South Bend Motor Speedway Honors Veterans, Celebrates Memorial Day
By Scott Binkley
South Bend, IN (5-26) The South Bend Motor Speedway honored America’s veterans as they celebrated the Memorial Day weekend this past Saturday night. Veterans and active military personnel who showed proper ID were given a discount on admission. Those in attendance were treated to some of the best short track racing in recent history. Over 70 cars packed the pit area for the five divisions with another season high of 19 drivers competing in the ‘Bellman Oil Company’ Late Model division. Trophies were presented to the feature winners in loving memory of family members who have passed away.
The first feature event was the 40 lap Sportsman main which saw 11 of the 14 competitors take the green. Rick Wolkens of Niles took the early lead and left the rest of the field behind. Near the halfway mark, Corey Woods from South Bend overtook Wolkens, taking fast qualifier, Brandon Zachery of Paw Paw with him. Zachery took over the lead a few laps later and went on to put the GT Products Chevrolet in the winner’s circle for his first win of the season. Woods held on for 2nd over Ron Maynard Jr of Union, MI and Charlie Cotton of Claypool. Wolkens held on to finish 5th ahead of Alex Pratt of Elkhart, Brian McFadden and Mark Swan, both from South Bend. Paul Fontanelli of LaPorte and Ryan Powell of Mishawaka rounded out the top ten. Fontanells and Swan got together and crashed hard on the backstretch on the last lap. Wolkens and Maynard Jr scored the heat victories while Zachery turned in a 12.862 for fast time. For his efforts, Zachery was presented a trophy from the family of Richard ‘Red’ Hair Sr.
In the ever growing Front Wheel Drive class, Bryant Ragsdale scored his first ever feature win in their 20 lap event. Tom Taylor of Michigan City gave Ragsdale a run but fell short at the end over ‘Dancin’ Doug Fox of South Bend. Joe Grevenstuk of Goshen took home 4th ahead of Jason Horton and Rookie Helmut Forstinger Jr, both of South Bend. Addison Davis of North Liberty, Ed Martz from Niles, Jason Harmon of Elkhart and Ian Whiteman of New Carlisle rounded out the top ten. Jeff Harrell of Niles put his Crossroads Family Restaurant Escort in victory lane in the first heat while Ragsdale took the 2nd heat honors and turned a quick time of 14.851 in time trials. A trophy honoring Steven T. Stathos (US Air Force) was presented to Ragsdale to commemorate his win in the feature.
With 18 of the top drivers from all over Michiana all hungry for a win, the Bellman Oil Company Late Model 50 lap feature looked like a ‘who’s who’ of area racers. In what many fans called, “the most exciting finish in years,” Bobby Stremme of South Bend picked up a very hard fought win over a determined Jeff Ganus of Constantine, MI. During the final 10 circuits, 2nd through 5th changed positions nearly every lap. Steve Stacy of Plymouth, who survived an early tangle that saw several competitors spin on the front stretch, held off John Long of Niles for 3rd. Brandon Zachery finished 5th ahead of Kenny Lollar Jr of Buchanan, Mi, Mike Tutino of Walkerton, Rich Boal of Plymouth, early leader Robbie Ferrier of Dowagiac and Lee Slaton of Constantine. Corey Lindsey of Kingsford Heights celebrated his birthday by winning one of the heats while newcomer Mike Kugler of Stroh took the other. Ganus posted quick qualifying time with a lap of 11.876. A trophy honoring the memory of Jeffery Brown was presented to Stremme for his feature win.
After a couple weeks of lower car counts, the Mini Stocks rebounded with a total of 15 drivers in competition. South Bend youngster, Zachery Newgent held off repeated challenges by Rich Hensley for the 25 lap victory. Nick Kretchmer of Granger came home 3rd over Kevin Davis of Osceola and David Raley Jr of Osceola. Doug Fox, driving the Olivier Racing #21s was next ahead of Travis Bottorff of Plymouth and Mishawaka’s Jeremy Parrott, driving the Thornton Enterprises S-10. Derek Davis of South Bend and Mark Swan rounded out the top 10. David Raley Jr and Newgent split heat wins with Derek Davis turning in fast time with a circuit of 13.636. Newgent also picked up a trophy from the family of Dennis Craig (US Army) for his feature win and another honoring long time push truck driver and friend of SBMS, Gary A. Davis for the heat win.
In the final feature event of the evening, the 30 lap Street Stock feature, Danny Brown Jr of LaPorte took home top honors after arriving at the speedway late due to becoming a new daddy. After being plagued with mechanical woes the past couple weeks, Brown, who scored a heat win earlier in the evening, beat out Josh Highbaugh of Jones, MI for the win. John Long held off Austin Woodcox of LaPorte and Greg Gifford of Michigan City for 3rd. Derek Wunder of Plymouth was next over Andrew Righley of Mishawaka, Lucas Virgil of New Carlisle, James Haisley of South Bend and Kenny Esmont, also of South Bend. James Haisley scored the other heat win as John Long posted fast qualifying time with a lap of 13.472. The family of Marion Minier (US Army) awarded Danny Brown with a trophy in his memory.
Racers have this Saturday off as the speedway will host the 2nd of our popular Demolition derbies. The “June Moon” will feature a full size car demo along with a front wheel driver mini car demo, trailer races, rollover contest and a 50 lap Front Wheel Drive Enduro race. Pit gates open at 4 pm with spectator gates opening at 5 and the enduro is set to take the green at 7 pm. Pit passes are $30 with general admission at $15 for adults, $5 for kids 6-12 and those 5 & under are free with an adult. Small coolers are welcome but no alcohol or glass containers. If crashes aren’t your thing, please join us on June 9th when we will host a $2500 to win 75 lap Sportsman special along with all our other exciting classes. South Bend rules apply for all special events.
For rules or additional information, please visit our website at www.racesouthbendmotorspeedway.com. You can also follow us on Facebook. As always, we look forward to seeing you at the races.