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Sunday, May 1 - Originally there were six of us scheduled to make the trip north to Five Mile Point but over the course of the week the number was pared down to two, myself and Jeff Ahlum. We met at the park and ride in Palmer Township, Pa. at 1 PM and headed north first on Rt. 33 followed by I-80, I-380 and finally I-81. We pulled into the parking lot at Five Mile Point at 3 and already the fans were making their way in. We had talked with Joe Perrotto earlier and his son, Steve, and Joe would be saving us some butt space. Steve Perrotto is headed out soon to basic training for the Air Force and his dad and him made one last racing weekend together visiting some of their favorite tracks. We want to extend our good luck wishes and safe times for Steve as he ventures into the armed forces of our country.
On tap today at Five Mile Point was the 18th running of the Southern Tier Open for the modifieds with a 40 lap feature paying $2500 to win. Also on the racing card were the lightning cats with two features, sportsman and street stocks. Car counts are as follows: modifieds(25), sportsman (23), street stocks (30) and lightning cats (21). The scheduled starting time was 4:30 and I was pleased and surprised to see the heldover 15 lap lightning cat feature from 4/10 pull onto the track at 4 PM. These guys and gals ran a good race with teammates Andy Brigham and Andy Colwell finishing one/two with just three cautions in the event. After the feature track maintenance was performed from 4:20 to 4:38. Then it was time for the sportsman heats and their racing was good also. The street stocks needed four heats for their 30 car field and they ran the best I believe I have ever seen them at the Point. The modifieds spun off three competitive races and then the lightning cats blistered off three heats in eight minutes with all heat qualifying was over by 5:29, an incredible time of 47 minutes. Only the street stocks needed a consie and that was over by 5:40.
Now a second track maintenance session was needed lasting 30 minutes. First off let me say that I enjoy the tight racing action at Five Mile Point but I still don’t understand why you need to work on your racing surface three times during the course of the day adding over an hour to the length of the show. After watering and running the track in it should not peel off in a short period of time like peeling paint off a house. I am not an expert on clay but I do know that at other dirt tracks such as Lincoln and Williams Grove the track does not peel off and throw the amount of dust that Five Mile Point does. Therefore maybe the problem is the quality of the clay used on the surface. This track would be such a delight to witness racing at if the dust problem could be conquered. The racing is close with multi-grooves and much passing but it is difficult to enjoy when you are being showered by dust. I’m just trying to be honest and give some constructive criticism here. It is not meant to be a bashing of the track but an observation that if I feel this way I know others must also and I am only trying to address the matter so maybe some good can come out of writing about this problem.
Let’s get back to the racing as the 25 lap sportsman feature was first up and though there not much passing up front there was good racing outside the top five. Joel Batzel scored an emotional victory, his first in 6 years, as the tears flowed in victory lane. Utica Rome invader, Matt Janczuk, finished second as a group of his fans sat in front of us and enjoyed his finish. Eddie White came home third with Jim LaRock fourth and Jeff Crambo cracking the top five after starting 16th. Twelve minutes and two cautions made for a good race. The second lightning cat feature was run with Andy Brigham scoring a double on the day. The third track maintenance was performed before the modified feature for another 17 minutes.
At 7:27 the green waved on the 40 lap Southern Tier Open with Accord runner, Danny Tyler, taking the early lead. Defending track champion, Stewart Friesen, started fourth and caught Tyler between turns three and four coming around for lap 7 for the lead. He held the lead until lap 16 when Brett Tonkin spun in turn one with Friesen slamming into the spun Tonkin. Stewart headed pitside and returned but you could tell the front end was not right. In fact Friesen spun in turn one on lap 18 and returned to the pit area to try to make some quick repairs. Danny Creeden was now the top gun now and he would not relinquish the lead the rest of the distance. Tyler came home second best with rookie Jamie Batzel taking the last podium position. Billy VanPelt came home fourth with Justin Holland rounding out the top five after starting tenth. Stewart Friesen started at the tail of the field after pitting and returning to the track on lap 18 and bent front end and all managed to work his way back up to 7th at the checker. This guy is some racer!! It was now 7:44 and I persuaded Jeff to skip the street stock feature and head back south into Pennsylvania and eventually home. It was a good day of racing even with the dust.
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