Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday Notebook: June 23, 2016

A great shot from Barry Johnson at the track that he grew up at, the Iowa State Fair Speedway
The heat and humidity might just be one of the factors, but there are many more at play when it comes to the short car counts that we have seen at the majority of the tracks in our area recently. Does anybody get the sense that we perhaps just have too much racing for the number of drivers that are active in the area? Don't get me wrong, there are still a BUNCH of race car drivers here in the Midwest, but just not as many as there was a few years ago when just about every possible race track sprung to life and while two tracks in Iowa have already shut down their weekly operations, let me remind you that these are two tracks that recently "came back" after being closed previously.

Chris Martin at speed on a Wednesday night in Des Moines - Barry Johnson photo
Our car count with the Sprint Invaders was down in Des Moines last night with fourteen in attendance and that would have been fifteen if Harold Pohren would not have experienced tow vehicle issues enroute. I actually met him headed the other direction near Fairfield and I spent the next ten miles trying to find out if the show had been rained out or not. Nearly all of the regulars were on hand, but we are not getting the six to eight drop ins that normally brings us over the twenty mark due to so many other Sprint Car events going on in the region. I made note of it before that while Sprint Car fans have to be thrilled with all of the new opportunities to watch their favorites, it just might become too much of a good thing.
Chris Martin

Using the two sets of heat races format the Invaders put on another solid program last night with young Chris Martin taking the win in front of his hometown fans. This kid seems to get faster each night out and his confidence level is definitely growing. Last night not only did he win his first heat from the pole position, but he backed it up with another win in the second set of heats after starting seventh. It was also great to see Mike Houseman Jr. in victory lane taking the win in the Racesaver 305 division. Houseman is a former regular with the Sprint Invaders, but as a budget racer it just makes sense for him to stick close to home and run weekly in Des Moines.

The Invaders will now take a few weeks off before coming back with a pair of fun county fair races in July, Thursday the 14th at the Cedar County Fair in Tipton and Tuesday the 26th at the Dubuque County Fair where they are so excited to have the Sprint Cars back that it will pay a healthy $2,000-to-win, a fantastic purse for the 360 division.
Mike Houseman Jr.

The full story and results from Des Moines can be found here courtesy of Bill Wright at OpenWheel101.

My wife and I are making a little road trip to visit our daughter in Michigan this weekend so the next two nights I will be taking in some Late Model racing, first at a track that I haven't been to in a couple of years and the second will become the first dirt track that I have ever been to in Michigan. The problem is that I will have little time leftover to write about either show until early next week, so in the meantime get out there and enjoy some racing at the track of your choice and, who knows, I might just see you on the Back Stretch!

Mike Houseman Jr. went flag-to-flag for a $1,000 win in the Racesaver 305 division in Des Moines Wednesday night - Barry Johnson photo

