Marne, MI (Monday, September 17, 2018) - A near picture perfect Saturday night welcomed nearly 60 American Ethanol Tour competitors for Berlin Goes Dirt, Round One. For the American Ethanol Late Model Tour (AELMT), 28 drivers made the trip to try and take home the honor of winning at Berlin, while 30 teams with the American Ethanol Modified Tour Presented by Allstar Performance (AEMODT) got set to do battle. Many teams were faced with the task of not only battling their fellow drivers but their cars and the racetrack.
The evening started with Motul Motor Oil and Lubricants Qualifying for the AEMODT, with three groups set to take the Raceway. Group one was led by Joe Rokos who clocked in at an 18.264 second lap time, while group two was paced by David Mielke at a 17.282, and the final group lead by Jacob Poel, with a 18.117. Mielke’s lap was good enough for not only the Motul Fast Qualifier Award but he also broke the AEMODT track record at Berlin Raceway, set last year by Curt Spalding, nearly a whole second slower at an 18.231.
For the AELMT, they also rolled three groups for Motul Qualifying from Berlin. Group one was paced by Dona Marcoullier, who made his return to competition for the first time since July, at a 16.381. Brandon Thirlby set the pace for group two with a 15.871 second lap time, while group three was led by Chad Finley with a 16.337. For Thirlby, who picked up the Motul Fast Qualifier Award, he also broke the AELMT Berlin Raceway track record set by Jeep VanWormer in 2017 at a 16.698, and collected his 12th career AELMT Fast Qualifier award, and fourth of the season.
Heat races were next for the AEMODT and they ran fairly uneventful, with Allstar Performance Heat Race number one first on track. Joe Rokos took the lead on lap four and never looked back, in the race that went caution free, to pick up the win. In Poet BioFuels Heat Race number two, David Mielke had to work his way by John McClure on the opening lap to pick up the win. In NUVU Fuels Heat Race number three, one caution flag flew on lap three as the 42 of Bob Baldwin spun in turn one; from there Curt Spalding went on to collect the win.
The intensity began to heat up as the sun went down for the AELMT heat races, as Allstar Performance Heat Race number one was slowed two times. The first caution flew during the opening lap, when race control (positioned on the East side of the Raceway, looking West) couldn’t see the racetrack due to the combination of dust and the setting sun. After a seven-minute delay in the program for track work and to allow the sun to go behind the tree line, racing resumed. Another opening lap caution came out for Jason Playter Jr., who spun in turn two, before Travis Stemler went on to collect the win. Michigan Corn Heat Race number two and GetBioFuel.com Heat Race number three went green to checkered with no incidents, as Greg Gokey and Rich Bell picked up the wins.
Last Chance Qualifiers were needed for both American Ethanol Tours to set the field. For the AEMODT, a pair of lap one cautions slowed the race, the worst of which involved Donnie Roberts, Darryl Lehn, and Mike Peterson. The three made contact on a restart after Anthony Deming spun, turning Roberts into Lehn, sending him back toward the outside wall collecting Peterson - Roberts was the only driver able to continue from the crash. During the next restart, Deming’s efforts came to an end when he lost a left rear tire in turns three and four, bringing out yet another caution flag. From there, the 12 lap LCQ went green, as Josh Knoll picked up the win.
The AELMT Lane Automotive Last Chance Qualifier also was slowed multiple times for on track incidents, as they all tried to make the $4,000-to-win main event. All the cautions, however, were for single car spins that included Kevin Reeve and Bryant Dickinson. Dickinson would slow again in turn four before going pit-side. Jeep VanWormer, who pulled off during his heat race, went on to win.
After a brief intermission, it was time for the running of the AEMODT Lane Automotive 30. Andy Galgoci and Jeffery Erickson Jr. led the field to green, and it was Erickson Jr. who jumped out to the early lead. By lap 10, Erickson had caught the tail of the field and was beginning to pick off back markers when a caution flag flew for debris in turn four. This allowed a hard charging David Mielke to pull within striking distance. On the restart, however, Erickson shot away from the field and left Mielke with some work to do if he wanted to challenge for a win. Erickson again lead the field into lap traffic but by this time Mielke had worked within five car-lengths of Erickson’s 1E machine. Going into turn three, Erickson went high around a lap car, leaving the bottom open for Mielke, his preferred line through the corner. Unfortunately for Mielke, he ran out of real estate under Garrett Rons and was forced to lock the brakes, spinning himself to the infield and causing a caution flag. Two more cautions would wave during the final laps of the race, with Paul Johnson going up in smoke on lap 20 and Cody Bauer losing a left rear wheel on lap 24. The cautions wouldn’t phase Erickson, who went on to collect his first ever win with the AEMODT over Joe Rokos and Chad Bauer.
For the AELMT, a rough race track proved to be too tough to tame for a number of drivers throughout the course of the YellowHose.com 40. Dona Marcoullier led the field to green in the 6M machine before caution flags began to plague the race. By lap nine, three caution flags had flown and seven cars had went to the pits with mechanical problems, including Nick Kurtz, David Mielke and Ryan VanderVeen. From there, cautions were kept at bay for quite some time as Marcoullier continued to set the pace, feeling pressure though from drivers Rich Bell and Jeep VanWormer. For VanWormer, he had worked his way from 16th to 7th by lap nine, and was into the top five by the halfway point of the race. The battle at the front though was short lived on both occasions, as lady luck was not on the side of the leader. Bell made a bold move on the inside of Marcoullier coming out of turn four, taking the lead on lap 25. Without realizing, Bell blew a left front tire down the back stretch and slammed into the turn three wall, ending his night. Just six laps later Marcoullier, who had retaken the lead, blew a right rear tire coming out of turn four bringing out another caution flag, setting up a nine-lap dash to the finish. VanWormer was able to hold off a late race charge from Stemler going back-to-back at Berlin Raceway.
Next up for the American Ethanol Tours is Round Two of Berlin Goes Dirt on Saturday, September 22nd. In round two, the stakes are increased for drivers in both Tours. For the AEMODT, they’ll now race for a $2,000 payday in their 30-lap main event. Not to be outdone, the AELMT will also race for an increased purse, doing battle for $5,000. For tickets, gate times and more, be sure to log onto berlinraceway.com.
For more on the American Ethanol Tours including results, standings and more, log onto your favorite Tour’s website (aelmt.com or aemodt.com). Keep up with your favorite Tour on social media including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and be sure to join the conversation by using the hastag AELMT or AEMODT.
RACE HIGHLIGHTS –
RACE RESULTS -
1.55 Jeep VanWormer
2. 2 Travis Stemler
3. M14 Brandon Thirlby
4. 21A Logan Arntz
5. 87 Rich Neiser
6. 9J Jared Guinn
7. 94 Bill Bray
8. 1 Greg Gokey
9. 6M Dona Marcoullier
10. 27 Eric Spangler
11. 21B Rich Bell
12. 15 Phil Ausra
13. 12F Shannon Fisk
14. 23V Ryan VanderVeen
15. 6 Spencer Blake
16. 1W Michael Luberda