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  • Writer's pictureTodd Rose

UPIR Fan Appreciation Night Filled with Action

A field of 17 Sport Modifieds give a four wide salute prior to the start of their feature race.

Fan Appreciation Night at the Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway was chock full of excitement. From thrilling finishes to breathtaking crashes, Saturday night’s event had a little bit of everything.

Before dropping the green flag on the night’s action, fans were able to meet the drivers and see the cars of UPIR up close as competitors parked their cars in front of the grandstands. Once the cars vacated the grandstand area, racing began, and the night was underway.

Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprints

A clean race was in store for the Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprint division. While the racing was exciting, it would be a new driver to UPIR stealing the spotlight and sweeping the division’s two races.

In his first appearance at UPIR, Tyler Demars grabbed the checkered flag in both the heat and feature in the Youth Micro Sprint Division. The path to victory for Demars was not a simple one, though. In the 5 lap heat, he started at the tail end of the field in ninth. Somehow he worked his way through the traffic to claim that win. The feature race told a similar story.

Again, Demars started in traffic, buried in the midpack in fifth. Like the heat, however, Demars smoothly made his way to the top spot and took the victory.

Behind Tyler Demars in second was Josh Nevoraski, a regular at Eagle River Speedway who has made several appearances at UPIR this season with strong runs each week. Ethan Manninen grabbed a third place finish, which keeps him atop the points standings by a slim six points over Karl Warm.

Sportsman Micro Sprints

The Sportsman Micro Sprint feature ran next and, like the Youth feature, it was free of cautions. Early in the going, a three car pack consisting of Brett Labre, Drake Degnan, and Trevor Denome separated themselves from the pack to battle for the top spot amongst themselves. Soon the three car race turned into a duel as Labre and Denome pulled away from Degnan who was now dealing with Jeffrey Latsch.

As the race went on, the battle for the lead calmed down as Labre slotted his way in behind the first place car of Denome. While the top two runners ran single file, Drake Degnan and Jeffrey Latsch ran wheel to wheel for the third spot.

As Denome led Labre out of turn four to the white flag, the race for the win had truly begun. As Denome slid a bit high, Labre threw his car to the inside to try taking the lead. The two drivers battled into turn one and by the time they exited turn two, Brett Labre was out front.

Brett Labre (#23B) makes his move for the win at the white flag as Trevor Denome (#1) can do nothing but watch.

Brett Labre would take the feature win following a perfect example of patience paying off. Trevor Denome crossed the line in second after leading more laps than anyone else in the feature. The battle for third fell in favor of Drake Degnan, who was able to pull away from Jeffrey Latsch.

The win for Labre puts him in the lead of the points standings with two races remaining in the championship battle. In a close second is the ever consistent “Mr. Consistency” Brennan Swanson who lies just six points back. Saturday night was a decent one for Swanson. He kept his nose clean and finished in fifth, all while battling an ear infection.

Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprints

Often times, races are decided by who can get the best restart. Such was the case in the Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprint feature. The majority of the 20 lap feature ran caution free, with only a few yellow flags flying. It was the last yellow flag, though, that would set up a mad dash to the finish.

Logan Getzloff, who started in third, led much of the race. Since moving up to the 600 Micro Sprints, Saturday night’s race may well have been Getzloff’s best race in the division. With the race finish in sight, victory was almost a certainty for the young driver…then the yellow flag flew.

For any driver, a late race restart while they are leading is something to worry about. But when someone like Matt Peterson is starting in the second row, it’s less of a worry and more of an almost certainty that he will get around you. In his several years of racing at UPIR, Peterson has become known for his incredible restarts, so good he could easily be UPIR’s “Restart Master.”

Peterson’s restart skills were not lost on Logan Getzloff, either. As the race leader, Getzloff had the ability to be on the front row by himself and choose the lane he wanted to start in. The lane he chose? The outside, right in front of Matt Peterson. In doing so, he would leave the bottom lane open.

