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Roberts, Harvey among opening night winners

Mt. Pleasant Speedway — Despite the best laid plans of Mother Nature, the Mt. Pleasant Speedway was successful in getting in the first night of racing for the 2011 season on Friday night, May 6.

Nearly 70 racecars made their way through the pits to take a crack at victory lane in the JNR Engraving sponsored “Best Looking Car Contest” and the Robert Whitman Memorial UMP Modified Special plus full show of racing in all classes of UMP Late Models, Chuck’s Discount Foods UMP Modifieds, Smokers Club UMP Stock Cars, NAPA UMP Modified Mini Stocks, and Mt. Pleasant & Clare Automotive Stock Minis.

The UMP Late Models made their way onto the track for the first heat race of the 2011 season. A stout front row with No. 0X Zack Olger of St. Johns and No. 21H David Hilliker of Midland took the green flag  and after 8 laps, the checkered flag waved to find Olger in victory lane over Lake City’s No. 27 Eric Spangler, defending Mt. Pleasant track champion, No. 29 Sam Epling of Perry, Hilliker, and No. 91 Adam Thrush of Farwell, unofficially rounding out the top five.

In the second Late Model heat race, the last few laps saw a great finish as No. 0K Mike Kresnak of Elwell held off two of the state’s best dirt racers in No. M14 Brandon Thirlby of Traverse City, No. 9R Curtis Roberts of Coleman, No. 13 Scott Baker of Ionia, and No. 6R Carl Ries of Blanchard.

The Chuck’s Discount Foods UMP Modifieds made their way out next for the first of two heat races. After 8 laps of green flag racing, No. 43 Kevin Miller of Mt. Pleasant took the checkered flag for the win over No. 81 Lawrence Sprague Jr. of Mt. Pleasant, No. 13 Andy Galgoci of Mt. Pleasant, No. 87 David Mielke of Gladwin, and No. 9K Dale Kaake of Marlette rounding out the unoffiical top five.

In the final Modified heat race, No. 39 Chad Spencer of Kingston wrapped up the win over No. 19 Cody Bauer of Farwell, No. 75 Roy Harvey of Mt. Pleasant, No. 15 Rich Robinson Jr. of Mt. Pleasant, and No. 2 Travis Stemler of Portland.

Two heat races were also on tap for the Smokers Club Stock Cars/Street Stocks. Pulling off the first heat victory was No. 10 Gary Vandermark of Lowell, followed by the No. 77B Robb Brillhart from Crystal, No. D1 Raymond Devericks of Midland, No. 11 Jeff Loomis of Weidman, and No. 58 Mike Turner of Lake in the unofficial top five.

The second Stock Car heat saw defending Mt. Pleasant Speedway UMP Stock Car track champion No. 11J Josh Loomis of Weidman go to victory lane over No. 32 Tom Hodges Jr. from Midland, No. 49 Greg Tragis of Harrison, No. 711 Chris Wiggins of Weidman, and No. 10G Justin Gilland of Traverse City in the top five unofficially.

An early season small four car field in the NAPA UMP Modified Mini Stocks was next where defending Mt. Pleasant track champion No. 68 Trever Fedewa of Mt. Pleasant got his season off on the right foot with a win over No. 91 Nathan Carlon of Farwell, No. 88 Mike Schnettler of Sanford, and No. 16 Joe Burch of Rosebush.

A nice 10-car field made it out for the Mt. Pleasant and Clare Automotive Stock Mini heat and treated the crowd to a great race that ended with No. 15 Jeff McKenzie of Clare getting the win over No. 62 Steve Keeler Jr. of Vestaburg, No. 7 Fred Parisian of Saginaw, No. 12 Marq Eaton of Michigan Center, and No. 52 “Taco” Bob Baltierrez of Alma.

The Smokers Club UMP Stock Cars were the first feature of the evening and some great racing concluded with No. 10 Gary Vandermark getting the main event victory over No. 77B Robb Brillhart, No. 10G Justin Gilland, No. 11 Jeff Loomis, No. 11J Josh Loomis, No. D1 Ray Devericks, No. 7 Mike Sparks, No. 32 Tom Hodges Jr., No. 58 Mike Turner, and No. 28 Paula Ebel of Sanford in the unofficial top 10.

Despite low on car count, the NAPA UMP Modified Mini Stocks had some nice action with the feature win going to No. 68 Trever Fedewa over No. 91 Nathan Carlon, No. 16 Joe Burch, and No. 88 Mike Schnettler.

The Mt. Pleasant and Clare Automotive Stock Minis were next for their main event and again treated the fans to some excellent racing. The No. 15 of Jeff McKenzie and No. 12 Marq Eaton battled all race long side-by-side and often swapping the lead. In the end, Eaton would get the win over McKenzie, No. 7 Fred Parisian, No. 52 “Taco” Bob Baltierrez, No. 62 Steve Keeler Jr., No. 50 James Wright of Remus, No. 24 Bob Wright Jr. of Remus, and 13-year-old rookie No. D7 Tasha Decker in the unofficial running order.

In the UMP Late Model feature No. M14 Brandon Thirlby and No. 6R Carl Ries made up the front row. Thirlby got the early lead on the field with No. 9R Curtis Roberts making his way from 8th starting spot to second early on in the race. From there Roberts didn’t waste any time in making his move around Thirlby and grabbing the lead over Thirlby and No. 27 Eric Spangler. As the checkered flag flew, the “Coleman Comet” Curtis Roberts celebrated his 25th year in racing with a feature victory over Thirlby, Spangler, No. 29 Sam Epling, No. 6R Carl Ries, No. 0X Zack Olger, No. 13 Scott Baker, No. 23V Ryan Vanderveen, No. 91 Adam Thrush, and No. 21 David Hilliker in the unofficial top 10.

Closing out the night was the Robert Whitman Memorial UMP Modified feature.Two big spins and crashes on the first two laps saw some dinged up cars, but almost all of the cars were able to escape serious damage and continue on. No. 75 Roy Harvey grabbed the lead from the pole with No. 15 Rich Robinson Jr. rocketing his way from seventh to third in the beginning laps over No. 9K Dale Kaake. Just before a caution was to come out rookie UMP Modified driver No. 63 Colin Thirlby got too high and rolled his Homestead Motorsports machine in turn two. Thirlby escaped injury and was OK. When the dust settled Harvey came home with the feature win over Robinson Jr., No. 87 David Mielke, No. 0X Zack Olger, who came from an unoffiical 12th-starting spot, No. 2 Travis Stemler was fifth and the rest of the unoffiical top 10 had No. 13 Andy Ga
lgoci, No. 81 Lawrence Sprague Jr., No. 19 Cody Bauer, No. 43 Kevin Miller, and No. 21 Steven Hilliker.

Prior to the features Mt. Pleasant-based JNR Engraving presented the annual Best Looking Car Contest winners with their plaques. Taking home the honors as the sharpest cars were UMP Late Model No. 0K Mike Kresnak, Chuck’s Discount Foods UMP Modifieds No. 39 Chad Spencer, Smokers Club UMP Stock Cars No. D1 Ray Devericks, NAPA UMP Modified No. 88 Mike Schnettler, and Mt. Pleasant and Clare Automotive Stock Mini No. 15 Jeffrey McKenzie.

(Jeremy Dickman is the Mt. Pleasant Speeway Public Relations &  Marketing Director)