Five new feature winners visited the Winner’s Circle on Saturday night at South Buxton Raceway.
Merlin’s Jody Mason captured his first feature checkered flag since 2000 in the Tirecraft Mini-Mods, leading the final 15 of the 20-lap feature.
Another Merlin driver also parked his car in the Winner’s Circle as Eren Vanderiviere, the two-time defending series champion, took the lead on lap three and led the final 17 circuits of the Windride Transportation Sport Stocks feature.
Charing Cross’s Chris Ross took the lead midway through the UMP Late Model feature to earn the victory in his second South Buxton appearance of the season.
Leamington’s Joel Dick survived a caution-plague Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modified feature, taking the lead on lap 12 when Merlin’s Joe Brosseau and Chatham’s Darryl Hoekstra crashed while battling for the lead.
Blenheim’s Jeff Schives won his first Bomber feature.
Meanwhile, race fans and drivers helped raise $2,615.50 in two weekend fund-raisers to help offset the cost of repairs from last weekend’s vandalism spree. Funds remaining after repairs are covered will go to enhancing and expanding the track’s security camera system.
Race fans donated $688.84 in the pass-the-helmet offering during intermission, while the 50-50 winner Amy Finn donated half of her winnings ($300).
On Sunday, $866.66 was raised at the car wash and barbecue, $340 in the raffle draw and another $420 was collected in cash donations.
Amy Dale and Doug Leonard, who are overseeing the fund-raising campaign, thank all of the drivers who took part in the ‘pass-the-helmet’ and all of the volunteers at the car wash and barbecue - and most of all, they thank everyone who made a donation.
This Saturday, there will be a pre-race pig roast at the track beginning at 3 p.m. UMP Late Model driver Justin Coulter is donating the pig and will do the cooking. The cost is $5 per person, which includes a pork dinner and fixings. All proceeds will again go to the repairs and security system.
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Mason captures first feature win in 13 years
Jody Mason knew Denis DeSerrano’s feature win streak would come to an end sooner or later.
But the Merlin driver didn’t think he would be the one in the Winner’s Circle the night it ended.
Mason took the lead from fellow Merlin driver Steve Shaw Jr. on lap five and led the final 15 laps to win the Tirecraft Mini-Mod feature, his first in 13 years.
“No, I didn’t think I was going to be the one to stop him, but I’m glad,” said the 38-year-old Mason about ending DeSerrano’s feature win streak at three.
“Me and Dessy have always have been good friends through the years, and he was the first one to come down here and congratulate me,” Mason said.
DeSerrano started in the fourth row and moved up to second place on the first lap when he suddenly shot to the top of the track and slowed dramatically.
He fell back to as low as 12th at one point but managed a sixth-place finish, thanks to the attrition rate in the late laps.
“We were running on three cylinders, so not too bad to come out with a sixth,” smiled DeSerrano, who won the heat and crack-the-whip earlier in the night for nine checkered flags in 12 races through the first four weeks of the season.
Mason, meanwhile, started in the second row but dropped back as low as seventh on the first lap before passing five cars on lap three to move into second behind Shaw.
He took the lead for good two laps later.
With DeSerrano out of the picture, Mason concentrated on holding off Shaw and Blenheim’s Kyle Hope for the final 15 laps.
“I knew it was the 17 (Shaw) and one of the Hope boys there, but I wasn’t sure who was right behind me,” Mason said.
Mason restarted after cautions and quickly restored his lead each time.
“I chose the outside because the car was a little loose, I could hold more throttle using the wider track and it didn’t feel like it wanted to come around on me up there,” he explained.
Hope passed Shaw with two to go to finish third while Kingsville’s Norm DeSerrano and Chatham’s Rick Balasin rounded out the top five.
Mason has been a strong challenger since opening night as he went into Saturday fourth in points and two top-fives in the three previous features.
He also won his heat earlier in the night and was second to DeSerrano in the crack-the-whip.
“It’s a new motor and I have a great pit crew that does a great job setting it up,” Mason explained his good start.
Mason began his career in the mid-90s and raced off-and-on in the Comp 4s before moving up to the Modified class last year.
“It was something I always wanted to try, it was one my dreams, and I can say I tried it,” he said about moving up to the Modifieds lat season.
“But I like the Mini division, it’s affordable, more in my pocket range, and there’s a lot of great guys to race against,” he said of returning to the four-cylinder class.
