Trackside Tidbits, by Debi Domby firstname.lastname@example.org
Trackside Tidbits, by Debi Domby email@example.com
Tonight, was the first big race of the season, the Joy Fair Memorial race. There were 25 cars that took the green flag for the 100-lap race. The last time we had 25 Outlaw Late Models compete in a long-distance special race at Flat Rock was Stan Yee 150 in July 2018. It was nice to see so many quality OLMS on hand. If you missed this one, there’s a link near the bottom of the page where you can find them on YouTube.
Brian Bergakker won his second Joy Fair Memorial 100, his other one was in 2018. “I don't know what happened there. I don't think I hit the 14 (Steve Needles) but if I did it must have been really soft. If I did, I apologize, but man that was fun coming from the back. I love racing here, the crowds here … I love this racetrack. Everybody treats us with respect, and it’s fun to come here, so I love it here. It was fun, three wide coming back up to the front and passing those slower cars and trying to race with (Steve) Needles back up through there. Then once we got back into the top eight there was a lot harder to get pass car so that made it even more fun. I won this race a couple years ago and I got the coolest trophy from you guys (the Fairs). I have it in my basement on my bar. It's the coolest thing ever. It's my favorite trophy I got to say. I have to thank my sponsors Central Transport, Sweet Mfg., Senneker Performance, Michigan Marking, Earnest Performance … I mean those guys really support me and that's what lets us do this.”
Bergakker also took home the Moran Chevrolet Hard Charger Award, he moved up nine positions (Jack Varney Jr and Chris Benson also moved up nine positions). For Bergakker it wasn’t the easy trek from his 10th starting position to first to get those nine positions. After being sent to the rear with Steve Needles after a lap one caution, both drivers began picking their way back to the front. Needles restarted 23rd, Bergakker 24th (in the 25-car field). In the end Bergakker passed a total of 24 cars and Needles on his way to a seventh-place finish passed 18 cars (both drivers had moved up one position on the first lap of the race).
Hayden Sprague, finished second. “The 12 (Brian Bergakker) was definitely a little bit better. I felt like on that on the restart with 30 to go, when I was in the lead, I just really couldn't get the turn center off and I needed to be able to clear him, but we were pretty good on the outside. I want to thank my sponsors, JK Logics and Matrix Transportation for making this possible. Bobby Blount for let me drive his car. And yeah, we look forward to getting to the next race. I learned a few things at the end there that I can use in the future to maybe help me, so we’ll come back next time and go for the win.”
Third went to former track champion, Eric Lee. “Overall, we had a pretty good day. We are heading in the right direction with the setup, we just need to find a little more speed on the outside. I would’ve liked to have been able to race with the 12 car (Brian Bergakker) more, but unfortunately lapped traffic didn’t go our way and we got shuffled back a few spots. I’d like to thank my sponsors, Lee Motorsports Inc., Action Drywall, Todd Rosebrugh Trucking, Lixey Storage.”
Justin Claucherty finished fourth, “Missed the setup just a bit and the resulting spin from contact with a lap car didn’t do my rear tires any favors. Overall, I can’t be too disappointed with fourth against such a stout field. I’d like to thank my sponsors S.A.S. Auto Club, KT Trucking, Complete Tree, Reilley Trucking.”
Conner Zbozien finished fifth, his best finish in a 100 lapper. “We definitely were a little struggling a little bit towards the start but were able to, I guess, save our tires a little bit, and hold our position throughout the whole race. We got a little bit better towards the end, and we're able to chase down some people, and pass them. My sponsor Sommers Marine, Blue Water Industrial, UpTown Electric, Gills Northwood Collision, Michigan Independent Door Company and Performance Fabrication and Exhaust.”
And from his Facebook page: “Full field, 25 cars finished a strong 5th against some respectable drivers! Had a lot of fun! I lost my Papa Phil last week and want to dedicate this race to him, but I know he’ll be riding around with me. Big thanks to all my sponsors, Sommers Marine, Blue Water Industrial, Uptown Electric, Michigan Independent Door Company, Arin Incorporated, BC Motorsports, and Performance Fabrication and Exhaust, all my friends and family that came out to support me, and Senneker Performance for the bad fast race car.”
Sixth place went to Steve Needles. Of the six 100 lap races he’s competed in at Flat Rock, tonight was his worst finish. Needles started eighth but was sent back on lap one with Bergakker. He drove his Hutter Racing Engines, Direct Detail, Earnest Performance, Bicknell Products #14 pass 18 cars on his way back to the front.
