Updated: May 10
Flat Rock, MI - In the story of a season, opening day provides a great opportunity to begin the first chapter.
Opening Day at Flat Rock settled in under sunny and cloudy skies, as action rocked Metro Detroit for the first green flag in 245 days. This day of racing featured new winners, alongside many familiar names in the Monroe Asphalt Winners Circle.
Qualifying began as a unique one, as no defending champion from 2022 topped the board in the first practice session of the season. In the ARCA DTS Drive Train Specialists Street Stocks division, 2022 champion Jeremy Vanderhoof would qualify outside of the top five, giving way to a strong performance by Jonathan Rangel in the #45 car. Rangel is still searching for his first victory at Flat Rock Speedway, but if this opening qualifying session is any indication, this year may be an ample opportunity for the youngster to visit victory lane.
In the ARCA Moran Chevrolet Outlaw Super Late Models, Justin Claucherty would shock with a fast qualifying performance. Claucherty, a Central Michigan University grad and former science teacher, would take pole over local favorites such as Chris Benson and Eric Lee. In the ARCA R&M Recycling Figure 8 division, Greg Studt would take a great step to begin his 2023 season, with a fast qualifying performance over Billy Earley and Jakob Lee.
Racing would get started later in the day, with a great group of heat races at Flat Rock Speedway. Paul Pelletier would take the first heat race of 2023 with a win over Scott Hantz and Conner Zbozien. This would be in addition to Rob Randa taking a heat win in his first time out in the #76 Outlaw Super Late Model.
A number of ARCA DTS Drive Train Specialists Street Stock heat races followed, first up with Greg Studt over Kenyon Knight, and Heat 2 came with a competitive victory by Caleb Barron over Arnold Kirsch. Brandon Randa would be the second Randa of the night to take a heat win, this time in the third heat of the night over Chris Diovardi, his first ever checkered flag at Flat Rock Speedway. Lonnie York topped Troy Brehmer in the B Main heat event.
R&M Recycling Figure 8 action followed in the heats, with Brice Thomsen taking the first of the night, and Dennis Whisman Jr taking a competitive win over Stephanie Bradley in the second heat. The feature events would be next to follow, and the first feature race of 2023 proved to be a wild one.
An action-packed 50 lap ARCA Moran Chevrolet Late Model Feature started the evening portion off well. A great field of 16 competitive late models would get started under partly cloudy skies and a great racing atmosphere. At the start, a competitive start of the race between Chris Benson and 2022 Outlaw Super Late Model runner-up Conner Zbozien would wow the large audience in Flat Rock. The 50-lap feature began with multiple laps of side-by-side racing between the two local stars, with Chris Benson eventually taking the lead with a strong move on the outside. A flurry of cautions would marr the second quarter of the race, with incidents that took out a number of hard chargers including Rob Randa and others. Chris Benson would maintain his lead after the second restart of the race on lap 18, and would take a lead over Eric Lee, Justin Claucherty, and Zbozien during the middle portion of the race. A strong lead by Benson would evaporate in lapped traffic by lap 36, as an accordion of Benson, Lee, and Claucherty would tail into the final laps of the race. Claucherty slid under Chris as he got loose in turn 4 in the closing laps and grabbed his first Flat Rock victory of his career.
Jeremy Vanderhoof dominated the first portion of the first 25 lap ARCA DTS Drive Train Specialists Street Stock A-Main of 2023, a race which featured a number of great battles throughout the pack. Douglas Litogot kept the 2023 champion honest throughout the race, frequently reaching the bumper of the #4 while competing for a potential win. Midpack brought the action to Metro Detroit, as Landon Schuster, Jonathan Rangel, and Rob Moore Jr led a pack of great battles, including three wide moves all throughout, especially as lapped traffic became a factor in the last portion of the event. Vanderhoof, the 2022 champion, would not be denied as he took the checkered flag narrowly over Douglas Litogot, a victory of less than one second in the caution-free race.
In the 15 lap ARCA DTS Drive Train Specialists Street Stock B-Main, Troy Brehmer would take his first victory in years at Flat Rock Speedway. The driver faced a healthy amount of competition including Ian Jezylo, Lonnie York in a fast #25 car, Chuck Pankow, and newcomer David Fisher.
Closing out an action-packed night at the speedway, the 20 lap ARCA R&M Recycling Figure 8 division returned with a bang on Opening Night. Greg Studt would take a convincing victory over two Earleys in Billy and Travis, followed by Jeremy Vanderhoof and Dennis Whisman in a new-look number 1 to fill out the top five.
Coming Up Next...
Afternoon racing continues Saturday, May 13 at Flat Rock Speedway, with another slate of action on the Level Pebble featuring the stars of the Moran Chevrolet Outlaw Super Late Model, DTS Drive Train Specialists Street Stock, and R &M Recycling Figure 8 divisions. A special name will be behind the wheel, as NASCAR Alumni Ken Schrader has announced his intentions to compete on this day of racing. Race time is 4 PM. This is a part of Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club Day at the speedway, a day that is also expected to have USAC Silver Crown and 500 Sprint Car Tour star Taylor Ferns in attendance.
Gates and ticket office open at 2, and racing begins at 4 p.m. for Saturday, May 13.
Story - Flat Rock Speedway
Photo - Rand Thompson