Friday, July 21, 2017

Abelson and Van Der Wal Score At Knoxville's Dynamic Drivelines Dirt Duel

Drivers and fans were faced with another scorching hot evening in south central Iowa and while the heat wave had an effect on both the car count and the attendance, there was no lack of enthusiasm from the folks at Dynamic Drivelines as they presented their second "Dirt Duel" at the Knoxville Raceway Thursday night. The title sponsor started the evening with a reception that included free food and drinks in one of the track's air conditioned halls, a gesture that was greatly appreciated by those of us who arrived early.

With the heat index nearing 110 degrees, hot laps were pushed back to 7:30 and the drivers were slow to check in but by race time there were exactly 37 cars in both the IMCA Northern Sport Mods and the IMCA Modifieds with this event being a stop on the Arnold Motor Supply Hawkeye Dirt Tour.

Qualifying races were run off in fine fashion and the feature fields of twenty-four were set as clouds gradually thickened to the west and lightning was in the distance as the 20-lap Sport Mod feature took the green.

Curtis Van Der Wal
With the drivers running at the front this seemed like "West Osky" as Brayton Carter left pole-sitter Shawn Cooney behind to lead the opening laps only to have his Wednesday night nemesis Curtis Van Der Wal right there to challenge. Both in his heat race, and as he passed Carter for the lead on lap three, Curtis proved that nobody can drive a Sport Mod deeper into a corner and make it stick as he can and that is why he continues to rack up wins wherever he goes in 2017. Add Knoxville to that list as Van Der Wal would repeat his victory in this event from 2016 although Tim Plummer was actually closing the gap on him ever so slightly as the laps wound down. It would be Plummer's second straight runner-up finish at the Dirt Duel and is it just a coincidence that both of these drivers have had previous success running on the pavement at Hawkeye Downs?

Brayton Carter would hold down the third position while Boone's Randy Roberts was the best of the short trackers in fourth. Carter VandenBerg made it three Osky drivers in the top five as Cody Olsen, Brett Lowry, Sam Wieben, Dusty Masolini and Ethan Braaksma completed the top ten.

The lightning was more vivid as the Modifieds took the green for their 25-lap finale with Chris Abelson and Hunter Marriott making up an interesting front row. Marriott has had a fantastic season thus far winning big events in several different states and is fresh off a championship performance on the Dakota Tour. Abelson on the other hand has had a quiet 2017 with just four feature wins compared to seventy-one victories over the past two seasons. The night before in Oskaloosa it was Marriott who was dominating the main event before a brake line broke while Abelson was a non-factor so when Abelson drove deep into turn three on the opening lap and then slid up to shut the door on Marriott it looked like the former IMCA National Championship wanted to remind the young driver of who he is.

After establishing himself as the leader Abelson then opened up a gap on Marriott who was also pulling away from the pack and in fact the top six or seven cars got pretty spread out through the first half of the race. There was plenty of action to watch behind them though as sixth row starters Todd Shute and Jeff Aikey were making their way to front as was last night's winner Cayden Carter who had to win one of the two B-Mains tonight to start fourteenth.

Lapped traffic did not look like it was going to be a factor and without a caution this could have been considered all but over until lap nineteen when Abelson slid up in front of the lapped car of Brandon Banks in turn two. With momentum off the cushion Banks ran into the rear bumper of Abelson which then jerked Banks' car to the right where it made hard contact with back stretch guardrail. The damage was substantial enough that a rollback was needed to pick up the #22 and the red flag waved with just six laps remaining.

Ricky Thornton Jr. and Marriott would line up side-by-side behind the leader and one lap after the restart as they were racing for second Thornton had the advantage entering turn one where he drove in just above the cushion and then kicked left to try to get a run on Abelson. As Thornton came off the cushion though he came across the nose of Marriott and the resulting contact sent the #30 of Thornton for a spin in turn two where he was then pounded by central Nebraska driver Justin Gregg. This will end up being one of those "You Make The Call" clips from IMCA.tv, but the official decision would be that Marriott would be sent to the rear as both Thornton and Gregg were through for the night.
Richie Gustin (19G) makes his challenge on Chris Abelson - Barry Johnson


