Flashback: 2003 Lancaster U.S. Open article & results


I was checking something out and found this. I though that I would share it. The names that are brought back and how things have changed after ten years is really amazing.


By Dave Buchanan

Anything that could happen just about did happen during the fifteenth edition of the Budweiser U.S. Open at the Lancaster Motorsports Park.  Great racing, close finishes, crashes, controversy, bad weather, great weather, and about 200 cars all attempting to win during the biggest race event in Western New York made for a weekend to remember. 

Of course the highlight of the weekend was the ?Troyer Race Cars 125? series finale for the Sunoco Race of Champions Modified Tour.  Thirty-seven cars attempted to make the starting field, with 33 taking the opening green.  Second-generation standout Patsy Catalano started on the pole alongside L.M.P.-regular Brett Scherrer.  They would trade the lead during the first 2 laps until Catalano took control, however it wouldn?t last long.  2003 Visteon Modified track champion and Race of Champions winner, Sege Fidanza, started third and quickly dispatched of the younger Catalano on lap 4 as he looked to put the finishing touches on an amazing season.

Fidanza quickly distanced himself from the field with Scherrer in tow during the early stages.  The first caution of the day took place on lap 11 as New Jersey-native Jim Willis spun on the front stretch while former Lancaster track champions, Kenny Troyer and Todd Burley, tangled not too far away from Willis.  Troyer would drop out of the race, while Willis and Burley continued on.  During the yellow flag period, George Kent dropped out of the race due to mechanical problems.  Luckily for the ?Duke? he had already put a lock on the overall title for the R.o.C. Tour. 

The top three remained the same during several caution periods as the race drew near the halfway point.  Pennsylvania drivers, Matt Hirschman and Zane Zeiner, made appearances in the top five.  Hirschman pitted on lap 45, while Zeiner made his way to third until Tim Mangus got past him on lap 63.  Mangus then passed Scherrer for second right before Scherrer spun out on lap 65 and collected Buck Catalano. 

With 60 laps remaining Fidanza led Mangus, Tony Hanbury, Zeiner and Patsy Catalano with tire wear starting to set in for some teams.  After another stretch of green flags, the 4 cars running behind Fidanza all pitted during a caution period on lap 86 along with J.R. Kent, T.J. Potrzebowski, and Rick Kluth.

That moved Donny Staubitz to second who pitted early in the race following a spin, while Bill Mislin and Tom McGrath were bumped up to third and fourth respectively.  Those 3 cars would tangle on the restart causing another caution giving Billy Putney the runner-up spot with 35 laps to go.  Putney had been in and out of the pits all afternoon but was now poised to take the lead.  When racing resumed Putney began working over Fidanza for the top spot.  He passed Fidanza on lap 102, however Matt Hirschman crashed hard into the turn 1 wall bringing out the caution.  With caution laps not counting after lap 100, the pass was negated as scoring reverted to the last completed lap. 

The long-time rivals would go at it again but this time Fidanza and Putney banged wheels going into turn 1 on lap 107 and Putney was sent spinning causing yet another caution.  This put Larry Jackson in the second spot with Zane Zeiner, J.R. Kent, Larry Havens, and T.J. Potrzebowski running in the top five.  The final caution of the race took place on lap 111 after a scary wreck by pole-sitter Patsy Catalano.  He hit the turn 3 wall and cart wheeled the car in mid-air.  Fortunately, Catalano was able to walk away from the incident unharmed.

The race restarted with Zeiner in second behind Fidanza, and the Bath, PA driver wasted no time in challenging the ?Superman.?  With the newer tires Zeiner was able to get underneath Fidanza on lap 114 bringing the crowd to their feet in excitement.  Zeiner then pulled away for the final 10 laps to take the win and the $7,500 top prize.

It was redemption for Zeiner who led 106 laps of the Race of Champions 200 three weeks earlier at Oswego but lost the lead after having to pit.  This time pit strategy paid off as changing tires late in the race helped in getting to the front.  However, those tires weren?t exactly new.  According to the Zeiner crew, three of the tires on the car at race?s end were used tires that were thrown out by other drivers at Oswego.  The tires hardened up after sitting for 3 weeks and it was the right compound for the tricky LMP racing surface. 

