Valley Med Flight Race Night Recap/UPIR Championship Night Preview
Last Saturday night’s penultimate round of the 2019 championship battle at the Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway, sponsored by Valley Med Flight, was the perfect lead in to this year’s final points night, which runs this Sunday, August 18 at 5 p.m. EST.
In several of the track's divisions, points battles were turned upside down with some drivers having issues and others turning in strong runs. In this edition of the Rose Racing Report from UPIR, we will review last week’s action while taking a look at each of the seven divisions’ respective championship battles and see who has to do what to leave UPIR Sunday night as a 2019 Champion.
Before diving into each division, these are the rules for ties and how they will be broken should one occur, something that is a possibility in a few divisions. If two drivers, or more, end Sunday night with the same amount of points, the first tiebreaker will be based on the number of wins each driver has accumulated this year. In the instance that two drivers have won the same amount of races, the next tiebreaker will be based off of second place finishes, then third, and so on.
Another thing to keep in mind when watching racing this Sunday is that each position is worth three points more than the one behind it. For example, if a driver scores 18 points, the drivers behind them score 15, 12, 9, etc. In two of the track’s divisions, each position is vital to win the title, as first and second in those classes are separated by only three points, or one position on track.
Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprints
The first feature race of the night, the Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprint 10 lapper, ran prior to intermission, allowing the kids to race on the track before water being put down during the break in racing. Besides putting the kids on a drier surface, it also helps them learn about different track conditions, something that will help these drivers improve as they continue their racing careers in the years to come.
With the young drivers able to find more traction on the dry surface, the race ran green to checkered with no yellow flags. The only issues in the race involved Josh Nevoraski, who slowed and returned to the pits much like he did in Eagle River earlier in the week.
There was no trouble up front for Ethan Manninen, who claimed his fifth win of the 2019 season. Tyler Demars, in his second appearance at UPIR, took home a second place finish to follow up his win last time out in his track debut. Karl Warm made an incredible last lap pass to just barely inch ahead of Brody Steinhauer for the third place.
The Championship Battle: With his five wins, Ethan Manninen sits in a reasonably comfortable position heading into the final race of 2019, as he has a 12 point advantage over second place Karl Warm. However, the championship is not Manninen’s yet.
For Ethan Manninen to win the championship, the best thing he could do is win the race, that’s obvious. Outside of a win, any position within the top five would clinch the championship for Manninen, regardless of what Karl Warm does. If Manninen finishes outside of the top five, he must finish within four spots of Warm, as that will result in a tiebreaker scenario, which he will win with his five victories to Warm’s one. Five spots back of Warm, though, and Manninen will lose the title.
Karl Warm is not in as comfortable of a spot as Manninen heading into Sunday. In a reality, he cannot concern himself with the points and must focus on one goal, winning the race and hoping Manninen finishes midpack. It would not be unprecedented for Manninen to have issues, however. In the June 22 race, Manninen experienced mechanical issues in both the heat and the feature. Since then he’s been trouble free, but this is racing and anything can happen.
Sportsman Micro Sprints
It was a good day to be Trevor Denome last Saturday as he swept the Sportsman Micro Sprint division by winning the heat and feature. While he was taking care of things up front in the feature, the top two in points were fighting hard against one another for the third position.
Brett Labre and Brennan Swanson battled side by side, lap after lap, with Swanson trying to hold off Labre. Each lap, Swanson would hook the inside line, forcing Labre to look up high to pass. Each lap, it seemed, Labre would make a move but was unable to make it stick. Finally, Labre made his way by Swanson with the outside lane.
Like the Youth Micro Sprint feature that ran prior, the Sportsman feature ran caution free. At the front of the field taking the win, as mentioned above, was Trevor Denome. Drake Degnan crossed the line in second while Brett Labre grabbed third after his elbows out battle with Brennan Swanson.
The Championship Battle: After seven rounds of racing, Brett Labre leads the points battle over Brennan Swanson by nine points, or three on track positions. There are many moving parts to this points battle, however.
For Labre to win, he must remain within three positions of Swanson at all times. By finishing three spots back, the two drivers will tie, giving the championship to Labre. However, this is only the case if Swanson does not win. At the moment, Labre has two wins to Swanson’s one. If Swanson were to win, that would create another tiebreaker, which then falls in favor of Swanson who has the advantage in the second place finishes category two to one.
Like Karl Warm in the Youth Micro Sprints, Brennan Swanson must make it his goal to win at all costs Sunday evening. This year, Swanson has earned the monicker, “Mr. Consistency,” because of his points racing mindset and weekly running well. It was this consistent running that has allowed him to stay in the points battle, but now he must go for the win, much like he did June 22. In that race he made a bold move to take the lead and win.
If Swanson does win, Labre must finish third or better as this will still give him the advantage over Swanson by three points. If this past weekend’s racing between the two is anything to go by, this championship battle is far from over.
Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprints
The Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprint feature ran relatively cleanly, with only one caution flag waving. Jumping to the lead early from the outside of the front row was Jeff Ives, a place where he would stay until the checkered flag.
For Ives, the win was a welcomed one. Heading into the night his best finish in 2019 was a fifth coming on June 15. Every other week aside from that, Ives has either had trouble or been buried in traffic. The last two weeks he has been at the track prior to his win, however, Ives has shown muscle in his heat races with two top three finishes, one third and one second. In this week’s feature, Jeff Ives didn’t put a foot wrong from green to checkered, allowing him to get his first feature win of the 2019 season.
While Ives headed toward the checkered flag on the race’s final lap, an incident between Logan Getzloff and Matt Peterson in turn one led to huge championship implications for Peterson, who entered the night 15 points ahead of Kyle Getchell in second. The incident, which saw Getzloff and Peterson make contact while racing hard for position, severed the right front wheel from Peterson’s car. Somehow, he was able to limp to the checkered flag with three wheels, salvaging a tenth place finish. The damage, though, was done as Getchell finished six spots ahead in fourth.
Jeff Ives would take the trip to UPIR victory lane as the crowd welcomed him with cheers. Jered Cech, pushing hard behind Ives, settled for second while Jeremiah Roberts had a strong run in third.
The Championship Battle: With Matt Peterson’s last lap drama last Saturday, Kyle Getchell assumes the points lead, but not by much. Three points. One on track position. That is all that separates the top two in points with one race left.
As long as Kyle Getchell keeps Matt Peterson behind him Sunday, he will win the championship. Even one position behind Peterson will result in second place for Getchell, as the tiebreaker favors Peterson’s two wins to Getchell’s one. All Getchell can do Sunday is keep Peterson behind him, which is easier said than done.
If Matt Peterson finishes anywhere ahead of Getchell, he will be the 2019 champion. If both Getchell and Peterson have issues, however, Josh Bartel is 24 points back waiting to pounce. Although a long shot, it is not out of the realm of possibilities for Bartel to win. If he can finish nine positions ahead of Getchell and eight in front of Peterson, he is mathematically able to win the title.
U.P. Vintage Modifieds
For the second race week in a row, a terrifying crash in the U.P. Vintage Modified feature would take the breaths of fans. Entering turn three, Jake Valiquette’s right front tire made contact with Fred Minor’s left rear tire, sending Minor sideways, then upside down. The car barrel rolled side over side at least three times before coming to rest on its roll cage. Safety workers would help Minor out of the car and to the ambulance. Although he was a little banged up, he was able to walk under his own power, luckily escaping serious injury.
After a lengthy red flag for clean up, a classic battle ensued among Jamie Iverson and Scott Degnan for the race win.With Degnan charging hard, Iverson made his way into lapped traffic, allowing Degnan to close the gap even more. By the time the white flag flew, Degnan was right on the bumper of Iverson. As they rounded turn four, checkered flag in sight, Degnan tried to make a move on the outside, but came up just short.
Jamie Iverson grabbed his second win at UPIR in 2019, the first coming in the Sport Modified division. Points leader Scott Degnan took second with Nick Pinar in third.
The Championship Battle: Scott Degnan’s 2019 got off to a bumpy start, with a DNF in week one. Since then, he has been on an absolute tear, finishing outside the top three only once in the races since. Of those races, he’s won three, putting him 33 points ahead of Charles Peterson and 39 ahead of Allan Yelle heading into the final race.
The only thing Degnan cannot afford is to have another race like week one. If he is unable to finish, and Peterson or Yelle grab the win, a big swing could happen. All Degnan has to do is have a clean race and he wins the 2019 championship, an accolade which would be a fine addition to his already decorated career.
A&L Iron and Metal Street Stocks
Two drivers have been inseparable from the start of 2019 in the A&L Iron and Metal Street Stock division. Of course, we are referring to Paul Wagner and Billy Bowden. Since the first week of racing, Wagner and Bowden have been attached at the hip. Wherever Bowden is, Wagner is sure to be found, and vice versa.
Last Saturday night was another example of this, as the top two in points entered the night tied and would battle it out for the win. After leading much of the race, Paul Wagner left an opening on the inside in turn one. Bowden saw this opening and put himself in the hole, barging his way to the lead in a defiant move. From there on, the challenge for Bowden was to keep Wagner behind him.
Bowden was up to challenge and would keep Wagner behind him until the end of the race. The win is Bowden’s second and gives him a three point lead over Wagner in the championship battle. Behind Bowden and Wagner in third was Corey DeGrave.
The Championship Battle: No division has had a closer points race than the Street Stocks. Following issues last week for Paul Wagner, the points were tied between the top two of Wagner and Billy Bowden. With Bowden’s win, he now sits atop the standings with a three point margin.
