The Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway crowned champions in its seven divisions Sunday night at the first ever Bob Iverson Memorial Race Night. Just 24 hours prior, however, no one would have guessed any racing would take place on Sunday as the weather forecast called for 100 percent chance of rain. Come the next day, the skies were clear, the sun was shining, and not a drop of rain was in sight, allowing for a thrilling conclusion to the 2019 UPIR Championship Season.
A championship is not won in one week, of course. So in this edition of the Rose Racing Report, we will look back at each champion’s 2019 season and see how the championship was won. As always, we will also be going over all of the racing action from this past Sunday’s Bob Iverson Memorial Night at UPIR.
Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprints
The evening’s first feature was for the Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprints and, like last week, it was run prior to intermission.
It didn’t take long for the championship leader entering the night to find his way to the front of the field in this one. By the end of the first lap, Ethan Manninen was already running in second position, the only car ahead of him being Tyler Demars. Chasing both of these drivers was the field, and second in points Karl Warm, who needed to finish at least five spots ahead of Manninen.
A caution would slow the field midway through the race after Brody Steinhauer got out of shape on the backstretch. Under the yellow, Karl Warm’s car would roll to a standstill in turn three. Soon, he would be pushed back to the pits, ending his night and championship hopes.
The race restarted with Demars up front and Manninen in second, which is how they would end up when the checkered flag flew.
Tyler Demars grabbed his second win in three appearances at UPIR while Ethan Manninen clinched the championship with second place. Brody Steinhauer bounced back from his trouble to round out the top three.
In the points, Manninen was the champion with Karl Warm winding up in the second spot and Brody Steinhauer finishing in third.
How the championship was won: Winning. That is the easiest way to sum up Ethan Manninen’s 2019 championship run. From the outset of the season, Manninen found himself in victory lane, sweeping the first week of racing. His winning ways continued into week two when he claimed the feature win.
Trouble didn’t elude Manninen all year long, though. In the third week of racing, Manninen had issues in both the heat and feature races, taking a big hit in the points as a result. He responded by winning the next two races in a row.
In the remaining three races, Manninen finished in third, first, and second to cap off the year. When all was done, Manninen had won five of eight races in 2019, with only one finish outside the top three in the ones he did not win.
Sportsman Micro Sprints
After intermission concluded, the next group to enter the track for feature racing was the Sportsman Micro Sprint division. The race would see green through its entirety with zero cautions.
Trevor Denome was able to separate himself from the field in the first half of the race, leaving everyone else to battle behind him, and battle they did. The top two in points, Brett Labre and Brennan Swanson, were inseparable throughout the 20-lap feature. The two battled first for the fourth position amongst themselves. That battle turned into a three car fight for third as Luke Labre fell into their clutches.
Eventually, both Swanson and Brett Labre made their way around Luke Labre to run third and fourth respectively. As the race reached its final laps, Brett Labre made his way around Swanson to move himself up to third.
When the race ended, it was Trevor Denome taking the win, his third of the year. Drake Degnan came home in second place, while Brett Labre took third on his way to becoming a champion.
The top three in points at night’s end were Brett Labre, Brennan Swanson, and Drake Degnan,in that order.
How the championship was won: Many times in racing, consistency is more important than race wins. There is no better example of this at UPIR than in the Sportsman division.
In the season’s eight races, Brett Labre only finished worse than third one time. The one time he didn’t finish in the top three, he finished in fourth. That fourth came in week two, when Labre failed to finish the race. In fact, Labre failed to finish the first two races of the season. Luckily for him, however, both of those weeks featured heavy attrition among the Sportsman field, allowing Labre to still achieve strong finishes despite his issues.
Labre also grabbed two wins along the way to his 2019 UPIR Championship, winning in week three and week six.
Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprints
For the second feature race in a row, no yellow flags flew, this time it was in the Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprints. Make no mistake about it, a lack of cautions does not mean a lack of great racing.
