Phoenix, AZ (May 25) The state of Arizona may still be under their long
drought conditions but Josh Pelkey ended his 26 month victory drought in
Saturday night's 50 lap Arizona Race Mart/Sunoco "Salute to Indy" at
Manzaita Speedway while Michael Welker scored his first win of the year in the
co-featured Midget feature.
Pelkey, the 1997 Arizona Sprint Car champion, who had been winless since March
11, 2000, took the lead on the second lap but was under constant pressure all
the way to the checkered flag in the fifty lap feature which was contested on
Manzy's one third mile track.
The feature got off to a rocky start when two of the pre race favorites were
eliminated while working the second lap. Eric Wilkins, the current points
leader, and Bob Ream, Jr., the 1998 ASCA driving champion were the victims of a
crowded track and they both flipped in the third turn. Neither driver was
injured but both cars were through for the night.
Darrell Sickles, who had beat Pelkey on the opening lap, gave way on the
restart following the crash. Chuck Buckman kept pressure on the leader until
Rick Byler, winner of the semi main, worked his way toward the front after
starting 13th and took up the challenge. Despite repeated tries to wrest
the lead from Pelkey he could never urge his Lazy Lou's Fish & Chip machine
to the lead.
Meanwhile the 2000 driving champion Marty Miller found a fast groove on the
bottom of the track and powered his way past Byler with hopes of repeating the
win he scored the last time our at Manzy. He was running second when the final
yellow flag of the night came out just past the 20th lap. The green flew again
at the halfway point and Miller went to work on Pelkey but retired two laps
later with a blown left rear tire.
That moved Byler back into second with Ricky Johnson and Buckman working to take
that position away. Back in the field Fred Bryan was moving as he came out of
the seventh row and slipped past Jason Sutphen for fifth.
Byler's hopes for a win ended when he jumped the cushion on the 47th lap and
Johnson, the defending champion, Buckman and Bryan went by before he could
recover. With the leaders in heavy traffic, Johnson took his Weiler Farms Ellis
to the inside and almost stole the race but Pelkey threaded his way through the
pack and had a scant 1.43 second advantage at the checkered flag. Johnson
finished second, his best effort of the year and Buckman was third. Bryan earned
the $100 hard charger away as he passed 10 cars for his first top finish of the
year and Byler crossed the line in fifth. Behind them were Sutphen, Terry
Belcher, Jr., Jay Ervine, Ben Gregg and Sickles.
Fifteen of the starters were still running at the checkered flag with the top
ten still on the lead lap at the finish. It was, quite naturally, an elated
driver and crew of the Gerrie Masseth car in victory lane. "Wow, I never
had to look back, I could feel them beating on me or look inside and see Ricky
there", Pelkey said in expressing his emotions at ending his drought and
pocketing $1200 for the win and another $100 as the leader at the halfway point.
The win was his fourth top five finish of the year and moved him one rung up the
ladder to fifth in the points chase. Sutphen notched his first heat race win of
the year as he bested Pe lkey and Wilkins in the first eight lappper. Ervine
also added his name to the heat race winner's list when he beat Johnson and
Nathan High in the second heat. The third heat went to Ream who was in front of
Henry and Sickles at the finish. Davey Bateman and Chris Bonneau made heavy
contact while battling for fourth and both cars were severely damaged ending the
night for their drivers.
Jeff Henry won his first career sprint car trophy dash over Bryan, Wilkins
The Sprint car points chase underwent some changes but even though he finished
last in the 20 car field, Wilkins who entered the night 137 points ahead of
Miller will carry a 124 point edge over Johnson into the June 1 outing at Manzy.
Johnson jumped from fourth to second while Miller slipped to third and Ream
dropped to fourth.
ARIZONA SPRINT CAR ASSOCIATION
Main event: 1. Josh Pelkey 2. Ricky Johnson 3.Chuck Buckman 4. Fred Bryan 5.
Rick Byler 6. Jason Sutphen 7. Terry Belcher, Jr. 8. Jay Ervine 9. Ben Gregg 10.
Darrell Sickles 11. Jeff Henry 12. Nathan High 13. Ryan Linder 14. Brandon
George 15. Chris Rhein 16. Marty Miller 17. Bernie Smith III, 18. Travis Cooley
19. Bob Ream, Jr. 20. Eric Wilkins
Lap Leaders: Lap 1, Darrell Sickles–Laps 2-50, Josh Pelkey
Semi main: 1. Rick Byler 2. Fred Bryan 3. Ryan Linder 4. Terry Belcher, Jr.
