Friday, April 21, 2017

Five New Winners In Donnellson

The thermometer showed temperatures in the fifties, but with a stiff and moist breeze blowing from the east it was a night where only the hardcore racers and fans would come out for the second night of weekly racing at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. As usual though the track was wide and multi-grooved producing five new winners on Friday night.

The IMCA Sport Compacts would start the night off with 15-laps of action as Barry Taft snared the lead from the outside pole position. With four cars racing hard just behind for second Taft would maintain a nice margin until Jake Dietrich broke from that pack and started to chase him down. A late caution brought the field together and when that battle for second picked up once again Taft pulled away to score the win while Josh Barnes edged out Dietrich for second. Brandon Reu came from the fifth row to finish fourth while Kimberly Abbott completed the top five.

Ten of the eleven UMP Pro Late Models would start the A-Main as Derek Sammons was forced to scratch after slamming the turn three guardrail on the opening lap of his heat race earlier in the night. Derek Liles would lead the opening lap by a nose over Gunnar Frank and after Frank drove around him for the lead on lap two Liles would spin in turn four to bring out the caution. On the restart both Sam Halstead and Todd Frank would slip by the younger Frank with Halstead moving to the lead and then pulling away from the field. However, when Chase Frank spun for the second time in the race, that caution would set up a green-white-checkers finish with Todd Frank and last week's winner Denny Woodworth poised to challenge. The elder Frank would throw a slider at Halstead in turn four coming to the white, but Sam was patient and drove right back under Frank to maintain the lead and secure the victory over Todd Frank. Tommy Elston slipped by Woodworth on the final lap to post a third place finish and Liles got by Brian Crebo on the final lap to get back to fifth.

When the green flag waved on the IMCA Stock Car feature the second row of Jeremy Pundt and Abe Huls flared out to make it four-wide entering turn one with front row starters Les Blakely and Corey Strothman. Pundt would find the bite on the very bottom to take the lead going down the back straightaway and he would drive away to a convincing win in the non-stop twenty lap race. Huls was trying to keep pace in second when he smacked the guardrail in turn three ending his night on lap eight so it would be Jason Cook who claimed runner-up honors just ahead of Jason See, Strothman and John Oliver Jr. In victory lane Pundt, tongue in cheek, thanked Jeff Mueller for going to Marshalltown as there have been many nights over the past few years when Jeremy and others were chasing Mueller here at Lee County.

Mitch Boles would lead the opening lap of the 20-lap headliner for the IMCA Modifieds only to have Dennis LaVeine drive by on lap two. Jeff Waterman moved quickly up from fifth to second and he would go to work on the leader using the high line to get the advantage on lap six. A caution for Boles on lap fifteen erased a nice lead, but Waterman was again able to drive away over the final five circuits to get the win ahead of LaVeine. Blake Woodruff back up a convincing heat race win earlier in the night by starting sixth and finishing third, Bobby Six came from the fifth row to go fourth and division rookie Dakota Simmons filled out the top five.

The IMCA Sport Mods would close out the evening with eighteen laps of feature action as Austin Howes would lead the opening laps before the caution waved as Brandyn Ryan spun and collected Dave Kraus in turn three. Howes would be able to hold back Tony Dunker for a lap following the restart, but Dunker was on the fly taking the top spot on lap four and then pulling away for the feature win. Howes would fight off Logan Anderson to finish second, a big improvement for Anderson who did not finish his heat after fighting handling problems. John Oliver Jr, would take fourth as Brandon Dale finished in fifth.

Weekly racing continues at the Lee County Speedway next Friday night when it just has to be warmer! Then, on Thursday May 4th, the Lucas Oil MLRA Late Models return to Donnellson for another night of Super Late Model action on one of the drivers' favorite tracks. Thank you to Tony Paris for giving me the opportunity to fill his spot on the microphone while he coached his son Tyson's baseball team to a win tonight and a special thanks to Dan Workman who does a fantastic job with all of the "extras" that an announcer needs to do for the fans and the sponsors.

