Groleau Race success despite rainy weather

Daily Press File Photo The late Christian Groleau poses — checkered flag in hand — next to his 600 micro sprint at the Upper Peninsula International Raceway in 2016.

ESCANABA — While rain put a damper on the racing side of Saturday night’s Christian Groleau Memorial Night — delaying the start of the night by about two hours and ending the night after heat races — at the Upper Peninsula International Raceway in Escanaba, it couldn’t stop the night from being an undeniable success.

A grand total of $8,148 was raised for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and End the Silence through the event.

“Being able to look up at the crowd and tell these amazing people that we raised $8,148 to split between The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and End the Silence was a moment I won’t soon forget,” said event organizer Alyssa Sullivan. “We want to thank our community for showing up and helping us raise such an amazing amount of money for two very important causes. While this event is named for Christian, we honor every member of this community who lost their own personal battles with mental health struggles.”

With green flag time looming just half an hour away, the skies opened up and drenched the UPIR dirt track — and many of the fans in attendance — casting a shadow of doubt over whether there would be any racing at all.

After allowing the sun to naturally dry out the track’s surface, track crews and drivers from the bigger vehicle classes — Super and non-super Vintage Modifieds, Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds and Street Stocks — got to work on packing the track.

Through the delay, fans stayed planted in their seats waiting for racing to get underway.

“We know that this evening was a rollercoaster of ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ when it came to the rain, but the fans hung in there with us, and we were grateful to get as much fit in as we can,” Sullivan commented.

Once the track was deemed suitable for racing, heats were run in quick succession as it became apparent that weather was inbound for the ten o’clock hour.

“We had a huge struggle with the weather which caused a two and a half-hour delay,” said Sullivan. “We anxiously awaited the decision of the track’s board to see if we were going to get the event in. While we didn’t get the features in, we had the opportunity to raise an incredible amount of money and get the many prizes we had donated to some really lucky fans.”

After last year’s event — which raised just a shade under $5,000 — Sullivan said the goal for this year’s goal was to break that mark.

“This event, especially with the weather issues, far surpassed our wildest expectations,” she said. “We had a goal of $5,000, and we went above and beyond that.”

Heat racing went through with no major incidents in any of the divisions, with Karl Warm (Escanaba) and Carson Artley (Escanaba) winning in the Riverside Auto Group Youth Micro Sprints, Luke Labre (Escanaba) in the Sportsman Micro Sprints, Cole Stella (Minocqua, Wis.) and Kyle Getchell (Escanaba) in the 600 Micro Sprints, Charles Peterson (Rapid River) and Jesse Denome (Escanaba) in the Vintage and Super Vintage Modifieds, Neil Aaberg (Escanaba) and Ron Jenshak (Escanaba) in the Street Stocks, Anthony Harper (Rapid River) and Pat Richer (Bark River) for the Bink’s Coca-Cola Sport Modifieds and Zach Gazda (Vulcan) and Dean Bellmore (Hermansville) in the Island Resort Sport Compacts.

As far as trophies and increased payouts go, those will be awarded August 28 to the winning drivers that night.

“We want to thank our volunteers, the community, our local businesses that donated the prizes we were able to gather, and the track crew for their hard work to get this event going. We know it wasn’t easy, but we are so very grateful,” said Sullivan. “Be kind to everyone you meet because you never know what battles they may be facing in private. Be a friend to those in need. Be an ear for those who need someone to talk to. Be a voice for those who can’t seem to find theirs. You can make a difference!”

The Upper Peninsula International Raceway takes a break for two weeks before returning to close the U.P. State Fair Week on Sunday, August 22.


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