Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Notebook: March 21, 2017

The weather forecast for this coming weekend has already claimed one victim as the 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Boone Speedway has been postponed until sometime in July.

The Thaw Brawl at the LaSalle Speedway will use a unique method to set the starting lineup for the Late Model feature on Friday and Saturday night as the heat race winners will be brought on stage and then, using a decibel meter, the driver getting the loudest cheers will be given the pole position. Second loudest will start second, and so on. Should be interesting to see how this plays out, especially if the car count requires six heat races.

I loved working with Terry Hoenig on special events at the Lee County Speedway over the years as he would always try to put an entertaining spin on the redraw. One night we brought the twelve Late Model qualifiers to the stage and as each of them drew a number they had to give it to a driver who did not yet have one. So if you drew the pole, you had to choose who you wanted to start there and the same could be said for the twelve. It was great entertainment for the crowd, much better than the current pizza method where the numbers are unknown until the end, and it gave the drivers the opportunity to essentially handicap the race themselves. But alas, the hottest driver at the time was given the twelve by one of his competitors and we were given a good butt chewing by him afterward. Unfortunately we never did that type of redraw again, but hopefully somebody else will.

There was some racing in the region this past weekend and, besides my story from Saturday's show in Memphis, here are some other items that were of interest to me at least.

Modified driver Tyler Stephens of Searcy, Arkansas, scored his second four-figure feature win already in 2017 by winning the $2,000 top prize at the Crawford County Speedway in Van Buren, Arkansas, Saturday night. Stephens was also the winner at Plumerville, Arkansas, back on February 26th.

The I-35 Speedway in Winston, Missouri, kicked off its regular season Saturday night with Jesse Sobbing winning the Modified main event. The USRA sanctioned track often pulls in travelers looking for national points both early and late in the season and this weekend's visitor was Medford, Wisconsin's Paul Niznik who finished fourth in the Modified feature.

After winning over sixty features in 2016, Harlan's Mike Nichols got off to a good start at matching that amazing number by winning both of the Stock Car features at the Mike Chapin Memorial Spring Opener at the Junction Motor Speedway in Nebraska this weekend. Two more drivers also completed the weekend sweep; Jarred Hackler in the Sport Mods and Roy Armstrong in the Hobby Stocks. For a report on Sunday's racing at Junction check out Ed Reichert's "One Fan's Travels".

Add Keokuk's Brandon Savage to the Crate Late Model roster at the Lee County Speedway and perhaps Quincy as well during the 2017 season. Savage unveiled a picture of the sharp looking #47s on Facebook today.

The story that I posted last Friday in regard to new strategies that some tracks in the region are taking when it comes to scheduling has had good readership, plus it has brought the "raceaholic" back out of the woodwork on the Iowastockcars forum, so you can either love me or hate me for that. Even though the story offers up no opinions or speculation on whether or not the strategies will work, he has now posted four long responses as to why they won't and the best part is.......nobody is disagreeing with him so he has nobody to argue with.

Yes, the weather forecast for the weekend does look like it will be a challenge, but it is still Tuesday and we have seen how things can change. I am hoping to go to Donnellson or LaSalle on Friday night and then down to Moberly on Sunday afternoon weather permitting. And, if it does not permit, the NCAA tournament is a pretty darn good back up plan.