Finishing one position behind his teammate was Brandon Short, was the only driver in the field that this was his first race at Flat Rock. “Brought her home in seventh. Had a good car, just got shuffled back on the outside to 11th or 12th or something like that and had to work my way forward again. First time at the Rock and it was definitely a learning experience. Special thanks to Steve and Doug Needles for everything they do,” said the driver of the #14 Hutter Racing Engines, Direct Detail, Earnest Performance, Bicknell Products.
Kyle Crump started on the pole and proceeded to lead the first 70 laps. During the caution on that lap, his car stopped on the backstretch. He got it going, driving down the pit lane the wrong way and retired with a throttle linkage problem. Prior to the start the team worked on the oil pump belt on the M and M Core, Crosstown Auto, VanDoorn Racing Development, Snap-On Tools #50.
The Gold Cup Series isn’t being run this season, but the races that made up the series are. Since 2018, Brian Bergakker has won all the Gold Cup races at Flat Rock except the last Joy Fair 100 held in 2019 which Harold Fair Jr won, and Brian was sixth.
For drivers that have competed in at least three 100 lap races at Flat Rock. Steve Needles has the best average, 3.2. Tonight’s finish of sixth was his worst finish of the six 100-lap races he’s competed in and one win. Brian Bergakker and Bill Steinhilber average is 4.8, Dakota Carlson, 6.0 and Harold Fair Jr, 6.1 round out the top five with the best averages. All these drivers have at least five starts.
For the 100 lap races at Flat Rock from 1998, Stan Yee is tied with Dennis Strickland with 22 starts in Flat Rock’s 100 lap races. Paul Pelletier has 20, Joe Hawes 19 and Eric Lee with 17 are the top five in races competed in.
Sixteen cars were running at the end of 100 laps. Harold Fair Jr, Mike Root, Jeff Vrsek, George Rangel, Kyle Crump, Craig Everage, Paul Pelletier, Frank Jiovani and Derrick Sheppard finishing their night parked in the infield for a variety reasons from handling to crash damage.
Rob Moore Jr won his fourth Street Stock A division win. His first in three years (June 2, 2018), or is it two seasons since we didn’t race last season. It was an emotional win for Rob, remembering his late uncle Alan Kennedy, who also raced at Flat Rock, in victory lane. From Rob’s Facebook page: “Well last night was pretty awesome! Our first night back in three weeks and we came to make a statement. We battled carburetor issues all day long. We tried two carbs and it was still chugging on me. We thought we had it fixed for the feature, as I started from the pole. Sitting on the front stretch the car died a couple of times but I got it fired back up and rolling. Started the race and the miss/chugging stayed the entire time. I had some hard competition out there and some competitive racing, but I managed to hold onto it all race and bring home the win! This win was not at all for me, it was for Uncle Alan. We’ll be back June 12th for the SS 100 lapper! I want to thank my sponsors Southgate Transmission, Purple for Casen John, Moore Racing, and Dow Engines.”
Paul Pelletier did double duty for the first time in his racing career. Oddly, he started in the same spot in both the Late Model and the Street Stock A division features. The Street Stock had a better outcome, a career high in the street stock fifth place finish (problems forced him to retire his LM). Paul’s sponsors are ABC Plumbing L & H Hardwood, Duane's Roadrunner's Jeff's Powder coating, Sully' Speed Shop.
Taylor Papineau won his second Street Stock B division feature of the season. “The 03 team certainly earned that win this past Saturday night. It felt amazing to clinch my 2nd victory in the street stock b main division. I owe my win to my parents Dennis and Brenda Papineau for all the long hard-fought nights in the garage, and of course to my loving fiance Caitlin for her endless love and support. We will continue to get better and faster with every week. We'll get back to work to hopefully pull off the "hat trick" win for the 2021 season. Wanna thank our fans for their support week in and week out. We wouldn't be there doing what we love without our loyal fans. On to the next one.”
Caleb Barron missed qualifying so had to start in the B main. “Another 12-hour work-day for Caleb yesterday made us B-Main bound once again. With no practice, he decided to run the 3-week-old tires, as this week would be about it for them. Started 6th and finished 2nd, in the tire tracks of the winner. A good "test session", as we prepare for our 100-lap race, our biggest race of the year, in 2 weeks. A lot of prep work in the garage the next two weeks, but we'll be ready!” His sponsors are Becky Hernandez, 31; Mills Gymnastics; Michigan Massage Professionals; Shearrer’s Arts ‘n Motion; And our newest, Dr. Jeremy Bezzo, DDS.
