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Apr 12, 2008 10:41 PM EDT

Justin Barger, Steve Paine, Rick Hench and Nick Cooper Big Winners at Black Rock

By RICH VLECK


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DUNDEE, NY - The bad weather might have stayed away from Dundee, NY on Saturday, but that didn’t keep a hurricane from destroying the modified field at the Black Rock Speedway.

Steve Paine picked up the $3,000-to-win modified season opener in convincing fashion, lapping up to eighth place and cruising to a half-track lead to make a resounding statement as he begins his title defense.

“I had heard they added some clay here and that it was pretty smooth, for a spring race it really was,” said Paine. “I just have to thank Dean (Hoag) and everyone for putting these big-money races together for us, helps to keep us racing.”

By virtue of the first-night redraw system, Paine was able to transfer a fourth place finish in his heat into a fifth place starting spot in the feature. He quickly moved up to third and then slid into second on lap five after moving around Mike Mahaney. The Waterloo, NY veteran began to stalk Ray Bliss for the lead when the caution flew on lap seven. ON the ensuing restart, the topside was the “Paine Lane”, as the No. 7x took the lead and never looked back.

Even though the race was well in hand for Paine, he had to scramble to put it in Victory Lane. “I’ve got to thank Eric Fisher for giving me some tires for tonight, we didn’t have our stuff with us tonight and they helped us out.”

While Paine was driving to an easy win, the battle was tight between Ray Bliss and Brian Swarthout for second. Bliss looked to have it well in command but a lap car, ironically Swarthout’s team car of Craig Gardner, slowed up the 27z, allowing the 2005 and 2006 Champion to move into second where he would stay for the remainder of the 30 lap event.

Rookie Mike Mahaney looked strong all night, taking advantage of a front row starting position to place fourth, with Chris Clark rounding out the top-five.

In the Central New York Mini Sprint event, expert chassis builder Rick Hench commanded the feature, picking up his first win with CNYMS in almost two years.

The Newport, PA driver lead all 20 laps of a fast-moving feature, lapping up to seventh place in the season opener.

“Starting up front definitely helped but we had a good setup today,” said the driver of the Henchraft No. 1. “Leading out in front I didn’t know if anyone was close, but I guess we were OK.”

As Hench stretched out his advantage, Ralph Utter had an impressive opening performance in Kenny Latour’s No. 36, holding off two-time defending champion Don Harvey Jr. for second. Mike Kiser drove an all-black car up to a fourth place finish after missing his heat race. Jerry Sehn put a solid run together to round out the top-five.

Nick Cooper kicked off the 2008 New York Modified Midget season on the right note, holding off Timex Morgan in the closing laps to equal his 2007 win total on the first night.

Cooper led the balance of the race, running a low line around the 4/10-mile, which was just enough to hold off Morgan, Jim Lafler, Erick Rudolph and Pat Jordan.

To close out the night, The No. 47 of Nick Warner picked up the win in the first enduro of the season.

Racing action switches over to the standard Friday Night program this upcoming week, with a full slate of modifieds, sportsman, late models, street stocks, 4-cylinders and bandits starting promptly at 6:45 p.m.