This would now move Richie Gustin and Todd Shute into the first row behind the leader for the restart with five laps remaining and it would first be Gustin to make a run at Abelson and then Shute. The Sioux City driver did not flinch though and maintained his advantage while Shute tried out the cushion for one last run. When the white flag waved it looked like Shute might have a chance, but when his car pushed up the track in turn one he was instead trying to recover and hold on to second as Abelson completed the flag-to-flag victory. Shute would hang on for second just ahead of Gustin as normal Late Model shoes Jeff Aikey and Justin Kay filled out the top five. Kay had started the race from fifteenth while Cayden Carter improved eight positions to sixth at the checkers. Troy Cordes was seventh, Joel Rust eighth, Kelly Shryock finished ninth and Marriott rallied to finish tenth.

Chris Abelson (1x) fights off a final challenge from Todd Shute to win the Dynamic Drivelines Dirt Duel at Knoxville - Barry Johnson
Shryock and Rust came into the night tied for the point lead in the Hawkeye Dirt Tour so now Rust will have a one point advantage when the Tour joins the Shottenkirk.com Sprint Invaders as the Dubuque County Fair opens its annual run on Tuesday night.

Thanks to my colleague Barry Johnson for providing the photos here and he told me that there was some discussion from the folks at Dynamic Drivelines in the infield that not only are they excited about hosting this event again in 2018, but they are also considering another night of action at Knoxville for the Stock Cars and Hobby Stocks.

No racing for me this weekend as it is bridal shower weekend for my daughter with her, and several of her friends coming to town from Michigan and beyond. Next up will be that Tuesday date at the Dubuque County Fair and then Wednesday night I will be filling in for Tony Paris on the mic at Oskaloosa as he travels to northern Minnesota to watch his son Tyson and the rest of the Ottumwa 13 and under baseball team try to qualify for the Nationals.

Enjoy your racing weekend!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dirt Tour's Best Chase Hometown Boy In Oskaloosa

The Arnold Motor Supply Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds rolled into Oskaloosa on a hot, sultry Wednesday evening for their annual appearance during the Southern Iowa Fair and while the car count may have been down, the quality of drivers in the field was exceptional. The heat likely played a role in the season low HDT count of twenty-one, plus you have to also consider the fact the only five or six Modified drivers have supported the weekly show here in 2017 so there was not that base of "home track" drivers that the Tour can usually count on and in fact only two of those signed in last night. And one of them kept the $1,000 winner's purse in Oskaloosa.

Fresh off of a successful run on the Dakota Tour, Brookfield, Missouri's Hunter Marriott drew the pole position for the twenty-five lap main event and given his dominating performance in tonight's third heat race he had to be considered the favorite. Marriott lived up to expectations quickly racing away from the field and building up more than a straightaway lead through the first ten laps. Hometown driver Cayden Carter started sixth and worked his way past Kyle Brown into second around lap ten and what started out as a gradual reduction of the gap between himself and the leader soon saw the lead shrinking considerably until Carter was within striking distance of Marriott on lap fifteen.

Marriott fought off the first challenge from Carter and on the following lap as the leader raced high to get around the lapped car of Dan Brockert, Carter charged into turn one low only to have Brockert get sideways right in front of him. As Brockert completed the full spin in turn two be backed into the implement tire marking the infield which caused his car to lift up and roll over onto its top necessitating a red flag stoppage of the race.

During the red Marriott drove to his trailer with a broken left rear brake line that he had struggled with for several laps perhaps explaining how fast his lead had melted away in the Iowa heat.
"The Gasman" Cayden Carter doing just that at Osky - Barry Johnson


Carter would assume the point for the restart with Brown and Ricky Thornton Jr. lined up behind him in double wide formation. Thornton had driven Todd Cooney's #30 up from a fifth row start and he now appeared to have the best shot at challenging the new leader, but when the green flag waved Cayden Carter quickly proved that there would be no challenge as he pulled away over the final nine laps to take the win. Thornton would finish in the second spot with Joel Rust in third. Current Tour point leader Kelly Shryock had muscled past Kyle Brown for fourth with five laps to go, but when Shryock smacked the guardrail in turn one with three laps remaining he gave the position back to Brown as Shryock settled for fifth.

