Veteran drivers Jim Dale Jr. of Shrewsbury and Steve Shaw of Merlin led every lap of their feature races to open the 2013 stock car racing season at South Buxton Raceway on Saturday night.
Dale Jr., the two-time defending series champion, led all 25 laps to win the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modified feature.
Shaw took the green flag in the second row of the Windride Transportation Sport Stocks feature and took the lead before the cars completed a lap as he led all 20 circuits to take the checkered flag.
Leamington’s Justin Coulter won the UMP Late Model feature, his first career feature win in this class, as he outran Charing Cross’s Chris Ross and Eric Spengler, of Lake City, Mich., in an exciting three-car battle for final 13 laps.
Cottam’s Denis DeSerrano won all three races, including the 20-lap feature, in the Tirecraft Mini-Mod division.
DeSerrano actually crossed the finish line in second place in the feature but was declared the winner when Chatham’s Randy McKinlay, who took the lead with four laps to go, was penalized two positions for jumping the restart a lap earlier.
(Photos by James MacDonald Apex One Photo, click on photos for larger views)
Dale Jr. starts ‘13 where he left off in ‘12
Jim Dale Jr. took advantage of last year’s ‘race forward’ format to start on the front row numerous times in feature races, as he led the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds with eight victories in 2012, including the season championship race.
The eight-time champion was one of the biggest advocates for the new pill draw to invert the field for the feature, so it isn’t always the fastest cars starting up front.
And wouldn’t you know it - the ‘zero’ frisbee was selected by the junior fan club member, meaning there was no invert for the opening night feature race.
This put Dale Jr., who finished second in the dash to Merlin’s Jeff Daniels, on the outside of the front row for the 25-lap feature.
Dale Jr. took the lead on the first lap and never looked back, leading every lap to open the season with a dominating victory.
Chatham’s Louis Clements made up ground in the late going as the leaders worked their way through the lap traffic but couldn’t wrestle the lead away from Dale Jr.
Chatham drivers Brian Speelman and Darryl Hoekstra finished third and fifth, with Clayton Smith, of Taylor, Mich., finishing in between in fourth.
Rookie Shawn Jones of Blenheim, the three-time Tirecraft Comp 4 champion, finished sixth - one lap down - in his modified debut.
Two other Modified rookies had top-10 finishes as Cottam’s Denis DeSerrano was eighth and Tilbury’s James Beaulieu was 10th.
Windsor’s Dan McIntyre had a strong top-five run going until he made contact with Hoekstra and had to pit, leading to an 11th-place finish.
Chatham’s Eugene Hoekstra also pitted late in the race as the seven-time champion finished 13th in his return to racing after a nearly 16-year absence from South Buxton.
Daniels won the heat and dash but crashed early in the feature to end his hopes of a sweep.
Dale Jr. and Speelman won the other heats.
Coulter happy first career Late Model win came ‘at home’
Leamington’s Justin Coulter won his first career feature race in a late model car, and was happy it came so close to home.
“It was nice to get it at home in front of friends … and we needed it as a team,” Coulter said.
The long-time modified driver switched to a full-time late model ride last year, racing on the Ohio circuit at Eldora and Oakshade with other local drivers Chris Ross, Don Gordon and Andrew Reaume.
“We won a couple of ‘B’ mains (last year), but this is our first ‘A’ feature (win),” said Coulter, whose last win at South Buxton came in a modified in 2009, one year after winning the season championship race..
Ross and Gordon were two of the seven drivers who took the green flag for Saturday’s first UMP Late Model feature of the season, as crashes in the heat race ended the nights for Ridgetown’s Dale Glassford and Chatham drivers Jim Jones and Mike Dale.
Coulter started in the second row behind pole sitter Gordon and Chatham’s Gregg Haskell.
He passed Gordon for the lead on the second lap two and led the final 18 circuits.
Coulter had his hands full holding off strong challenges from Ross and Eric Spangler, of Lake City, Mich., as the trio raced hard but clean over the final 13 laps.
“I seen Chris get inside of me with a couple of laps to go,” Coulter said. “I didn’t know how close he was, I just tried to hold my line and see what the outcome was going to be.”
Haskell was fourth, the only other car to finish.
Chatham’s Brad Authier, who arrived at the track just in time for the feature after finishing his car late in the evening, was fifth. Gordon was sixth while rookie Eric Walker was seventh.
Coulter credited the infield crew for giving the competitors a racy surface following problems early in the evening.
Overnight vandalism to track equipment, including the water truck, hampered the day’s preparation.
The start of the program was delayed almost an hour and led the dusty track conditions in the heat races.
More water was applied during the intermission and after surviving some slick conditions in the dash and crack-the-whips, the track came around in time for the features.
“I didn’t think it was that bad at all, by feature time the track was pretty decent and there was more than one racing groove,” Coulter said of conditions.
