23rd Annual Hogan Memorial, Sunday July 2nd at the Benton County Speedway in Vinton

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Shane Stewart Locks Down Outlaws Win at West Liberty

It was a festive evening Friday at the West Liberty Raceway. The sun was shining, a crisp wind was blowing from the northwest, the perfect direction to keep any dust off of the fans here and the fairgrounds were full of cars, trucks, vans and RV's that had brought a ton of race fans anxious to see the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars in their first ever appearance here. For many of those fans it would be their first time here as well and early on they saw exactly what those of us who have been here often know about the big half-mile. It was wide, smooth, fast and multi-grooved. Unfortunately though, for the final half of the night's finale, the track locked down on the bottom not allowing that final thrill that would have topped off a perfect evening.

A solid field of twenty-seven Sprints timed in with the veteran Jac Haudenschild establishing the new track record with a scorching lap of 15.737. This was the "Wild Child's" first night in the Wood/Stenhouse #17 after Joey Saldana had been let go this week and who knows, if he would have kept the car up front through the end of the night Haudenschild might have made a better case to stay in the ride longer, but after starting sixth in the feature he faded to 16th at the checkers.

Carson McCarl, making his first ever start with a 410, was the first car out to qualify and announcer Johnny Gibson tongue-in-cheek loudly proclaimed his first lap to be a new track record to the delight of many of the fans who may not have realized that it had eclipsed a mark previously established by Darren Miller in a Late Model. McCarl's time held up though for fourth quick, but when Daryn Pittman passed him for second in the first heat race it left him out of the dash and he lined up seventh for the 25-lap feature. The youngster spun though in turn two of the opening lap of the main event sending him to the rear for the restart and after a couple of laps he slowed and pulled to the infield finishing 24th.

Shane Stewart and Jason Johnson started from the front row and it would be Stewart who who slide up in front of Johnson off two to hold the lead on the opening lap. Drivers were using all of the track early, especially Sheldon Haudenschild who was using the high line to move from ninth to sixth in the first handful of laps, but then suddenly the bottom became the dominant groove. Johnson made one run at Stewart one line higher pulling nearly even with the leader down the straightaway, but when he couldn't complete the pass that left the door open for Brad Sweet to slip under him and into second. Ian Madsen then tried to squeeze under Johnson as well coming off of turn four and contact sent Jason for a spin while Madsen's car veered hard right into the concrete ending his evening. Sparks flew from the rear end of Johnson's car as he completed the 360 degree spin and continued on allowing him to restart the race in third with twelve laps completed.

Due to track conditions the Outlaws skipped their double-wide restart alignments the rest of the way and the race was slowed again on lap 15 for a smoking Logan Schuchart and on lap 18 for a stalled Clyde Knipp. Other than some scrambles near the back on restarts and a Donny Schatz pass of the younger Haudenschild for fifth this one was now a rubbered up chase around the bottom won by Stewart. A lapped car in front of the leader on the final lap allowed Sweet to make it look close in second, Johnson finished third, Pittman was fourth and Schatz was fifth. Sheldon Haudenschild was sixth, Brian Brown seventh, Brent Marks came from 15th to eighth, Paul McMahon was ninth and David Gravel completed the top ten.

The show was delayed for nearly an hour after the heats due to what was announced by the Outlaws as a fuel issue and during the last half of that time period a sheepsfoot was rolled around the surface and the grader was circling the track although I can't say that I ever saw the blade down. Then again I was chit chatting with some old friends in the bleachers to kill the time so may have missed it. I still feel that the Outlaws race format is always a prime culprit with a locked down surface because when you qualify and then start straight up there is little if any passing during the heats and with everybody running the same line it is bound to rubber up. Do any kind of an invert with passing points on the line in the heats to encourage racing and more of the track gets used making for a wider and more competitive surface come feature time. But hey, I'm just some grumpy old guy that actually prefers to see some passing even at a "big show".

Twenty-three IMCA Modifieds were a good side dish and they proved that this track could offer up some action as the opening lap of the third heat race saw the field race three by three all the way down the back stretch. That's right, there were three cars side-by-side-by-side racing for the lead while another trio was right behind them in the same formation racing for fourth.

Defending track champion Chris Zogg and two division star Justin Kay drew the front row for the 20-lap feature and one would have thought that one of those two would go on to collect the $1,000 top prize. Colt Mather had something else in mind though as he started sixth and raced his way to the front taking the lead from Zogg on lap thirteen. The only caution of the race waved for a Troy Rentfro spin with three laps remaining and on the restart Mather put an emphasis on his win by driving away from Zogg who had to fight off Kurt Kile to finish second. Kile had started tenth before finishing third, Larry Herring moved from sixth to fourth in those final three laps as Kay rounded out the top five.

All considered this was still a fun night at the races with good friends, fast cars and some entertaining racing and it was fantastic to see so many people at the West Liberty Raceway once again bringing back memories from when I was kid watching the Mississippi Valley Speedway Club action. I wondered how this crowd compared to last August when they had their free admission night here and, from all reports, filled the place. Wouldn't it be great if we could somehow get to that again?

That is all the racing that I will get to attend this weekend and I am seriously considering a Tuesday night road trip up to the Hancock County Speedway in Britt for the Hawkeye Dirt Tour. Also circled on my calendar is the annual Hogan Memorial coming up Sunday July 2nd at the Benton County Speedway in Vinton. Look for me on the Back Stretch!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Two Close Ones, Three Runaways On Friday Night At Lee County

Three drivers dominated their respective division's main event while the Sport Mods and Stock Cars went right down to the wire during Friday night racing action at the Pepsi Lee County Speedway in Donnellson.