Cayden Carter celebrates his hometown victory - Barry Johnson photo
The Hawkeye Dirt Tour continues tonight at the Knoxville Raceway and it will be interesting to see if, and how much the car count grows from tonight. Last year after scheduled events at Des Moines and Oskaloosa were rained out on the two nights before it, the Dynamic Drivelines Dirt Duel at Knoxville drew 44 Modifieds and 52 Sport Mods. It was very hot last year as well, so we will see if the once a year opportunity for drivers in these two classes to race at the legendary speedway is still a draw. I sure do hope that it is!

Support class action at Osky stayed predictable in two of the divisions although both Shannon Anderson and Curtis Van Der Wal definitely had to put on a show in order to park in their traditional spot, victory lane, at the end of their respective features.

Anderson would start the 14-lap Hobby Stock feature from the inside of the fifth row although it would only take him three laps to get to second. On lap four his father Jeff would cause the only caution of the race when his car stopped against the rail on the front stretch and required a tow back to the pits with front end damage. Early leader Christian Huffman was no match for Anderson who took the lead in turn one on the restart and he then went the rest of the distance unchallenged for his eleventh win in eleven starts here in 2017. North Iowa driver Chanse Hollatz, who is currently ranked as the second most successful Hobby Stock driver in the state, chased him in for second for the second night in a row, Mike Kincaid was third, Steve Allen fourth and Huffman completed the top five.

Curtis Van Der Wal started fifth in the ten car Sport Mod field that went fourteen laps non-stop. Carter VandenBerg established a quick pace matched only by his cousin Brayton Carter as well as Van Der Wal and the lead trio gave the large crowd a thrill mid-race. Brayton had been making a run at VandenBerg diving low into the turns and while he was able to pull even it would be VandenBerg who would maintain the lead down the straights as Van Der Wal raced close behind. On lap eight with the leader VandenBerg going to the cushion in turn three and the challenger Carter racing to the bottom, Van Der Wal split the difference and was somehow able to make it stick to drive right through the middle of the two cousins and take the lead coming off of turn four. It has become obvious that the Osky crowd has a split opinion now of Curtis Van Der Wal, but even the boo birds had to applaud that move as he then pulled away over the closing laps to take the win. Brayton Carter would take the runner-up position with Carter VandenBerg third, Dan Drury finished in fourth and Tony Johnson was fifth.

The Stock Car count doubled from the night before, but the fourteen lap feature was essentially a replay from Tuesday of Dustin Griffiths hugging the bottom and Nathan Wood waiting for a mistake. Griffiths, a former All Iowa Points Hobby Stock champion, is too good of a driver to make one though and he would lead the distance to take his second win in two nights. Wood took one look to the outside in the final set of turns, but could not make a run as he finished second and maintained his current lead in the All Iowa Points for Stock Cars, as Mike Hughes, Derrick Agee and Danny Thrasher rounded out the top five.

The Sport Compact main event had some similarities to Tuesday's action as well with Levi Heath taking the early lead and then fighting off a mid-race challenge for a couple of laps before yielding the point on this night to Ryan Havel. Unfortunately though for Heath he would then retire to the pits with mechanical issues as Havel closed out the victory with the rest of the top five being Bill Whalen Jr., John Gill, Nathan Moody and Dalton Winkleman.

I want to thank Cedar Rapids Gazette scribe Jeremiah Davis for the info on Hunter Marriott's issues and also my colleague Barry Johnson who gave me the report from the claim area after the Sport Mod feature where a brief scuffle broke out after Colton Livezy filed a claim on Curtis Van Der Wal's engine. The claim was disallowed due to the fact that Livezy does not have perfect attendance at the track in 2017, an IMCA rule and, according to Barry, Van Der Wal still offered to let them use the motor if they still wanted to, but.....well, you know, the heat of July often causes tempers to flare.

The other thing that can flare up at this time of the year is the speculation of what might happen in the future for a track that is struggling with car counts although I must say that, other than Tuesday's fair race, the crowd here has remained solid. And while I am just a "lowly blogger" I think that I have a good suggestion for 2018, but it is only to share with anybody who might be involved with the operation next year. So in other words, I am just like everybody else who has an opinion on how to make it better!