With a social commitment on Saturday night my next action will come on Sunday as the Deery Brothers Summer Series IMCA Late Models close out a three-race weekend at the Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway. Look for me on the Back Stretch!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

USMTS Cage Match Goes To Thornton Over Scott

The 1/5th-mile high banked bowl at the Atchison County Raceway in northeast Kansas is known as the "The Cage" and when the United States Modified Touring Series comes to town once a year it is definitely a battle as the Modified stars wage war on the shortest track that they will see. Twenty-five drivers signed in on this sunny but cool Thursday evening and the fifty-lap feature event truly lived up to the billing as Ricky Thornton Jr. out dueled Johnny Scott in the closing laps to take the win.

Scott lined up on the pole position alongside his brother Stormy and it would be Stormy who would set a quick early pace. The first of six cautions waved on lap thirteen when Mike Densberger slowed on the back stretch and during that caution the leader would go to the pit area with apparent suspension issues. This would turn the lead over to Johnny Scott who would have his hands full with the winner of last year's Cage Match, Cade Dillard. Dillard had delivered a nasty slider on Josh Blumer earlier in the race to get to third and he was stalking Scott to perhaps do the same only to have a pair of cautions on lap 21 and lap 26 take away his opportunities.

When Dillard jumped the cushion following a restart Ricky Thornton Jr. pounced to take over the second spot and he would then apply the pressure on the leader, especially after a lap 36 restart. Scott had been riding the cushion like a pro since assuming the lead, but when he stumbled a bit on lap 45 that allowed Thornton to get a run on him and Ricky nosed ahead for the first time on lap 46. Scott came back to regain the lead on lap 47 only to have Thornton muscle past him again the following circuit, but before the white flag could wave the final caution would fly as Chase Junghans spun in turn four.

Scott would pull alongside Thornton under caution to express his thoughts on that last pass for the lead and when the green flag waved for the final two laps Thornton pulled away as Scott had to deal with Zack VanderBeek. If there would have been a few more laps it would have been interesting to see if VanderBeek's low line would have prevailed as Thornton would score the win after starting from the fourth row while VanderBeek moved from twelfth to second with most of those positions gained in the final fifteen laps. Scott fought off Joe Duvall to finish third while unofficially I had Darron Fuqua edging out Cade Dillard at the line for fifth. Duvall was impressive coming from the eighth row.

Talking with USMTS president Todd Staley briefly during the intermission I agreed with him that this facility was something special and while I have been to a couple of other tracks as short as this one, neither were as wide or as banked as the Atchison County Raceway. The layout of the facility is a good one and the public address system was better than 90% of the tracks that I attend. The track raced all the way through the month of October in 2016, so I will do my best to get back down here again later this season and you can bet that I will be back here when the USMTS returns in 2018.

The local E-Mod division ran in support with just ten cars on hand, but on this track you don't notice a short field near as much. Chris Mercer would lead the main event for the first seventeen laps of the twenty-lap feature only to be passed late by Josh Monson who would then take the win. Monson's car is apparently available to rent here at ACR as the car number itself was $130 and it had "Phil's Rent-a-Wreck" and "Rent Me" on the side, along with "AVIS" on the sun shield. Mercer finished second, Kory Myers was third followed by Billy Spillman and Ben Stockton.

The cars and stars of the USMTS now move to the Lakeside Speedway in KCK on Friday night before heading north a bit to the I-35 Speedway in Winston, Missouri on Saturday night. It was great to see the entire Staley family once again as well as PR man Jeff Nun and we thank them for their hospitality!

Next up, a night on the mic along with Dan Workman at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday Notebook: April 19, 2017

Tonight's season opener at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa has been postponed to next Wednesday night due to the morning rains and the threat of more to come this afternoon and evening.

I was the co-promoter of the Shiverfest event held in late October at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson for twelve years and I was reminded this weekend why I am thankful that I am no longer involved in promoting. Sure, when the weather was nice it was a lot of fun and I made a few dollars along the way, but when the weather threatened there was a lot of stress involved and if the show was still able to be run I would usually lose those few dollars that I had made before. To make matters worse though was all of the second guessing that you would get, no matter what decisions were made, by people who, granted, individually did have something at stake. Were they going to burn up a tank of gas or not to make the trip? Might they not be able to make it for a Sunday rain date? Would the pits be muddy or the track be rough causing them issues? I understood that the decisions we were making might keep somebody from being able to attend, or to compete, and it might cost somebody an extra twenty, fifty, maybe even a hundred bucks for an event that we all knew would have been better had if it had been able to be run under sunny skies and warm conditions.

