Sprint Invaders

Sprint Invaders
2015 Season Opener

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Some Pictures From Practice at 34 Raceway

As you look through these pictures from today's practice at 34 Raceway it looks like a bright, beautiful and sunny Spring day. Yea, it was, but it was REALLY cold with a temperature at 40 degrees and a nice little breeze blowing. For more pictures visit our PositivelyRacing page on Facebook and I was headed back toward home I met the cars of John Oliver Jr., Erick Knutsen, Sean Wyett and Andy Eckrich.

Here's hoping that we warm up quite a bit and that things stay dry enough for racing action tomorrow night (Sunday March 29th) at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. Action gets underway at 5 p.m.

Colby Springsteen

Justin Newberry

Kyle Hill

Jay Johnson

David Brandies

Cody Washburne

Brian Harris in the Richard Racing #15R

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cold and Cold Effecting This Weekend's Schedule

After making it all the way through the winter without even a sniffle, I have come down with a doozy of a cold the past three days that I am hoping will start to fade away soon. My wife knows when I am really sick if I say that I don't feel well enough to go to the races and that definitely would have been the case on this Friday. However, due to the cold weather the Spring Extravaganza that was originally scheduled to run both tonight and Saturday has now been postponed and trimmed to a one-day show for this Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. So if you see me there, you know that I am feeling better than I do right now and, to be safe you might just want to keep your distance!

The same warning goes out if you see me at practice day tomorrow at 34 Raceway near Burlington. Drivers will have the opportunity to get out on the track and prepare their cars for the 50th year of racing at the 3/8th-mile oval from noon to 3:00 on Saturday. All classes are welcome.

Rain put an early end to the first night of action at the King of America Modified event at the Humboldt Speedway in Kansas last night. Eighty-two Modifieds and forty-five B-Mods will pick up the action tonight and then roll into the regular Friday night program that will set the field for Saturday's big finale that not only pays $10,000-to-win, but also $1,000 just to start the main event.

The Illini 100 featuring the World of Outlaws Late Models originally scheduled for this weekend at the Farmer City Raceway in eastern Illinois has been postponed to April 17th and 18th. This is the same weekend when the MARS/ALMS and Corn Belt Clash series will run a three race swing at Davenport, Burlington and East Moline and while some worry that it will have a negative effect on the car count, in my opinion it will cost the Outlaws more than the regional swing. Time will tell and it will definitely force some Late Model fans to make a tough decision on which event to attend.

Sprint Car fans in this area received some great news this week when it was announced that the ASCS National Series will now take the Wednesday July 29th date at the West Liberty Raceway. That night was originally scheduled to have the All Star Sprints, but after that series was purchased by Tony Stewart the new owner obviously wanted to focus on keeping the All Stars more of a Ohio-based entity. Yes, the ASCS is a 360 series but you will never know the difference and fans can expect a full field of cars to attack the wide half-mile. Then the following night this region's best 360 Sprint series the Sprint Invaders will visit the Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway for the first time ever. I cannot wait to see the winged sprints on the highbanks of Dubuque and with the ASCS in town, and with this being the week before the annual Knoxville 360 Nationals you should see another full pit area.

And perhaps I am jumping the gun on this, but it also looks like the Sprint Invaders will add a September 5th date at the Peoria Speedway.

The passing of Earl Baltes has brought forth many great memories of the man and you should check out Dirt On Dirt for some of them. Other than being near him in the press room at the Knoxville Nationals I never had the pleasure of getting to know him, but he obviously played a tremendous role in the growth of dirt track racing. Makes you wonder if there will ever be another great innovator in this sport and, if so, who will it be?

Hopefully I can get out to Donnellson on Sunday, but even if I can't things really get rolling around here next week with the annual Frostbusters scheduled for Oskaloosa on Wednesday, Vinton on Thursday, Marshalltown on Friday and Boone on Saturday. It is my hope to make the first two and then my weekend plans have me at 34 Raceway on Saturday night for the season opener for the Sprint Invaders and then on Sunday night it will be the season opener at the Quad City Speedway in East Moline.