The "Back Stretch"
Dirt Late Model Points
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . Jonathan Davenport Blairsville GA 126
2 . Josh Richards Shinnston WV 123
3 . Scott Bloomquist Mooresburg TN 117
4 . Shane Clanton Locust Grove GA 63
5 . Bobby Pierce Oakwood IL 57
6 . Chris Madden Gray Court SC 57
7 . Brandon Sheppard New Berlin IL 54
8 . Dennis Erb Jr. Carpentersville IL 49
9 . Jared Landers Batesville AR 49
10 . Mike Marlar Winfield TN 49
11 . Dale McDowell Chickamauga GA 48
12 . Brian Shirley Chatham IL 44
13 . Darrell Lanigan Union KY 44
14 . Jimmy Owens Newport TN 43
15 . Don O'Neal Martinsville IN 39
16 . Tim McCreadie Watertown NY 37
17 . Donald McIntosh Dawsonville GA 32
18 . Gregg Satterlee Rochester Mills PA 31
19 . Billy Moyer Batesville AR 29
20 . Casey Roberts Toccoa GA 26
21 . Billy Moyer Jr. Batesville AR 25
22 . Chris Simpson Marion IA 25
23 . Rick Eckert York PA 25
24 . Brandon Overton Appling GA 24
25 . Devin Moran Dresden OH 24
26 . Frank Heckenast Jr. Orland Park IL 24
27 . Tony Jackson Jr. Lebanon MO 24
28 . Earl Pearson Jr. Jacksonville FL 23
29 . Steve Francis Ashland KY 23
30 . Eddie Carrier Jr. Salt Rock WV 22
31 . Chris Ferguson Mount Holly NC 21
32 . Mark Whitener Middleburg FL 20
33 . Jason Covert York Haven PA 19
34 . Willie Milliken Leland NC 19
35 . Kyle Bronson Brandon FL 18
36 . Riley Hickman Ooletwah TN 18
37 . Ross Bailes Clover SC 17
38 . Tim Dohm Cross Lanes WV 17
39 . Tyler Carpenter Parkersburg WV 17
40 . Cory Hedgecock Louden TN 16
41 . Jesse Stovall Galena MO 16
42 . Jason Krohn Slayton MN 15
43 . Max Blair Centerville PA 15
44 . Dale Hollidge Mechanicsville MD 14
45 . Ricky Thornton Jr. Chandler AZ 14
46 . Dona Marcoullier Houghton Lake MI 13
47 . Jason Hiett Lincoln AL 13
48 . Ronny Lee Hollingsworth Northport AL 13
49 . Ryan Unzicker El Paso IL 13
50 . David Watts Buckhannon 12
51 . Jared Miley South Park PA 12
52 . Jimmy Mars Elk Mound WI 12
53 . Kyle Beard Trumann AR 12
54 . Randy Weaver Crossville TN 12
55 . Devin Dixon Apollo Beach FL 11
56 . Doug Drown Wooster OH 11
57 . Freddie Carpenter Parkersburg WV 11
58 . Terry Phillips Springfield MO 11
59 . Tyler Crowder Tallahassee FL 11
60 . A.J. Diemel Navarino WI 10
61 . Donald Bradsher Burlington NC 10
62 . Jason Feger Bloomington IL 10
63 . Johnny Pursley Clover SC 10
64 . Justin Kay Wheatland IA 10
65 . Greg Johnson Bedford IN 9
66 . Jackie Boggs Grayson KY 9
67 . Jeff Provinzino Hibbing MN 9
68 . McKay Wenger Fairbury IL 9
69 . Rusty Schlenk Jackson MI 9
70 . Ryan Gustin Marshalltown IA 9
71 . Tanner English Benton KY 9
72 . Bub McCool Vicksburg MS 8
73 . Corey Conley Wellsburg WV 8
74 . Dan Tipton 8
75 . Dennis Franklin Gaffney SC 8
76 . Don Shaw Ham Lake MN 8
77 . Jake Redetzke Eau Claire WI 8
78 . Jason Papich Santa Maria CA 8
79 . Jeff Rine Danville PA 8
80 . Kevin Weaver Gibson City IL 8
81 . Mason Zeigler Chalk Hill PA 8
82 . Rich Bell Sheffield IL 8
83 . Rodney Sanders Happy TX 8
84 . Scott Ward Watertown SD 8
85 . Shannon Babb Mowequa IL 8
86 . Shaun Harrell Raeford NC 8
87 . Steve Casebolt Richmond IN 8
88 . Aaron Marrant Orrick MO 7
89 . Chad Zobrist Highland IL 7
90 . Chub Frank Sugar Grove PA 7
91 . Clint Smith Senoia GA 7
92 . Daulton Wilson Fayetteville NC 7
93 . David Brannon Elora TN 7
94 . Eric Spangler Lake City MI 7
95 . Joel Callahan Dubuque IA 7
96 . Michael Kloos Trenton IL 7
97 . Ricky Weiss Winnipeg MAN 7
98 . Russell Erwin Beaverdam VA 7
99 . Ryan VanderVeen Six Lakes MI 7
100 . T.J. Reaid Acworth GA 7
101 . Zack Dohm Cross Lanes WV 7

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Droste Edges Hansen For Late Model Win At Independence

Okay, so if that headline doesn't spark some memories for you readers that are my age or older,  I don't know what will!

Saturday night I made my annual trip up to the Independence Motor Speedway to visit some good friends and to take in one of the best weekly shows going right now under the promotion Dana Benning. Believe me, if I didn't have a couple of other great Saturday night tracks much closer to home I would be at Independence much more often, but as it is I always make a point of going at least once a year and with a six division show featuring 107 race cars that took less than three hours to run off, you can bet that I will continue that tradition.

Sixteen IMCA Late Models lined up for a 25-lap feature with birthday boy Bobby Hansen earning the pole position following a convincing win in his heat race. It would be Hansen leading the opening lap before a caution waved for John Emerson who went spinning down the front stretch from apparent contact as headed for the work area to remove his right side body panel. The field was in turn three coming to green when Emerson returned to the track just ahead of them in four and he was saved from being early a full lap down when Travis Smock spun before he could get off of turn four.