Mason said he is going to give it his best shot to win the points title.
“I have a son I want to get into go-cart racing, so I’ll probably run just part-time next year,” he said.
Hope, in his second night of the season, won the third heat.
Vanderiviere returns to championship winning form
Eren Vanderiviere admitted he hardly looked like a two-time defending champion the first three weeks of the season.
But the Merlin native returned to championship form on Saturday night, winning his first Windride Sport Stocks feature of the season.
Vanderiviere survived an early battle with Grande Pointe’s Tyler Lozon and Merlin’s Steve Shaw to take the lead on lap three and led the rest of the way.
“We were off on set up,” Vanderiviere described his troubles in the first three weeks.
“We had a bad push, but we finally got it out of the car this week.
“We were on set up all day today,” he continued. “We didn’t get it done until 4:30 and the hard work by the team really paid off.”
It appeared Vanderiviere was turning the corner in last week’s feature when he passed Shaw for the lead on lap 12 but spun two laps later. He salvaged a third-place finish.
He said the spin was due to the push in the car, forcing him to drive hard into the corners.
This week, however, the only spin was on Vanderiviere’s fate.
Shaw suffered a flat tire early and had to pit, going six laps down to end his feature win-streak at two.
And something broke on the second-place car of Lozon on lap 10, leading to his second straight DNF.
“I don’t now what happened to him, I just saw him on the infield when we came around (under caution),” Vanderiviere said of his battle with Lozon.
“It was good, clean racing, we didn’t touch … that’s the way I like it, bringing it home in one piece,”
Windsor’s West Bertozzi moved into second place as he battled Harrow’s Patrick Lajeunesse for position for several laps.
Bertozzi felt he had something for Vanderiviere, but was not able to do anything on restarts.
“If Vanderiviere picked the outside, I think I would have had him on the inside,” Bertozzi said.
“I just couldn’t get enough traction, it was just too dry.
“I couldn’t touch him on the restarts, and no one could touch me from behind,” he said.
Bertozzi hung on for a career-high second-place finish, with Wheatley’s Steve Clements, Essex’s Doris Lajeunesse and Chatham’s Jason Fox rounding out the top five. Shaw finished ninth.
Vanderiviere’s goal is to naturally win a third straight championship and a fourth in a row for the family, as older brother Eric won in 2010 before moving up to the Modifieds.
“Our big goal is to win as many races as we can,” said Vanderiviere, who won eight features and 16 total checkereds in 2012.
“I kind of like to win more features than I did last year and to bring home the championship, and we’re right back in the hunt,” said Vanderiviere, who moved from eight in points two weeks ago to fourth last week and is unofficially second, 11 points behind Shaw.
Shaw won the heat and crack-the-whip for a division high six checkereds while Lozon won the other heat.
Patience pays off in Dick’s Modified feature win
When he got to the Winner’s Circle, Joel Dick took a quick look but barely found a scratch on his winning car.
The Leamington driver was about the only one of the 18 starters in the Schinkels Gourmet Meats UMP Modified feature race who could make that claim.
Dick was running third when he inherited the lead on lap 12 after Chatham’s Darryl Hoekstra and Merlin’s Joe Brosseau crashed hard into the turn four wall while battling for the lead.
“I saw them going door-to-door and making contact about two laps before, so I kind of sat there waiting it out,” said Dick, who started eighth and moved into third on lap eight.
“Those guys were battling pretty hard and I got a break when they hit the wall,” he said.
Dick said he was comfortable running patiently behind the leaders, almost sensing something was going to happen.
“You don’t know if anything’s going to happen and you don’t wish anything to happen to anybody, but it was fortunate for us this time because we came out on top,” Dick said.
The race went caution-free for the first seven laps and the final six but was slowed by nine cautions in between.
The crash between Brosseau and Hoekstra happened just as fourth-place Eugene Hoekstra of Chatham spun in turns three and four, as five other cars all got on the brakes to avoid a major collision.
“We got lucky and missed it all,” said Dick, who was luckily running in between the two incidents.
And when the checkered flag fell 13 laps later, Dick was about the only car that hadn’t been involved in any of the accidents.
“It reminds me of my last year of racing in street stocks, there were so many cautions,” he said.
Saturday was a 180-degree turn for the Leamington driver from the first three weeks of the season.
