Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All Missouri Points Through 9/28

There are still several events on the schedule at tracks in Missouri with the last All Missouri Points race scheduled for November 22nd at the Springfield Raceway.

Missouri Points
Late Model
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . Jon Binning Warrensburg 50
2 . Payton Looney Republic 50
3 . Vance Wilson Bowling Green 50
4 . Dwight Niehoff Lockwood 47
5 . Randy Korte Highland IL 43
6 . Tim Manville Highland IL 43
7 . Terry Phillips Springfield 36
8 . J.D. Hubert Cross Timbers 34
9 . Jake Williams Lockwood 31
10 . Justin Wells Aurora 27
11 . Justin Asplin Birch Tree 25
12 . Kenny Mudd Winfield 25
13 . Gage Wineland Syracuse 23
14 . Tony Jackson Jr. Lebanon 23
15 . Zeke Langley Ashland 23
16 . Shane Essary Galena 22
17 . Jesse Stovall Galena 21
18 . Chris Lapp Barnett 20
19 . Cole Wells Galena 20
20 . Scott Weber Festus 20

Missouri Points
Winged Sprints (410 & 360)
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . Jonathan Cornell Sedalia 74
2 . Tommy Worley Jr. Bismarck 58
3 . Joey Montgomery Fredericktown 46
4 . Kyle Bellm Nixa 40
5 . Kent Buckley 29
6 . Randy Martin California 27
7 . Jason Johnson Eunice LA 22
8 . A.J. Bruns Lincoln IL 21
9 . Joe B. Miller Springfield IL 19
10 . Josh Fisher Smithton 19
11 . Tyler Blank California 19
12 . Jerrod Hull Sikeston 16
13 . Joey Boyd Farmington 15
14 . Danny Lasoski Dover 13
15 . Jimmy Bridgeman Farmington 12
16 . Jimmy Hurley Springfield IL 12
17 . Mitchell Moore Edgerton KS 11
18 . Donny Schatz Fargo ND 10
19 . Jay Russell Elwood KS 10
20 . Cody Baker Lone Jack 9
21 . Kerry Madsen St. Mary's NSW 9
22 . Sean McClelland Tulsa OK 9
23 . Tayor Walton Warrensburg 9
24 . Tim Crawley Benton AR 9

Missouri Points
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . Mitch Keeter Webb City 109
2 . Jackie Dalton Carthage 82
3 . Terry Schultz Sedalia 73
4 . Dennis Elliott Mount Ayr IA 72
5 . Zach Sanders Kearney 72
6 . Rusty Griffaw Festus 67
7 . Jason Russell Henley 59
8 . Brent Thompson Park Hills 57
9 . Jim Moody Odessa 56
10 . Jody Tillman West Branson 50
11 . Steve Muilenberg Sparta 50
12 . Matt Dotson Hallsville 49
13 . Michael Long Quincy IL 49
14 . Matt Eaton Park Hills 48
15 . Brian Green Pierce City 46
16 . Trevor Hunt Liberty 46
17 . Bobby Pearish Joplin 42
18 . Jamie Daughetee 40
19 . Gunner Martin Blue Springs 39
20 . Danny Crane Columbia 38
21 . Jesse Willard Pleasanton KS 38

Missouri Points
Limited Modifieds
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . J.C. Morton Springfield 109
2 . Kris Jackson Lebanon 107
3 . Chad Clancy Smithville 84
4 . Andy Bryant Fort Scott KS 72
5 . Rex Merritt Billings 67
6 . Brad Smith Belton 66
7 . Matthew Rose Liberal 64
8 . Dean Wille Warrensburg 61
9 . Kyle Stolzer St. Genevieve 61
10 . Logan Martin West Plains 61
11 . Toby Thompson Mountain Grove 56
12 . Trevor Drake Webb City 55
13 . Chad Staus Otterville 53
14 . Jim Cameron Cameron 53
15 . Tyler Brown Stoutland 53
16 . Jacob Ebert Oak Grove 50
17 . Sam Petty Marshfield 49
18 . Randy Ainsworth Excelsior Springs 47
19 . Eddie Gross 45
20 . Jason Brigman West Plains 45

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Notebook: September 30, 2014

If he does stick with his plan to retire, Brian Birkhofer could not have scripted a better way to close out his stellar driving career with a last corner pass of Scott Bloomquist to win the Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals on Saturday night. And, as always, Birky provided a great victory lane interview as well. Brian did hint that he might someday return to racing, but for now he is going to stick with his plans and enjoy his family as his sons grow up.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Brian since he was a young teenager coming to the track with his father Dave Birkhofer who was a pretty darn good Late Model driver in his own right. Starting out in the Street Stock division Brian steadily graduated up the ranks until he became a winner on the "national" Late Model level. To me he is still that exuberant kid that I have known for nearly thirty years so to hear him say that he is retiring from the sport was a jolt back to the reality that these guys who I would still describe as "young drivers", are now more accurately described as "veterans".