Need this cold and the cold to disappear so that I can get back out onto the Back Stretch!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Legendary Promoter Passes; News From The Weekend

The racing world today mourns the loss of legendary promoter Earl Baltes who passed away this morning at the age of 93. The man and his wife decided to build a race track next to a dance hall that they operated in western Ohio and the rest is history as Baltes became one of the most powerful people in the sport. Dave Moody has a great write-up on the life and legend of the man that many just knew as Earl and I encourage you to read it here.

Did you see the finish of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car feature in Stockton, California, Saturday night? If you haven't, then take a moment and watch it here. Go ahead, I'll wait for ya.

Even announcer Johnny Gibson thought that Shane Stewart had won the race as you will hear in his call only to quickly change it to "Schatz wins it" after quickly looking to his timing and scoring monitor for confirmation. Yes, the camera angle can be deceiving and by now all of us should know that the start/finish line is usually not right at the flagstand. If scored manually it would be at the point where the scorekeepers consider to be their line of reference, such as a fence pole directly in front of them, or in today's world it is where the scoring loop is clicked by the transponder. So yes, Donny Schatz won the race and even Shane Stewart agreed tweeting "Thanks for all the love peeps but we got beat fair and square. Can't take away that we had a great race" and he then provided a link to another video that you will need to be a Facebook member to view.

Yes, now I agree that Schatz won. But by 0.22 seconds? Now way! Perhaps 0.02.......but either way after Rico Abreu thrilled his home state crowd with his second Outlaws win of the season on Sunday night Shane Stewart leaves Stockton with the series point lead. And kudos to Iowa's Terry McCarl who ran second to Abreu on Sunday night and even though he is not following the Outlaws this year, T-Mac now sits tenth in the series point standings. McCarl will be one of nearly forty drivers who will chase the first-ever championship in the National Sprint League that will debut on April 11th at 34 Raceway in Burlington.

Proponents of the proliferation of live, or slightly delayed video of dirt track racing will tell you that it will actually increase attendance in the future at the featured track because those watching will see how great it is and then make a point of making a trip there for another race soon. I can honestly say that 90% of the time I experience the exact opposite effect especially if that video shows a locked down single-grooved surface, or if the dust is flying so much that you can barely even see the race in the video. However, this weekend when I watched the highlights from the Lucas Oil Late Model series event from the Atomic Speedway in Alma, Ohio, on Dirt On Dirt I absolutely marked it down as a track that I need to get to and soon! High speed and wide, with little or no dust to be seen in the air, the Late Models had to have had the fans in attendance on the edge of their seats and catching their breath as I even felt that way sitting in front of my computer! Jonathan Davenport took the win at a facility that my friend The Fasttrackfan would never want to leave.

Wet conditions over the past two weeks played havoc with the Springfield Raceway in southwest Missouri Saturday night as normally owner/promoter Jerry Hoffman has the quarter-mile smooth as glass. One last track prep session before the feature though did produce some exciting racing up front for the MARS Late Model series opener as former champions Jesse Stovall and Tony Jackson Jr. battled young Texan Tyler Erb only to have Erb drop out late in the event. Jackson would go on to take the win as only six cars finished the race. Don't forget that the MARS Late Models make a three race swing through our area April 17th, 18th and 19th with Davenport and East Moline sandwiched around the Slocum 50 at 34 Raceway on Saturday night.

The Gustin siblings had a pretty good weekend in northern Missouri. Jenae won the Sport Mod feature on Friday night in Memphis and followed that up with a runner-up finish to Clint Luellen on Saturday night. Then on Sunday night, as her brother Ryan collected the $3,000 top prize in the USMTS Modified main event at the I-35 Speedway in Winston, Jenae ran fifth in the B-Mod feature bringing her winnings for the weekend to $1,230. Older brother Richie Gustin posted a third-place finish in the Modifieds at Memphis on Saturday night in his only outing for the weekend.