The frustrating factor for me though was how those people never seemed to be able to take a step back and consider whether or not the decisions that were being made were actually for the good of "most" rather than just considering themselves.

Promoters are often accused of being greedy, but you will never hear that from me. On at least three occasions we made the decision to run the event under less than ideal conditions KNOWING that we would lose money, because as an annual event that also raised money for the local dialysis units we knew that if we didn't have it this year that it would be more difficult to maintain the momentum that we had with the sponsors, drivers and fans who were also willing to make the commitment to participating each year.

Let me tell you this, nothing is more disheartening than to go to all of the work involved in promoting and presenting an event where you lose money only to then have the Monday morning quarterbacks of the world then suggest on the internet all of the things that you should have done differently. I decided that I didn't need it anymore so I walked away, and as I mentioned earlier that decision was reaffirmed this past weekend when I watched the entire situation with the Slocum 50 unfold all the way from the Monday before the event, when the weather forecast gave little hope to it even happening, to still today where some people continue to stoke the flames. The funny thing to me though is that those who I see that are still commenting today weren't even at the event!

More than two thousand people were in attendance Saturday night and most of them went home thoroughly entertained. Yes, they would have liked to have seen more cars, but the race itself was entertaining and had all the star power that anyone should expect for an open late model race at a facility in Iowa other than Knoxville. And hopefully the fact that there were two thousand or more happy people leaving 34 Raceway and the Slocum 50 Saturday night, it will be enough motivation for those who poured their hearts into the promotion of this event to do it again next year and not, like me, walk away.

So making the relatively safe assumption that there will be a 10th Annual Slocum 50 in 2018, where does the Slocum Foundation go from here? When I step back from the situation I completely understand what the MARS series did this past weekend. They were looking out for their drivers all of which had to make at least a five hour pull up to Iowa and they made the call that was best for them. After all they need the support of those drivers for the rest of the season. I do question though if they considered that this was a $10,555-to-win show and the circumstances that surround it. I would think that this is the sort of signature event that a regional tour would want to keep their hands on. You can bet that a true commitment to the event will be part of the conversation when Brad Stevens talks with other series about 2018.

My choice would be to have it as part of the MLRA schedule. I know that the series was disappointed to lose a $10,000-to-win show from their 2017 schedule when the new owner at the Mid-America Speedway reversed course and closed up shop in January so they would likely welcome a high paying event, plus they get up this direction a couple of times already so a driver who commits to running the series already knows the trip. Since the series is sponsored by Lucas Oil, it would be my guess that the Lucas Oil Speedway would work with the Slocum 50 so that its two-day show would not be on the same weekend which was one of the contributing factors to the lower car count this year in the first place. As I was thinking about this on Sunday the only draw back that I could think of would be that the big name drivers would not like the MLRA's race format where they draw for heats and then use passing points for the feature. However, after reading Ed Reichert's report from Friday's MLRA show, I see that this is, sadly, no longer a concern.

I would vote for keeping the Corn Belt Clash involved as well since they already co-sanction some events with the MLRA and do have a few drivers who follow the entire CBC schedule, all of whom were on hand Saturday night. Or, perhaps the show can go it alone as a UMP sanctioned event and they could use any fees that would usually go to a series to bump the start pay up to $1,000. After all, as you could tell from Saturday's roster, the names that you would expect to see for a $10,000+ top prize were there, but with that comes the double-edged sword where drivers who feel that they will have a tough time cracking the top ten against such a stout field will not attend. The four figure guarantee just to start will help to alleviate that.

For me, and for many others though it doesn't matter what they do, I will be there to support it again.

As I usually do at this point of the week I will now tell you the events that I have on my upcoming schedule and, as I mentioned last week, that doesn't mean that I wouldn't want to be at any other number of races going on in the week ahead. I share this info with you to encourage you to attend these events and, if not the same ones that I am going to, I always hope that you go to the tracks of your choice. That is why I just never understand why some people on race forums, Twitter, Facebook or other forms of social media seem to take such great pride in telling people where they will not, or did not go and why. Seems rather narcissistic to me.

Thursday night I hope to get my first "new track" in for the season with a visit to "The Cage" at the Atchison County Raceway in northeast Kansas for the United States Modified Touring Series show. USMTS president Todd Staley described it like this today on his Facebook page. (Sorry about the format change below, that is what I get for copying and pasting from Facebook and being too computer illiterate to fix it!)

