puckett (1-12), Geiges (13-29), Grim (30-40).
Heat winners: Shaun Walker, Rick Raisner, Frank Doty, Geiges, Mike Ketcham.
Consi winners: Jesse Kline, Danny Creeden.
Guaranteed Starters Race winner: Mike Loney.

Race No. 4 - Big Diamond Raceway/Minersville, Pennsylvania (Tues., Aug. 9):
This time, Arnie Slade was one position better. Improving on a runner-up spot in his first Big Diamond appearance (on June 28), he won the 40-lap event at the three-eighths-mile oval in August. Slade picked the pole in the post heat-race draw and used it to full advantage. Slade's biggest challenge came in the form of 11th-starter Jason Hamilton, who took over second on lap 12 and made several low-line bids over the remaining distance. Hamilton couldn't unseat Slade for the $1,000 top prize and finished second, ahead of Jeff Geiges, Doug Hendricks and Kyle Weiss.
Entries: 40
Heat winners: Hamilton, Slade, Tim Apgar, Bobby Lilick.
Consi winners: Ricky Rutt, Danny Creeden.
Guaranteed Starters Race winner: Andy Miller.

Race No. 5 - Utica-Rome Speedway/Vernon, New York (Sun., Sept. 11):
Utilizing two distinctly different grooves on the speedway, Paul Carey and David Towns thrilled the fans at Utica-Rome Speedway in the 30-lap event. Coming from seventh, Carey set his sights on Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway regular Towns, who blasted off from the pole. Carey, holding the low line, pulled even with the high-running Towns on lap 16 and seven laps of side-by-side racing ensued on the fast one-half-mile oval before Carey nosed ahead. Towns finished second, ahead of Steve Way, who came from 19th, Jeremiah Munson and Kyle Weiss.
Entries: 43
Lap leaders: Towns (1-22), Carey (23-30).
Heat winners: Weiss, Jessica Zemken, Paul Carey, Derrick McGrew, Towns, Jeremy Vunk.
Consi winners: Steve Way, Mike Button, Jim Bowman.

Race No. 6 - Penn-Can Speedway/Susquehanna, Pennsylvania (Fri., Sept. 16):
On a night when weather was the major story, Kyle Weiss underscored Mother Nature by winning his first career RoC Dirt event at Penn-Can. With rain delaying the program and a slippery, wet track in place for the feature, Weiss started the main third in his orange No. 21K and took the lead on a lap-10 double file restart from Paul Rooney. Jason Hamilton worked by Rooney for second on lap 12. His best opportunity to take command came on lap 31. Weiss and the lapped car of Brian Puckett became momentarily entangled on the frontstretch. Hamilton dove three-wide into turn one and hit a slick spot, causing him to slide up the track. Weiss went on to win over Hamilton, Chad Cook, Rooney and Arnie Slade.
Entries: 38
Lap leaders: Titus (1-4), Rooney (5-10), Weiss (11-35).
Heat winners: Brian Decker, Weiss, Hamilton, Luke Wagner.
Consi winners: Craig Whitmoyer, Mike Lartz.

Race No. 7 - Fonda Speedway/Fonda, New York (Sat., Sept. 24):
David Towns wasn't about to let a second RoC victory slip from his grasp. After being out-dueled by Paul Carey at Utica-Rome, Rotterdam, N.Y.'s Towns was dominant at Fonda, leading from green to checkered in the 40-lap affair. Cautions on laps 25, 30 and 24 allowed Mike Ballestero to close, but second was his peak. Shaun Walker, Josh Hohenforst and Tim Dwyer rounded out the top five.
Entries: 32
Lap leaders: Towns (1-40)
Heat winners: Drew Fallis, Towns, Shaun Walker, John McAuliffe.
Consi winners: Derrick McGrew.

Race No. 8 - Accord Speedway/Accord, New York (Fri., Sept. 30):
It may have been a high-profile race, but the RoC Dirt Sportsman 40 at Accord Speedway was business as usual for Jamie Yannone. The Accord regular started second. However, contact from polesitter Mike Ruggiero on the opening lap relegated him to fourth. Yannone found the topside to his liking by the halfway point. He took second from Ruggiero on lap 21 and drove around McGrew with 15 laps remaining to score the $1,000 payday. McGrew, Ruggiero, Shaun Walker and Mike Ketcham trailed.
Entries: 34
Lap leaders: McGrew (1-24), Yannone (25-40).
Heat winners: Steve Krom, Dave Coene, Brad Grim, Jason Hamilton.
Consi winners: Arnie Slade, Jeff Richardson.

Race No. 9 - Five Mile Point Speedway/Kirkwood, New York (Sun., Nov. 6):
Switching from an outdated Troyer to a newer Teo-Pro car, Mike Ketcham scored his first career victory in the 40-lap RoC Dirt Sportsman finale at Five Mile Point. Ketcham was quick in a heat-race victory and picked the pole for the feature. It wasn't a Sunday afternoon cruise for the Otisville, N.Y., driver. Pennsylvania's Brett Tonkin emerged from a seesaw battle with Danny Creeden on lap 22 and chased Ketcham to the checkered, trying valiantly to wrestle away the top spot. Ketcham's first win was worth $1,000. Tonkin, Creeden, Brad Grim and Jason Hamilton were second through fifth, respectively.
Entries: 37
Lap leaders: Ketcham (1-40)
Heat winners: Brian Decker, Tonkin, Hamilton, Ketcham.
Consi winners: Kyle Weiss, Shaun Walker.