Hupert, Johnson, Jones, Newcomb, and Robarts Victorious on Opening Night at TCMS
Auburn MI) With spring hitting full stride, Tri-City Motor Speedway opened its gates to kick off the 2017 race season. 103 cars made the tow to Auburn in hopes of starting their season on a high note with a trip to victory lane. For the fans that were brave enough to dress for the cool temperatures, they were rewarded with some dramatic and climactic feature events.
The Main Street Seed and Supply IMCA Modified division was the first class to run their 20-lap feature event. With track Champion AJ Ward, the winner of 13 features in 2016, not running, there was no early clear cut favorite of who could capture the first checkered flag. Earlier in the night, rookie #71 Timmy Near, veteran driver #776 Rusty Zeigler, and Clio’s #33 Todd Matheson won their heat races to flex some early muscle. #27 Matt Szecsodi and #D42 Don Sautter would lead the field of 20 to the start of the main event. Szecsodi would lead the opening lap before fourth place starter #19 Joey Fowler took the point. In a feature that was plagued by early cautions, the field would finally settle down to string together successive green flag laps. Fowler, at times would have a comfortable lead. He would receive challenges by both #3t John Taylor and #19jr Kody Johnson. Taylor would fade from the leader in the late stages which set up a two car dual of Fowler and Johnson for the finish. Johnson found some grip on the top side of turn two on lap 18 to nudge ahead of the 40+ year race veteran Fowler and beat him to the checkered flag by a car length to capture his first ever IMCA modified feature win. Taylor would hold on for a third place finish. Matheson and Sautter would settle for top five finishes.
Nineteen Melling Performance Late Models took to the green flag, led by Midland driver #14n Tyler Norton and #3f Chad Foster Sr, for their 30-lap main event. It was Norton that would dominate the first five laps before multi-time champion #21s Steven Hilliker would take his turn pacing the field. He would stretch his lead to almost a full straightaway before catching lapped traffic. Although he was able to make his way around the slower cars with relative ease, #24 Alex Hupert was getting through traffic just a bit better. By lap 27, Hupert reeled in Hilliker and began the challenge for the top spot. Hilliker remained committed to running the high line while Hupert was able to use the bottom groove to his benefit. Hilliker was the first to the white flag, but Hupert would make the winning move out of turn two to capture the checkered flag. Hupert was so focused on the racing and the traffic that he was unaware that he had actually won the event and had to come back from the pits to celebrate his victory. #19 Derrick Hilliker would come from 12th to finish third and was followed by #4 Chad Anklam and #9k Joe Pomeroy. Hupert, D. Hilliker, and #76 Torrey Ahrens would be victorious in the preliminary heat races.
#18 Nick Putman and #66 Mike Schnettler would both finish first in their respective heat races in the Thornton Brothers Sewer and Septic Service Bomber Stock division. This class of stock front wheel drive cars continue to grow as a class-high eleven would take the green in their first feature event of 2017. Pole sitter #27 Trenton Fenner would have control of the field early before fellow Whittemore native #32 Melvin Hottois took the lead on lap seven. He had his hands full with #9 Ethan Robarts running in his tire tracks. Robarts would make the bold move out of turn four of the final lap and steal the away the win. The victory was Robarts first at TCMS. Hottois, Fenner, Putman, and Schnettler would complete the top five.
The biggest field of the night was the Suspension MAXX Street Stocks with 33 drivers checked in to complete. With only twenty positions available in the feature event, that meant that thirteen drivers would not get to be a part of the twenty lap feature. Qualifying heat wins were captured by Vassar’s #19 Mike Kosha, #50 Jake Thompson, #15.2 Bobby Cunningham, and #13d Andrew Fidler. The last chance race was won by #x5 Eric Lake. Last year’s Rookie of the year #7r Kevin Newcomb and #41 Nathan Schmitter would bring the street stock field of twenty to the start of the feature. The racing throughout the field was intense with many instances of three and four wide racing. The only exception was for the top spot. Newcomb had the field covered on this night and was able to beat a hard charging #73 Don Stuck and #96 Cade Schafer for his first win of his career. Cunningham and #23 Garret Laudenslager managed to fight their way to top five finishes.
The final class to compete on Friday night was the Elgin Pro Stocks. Holland, Ohio driver #316 Teri Lynn Murphy and Silver Bullet Champion #01 Randy Radabaugh would bring the field of twenty to the start of the twenty lap feature. However, it was third place starter John Robbins that would lead until lap four. Radabaugh would fight his way back to the lead as Robbins retired early with mechanical issues. Radabaugh looked as if he was going to be able to hold off the field as he was one of many that chose to run the bottom side. Defending track champion #14 Nate Jones would be one of the very few that was running the very top groove of the race surface. He would pick up a few spots in turns one and two but lose a spot coming out of four. In the closing laps, he found a little more grip in the center groove on the north end of the track. This helped propel him past Radabaugh at the white flag and, eventually, to the win. He was followed by Radabaugh, #57 TJ Gilbert, #50 Chad Bennett, and #69 Nate Murphy. Murphy had to win his last chance race to make the twenty car field for the feature. Bennett, Jones, and #K11 Kendall Morrison won their qualifying heats.
Join us this Friday May 5th as you fans get the opportunity to vote for your favorite looking cars in each division. Late models, Pro Stocks, IMCA Modifieds, Street Stocks, Bomber Stocks, and the first appearance of the season for the Walker’s Ideal Trophy Mini Wedge machines. The evening’s entertainment will be brought to you by Be Cool Radiators. You don’t have to wait in line on race day of you purchase your tickets for race day online at www.tricityracetrack.com . The Grandstands open at 5:30pm with Hot laps at 6:30. The Family Fun Friday action begins at 7:55. Check out our jam-packed schedule online as well!!
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