Johnny VanDoorn scored a hard-fought, emotional Redbud 400 victory for his ailing father earlier this month at Anderson Speedway. With one ARCA/CRA Super Series crown jewel win already this year, he’s ready to battle for another big victory this Saturday during the Battle at Berlin 251.
VanDoorn, of nearby Nunica, Michigan, is a two-time winner of the event. However, this year’s race will be different than those he’s won in the past.
This year’s Battle at Berlin 251 features a new format, with the race being the first-ever combination event for the ARCA/CRA Super Series and the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, as well as the weekly Super Late Models at Berlin Raceway.
Regardless of the format, the Battle at Berlin is a race the three-time Super Series champion always looks forward to given the amount of talent expected to roll into West Michigan.
“It’s always a good race, Berlin has two grooves of racing, tire management’s a lot like the Snowball (Derby) where you get comers and goers, it’s just so hard on tires,” VanDoorn told Speed51.com. “Brian Campbell always runs well up there, Boris (Jurkovic) runs good, we’ve got a lot of out-of-towners coming, Bubba (Pollard)’s coming. There’s probably eight to ten guys that legitimately could win this thing even on a bad night. It’s going to be a tough race, it always is. It’s a really long race, 251 laps around Berlin. A lot of strategy comes into play; you’ve got to be aggressive but you’ve got to take care of the tires.”
VanDoorn is a big fan of the ARCA/CRA Super Series/JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour combination idea for this year’s Battle at Berlin 251, having been the one to propose the idea after last year’s event was cancelled due to a low number of entries. He sees it as an opportunity to build car counts for the race back up while giving Pro Late Model drivers valuable experience competing in extra-distance races.
“I think it’s a good idea. I actually proposed that idea to management at Berlin last year after they cancelled the race just to try to get the car counts up,” VanDoorn stated. “For the Money in the Bank earlier this year, I actually ran my crate car and was leading when I had an engine failure. This is one of those tracks where Supers
or Crates, because it’s so hard on tires, no one is better than the other. This is a track where you can get away with that. Until they can get the race built back up and get a good field of Supers, this might be a good solution to get a good car count.”
A Pro Late Model has already won an ARCA/CRA Super Series race once this season when Outlaw Super Late Model driver Brian Bergakker took his first-career template-bodied Late Model win at Flat Rock Speedway in June. Despite the horsepower difference between a built and a crate motor, VanDoorn believes there will be little to no difference in performance between the two come Saturday night.
“For the Money in the Bank, two for sure, if not three of the top five were Pros, but the guy with the pole was a Super,” he said. “That goes to show if your stuff is right, you’re not going to give up in qualifying so there’s really not a disadvantage there. I think the Pros have the advantage especially ten, fifteen laps into a race run where tires start falling off because the engines are so much less powerful and smoother, easier to drive. I think it’s going to help a lot of the Pro guys that are coming that don’t have a lot of experience running Berlin, it’s going to make it moredrivable for them. Maybe some difference in the race when tires are hot, but I reallythink when stickers are stickers, there’s not really a whole ton of difference at Berlin.”
VanDoorn will be taking his Super Late Model to the Battle at Berlin 251 as he and his team prepare their Pro Late Model for the Canadian Short Track Nationals. Despite the disadvantage he believes the Super will have compared to the Pro, his experience at the 7/16-mile will make up for anything that’s lost with running the Super.
“We’re going to go with our Super just because that’s what we’ve been running and we’re getting our Crate ready to go for Jukasa,” he said. “With that being said, if weweren’t running Jukasa we’d more than likely run our Crate car. I also do have a million laps there too and throttle control’s something that I’ve learned for a long time. I think for guys that are coming from out of town, the Pro car’s going to be the way to go.”
As summer begins to wind down, the start of big race season is fast approaching. With the Battle at Berlin this weekend and the Canadian Short Track Nationals on Labor Day weekend, VanDoorn is ready to add hardware to his collection and carry on the legacy of his late father.
“We’ve got some big races coming up with the Battle at Berlin 251 this weekend and the Canadian Short Track Nationals, Winchester 400, maybe the Snowball Derbyif we can talk my car owner into it,” he said. “We’ve got some big races coming up, there’s just that much more fuel on the fire to go out there and do well in those shows to carry on my dad’s legacy.”
Those unable to make it to Marne, Michigan Saturday night will be able to watch a live pay-per-view broadcast of the Battle at Berlin 251 live on Speed51.com. Live video tickets can be purchased today by clicking here.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com