The "Back Stretch"
Dirt Late Model Points
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . Tim McCreadie Watertown NY 26
2 . Brandon Overton Appling GA 25
3 . Brandon Sheppard New Berlin IL 23
4 . Chris Madden Gray Court SC 23
5 . Josh Richards Shinnston WV 19
6 . Scott Bloomquist Mooresburg TN 16
7 . Bobby Pierce Oakwood IL 14
8 . Chris Simpson Marion IA 14
9 . Tyler Erb Magnolia TX 14
10 . Don O'Neal Martinsville IN 13
11 . Shane Clanton Locust Grove GA 13
12 . Brian Shirley Chatham IL 12
13 . Jonathan Davenport Blairsville GA 12
14 . Billy Moyer Jr. Batesville AR 10
15 . Casey Roberts Toccoa GA 9
16 . Dennis Erb Jr. Carpentersville IL 9
17 . Mike Marlar Winfield TN 9
18 . Jason Welshan Maryville TN 8
19 . Rick Eckert York PA 8
20 . Rodney Sanders Happy TX 8
21 . Kyle Bronson Brandon FL 7
22 . Michael Page Douglasville GA 7
23 . Billy Moyer Batesville AR 6
24 . Earl Pearson Jr. Jacksonville FL 6
25 . Jimmy Owens Newport TN 6
26 . Ross Bailes Clover SC 6
27 . Don Shaw Ham Lake MN 5
28 . Donald McIntosh Dawsonville GA 5
29 . Eric Wells Hazard KY 5
30 . Frank Heckenast Jr. Orland Park IL 5
31 . Garrett Alberson Las Cruces NM 5
32 . Devin Moran Dresden OH 4
33 . Johnny Pursley Clover SC 4
34 . Timothy Culp Sheridan AR 4
35 . Austin Hubbard Seaford DE 3
36 . Cory Hedgecock Louden TN 3
37 . Garrett Lloyd 3
38 . Jake O'Neil Tucson AZ 3
39 . Jimmy Mars Elk Mound WI 3
40 . Joseph Brown Columbus GA 3
41 . Mark Whitener Middleburg FL 3
42 . Ray Cook Brasstown NC 3
43 . Rhett Carter Blackshear GA 3
44 . Scott Johnson Brunswick GA 3
45 . Shanon Buckingham Morristown TN 3
46 . Tim Dohm Cross Lanes WV 3
47 . Tyler Millwood Kingston GA 3
48 . Zack Mitchell Enoree SC 3
49 . B.J. Robinson Blanchard LA 2
50 . Billy Ogle Jr. Knoxville TN 2
51 . Dale McDowell Chickamauga GA 2
52 . Darrell Lanigan Union KY 2
53 . Dennis Franklin Gaffney SC 2
54 . Devin Dixon Apollo Beach FL 2
55 . Jake Gallardo Las Cruces NM 2
56 . Jason Hiett Lincoln AL 2
57 . John Ownbey Cleveland TN 2
58 . Ruben Mayfield 2
59 . Ryan Crane Panama City Beach FL 2
60 . Scott Crigler Alton MO 2
61 . Terry English Benton KY 2
62 . Tim Manville Highland IL 2
63 . Tyler Clem St. Petersburg FL 2
64 . Adam Bedenbaugh Lake City FL 1
65 . Austin Theiss Hockley TX 1
66 . Brad Skinner Spring Hill TN 1
67 . Brandon Haley Lavonia GA 1
68 . Brandon Williams Crossville TN 1
69 . Brett White 1
70 . Brian Smith Barbourville KY 1
71 . Chad Zobrist Highland IL 1
72 . Chris Fennell 1
73 . Cole Exum Valdosta GA 1
74 . Dakotah Knuckles Ewing VA 1
75 . Dana Eiland Phenix City AL 1
76 . David Breazeale Four Corners MS 1
77 . David McCoy Franklin NC 1
78 . Dean Carpenter Coldwater MS 1
79 . Derek Ellis Chatsworth GA 1
80 . Doug Drown Wooster OH 1
81 . Fito Gallardo Las Cruces NM 1
82 . Freddie Carpenter Parkersburg WV 1
83 . G.R. Smith Huntersville NC 1
84 . Gordy Gundaker St. Charles MO 1
85 . Gus Simpson 1
86 . Jack Sullivan Greenbriar AR 1
87 . Jason Cardwell Knoxville TN 1
88 . Jason Manley Loudon TN 1
89 . Jon Mitchell Nash TX 1
90 . Joseph Joiner Milton FL 1
91 . Justin Litchford 1
92 . Keith Nosbisch Valrico FL 1
93 . Larry Havens 1
94 . Mike Palasini Jr. Leland MS 1
95 . Mike Weeks Friendsville TN 1
96 . Phillip Pittman Vidalia GA 1
97 . R.C. Whitwell Tucson AZ 1
98 . Ricky Thornton Jr. Chandler AZ 1
99 . Scott Waters 1
100 . Steve Francis Ashland KY 1
101 . Timbo Mangum Lancaster SC 1
102 . Tod Hernandez Chattanooga TN 1
103 . Tony Jackson Jr. Lebanon MO 1
104 . Tyler Crowder Tallahassee FL 1