The bottom line though is that I love my weekly Wednesday night option and I never want to see it go away!

Make sure that you also check out The 4dFan Report and One Fan's Travels for additional coverage of this week's racing and Paul Vetter, it was great to see you again my friend. Hopefully one day I can come to California and catch some shows with you in your home state!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Anderson and Van Der Wal Roll On At Osky

Tuesday night's Fair Race at the Southern Iowa Speedway was an appetizer for tonight's main course when the Arnold Motor Supply Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds comes to town and, while two of the night's winners were very predictable, it was a fun night of racing enjoyed with friends from near and far.

The Modifieds had the night off and this one was not a points race for the remaining four classes so that showed in the car count with just forty in the pits. Thank goodness for the Hobby Stocks who fielded seventeen drivers, sixteen of them hoping to collect the $300 bounty on Shannon Anderson who came into the night nine for nine on the season here in Oskaloosa.

Anderson drew the inside of row three to start the 14-lap main event and on the first try to get a lap in his father, Jeff Anderson, spun down the back stretch sending him to the back for a restart. Pole-sitter Bradley Graham would pace the opening trip around the big half-mile only to have both Chance Hollatz and Shannon Anderson drive past him on lap two. Hollatz and Anderson came across the stripe side-by-side and when the caution waved soon after it would be Anderson that had been scored the leader as he would bring the field back to green on the restart.

Hollatz was able to keep the leader in sight, but not mount a challenge while the driver to watch was Jeff Anderson who was making his way back to the front in Corey Roe's car #8R. The caution waved with two laps remaining when two cars tangled in turn two and we had to wonder if it would actually be Jeff Anderson who might be able to collect the bounty on his son. That was not to be though as Shannon pulled away to win his tenth straight here and twenty-eighth feature overall in 2017 meaning that the bounty will still be in place tonight. Hollatz finished second ahead of Jeff Anderson while Steve Allen and Christian Huffman completed the top five.

Ten cars would start the 14-lap Sport Mod feature after Cory Van Zante scratched and Dan Drury, who arrived at the pit gate as the second heat for this division was on the track, apparently decided to turn around and head back home. Young Blaine Webster did a nice job of fighting off the challenges from A.J. Johnson for the first three laps before Johnson was able to use the high line to get around Webster in turn four. As he tried to get back to the lead Webster hit a track tire down in turn one (I thought we had gotten rid of these once the others were buried) and when it settled in the racing groove the caution waved.

On the restart Curtis Van Der Wal charged to the inside of Johnson into turn one to takeover the lead on lap five, but when the caution waved again Van Der Wal was penalized a position for the contact involved with that pass. Once back to racing Johnson was able to hold him off for a lap, but when the leader slipped high in turn three Van Der Wal made the pass and would drive away to yet another convincing win at his hometown track. Colton Livezy would race his way into the runner-up position with Jason McDaniel in third. After finishing fourth Johnson paid a visit to victory lane to express his thoughts to the winner as Webster filled out the top five.

Only five Stock Cars signed in to race tonight and after Mike Hughes smacked the guardrail exiting turn four on the second lap and Donnie Pearson pulled off mid-race only three remained. Those three put on a good show though as both Nathan Wood and Danny Thrasher tried to find a different line that would get them around the leader Dustin Griffiths who was hugging the bottom. That low line would prevail though with Griffiths taking the win over Wood and Thrasher. Look for more Stock Cars to be on hand tonight.

The Sport Compacts had a good race for the lead as well with Levi Heath doing his best to ward off Nathan Moody. Moody would be able to take the lead entering each set of turns only to have Heath come charging back down the straightaways, but with just two laps to go Moody was able to slide up and shut the door to earn his first career feature win. Heath was second as Bill Whalen Jr, returned to action in third. Bryan Clausson and Dalton Winkleman completed the field.