"This track is the smallest track on the USMTS schedule and provides the most excitement and really is a grueling track to race on. You are plum wore out after a fifty lap race on this track as there is so much action happening all the time. For people that say it is to small to race on Daniel Hilsabeck came from 21st last year and got 3rd so there is plenty of room for racing action. One thing we hear all the time in the series is I can't race with these guys and their million dollar budgets well here is a perfect race that has nothing to do with money and more about talent of driving on a small racy track. In 2016 we had a ten lap race that took one minute and 30 seconds to run. You cannot even walk to the bathroom and use the facility and be back in time to catch one lap lol. Last year 25 mods checked in for the racing action and all cars started the main event so this year we hope to see more in attendance and really give this place a shot. Joe Duvall told me he would rather race 3 nights here than go to those big old half miles. So make your plans now to come be part of the cage match this Thursday night at Atchison County Raceway in Atchison, KS you will not be disappointed."

Friday night, if the schedule works out, I will be filling in for Tony Paris on the microphone for week number two of the regular season at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson and then, after sitting Saturday night out for another commitment, I have a choice to make for Sunday. Do I try to pull off a "double" by heading up to Rockford for the annual Spring Classic during the afternoon before making the trip to the Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway for the Deery Brothers Summer Series that night? The amount of alcohol consumed at Saturday's "commitment" may be the deciding factor!

A few years ago as Pay Per View was coming onto the scene one of their selling points to promoters was that the online exposure would result in more people actually attending their events in the future. I would be interested in seeing statistics on how that is working out.

Defending UMP Modified National Champion Mike Harrison is well on his way to adding another crown to his collection as he won his sixth feature race of the young season at the Tri-City Speedway on Friday night and then made it seven for seven on Saturday at the Fayette County Speedway in Brownstown, Illinois.

As Harrsion's streak continued another one came to an end on Saturday as Tim Hancock Sr. was a DNF in the UMP B-Modified main event at the Macon Speedway. In 2016 Hancock won each and every feature race in the division at the quarter-mile bullring. Cody Stilwell was the new face in victory lane.

After chasing Mike Harrison on Friday night, Josh Harris of Utica, Kentucky, traveled north to the Peoria Speedway where he collected the $2,064 top prize at the Gary Cook Jr. Memorial.

I know that I have some Back Stretch followers who also enjoy the sport of basketball. The top high school recruit for 2017 is Michael Porter Jr. who has signed with the University of Missouri. Porter's mother is Lisa Becker Porter who is originally from Atkins, Iowa, and is the daughter of long-time racer and promoter Arlo Becker. The 6'10" Porter is already being projected as the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

The current leader in the All Time All Iowa Points for Limited Modifieds Tony Dunker has announced that he will hang up his helmet at the end of the 2017 season. Steve Eighinger of the Quincy Herald Whig has this fine story on "The Black Hat".

Offset the narcissists and take a friend to the races this weekend. Maybe even introduce them to the Back Stretch!