Welcome back to Paul Hahn. As near as I can figure from my records, his last street stock race was season championship in 2004. After that he moved the now defunct ARCA Truck Series where he was a multi time champion. “I believe the last time I was in a car racing was in 2012. Being back in the seat brought back great memories. The nervous adrenaline just before the race as you start getting strapped in, the competition and the speed is what I missed. Last week we had our ups and downs, but we were figuring out the car and working out the bugs since the last time that car raced was in 2018. So, I guess both the car and the driver had to brush off the dust. Yeah, once I got out there, I had fun. Currently Hahn’s Collision and Cornwell Tools are sponsors, but we’re working on getting others.”
The car is owned by Figure 8 driver, Scott Apperson, and is number 02, one of the Apperson’s traditional numbers for years in the Figure 8 division. The car was formerly owned/driven by Grant Hedges.
The car and driver weren’t too rusty. Tonight, was retro night for the street stocks and they ran dashes and pursuits tonight. Paul won the second pursuit passing Lonnie York on the last lap after starting sixth. Wilburn Parks won the other pursuit, leading the whole thing. Jeff Metdepenningen won the A division dash, Taylor Papineau won the B division dash (they didn’t have a pursuit since only five cars were in the division at the time.
Paul Duffin made his first start of the season. He finished last in the A division feature, dropping out after completing only a single lap.
Aaron Greathouse made his appearance of the season and finished sixth in the Street Stock B division feature. “Well, this past weekend was definitely a learning experience. New set up plus super old tires and a broken sway bar mount made for a rough day. All in all, I learned a lot and will have the mount fixed among a few other changes for the next race!”
Tim Moore was also at the track, but motor problems during hot laps parked his Bill Brown Ford, Jeff Spooner, Plymouth Rubber and Transmission, North End Scrap Metal #83 for the night. It would’ve been his first race of the season (last race was August 2019).
- Gary Cronenwett was the top finishing rookie for the fifth straight race, finishing third this week. His Sullys Speed Shop, B&B Chassis #8 has finished all those races in the Top 5, including a win.
- Johnny Rangel has improved his finishing position week over week for all five weeks. He’s had a new career finish each week, finishing sixth this week in his Blue Water Pipe & Supply #45.
- Bobby Stewart aboard his Environmental Services, B&B Services #68 finished fourth this week and leads the B division points.
- Mike Miller is one of only four rookies this season to make it to all the races. Cronenwett and Rangel in the A division, and Mike and Stewart in the B division. Mike is 35 points out of the point lead and 350 points ahead of Taylor Papineau who has only two races in the B division this season. “Third in the dash and fifth in the feature. I tried out a couple setup adjustments. Car was too tight, so I went back on one adjustment for the feature and car was a little freer off the start but still trying to finish as strong as I start. Thanks to Chris Mallia for helping. Lonnie York, Craig Lange, and Bobby Lightner for the setup help.”
- Rob Liedel returned this week and finished a career third place in the feature. “So, I'm sitting here unwinding after tonight's race, reflecting on what it was like tonight. The feeling I felt throughout the race were unreal. I can only compare it to hearing the people that talk about feeling people that have passed surround them. Tonight, I felt Alan in the car with me. Talking me through the race. Where to go, what do to, how to set up my passes. It was very surreal. I have never experienced anything like that in my life. I'm very thankful to get that moment and that feeling of having him with me. I still miss the bear hug I'm sure I'd be getting from him. But it's nice to have the presence of him there with me. Special thanks to my wife, Amy Shinn Liedel, for being my rock through this. Thanks to my kid, Dylan, who we're teaching throughout this journey. Thanks to Mel and Suzanna Worley, Kyle Worley and Jessica Moore, and Jen for the help and support in the pit area. And last but not least, my parent's Bob and Darlene Liedel for braving the cold tonight up in the stands.”
If you missed any of the racing you can find it here: www.youtube.com/c/MikeMiller28. If you’d like to see some in-car videos (and pictures) stop by PhotosByKuyoth’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/photosbykuyoth
I love hearing from the team and drivers, and I appreciate everyone that have sent me their Facebook page or website so I can get your race updates for the article. If I missed your sponsors this week, send me a note through Facebook Messenger www.facebook.com/icechips or firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add them to my next column.