Mike Fryer and Ryan Unzicker brought the field to green for the fifty-lap headliner with Unzicker riding the perilous cushion that was pushed all the way to the top of turns one and two to take command. Billy Moyer who started fifth wasted no time in making his way to the front and on lap six he drove under Unzicker to take the lead. Just as that lap was being scored the caution waved for a two car incident involving Jay Johnson and Scott Bloomquist at the entrance to turn three. Both drivers needed a provisional to start the feature and each had made some early progress before the tangle that would force them both to the pits for the remainder of the race.
On the restart Moyer again pulled away while the race for second now went to Mark Burgtorf who shuffled Unzicker back to third. Chris Simpson had started eighth and he soon joined the battle for position in the top five before the caution waved again on lap seventeen for a spin by Rich Bell when it appeared his rear end locked up going down the back stretch. The scenario of Moyer leading while others raced hard for second then repeated itself until a pair of cautions on lap twenty-six, first for a Mitch McGrath spin in turn one and then on the restart when the pole-sitter Fryer spun in turn two.
The race would go green from there and while Moyer would stretch the lead out to half a straightaway it began to slowly shrink once Unzicker moved back into second. The leader was running a line that was about three car widths off the bottom and the challenger was now finding some bite right around the bottom on both ends of the 3/8th-mile oval. With four laps to go Unzicker was able to put a nose under Moyer in turn one and that seemed to motivate the veteran driver as he again pulled away a bit on the following lap. Unzicker charged back though and pulled even with Moyer in turns one and two as they raced lap forty-nine and he again got under Moyer coming off turn four as they raced to the white flag.
Moyer took away the bottom line entering turn one and held a two car length lead as they raced down the back stretch. And that is when Unzicker made the move. Going back to the cushion in turns three and four, where he had not been since the early laps of the race, the El Paso, Illinois, driver found the bite that he need to slingshot past Moyer at the exit of turn four and beat him to the line much to the delight of the large crowd that was now standing and some even jumping in appreciation. Chris Simpson would chase the top two in for third, Jason Utter came from fourteenth to finish fourth and Chad Simpson completed the top five. Burgtorf would hold down the sixth position just ahead of Tony Jackson Jr. Garrett Alberson was a thrill a minute coming from the tenth row to finish eighth, Justin Reed was ninth and tenth went to Dave Eckrich.
Fans that stuck around after the Late Model feature saw a pretty darn good 305 Sprint Car feature as well. John Schulz would lead the first six laps of the twenty-lap finale before Donnie Steward flew by while precariously working that turns one and two cushion. Schulz tried to fight back before Justin Newberry slipped by him on on a late restart and while it would have only taken one slight miscue by Steward for things to change, that mistake never happened as Donnie Steward scored the win ahead of Newberry. Dustin Clark who originally went to Knoxville before they rained out just after 6 p.m. made the long trip down to Burlington and started at the rear of the sixteen-car field for the feature. Clark spun early, but then got into the groove and he would pass Schulz on the final lap to finish third. Cody Wehrle who challenged for the lead early would finish in the fifth position.
The Stock Car division was twenty strong and had the unfortunate task of filling the time between the completion of the second Late Model B-Main and the start of the Late Model feature. With lightning flashing to both the west and the north, plus with the radar showing a cell moving up from the south and headed right for the track the only thing that would have been acceptable to the throng of anxious race fans would have been a non-stop fifteen lapper where the winner simply waved to the crowd after taking the checkers and then driven straight to the pits as if to say "no thanks, I'll pick up my trophy later so that we can get this Late Model show in before it rains."
That was not what happened.
The first try at a start saw Dane Fenton and Brad Egbert tangle in turn four as the opening lap was being scored. It then took some time to get drivers to go in the order that they had been scored as since this was the first track points event of the season for the division officials couldn't just "let 'em go" as some of the Late Model fans were yelling. Cautions on laps eight, nine, twelve and thirteen only added to the angst despite the fact that while under green the racing up front was very entertaining as Jake Wenig fought off the challenges of both John Oliver Jr. and Tom Bowling Jr. to score the win. On any other night fans would have probably enjoyed Wenig's victory celebration of spinning a couple of donuts on the front stretch and then standing on top of his car in jubilation.
Tonight, not so much.
Oliver would finish in the second spot with Bowling in third. Andrew Hustead was impressive in his IMCA Stock Car debut at 34 Raceway finishing in the fourth spot after starting in row eight and Abe Huls filled out the top five.
Slocum Notes......The event honors the memory of personable Late Model driver Brent Slocum who lost his life in a tragic pit accident here at 34 Raceway ten years ago. Brent's close fried Brad Stevens and his large group of friends and family do an amazing job of delivering on their promise year after year to continue to make this event bigger and better. For more on Brent I encourage you to subscribe to Dirt On Dirt and read Kevin Kovac's fine feature story......The thirty-eight car field raced under the standard UMP Summer Nationals format where they qualified within heat race groups and then started "straight up" which as usual produced little passing during the five heats......Terry Phillips fought off Garrett Alberson's persistent challenges for the third and final transfer spot in the first heat......South Dakota's Mike Stadel had a pretty healthy engine fire early in the second heat. He came back to run his B-Main later in the evening but failed to qualify for the feature......Jason Utter showed signs that he could make a big run later in the night as he was the only driver to make a pass for a top three position after the first lap of a heat race when he got past Wisconsin's Mitch McGrath to finish third in heat race number four......Scott Bloomquist had a rough night all around starting during his qualifying effort when he jumped the cushion in turn one on his first lap and he then stumbled on the cushion in turn four on his second lap. This would start him sixth in the seven-car fifth heat race where he was able to move up to fourth, but he could not chase down Rodney Sanders to get qualified. In the first B-Main Bloomquist started third, dropped to fourth on the opening lap, and then moved past Alberson into third a few laps in. Alberson, the New Mexico native driving the Childress #F5 based in Louisiana, used the cushion to get back around Bloomquist late in the race for the third and final transfer spot forcing the Late Model legend to use a provisional just to start the feature where he then had the early exit. Bloomquist was definitely in the spirit of the evening though as he sported a black and white High Five Racing logo on the right side of his car......Tim Manville who, to me at least, was a bit of a surprise entrant after winning on opening night at I-55 in Pevely a couple of weeks ago, was the first B-Main winner after starting fourth. Manville would get as high as seventh in the feature before slipping back to eleventh at the finish and after the race he and Dave Eckrich traded pleasantries following some high speed contact in the closing laps......Jesse Stovall started fifth and finished second to McGrath in the second B-Main but was later an early retiree from the feature.....Young Spencer Diercks had the fastest qualifying lap overall, but he too dropped from the feature early.....For the second year in a row the event had sanctioning from three regional touring series with MARS, ALMS and the Corn Belt Clash. All three will also be in action tonight (Sunday) at the Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Illinois.
While it may not have seemed that way to the Late Model fans who were rightfully nervous about the weather, the show was presented in a fairly efficient manner as the final checkers of the night waved at 10:30. Officials not only eliminated a planned intermission that would have paid tribute to Brent Slocum, but they also moved the Late Model feature ahead of the Sprint Cars in order to beat the impending weather.
All in all another big success and I will be ready to mark my calendar when the date for the 2016 Slocum 50 is announced.