UPIR: Five double winners at Sunday’s races

By John Vrancic


ESCANABA – Five drivers became double winners Sunday at the Upper Peninsula International Raceway, but not all of them used the same method to get the job done during the UPIR Esky 150 races for United Way of Delta County.

“I held the inside lane, which I think made it harder for the other drivers to pass,” said Joe Johnson of Escanaba, who won the street stock feature and first heat. “They had to go outside, if they wanted to beat me.

“We also made some adjustments with the rear spring and really tightened up the car. We should climb up in the standings (from eighth) after today, which gives me motivation to keep going.”

Paul Wagner of Escanaba was runner-up and Greg Bruce of Gladstone placed third in the feature.

Jared Cech of Eagle River, Wis., who captured the 600 microsprint feature and first heat, took a different approach.

“The key today was finding some good grip by going higher,” said Cech. “When it’s hot and sunny, it’s hard to keep the moisture in the clay. The track was pretty slick up to about two-thirds of the way out from the edge. We really enjoy coming here, though. We drive 2 1/2 hours to get here because they really care about the drivers. They do a great job over here.”

Jason Irving of Escanaba took second, with John Mathias of Wilson third in the feature.

Gary Dubord, Jr. of Escanaba, in his first full season of racing at UPIR, took the checkered flag in the 650 microsprint feature and first heat.

“Knowing how to set the car up and having Mike Dicely from Hypes Racing as our main sponsor were the keys for us,” said Dubord, who won for the seventh time in eight races, including all four features, this season. “The track was a little rough and dry (due to the sunny and warm conditions), but it was the same for everyone. We’ve put a lot of time into our car. But with my wife’s, dad’s and brother’s support, we get it done.”

In the feature, Dubord was followed by Brooke Mathias of Wilson and Dave Hosking of Hyde.

Dale Peterson captured the IMCA modified feature and second heat.

Chris Pepin led much of the feature, but settled for second in a race in which clouds of dust often made it difficult to tell who the leaders were. John Ostermann of Niagara, Wis. was third.

“Actually, it was okay,” said Peterson. “There was no dust on the inside (of the car). There was no traction either.”

A three-car pile-up took place during that feature, but two of the drivers returned to the race and the other was able to walk away from the mishap.

Jesse Liss of Bark River emerged as the winner of the junior sprint feature and heat races.

Eric LaFreniere of Norway won the 4/6-cylinder feature and was runner-up to Randy DeGrave of Escanaba in the second heat.

“This was pretty much luck,” said LaFreniere. “I was down at my dad’s home in Illinois last night when a buddy called me and let me know the races were today. I thought they were last (Saturday) night. I got home at about 3 this morning, got a couple hours of sleep and came over. I had no plans on racing this weekend, but I’ll take that.”

Rob Iverson of Escanaba took second and Chris Olsen of Gladstone was third in the feature.

All heat races equaled 150 laps in commemoration of Escanaba’s 150th birthday. Lap sponsors contributed $25 per lap, of which $20 went to the United Way of Delta County and $5 went to the racers’ payback purse. A 50/50 drawing to help the United Way was also held.

“We were asked to do something special for the sesquicentennial,” said Kathy Rose, a volunteer at the track. “This is our way of giving something back to the community and celebrating Escanaba’s 150th birthday.”

Racing at UPIR resumes with the Blast from the Past races, featuring the Milwaukee Vintage Modifieds, on July 27 at 6 p.m.