This thought hit home with me on two other occasions this past weekend. First, when announcer James Essex referred to the #50 out of Coralville as "the veteran Denny Eckrich" and the second when I stopped to talk with Sprint Car driver Ryan Jamison at 34 Raceway Saturday night. Just like Birkhofer, I have watched these two drivers since they started racing as teenagers and all these years later I still think of them as just still getting their start in the sport with bigger and better things still to come for each of them. In reality though each of them will tell you that the peak of their racing career came several years ago and that makes me really scared to take a hard look in the mirror and see just how old I am.

Brian, even if you never turn a wheel again, you have firmly planted yourself as one of my all-time favorites not only for your talents on the track, but for your genuine personality off of it as well! All the best on wherever life leads you, and your family....

I am disappointed to say that I missed Birky's last two wins after watching him run third at Knoxville on Thursday night, but I did get to see two other pretty good nights of racing at two other tracks on what was likely my last three-day race weekend of the season. Friday night proved why the 4/10th-mile oval at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, is one of of my favorite tracks as in the final race of the night the IMCA Stock Cars were still able to race six-wide during their feature. Yes, it is a great race track, but given its location and the surrounding population base it has been proven that it is not capable of supporting a weekly show, so for those of you who have been hopping on Facebook and saying something to the extent of "Great show, wish they would race in Memphis weekly", I would encourage you to stop trying to push for something that just will not work. Instead let me take you back to what came to my mind three years ago while driving home from another good night at Memphis. I'm not sure what Chris Eggers is planning to do with Bloomfield in 2015, but perhaps it is time to take a serious look at this concept?

I do know that I am looking forward to getting back down to Memphis for at least one of the nights of the Fall Nationals on October 17th and 18th. And who knows, maybe I will be able to make it another three-race weekend by going to the Darkside Fall Bash in Maquoketa on Sunday October 19th.

This past Saturday night I was at 34 Raceway in Burlington for the Brockway Mechanical and Roofing Sprint Invaders Season Championship. A very nice field of 33 winged 360 Sprints were in attendance and it was Jon Agan who wrapped up the points championship after winning both his heat and the Budweiser Shake Up Dash. Agan seemed to be on his way to a clean sweep leading the feature race from the start until his right rear tire went flat during a caution on lap fourteen and he would watch the rest of the race from his trailer as Tony Shilling took the win and the runner-up position in the points chase. As one of the two announcers with the Invaders it has been my pleasure to get know Agan better this season and it was good to see him earn the crown. I was however a bit disappointed for him as the flat tire took away his opportunity to also become an All Iowa Points champion as finishing third or better in Saturday's feature would have jumped him ahead of Gregg Bakker in the 360 Sprint standings. It is the first AIP title for Bakker who is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and with Agan finishing a close second you have to go back to 2008 for the last time that an Iowa-based driver won the 360 championship in Jody Rosenboom of Rock Rapids.

It has been a pleasure to join Bill Wright on the mic for the Invaders the past two years and at this point, due to increased travel responsibilities with work, I am looking at going back to being his "as needed" substitute rather than his regular partner in crime. Who knows though, a lot is going on in the world of Sprint Car racing right now and my plans could change once schedules are released and reviewed.

Saturday's show at 34 was also a National points race for the Mod Lite division with twenty-six of the little speedsters signing in for the $1,000 top prize. The roster included two drivers from Delaware, Ty Short and Nick Nash, who were driving cars provided by the Halcomb Racing Team and while the visitors were strong finishing second and sixth respectively, it was central Iowa driver Mike Morrill who dominated for the win.

I am torn as to what to do with the Mod Lites going forward in regard to the All Iowa Points. I am finishing up my second year of including them in the tabulations, but since we essentially have two sets of rule packages between the Mod Lites and the Micro Mods, it makes it where one can't run competitively, or at all with the other. So for now I am leaning toward reducing my work load and not tracking the division any more until one of the sets of rules prevails.

The young man who will be the 2014 Mod Lite All Iowa Points champion, Dan Keltner, along with his brother Josh are featured in a nice article in this month's Speedway Illustrated magazine. Dan was in the stands at 34 watching the action Saturday night as he has purchased a Sport Mod and you just might see him in it at one of the upcoming Fall specials in the area.