Perhaps I was expecting too much after seeing the huge numbers in Beatrice a week before, but I was surprised that the car counts were not higher for the Midwest Bottom Heavy Spring Nationals in Memphis this past weekend. The Beatrice event has been running for several years now and drivers make a point of getting their cars done and travelling to southeast Nebraska for the event each year. Promoter Mike Van Genderen tried to run a mid-March show at Memphis last year, but it was snowed out so this was the "inaugural" event and perhaps several drivers who would have otherwise participated just weren't ready to go yet. Van Genderen did announce that the event will be on the schedule again in 2016 so hopefully drivers will plan accordingly. The other possibility may have been the unique purse structure where the winner was actually paid twenty dollars less than the second-place finisher with the extra money that would usually be in that winner's check spread equally down through the rest of the finishers. While Van Genderen noted that he had drivers thank him for the unique purse structure one has to wonder if drivers still look at what it will pay to win before deciding whether or not to make the trip. Most of them will tell you that they don't, but........

MVG and his crew will be back at it this coming weekend at the Lee County Speedway Spring Extravaganza scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Donnellson, Iowa. Last year weather forced the show to be run on Saturday and Sunday though and Mike has hinted, based upon the current weather forecasts, that might just happen again so stay in touch with the speedway and hopefully we'll see you there sometime this weekend.

Changes are already being made to the schedule for the weekend ahead as the Illini 100 for the World of Outlaws Late Models at Farmer City Raceway has been postponed to April 17th and 18th due to forecasted cool temperatures.

So how are those extended weather forecasts evolving? If you check through my last several blog entries you can see the progress.

Donnellson, Iowa, Saturday March 28th - Sunny and warmer 49

Burlington, Iowa, Saturday April 11th - Periods of Rain and 55

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ladies Night In Memphis

It was just about five months ago that I closed out my 2014 racing season at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, and even though it seemed like an incredibly long winter, it felt just like yesterday as I walked back into the old covered stands at the fairgrounds in northeast Missouri Friday night. Night one of two for The Midwest Bottom Heavy Spring Nationals, named that way due to the fact that the extra money that would normally be placed on top of the purse was instead distributed throughout so that more drivers could share in the wealth, was on the menu and three weeks ago I would have bet the house that this race would not have happened. Consistently frigid temperatures through the end of winter suddenly changed to an amazing two weeks of dry and warm conditions and that, along with the grooming from promoter Mike Van Genderen, had the wide racing surface in near perfect conditions. Something that had to be a welcomed surprise to everybody as you simply don't see dirt tracks in this area without at least a ripple or two this early!

The Sport Compacts would be the first of five features on the evening and after dominating her heat race to begin the night Kimberly Abbott was the driver to beat as she drew the pole position for the twelve-lap event. Josh Barnes was able to keep pace with Abbott early on although he could not mount a challenge and Barnes' teammate Michael Grossman was on the move after starting eighth. With four laps remaining Abbott negotiated lapped traffic with ease as Grossman challenged Barnes for second and those two closed the gap on the leader as they battled for position. With two laps remaining though Barnes slowed on the back stretch, a victim of a flat tire, and this allowed Grossman to now concentrate on catching the leader. Abbott was smooth as always though and stayed glued to the bottom line leaving Grossman no choice but to settle for second at the checkers. Trent Orwig was in the third spot, Travis DeMint was fourth and Seith Woodruff took fifth after starting at the back of the fifteen car field.