The race featured many drivers working their way through the field, such as Dylan Larsen and the championship leaders Kyle Getchell and Matt Peterson. Larsen started in the 14th spot and somehow made his way through the pack to finish in fourth.
Getchell and Peterson started their race side by side on the fifth row. Peterson, unlike Getchell was able to work around traffic wherever he wanted while Getchell seemed to struggle finding a lane that would work for him. By the end of the race, Getchell began to make his way through the pack, but it was not enough to catch Matt Peterson who would finish in third and claim the 2019 UPIR Championship.
Jeremiah Roberts led Josh Bartel across the line as the white flag flew. By the time they came back around, the drivers had swapped spots. With an incredible move, just inches from the outside wall, Josh Bartel was able to use the extreme high line and take the lead from Roberts in the last corner of the last lap. The finish was easily one of the best of the 2019 season.
Josh Bartel reigned victorious Sunday night as Jerimiah Roberts came home in second after dominating the majority of the race. Matt Peterson, as previously stated, wound up in third place to win the championship.
Behind Peterson in the points was Kyle Getchell in second and Josh Bartel in third.
How the championship was won: While Matt Peterson’s 2019 was full of great finishes, including two wins and three other podium finishes, one moment comes to mind immediately when determining how the championship was won for Peterson.
Last weekend, Matt Peterson entered the night with a 15 point lead over Kyle Getchell. By the end of the night, Getchell would lead the points by three. For Peterson, it could have been much, much, worse.
On the final lap of the feature, Peterson made contact with Logan Getzloff as the two battled for position. The contact severed Peterson’s right front tire. While some drivers would have stopped or pulled off to the infield, Matt Peterson did not. Instead, he managed to limp his car through the remaining lap to cross the line in tenth spot. Had he not done this, the disadvantage to Getchell could have been as much as 15 points, instead of the manageable three.
Sunday night, Peterson did all he had to do, beat Kyle Getchell. Though the wins and good finishes helped his hunt for the title, the moment that truly won Matt Peterson the title was a three-wheeled tenth place finish.
U.P. Vintage Modifieds
The U.P. Vintage Modified feature was a relatively tame one, with only one caution coming out for a Herbie Iverson spin. As the track began to dry and slick over on the bottom, drivers struggled to find grip as the track’s top lane was only beginning to come in for the heavier cars.
For the first time in 2019, Joe Piron found himself in victory lane at the end of a feature race. On top of that, he swept the night by winning both his heat and the feature. Nick Pinar made his way from the eighth starting spot to finish in second while third would go to Charles Peterson.
Finishing in the fourth position was Scott Degnan, who stayed out of trouble and won the 2019 division championship. Charles Peterson and Joe Piron placed behind him in the standings.
How the championship was won: After a DNF in week one, Scott Degnan has been on an absolute tear in 2019, winning three races and only finishing outside the top five one time. This whole year, Degnan has been in a class of his own, absolutely dominating on his way to several victories.
Entering Sunday night, the championship was almost a lock for Degnan. All he had to do was stay out of trouble, finish the race, and he would be champion. That is exactly what he did Sunday.The championship is another feather in the cap of the veteran driver who has won in virtually everything he has ever driven.
A&L Iron and Metal Street Stocks
By far the most entertaining race of the night was the A&L Iron and Metal Street Stock feature. Coming into the night, Billy Bowden and Paul Wagner were separated by three points, or one position on track. It was a winner take all battle, as whoever finished ahead of the other driver would win the championship.
Prior to the race’s first caution, Bowden and Wagner had worked their way up to the second and third positions, trailing leader Ben Buckland. The ensuing restart, however, is where things really took off.
Billy Bowden dove to the inside of Buckland entering turn one, the same move he used on Wagner to take the win in the previous week. The leader’s exchanged paint, but the move paid off for Bowden as he took the lead by the end of the backstretch. Seeing this, Wagner knew the championship was disappearing. The next lap, he dove to the inside of Buckland in turn one in a desperate move to take second. It didn’t work. Buckland went spinning off the nose of Wagner’s car. The yellow was out again.
