Lake Odessa, Michigan (Saturday, April 30th, 2011): The 2011 racing season is officially here as I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan opened the doors with a bang! The Inaugural Event for the brand new Michigan Dirt Cup Allstar Performance Modified Tour powered by Lane Automotive, Aeroquip, and ARP Fasteners highlighted Opening Night 2011 / 6th Annual Ice Breaker. The Tinney Automotive UMP Late Models, Renegade Racing Fuels & Lubricants UMP Street Stocks, and Jim’s Auto Body of Portland UMP Sport Compacts were also on the card as a stellar crowd on hand witnessed a thrilling night of racing highlighted by a whopping 146 cars jamming the pit area.
The first Feature of the 2011 racing season on the fast 3/8s (0.375) mile high-banked dirt oval would be the 20-lap main event for the Jim’s Auto Body of Portland UMP Sport Compacts. Formerly known as the Four-Cylinders / Road Beaters, and new for 2011, the beginners division at the track now falls under the guidelines of the United Midwest Promoters (UMP) organization beginning this season and the response was tremendous with 21 machines on the grounds.
Harley Farkle and Jaret Allen led the field to the green flag but it would be Rick Peck diving underneath the front row heading into the first corner to grab the early lead. Rich Lieb followed Peck by the front row starters and the two drivers pulled away to battle. Lieb took the lead on lap seven and held it for two laps until defending track champion, Dan Reimersma went by the top two cars to take over the top spot and pull away from the rest of the pack.
With just two laps to go, Reimersma suddenly slowed, this allowed Peck who passed Lieb earlier for second with five laps to go, take advantage of Reimersma’s misfortune. From there, Peck, the 2010 18 and Over Rookie of the Year, held off one final charge from Lieb to take the checkered flag in his Frisbee & Sons Plastering Saturn to give the Hastings, Michigan driver the first feature win of the 2011 racing season.
Lieb settled for second with Tim Horvath II, J.T. Leach, and Jeff Burke finishing off the top five. Farkle would finish sixth ahead of Allen, Reimersma, Scott Rumsey, and Mike Vezino who completed the top 10. Peck and Lieb would collect Positional Heat Race victories.
The high powered Tinney Automotive UMP Late Models were next up for their 20-lap Feature and the stout field, which started the night at 39 machines, would be paired down to the 20-car starting field who would be lead to Chief Starter, Tim Beebe’s green flag by Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame driver John Grega and Tom Sprague Jr., and it would be Sprague Jr., leading the first lap before Dona Marcoullier shot by to grab the lead for himself on lap two.
2010 UMP National Champion, Rusty Schlenk worked his way through the field from his 10th starting spot and was soon in second place and began reeling in Marcoullier who had built up a sizable advantage. Schlenk caught up to Marcoullier just past the ½ way point of the race and an epic battle ensued between the two stout pilots.
Schlenk was finally able to take over the lead with just four laps to go, but Marcoullier didn’t give up and tried every trick in his arsenal to get by reigning UMP National Champion and did briefly grab the lead back. But Schlenk used lapped traffic to motor back around Marcoullier and the Jackson, Michigan standout in his Main & Company Incorporated Chevrolet would go on to score an impressive feature win.
Marcoullier settled for second as Buckeye State standout Jon Henry finished third over Rich Neiser and Sprague Jr., who were the top five. Grega slipped down to sixth while Dan Hubbell, Curtis Roberts who started 16th, Sammy Epling, and Dale Sheehy finished off the top 10. Epling, Schlenk, Marcoullier, and Sprague Jr., all scored Qualifier Heat Races while defending track champion Eric Spangler and Ryan VanderVeen scored the two B Main wins to transfer into the feature.
The headliners for the evening were the Lane Automotive UMP Modifieds as not only was it Opening Night at I-96 for UMP Track, State, and National Points, it was also the Inaugural race for the brand new Michigan Dirt Cup Allstar Performance Modified Tour powered by Lane Automotive, Aeroquip, and ARP Fasteners. A stellar field of 63 Modifieds were on the grounds and after they were all sorted out, one of the strongest starting fields seen in recent memory took the green flag for their 25-lap Feature.
The final 20-car field was brought out of turn four by Dan DeLong and Brad Wilson, but it would be Mark Anderson, who rocketed past the front row from his inside second row starting spot to take the early lead while the rest of the stellar field of open-wheeled machines jockeyed for position behind Anderson, who the previous night scored the feature win at Hartford Motor Speedway in Hartford, Michigan as was looking to make it two for two on the weekend.
Jeff Erickson Jr., was looking to stop the weekend sweep of Anderson and was soon on his back bumper and the battle that took place was something special for the crowd on hand who witnessed it. Erickson Jr., searched high and low, trying to find a way around Anderson throughout what turned out to be a caution free race. Erickson Jr., even took the lead briefly on several occasions only to see Anderson charge right back by. When all was said and done, it would be Anderson in victory lane as the Lowell, Michigan veteran in his Accurate Engines Chevrolet would fight off Erickson Jr., to score the $1,500 pay day!
Erickson Jr., settled for the runner-up spot with Curt Spalding also finishing on the podium in third over Buckeye State invader Aaron Morey and Brad Wilson who completed the top five. 2010 Thunderbird Raceway Track Champion Andy Sprague who started 13th, was sixth while Canadian Justin Coulter, DeLong, Defending Track Champion Rich Robinson Jr., and Marc Kurth rounded out the top 10. Jacob Poel, Spaulding, Kurth, and Sprague all collected Qualifier Heat Race wins while Brian Ruhlman, Scott Payton, and Robinson Jr., all won C Mains to transfer into the B Main. Ruhlman won his second race of the night to transfer to the Feature along-with Robinson Jr., Payton, and Tom Bell.
The final race of the night was the 20-lap Feature for the Renegade Racing Fuels & Lubricants UMP Street Stocks as a strong field of 23 machines saw the front row of Josh Frye and Derek Poland and it would be Poland, the 2010 Fall Finale Champion at I-96 in UMP Street Stocks grabbing the early lead while the rest of the pack settled in behind him.
Two early cautions bunched up the field and on the second caution, defending track champion Gary Vandermark was forced to pit with a flat tire. He returned and started shot gun on the field and at the drop of the green, quickly worked his way back up into the top 10. Unfortunately, Vandermark dropped out at the ½ way mark and was done for the night.
All the while, Poland continued to show the way around the 3/8s mile dirt oval as he had fellow Muskegon area veteran, Dan Dykman all over his back bumper for the lead. Soon they were joined by the Weinrick Brothers, Chad and Tony and the quartet pulled away to battle. They were eventually joined by David Grega. Despite the constant pressure from the pack behind him, Poland never faltered and in the end, the Muskegon, Michigan veteran in his Arizona Charlie’s Wholesale Chevrolet would hang on for the feature win.
Dykman settled for second with Chad Weinrick, Tony Weinrick, and Grega completing the top five. Mike Sparks finished sixth as Frye, Aaron Wolf, Cody Denny, and Paula Ebel rounded out the top 10. C. Weinrick and Frye scored the heat race victories.