The Sport Mod division was up next for their sixteen-lap headliner with veteran driver Jim Gillenwater starting on the pole next to Jenae Gustin. Gillenwater who last year said that 2014 would be his final season of racing apparently found that stepping away from the sport that he loves was not as easy as he thought and why would it be when you are still fast enough to win? The driver from Keokuk would outrun Gustin for the early advantage although Jenae stayed tight to the leader. Those two would pull away from the rest of the field as good battles for position raged on behind them and on lap twelve, after making a couple of earlier bids, Gustin was able to ease by Gillenwater on the inside for the lead. On the next lap though as Gustin raced into turn one behind the lapped cars of Dusty Masolini and John Anderson, she had to get on the binders hard when Masolini slowed to pull into the infield off of turn two and Gillenwater took full advantage racing around all three cars on the outside. Not to be denied Jenae fought back and again used the inside groove to take back the lead from Gillenwater as the white flag waved and she would hold him off over the final lap to take the win. Hometown driver Austin Howes would finish a ways back in third, Joey Gower came from the fifth row to finish fourth and Brett Lowry drove Shawn Ritter's #SR7 car in for fifth. Division rookie Austen Becerra, who was the 2014 All Iowa Points Four Cylinder Champion was sixth and the defending All Iowa Points Limited Modified Champion Austin Luellen was seventh. Luellen suffered a flat tire during his qualifying heat and had started the feature from seventeenth.

The ladies were two for two on the night now, but there would be absolutely no chance for a clean sweep as there were no women entered in any of the remaining three divisions. The men now had a fighting chance.

The start of the Hobby Stock feature showed why I love the Scotland County Speedway as they went five-wide through turn two on the opening lap and there was room to spare! Austin Luellen had started on the outside of row two, but somehow found his way into the lead on that opening lap and the sixth-starting Shannon Anderson quickly moved to second when the right rear wheel came off of the second place car of Nick Ulin. Always a threat to win, Anderson stalked Luellen throughout the remaining eleven laps, but could never get to his bumper as the young driver from Minburn scored the victory. Mike Kincaid suffered damage in his heat race, made repairs and started the main event from the sixth row and then was part of that five-wide shuffle as he made his way up to third at the finish. Des Moines area driver Ryan Grochala finished fourth while Bill Bonnett came from thirteenth to fifth. The driver that I watched win the Hobby Stock feature on his hometown track in Beatrice last week, Adam Armstrong dropped out of the race late while running sixth.

The twenty-lap Modified feature started out with a shuffle in the lineup as Jim Lynch scratched from the outside front row starting position. Then, during the pace laps, third-starting Jonathan Huston pulled off the track and back to the pit area for quick service from his crew and the driver scheduled to start right behind Huston, Brian Woodruff elected to start at the rear next to Lincoln, Nebraska, driver Mike Densberger. Densberger arrived late, but must have called ahead to draw as he started from the front of his heat race and won. However, after taking the checkered flag he continued to race down the back stretch instead of pulling to the infield off of turn two and that is a no-no here at Memphis as the next race is always set to come onto the track from the gate midway down the back stretch. This rule is always stated during the driver's meeting, likely something that Densberger missed due to his late arrival.

Michael Long was strong during his heat race and then drew the number 11 for the feature, but with the lineup shuffle he would actually take the green from seventh and on lap six he took over the second spot just before the caution waved for Shane DeMay who had a flat tire. Cayden Carter would lead the field back to green for the restart and Long would dive under him entering turn one where he would find the traction needed to take the lead. From there it would be a battle for second as Long drove away to victory and that runner-up spot that would actually pay twenty dollars more than Long would receive for the win came right down to the wire with Carter nipping Hunter Marriott by inches at the stripe. Southwest Iowa driver Todd Van Eaton was solid in fourth while Densberger fought his way back up to fifth at the finish.