The CJ Haulers race truck division made its first ever appearance away from its home track in Columbus Junction Saturday night as nine trucks took to the high banks at 34 Raceway. Jacob Brown took the win and one of the trucks was driven by one of 34's owners/promoters Amy Laue. For having little or no track experience Amy kept it straight and improved her lap times throughout the evening although she knows that she is no threat to ever become the "best" race car driver in her household. Husband Jeff won several Late Model features during his career, and he had a big smile on his face watching his wife get some track time at the facility that they and their family have operated the past several years.

Still plenty of racing to be found in our area this weekend and throughout the month of October. I have a wedding to go to on Saturday night, but Friday and Sunday are still possibilities. Looks like it is going to get chilly again this weekend so bundle up and get on out to the track of your choice. We hope to see you there on the Back Stretch!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Plenty of Friday Night Action at Memphis

Yes, there were bigger events going on to the north, south and west, but I would find it hard to believe that those shows featured any better racing than what myself and my colleague Ryan Clark saw on Friday night at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis. It was the first of two nights of racing this weekend for the seldom used gem in northeast Missouri as this was the "Grand Championship" event that was weathered out back in March and weather conditions for this weekend could not have been better as 133 cars in five divisions filled the pit area.

A couple of the things that I love about these late season shows are the changes that drivers are making in regard to what division they are racing in giving us a preview for next year and the drivers that pull in from long distances to do some racing against competition that they do not see throughout the rest of the year. There were a few noteworthy instances of each and I'll share those with you after a quick summary of each of the night's five main events.

The Sport Mod division was the most populated with 34 cars and they were the first feature to take to the track around 10:15. Curtis VanDerWal loves the wide racing surface here at Memphis and when he starts on the front row it is going to be next to impossible to beat him here. As VanDerWal raced out front on his own the action behind him was intense with contact sending drivers in the top five for spins on a couple of occasions. In the end it was a pair of Oskaloosa, Iowa, drivers going one-two with VanDerWal taking the win over young Brayton Carter who made his way up from a fifth row start. Bobby Anders, Tony Dunker and Brandon Dale completed the top five.

The Hobby Stock feature had a similar story line as the 2014 track champion at Moberly, Tim Dawson held a lead through the majority of the distance while there was a mad scramble going on behind him for second on back. Dawson would take the victory ahead of another Oskaloosa-based driver Steve Allen, Brandon Symmonds and Dustin Griffiths were next in line while Adams County Speedway regular Luke Ramsey of Bedford, Iowa, completed the top five.

A solid field of eighteen Sport Compacts were on hand and with Austen Becerra and Adam Gates in the lineup it may have been assumed that the rest of the field would be racing for third on back. Not so! Becerra started on the front row and led early only to have Michael Grossman go screaming by. Gates then moved into challenge Becerra for second and contact between the two hindered their chances to catch Grossman. Even a late restart did not change the order as Grossman was very impressive in his run to victory lane over Gates. Kimberly Abbott slipped by Becerra on that final restart to take third and Barry Taft prevailed in a three-wide battle for fifth on the final lap.

Twenty-nine Modifieds signed in with a nice mix of cars as the rules allowed for all three prevailing sanctions in the area, IMCA, USRA and UMP, to run together. Cayden Carter started up front and he would lead the race until the final two laps when tenth-starting Michael Long powered by him on the inside to score the win. Carter held off Andrew Schroeder for the second spot, Jeff Waterman was a challenger late in fourth and Ronn Lauritzen picked off several spots on the final restart to complete the top five.

The Stock Cars would close out the evening and I am not kidding you when I say that I saw at least two instances when drivers were six-wide racing for position. Yes, I said "six-wide" and this was not on a parade lap, it was at speed, something that only the Stock Car division can pull off without massive issues. Nathan Wood was an early leader before yielding to Jason Cook, and as Wood tried to regain the lead on lap eight, contact with Cook would cut down the right front tire on Wood's #52 car. Cook was working the extreme bottom line on both ends and while it was faster in turns one and two, the top side was the way to go in three and four. On the final lap Cook went low and Mike Hughes went high into turn three and, when Cook got a little nudge from behind, that was all that Hughes needed to get the advantage as four cars passed under the checkers four-wide in a thrilling finish and we had to wait for announcer Tony Paris to give us the official results. Hughes, driving Damon Murty's backup car, won by a nose with Jason Cook, Cayden Carter and John Oliver Jr. next in line. Shane Paris was right behind that quartet in fifth.

