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  • Writer's pictureTodd Rose

Art Richer Memorial Race at UPIR Sees a Fitting Winner

Pat Richer wins the race named in honor of his father, Art Richer.

Year in and year out, the Art Richer Memorial event is one of the biggest nights at the Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway and this year was no exception. In addition to great racing, the night also provides an opportunity to remember the great Art Richer and all the legends of racing in the Upper Peninsula.

Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprints

A thinned Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprint field took to the track for their feature first. In the division’s heat race earlier in the night, Brody Steinhauer and Kaleb Warm had a frightening shunt in turn two on the final lap. The two drivers came together resulting in Warm tumbling side over side and Steinhauer slamming the outside wall. Both drivers were uninjured. Steinhauer was able to get back on track for the feature while Warm watched from the pits for the remainder of the night.

After he was plagued with issues last week, Ethan Manninen claimed the feature race as well as the heat. In second was Karl Warm who still sits first in points with his win last week. Crossing the line in third was Brody Steinhauer, recovering from his crash with Kaleb Warm in the heat.

Sportsman Micro Sprints

A common theme this year at UPIR seems to be the leader having issues. This time it was Trevor Denome who would drop out while leading. As Denome made his way down the front stretch his car lost power and he would roll to a stop in the second turn. This would hand the lead to Luke Labre.

On the restart following Denome’s issues, Luke Labre would jump out in front of the pack and not look back. Labre held on for the remaining laps to win his first ever feature race in the division. “Mr. Consistency” Brennan Swanson performed true to his nickname by grabbing another podium finish which allows him to keep the points lead. Third spot went to Brett Labre who trails Swanson in the points by only three points.

Luke Labre wins his first ever feature race.

While Brett Labre and Brennan Swanson fight for the points lead a three way battle for the third spot in points has emerged. Drake Degnan, Jeffrey Latsch, and Trevor Denome are all tied at 321 points a piece, 21 back from leader Swanson.

"Mr. Consistency" Brennan Swanson (#20) holds on to his points lead by edging out Brett Labre (#23) for the second position.

Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprints

As racing continued through the night, the inside lane of the UPIR track began to dry out substantially, allowing for a high line to form. In the first half of the race, two drivers put this lane to use to march their way through the field.

Kyle Getchell and Josh Bartel, both veterans of the track, slid their cars to the outside line early on and found speed immediately. The duo was soon to be separated. Exiting turn two, Getchell had a huge run on Bartel and dropped to his inside, making it three wide with the inside line. At the entrance to turn three the two drivers made contact. Getchell’s car took off straight for the wall, but somehow Kyle was able to avoid any contact with the concrete in what could have been a horrendous crash. In a great showing of sportsmanship, Josh Bartel “tapped out,” taking blame for the incident and heading to the rear of the field. Because of this, Getchell was able to regain his lost track position for the restart.

When the race resumed, Getchell again took to the high side. He restarted buried in traffic but would find himself looking for the lead within three laps of the restart. The comeback would hit a speedbump in turn four, though, as Getchell would spin again in turn four avoiding contact this time as well. Unlike the earlier incident, Getchell would have to drop to the rear of the field as he was responsible for the incident.

Another veteran driver would use the outside to his advantage and take the lead late in the going. This time it was Christian Groleau in his first race at the track in 2019. When the checkered flag fell Groleau was out front and would pull his car to victory lane.

Although he was first across the line, Christian Groleau would not be the winner.

It wasn’t long before his car would be replaced by Paul Hosking’s, however. Following tech inspection, it was announced both the first place car of Groleau and the second place car of Kevin Warm were disqualified for failing the inspection.

Because of the failures, Paul Hosking was named the winner. In second place was Jerimiah Roberts while third place was Matt Peterson.

The top four in the points standings following the night are separated by a measly six points. Matt Peterson and Paul Hosking share the top spot tied at 318 points. Josh Bartel sits third at a three point deficit while Kyle Getchell rounds out the top four.

U.P. Vintage Modifieds

Up next on the night were the track’s U.P. Vintage Modifieds for their feature. Joe Piron took the lead early on and would keep control of the field for several laps before losing it the Chris Pepin. Pepin was one of two drivers to be pulling double duty in the field. The other was Jamie Iverson. Both drivers would compete later in the Bink’s Coca-Cola sport Modified feature.

Jamie Iverson (#1), Fred Minor (#25) and Jake Valiquette (#2) come together in turn four.

While Pepin’s Vintage Mod feature went well, Iverson’s would be a little more hectic. Iverson would be involved in a multicar incident in the fourth turn but would be able to continue on. The incident, though, relegated him to a sixth place finisih.

