April 20th, 2003
KIRKWOOD, NY…Five Mile Point Speedway kicked off its 53rd consecutive year of racing on Saturday in grand fashion. Dana Wagner roared to the 50 lap 358 Modified Spring Championship while James Cornell, Joel Batzel and Mahlon Shoemaker also claimed victories in front of the largest opening night crowd in several years.
J.R. Hurlburt and Dana Wagner brought the 358 Modified field down to the initial green flag with Hurlburt taking command. Wagner took over the lead on lap five while Mike Clapperton worked his way to the front from his eighth starting spot.
Joining Clapperton in the quest for the lead were Mike Decker and J.R. Crouse. Hurlburt bobbled, opening the door for Decker to make a great move to go from fourth to second on lap 18. Clapperton raced past him for second on the next lap and set his sights on Wagner.
They remained that way until lap 29 when Clapperton used lapped traffic to his advantage to wrestle the lead from Wagner. The caution flew on the next lap when Crouse slowed with a flat tire. Under the yellow Decker also went pitside with a flat.
It looked as though Clapperton would cruise to the win but Wagner had other ideas. Wagner, who had victory in his sights only to be denied a few times in 2002, was not to be denied on this night. With three laps to go he made a bold move down low in the rough part of the track to snatch the lead back from Clapperton.
Once in front Wagner raced to his first career feature win ahead of Clapperton. "I knew we had a faster car so when he got ahead of me I knew I could get him back and fortunately I did", said Wagner.
2002 track champ Mitch Gibbs was nearly lapped in the early portion of the race but came on strong at the end to charge up to third ahead of Hurlburt and Don Hart, Jr. Bobby Puckett overcame an early wreck to record a sixth place finish ahead of Jim Crawn, Butch Klinger, Rich Keehle and Ralph Mele, who was running in the top five earlier before suffering a flat tire.
Paul Rooney and Jason Schlafer brought the Street Stock feature down to the start with Rooney taking the early lead. Schlafer took over on lap four before losing the top spot to Tracy Gregory on the next circuit.
James Cornell would be involved in a crash on lap 10 and went to the pits for quick repairs before returning on the lead lap. Cornell would then methodically work his way to the front. He needed only nine laps to move into second to put the pressure on Gregory.
It took Cornell just two laps to track him down and take the lead on lap 21. Once in front, he never looked back and captured the opening night win. Gregory was a solid second ahead of Schlafer, J.T. McKernan and Wade Decker. Sixth through tenth went to Brett Spoor, Jerry Tonti, Rob Harder, Chris Strohl and Dan Podwika.
The action packed UMP Modified feature had several lead changes throughout. It turned out to be a big day for Joel Batzel. His day started off when he became a father on Saturday morning. After nearly staying home, he changed his mind and went racing.
Batzel took the lead from Jim Fugel on lap 14 with 2002 champ Mike Stoddard right on his heels. Joe Price found a good line around the top of the speedway and blasted past Stoddard in turn one with two laps to go. As the white flag flew Price made the same move to take the lead from Batzel.
Price then switched lanes and dove to the bottom going into turn three. He went in just a little too hard and drifted high, allowing Batzel and Stoddard to slip underneath him. Batzel would then win the drag race to the checkers to cap off a big day for him. It was Batzel’s first win in the class.
Stoddard was second ahead of Price, Fugel and Gary Dence, who returned to the drivers seat after a 12 year absence. Rounding out the top ten were Kevin Cole, Rob Loucks, Ralph Shoemaker, Jr., Mike Stolarcyk III and Lee Sharpsteen.
Defending Pure Stock track champ Mahlon Shoemaker picked up where he left off by capturing the main event. Shoemaker took the lead on lap eight and held off Toby Sparks for the win. Louie Gordinier was third ahead of Mike Lartz and Darl Ellis. Sixth through tenth went to Jim Ortiz, Harry Marvin III, Harry Cook, Jr., Brett Barrett and Mark Aldrich.
This Saturday features a full show of 358 Modifieds, Street Stocks, UMP Modifieds and Pure Stocks. Gates open at 4:00 p.m. and race time is 6:15 p.m.
COUNTER POINTS…World of Racing Motorsports held an Easter Egg Hunt prior to the start of the races. Ralph Shoemaker, Walt McClenon and Jerry Tonti‘s race teams also contributed prizes…Spring track conditions prevailed, but certainly didn’t hamper the action with three of the four features not decided until the final laps…The B&D Exhaust Pure Stock Challenge was not claimed so if this Saturdays feature winner also wins his heat race, he’ll pocket a $100 bonus.
358 MODIFIED SPRING CHAMPIONSHIP:
DANA WAGNER, Mike Clapperton, Mitch Gibbs, J.R. Hurlburt, Don Hart, Jr., Bobby Puckett, Jim Crawn, Butch Klinger, Rich Keehle, Ralph Mele, Mike Decker, J.R. Crouse, Mike Frost, Dan Hineline, Glen Wilcox, R.C. Faigle, Tom Gervasi, Glenn Knapp, Dick Sundgren, Brian Malcolm, Bob Hamm, Dan Vauter, Mike Prentice, Dave Calaman. DNQ: Jay Strait, Dave Locke, Dan Morden, Alex Konopka, Ed Harris.
STREET STOCK SPRING CHAMPIONSHIP:
JAMES CORNELL, Tracy Gregory, Jason Schlafer, J.T. McKernan, Wade Decker, Brett Spoor, Jerry Tonti, Rob Harder, Chris Strohl, Dan Podwika, Walt McClenon, Randy Tyler, Fred Christ, Ed McKernan, Matt Roberts, Brian MacRabie, Paul Rooney, Pat Nolan, Rich Post, Byron Pitcher, Ken Taugher.
UMP MODIFIED SPRING CHAMPIONSHIP:
JOEL BATZEL, Mike Stoddard, Joe Price, Jr., Jim Fugel, Gary Dence, Kevin Cole, Rob Loucks, Ralph Shoemaker, Jr., Mike Stolarcyk III, Lee Sharpsteen.
PURE STOCK SPRING CHAMPIONSHIP:
MAHLON SHOEMAKER, Toby Sparks, Louie Gordinier, Mike Lartz, Darl Ellis, Jim Ortiz, Harry Marvin III, Harry Cook, Jr., Brett Barrett, Mark Aldrich, Don Donnelly, Jr., Tom Garren, Corey Bond, Dan Babcock, Paul Harrington, Ray Marbaker, Jess Snell, Charlie Gilbert, Doug Stack, Rich Talada, Bryan Lindsey, Rob Larsen. DNS: Jeremy Shaw, Randy Rolison.