Tonight's action at the Southern Iowa Speedway will get underway with hot laps at 7:00 and racing to follow. Yes, it will be hot so put on your shorts and wear a loose fitting light colored shirt and come on out to enjoy the Fair. Plenty of good things to eat and drink as well!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Open Wheel Action Highlights An Interesting Week

Three races in four nights this week gave me the full spectrum of enjoyment starting with one of the worst nights that I can remember at a race night thankfully followed up by two spectacular events that featured some different classes of open wheel action.

I know that I have a few critics who feel that I do not say enough "bad things" about promoters and drivers and honestly I could care less about what those critics say. Long time readers of the Back Stretch know how to find things that I might not have liked hidden discreetly in a story that might sound like "wine and roses" to others and I take pride in being able to do that as my goal is to always give a fair report of an event and do my best to promote the sport.

Wednesday's county fair race was a rough one and I am confident that the good people who tried to put it on know what they need to do differently if there is a "next time" and, well, that's all that I am going to say about that.

Thursday night the Shottenkirk.com Sprint Invaders made their annual visit to the Cedar County Fair in Tipton and a full house witnessed a fantastic finish to the night. Seven-time IRA Sprint Car champion Bill Balog was a surprise entrant driving Scott Bonar's #50 and on a mid-race restart "The North Pole Nightmare" was in a perfect position to complete a sweep of the evening lined up in second behind 2015 series champion Jon Agan. Agan would block low going into turn one, but when the leader charged into turn three a bit too hot he would have to pitch the car sideways to keep from going over the top of turn four.

Balog was able to avoid, but two drivers racing in the top five Josh Schneiderman and Cody Wehrle, could not and they both went for a tumble off the banking. Balog would assume the lead for the restart and it is likely that most assumed that he would walk away from the field from there. Ben Wagoner had other ideas though and he would drive under Balog a lap later to steal the lead and Wagoner would maintain a two to three car advantage until the white flag waved. There were a couple of slower cars racing just ahead of Wagoner going down the back stretch and when he made the slightest of hesitation entering turn three Balog powered up to the high side. Wagoner's line was true and it looked like he would still take the win, but Balog stayed on the throttle and even though he nearly slipped off the top of the elevated racing surface he was able to get enough of a bite down the front stretch to nip Wagoner by a nose at the checkers sending the large Cedar County Fair crowd home with a buzz.

For the full story on the Sprint Invaders including results check out Bill Wright's story at OpenWheel101.com Another fun night of county fair action comes up on Tuesday June 25th at the Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway where the Invaders have thrilled the crowd each of the past two years.

The Sport Mods put one some good racing at Tipton as well with nearly thirty of them on hand looking for the $1,000 top prize. Current All Iowa Points leader Tyler Soppe drew the front row and was never seriously challenged as he captured his 22nd feature win of 2017 and we are only just past the halfway point of the season! Dalton Simonsen nipped the current Illinois state points leader Dustin Schram at the line for second while Matt Petrzelka and Jacob Ellithorpe completed the top five. And I see that Ellithorpe, who got his start driving in the Four Cylinder division, followed up that performance by winning his first feature in a Sport Mod at the Maquoketa Speedway on Saturday.

It is always a pleasure to work with Al and Kathy Dlouhy and their competent cast of characters including the two spotters in the field Chad and Bugsy at the Cedar County Fair. Hopefully the Sprint Invaders earned another trip back for 2018.

After living down south the past several years it is great to have my son Morgan back in Des Moines and I have been able to join him for three events already this season. Morgan is a big Sprint Car and Midget fan so on Saturday he proposed that we meet in Osceola and then drive down to Valley Speedway just east of Kansas City where the WAR non-wing Sprints and the Lucas Oil POWRi Midgets were running night number two of a doubleheader weekend.

We arrived just before the advertised start of hot laps at 6 p.m. and could see that the track had been heavily watered in an attempt to thwart the incredibly hot sun that was beating down on the wide 3/8th-mile banked speedway. Wheel packing took forever and I started having some flashbacks to Wednesday night thinking that this thing might never get rolled in early enough where on this night it would be an eleven o'clock curfew that was the threat rather than approaching thunderstorms.

