Lawlor Wins 2002 Season Opener at Champion Speedway

Sparks driver Rich Lawlor's Ford Taurus was awesome at Champion Speedway Sunday afternoon, dominating the Late Model 35 lap feature.

Lawlor, who turned around a tough 2001 season with a couple of wins in the late going, carried the momentum into 2002 in convincing fashion. At the checkered flag, Lawlor had a full straightaway lead on 2001 Late Model Champ Chet Danburg.

"The car speaks for itself," said an elated Lawlor after the race.

Danburg agreed, saying "Rich's car has some real steam this year." The race started with Jim Bawden's Monte Carlo grabbing the lead from polesitter Brian Colodny, also Chevy-mounted. Danburg slotted into third, followed by Eric Schmidt from Roseville (Calif.).

Andy McCool spun Henry Hodges' Dodge Truck on lap four, bringing out the caution. On the restart, Danburg passed Colodny for second, and Lawlor also went by for third. Lawlor got his nose under Danburg, and Chet let him go.

"I couldn't block him for 20 laps," Danburg laughed after the race.

On lap 11, Lawlor sailed past Bawden into the lead, and was never challenged. Danburg moved to second, and Bawden ran the next 15 laps with a tight train behind him, consisting of Colodny, Schmidt, Dave Sciarroni in his Dodge's maiden outing, Jeff Tillman's Pontiac, and Big Al Goss and C.J. Bawden in Monte Carlos.

Bawden had started at the back of the pack after six trips to the scales to get his weight above minimum. Schmidt retired with an engine problem on lap 22, and in the final ten laps Colodny lost two places to Sciarroni and Tillman, but otherwise the finishing order was unchanged.

Tillman won the trophy dash, and Danburg and Goss were victorious in the two heat races.

The sportsman division had the smallest car count, but the tightest race. All five starters finished on the lead lap, and the win could have gone to anyone right up to the checker. Joel Worley, moving up from hobby stocks this year, was in the thick of things, battling with Virgil Miller and Gary Nevers the entire race. Nevers got a late start when officials discovered on the grid that he had only the top of his firesuit on (he had jeans on the bottom), and sent him to the pits to don the correct attire. Despite the late start, he took the lead five laps from the end and held it to the checker, followed home by Miller, Worley, Tom Eldridge just a few car lengths back, and Greg Herbold.

Honors were spread around, with Miller winning the trophy dash and Eldridge taking the heat race victory.

Thirteen hobby stocks provided the biggest field of the day, and their usual exciting racing action. At the green flag former hobby stock champ Don Hill began working his Ford toward the front, with Chris Betz following him through the pack. The pair had taken over the first two spots when Bill Gould spun in Turn Two, bringing out a caution. Rick Garmann, Allen Hunter and Chris Anderson had also worked their way up the field, to third, fourth and fifth respectively. Shortly after the restart Betz spun all by himself in Turn Four and was collected by Anderson, ending the race for both drivers. Gould and Robert Coleman had retired with mechanical problems, and Rocky Boice Jr. was black-flagged for dropping fluid.

Seven cars took the green on the restart, but Boice rejoined a couple of laps later to make it eight. Hill motored to an apparently easy victory, with Garmann in second. The remaining drama was the battle for third, with Matt Collier wresting the spot from Hunter on the last lap.

Garmann took the trophy dash win, while Hill and Ed Sykes won the heat races.

South Lake Tahoe's Mike Morrissey Jr. drove all night after a Legends win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday evening, and scored his second victory of the weekend at Champion Speedway.

Morrissey's car looked like it had rocket-assisted takeoff on the start and subsequent restarts, carving through the field like a hot knife through butter. Jim Klopp spun on lap two and fell to the rear of the field, but charged back through to finish second. 2001 Legends champ Monte Adcock came out just before the green, having completed repairs from a heat race crash, and finished third, making it a clean sweep for South Lake Tahoe drivers.

He was followed by Wayne Estes of Milpitas (Calif.), who also had to make repairs due to the same heat race mishap. George Weeks rounded out the top five, followed by Johnny Morrissey (Mike's brother), Bill Brown, Mike Wright, and Bob Cose. Mike Morrissey scored a hat trick by also winning the trophy dash and his heat race. Cose won the other heat.

Next weekend, racing at Champion returns to its normal Saturday night format, with the new 360 Sprint Car division featured, as well as the first outing for the Outlaw Karts on the new infield dirt oval. Legends, Bandoleros, and Hobby Stocks will round out the program.


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