The green flag dropped, the drivers smashed their accelerators, and the pack roared off into turn one. By the time the field reached the first turn, there was a new leader, Matt Peterson. Although Getzloff got off to a pretty good jump, The “Restart Master” had an even better one and jumped to the open inside lane to grab the lead. This move also opened the door for Josh Bartel to make his way around Getloff for the second spot.

The top three would finish in that order with Matt Peterson getting the win with Josh Bartel and Logan Getzloff behind him. The win boosts Peterson’s advantage in the points race to 15 over Kyle Getchell in second. Getchell finished fourth Saturday night after starting in eighth. In a distant third in points is Josh Bartel, 33 points back of leader Matt Peterson.

U.P. Vintage Modifieds

Terry Royer (#7) and Jake Valiquette (#2) experience a violent crash in the U.P. Vintage Modified feature. Both were uninjured.

Click here to see more photos of Terry Royer and Jake Valiquett's Saturday night smash up: Gallery: Terry Royer and Jake Valiquette Go for Wild Rides at UPIR

The race that will undoubtedly have fans talking for months and maybe years to come is the U.P. Vintage Modified feature.

After multiple failed attempts to complete the first lap of the feature, one of which saw Herbie Iverson’s rear axle ripped form the car, things finally seemed to be going smoothly. Of course, whenever things seem to be going smoothly is often when things fall off the rails, and fall of the rails they did in this race.

For several laps, the duo of Terry Royer and Jake Valiquette battled hard with Charles Peterson right in front of them, Valiquette trying to get around Peterson with Royer on his tail the whole time. As the trio entered turn three, Valiquette gave Peterson a bump, racing language for, “I’m faster than you.” Valiquette then made his way to the outside in turn four.

As they exited turn four, Royer had a run on the side by side pair of Valiquette and Peterson. He jumped to the high side, making it three wide as they crossed the start finish line. Then, it happened. Valiquette and Royer made contact sending Royer sideways, airborne, then upside down. Royer tumbled viciously side over side as Valiquette’s car rode atop the flipping machine. The two cars then slammed into the turn one retaining wall, Valiquette’s car perched on the upside down car of Royer.

After several tense moments, both drivers climbed from their cars and waved to a cheering crowd, thankful that both drivers were okay after what some have said was the worst crash they’d ever seen at the track.

Because of the long clean up, the race was shown the checkered flag as it had met its time limit. At the time of the caution, it was Jesse Denome showing the way. Denome was declared the winner with second and third being awarded to Nick Pinar and Scott Degnan, respectively.

A&L Iron and Metal Street Stocks

One of the biggest points advantages at UPIR heading into Saturday night belonged to Paul Wagner in the A&L Iron and Metal Street Stock division. By night’s end, however, the division would have the closest points battle of any division at the track.

In the early laps of the race, Corey DeGrave showed the way with Paul Wagner in second and Billy Bowden in third. Eventually, Bowden moved his car to the high line and began making ground on both Wagner and DeGrave.

For several laps Bowden held strong on the outside, with the lead inching closer with every crossing of the start/finish line. Bowden had made his way up about halfway alongside Corey DeGrave as the top three pack re-entered turn one; suddenly there was contact between Paul Wagner’s right front and Billy Bowden’s left rear. Wagner went spinning into the infield while Bowden saved his car and battled on. Wagner’s night would end on the back of a tow truck. From the press box vantage point, it is hard to place blame on either driver. Looking down from above, it looked to be two drivers going hard for a spot on the track, and there’s nothing wrong with hard racing.

Billy Bowden speeds under the checkered flag in a blur to grab the A&L Iron and Metal Street Stock feature.

The race would resume with DeGrave up front, but not for long. Utilizing the outside line, again, was Bowden, and again it paid off. Bowden took over the top spot from DeGrave and wouldn’t look back the rest of the way.

