Brandon Thirlby Bags a $1,500 pay day in the Relay for Life Celebration at I-96
Lake Odessa, Michigan (Saturday, August 6th, 2011): I-96 Speedway hosted the Relay for Life Celebration on Saturday, August 6th as Co-Owners / Promoters Mike and Sarah Mouch fought off the constant threat of Mother Nature throughout the afternoon and into the evening, and despite a very bleak outlook, and a two-hour delay due to the extensive track prep needed, the entire show was completed and the patrons who filled the grandstands were treated to some great racing on the fast 3/8s (0.375) mile high-banked dirt oval.
The first Feature of the night was for the Renegade Racing Fuels & Lubricants UMP Street Stocks and their 20-lap feature was led to the green by Larry Passenier and Josh Frye and it would be Passenier grabbing the early lead while the rest of the field jockeyed for position. Current points leader, Bill Brandt Jr., began his charge to the front from his sixth starting spot and worked his way into second place after a lengthy battle with defending track champion. Gary Vandermark.
Vandermark would drop out just past the ½ way point with a flat tire leaving Brandt Jr., to challenge Passenier for the lead. With three laps to go, Brandt Jr., would grab the lead away from Passenier and as they drove into turns one and two, they touched sending Brandt Jr., around. Both were sent to the rear of the field giving the lead to Frye who was lurking in third spot.
Frye would survive one more caution and the Coopersville, Michigan driver in his Rhino Roofing & Construction Chevrolet would hang on to score his first career I-96 Speedway Feature Win. Rich Sweet finished second while 2009 Track Champion, Aaron Wolf was third. Brandt Jr., and Passenier rallied to finish fourth and fifth respectively.
2010 Rookie of the Year, Ron Harper finished sixth as regular UMP Late Models driver, Luke Hubbell, in a rare UMP Street Stocks appearance, was seventh. 15-year-old Rookie, Carlind Forsythe, another rookie, Nathan Eli, and first time visitor, Joel Field wrapped up the top 10. Wolf, Vandermark, and Brandt Jr., won the Heat Races.
The premier division within the UMP DIRTcar Racing Series, the Tinney Automotive UMP Late Models rolled out next for their extended distance 30-lap feature as the high-powered machines were going for a hefty $1,500 to win. Dan Hubble and Scott Baker led the field into turn one and it would be Baker beating out Hubble to the first corner to take the lead.
Zack Olger, who took over the points lead in the chase for the 2011 Track Championship after points leader coming into the night, Tom Sprague Jr., was a no-show, worked his way into second from his fifth starting spot and began challenging Baker for the lead. On lap nine, Olger’s transmission gave out and he spun in turn four and was done for the night. This gave second place to Brandon Thirlby, who won the Sunoco American Late Model Series race at Mt. Pleasant Speedway the night before.
Earlier in the day, the Traverse City, Michigan driver raced over at Thunderbird Raceway in Muskegon, Michigan, an hour away. Then he made the trip to I-96 and made it in time to start at the back of this Feature. After getting into second, he fought tooth and nail with Baker before steering his Thirlby Automotive Chevrolet by Baker on lap 21 and in the end would pull away to win his second feature win in 24 hours.
Baker finished second with Sammy Epling, Dean Wilkerson, and Rookie Jason Wiley completing the top five. Ben Hidy was sixth while Rookie Points Leader, Kathy Jarvis was seventh over Hubble, two-time and defending track champion, Eric Spangler, and Kris Patterson Jr., who finished off the top 10. Patterson Jr., and Olger would collect Heat Race victories.
Next up would be the scheduled 30-lap Lane Automotive UMP Modifieds Feature and the front row would consist of former two-time track champion, Todd Feutz and Tim Dalman. Feutz would take the early lead while the drivers first and second in the season long points chase, Mark Anderson and Jacob Poel would quickly take over second and third from their seventh and fifth starting spots respectively.
Anderson and Poel would battle hard for the runner-up spot while Feutz maintained a safe distance from the two dueling drivers to keep the lead. On lap 17, they touched sending Anderson around. He went to the back while Poel stayed up in second, but with a damaged race car. On the next restart, a major seven-car pile-up occurred in turns three and four and Anderson was involved and was done for the night. Poel pulled into the pits under the red flag as he was too damaged to continue from the earlier incident.
Two more major incidents forcing red flag situations forced track officials to cut the feature to 20 laps due to time constraints and setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Feutz fought off a late challenge from veteran Tim Stemler and the Ada, Michigan driver, in his O.M.M. Engineering Chevrolet would go on to win his second Feature of the season. Stemler was second with 2007 Track Champion, Shannon Fisk finished third over Tim Dalman and Justin Fleming from 19th finished fifth.
Dave Baker was sixth as Bryant Dickinson, Todd Cowan, 18-year-old Rookie, Nick Kurtz, and Ken Beutler from 18th, were the top 10. Jared Guinn, Anderson, and Justin Matson won the Qualifier Heat Races while 19-year-old Jacob Bailey won the B Main over 18-year-old Derek Passenier, Beutler, Fleming, and Chad Maurer finished off the top five and transferred into the Feature.
The final Feature of the night would be for the Jim’s Auto Body of Portland UMP Sport Compacts and the 20-lap main would be led to the green by Greg Pinard and 10-year-old rookie, Christopher Joyce and heading into turn one it would be Rick Peck, who started sixth, rocketing past the five cars who started ahead of him to take the early lead while the rest of the field settled in behind him.
Peck was soon joined by Rich Lieb, who would follow Peck by the front row and soon the duo would pull away to battle. They were eventually joined by veteran Paul Namey, the 2010 Runner-Up who was making only his second appearance of the 2011 racing season. The trio would have a bunch of real estate between them and the rest of the pack.
All the while, Peck would fight off the advances of Lieb and later Namey who would pass Lieb and try in vain to get around the 2010 18 and Over Rookie of the Year. In the end however, Peck, who has shown no signs of a “sophomore jinx” would end up taking the checkered flag and the Hastings, Michigan driver in his Frisbee & Sons Plastering Saturn would collect his second Feature win of the year.
Namey settled for second with Lieb, Tim Horvath II, and 16-year-old Rookie, Kenny Playter completing the top five. Scott Rumsey was sixth while Rookie Kyle Brigance from 16th, Jeff Dygert, Pinard, and 13-year-old Harper Hotchkiss would complete the final top 10. Lieb, Horvath II, and Peck collected the Heat Race triumphs.