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mueller Sweeps, Brown Stops Marriott From Doing The Same At Memphis Spring Nationals

Jeff Mueller completed a weekend sweep as the Memphis Spring Nationals closed out a two night run at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, Saturday evening and Hunter Marriott appeared to be on his way to a second win as well only to have Kyle Brown end that effort in the closing laps.

Marriott who was the best of the Modifieds on Friday drew the pole position for Saturday's 25-lap finale and had to be considered the pre-race favorite despite others in the talented field of twenty-three. As expected the young Missouri driver would take the lead at the drop of the green with fourth-starting Colt Mather quickly moving in to challenge. Cayden Carter would soon take second though and as he tried to keep pace with Marriot, Mather would begin to fade out of the top five. With the leaders riding the cushion on both ends of the wide 3/8-mile oval Marriott would stretch his advantage over Carter while Kyle Brown steadily made his way to the front using the low line around the speedway.

Brown had started tenth and he would drive under Carter for second with less than ten laps remaining and still nearly half a straightaway behind Marriott, but with lapped traffic also running the high side the leader was forced to use some other lines and that is when Brown closed quickly. With just three laps remaining Brown drove under Marriott off of turn four to take the lead only to have the lapped car of Bobby Six just ahead in his preferred line down low. This would allow Marriott to regain the lead down the back stretch, but when Brown muscled his way under Six into turn three he was again able to power off the low side of four to regain the lead. The driver of the Harris house car then closed the deal over the final two laps to score the $2,000 win with Marriott settling for second. Carter was a straightaway back in third as Kelly Shryock and the twelfth-starting Kurt Kile completed the top five.

A native of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Jeff Mueller now resides in Albion, Iowa, but the change of address has not made him forget how to get to victory lane here in Memphis, a position that he has been in several times over the years including last night. The Stock Cars were the third of five features on the night and coming into the twenty lap event it appeared that the high side was the only place to be and that was where all but one of the lead pack of four would run for the first five laps. Dustin Griffiths, who moved to the division at the end of 2016, would set the pace with Damon Murty and Mike Hughes hot on his heels while Mueller drove his customary bottom line after starting fourth. And, just after Mueller took the lead on lap five, the caution would wave as Cody Washburne spun in turn four.

On the restart nearly everybody decided that Mueller's line was the best as all but Griffiths and Todd Reitzler went to the low side as Mueller paced the field. He wasn't driving away from anybody, and he likely wasn't trying to as he protected the bottom from both Murty and Hughes as Cayden Carter also joined the mix. A pair of cautions on lap twelve and lap seventeen shuffled the field with Carter taking second from Murty on the last restart by using the second line up on the race track. Now in second, Carter gave Mueller a nice love tap entering turn three to let him know he was there and then was able to get a nose under Mueller entering turn one. The leader did not flinch though, holding his line and protecting his advantage over the final lap and a half to secure the win. Carter was second followed closely by Murty, Hughes and Griffiths.