I had originally established a personal curfew of eleven o'clock, but with the warm weather and the wide race track it was not a tough decision to blow off that curfew and the final checkers waved at 11:55 over that amazing Stock Car finish. Well worth one less hour of sleep!

Austen Becerra has been the dominant Sport Compact driver in the area this season and he did double duty tonight as he brought out his new Sport Mod ride that he will apparently drive in 2015. Becerra looked great in his heat race starting fourth and then racing to the win, but his feature race was one to forget as after two solo spins he was sent to the pits to prepare for his Sport Compact effort. Austen will be the 2014 All Iowa Points Four Cylinder champion this year and don't be surprised if he is the top rookie contender in the Sport Mods in 2015.

Jake Wenig has been a winner in both a Hobby Stock and a Stock Car and on this night he was in a Sport Mod. Jake looked fast during hot laps, struggled in his heat, and then hit the turn one guardrail hard in the B-Main to end his night. His father Dan Wenig was behind the wheel of Jake's Stock Car tonight.

Carter VanDenBerg also entered his Sport Mod in the Modified class tonight and was competitive in both.

Matt Greiner was back behind the wheel of a Stock Car tonight driving the Dopler #57 car.

As mentioned above, Stock Car winner Mike Hughes was driving Damon Murty's backup car and the two of them were in a thrilling three car battle with Cayden Carter during a heat race when the transmission suddenly locked up on Murty's car. He would then become the crew chief for the remainder of the night for Hughes who ironically suffered mechanical issues with his own Hobby Stock throughout the night.

Along with Luke Ramsey, Adams County Speedway in Corning Modified regular Keven Parman made the trip east to Memphis.

Jacob Reiter and Cody Cleghorn each made the long pull from Des Moines with their Sport Compact cars.

The Grand Championship continues tonight at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis and the track will be back in action on Friday and Saturday October 17th and 18th for the annual Fall Championships. I hope to make it back down for at least one of those nights in mid-October!

Tonight I am looking forward to the Season Championship event for the Brockway Mechanical and Roofing Sprint Invaders at 34 Raceway in Burlington. It will also be a National points event for the Mod Lite division, plus Stock Cars, Four Cylinders and the CJ Haulers will be in action as well.

It will be another beautiful night for racing so get on out and enjoy the show in your area!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Crashes Punctuate Late Model Nationals Opener at Knoxville

Opening night of the Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals featured all of the great racing that I have come to expect from this event that includes deeper inverted starts than you normally see at big shows, but it also had three of the hardest Late Model accidents that I have ever seen in person. Thankfully all three drivers walked away uninjured.

The night started on a low note for one the event’s favorites as Billy Moyer broke during his first of two laps of qualifying. And, rather than pulling out the backup car and starting from the rear of his heat race, the native of nearby Des Moines chose to regroup and focus on Friday night where he could still lock himself into Saturday’s big finale.

Knoxville is unlike any other in that you must race your way in. A fast qualifying lap does not land you in the first or second row of your heat race. It does give you a good start in the points that you must accumulate throughout the night to get into the championship event on Saturday, but as the fastest qualifier you will start eighth in your heat and you must “race” your way into the top three to make the main event on the qualifying night. The fans love it and the track pays the drivers nicely for their efforts.

Dale McDowell would be Thursday’s fastest qualifier and he did so with one extra lap as it was ruled that he was impeded by the slower car of Lyle Zanker as their group of four were on the clock. McDowell actually dropped to ninth at the start of the first heat race before he started working his way forward, and while he might have caught him anyway, the third and final transfer spot fell into his grasp when Shannon Babb suffered mechanical issues with four laps remaining.

The start of the second heat race was a wild one as when Jimmy Mars poked his nose up a row through the middle as the green flag waved, he made contact that sent Andy Eckrich sideways and then over into a wild series of barrel rolls down the front stretch. Flagman Doug Clark scrambled to the back of his perch as the tumbling car nearly joined him and wheels and other parts were flung high into the air. It was fortunate that the catch fence did its job and that the safety equipment did as well as Andy emerged uninjured and walked back to the pit area. John Blankenship would go onto win this one while Chase Junghans was able to keep his smoking car ahead of Dennis Erb Jr. over the closing laps to finish third. Damage from the initial contact with Eckrich forced Mars to the infield mid-race.

Brandon Overton made the trip up from Georgia for the first time and he found the Knoxville Raceway to his liking as he dominated the third heat race ahead of veterans Earl Pearson Jr. and Vic Coffey.

The fourth heat was a thriller from start to finish as Jonathan Davenport hooked the cushion off turn four to drive around A.J. Diemel on the final lap to take the win. Eddie Carrier Jr. came from the fourth row to finish in third.