Billy Bowden would claim his second feature win of the year, with Corey DeGrave in second and Eric Mathieson in third. Bowden’s win creates a tie for the points lead between himself and Paul Wagner, the only two drivers to have won a feature race this year. With his second place and Wagner’s issues, Corey DeGrave now sits a mere nine points back from the lead duo.

Although he has yet to see a feature victory in 2019, Corey DeGrave could play the role of spoiler in the coming weeks. Despite struggling with the car early in the season, DeGrave has shown muscle as of late. If anytime is right to show strength, it would be the end of the season, and it seems DeGrave is doing just that.

Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds

A strong field of Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds showed up to UPIR Saturday, with 17 cars in total taking to the track for the feature race. Like the Vintage Modified feature, though, the opening laps were riddled with caution flags and restarts.

One of the restarts saw Pat Richer forced into the track's infield exiting turn four. Without a place to re-enter the track, Richer established a new racing line in the ultra-dry, dusty, infield known as the “Richer Line.” (Pictured Below) Somehow, Pat held on to the car while dust flew into the air. By the end of the lap, an unrelated incident would bring the caution out.

By the mid-way point of the race, a green flag run was well and established. Showing the way up front was Matt Valiquette with Jamie Iverson hot on his tail. The two dueled their way through lapped traffic, with Valiquette gaining the edge.

As the white flag flew, Valiquette had the car of Matt Maki in front of him. Maki held his line on the inside, the respectful thing for a driver to do. Instead of trying to force the issue, Valiquette followed Maki right on the bottom of the track. This allowed Jamie Iverson to mount one last run at Valiquette, but it just wasn’t enough.

Matt Valiquette (#53) leads Jamie Valiquette (#70) in the closing stages of the Bink's Coca-Cola Sport Modified Feature.

Matt Valiquette claimed his second feature win of the year while Jamie Iverson grabbed yet another podium finish. In third place was points leader Chris Pepin.

Pepin still holds a decent sized 15 point lead over second place Jamie Iverson in the championship battle. If Iverson continues the way he’s running now, the points battle will be a very exciting one. Despite his two wins, Matt Valiquette at 108 points back is not a championship contender this year following a rocky start to the season paired with some bad luck.

Sport Compacts

The Sport Compacts closed out the night with another great battle up front. Unfortunately, a late race caution would end the race prematurely. That, however, is not the story Saturday night will be remembered for.

This year has been a story of persistence and perseverance for Matt Adams. Saturday night encapsulated that all in one event. In his heat race, Adams' car broke in turn four and sent him straight for the wall. It seemed his night would be over. But this is Matt Adams we are talking about. Sure enough, come the feature race, the number four car was back on track starting the race buried in the 11th starting spot.

Not long after the green flag fell, Adams was among the leaders. One would be hard pressed to find another driver as aggressive as Matt Adams at UPIR. He is aggressive in all the right ways, however. He pushes hard, he fights for every spot on track, and he’s not afraid to make contact, but he will seldom, if ever, intentionally outright crash someone.

This aggression showed, too, Saturday night with Adams' move for the lead. In classic Matt Adams fashion, he saw an opening and took it. The opening in question was a space between the lead cars of Tyler Corwin and Tony Begovac. Somehow, Adams made the move work and came out the leader on the other side.

Adams would hold on to the lead when a late race yellow would bring the race to an early end, making him the winner of the Sport Compact feature. Tony Begovac followed in second while Tyler Corwin came home in third.

The win is the third one of the season for Matt Adams, which stretches his points lead to six points over Tyler Corwin. After a few rough weeks, Trever Cronick has fallen from the points lead to third, 33 points back.

The Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway takes a week off before racing again on August 10, with racing at 6 p.m. EST. Gates open at 4 p.m EST. With close points battles and crazy racing action all year long, the final stretch of the 2019 UPIR season is sure to be wild.

By Todd Rose

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