Chris Pepin eventually claimed the Vintage Modified feature with Joe Piron in second. Nick Pinar followed the top two in third place.

Chris Pepin parks his car in victory lane following the U.P. Vintage Modified feature.

It’s another close points battle at the track in the U.P. Vintage Modifieds, with yet another tie for the top spot. Joe Piron and Herbie Iverson, who has split time in the orange number one with Jamie Iverosn, sit tied at 318 atop the points standings. Six points back is Jake Valiquette while Scott Degnan is nine points back. The top five is rounded out by Allan Yelle who finds himself only 12 points out of the lead.

Vintage Modified Exhibition

After the conclusion of the track regulars’ Vintage Modified feature, a group consisting of drivers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and even Canada took to the track for an exhibition race of their own.

It looked like the race was going to run without any issues as the field began to spread out. Though the drivers raced hard, they made sure to give their fellow racers plenty of room allowing for a very clean race. Regardless of how respectful drivers are of one another, accidents do happen.

Mav McDonald sits upside down in the infield following contact with Darrin Allard who sits backwards just a few feet away.

While leading, Darrin Allard suddenly slowed exiting the fourth turn. Behind him was Mav McDonald who took evasive action to try avoiding Allard, but it wasn’t enough. The two drivers clipped wheels, which sent McDonald spinning and skipping into the infield. McDonald’s tire would dig into the infield dirt and flip up and over, he would climb out uninjured. The Canadian driver would immediately walk over to the stricken car of Allard and give him a handshake, showing there were no hard feelings over the incident.

Derek LeBresh out of Rapid River would eventually take the race win.

A&L Iron and Metal Street Stocks

For the third week in a row, Paul Wagner would claim the victory in the A&L Iron & Metal Street Stocks. The only other driver to have won this year is Billy Bowden. Unfortunately, the night ended on lap one for Bowden as he spun with a flat tire and was forced to go back to the pits.

The rest of the race ran caution free, although Eric Mathieson did spin on the back straightaway before quickly rejoining the field. In the pits prior to racing, Mathieson had discussed changes he made to his car with Billy Bowden. Although he knew the changes he made to the car, he was unsure what the car would drive like later in the evening.

As mentioned above, Paul Wagner would claim his third consecutive win at UPIR. Corey DeGrave had a strong showing in second while Kurt Schwalbach rounded out the podium positions.

For the third week in a row, Paul Wagner visits victory lane.

Wagner extends his points lead to 18 points over second place Billy Bowden. Corey DeGrave is in third 21 points back from Wagner.

Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds

The biggest story of the night came in the Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modified feature. Pat Richer would go to victory lane in the race named in honor of his father, Art. Once Pat grabbed the lead on the opening lap, he wouldn’t give it up. Richer led every lap on his way to win his first feature of 2019, but more importantly the Art Richer Memorial. While it was clean sailing up front for Richer, a hornets nest of cars battled it out behind him.

The setting sun caused a pile up in turn one that collected several contenders.

Only one caution would wave for a multicar pile-up in the first corner caused partly by the setting sun obstructing the drivers’ field of view. Following a brief pause to allow the sun to drop lower in the sky, allowing the drivers to see better, the race resumed.

A three wide battle for second between Jamie Iverson (#70), Mike Richer (#3R), and Chris Pepin (#47) goes four wide with the lapped car of Kevin Nuthals (#14N)

Pat Richer rocketed back to the front when the green fell and kept it until the end. The two double duty drivers, Chris Pepin and Jamie Iverson, finished in second and third in that order.

Pepin and Iverson also sit first and second in points, with Pepin leading by 30 points. Thus far in 2019, Pepin has been the class of the field, winning two features and finishing in the top five every other week.

Sport Compacts

Another week meant another rousing feature race for the Sport Compacts. The usual suspects of Tyler Corwin and Matt Adams would battle it out for the race win while Nathan Price and points leader Trever Cronick watched from third and fourth.

Everywhere Matt Adams went Tyler Corwin would follow. The pair diced through lapped traffic without issue, but Adams maintained his stranglehold on the top spot. Regardless of what Tyler Corwin would do, Matt Adams would have an answer.

Tyler Corwin (#64) chases Matt Adams (#4) into turn one.

In the end, Corwin just didn’t have enough for Adams. Matt Adams would win the feature, his second of the year and second in a row. Corwin settled for second while Nathan Price was third. Trever Cronick came home fourth and held on to his points lead.

While Cronick keeps his points lead Matt Adams and Tyler Corwin are slowly closing in from second and third only six and nine points back respectively.

Drivers are back in action at the Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway next Saturday with gates opening at 4 PM EST and racing at 6 PM EST.

By Todd Rose

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