Oakshade Raceway kicked off it’s 40th season with some exciting racing action, highlighted by Brian Ruhlman’s UMP Late Model win.
The 25-lap UMP Late Model feature event produced quite a few lead changes with Devin Shiels getting the advantage over Traverse City, Michigan’s Brandon Thirlby, but Thirlby would fight back to take the lead on lap two. Shiels continued to work the outside and was able to get back beside Thirlby to challenge again for the lead. At about the same time, 2014 Champion Rusty Schlenk joined the battle to go three-wide for the lead. Shiels was able to regain the lead briefly on lap 12, but Schlenk disposed of both Shiels and Thirlby to become the leader on lap 13.
Herb Reich and Ken Hahn were battling at the back of the field as the leaders were closing in. Reich got into Hahn, spinning him around just in front of Schlenk to bring out the caution flag. Clarklake, Michigan’s Brian Ruhlman had worked his way up to second and moved up alongside Schlenk for the double-file restart. Ruhlman capitalized on the opportunity and snatched the lead away from Schlenk on lap 16. After a late caution involving Dusty Moore and Hillard Miller, Ruhlman got a great restart and was able to open just a little distance between himself and Schlenk on his way to the first checkered flag of the season. Finishing third behind Schlenk was Shiels with Thirlby hanging on to finish fourth. Casey Noonan had a great run to finish fifth after getting caught up in an early wreck on lap two.
Mathew Chapman made an impressive debut in the UMP Sportsman class, winning his heat event and then taking the early lead in the Bill Reckner Memorial feature event. Chapman darted out in front of Billy Brown at the start and opened up a good lead. Jamie Grochowski marched his way steadily toward the front and caught Chapman. Grochowski took the lead away on lap 14 of the 20-lap race. Bob Gregory made an incredible move on the final lap to the inside of Grochowski in the final corners. The two drivers charged off turn four side by side with the checkered flag waving just ahead. Gregory narrowly edged out Grochowski for the win. Chapman from Tecumseh, Michigan, held on to finish third in his first UMP Sportsman feature after moving up from the Bomber class. Joe Smith was fourth and Bruce Stuart took fifth.
Chris Sands started on the pole of the Bill Reckner Memorial Bomber A Main and led the entire distance with Jeff Foks knocking on his heels most of the way. Craig Dippman made a late charge toward the front after starting seventh. He was able to get by Foks for second, but was unable to get by Sands at the finish. Foks slipped back to finish third followed by Chris Henry and Skeet Reckner.
Brogan Rehklau took the lead early in an eventful Bill Reckner Memorial Sport Compact feature. John Martis started sixth and quickly closed in on Rehklau. Martis dove to the inside to take the lead from Rehklau on a restart about halfway through the race. Another late caution set up one lap race to the finish with Aaron Barrick making a nice move to the inside in the final set of corners. Barrick and Martis finished in almost a dead heat, but Barrick had just enough to earn the victory over Martis. Cory Gumm started deep in the field and ended up third, followed by Chris Miler and Cody Stetten.
Rick Dixon survived a crazy Bomber B Main to become the final feature winner of the night. Multiple cautions marred the event and Dixon was even caught up in one of those incidents. Jim Plotts took off to a decent lead over Nick Fenner during some of the green flag laps, but Fenner took the lead after a restart. Plotts and Fenner had a heated battle much of the race with Dixon eventually closing in to third. Plotts had the lead at the white flag, but spun in turn two and collected Fenner. Dixon assumed the lead for a one-lap shootout to the finish and claimed the victory over Scott Barnhart and Rayce Price. Plotts came back to finish fourth with Aaron Van Pelt taking fifth.
Great racing action continues Saturday, May 9 at Oakshade Raceway with another full show of UMP Late Models, UMP Sportsman, Bombers and Compacts. Gates open at 4pm with racing at 7pm.