The "Back Stretch"
Dirt Late Model Points
Pos. Driver Hometown Points
1 . Brandon Overton Appling GA 48
2 . Tim McCreadie Watertown NY 42
3 . Brandon Sheppard New Berlin IL 40
4 . Scott Bloomquist Mooresburg TN 35
5 . Bobby Pierce Oakwood IL 34
6 . Josh Richards Shinnston WV 34
7 . Chris Madden Gray Court SC 33
8 . Brian Shirley Chatham IL 30
9 . Don O'Neal Martinsville IN 26
10 . Chris Simpson Marion IA 24
11 . Jonathan Davenport Blairsville GA 20
12 . Mike Marlar Winfield TN 19
13 . Billy Moyer Batesville AR 18
14 . Dale McDowell Chickamauga GA 18
15 . Devin Moran Dresden OH 18
16 . Shane Clanton Locust Grove GA 18
17 . Casey Roberts Toccoa GA 17
18 . Tyler Erb Magnolia TX 17
19 . Earl Pearson Jr. Jacksonville FL 16
20 . Jimmy Owens Newport TN 15
21 . Timothy Culp Sheridan AR 15
22 . Donald McIntosh Dawsonville GA 14
23 . Michael Page Douglasville GA 13
24 . Shannon Babb Mowequa IL 13
25 . Dennis Erb Jr. Carpentersville IL 12
26 . Kyle Bronson Brandon FL 12
27 . Billy Moyer Jr. Batesville AR 11
28 . Rodney Sanders Happy TX 11
29 . Rick Eckert York PA 10
30 . Tanner English Benton KY 10
31 . Zack Mitchell Enoree SC 10
32 . Eric Wells Hazard KY 9
33 . Jack Sullivan Greenbriar AR 8
34 . Jason Welshan Maryville TN 8
35 . Chris Ferguson Mount Holly NC 7
36 . Garrett Alberson Las Cruces NM 7
37 . Jason Jameson Lawrenceburg IN 7
38 . Mark Whitener Middleburg FL 7
39 . Rhett Carter Blackshear GA 7
40 . Ross Bailes Clover SC 7
41 . Austin Hubbard Seaford DE 6
42 . Rusty Schlenk Jackson MI 6
43 . B.J. Robinson Blanchard LA 5
44 . David Payne Murphy NC 5
45 . Don Shaw Ham Lake MN 5
46 . Frank Heckenast Jr. Orland Park IL 5
47 . Jason Covert York Haven PA 5
48 . Johnny Pursley Clover SC 5
49 . Austin Horton Grantsville GA 4
50 . Chad Simpson Marion IA 4
51 . Darrell Lanigan Union KY 4
52 . Freddie Carpenter Parkersburg WV 4
53 . G.R. Smith Huntersville NC 4
54 . Jimmy Mars Elk Mound WI 4
55 . Matt Ryan Davenport IA 4
56 . Nick Marolf Moscow IA 4
57 . Steve Francis Ashland KY 4
58 . Terry English Benton KY 4
59 . Travis Pennington Winston GA 4
60 . Tyler Carpenter Parkersburg WV 4

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Chris Simpson Headlines, Pohren and Oliver Jr. Also Collect Big Money at 9th Annual Slocum 50

Mother Nature tried to spoil the party, but someone up above wouldn't let her as the 9th Annual Slocum 50 was held at 34 Raceway near Burlington in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd on a warm and very windy Saturday evening. Racing action would be moved up by an hour in order to beat the storm system that moved through southeast Iowa later in the night, as predicted, but by then the grounds had been cleared and three drivers had collected huge paychecks for their wins.

It was my honor to have once again served as the track announcer for this event so with my notebook left in the car this entry of the Back Stretch will not be as detailed as usual.

Eighteen UMP Super Late Models were on hand to contend for the $10,555 payday in an event that would be sanctioned only by Cam Granger's Corn Belt Clash series. The MARS West series also had this race on their schedule but, as told to me, their new ownership told the drivers on Friday that they would not be expected to make the trip north for the weekend doubleheader (Friday was to be at Davenport) due to the unfavorable forecast, so none of them did. For those fans who may have been skeptical of Davenport's early in the day cancellation, perhaps this explains it.

Craftsman World of Outlaws Late Model series regular Frank Heckenast Jr. would set quick time on the night, but would later fade to third in the opening heat that was won by Chad Simpson to put him on the pole for the 50-lap feature. Defending champion Bobby Pierce drove over the top of turn two on lap two to give up the lead to Brian Shirley who would go on to win heat two and earn the outside pole for the feature. Pierce would battle back to finish in fourth starting him in the fifth row for the grand finale. Chris Simpson would win the third heat in dominating fashion to start the main in third.

Those three heat winners would give the crowd a thrill in the opening laps going three-wide for the lead on two occasions before Chris Simpson established himself as the leader and then put nearly a straightaway between himself and his brother before having to deal with lapped traffic. Bobby Pierce was on the move and when he slipped by former Slocum champion Ryan Unzicker mid-race, Pierce was now in the top five and closing.

With the laps winding down the leader was showing patience as he tried to put a lap on his brother-in-law Dave Eckrich, the next day was Easter after all so they would be having dinner together, and that allowed Chris Simpson to close the gap to five car-lengths with just five laps to go. And, just behind the Simpsons, Pierce was racing Shannon Babb side-by-side for third and they too were closing in quickly on the leaders.

Pierce would dispose of Babb for third and with two laps to go he and Chad would make contact while racing for second. This would allow Chris to again pull away and collect the biggest payday of his career by winning in his home state. Pierce would prevail in the battle for second and he and Chad had words on the front stretch as this announcer was interviewing the happy winner. Babb would finish fourth, Shirley was fifth, Unzicker held down sixth with Dennis Erb Jr., Heckenast, Bob Gardner and Jason Feger completing the top ten in the non-stop event.