Spangler, who raced Friday at Mt. Pleasant in mid-Michigan before coming across the border Saturday, dominated the two preliminary races as he won the heat and dash but started fourth in the feature after the invert.
Coulter was second in both races to Spengler.
Ruling helps DeSerrano go three-for-three
Cottam’s Denis DeSerrano is no stranger to the Winner’s Circle at South Buxton, winning 12 features over the last three years.
And he started the 2013 season with three wins on Saturday, including a victory in the Tirecraft Mini-Mod feature - even though he crossed the line in second place.
DeSerrano was declared the winner when Chatham’s Randy McKinlay, who took the lead with four laps to go, was penalized two laps for jumping the restart a lap earlier.
“I thought for sure the 26 had won it,” DeSerrano said of McKinlay.
“Obviously I didn’t know what happened behind me, but when he passed me, I figured it was over.”
Merlin’s Jody Mason had a strong run to finish second, with McKinlay relegated to a third-place finish.
It was a wild roller-coaster ride for the two-time champion McKinlay.
He led the first three laps but collided with Chatham’s Jason Turkington while trying to put the rookie a lap down and had to restart at the back.
McKinlay stormed through the field and got as high as third when he had to pit under caution when his hood came loose.
It took McKinlay only two laps to go from the back to the front, taking the lead from DeSerrano with four to go only to be penalized for jumping the green and passing Mason on the restart a lap earlier.
Cottam’s Rob Quick, the 2012 championship race winner, ran second for a few laps but couldn’t get past DeSerrano and settled for a fourth-place finish. Steve Shaw Jr. was fifth.
DeSerrano won the heat race with a last-lap pass of Quick and also won the crack-the-whip.
Chatham’s Joel Desjardin’s and Blenheim’s Trevor Jones won the other heats.
DeSerrano also made his debut in the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modifieds, but crashed in both the heat and feature. He nursed his car to a respectable eighth-place finish in the 18-car feature.
“These cars don’t stop as good as the Minis,” DeSerrano said about his incidents, including the feature when he got on the brakes to avoid a crash ahead of him.
“The Mods have a lot more horsepower, you have to play with the throttle, where the Minis you just put it to the floor and go.”
‘Brakes’ go Shaw’s way in Sport Stocks feature win
Steve Shaw used his wily experience to post his 106th career feature win.
The veteran Merlin driver seemed to have the Windride Transportation Sport Stocks feature field covered until his car seemed to slow in the late laps, allowing Dover Centre’s Tyler Lozon, the 2012 championship race winner, to close the gap.
“The right rear caliper broke, I had no brakes,” Shaw explained to what slowed down his No. 17.
“I just kept going and hit my marks … you don’t need brakes here, but they do help when you go in a little too hard,” added Shaw, as he used the old racing adage of slowing down to go fast.
Shaw, who won his heat and finished second to Kingsville’s Rob Young in the dash, started in the fourth position after the invert.
But the five-time track champion got a great run on the outside through one-and-two and was the leader when the cars crossed the stripe the first time.
Lozon ran second for all 20 laps while Young was third until he suffered front-end damage late and pitted with three laps to go.
Wallaceburg’s Willy Vyse closed the gap on Lozon in the waning laps and settled for third, with Windsor’s West Bertozzi and Essex’s Doris Lajeunesse rounding out the top five.
Shaw, like Coulter, credited the track staff for a great racing surface in the feature.
“The infield crew did an awesome job … there were too many cautions with the dry conditions and I really didn’t want to take the green in the crack-the-whip,” he said of the slick conditions.
“But it was phenomenal in the feature, they had to do what they did in the intermission.”
- Ryan Bonner won the Bomber feature, outrunning fellow Blenheim driver Jeff Schives in the 10-lap shootout after Chatham’s Mike Nead pitted early. Schives won the heat.
- Several rookies made their South Buxton debuts -Blenheim’s Justin Hebblethwaite, Jonathon Hebblethwaite and Elliott Wilton, Dresden’s Matt Sorrell and Chatham’s Jason Turkington in the Mini-Mods; Chatham’s Eric Walker in the Late Models; plus Jones, DeSerrano and Beaulieu moving up to the Modifieds.
- DeSerrano said the fire under the hood of his Modified heat race was no big deal. “Some fuel got on the exhaust and it was just burning off.”
- Track promoter Blake Outhouse expressed his appreciation to the fans for the nearly one-hour delay at the start of the program due to the vandalism, and the mid-show interruption to water and work in the track before the features. “We had a big crowd and it was pretty cool with the wind coming off the lake, the last thing we wanted was a long night but we really want to thank the fans for their patience, especially all those who stuck it out to the end,” he said, as the races ended near 11:30 p.m.
- Fans can vote for The Best Appearing Cars at the track this Saturday as well as at the new Tirecraft location on Richmond St. in Chatham from noon to 4 p.m. The winners will be announced May 18.