5. Ben Gregg 6. Bernie Smith, III 7. Chris Rhein 8. Travis Cooley 9. John Gaston
10. Brian Stansberry
1st heat: 1. Jason Sutphen 2. Josh Pelkey 3. Eric Wilkins 4. Chuck Buckman 5.
Rick Byler 6. Ryan Linder 7. Brian Stansberry 8. Travis Cooley 9. Chris Rhein
2nd heat: 1. Jay Ervine 2. Ricky Johnson 3. Nathan High 4. Marty Miller 5.
Fred Bryan 6. Terry Belcher, Jr. 7. Ben Gregg 8. Bernie Smith., III
3rd heat: 1. Bob Ream, Jr. 2. Jeff Henry 3. Darrell Sickles 4. Brandon George
5. John Gaston 6. Josh Foster 7. Davey Bateman 8. Chris Bonneau
Trophy dash: 1. Jeff Henry 2. Fred Bryan 3. Eric Wilkins 4. Bob Ream, Jr.
UNOFFICIAL ASCA POINTS
1. Eric Wilkins 1615
2. Ricky Johnson 1491
3. Marty Miller 1488
4. Josh Pelkey 1419
5. Bob Ream, Jr. 1415
6. Jeff Henry 1363
7. Jason Sutphen 1159
8. Terry Belcher, Jr. 1151
9. Fred Bryan 1035
10. Nathan High 945
WELKER GOES WIRE TO WIRE IN THE KENZ & LESLIE BG CHEMICALS MIDGETS
Michael Welker, coming off a strong second place finish in the last race for the
Kenz & Leslie BG Chemical Midget Series, was clearly the best of the field
in the 20 lap midget feature. After watching as polesitter Dean Daly beat him
into the first turn, Welker turned on the afterburners and had the lead down the
back straighaway. The race was slowed on the second lap when the car driven by
rookie Dustin Burkhart blew and engine and a brief fire erupted. The younster
scampered from the car uninjured.
Welker went back to work and built a 4.03 second lead over the field as David
Brimingham, Jr., R. J. Johnson and Justin Fisher battled for second. Fisher, who
had earlier won his first trophy dash and then captured his heat race spun and
that allowed the field to bunch up behind Welker's Mad Max Upholstery car.
However, the battle was again for second as Birmingham, Johnson and Chris
Edwards were sometimes three abreast. Johnson claimed second on the seventh lap
but traded the position with Birmingham several times before finally making the
low side of the track work.
After his spin Fisher came charging back to the front and nipped two time
main event winner Edwards on the final lap to claim fourth behind Welker,
Johnson and Birmingham.
Behind the top five were Mike Leslie, Adam Young, Tony Everhart, Doug Elliott
and Mike Courtney.
The young guns rest atop the standings in the midgets as two freshman and a
recent high school graduate hold down the top three spots. R. J. Johnson holds a
24 point edge over fellow freshman Justin Fisher with Chris Edwards is third
another ten points back.
KENZ & LESLIE/BG CHEMICALS MIDGETS
Main event: 1. Michael Welker 2. R.J. Johnson 3. David Birmingham, Jr. 4. Justin
Fisher 5. Chris Edwards 6. Mike Leslie 7. Adam Young 8. Tony Everhart 9. Doug
Elliott 10. Mike Courtney 11. Dale Daly 12. Rob Clary, Jr. 13. Dean Daly 14.
Lap Leaders: 1-20, Welker
1st heat: 1. Justin Fisher 2. Adam Young 3. David Birmingham, Jr. 4. Dean
Daly 5. Tony Everhart 6. Rob Clary, Jr. (DNS–Mike Leslie)
2nd heat: 1. Chris Edwards 2. Michael Welker 3. R.J. Johnson 4. Doug Elliott
5. Dustin Burkhart 6. Mike Courtney 7. Dale Daly
Trophy dash: 1. Justin Fisher 2. Mike Welker 3. Chris Edwards 4. Mike Leslie
BG MIDGET POINTS
1. R.J. Johnson 487
2. Justin Fisher 463
3. Chris Edwards 453
4. Mike Leslie 442
5. Adam Young 381
6. Steve Sussex, Jr. 380
7. Doug Elliott 376
8. Michael Welker 372
9. David Birmingham,Jr. 361
10. Dustin Burkhart 302