The 305 Sprint Cars were the first of the three features to take to the track on the night with Harold Pohren taking advantage of the pole position and leading from start-to-finish to take the win that paid a whopping $1,755, easily the highest payday for the division in the state of Iowa for 2017. Pohren, the likeable driver who did not start racing until he was in his late forties, quickly climbed to the top of his wing to celebrate, but could not plant his foot on one of the supports before sliding down off the front of the wing and onto the hood of the car. It will only add to the legend though as his excitement continued to show during our interview and he thanked everyone who had worked so hard to put on this great event. Ben Wagoner made the drive of the night as he placed the Nick Breuer Motorsports #78 up on the cushion and came from eleventh to second at the checkers to earn the Hard Charger money. John Schulz, Shane Quam and Jarrod Schneiderman completed the top five.

The IMCA Stock Cars had a bit of "yellow fever" early on and those cautions were interrupting a fantastic battle for the lead. David Brandies and Abe Huls had started on the front row and they were soon joined by the eighth starting Jim Redmann for a three car scramble that saw Redmann squeeze by Brandies only to have Brandies come fighting back on the next lap. John Oliver Jr. replaced Redmann up front on a mid-race restart and Oliver would then use the outside line to drive around Brandies for the lead. With the front of his hood now up and flapping in the gusty winds, Brandies would fade out of contention leaving Abe Huls to again challenge for the lead and the race would stay green for the final eight laps. Huls and Oliver would then give the crowd a thrill as they raced most of those eight circuits side-by-side, even swapping lines a couple of times in a battle that was in doubt all the way to the checkers with John Oliver Jr. taking the win. Huls can take pride in a solid second, Redmann was close behind in third, Dustin Griffiths was again solid in fourth, last week's winner Tom Bowling was fifth and Brandies held on for sixth. The win was worth a healthy $1,055 for Oliver.

The entire show was completed before 9:30 with the line of storms still more than seventy miles away so a large throng of fans made their way over to the pit area to visit with the drivers who had taken the risk with the weather to come and entertain them.

It is my hope that the main story line for this night will NOT be the lower than expected car count, but instead that it will be that with all of the hard work that goes in to prepare for this one night by Brad Stevens, Jessi Mynatt and the entire Brent Slocum Foundation that their partners with this show, the ownership and staff at 34 Raceway, will do everything possible to run it as scheduled regardless of what the weather forecast has to say. And that going forward, whatever sanctioning body that has the honor of being included in this grand event will show that same level of commitment and respect for what the Slocum 50 has become.

High Five Forever!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Marriott, Woodworth, Agee, Lennox and DeMint Take Opening Night Wins at Lee County

The Lee County Speedway dodged a couple rounds of thunderstorms mid-day Friday leaving it ready and welcome to host opening night under beautiful mid-April weather conditions and with other tracks in the area losing to rain there were a few extra visitors on hand.

Racing action was a bit late getting started, something that is not the norm at Lee County as a long line of drivers waiting to get registered was still to be seen when hot laps were getting started. That, along with several late arrivals due to the rainouts elsewhere put things behind schedule but once up and running the show clicked off in fine fashion as usual except on two occasions.

The Sport Compact feature would be the first of five on the card with Brandon Lambert and Mike Reu starting on the front row for the nineteen car field, but it would be the third-starting Daniel Fellows who would jump to the early lead. A name that is new to me at least, Fellows had come from the back of the pack to win the third heat race earlier and was now leading the field on lap one only to have his right rear wheel pop off entering turn one on the second lap requiring a caution. Needless to say though that an already stout field of Sport Compacts here at Lee County now has another potential winner in the weeks to come.

On the restart former track champion Travis DeMint would pick up the lead and he would pull away from the field as others raced hard for position behind him. Two and three-wide action could be found all the way to the backmarkers as DeMint took the win and Mike Reu held off a late charge from his son Brandon to finish second while Josh Barnes edged out Jake Dietrich by a nose to finish fourth.

DeMint would be the first of five winners to collect an extra $100 from Buford Dozing and Excavating on the night and in the Sport Mod feature there was another $50 on top from Discount Tire in Keokuk.