Fidanza wound up second but didn?t go home empty handed.  He earned plenty of lap money from the Bill Colton Memorial Lucky 15 lap program after leading more than 100 laps including the halfway lap, which earned him $500 from the RoC Tour.  Billy Putney rallied late in the race to finish third.  Veteran Larry Havens came home fourth, and T.J. Potrzebowski completed the top five. 

Lee Sherwood finished sixth and won a brand new Troyer chassis by winning a special drawing for the top 5 finishing Troyer drivers.  Sherwood also won the consi, which was interrupted by an hour-long rain delay.  All 4 heat winners, Patsy Catalano, Tony Hanbury, George Kent, and Tom McGrath, received a $500 bonus from the Colton family in memory of longtime racing supporter Bill Colton who passed away last winner.  Bobby Osgood won the $500 Gater Racing News driver bonus draw.

Not to be outdone by their open-wheeled counterparts the Late Models boasted 39 entries all trying to make the 30-car starting field for their 75-lap feature.  The #98 of Joe Brainard started on the pole with cagey veteran John Julicher to his outside.  They would hook up with Shawn Dunning to make 3-car break away from the rest of the field. 

Brainard held off the advances of Dunning and Julicher for the first half off the race but lost the lead to Dunning on lap 36.  Two laps later, Brainard and Julicher tangled while running for second, taking them out of contention.  This moved the #27 of Holland Speedway regular Dan Domanowski to the second spot with his Holland-rival Vern Bliss in third. 

Domanowski kept pace with Dunning for a while but couldn?t keep up with the Race of Champions winner as the laps wore down.  Bliss reeled in Domanowski late in the race and passed him for second with just 7 laps to go.  Dunning would cross the finish line first, but following post-race inspection he was disqualified giving Vern Bliss his second career U.S. Open victory.  Domanowski was awarded second.  Bob Nye wrapped up a great late-season run with a third place showing.  Dave Russell finished fourth, and Julicher made his way back to fifth. 

Rookie-sensation Bobby Holmes won the 30-lap Sportsman feature.  Holmes inherited the lead on lap 19 after leaders Nick Cappelli and Joey Manko tangled in turn 1.  He then held off Jerry Gradl Jr. to win his third race of his first full season in the Sportsman.  Just like Zeiner in the Modifieds, Holmes started on the pole at Oswego and led a good portion of the race until mechanical problems knocked him out of the race.

Craig Orr led all but one of the 30-lap Jerry Gradl Motors Super Stock feature.  Pole sitter Dave Krawczyk led the first lap but Orr made a gutsy move on lap 2 to take the lead and he would never look back.  Jay Mudra and Doug Evans were on his tail all the way to the finish but couldn?t get around the 51 of Orr.  They would finish second and third while Rich Skora and John Durso completed the top five. 

Kyle Sharpe was the second rookie driver to win a U.S. Open feature in 2003 after leading all 30 laps of the Glen Campbell Chevrolet Street Stock feature.  Sharpe started on the pole and stayed in front all race long.  It was third win in a stellar rookie campaign for the former go-kart racer.  Tom Agen tried chasing him down but couldn?t get close enough and had to settle for second place.  Bobby Hanel Jr., John Shurmatz, and Zach Myers posted top five finishes.   

It was quite a finish in the FM Communications T.Q. Midget feature.  On the final lap James Michael Friesen ducked under Dave Wollaber to take the second spot in turn 2 and then got under race leader Chris Bandelian in turn 4 for his second-career U.S. Open victory.  Bandelian had led from lap 2 until that lap 29 pass as the young guns, Friesen and Wollaber, proved to be too strong late in the race.  A.J. Hessler was credited with the fourth place and Vinnie Christiano Jr. finished in fifth. 

On Saturday night the Cup Lite series completed their season with a 50-lap feature.  While Bill Burd secured the series title just by starting the race, Jeff Price stole the show by leading 40 laps for his second Cup Lite win at Lancaster in 2003.  Scott Wylie finished second, Dennis Tybor third, Burd fourth, and Bryan Weisenburg in fifth. 

The U.S. Open completes the 2003 racing season at the Lancaster Motorsports Park.  Special thanks and congratulations goes out to all the competitors, officials, staff, and most importantly the race fans who made L.M.P. the place to be Saturday nights throughout the season.



