Eric Beers did not begin his weekend at Lancaster Raceway Park's 17th annual US Open Weekend in grand fashion, but he sure ended it in style, passing Tim Mangus with six laps remaining to win the Sunoco Race of Champions (ROC) Modified Tour 125, Sunday, the marquee event of the Open.
Beers had problems in his heat race Saturday night and had to run in one of the two last chance B-Mains run early Sunday afternoon to qualify for the ROC Modified 125. He won a B-Main and earned the right to start 22nd in the 31-car field. He turned his weekend around from there.
"I must had eaten too many Wheaties when I came here," said Beers of Northampton, Pa. "I ripped the shifter right out on the start of the heat race. We had to come through the B-Main but the car pulled nice through the turns and it just stayed under me the whole race."
Beers pitted on lap 49 and worked his way through the traffic in the middle stages of the race.
"Everybody in the race today was fast and we had to pick and choose our spots so that we wouldn't kill our tires," said Beers, who earned his first US Open win. "I let Timmy go for a little bit there and tried to keep the tires to the end. Joe (Skotnicki, team spotter) did a great job of calling when we should pit and it worked out."
Mangus, who announced his retirement this past weekend, placed second followed by Danny Knoll Jr. Matt Hirschman was sixth to lock up the Sunoco Race of Champions Modified Tour championship.
Also Sunday, 2005 Holland Speedway NASCAR Late Model champion Mark Bliss took off from his pole position and led every lap to dominate the Late Model 75. Bliss drove the Bobby Weber-owned car to his first US Open win over Todd Hoddick and Glenn Gault.
"That's a beautiful place to start," said Bliss of the pole position he earned in the pre-race draw. "I couldn't believe it when I drew the number and the other 11 guys in the draw went, 'What the heck . . .' The car was the same from start to finish."
Lancaster Super Stock 2005 champion Wayne Bernhard put the exclamation point on his season by outgunning Doug Evans in an early battle and then went on to take the checkered flag in the 30-lap affair over Mike Scott and Jay Mudra. It was Bernhard's first US Open victory in the caution-free race.
"After the last week of racing two weeks ago we had to go through tech and got torn down. We're thinking, why bother putting the motor back together?" said Bernhard following his first US Open triumph. "But you know what -- why not? We're racers and we wanted to come out here and get that last win of the year with a US Open victory."
Tim Garlock held off the last-ditch challenge of Dave Johnson to win the Street Stock 30. Garlock passed Offhaus on lap 12. "I was worried about Dave but I held on," said Garlock.
Veteran Wayne Turnbull passed 13-year-old rookie Erick Rudolph on lap 18 to win the TQ Midget 25-lap main event.
In Saturday night's feature portion of the US Open, Scott Wylie came within three laps of sweeping both Cup Lite 25-lap events, and Dave Whittaker earned the 2005 Cup Lites season points championship.
Wylie, the defending Cup Lite champion, took the lead in the first event early and basically waltzed to the victory, his first US Open career win. In the nightcap event, Wylie was again at the front of the field, sporting a 10-car length advantage over Dennis Tybor. Suddenly Wylie suffered a mechanical problem on lap 22 and had to head to the infield pit road. Tybor inherited the top spot and the win. Despite dropping out of the second race early Whittaker had enough of a point cushion to claim the Cup Lite season title.
Also Saturday, Bill Hebing started 24th in the SST Sportsman 75 but through hard driving and field attrition came to the front, passing leader Justin Shepker on lap 60. The veteran then held off Kirk Rutherford, who started 22nd, and Hebing's teammate Brian Bowen over the remaining distance.
The US Open Weekend concluded Lancaster's 2005 stock car racing season.
Victory Lane / Weekend winners
Lancaster Raceway Park
US OPEN STOCK CARS
ROC Modified: Eric Beers
Late Models: Mark Bliss
SST Sportsman: Bill Hebing
Super Stocks: Wayne Bernhard
Street Stocks: Tim Garlock
Cup Lites: Scott Wylie, Dennis Tybor
TQ Midgets: Wayne Turnbull
Street Stocks: Dana Aiken
Mini Stocks: Rob Goulding
Enduro: Tim Haniszewski
Little Valley Speedway
Late Models: David Scott
Super Stocks: Bill Holmes
358 Modified: Curt Van Pelt
Street Stocks: Brett Smith