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|
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|
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!