By 8 p.m. we finally had a usable racing surface and the sun was starting to set relieving those of us who had been sitting in this sauna for the past two hours. Once underway the track and series officials did a great job of keeping the show moving and the resulting track conditions proved to be well worth the delay as both the Sprints and Midgets were able to race high, low and every place in between giving us a full night of action that joins the list of potential "race night of the year" candidates.

Car counts were solid with 27 Sprints and 39 Midgets and with both using the draw and passing points format the racing was great in the heats, B-Mains and both features. Why anybody would insist on having time trials and then starting straight up after seeing a show like this is just beyond me!

The 25-lap Sprint Car feature had three different leaders in the first five laps as Chris Parkinson paced the first two before Clinton Boyles put the slider on him in turn three. Sixth-starting Zach Daum found the low groove to his liking and he would drive under the leader on lap five just before Boyles pulled to the infield with mechanical issues. As Daum crept around the bottom Wyatt Burks closed in and tried to use the cushion to get by. The very top was just too much farther around though so Burks then started to work a line that was just one lane higher than Daum. This allowed him to get nearly even with the leader through the apex of the turns, but Daum's bite off the bottom at the exit would allow him to hold the lead lap after lap until lapped traffic finally came into play with just five laps remaining.

The first lapper or two did not pose a problem, but when Danny Thoman was parked right in the leader's preferred groove it allowed Burks to power by on the outside to take the lead with just two laps remaining. Daum did his best to make a comeback, but he now had Cody Baker charging at him off the cushion as well and, just after Burks took the checkers for the win, Daum nipped Baker at the stripe by inches for second. The pole-sitter Parkinson would hold down fourth at the checkers while Friday night's winner Joe B. Miller finished fifth. Starting at the back of his heat race earlier in the evening Miller struggled to a fifth place finish and had to win the B-Main to make the show so his top five finish had started from the inside of row nine.

Thirty laps of POWRi Midget racing would close out the evening and even though Spencer Bayston would lead every lap to take the win from the pole position, there was a notebook full of action going on behind him. First of all I need to point out that under the passing point system Bayston EARNED the pole by coming from eighth to finish second in the opening heat race finishing just behind Tucker Klaasmeyer so even though he went the distance in the feature Baytson actually had to pass six drivers for position earlier in the evening to collect the big money.

The first caution in the feature waved on lap three when Klaasmeyer hooked the the rear push bar of the third place car of Ryan Robinson spinning both drivers  at the exit of turn four. It would be the start of a tough race for the young Californian Robinson.

Friday's winner Tanner Thorson tried to keep pace with Bayston, but it would be Zach Daum who was again working the bottom that made a big move up from tenth to second before Grady Chandler spun on lap eight. Daum looked like he might have something for the leader on the restart, but when the caution waved again on lap thirteen for Matt Moore's spin the focus was now on another California driver for the restart. Logan Seavey had started twelfth and was pounding the cushion on both ends to perfection to get into the top five and the fans were cheering him on to keep advancing once back to green.

Running the cushion can be treacherous though and after one stumble Seavey actually dropped out of the top five, but he soon found his rhythm once again and the charge was on. With nine laps remaining Seavey swept past both Daum and Thorson coming off of turn two and Bayston was directly in his sights but when Ryan Robinson spun behind him in turn two that lap was never scored and Seavey would have to go back to fourth for the restart.

Another stumble on the cushion had Seavey go completely sideways in turn two and he faded back to seventh or eighth as Thorson now tried to negotiate the line that he had just been shown before the caution. Tanner appeared to be getting it dialed in and was closing on Bayston when Ryan Robinson's tough night came to an abrupt end as he clipped the front stretch wall and flipped hard right in front of us. Thankfully Robinson was able to scramble out of his overturned car under his own power and we were soon set for four more laps of action.

Thorson would go right back to the cushion as Daum dug down low, but Spencer Bayston was just too strong to catch on this night taking the win ahead of Thorson and Daum. B-Main winner Kyle Schuett had a great run coming from the ninth row to finish fourth just ahead of Jonathan Beason while Seavey came back to sixth.

This was my second visit to Dennis Shrout's Valley Speedway, the first coming for a mid-October Modified show about ten years ago, and while the facility will never win a beauty contest the track itself definitely offered up some great racing on this night. And, as I knew he would, Morgan was already making plans for our next visit when the POWRi Midgets return to Valley.