Emerson would take advantage of the gift and started to work his way through the field as Hansen opened up a solid lead before the caution waved for debris on lap eight. Tyler Droste had started ninth and was now in the top five for the restart where he then picked up a few more positions before a lap eleven caution. Jon Passick had been using the low line to go from eighth to fourth, but he had slid sideways in turn four and when Russell Hesse set his car sideways to keep from drilling Passick, it straightened Jon out while Hesse stalled and was dinged for the caution.

Once back to green Droste tried to get under Hansen, but Bobby was protecting the low line so Tyler went to the top and the race was on. The two leaders would cross the stripe in nearly a dead heat for the next three laps before Droste was able to get the momentum that he needed off the cushion to clear Hansen and take the lead on lap sixteen. From that point Droste would drive away to take the feature win with Hansen running an impressive second. Passick held down the third spot ahead of Sean Johnson and veteran driver Curt Martin kept Emerson out of the top five by a car-length at the checkers.

Thirty IMCA Modifieds signed in for the evening, but due to some attrition during hot laps and the heats no B-Main was needed as Benning decided to start twenty-six cars in the main event. Josh Sherbon raced out to a nice lead from his pole position start, but that lead would start to fade away once Zach Less worked his way into second. The young driver from Hopkington, who is also testing out the pavement Late Model division in 2016, had come from row four and with six laps remaining he was now ready to challenge Sherbon for the lead. Exiting turn two Sherbon drifted a bit allowing Less to drive under him down the back stretch but as the entered turn three the soon to be lapped car of Brett Baumgardner spun right in front of the lead duo. Both were able to take evasive action, Less down low and Sherbon up high with the caution erasing the pass for the lead since the lap was not completed.

Sherbon would bring the field back to green only to have the same scenario play out exiting turn two with Less again taking the lead and this time it would count as he would pull away for the win. The battle for the rest of the top five was fun to watch over the closing laps as fifth row starters Scott Hogan and Ronn Lauritzen would finish second and third respectively. Corey Dripps was the last holdout on the high line and he would take fourth after starting eleventh while Ryan Maitland made an impressive charge to fifth after starting next to his brother Brandon in row eight.

Kyle Bentley would lead the first four laps of the IMCA Northern Sport Mod main event, but we are in that mode now where you pretty much expect Tony Olson to take the win as he quickly moved to second by lap three after starting tenth. A caution on lap four for hard contact between Andy Hunter and Steve Wimer only delayed the inevitable and on the restart Olson drove under Bentley in turn four to take the lead. Two more cautions would keep the field close with Kevin Hurst moving to second with five laps remaining, but he could only keep the leader's pace as Olson captured his thirteenth feature win of the season that is nearing its mid-point. Hurst was second ahead of last week's first-time winner Andy Edwards, Bentley finished in fourth with Jim Buhlman completing the top five.

A solid field of eighteen Stock Cars were in action tonight and it took three tries to get the 15-lap main event underway. Here just like everywhere else we see them the Stock Cars ran in tight formation with Jerry Schipper leading the way until the mid-race point when Roger Ciesielski stormed by on the outside of turn four. The new leader had come from the outside of row four and nobody was going to catch him as Ciesielski (pronounced Ciesielski) scored the win. Norman Chesmore started ninth and finished second, Jarod Weepie recovered from a chain reaction tangle in his heat race to come back and take third in the feature just ahead of Chris Luloff and Tom Schmitt.

Brett Vanous started on the pole of the 15-lap Hobby Stock feature, survived two restarts and still drove away to a convincing victory. Benji Irvine has been the driver to beat at Indee in this division but he was turned by another driver in turn three on lap five and then suffered a flat tire the following lap ending his evening. Leah Wroten started eighth and finished second. Luke Bird was third, Neal Miller finished fourth with Tyler Ollendieck coming from deep in the field to finish fifth.

I swear that every time I see the Micro Mods run, or Indee Cars as they are called here, Don Erger wins and tonight was no different although he had to fight off a last lap challenge from young Dallon Murty to do so. Murty slowed exiting turn four coming to the checkers allowing Cole McNeal to pick up second and it was hard to tell if Carson Less also snuck by Murty before he could limp across the line.

I never did get a chance to thank Dana Benning for his hospitality, but I did get a chance to slip over to the infield during the short intermission to say hello to Race Director Bucky Doren, announcer Jim Roper and my longtime friend Kevin Kemp who is the scorekeeper. They are just part of this great crew who presented a great night of racing that had the final checkers waving at 9:50.

