AKWESASNE - With two weeks already completed in the 2012 season at Mohawk International Raceway, the threat of rain never slowed the competition one bit as the stars of MIR put their best efforts forward to kick off the Memorial Day weekend.
The Frenchies Chevy Runs Deep 358 Modified Series kicked off in fine fashion with the 22nd running of the 50 lap Memorial Cup. Matt Billings and last weeks winner Dale Planck led the 27 car field to the stripe with Billings jumping out to the early lead with Planck, Danny OBrien, Tom Conklin and Brandon Sweet completing the top five. Billings had never won a 358 modified feature in his career at Mohawk and was setting a torrid pace early on pulling out to a half straightaway lead by lap 8. Meanwhile behind the leader Danny OBrien who was still suffering from injuries in a crash at Can Am on Wednesday was working the top side and was able to get by Planck for 2nd as the leaders entered into lapped traffic. It then became a 3 car battle for the top spot as Billings continued to lead over OBrien, Planck, Carey Terrance who came from 12th starting spot up to fourth and Billy Dunn giving chase from fifth. The first yellow came out on lap 18 as Stephane Lafrance tangled with a lapped car in turn 1 forcing him off the speedway. On the restart Planck showed his muscle as he ventured to the top side of the speedway to grab the lead in turn 2 with Billings, OBrien, Terrance and Dunn rounding out the top five. Billy Dunn had one of the fastest cars on the speedway until lap 30 while battling OBrien and Billings for 4th he clipped a tire and was forced to the pit area bringing out the yellow. His great run had seemingly come to an end. But Dunn had other ideas later on. When the green came back out Chris Raabe had played the patience game and worked his way to 2nd with Billings Terrance, Luke Whitteker and OBrien giving chase. OBriens night would come to a disappointing end on lap 37 as he was forced pit side with a flat right rear. When the green came back out Planck motored away but behind him Billy Dunn who had come from last after a pit stop had charged through the field and into third by lap 42 putting on a fantastic show for the fans. But nobody was stopping The Natural Dale Planck as he claimed his second win in a row and his first Memorial Cup over teammate Carey Terrance, Billy Dunn, Chris Raabe and Matt Billings.
The Sportsman feature seemed pretty tame through the first part of the event but took a very unusual twist just past halfway. Josh Brockway and rookie Mike Stacey led the 22 car field to the green with Brockway jumping out to a commanding lead. Brockway had struggled the last few seasons in Modified and Pro Stock and had things going his way as he opened up a straightaway advantage by lap 6 as just behind him Jenna David and Jessica Power were charging forward as they made their way to 2nd and 3rd while Josh VanBrocklin and young Thomas Cook rounded out the top 5 early on. On lap 9 the first caution flew bunching the field back up. On the restart VanBrocklin was able to challenge Brockway for the top spot and by lap 11 had sole possession as Power, Kyle Wilson and Dylan Evoy completed the top five. Wilson had one of the fastest cars on the track and was challenging Brockway for second as they staged a war for the position until the next caution flew on lap 14. At this point things began to get interesting as Wilson and Brockway exchanged words on the track under caution Wilson then got into Brockway on the backstretch forcing him into the infield and cutting his right rear tire. Brockways great run had come to an end for a short time, but he was given a 2nd chance as he was awarded his spot back once he returned to the speedway from repairs. On the restart VanBrocklin continued to lead with Brockway, Evoy, Brent Kelsey and Jessica Power giving chase. With two laps to go Evoy made his way around Brockway and closed in on VanBrocklin but would run out of time as Josh VanBrocklin would go on to collect his first win of the season over Evoy, Brockway, Kelsey and Jessica Power.
The Pro Stocks provided the most exciting finish on the evening. Mike White and Allen Peters led the field to the green with Peters getting the early advantage. As the leaders raced off turn 2 behind them Chris Tremblay made a full 360 spin and never lost a spot keeping his car going and keeping the field under green. On lap 9 the first caution would fly as Tremblay would spin to the infield in turn 4. On the restart Peters kept up his great pace but Jody Swamp and Marc Lalonde had a game plan. Both drivers were able to work their way into the top 2 spots by lap 16 with Lalonde getting the lead and Jody Swamp running the bottom would wage a great side by side battle. On the final lap they raced door to door with Swamp committed to the bottom and Lalonde committed to the top. Off turn 4, the two drivers would hit the start finish line in a dead heat. After a lengthy review of the finish, Jody Swamp would edge out Lalonde by .006 seconds for his first win of the season with PJ Peters in third, Stephane Lebrun fourth and Allen Peters rounding out the top five.
The Mod Lites also had a very interesting night. Sylvain Laframboise and Matt Chontosh led the field to the green with Laframboise grabbing the top spot. Three cautions in the first four laps slowed the pace and on lap 5 the race had its first red flag as Dan Rief flipped in turn 4. He climbed out under his own power and walk away done for the night. Mathieu Robinson had issues in his heat but came back in the feature and was once again dominant on this night as he grabbed the lead just before halfway. Despite one final caution and a late charge by Matt Meuten, Robinson would hold on for his third win in a row with Meuten, Laframboise, Scott Mere and Scott Waldorff making up the top five.
In the Bandits, Darryl Mitchell and Gary Sharlow led the field to the green with Mitchell jumping out in front. Mitchell had struggled the last couple seasons and was on a mission to get back into winning form after claiming his only bandit feature in his rookie season in 2010. Only one caution slowed the race as Randy Whiting spun in turn 4. From there Mitchell would dominate en route to his first win in over a year with Corey Castell, Ernie Cree, Mathieu Aubin and Joe Jock Rounding out the top 5 at the finish.
This Friday night, Cedarview Golf Course will be on hand for a full card of Frenchies Chevrolet 358 Modifieds, Frenchies Ford Sportsman, Bailey Motor Company Pro Stocks, 97.3 CKON FM Bandits and Mod Lites. The green flag drops at 7:45 p.m.
For more information, visity the track website at www.MohawkInternationalRaceway.com.