I have three nights of racing on the calendar for this week with the Arnold Motor Supply Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds headlining two of them on Wednesday at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa and on Thursday at the world famous Knoxville Raceway. I'll start off the tripleheader on Tuesday night during the Southern Iowa Fair in Osky where promoter Mike Van Genderen has added the twist where the second place finisher will actually be paid slightly more than the winner.

Hope to see you at the races this week!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Aikey Within a Half Car Length of Doubling Up At Vinton

The racing at last weekend's Hogan Memorial was so good that we decided to make a return trip to the Benton County Speedway in Vinton Sunday night and the quick little quarter-mile did not disappoint. The seven division program provided plenty of action and was completed in just three hours and fifteen minutes from wheel packing to the final checkered flag allowing me to make the hundred mile trip and be back home by 11:00 p.m.

The Micro Mods were up first in the feature lineup for twelve laps and they struggled with more cautions than I am used to seeing in this division. On the first try at a start Derek Knutsen was leading the field into turn three when he spun and fortunately everybody was able to avoid him. This moved Don Erger to the front row for the restart and as he was leading the field into turn three for the first time his car would not turn and he drove off the top of the race track. Mike Post would be scored as the leader of lap one before the caution waved for Erger. As the field came back for the green Scott Baty and Cole McNeal tangled and spun in turn four for the third caution before the race could finally get going.

Post would lead lap two before Kaden Reynolds blew by him a lap later and at the mid-race mark the caution waved again when the rear axle came out of Erick Knutsen's car. Once back to green the field would run pretty much single file chasing Reynolds the rest of the way as the young driver scored his first feature win. Just after Post took the checkers in second his left rear wheel broke off while Derek Knutsen battled back to finish in third.

The Sport Compacts were welcomed back to the speedway tonight with eleven cars lined up for twelve laps of feature racing and they would be the only division that would go green to checkers on the evening. Nathan Chandler started from the outside of row one and this one looked like it would be a race for second, but Jake Benischek and John Gill weren't about to concede this one to Chandler. Gill was racing in second and applying the pressure to the leader down low and when Chandler threw the block that allowed Benischek to race from third to first using the outside line on lap nine. The young driver from Durant would then pull away over the final three laps to take the win over Chandler and Gill. Steven Struck started in the the fourth row and finished fourth just ahead of Jacob Smith and Friday night pavement racer Drew Nickell finished sixth.

The sixteen lap Northern Sport Mod feature was a thriller featuring two local drivers who both have very enthusiastic and vocal fan bases making it even more entertaining for a drop in fan like myself. Curt Hilmer started third and would lead the opening lap before four cars piled up in turn two. Kyle Olson had gotten sideways and collected his cousin Tony Olson as well as Dakoda Sellers and Australian Frank Packer. All four were able to restart, but now from the back of the sixteen car field.

Hilmer would resume his lead on the restart until lap five when Danny Dvorak used the bottom line to take over the point. Two laps later though Dvorak would have to find his way around two much slower cars that were racing side-by-side at the back and when he was nearly forced into the infield down the front stretch Hilmer went driving by to take the lead back on lap seven. Just after that lap was scored Packer would spin on the front stretch as his group of cars encountered the slower traffic and the caution would wave.

One of those slower cars would shed its driveshaft to cause one final caution on lap eight and once back to racing it was a battle for the lead as Hilmer tried to hold off Dvorak. Throw in the fact that the Olson fans were cheering loudly as well with the cousins making their way back to the front and this was a good one to the finish with Hilmer taking the win by a couple of car lengths over Dvorak. Tony rode the cushion back up to third while Kyle worked the bottom to fourth at the checkers nipping Kyle Bentley at the stripe.

After a break for a Candy Dash and a Gunny Sack race won by Modified driver Patrick Flannagan the Hobby Stocks were up next for fifteen laps of action. Mike Kimm would pace the field early until lap two when several cars got out of shape in turn four. Justin Wacha veered to the right to avoid the tangle and he was then t-boned by Nathan Ballard. The winner of last week's Hogan feature for the division, Ballard had his crew check things over in the work area and he restarted at the rear but soon was racing with a left front tire down that impeded his progress.