As I sat there in the stands it really struck me about the tradition at this facility as by my count at least fifteen All Iowa Points championships were represented. Of course you had the defending Sport Mod champion Tony Olson in victory lane and in the stands it was cool to see Ed Sanger and Curt Hansen sitting with each other enjoying the evening. Sanger has eight Late Model titles while Hansen has three. Two-time All Iowa Points Pro Stock champion Vern Jackson was running a Modified and the 2005 Pro Stock champ Scott Welsh was in a Late Model. Take it from there and the Late Model feature winner was the grandson of the 1967 AIP Late Model champion Red Droste and the son of the 1996 Modified champion Steve Droste, plus it is a good possibility that Scott Braun (1978 Street Stock champion) and soon to be inducted IMS Hall of Famer Jack Mitchell, the 1983 Modified champion may have also been in attendance.

A ton of tradition here!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Schulz Makes Late Move To Take Invaders Win At Eldon

The Wapello County Fair in Eldon delivered another fun night of racing on Friday as John Schulz got by Chris Martin on a late restart to win the Sprint Invaders show at the Super Half Mile. The move by Schulz was the fifth lead change in the twenty-lap main event among four drivers as Jerrod Schneiderman and Cody Wehrle also swapped the lead early on. I am going to refer you to the official story and results from the night written by my colleague Bill Wright, so please do click the link and check it out at his new site OpenWheel101.

Brad Havel was the winner of the Sport Compact feature besting Brandon Housley and Kyle Boyd. Nick Ulin won both 25-lap races for the Iowa Sportsman Series and Terry Gallaher made a last lap pass of "Thunder" Klunder to win the vintage Sprint Car event in front of an enthusiastic county fair crowd.

So that makes two fun nights in a row for me at the Wapello County Fair in Eldon and you really have to give a tip of the hat to the crew who put on the races there. Keep in mind that this is a "part-time" bunch here although some of them do work regularly at other tracks and have obviously learned well from others. Corey Benge, J.D. Wheaton, Ron Potts, Jeff Kropf, Jason Riegel and I'm sure many others whom I do not know of all worked hard on behalf of the fair and should definitely take great pride in what they accomplished. Several of them thanked me for the story that I wrote about Thursday's races and all I could say was "you deserved it". This race fan, and all of those others in attendance were truly appreciative.

A Saturday night trip remains a possibility but not a certainty at this point, but I do know that I will be at the Iowa State Fair Speedway in Des Moines on Wednesday June 22nd for the next Sprint Invaders show that will also feature the Racesaver 305's. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hughes Earns Wapello County Fair King Of The Stock Cars Title

It's county fair time in Iowa and on Thursday night that also meant that it was "race night" at the Eldon Raceway "Home of the Super Half-Mile" where a large crowd gathered on a warm night to watch sixty cars race for some solid purses in four classes, highlighted by $1,000-to-win the Stock Cars. Harness racing during the day might have delayed the start of hot laps by a few minutes, but the wait was definitely worth it as this was the best track conditions that I have seen here in many years!

Nineteen Stock Cars were the headliners for the night and even though they were the last feature to be run they will get top billing in this story, especially when they had me on the edge of my seat with at least two instances where drivers were racing four-wide for position. And, in true Stock Car fashion, there was little or no contact in those instances despite the fact that this place has not been known for its wide racing surface.....well at least until perhaps last night!

Corey Strothman drew the pole for the 18-lap main event and when fellow front row starter Riley Newton sent the sparks flying as he scraped the wall in turn three it would be Strothman taking the lead. My focus was mid-pack though where consistent winners Jeff Mueller and Damon Murty were part of that first four-wide scenario racing hard off of turn four. Strothman would open up a solid advantage while drivers scrambled for position and that lead would begin to shrink once Nathan Wood and Mike Hughes settled into second and third. By lap ten Strothman's lead had disappeared and it was now Hughes who was in second and ready to challenge as the leader closed in on the slower car of Michael Brown.

With Brown riding in the favored line around the cushion entering turn three, Strothman decided to pass him low and when he slid back up the track exiting turn four Hughes made a nifty move where he kicked off the cushion to not only get by Brown, but to also drive by Strothman down the front stretch and beating him into turn one. As Hughes began to pull away the race to watch was now for fourth where Gary Harward and Andrew Hustead were doing battle, but contact between the two on lap fourteen turned Hustead head on into the retaining wall just before the flagstand ending his evening.

