October 17th, 2004

Mitch Gibbs Didn't Forget The Way Around Five Mile Point

KIRKWOOD, NY - Mitch Gibbs proved he didn't forget the quick way around Five Mile Point Speedway.

North Norwich, N.Y.'s Gibbs returned to his former home track on Sunday afternoon and roared to the victory in the 35th running of the Binghamton Pepsi-Cola Southern Tier 100 for the Modifieds. The event was postponed twice by rain - once on its original September 25 date, and again on October 15.

"It feels good to be back here," bottom-lined Gibbs, who earned $3,000 for the triumph. A previous winner of the Southern Tier 100 during his dominant 13-win 2002 season, Gibbs etched his name in the Five Mile Point record books as one of only seven drivers to win the historic event more than once.

"There's some big names that have won this race," said Gibbs, citing the likes of Chuck Akulis, Brett Hearn and Jack Johnson as past victors. "It's nothing to be ashamed of." The redraw landed Gibbs on the outside pole, but he surrendered the early advantage to Capital District invader Bob Savoie, who started from the pole in Jerry Sampson's No. 18 Bicknell.

Utilizing a Morrison-built 9-to-1 power plant with CVRA spec aluminum heads, Savoie managed to open up some distance on Gibbs early, surviving five caution flags in the first 14 circuits of the event. The veteran Savoie was running so well, in fact, that Gibbs questioned his ability to make a move for the lead.

"I could see the outside was starting to get slick," related Gibbs. "I put my right-rear (tire) up there a few times to test it out and there wasn't a whole lot out there to grip. I was beginning to think I'd have to wait until lapped traffic to make a move."

His opportunity came on a lap-18 restart. Planting his Moshier-powered No. 2G Bicknell on the outside of the quarter-mile oval, the 41-year-old won the drag race to nose ahead at the stripe for the completion of the 19th circuit.

"I don't know how I pulled it off," Gibbs said of the pass. While Gibbs took command relatively early in the 100-lap grind, it was no cakewalk for the past track champion. Savoie never let Gibbs far from his reach, and by lap 70, the race for the number one position heated up as the pair encountered lapped traffic.

The first obstacle for Gibbs came in the form of Darren Schuler, whose No. 74 was secure on the inside groove. Not willing to risk opening the bottom door for Savoie, Gibbs raced nose-to-tail with Schuler's No. 74.

On lap 79, Savoie tiptoed to the outside in turn three, but couldn't keep his momentum up exiting the fourth turn to take over the lead. "It's hard to follow a lapped car like that when you know someone is beating on your back bumper," Gibbs remarked. "He was making me nervous. I could see the yellow car up there a few times. "I was confident enough that he wouldn't be able to get by that I wouldn't move up there myself."

While the pair cleared Schuler on lap 80, heavy lapped traffic remained in the path of the leaders. Savoie tried an inside run entering turn one on lap 83, as the duo made slight contact. Gibbs fought off that advance, but fell under attack again with 14 laps remaining as Savoie tried another outside run in turns three and four.

The break for '04 Afton (N.Y.) Speedway champion came on lap 90 when Bobby Puckett slowed, bringing out the caution and leaving Gibbs with clear track for the 10-lap sprint. "I needed that caution," Gibbs said. "It was a relief to see that single file restart with no one in front of me."

With one more wave of the yellow slowing the event on lap 95, Gibbs cruised to a comfortable victory, driving his self-owned Nice n Easy Grocery Shoppes mount to a five car-length advantage. Savoie, 50, of Broadalbin, N.Y., nursed his car home in second despite a visibly soft - and bald - right-rear tire.

"I've got nothing left no air, no rubber, nothing," exclaimed Savoie, making his first FMP start since 1990. "I could feel it start to go down in the last 20 laps. The car was picking up the left-front as the right-rear got softer." Savoie believed his demise resulted from the torrid pace he set early on.

"The first 20 when I was leading, I said to myself 'This isn't where I want to be' because I was running the car a lot harder than I wanted to with him pressuring me. That was our downfall right there. "We probably still had a shot until that caution (on lap 90)."

Jim Crawn of LeRayesville, Pa., made a late rally for third. He drove the Clark-powered No. J30 Bicknell to the inside of Don Hart Jr. on the final restart to secure the position. "I was trying to be smooth and save the car for late in the race," said the 41-year-old Crawn, who topped the Southern Tier 100 in 1998.

"I needed a few more cautions at the end and I might have been able to stick it in under those guys (as he had with Hart on lap 95)." 15th-starter Brian Malcolm of Lake Ariel, Pa., finished fourth and Hart dropped to fifth at the finish. Eleven cars finished on the lead lap in an event that was punctuated by 11 caution flags.

Forty-two Modifieds signed in for the program. Heat winners on September 25 were Mike Colsten, Hart, Brian Corcoran and Savoie, while Eddie White and George Kostelansky topped Sunday's consolations. Rich Keehle Jr. won the 12-lap Last Chance Race.

PA Dual Track regular Kyle Weiss parlayed his first Five Mile Point start into a victory in the 40-lap Sportsman Championship. Hamburg, Pa.'s Weiss started sixth survived a lap-11 scare when he executed a half-spin in turn four. He absorbed a significant hit from Bill Deckelman, who went airborne over the left-front wheel of Weiss's No. 21K.