One of the visitors, Jonathan Logue would lead the opening lap of the Sport Mod feature, but he could not hold off a hard charging Brandon Lennox who would drive under him in turn three on the second trip around the 3/8th-mile oval. The only caution of the 18-lap distance would wave on lap seven when the track tire in turn two was punted onto the surface and that was only a minor inconvenience for Lennox who would dominate for the win. Logue would chase him in for second, Jim Gillenwater started tenth and finished third, Brandon Dale came from eighth to fourth and Tony Dunker completed the top five.

The track's Crate Late Model division is now UMP sanctioned in its second season with eleven drivers signing in on opening night. A newcomer to the division, Brandon Savage looked strong in winning his heat race and would then set a quick early pace in the 25-lap feature only to get too high exiting turn two on the sixth lap and tagging the guardrail. With debris from his car causing the caution, Savage would take his car to the pits leaving Todd Frank to bring the field back to green on the restart. Denny Woodworth lined up third, but he would win the race to turn one as the green flag returned and there would be no catching the racing attorney as Woodworth earned his first Crate win at Lee County. Tommy Elston started eighth and finished second, Todd Frank was third, Sam Halstead was fourth and Frank's sons, Gunnar and Chase were fifth an sixth.

Nineteen IMCA Stock Cars signed in and with the two Des Moines drivers, Steve Hill and Chris Palmer having mechanical issues, seventeen would line up for the twenty-lap headliner. Les Blakely would start from the pole, but as the field tried to shuffle by him entering turn one contact from another car turned Blakely sideways where he collected four more drivers and the caution waved for a complete restart with only Blakely headed for the back. This would move Jason Cook to the pole and he would lead until the caution flew for Dane Fenton who had spun in turn three, On the restart Scott Jordan would lose his left rear wheel that would cause a long and unexpected delay. Apparently earlier in the night while trying to pick up Vance Wilson's Late Model one of the tow trucks had issues so when Jordan's car needed a tow back to the pits, the rollback was the only option remaining and it took well over ten minutes just to get the car loaded. Judging by the number of officials gathered around during the process you can bet that there will be another tow truck or two on hand for next Friday night's races.

Once back to racing the action was intense as it usually is here with the Stock Cars as a four car battle for the lead developed between Cook, Dean Kratzer, Derrick Agee and John Oliver Jr. With five laps remaining they raced two by two and bumpers to bumpers into turn three as Agee slipped under Cook for the lead and, when Kratzer and Cook got tangled up briefly, that allowed Oliver to go to second. With four laps remaining it was now a two car battle as Oliver applied the pressure on Agee, but Derrick was able to hold him off to take the win. Jeff Mueller who now lives near Marshalltown returned to his former "home track" to finish third, Cook recovered to take fourth as Louis Lynch completed the top five.

Thirteen IMCA Modifieds would close out the evening for twenty laps with outside pole-sitter Jeff Waterman leading the way. The caution was needed on lap five when Bobby Six sent the infield track tire for a trip through turn two and once back to action Hunter Marriott continued his march to the front. Marriott had planned on racing somewhere else on this night, but a careful study of the radar during the day brought him to Donnellson and even though he drew the tenth starting spot he had to be considered the favorite. On lap ten Marriott slipped past Brandon Rothzen for second and it didn't take long for him to chase down the leader as he passed Waterman on lap thirteen. A flat right rear knocked Waterman out of second with three laps to go, but when Dennis LaVeine spun in turn four it allowed Waterman to make a quick change and return for the final restart. There would be no catching Marriott though as the young star collected the win over Bill Roberts Jr., Brandon Rothzen, Bobby Six and Jardin Fuller.

The late start and the tow truck issues made this an unusually late night at Lee County, but with the pleasant weather and the entertaining racing on a well prepared surface I didn't even notice how late it was until I got in the car to make the short drive home.

Tonight it is the 9th Annual Slocum 50 at 34 Raceway featuring the MARS West and Corn Belt Clash Super Late Models looking for a $10,555 winner's check, plus the 305 Winged Sprints and IMCA Stock Cars have a four figure payday waiting for them as well. Start times have been moved up an hour to beat the weather that is predicted to arrive later tonight so come on out early and be ready for a big night. Hot laps are scheduled for 4:55, Late Model qualifying at 5:35 with heat races to follow.

Hope to see you there!