Stock Cars would close out the evening with pole-sitter Michael Jaennette establishing the pace. The fourth-place car of Tyler Pickett spun in turn two on lap three and on the restart Dalton Lynch muscled his way past Damon Murty into the second spot. It was obvious that Murty was not thrilled with Lynch and he gave him a nice shot in the back bumper going into turn three a lap later to push Lynch high in turn four and Murty regained the second spot. The caution would wave again on lap eleven when Lynch and Ryan Fullenkamp would tangle in turn four and this would give Murty his chance to make a run at the leader on the restart. Jaennette was up to the challenge though and never even gave Murty the opportunity to get close over the final seven laps as he went flag-to-flag for the win. Murty was second, Jim Lynch came from the sixth row to finish third ahead of John Oliver Jr. and Abe Huls.

It was a comfortable night in the stands and the racing was completed at just ten minutes past ten so if you weren't there last night perhaps you should make the trip this evening for the second night of action. Thanks to announcers Tony Paris and Ryan Bergeson for the Positively Racing mention and to Gary Lee for holding this late arrival a prime seat once again.

No racing for me tonight due to another commitment, but I am going to head down to Burlington today to check out the 34 Raceway car show at Heartland Harley Davidson from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. And while it will be tempting to make the trip to Winston for USMTS action on Sunday evening I am thinking that the chance to watch both Northern Iowa and Iowa play for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen will likely win out for me. That could change very easily though, so perhaps I will see you on the Back Stretch!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Come North For Racing In March

Usually on this third weekend in March I am checking MapQuest to see just how far of a drive it would be to get to the nearest race that will be able to run, especially following a cold and snowy winter. How long will it take me to get to Little Rock? How about Dallas? Yea, I know that racing season will get into full swing around here in just another couple of weeks , but I wanna go NOW!!

So do you think as we get ready to head into the weekend that there are some people in Arkansas, Oklahoma or even Texas who are looking around to try to find that "closest" race that will actually be happening and checking out how far of a drive it would be for them to go to Memphis, Missouri!?!?

That's right, the racing looks like a pretty sure thing for the Bottom Heavy Nationals at the Scotland County Speedway this Friday and Saturday night with the forecast calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the sixties. Meanwhile, down south most if not all of the racing action has been cancelled for the weekend:

World of Outlaws Late Models at Kentucky Lake Speedway on Friday and at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock on Saturday - Cancelled

42nd Annual Devils Bowl ASCS Spring Nationals in Texas - Postponed

SUPR Late Models at Baton Rouge Speedway - Postponed

And just announced this morning, Friday's USMTS stop at Caney, Kansas, on Friday - Cancelled (The Saturday's show at Humboldt and Sunday's event at I-35 Speedway in Winston are still on as scheduled)

Yes, the southerners will need to come north if they want to go racing this weekend as not only will Memphis be in action, but they could also catch the MARS Late Model series opener at the Springfield Raceway on Saturday night or head on over to the St. Louis area where the Highland Speedway will open its regular season on Saturday night.

I myself plan to be in Memphis on Friday night, I have another commitment for Saturday and if things look good I might make the trip to Winston on Sunday evening. All this bragging about being able to race up here in the north might coming to a sudden end though as my most trusted weather dude Terry Swails is seeing the possibility of snow in our area for Sunday night!

Promoter Mike Van Genderen was one of the 270+ drivers that were in competition at the IMCA Spring Nationals in Beatrice last weekend and he would like to see some big numbers this weekend at Memphis as well. As a reward to any division that tops the 50 count he will bump the winner's purse up to $1,000 (or $500 in the Sport Compacts). I will predict that at least one division will achieve that goal on Friday night. Hope to see you there!

Still monitoring the evolution of those long range forecasts and they are not from Terry Swails......he knows you can't be accurate that far out.

Donnellson, Iowa, Saturday March 28th - Clouds and Sun with a Shower and 55 (nothing like covering your bases, why not just predict daylight, with increasing darkness towards evening)

Burlington, Iowa, Saturday April 11th - Mostly Sunny and 55 (let's lock this one in for the debut of the National Sprint League at 34 Raceway!!)

I will be looking for the license plate PLATNM everywhere I go this year.......goodness!!