The Sport Compact field was twenty-one strong tonight and they provided the fans with an entertaining non-stop fourteen lap main event with Steven Struck pacing the field. Brandon Reu had started back in the fourth row and, while most of the field was running the middle or higher groove, Reu was taking the short way around and was gradually making his way to the front. Struck must have spotted him though and tried to take his line away on lap twelve, but when the leader drifted off the bottom in turn four that allowed Reu to take the lead. Struck mounted one more challenge up high on the final lap, but he could not catch the former Lee County Speedway track champion as Brandon Reu took the win. Struck finished in second while Brandon Lambert and Cody Van Dusen crossed the line side-by-side for third. No official finish was given so we will have to wait to see on that one as Luke Benischek finished in fifth. Sunday morning update......I see in the results that Brandon Lambert edged out Van Dusen , but it was for second rather than third. Apparently Brandon Reu was disqualified in tech with the win going to Steven Struck. Since this was the next-to-last feature of the night and with the Modifieds running non-stop perhaps this was announced after I had left the building.

The high line was definitely the place to be as the Sport Mods ran the second feature of the night and pole sitter Jason McDaniel crowded his way out to the cushion off turn four as the green flag waved and he would lead until the caution waved for a Brandon Symmonds spin on lap six. The action picked up on the restart as Carter VanDenBerg would put a slider on McDaniel in turns one and two to take the lead only to have Tyler Soppe throw a slider at him in turns three and four to lead lap seven. VanDenBerg charged back under Soppe in turn one, but Tyler pulled the crossover move out of two to maintain the lead. While all this was going on the 20th and final starter on the grid, Brandon Lennox moved into the top three as the caution waved for debris at the mid-race point, lap nine.

Soppe guarded the bottom on the restart to thwart another flurry of sliders as Lennox moved to second and tried to mount a challenge. As the laps wound down Lennox stayed close, but when he got completely sideways in turn three with three laps remaining that allowed Soppe to break away for a comfortable win. McDaniel would take over second as Lennox recovered to finish third and VanDenBerg prevailed in a battle for fourth with his cousin Brayton Carter.

Hobby Stocks were the short field of the night with ten cars going fourteen laps and after Nathan Ballard passed Daniel Wauters on lap two the Marengo, Iowa, driver was long gone for the win. Scottie Shull finished in second with Wauters in third. Damon Murty gave car owner Bill Bonnett a win on Friday and a fourth-place finish on this night with Mike Kincaid in fifth.

Spring Nationals Notes......Ninety-seven cars in five divisions and a complete show in just two and a half hours. If there is a chill in the air you want to be attending an event presented by Mike Van Genderen and his crew as they started racing at 5:50 and the final checkered flag waved at 8:20 giving chief starter Kevin Eggelston plenty of time to get to a television to watch his beloved Cyclones. Unfortunately the outcome was not what he was hoping for.....While there were several drivers that made long pulls to race in Memphis nearly all of them were drivers that we have seen make the trip before over the past few years. One new visitor though was Stock Car driver Kyle Frederick who made the long haul down from Oconto Falls, Wisconsin, to post a top ten finish tonight.....Mike Hughes may have Dean Kratzer to thank for his fourth place finish tonight. In his heat race Hughes spun in turn one early in the race and was racing just ahead of the leaders in last place with three laps remaining when Kratzer spun in turn four. Unable to get his car restarted, the caution waved and that allowed Hughes to come all the way around to join the pack for the restart where he then was able to finish in fourth and make the redraw. He did draw the eight, so he advanced nicely in the feature, but it would have been a longer way to come without Kratzer's caution.....Damon Murty's 13-year-old son Dallon wheeled his dad's backup car for the weekend......The big charge by Brandon Lennox was necessitated by his disqualification after he finished second in the second Sport Mod heat race when it was discovered that he had his right front brake turned off......Memphis proved once again why it is one of my favorite tracks as the groove moved around all night allowing for two and three-wide racing. Many of these same drivers and others will now go to another of my favorites next weekend for the Spring Extravaganza at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson for Friday and Saturday night action......The next event at Scotland County should be a good one as the Lucas Oil MLRA Late Models come to town on Thursday, June 1st.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekly Racing Has A New Approach at Some Midwest Tracks

As promoters search to find the best formula to present a profitable "weekly" racing program a change in how some tracks put together their schedule has become evident as we head into the 2017 season. Some tracks are starting later, some are finishing earlier, and some are doing both. Others are taking a week off here and there while a couple more have even built in what is a mid-season break to create what is essentially two different seasons.