On the restart drivers again went four-wide, this time exiting turn two as they raced for the third spot, but there would be no catching Hughes who cruised through the final four laps for the big payday. Wood finished in second with Strothman holding on for third, Damon Murty settled into fourth while Derrick Agee held off Mueller for fifth.

The Sport Compacts opened the feature lineup with an entertaining 10-lap event that saw a late arrival drive from the back to the front to take the win. Josh Barnes had his son's t-ball game to attend first on this evening before making the trip from Keokuk to Eldon and he arrived just before intermission ready to tag the tail of the now 15-car main event. As Larry Hopkins raced to the early lead, Barnes was storming through the field coming all the way up to fourth at the completion of lap one. By lap three he was in second and challenging Hopkins for the lead, but Larry was not going to go down easily as he kept his momentum strong by riding the cushion on both ends. Barnes would take away the lead on lap seven just before the caution waved for a Bill Whalen Jr. spin in turn four to necessitate a restart.

As the green flag waved, Barnes missed a gear and dropped back to the fourth position as Hopkins reclaimed the lead and the field raced through turns one and two. Not to be denied though Barnes came charging right back and quickly went back to the front in time to take the white flag first, and then the checkers as he claimed victory. As fast as Josh was he could have went for ice cream after the game, unloaded as the field took the green and started nearly a lap behind and still take the win. Announcer Jeff Kropf then said something during the interview that I was unaware of until last night, Barnes is the grandson of the late Don White who won many a race here at the Eldon Raceway over the years.

Hopkins was very good, but he was still second best on this night, Brandon Housley passed John Whalen in the closing laps to finish third while Matt Moore completed the top five.

The 14-lap Hobby Stock feature definitely had some drama and it was fun to sit in the grandstands where it was obvious that these local drivers each had a vocal cheering section of adoring fans. "Little Daddy" Scottie Shull was as fast as I have ever seen him before, winning his heat race and then outrunning pole-sitter Nick Ulin to hold the early lead in the main event and his fans were loving every minute of it. The first caution of the event waved on lap four when the fourth running Kim Spees spun in turn two and collected three others including contenders Travis Bunnell who won here last Saturday night and former All Iowa Points champion Dustin Griffiths. All three restarted at the back and Griffiths made up several positions in the one lap completed before caution waved for a Justin Millhouse spin in turn two.

Lined up fifth for the next restart, Griffths went way up top in turn one and made a three-wide pass to move to second before the caution waved again on lap seven, this time for a Kelsie Spilman spin in turn three. As Shull brought the field back to green, Griffiths again went to the high line in turn one and as Shull went for his favored spot on the cushion the two made contact and both drivers had to scramble to keep from getting into the wall. This allowed Danny Thrasher, Nick Ulin, Bill Bonnett and Craig Brown to get by with Thrasher leading the eighth lap before Sierra Wilsey spun in turn four.

Six laps now remained and after taking second on the restart the veteran Bonnett applied the pressure to Thrasher even giving the leader a hard shot to the rear bumper entering turn three on the final lap, but "The Dude" held his ground and won for the second night in a row after also taking the checkers Wednesday night in Oskaloosa. Bonnett was second followed by Ulin, Griffiths made his way back up to fourth with Brown and Spees next in line.

The 16-lap Sport Mod feature saw a caution wave on the first try at a start when third-starting Casey Lancaster went for a spin and the second try was waved off as well when Garrett Alexander spun in turn two. After that the race went green all the way until the last hundred yards which was how far the race-long leader Carter VanDenBerg was from taking the checkers before the caution waved instead due to a spin by his cousin, Brayton Carter, in turn two. Brayton had been trying to take third away from Brandon Dale, but lost traction on the low-side of turn two and could not stay in motion as the rest of the field closed in on him.

The green, white, checkers restart proved to be no problem for the 2013 All Iowa Points Champion as VanDenBerg drove away from Jason McDaniel to close out the victory. Tony Johnson made an outside pass of Brandon Dale in turn four coming to the checkers to steal third while Brett Lowry completed the top five.

My fair food choice of the night was from Mr. Taco and I already know that I will be doing the brisket sandwich for dinner and the ice cream sandwich between two homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert when I return to Eldon tonight for the Sprint Invaders. And, if the track is prepared anywhere close to what it was on Thursday we are going to have a lot of fun at the fair tonight. Hope to see you there!