Brett Vanous would take the lead from Kimm on the restart and hold it until lap nine when Daniel Wauters cruised by. Wauters appeared to have this one now well in hand, but as he was headed to the flying green indicating just two laps remaining the leader got completely sideways in turn four driving into the infield to recover. This allowed Vanous to be scored as the leader again on lap thirteen before the caution waved for debris off of Jacob Floyd's car in turn four setting up a green-white-checkered restart. Both Matt Brown down low and Justin Wacha up high would put the pressure on over the final two laps, but Vanous would prevail for the victory. Brown finished second, Wacha was third, Matt Pohlman took fourth and Wauters had to settle for fifth.

The IMCA Modifieds lined up next for twenty laps with Ed Thomas leading lap one. Jeff Aikey was right there to challenge, but instead it would be Brennen Chipp who would pass them both to lead lap two. Aikey came right back though to take the lead on lap three with Chipp putting up a good challenge until he slowed suddenly and pulled to the infield on lap five. One lap later the caution would wave when Justin Barta got sideways in turn three leaving Ryan Maitland, J.J. Scott and Dennis Betzer no place to go.

Cautions breed cautions and on lap seven Colby Heishman, Barta and Kyle Montgomery were all involved in a turn three incident then on lap ten Betzer spun down the back stretch. Brandon Maitland got the yellows out of the system on lap twelve when he went over the top of turn three and once back to racing the final eight laps would be run under green flag conditions. Aikey tried to pull away, but he had both Patrick Flannagan and Scott Hogan racing right behind him and soon Ryan Maitland was in the mix as well as the young driver recovered nicely from his early race incident to get to second.

Maitland was using the extreme bottom line on both ends and was closing the gap before the checkers waved over Aikey for his second win in a Modified here in Vinton this season. Maitland was second ahead of Hogan and Flannagan while Vern Jackson filled out the top five.

Justin Temeyer would lead all eighteen laps of the IMCA Stock Car main event, but he would have a drive shaft failure on another car to thank for his victory. With six laps remaining Temeyer drove under the lapped car of Chad Siems entering turn three, but his momentum took him up and over the cushion and then off the top of turn four. However, just as that was happening the drive shaft had come out of Justin Stander's car entering turn one sending him for a spin and the caution waved before the second place car of John Oliver Jr. could get to the flagstand.

After Stander's car was towed away Temeyer assumed his position at the front of the field for the restart and he was able to complete the distance for the win as Oliver and Nathan Wood battled for the runner-up spot. Wood prevailed leaving Oliver in third, Scooter Dulin was fourth and Bob Ahrendsen filled out the top five.

Thirteen IMCA Late Models would close out the night for twenty laps in a race that was slowed just twice by spins on lap one and lap two. John Emerson would lead that first lap that saw Jeff Aikey moved quickly from seventh to second. Following the second restart Aikey would take the lead on lap three only to have Emerson come back on lap four. Aikey would regain the lead on lap five as Ryan Dolan made it a three-car battle by getting a big run off the cushion in turn two. Emerson would take the lead back from Aikey once again on lap seven, but when he had the lapped car of Bill Hoover working his low line on lap eleven that allowed Dolan to go sailing by and into the lead.

Dolan appeared to by driving away in this one, but Aikey was charging back after slipping past Emerson for second and on the final lap Dolan's ten car length lead evaporated quickly with Aikey having a shot at the win coming off of turn four. It was a drag race to the stripe and Dolan was able to use his high side momentum to edge out Aikey by half a car length at the checkers. Emerson fought off Todd Cooney to finish third while Dirk Hamilton earned his first top-five finish of the season in fifth.

That wrapped up another enjoyable Sunday night in Vinton and I do hope that I can make it back up here at least one more time in 2017.

This week's plans call for weekly Wednesday night racing at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa and then on Thursday night the Shottenkirk.com Sprint Invaders will be at the Cedar County Fair in Tipton where Sport Mods will also be in action with $1,000-to-win.

Hope to see you there!