Heat Winners ? Tony Hanbury, George Kent, Tom McGrath, Patsy Catalano

Consi Winner ? Lee Sherwood

Feature ? ZANE ZEINER, Sege Fidanza, Billy Putney, Larry Havens, T.J. Potrzebowski, Lee Sherwood, J.R. Kent, Bill Mislin, Larry Jackson, Tony Hanbury, Jerry Boerman, Rick Kluth, Todd Burley, Patsy Catalano, Donny Staubitz, Jim Willis, Brett Scherrer, John Markovic, Matt Hirschman, Tim Mangus, Rich Littlefield, Tom McGrath, Buck Catalano, Kevin Timmerman, Bobby Osgood, Bill Hebing, Dave Wollaber, Jim Flanigan, Eddie Murray, Karl Hehr, George Kent, Kenny Troyer and Jerry Gradl Jr.


Heat Winners ? Dan Domanowski, Bob Nye, Todd Hoddick, Vern Bliss

Consi Winner ? Bobby Weber

Feature ? VERN BLISS, Dan Domanowski, Bob Nye, Dave Russell, John Julicher, Jeff Brown Jr., Don Irving, Bobby Weber, George Skora III, Chris Ross, Jason Petri, Bill Catania, Bill Allen Jr., Troy Williams, T.J. Johnson, Terry Weldy, Art Hill, Mark Bliss, Mike Catalano, Mike Davis, Joe Brainard, Bill Adamczyk, Mark Pennell, Todd Hoddick, Ron Nurmi, Glenn Gault Jr., Joe Carbone, Dan Habuda and Chris Zacharias. DQ: Shawn Dunning.


Heat Winners ? Bobby Holmes, Ron Williams, Jerry Gradl Jr.

Feature ? BOBBY HOLMES, Jerry Gradl Jr., Ron Williams, Rick Kluth, Jim Pierce, Nick Cappelli, Joey Manko, Roger Baranyi, Jamie Havens, Mike Rogers, Steve Hoxie, Sherri Hogan, Neal Dietz Jr., Ed Grimmer, John Gast Jr., Butch Drennan, Chuck Kuhn, Frank Booker Jr., Russ Gian, Ed Weber, Jim Flanigan, Tom Wiest, Justin Shepker, Don Wylie, Greg Martin, Ken Heckler, Chuck Anderson, Dave Powis and Paul Faleski.


Heat Winners ? John Durso, Doug Evans

Feature ? CRAIG ORR, Jay Mudra, Doug Evans, Rich Skora, John Durso, Ed Lechner, Wayne Bernhard, A.J. Cole, Bobby Lippa Jr., Mike Scott, Brian Richeal, Dave Krawczyk, Billy Coyle, Moose Rutherford, Jay Canonico, Jeff Merritt, Joe Fetzer and Tom Carney.


Heat Winners ? Zach Myers, Rob Bulger, Kyle Sharpe

Feature ? KYLE SHARPE, Tom Agen, Bobby Hanel Jr., John Shurmatz, Zach Myers, Frank Batista Jr., Tim Garlock, Rob Bulger, Rick Widmer, Don Deville, Tim Offhaus, Chris Ford, Marty Hughes, Gary Light, Pete Hackett, Shane Porter, Shawn Warthling, Jerry Carpenter, Tim Geary, Neal Poodry, Chuck Hughes, Joe Mergel, Charles Urbino, Scott Mutka, Brendan Northrup, Lou Easterday and Mark Pew.


Heat Winners ? Dave Wollaber, Jamie Collard

Feature ? JAMES MICHAEL FRIESEN, Chris Bandelian, Dave Wollaber, A.J. Hessler, Vinnie Christiano Jr., Wayne Turnbull, Jamie Collard, Dan Lawrence, Dave Balych, Colin Turnbull, Paul Smoth, Jim Fleischman, Chad Haywood, Mike Blair, Curtis Friesen, Jared Turnbull, Craig Mackereth, D.J. Sossong, Shawn Szejnar and Jim Lafler.


Heat Winners ? Jeff Price, Bill Burd

Feature ? JEFF PRICE, Scott Wylie, Dennis Tybor, Bill Burd, Bryan Weisenburg, Dave Whittaker, Dave Rigan, Kevin Blakely, Scott Fritz, Glenn Attanasio, Michael Czuprynski, Kirk Sherwood, Leo Becker, Gary Lounsbury and Dan Tybor.