And if the finish of that heat wasn’t worth the price of admission then the fifth heat should have taken care of you as Mike Marlar, Frankie Heckenast and Brian Birkhofer went three-wide into turn three on the final lap of the fifth heat. It was Marlar’s stumble on the cushion that created the excitement, but he recovered nicely to fight off Birkhofer at the checkers. This came shortly after Birkhofer was locked in a tight battle with Scott James for fourth where James spun with three laps remaining.

The sixth heat saw two race cars destroyed in two separate incidents. Early in the race Lucas Oil racing series Rookie-of-the-Year leader Jason Hughes got crossed up entering turn three and shot straight up the track head on into the guardrail. The accident was eerily similar to the one that took the life of sprint car driver Steve King here during the 2006 Nationals and I held my breath until Jason climbed out of the angled race car under his own power.
This heat was loaded with talent including Eckert, Lanigan, Bloomquist, Ziegler, Owens, Feger and more and once back to green the racing was intense. Jimmy Owens was holding down the third and final transfer spot when Jason Feger had a run on him coming off the topside of turn four. As Owens came up the track the two made contact and then one of two things happened. Either something broke on the steering of Feger's car or he took exception to the top line being closed off as his car turned to the left hooking Owen's car and turning him sideways at the fastest point on the speedway. Just like Andy Eckrich's car earlier, Owens' #20 tipped over and went for a series of barrel rolls before settling upside down near the turn one guardrail.
It took a few moments, but Jimmy crawled out of the car and then had a microphone in front of him asking what happened. The normally reserved Owens replied quickly "Freakin' Idiot"......or a much more colorful "F" word.....and the interviewer wisely pulled the microphone away.
Scott Bloomquist did what he could to get around Eckert over the closing laps but e could not get the job done and qualifying heats were in the books.
D, C and B-Main action had some drivers making big runs only to come up just short of making the transfer and the 25-lap A-Main lined up with Kent Robinson and Jonathan Davenport on the front row. Davenport was a rocket from the start and with only one caution to slow the pace he would not be seriously challenged going flag-to-flag for the victory. Darrell Lanigan started sixth and finished second ahead of Iowa favorite Brian Birkhofer, Earl Pearson Jr. shook off the announcement earlier this week that he would not be back with Bobby Labonte racing and finished fourth while Brandon Sheppard was the Hard Charger coming from 22nd to fifth at the checkers.
Action continues tonight and Saturday at what is quickly becoming the premier event in Late Model racing!
My schedule puts me in Memphis, Missouri, tonight for the "Grand Championships" and then on Saturday night I will be at the Season Championship for the Brockway Mechanical and Roofing Sprint Invaders at 34 Raceway. Go the the races this weekend!! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Notebook: September 24, 2014

Just a couple of quick thoughts here late in the afternoon as I count down the hours until I arrive at Knoxville Thursday for the opening night of the Lucas Oil Knoxville Late Model Nationals.

How will the general media react to today's announcement that the grand jury found that there was no basis to file criminal charges in the death of Kevin Ward Jr.? That was not a surprise to me at all, but this was. Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo also said that marijuana was detected in Ward's system during the autopsy and that the levels were enough to "impair" Ward's judgement.

The common assumption has been that there would be no criminal charges filed against Tony Stewart, but that he would likely end up settling out of court should a civil suit be filed by the Ward family. This new nugget of information would seem to make that unlikely as well.

Scott Traylor, are you calling Kevin Keitzman at 810 WHB right now so that you can follow up on the conversation that played out on the Racin' Boys last appearance on "Between The Lines"? It would seem like the underinformed stick and ball radio show host should be eating some crow. And he is not the only one......

If you are going to Knoxville on Saturday you should consider getting there early enough to see Iowa greats Verlin Eaker, Curt Hansen, Tom Hearst, Fred Horn, Joe Merryfield, Ed Sanger, Ken Walton and Gary Webb live at 3 p.m. upstairs at the Sprint Car Hall of Fame. "Late Model 101 History" will no doubt be very informative and entertaining with these gentlemen on the panel. This group represents twenty-two of the thirty-four All Iowa Points Late Model championships between 1967 and 2000.

I look forward to spending Thursday night in Knoxville and on Saturday night the Brockway Mechanical and Roofing Sprint Invaders will run their Season Championship at 34 Raceway near Burlington. In between I am hoping to make it down to Memphis, Missouri, for the first night of their two-day show this weekend as well.

The weather forecast looks perfect for the final weekend in September. Get on out and enjoy a race or two while you still can!