Fans and drivers were greeted at the Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway with yet another evening of beautiful weather and great racing. This week, UPIR, with the help of Sayklly’s Candies, paid tribute to veterans with members of the UP Honor Flight in attendance.
Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprints
Following intermission, the kids of UPIR took to the track for their feature race. The race saw drivers battle each other and a slick track that had just been watered down. For the young drivers, though, the challenging conditions provide for a great opportunity to learn more about changing track surfaces and how to adapt to different racing scenarios.
When the checkered flag fell, it was another clean sweep for Ethan Manninen at UPIR in 2019. In addition to winning the feature, Manninen also snagged the heat race win early in the night.
Behind Manninen in second and third were two drivers making their first appearance at UPIR in the 2019 season. In second position was Josh Nevoraski, a regular at Eagle River Speedway. In fact, Nevoraski finished in second at both tracks this week. He ran runner up to Blake Hartman Tuesday night at Eagle River. Third place belonged to Kaylie Muth who was mighty impressive in her first race at UPIR this year.
Sportsman Micro Sprints
The most daring move of the night belonged to Brennan Swanson in the Sportsman Micro Sprint feature. Although Brennan made it clear earlier in the year that he wouldn’t take many big chances in favor of points, earning him the nickname “Mr. Consistency,” when the opportunity for a win presented itself, Brennan did what any racer would do and took it.
As the laps whittled down, so did the distance between leader Jeffrey Latsch and second place Swanson. For several laps, Swanson was all over the back of Latsch, even making contact with him trying to get by. Finally, a hole opened for Swanson on the inside as the leaders made their way into turn three. Swanson put his car in the gap and forced his way to the inside and by Latsch for the lead. There was no looking back from there for Swanson.
With the courageous move, Brennan Swanson claimed his first win in the Sportsman Micro Sprint division, which also helps him extend his points lead. Brett Labre crossed the line in second and Jeffrey Latsch finished third.
600 Micro Sprints
Another first time winner for the 2019 racing season at UPIR would emerge in the 600 Micro Sprint feature.
Despite two runner up finishes in heat races this year, Brock Bower’s performances in feature racing have resulted in mid pack finishes as well as one DNF. Coming into the night, Bower’s best finish in a 2019 feature was ninth. With a starting spot of third for Saturday’s feature, Bower had a great opportunity to improve his best finish, and that he did.
Bower, alongside fourth place starter Logan Getzloff, took control of the field early. The duo started on the second row together and would be inseparable the rest of the race. While Bower and Getzloff handled things up front, Christian Groleau scratched and clawed his way through the field from a 12th place starting position. Last week, Groleau crossed the line first but was disqualified after his car failed post race inspection.
When the race was over, Brock Bower found himself in victory lane for the first time in 2019. Logan Getzloff had his best finish of 2019 as well with a strong second place run. Christian Groleau followed in third, showing he’s still a contender every week despite a break from racing at UPIR.
U.P. Vintage Modifieds
The next item on the agenda was the feature for the U.P. Vintage Modifieds. A caution flag would fly early in this feature for Fred Minor who started the race on the pole. Minor spun in turn three and pancaked the outside wall with the left side. The impact did significant damage to the car’s left rear. The crash would end Minor’s night.
Following the restart, a usual suspect found himself leading the way. Scott Degnan, following a rough race last week, made his way back to the top spot where he would remain the rest of the race, surviving another restart in the closing laps of the race along the way.
The victory for Degnan was his third of the year, which finally puts him atop the points standings. Charles Peterson followed Degnan in a distant second with Nick Pinar having another strong run in third.
A&L Iron and Metal Street Stocks
A pile up marred the opening lap of the A&L Iron and Metal Street Stock feature in the fourth turn that collected several cars including Chris Olson, Nick Moulds, and points leader Paul Wagner. Olson and Moulds both went to the pits with race ending damage while Wagner would return to action with a mangled car.
The race restarted and, almost immediately, Paul Wagner powered his way to the front in a bent and battered car. Behind him, Ben Buckland slammed the wall hard two times on the back straightaway. Despite the heavy impacts, Buckland kept control of the vehicle and the green flag stayed out. Not many drivers or cars could continue from such an impact. The incident is a testament to both Buckland’s driving ability and the crews who prepared a strong car.
Paul Wagner held on to win his fourth consecutive race at UPIR in his damaged car. Billy Bowden drove a hard race, closing in on Wagner in the closing laps, but wouldn’t have enough time to catch him. Bowden settled for second, a nice recovery from a DNF last week. Corey DeGrave grabbed his fourth podium finish with a third place finish.
Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds
By last names alone, one would think they were watching a race from the 1960’s or 70’s. The top three finishers of Saturday’s Sport Modified feature, Matt Valiquette, Jamie Iverson, and Pat Richer all come from racing families whose heritage runs back over 50 years in Escanaba. In just a quick look back to a few newspaper articles from the late 1960’s, all three names appear several times as top runners.
The feature race itself ran without many incidents, with only one caution for Bret Widdis who found the front stretch wall after contact with another car.
After the restart, Matt Valiquette controlled the field until the end on his way to win his first feature of 2019. Jamie Iverson and Pat Richer, both feature winners in 2019 as well, followed Valiquette in second and third. Though the year and drivers have changed, the last names tell very much the same story as 50 years ago.
It would be hard to find another driver at UPIR with worse luck than Alex Constantino. On a weekly basis, Constantino runs well in his heat race, winning two and finishing second in his last three appearances at the track. By heat races alone, Constantino is one of the top runners at UPIR. When it comes to feature races, though, Constantino has run into trouble every week thus far, usually trouble not of his own making, either.
The sole caution in the Sport Compact feature this week was for, you guessed it, Alex Constantino who lost his right rear wheel while leading the race. If luck wasn’t a factor, Alex Constantino would probably be a multi-race winner this year. Hopefully, things turn around for Constantino following the first break of the 2019 season.
While Constantino dropped out, Tyler Corwin and Matt Adams dueled for the race win. The two drivers have found themselves running first and second at the checkered flag two times this year, Adams finished first both times. That story would change this week.
Tyler Corwin, after several weeks of close second and third place finishes, finally grabbed his first feature win of 2019. Matt Adams finished in second and Trever Cronick followed in third. The top three finishers also find themselves as the top three in points as Cronick leads Adams and Corwin, who are tied for second, by three points.
The Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway takes a week off before returning to action on July 20 with racing at 6 p.m. EST.
By Todd Rose