Escaping with no damage, Weiss stalked leader Rodney Hart for much of the event, sticking the nose of his Dirt Wheels mount to the inside through each set of corners. Weiss, 30, made his move on lap 31. He stepped to the outside of the 2004 track champion, making the advance stick through turns three and four.

"I waited until he got comfortable on the bottom, then I drove around him," explained Weiss, who earned $750 for the triumph. Hart, of Bainbridge, N.Y., settled for the runner-up spot, ahead of Brett Tonkin, Butch Klinger and Bob Mills.

Afton, N.Y.'s Denny Decker raced to the $600 win in the caution-plagued 25-lap Street Stock feature. Decker hounded early leader Chris Strohl until, on lap 11, he powered to the outside of the Keystone State teenager to assume command.

Decker later repelled the challenges of Bill Trego to secure the victory. Trego finished the runner-up, ahead of John Glezen, Strohl and Wade Decker.

Rich Powell of Rome, N.Y., emerged victorious from the 20-lap Four Cylinder Stock main. Powell took over the lead on lap five and cruised to the $300 payday over Bob Doolittle, who took over second late in the distance. Harold Humphrey, Frank Chapman and Doug Colton rounded out the top five.

COUNTER POINTS:Mitch Gibbs and Brian Weaver made determined drives in their heat races to finish second after heading pitside with flat tires. Gibbs, especially, found a home in the quarter-mile's upper groove…. The last four laps of Sportsman heat three featured an intense side-by-side battle, with Brian Decker edging track champ Rodney Hart…. Jimmy Johnson, a 358-Modified regular at Orange County (N.Y.) Fair Speedway, made his first FMP start in five years, while PA dual tracker Kyle Weiss of Hamburg, Pa., was a Sportsman first-timer….

COUNTER POINTS:The show rolled off under threatening skies on a chilly autumn afternoon in the Southern Tier. A hearty crowd braved the elements to take in the four-division card that included 42 Modifieds, 26 Sportsman, 27 Street Stocks and 24 Four Cylinder Stocks.

Competitors tested out a new layout for the first time in Sunday's show after promoter Andrew Harpell extended turns one and two some 15 to 20 feet, using 100 10-wheeler loads of fill and another 30 loads of clay to widen the surface. Harpell hopes to push it out even further, weather permitting, before the October 30 Southern Tier Open.

Brian Weaver's top three run in the 100 ended on lap 35 when he clipped the yuke tire in turn four and stripped the pitman arm. Joel Batzel performed well early, charging to the top five in the outside line but a transmission problem ended his day on lap 43. Misfortune struck Glenn Knapp just 10 laps from the finish when he relinquished fourth with a flat right-rear tire.

Binghamton Pepsi-Cola Southern Tier 100 Finish:
MITCH GIBBS, Bob Savoie, Jim Crawn, Brian Malcolm, Don Hart Jr., Bob Hamm Jr., Allan Kellogg, Mike Colsten, Eddie White, J.R. Crouse, Glenn Knapp, Chris Ostrowsky, Darren Schuler, Bobby Puckett, Rich Keehle Jr., Brian Corcoran, Joel Batzel, Tom Oleski, Denny Superko, Carl Nagel, George Kostelansky, Brian Weaver, Dan Hineline, Dave Jenkins, Rick Virkitis, Chris Weaver, Chris Grbac, Dan Morden. Did Not Start: Buddy Altemose. Did Not Qualify: Ed Hawley, Dave Calaman, Jim Corcoran, Mike Frost, Duane Hiller, Bernie Kelly, Steve Walsh, Ernie Millon, Jimmy Johnson, Billy Jenkins, Peach Cole, Dick Sundgren, Brian White.

Sportsman Feature Finish:
KYLE WEISS, Rodney Hart, Brett Tonkin, Butch Klinger, Bob Mills, Dusty Jagger, Brad Grim, Ricky Rutt, Scott Brady, Brian Decker, Shawn Olenski, Jeremy Holt, Ryan Grim, Bruce Gould, Keith Leonard, Tom Gervasi, Jason Heafy, Rich Cucci, Andy Stout, Jesse Kline, Bill Deckelman, Bob Conklin, Archie Myers III. Did Not Start: Tim Votra, Daryle Cole, Jim Toy.

Street Stock Feature Finish:
DENNY DECKER, Bill Trego, John Glezen, Chris Strohl, Wade Decker, Dan Pompey, Darl Ellis, Carl Heater, Rich Sharpsteen, Paul Strohl, Darren Stout, Neil DiBlasi, Ken Hineline, Jason Bartsch, Jerry Colsten, J.T. McKernan, Ken Taugher, Randy Tyler, Dave Luff, Keith Villano, Brett Spoor, Les Gillette, Jim Hughes Sr., Jim Rosh, Mike Decker, Gary Roberts, Rich Post.

Four Cylinder Feature Finish:
RICH POWELL, Bob Doolittle, Harold Humphrey, Frank Chapman, Doug Colton, Ray Hire, Natasha Robinson, Nate Stevens, Frank Delnero, Chuck Wheeland Jr., Barney Fuller, Russell Erwin, Anthony Slack, A.J. Hunsinger, Chris Slack, John Carter, Matt O'Dell, Randy Gardner, Jason Tuttle, Todd Williamson, Nate DeGraw, Joey Delacruz, Chris Nickers.