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Cottage Grove Speedway

Vitale edges Shank for victory in I-5 opener

May 23, 2009, 4:50 am
By Craig Cassell
DirtonDirt.com correspondent

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. (May 22) — Taking the lead with two laps remaining, Casey Vitale of Albany, Ore., captured the season opener on the DIRTcar I-5 Northwest Late Model Tour at Cottage Grove Speedway. Vitale, who slipped past Jeremy Shank of Salem, Ore., amid lapped traffic in turn four, earned $1,500 for his third career series victory and first since 2006.

Shank settled for second as the series entered the DIRTcar era while Ken Michelli of Live Oak, Calif., finished third. Springfield, Ore., drivers Mike Miller and Paul Culp rounded out the top five at the quarter-mile oval south of Eugene. Five cautions slowed the action.

The victory was Vitale's third in a row at Cottage Grove as he notched weekly Late Model victories on May 9 and 16.

Notes: Vitale's previous series victory came Sept. 16, 2006, at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore. ... The series has May 23-24 events scheduled at Willamette, but because of a disagreement with track officials, Vitale isn't allowed to compete at the track. ... Vitale had problems with his car's water pump earlier in the night but made repairs before the feature. ... The most serious incident of the night came during qualifying when Ron Shinkle of Monmouth, Ore., hit the turn-four wall and flipped three times down the straightaway; he wasn't injured, but the car as severely damaged. ... Jesse Williamson, a Northwest modified standout, made his first-ever Late Model start in Craig Hanson's backup GRT Race Car. Engine problems hampered Williamson along with Russ Sell, Cody Sell, Justin Simpson and Bob Boyd, who was running in the top 10 in the feature when he dropped out with seven laps remaining. ... After setting fast time, Justin Dittman of Albany, Ore., had a flat right rear tire in his heat race after contact with Jeremy Shank; he won the B-Main to make the main event, but steering problems forced him out early. ... Randy Neal of Lincoln City finished third in his heat race, but he lost the transfer spot when he failed to go to the scales after the checkered flag. ... In the main event, John Duty of Portland, Ore., started 11th but fell back to 19th on the first lap after hitting a greasy spot in turn two, nearly losing control. Duty rallied to finish eighth. ... Among drivers failing to make the feature event were Bend, Ore., drivers Darren Coffell and Rob Mayea, last year's I-5 Series champion. ... Coffell broke a right-rear wheel in his heat race and got caught up in a wreck that ended his night. ... Mayea broke his car's panhard bar in the heat and struggled with handling issues the rest of the night. ... Craig Hanson of Albany, Ore., was the feature's hard charger with his 20th-to-11th run. ... Jimmy Whisler of Otis, Ore., was the first driver out of the race after he hit the wall early, causing suspension problems.

I-5 @ Cottage Grove: (1) Casey Vitale, (2) Jeremy Shank, (3) Ken Michelli, (4) Mike Miller, (5) Paul Culp, (6) Rob Campos, (7) Mark Carrell, (8) John Duty, (9) Mike DeSilva, (10) Steve Moore, (11) Craig Hanson, (12) Rick Wyatt, (13) Rob Ireland, (14) Greg Brittan, (15) Ryan Gerig, (16) Bob Boyd, (17) Don Muth Sr., (18) Dane Smith, (19) Russ Sell, (20) Justin Dittman, (21) Jimmy Whisler. Fast qualifier (among 39 cars): Dittman, 12.76 seconds. Heat race winners: Vitale, Shan, Whisler, Culp. C-Main winner: Stroup. B-Main winner: Dittman. Dash winner: Michelli.

Correction: Fixes Dittman's hometown; fixes car count.

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