Buckland would take his car back to the pits while Wagner was sent to the rear of the field. The race restarted with Bowden up front, where he would finish just a handful of laps later. Corey DeGrave finished in second, another great run to end his year, and Tyler Winling grabbed third.
The points would end up with Bowden as champion, Paul Wagner second and Corey DeGrave third, very much the same way they’d been all year long.
How the championship was won: Wagner’s spin and subsequent sending to the rear of the field was the biggest factor in clinching Bowden the title Sunday night, but before that point, there was a whole season of moments that helped Bowden become champion, including four total wins.
Only one time did Bowden finish outside the top two. A DNF in week four relegated him to a sixth place finish. That same week, Paul Wagner won the feature, extending his lead. Just weeks later, Wagner would have issues while Bowden would win, making things dead even heading into week seven.
The defining moment of Bowden’s season came in that week when he made his bold move for the win to the inside of Wagner in turn one. The move not only won him the race, but it also gave him the points lead heading into the final week of action.
Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds
By the time the Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds came out for their feature, the track was in prime condition for multi-lane racing, and the drivers would use every one. Two of the most entertaining drivers to watch in the feature, as it turned out, were the top two in points.
Starting in the eight position, Jamie Iverson worked his way through the field in a mad dash to grab the lead. Meanwhile, Chris Pepin was mired back in traffic. At one point, Iverson was enough positions ahead of Pepin that if the race were to end, he would be the champion. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t the case, and Chris Pepin was on his way to join Iverson up front soon.
Though he would take the race win, it wouldn’t be enough for the championship for Jamie Iverson. Behind Iverson in second was Russ Franks while Chris Pepin came home third.
Iverson became the second driver to win a race named in honor of their father this year, as he claimed the Bob Iverson Memorial Trophy. Earlier in the season, Pat Richer won the race named in remembrance of his dad, Art.
The championship would belong to Chris Pepin, with Jamie Iverson in second and Pat Richer in third following a tiebreaker for the position with Lonnie Dalgord.
How the championship was won: When looking back at Chris Pepin’s 2019, the results are ridiculous. In eight races, Pepin found victory lane two times and finished outside of the top three only one time.
Another reason, it would seem, that Pepin was able to become 2019 Champion is because of his early performance on the newly configured UPIR track. Following a third place finish in week one, Pepin would go on to win the next two races in a row, often times running the high side. In those early weeks, it seemed Pepin had found the key to speed on the new track while other drivers were still figuring things out.
It would be hard to pick any defining moment for Pepin’s 2019 season, as there was so much good in it. Two wins, one second, and four third place finishes, that is one heck of a season to string together, especially in a division as competitive as the Sport Modifieds.
Unfortunately, the night would end with a whisper instead of a yell as the Sport Compact feature was cut short due to a massive trail of oil laid down by Trever Cronick’s machine. Up until the stoppage, the racing was manic. The opening laps saw three and even four wide racing, with everyone somehow staying out of trouble.
When the race was called, Matt Adams, Tyler Corwin and Tony Begovac were the top three. The win for Adams capped off an incredible championship season. Behind Adams in the points were Tyler Corwin and Trever Cronick.
It is really sad this race didn’t reach its conclusion, as the racing was incredible.
How the championship was won: Five. That is the number of wins Matt Adams finished 2019 with. In addition to those wins, he also finished second on two different occasions.
Despite trouble in week one, Adams’ 2019 racing season will be one to remember, and not just because of the wins. We have talked in prior reports, and in last week’s championship preview, about the absolute perseverance Adams has shown in 2019. His car would break, he would fix it, and probably win the next feature. This happened more than once. Sometimes it would even be in the course of a single night.
It is truly a well deserved championship for Matt Adams. His 2019 was truly an incredible one, but it didn’t come easy. Those are the wins that are the sweetest.
Although the championship season is over, the Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway still has one BIG show left on September 14th with the Border Battle. With increased payouts and even an additional class of cars to watch, the Border Battle will be can’t miss action.
By Todd Rose