Forty-four IMCA Modifieds signed in for this once a year event at the Sprint Car Capital of the world, a show that over the past several years has been the Harris Clash before it was rained out and subsequently rescheduled at the Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City. Thursday's event was to be the finale of a three-race swing for the Hawkeye Dirt Tour, but after rainouts at both Des Moines and Oskaloosa, I was pleased with the turn out of the now stand alone show.
Three-time and defending All Iowa Points Late Model champion Justin Kay has been dabbling in the Modified the past couple of seasons and he would draw the pole position of the night's finale, the 25-lap IMCA Modified feature. Fellow front row starter Jacob Murray would stay with Kay for the first couple of laps only to see the leader begin to stretch it out from there and by lap ten the advantage was out to a full straightaway on the perfectly groomed surface. Two-time and defending All Iowa Points Modified champion Chris Abelson had started tenth and he was gradually making his way toward the front getting up to the third spot when the caution waved for Mike Ven Genderen's turn one spin with six laps remaining.
Murray chose the inside line for the restart and Abelson used the cushion in turns one and two to takeover second and now set his sights on the leader. On lap twenty-one, with Kay using the high line entering turn three, Abelson powered to the bottom and then slid up the track executing the perfect slide job in true sprint car fashion to take the lead with four laps to go. He may have played his cards too early though as Kay powered back on the bottom in turns one and two and with Abelson getting a run on him again down the back stretch Kay blocked the inside line where his challenger was once again going to try the slider. This broke the momentum of Abelson and not only did Kay regain the lead on lap twenty-two, he started to pull away once again to take the win in convincing fashion at the checkers. So in the battle of champions, give it to the Late Model driver Kay over Abelson. Now let's see if we can get Chris a ride in a Late Model soon to see if he can return the favor.
Jacob Murray was solid all night in third, Kelly Shryock started fifth and finished fourth while Richie Gustin came from twelfth to complete the top five.
|Justin Kay (15K) takes the lead back from Chris Abelson - Barry Johnson photo|
Mod Notes......This is the first time that I can remember a mid-summer Modified race at Knoxville that did not have one single competitor from either Minnesota or Wisconsin entered. I have to think that would have been different if the first two races would have went off as planned. As it turned out it was the state of California that had the most non-Iowa drivers on hand with Lance Mari, Paul Stone, Ethan Dotson and Cody Laney. Dotson and Laney have been racing here in the Midwest for the past month or so, while it was the first time that I have seen the other two in the results around here in 2016. Mari was impressive coming from fifth to nip Steve Stewart for the win in heat race number five and he was running seventh in the feature when he slowed and pulled to the infield. Stone appeared to be the winner of a very entertaining third heat race, but apparently failed to make weight and chose not to run in the third B-Main. Laney and Dotson both made the A-Main finishing 9th and 18th respectively......Regular Sprint Car driver Russ Hall drove Kevin Hollingsworth's #2x car on the night and powered his way to the front of that third heat race only to have Stone and Kyle Brown slip by him late for the two transfer spots. Hall was the beneficiary of Stone's DQ starting the main event in 7th and finishing 13th.
There were fifty-one IMCA Sport Mods on hand as well and they provided solid support with an entertaining main event that produced a winner who had a hard time making the right hand turn into victory lane due to damage on the left front of his car. Pole-sitter Brett Lowry established the early pace for the 20-lap main event before the caution waved on lap five for a three car tangle in turn two involving Austin Paul, Bobby Six and Trent Brink. On the restart Tim Plummer went to work on Lowry passing him for the lead and soon the eighth-starting Curtis Van Der Wal followed him into second.
With Plummer running down low and Van Der Wal up high it was a pretty good match between the two drivers who have plenty of pavement racing experience at Hawkeye Downs and on lap thirteen Van Der Wal was able to nose ahead and into the lead. Plummer was able to stay within striking distance, especially with Van Der Wal fighting steering issues on his left front, something that he could not pinpoint how it happened once he made it to victory lane as Van Der Wal took the win. The top five was a sweep by Oskaloosa and West Liberty regulars, no surprise given that both are big fast half-miles as well, with Plummer in second and Brett Lowry in third. Fourteen-year-old Jarrett Brown introduced himself to the followers of IMCA racing by running a string fourth and another 2016 rookie Matthew Van Gelder from Pella was fifth.
|Curtis Van Der Wal was able to nurse his damaged ride to the checkers - Barry Johnson photo|
It was a great event that would have been even bigger, both in the pits and in the stands, had it not been for the weather of the last three days. Dynamic Drive Lines announced that they are back on board for 2017 so it is good to know that the Modifieds will continue to get their night to shine at Knoxville.
The two greatest weeks in Sprint Car racing is fast approaching with the Arnold Motor Supply Knoxville 360 Nationals August 4th, 5th and 6th followed by the big one, the 5 Hour Energy Knoxville Nationals August 10th through the 13th. Hope to see you there!