Andy Bozell Konquers Klash for a Fourth Time by Matt Kentfield
Bozell Bookends 15-Year History of the Klash With Victories
He’s was – and still is – the king of Kalamazoo Speedway.
Bozell proved it in 1993 when he won the first-ever Kalamazoo Klash Outlaw Super Late Model event. He backed it up with another win in 1994. Since then, the Klash grew to become one of the most prestigious short track races in the country, but Bozell kept winning it. Another Klash win in 1997 and nine overall Outlaw track championships at Kalamazoo confirmed Bozell’s dominance.
On Wednesday night, 15 years after winning the first-ever Kalamazoo Klash, Bozell won his fourth Klash by taking the lead late in the race from Dave Sensiba and showing the way around the .375 high banked track just like he had done time and time again.
“This feels four times better than the first one," said Bozell. "We won the first two and we were really on a roll back in the early 90’s. We had really good cars through that time. Then we won again in ’97, so that means it’s been 10 years since we won one of these. We’ve won this race a few times and we’ve won a bunch of races during the seasons, but this race has actually always been a feast or famine race for me. I’ve always been first, second, third or broke. That’s just the way it is. But tonight, we just had everything together.”
Bozell qualified third, but due to the top-12 qualifiers being inverted, he had to start 10th. Running 13-second laps around the high-banked bullring may have made less-experienced drivers rush to get to the front in a 157-lap feature, but not someone with the experience of Bozell. Working patiently aggressive, Bozell used the high line when appropriate to get into the top-five by lap 50.
Of course, there’s always a young crop of drivers on their way up who will try to take down an old veteran like Bozell over 15 years. Over the past season or so, that driver seems to be Terry Senneker, the 2006 Kalamazoo Outlaw Track Champion. Senneker emerged as the early favorite to win the 15th running of the Klash, as well, as he took the lead on lap 32 from Kenny Head and began checking out. Many in the packed house were putting their money on Senneker because he was so fast for so long early on.
But Senneker’s domination couldn’t last past lap 85.
A lot can change over 15 years for a racecar driver. Technology can change, tracks come and go and there’s always the next crop of drivers ready to come in and take over throughout the years. All of those factors can make a driver’s hair grow a little grayer, if not disappear altogether from pulling follicles out of frustration.
But over the last 15 years, Michigan short track veteran Andy Bozell has managed to keep up one thing even as the calendar continued to turn.
In a 15-year span from 1993 (top) through 2007 (bottom), Andy Bozell's mastery of Kalamzaoo Speedway has remained the same. (Top: AndyBozell.com Photo, Bottom: 51 Photo)
With a full straightaway lead, Senneker caught the drivers battling for a top-10 spot, including Phil Bozell, Andy’s son, and Richard Kinsey. The younger Bozell made contact with Kinsey, sending Kinsey’s #5 car spinning in turn four and leaving Senneker with nowhere to go except eventually back onto his trailer with severe front-end damage.
“You always take the chance when you come up on lapped cars like that,” said Senneker. “But you can only do so much and you can only be so careful. It looked like the two lapped cars came together and one went around right in front of me. I couldn’t get on the brakes hard enough and I had nowhere to go.
“I’m really disappointed. I’ve been really looking forward to this one. Maybe I’m jinxing myself, I’ve never finished a Klash. It’s disappointing because this was my best shot so far, by far.”
With the once-dominant Senneker out of the race, Kenny Head was the leader when the field took the competition caution at lap 100. At the time the caution came out, Bozell was right on Head’s tail, but because the top-five were inverted for the ensuing restart, Bozell once again would have to pass a few more cars to make it back up front.
With a patience that only a nine-time track champion can have, Bozell worked his way up from fourth on the restart to second by lap 115. Even though he was a full straightaway behind then-leader Dave Sensiba, Bozell settled in and caught a caution flag on lap 123 that set the stage for Bozell’s fourth win.
On the restart, Bozell poke a nose around Sensiba, but settled in to conserve his tires. Then, on lap 129, just as he had all night long, Bozell worked his magic on the high line and took the lead for good.
Terry Senneker had a dominant car early, but a mid-race lapped car incident derailed his victory hopes. (51 Photo)
“My car hasn’t been good either high or low all year long here,” said Bozell. “We’ve been making some changes as we go, though. We tried different spring and shock combinations earlier today and it felt pretty decent. We decided to go with it. It actually made us lose initial speed, but the car never backed up as bad. It just held its speed really good. I knew when we qualified third-quick that we’d have a good car to race with because it didn’t lose any speed in the long runs.
“Late in the race, I was just in the zone. There were no other racecars on the track as far as I was concerned.”
Bozell has run at Kalamazoo for 25 years. He’s won the track title nine times and the prestigious Klamazoo Klash now four times. Sure a lot has changed over the 15 years of the Klash, but Bozell’s motivation to win has not changed a bit.
“This race is just so cool because all the big guns come in. There’s NASCAR guys like Johnny Benson, there’s the good guys from places like Berlin like Joe Bush, who is an awesome racecar driver. Combine those guys with all the young guys that race here on a weekly basis that are really tough and it makes me feel really good that I can still compete at this level and win these races.”
Another thing that has not changed a bit over the years has been the Bozell family’s involvement in every Bozell’s racing career. Bozell battles with his son Phil (who finished 21st after his early incident) and brother Jeff every week in Outlaw races around Michigan. His youngest son Andy Jr. is also an accomplished racer, while and his daughter Christy is there with the team every week. Even Christy’s daughter Paige was the first person Bozell saw in victory lane, making this racing grandfather not only happy to win, but to win for the family.
“We go to races as a family,” said Bozell. “They’re here no matter if it’s a Kalamazoo Klash, a 50-lap race, a 10-lap race or a six-lap dash race, we go to the racetrack as a family and we work on the racecars as a family. It’s just special to have all your family involved in it like we are.”
Joe Bush followed Bozell by Sensiba late to capture the runner-up spot. Steve Needles, Kenny Head and Sensiba rounded out the top-five.
Over the years, Andy Bozell has gained quite a few fans at Kalamazoo; fans he was sure to thank after the race. (51 Photo)