By: Gary Jacob and Sandy Combs|
Where: Lake Pleasant, AZ
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Lake Pleasant, AZ -- After a schedule conflict forced him to miss the prestigious Winter Meltdown race in New Mexico, Terry Belcher Jr was reunited with Kenny Hatfield’s Twister Chassis modified and he raced to a win in the crash shortened 14 lap Five Star Engine Exchange IMCA Modified Saturday night at Canyon Raceway. John Cornell ran second ahead of another Twister, wheeled by Dwarf Car graduate Tony Martin. The track featured the two-day Dwarf Car Spring Break Nationals on the weekend (see seperate story). A tough luck racer here early in 2003, Ty Weidner won the point season opener for the Victory Racing Wheels Pure Stocks. Marlowe Wrightsman ran second ahead of Craig Carrajat. On Friday night, the mini sprint 600’s, modified midget 250’s and bombers joined the dwarf cars. The mini sprints and modified midgets race together and Joshua Shipley won the 600 portion of their 20 lapper ahead of Scott Shaffer. Ron Copley won the modified midget 250 portion with Matt Biancani second. The 15 lap bomber feature had four different leaders and Andy Huffman beat Ron Neis.
There were 30 IMCA Modifieds in the pits for their point season opener. They were divided into four qualifying heats after the practice runs had ended the night for both Mike Strobl and Terry Altenbrun. Heat winners were Martin, Belcher, R C Whitwell and Brian Combs. Tom Lucas won a large B Main that saw Jim MacNeil, David McDaniel, Tom Chappa and Steve Rawleigh all fail to transfer. The scheduled 20 lap A Main had 24 starters. The race was a real mess with two restarts, two reds and seven yellow flags before the action was called complete with just 14 rounds scored. The winner of the final Winter Season race about a month ago, Jayson Soyko forced the first restart when he crashed into the wall exiting turn 4. An out of shape Rick Ward collected Bill Slocum, Shawn Zelenka and Lance Salo to produce the second restart. Finally, one lap was scored and Belcher Jr was leading when Combs got pushed off the top of the turn 3 and crashed hard into the pit wall. Just one more lap had been scored when Slocum flipped his Ford off turn 4 for a red flag. After lap 3 had been completed, the caution came out on three consecutive laps. The trio of Belcher Jr, Cornell and Martin paced the remainder of the race through additional yellow flags on lap 6, 7 and 9. When yet another caution dropped on lap 12, the officials elected to give the event just two more laps and Belcher Jr won ahead of Cornell, Martin, defending track champion Joe Warner, Darin Center, Darren Williams, Ricky Thornton, Salo and Ward.
Pure Stock heat winners were Mark Dryer, Weidner and Winter Season titlest Steve Bitting Jr. The 20 lap main event had five different leaders. Pete Gilmore paced five laps before Dryer took over. Dryer himself caused a lap 10 yellow flag. Gilmore retook the lead, but gave way to Tom Thorpe. Bitting then drove around Thorpe for the lead. With just a couple laps remaining, Bitting got tangled up with a lapped car and collected Thorpe. Weidner found himself out front and he collected the win with Wrightsman second ahead of Carrajat, Corky Warner, Floyd Vaughan, Dennis Malone and Brandon Jackson.
On Friday night, Shipley and Joey Strobel drove their mini sprint 600’s to heat race wins. Shipley was a wire to wire winner in their 20 lap feature. Shaffer ran second for two laps before giving way to Derek McCluskey. McCluskey pulled into the infield on lap 9 and Shipley won ahead of Shaffer, Strobel and Dallas Caldwell. The seperately scored modified midget 250 ledger saw Copley winning ahead of Biancani, John Carioscia, Kevin Simington and Ken Caskey. John Muller won the bomber heat race. Michael Humphreys led the first 3 laps of their 15 lap feature. Ben Shepherd led a single lap, then it was Chris Christiansen in front. That lead only lasted one lap also as Huffman took over. Shepherd broke with two laps to go and Neis ran second ahead of Frank Outlaw and Bo Hatfield.
March 7 Bomber Heat-John Muller. Main-Andy Huffman, Ron Neis, Frank Outlaw, Bo Hatfield, Ben Shepherd. Modified Midget Heat 1-Joey Strobel. Heat 2-Joshua Shipley. Modified Midget 250 Main-Ron Copley, Matt Biancani, John Carioscia, Kevin Simington, Ken Caskey. Mini Sprint 600 Main-Shipley, Scott Shaffer, Strobel, Dallas Caldwell, Derek McCluskey.
March 8 Pure Stock Heat 1-Mark Dryer. Heat 2-Ty Weidner. Heat 3-Steve Bitting Jr. Main-Weidner, Marlowe Wrightsman, Craig Carrajat, Corky Warner, Floyd Vaughan, Dennis Malone, Brandon Jackson, Brian Bullis, Bill Moore Jr, Bitting. IMCA Modified Heat 1-Tony Martin. Heat 2-Terry Belcher Jr. Heat 3-R C Whitwell. Heat 4-Brian Combs. B Main-Tom Lucas. A Main-Belcher, John Cornell, Martin, Joe Warner, Darin Center, Darren Williams, Ricky Thornton, Lance Salo, Jim Collinsworth, Jim Hurd, Tim Palmer, Bob Markson, Lucas, Whitwell, Robert King Jr, Gene Roud, Doug Martin, Jason Noll, Bill Slocum, Tony Steward, Combs, Jayson Soyko, Shawn Zelenka.