We all know that the now defunct Iowa State Fair Speedway always had to end their weekly racing season early in order to accommodate the Iowa State Fair, but for the past few years now the Hamilton County Speedway in Webster City has structured its schedule in the same manner. The fair board operated track starts in mid-April and will hold its Season Championship once again on the final Saturday in July. Three special events including the Harris Clash and an appearance by the USMTS fills out the rest of the season.

A track with an even shorter season in 2017 is the Callaway Raceway in Fulton, Missouri. Friday night racing will get underway on April 7th, but the season will close out on July 14th, perhaps the earliest "scheduled" end to a weekly racing season that I have seen in recent years.

With its traditional Wednesday race night and the school schedule likely the determining factor, the Buena Vista Raceway in Alta will not open this season until after Memorial Day on May 31st, and will wrap up the season on August 16th. It is a pretty safe bet that a look at the nightly P & L sheet shows that it doesn't make sense to start earlier, or go later in the season at the northwest Iowa facility. Hopefully the tight twelve race schedule produces good car counts and full grandstands.

Experience and looking at the bottom line for race nights over the past two years is why promoter Kenny Dobson has built in several "off nights" at the Quincy Raceways in 2017. The Sunday night program has traditionally started in early April and runs weekly through September, but this year drivers and fans will want to confirm the dates before making the trip to the "Bullring on Broadway". The first "off night" is Easter Sunday April 16th and the track will take a break on Mother's Day as well. Dobson has found that both car counts and attendance drop off during the heat of the season and that is why the track will be dark for two Sunday nights in both July and August. Quincy's schedule is chock full of special events again though and they will start racing on April 2nd with September 24th being the final race night as of now. Dobson has shown that he will continue to run races into the Fall if the weather is good and the support is there.

The Randolph County Raceway in Moberly, Missouri, has scaled back its weekly program so much that it might actually now be considered a "specials only" facility. The high banked, high speed facility will start the season on Sunday March 26th with the ASCS National Tour and will then run two events in April, two in June, three in July, one in August, three in September and one in October.

It is always good to see a former weekly racing facility come back to life and that is the case at The Hill Raceway in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. They will ease back into things by running eights events during a sixteen week period beginning May 21st and ending September 2nd.

A couple of years ago while I was attending the Wild West Shootout in Tucson I was intrigued by the track's weekly schedule that was split into two different seasons in order to allow racers and fans to sit out the hot Arizona summer. Two tracks to our south are taking a similar approach with their 2017 schedules and it will be interesting to see how it works having such an extended break within the weekly schedule.

The Lebanon Midway Speedway in southwest Missouri will start racing the final day in March and will run Fridays weekly through August 4th. They then take a one month break returning on September 9th and running each and every Saturday until November 4th. The track tried this last year moving to Saturdays after the local pavement track ends its season and it was definitely noticeable how the car counts grew during the Fall schedule.

After purchasing the dirt track in Meeker, Oklahoma, back in December Cody and Ken Brewer came up with a unique schedule for their first season at Red Dirt Raceway. The track will open on March 31st running weekly through the month of June. They will then be closed for the entire months of July and August before returning to action September 1st when they will again race weekly through October 20th.

You can bet that other promoters will be paying attention to how each of these scheduling strategies play out in 2017 and, if one or more are successful, don't be surprised if we see more tracks shake things up when it comes to "weekly" racing in 2018. After all, we do not want to see any more tracks in the same situation as the St. Croix Raceway in Wisconsin that is up for sell and is currently not scheduled to open this season.

It has warmed up nicely on this sunny Friday so you have plenty of time to make it to the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, for night one of the Spring Nationals tonight. And, if you are like me and will be attending on Saturday night, throw in an extra coat or two as it will again cool off a bit, but nothing like it was last week!

See you on the Back Stretch.