Dick did not start the May 4 feature and had a DNF 12th-place finish last week. He was fifth in his heat on May 11 when the feature was rained out.
“It’s a new car and we didn’t get a chance to go testing anywhere before the season,” said Dick.
“We’ve had issues with the motor and chassis, so we’re trying a lot of new stuff but it’s getting closer every week.
Dick said the car still wasn’t too good in the heat but they made several changes that worked for the feature.
“It took awhile for the tires to come in, but the more green flags we ran, the better the car was.”
It was Dick’s first checkered flag of the season and his 14th feature win since moving up to the Modified class in 2010.
Brosseau recovered from the mid-race accident to finish second, followed by Wallaceburg’s Drew Smith, Windsor’s Dan McIntyre and Chatham’s Brian Speelman.
Chatham’s Eric Vanderiviere made his belated season debut and finished sixth, one spot ahead of Tilbury’s James Beaulieu who continued his impressive rookie season.
Points leader Jim Dale Jr. started on the pole but barely made it around to complete the first lap as mechanical issues forced the two-time defending points champion to the pits with a DNF and 18th-place finish.
He went into the night with a two-point lead over Hoekstra, who was credited with a 14th-place finish with his DNF.
Speelman is the unofficially the new points leader, followed by Chatham’s Louis Clements, Hoekstra while Dale Jr. slips down to fourth.
Dale Jr. won his heat and dash races earlier in the night while Smith won the other heat.
Ross sweeps all three Late Model races
For the second week in a row, the UMP Late Models had a small field.
But again, the small field put on a fast and exciting feature.
This week, it was former track champion and Canadian Fall Shootout winner Chris Ross making the left turn into the Winner’s Circle.
Ross started third and passed Chatham’s Brad Authier for second on lap four and patiently ran down Chatham’s Gregg Haskell before taking the lead on lap eight.
Authier got by Haskell with four to go to finish third while Chatham’s Jim Jones was fourth.
Merlin’s Clinton Emery completed two laps to finish fifth, one spot ahead of last week’s feature winner Dale Glassford, who lost a drive shaft on the second lap.
Last week, five cars started and three finished.
But with added bonuses and the possibility of a bigger purse for this Saturday’s Gord DeWael memorial race, hopefully more Late Models will be on hand.
“It’s not as much fun … it’s kind of boring,” Ross said about winning against such a small field.
“It’s nice to race here because it’s close to home and these guys are all my friends, but it’s hard when you’re use to racing against 20 other guys all the time,” the Charing Cross native said.
“It’d be nice to get 15 Late Models out here again.”
Ross said he will be racing more often at South Buxton than in past seasons because he is not running a full schedule on the Ohio Late Model circuit.
He is scheduled to race Friday at Oakshade and hopes to make it back for the DeWael memorial on Saturday.
Ross said he bided his time on Saturday, carefully making his passes between turns three and four.
“No sense in being in a hurry with only a few of us out there,” he said, “so I just tried to pick the right time to go, show them the nose and then just find a way by.
“The bottom (of three and four) was the only place there seemed to be any bite.”
Ross won the heat and dash earlier in the night in races that had the same top four finishes as the feature.
Saturday was a strange night for points leaders DeSerrano, Shaw and Dale Jr., who all won their two preliminary races before struggling in the features - although DeSerrano will actually pad his points lead.
- Randy McKinlay, who trailed DeSerrano by 20 points going into the night, was within yards of winning his heat race when rookie Justin Hebblethwaite cut in front of the leader, sending the Chatham driver hard into the wall, ending his night. McKinlay had two seconds and a third in the first three features.
- Coulter did not race Saturday and will surrender the UMP Late Model points lead to defending champion Haskell.
- Blenheim’s Jeff Schives won the Bomber class feature after finishing second to Ryan Bonner, also of Blenheim, the first two weeks. Dylan Bonner was the only other Bomber.
- Ross, Mason, Hope, Lozon and Dick were the night’s first-time checkered winners on the night.
- There will be four memorial races this Saturday - the first Gord DeWael Late Model along with the annual Brian Outhouse Modified, Cory Schives Mini-Mod and Len Bryden Sport Stocks.
- One last set of good and bad news about the vandalism. The good news: the Toro riding lawn mower was found in the brush north of the track. The bad news: it was discovered on Saturday that the Ice Creak Truck had also been broken into and all of the stock stolen. The vandalism fund is paying for damages and replacing the stock.