Like the situation in the Getchell Builders 600 Micro Sprints, Billy Bowden must finish ahead of Paul Wagner to win the 2019 championship, something he has only been able to do three times this year. However, all of those races he won.
If Wagner finishes anywhere ahead of Bowden he will win the championship. With four wins, Wagner would win any tiebreaker if it is needed, something that would only happen if he finishes one spot ahead of Bowden. It is essentially winner take all between Wagner and Bowden this Sunday.
Behind them in third, fifteen points back, is Corey DeGrave, ready to play the role of spoiler should both Bowden and Wagner have issues Sunday evening. Of course, DeGrave’s mathematical eligibility hedges on car count for the championship finale. However, if DeGrave can cap off the season with a win, something no one aside from Wagner and Bowden have done this year, and capitalize on any issues the top two have, he could end 2019 with the ultimate upset.
Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds
From one great race to another, the Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modified feature rolled out next. The race would feature one of the best battles the track has seen this year, maybe ever, between Matt Valiquette and Bret Widdis.
After starting fourth, Widdis was able to make his way to the lead using the high side of the track. Meanwhile, Matt Valiquette was clawing his way through the field from his eight place starting spot. Eventually he made his way to Widdis, who was still running up high. What ensued over the next laps was dirt track racing at its best, clean, multi groove racing.
Following several laps of side by side racing, it looked like Widdis might hold off Valiquette. Suddenly, Valiquette dove to the bottom of turn one, powering his way by Widdis and sliding right up in front of him out of turn two. A classic slide job. A mighty impressive one at that.
Matt Valiquette would go on to win the feature with Widdis in second. Chris Pepin, the division’s points leader, took home a third place. Special guest at the track this weekend, Reagan May, made her way through the field to finish in sixth in her first time at UPIR in five years, an impressive run for May who usually runs asphalt.
The Championship Battle: Despite winning more races than any other driver, Matt Valiquette’s rocky start to 2019 means he is not eligible for this year’s track championship. In fact, only two drivers are in contention for the title.
As stated above, Chris Pepin leads the points after Valley Med Flight night. In second, 18 points back, is Jamie Iverson. Again, with every spot on track worth three points, Iverson needs to finish at least six spots ahead of Pepin just to break even, and breaking even is not enough for Iverson, unless he can win.
In the scenario of an Iverson win, Pepin must finish within five spots of Iverson. A win for Iverson would put him and Pepin equal in wins at two a piece, thus forcing any tiebreaker to be based on second place finishes, where Iverson has the advantage two to one.
To ensure a championship victory, all Pepin must do is finish anywhere ahead of Iverson, or within six places behind Iverson, barring an Iverson win. It is not a must win race for Iverson, but to have the best chance at adding another track championship to his illustrious career, he must win.
Ending the night were the Sport Compacts, with yet another wild race in the division in 2019. Alex Constantino was the race leader in the opening laps, but following an early race caution he would lose the lead to Matt Adams.
Adams grabbed the lead on the outside, taking the long way to get around Constantino. Behind the top two was Tyler Corwin in third, looking to get around Constantino and Adams, Adams being his main title rival. However, the right front tire of Crowin’s car would go flat, sending him toward the wall. While he saved the car from a major impact, Corwin slowly exited the track, effectively ending his chance at another track championship.
A late race restart set up a battle between Matt Adams and Trever Cronick for the win. Cronick’s last lap charge wasn’t enough, however, to overtake Adams for the win. The win for Adams marked his second in a row, and his fourth of the year. Trever Cronick followed up a Friday night win at Norway speedway with a strong second while Alex Constantino ended up third.
The Championship Battle: Since hitting his stride in week two, Matt Adams has been an unstoppable force at UPIR. In the last six races, Adams has won four times. The other two finishes? Both second places. Going into Sunday evening, Adams holds a 33 point advantage over Tyler Corwin in second, and 36 over Trever Cronick in third.
Unless Matt Adams has issues Sunday, mechanical or otherwise, he will be the 2019 Champion in the Sport Compact division, a well deserved championship after the perseverance Adams has shown this year. When his car would break in the heat, it would be fixed, and most likely in first, in the feature race.
At no point did Matt Adams let anything get the better of him. When his car slowed while leading in week two, handing the lead to Trever Cronick, Adams got the car going again and settled for second. At the time it was probably a taste of bitter defeat in Adams' mouth, but it was those kind of moments where some drivers would have given up that led him to the position he is in now.
A number of factors play into the mathematical eligibility of Corwin and Cronick this coming weekend. If the car count exceeds 12 cars, Corwin has a chance while 13 need to show up for Cronick to have a shot.
Racing gets underway Sunday evening at 5 p.m. EST at the Advanced Auto Parts Upper Peninsula International Raceway. With so many battles brewing in the title fights, racing is sure to be top notch come Sunday.
By Todd Rose