The 18-lap Sport Mod main event was another LCS classic, one that we have seen here often where drivers can try out many different lines around the D-shaped 3/8ths-mile track with this one involving three drivers battling for the lead over the final six laps. Brandon Dale would lead the opening lap before Austen Becerra came from the outside of row two to take the lead on the second time around. Vance Wilson advanced quickly from sixth to second, but his night would come to an early end when he slowed with mechanical woes on lap six.

Brandon Lennox and Tony Dunker would line up in the row behind Becerra for the restart and Austen maintained the lead as those two raced it out for second. Both challengers wanted to use the high to low line through turns one and two as that would allow them to get a run on the leader, but if Lennox was in second and he entered high, Dunker would go low into turn one and take away that prime low exit line off of two. The caution waved one last time on lap twelve when Jeffrey DeLonjay spun in turn two and the final six laps were nothing short of spectacular.

Again Lennox and Dunker swapped positions as they challenged Becerra, but in the final two laps it would be Lennox who would firmly take second and pull even with Becerra. Austen did not flinch though, held his line and the two drivers took the white flag in a dead heat with Dunker right behind waiting for an opening. They would stay side-by-side down the back stretch and in the final turns Lennox slipped a bit high giving Becerra the win and allowing Dunker to get under him for second in a thrilling finish. Sean Wyett and Brandon Dale were not far behind in fourth and fifth.

It always seems like the Stock Cars have a good feature at Lee County and tonight was no different as pole-sitter Chad Krogmeier paced the tightly packed field through the first three laps. Jeremy Pundt started fifth and on lap four he would take the lead only to give it up a lap later to the sixth-starting John Oliver Jr. Pundt was not about to fade away though and he stayed close to the new leader through the middle stages of the 18-lap event.

With Oliver using the low line on both ends, Pundt started to search for a faster line and he soon found that a higher exit from turn two would give him a big run on the leader down the back stretch. The first try got him within a half car length of Oliver and the next lap Pundt was able to pull even with the leader only to have Oliver pull back in front off turn four where the low line was obviously the best. On lap sixteen Pundt was able to nose ahead of Oliver on the back stretch and the next time around, racing to the white flag, Pundt cleared Oliver by a full car length and if he knew that he had that much of a gap he might have driven low into turn three to take away Oliver's line that he again used to maintain the advantage at the stripe. On the final lap Jeremy tried something a bit different in one and two and it was not as effective as Oliver would stay ahead down the back stretch and keep it planted on the bottom to take the win. Pundt got a big hand from his hometown crowd for his runner-up effort while Abe Huls was right there to watch the thriller close behind in third. Jason Cook came from eleventh to finish fourth while Beau Taylor completed the top five in his first appearance at Donnellson this season.

The first of the three "walk aways" came in the Sport Compacts when Daniel Fellows flew past early leaders Ron Kibbe and Josh Barnes on lap four and then built a half lap bulge on his way to victory. Mike Reu started sixth and finished second, Barry Taft moved from tenth to third, Kibbe finished fourth and Brandon Reu moved from ninth to fifth.

The UMP Pro Late Model feature saw some tight racing for the lead early with Todd Frank leading the opening lap before Denny Woodworth got by on lap two. Frank battled back though and used the cushion to retake the lead on lap four, but when he bobbled on the cushion in turn two Woodworth came right back to the front on lap five. Cautions on laps twelve and thirteen brought the field back to Woodworth for the final seven laps, but neither Jay Johnson or Tommy Elston could keep up with the racing attorney as Woodworth picked up another win at Lee County. Johnson's 2017 debut here at LCS resulted in a runner-up finish, Elston finished third, Gunner Frank was fourth and Sam Halstead took fifth.

The IMCA Modifieds closed out the night with a twenty car field going for twenty laps and pole-sitter Dugan Thye would set the pace. Michael Long moved from sixth to second on lap three and Thye would fight off his challenge until the caution waved for a Larry McConnell spin on lap five. On the restart Long drove under Thye for the lead and would steadily drive away while the racing remained tight within the pack. One more restart on lap eleven caused a shuffle in the top five as Long again drove away over the final nine laps to take the win with Jeff Waterman, Chris Zogg and Dennis LaVeine next in line while Thye completed the top five.

A full night of racing action for the 69 car field along with a fun filled intermission that included a Candy Dash courtesy of the night's sponsor Darkside Tint & Graphics was all completed before ten o'clock. Weekly racing action continues at the Lee County Speedway next Friday night.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rain Diverts, VanDenberg, Hughes, Ulin, Orwig and Weiss Win at Eldon

Race fans at the Wapello County Fair in Eldon caught a break Thursday night when an approaching thunderstorm shifted its course of movement from east to northeast allowing all racing to be completed just before the first raindrops fell on the Super Half Mile. This is traditionally the first county fair race of the season in Iowa and it played out under hot and sultry conditions that fueled a cluster of storms that originally developed in the southwest corner of Iowa and were marching straight east until they were one county west of the track. Then, as if there was a race fan up above, the first cell made a shift to the north offering up quite a light show as the final features were run.

The Iowa Sportsman Series ran to twenty-five lap segments with former 34 Raceway and Lee County Speedway competitor from the 1980's, Doug Weiss winning both.

Trent Orwig started from the front row of the ten lap Sport Compact feature and after a back and forth opening lap with Nic Van Hemert, Orwig pulled away for a dominating victory. Van Hemert dropped to third mid-race, but then came back to pass Billy Cain for runner-up honors while Kyle Boyd and Kevin Garrett completed the top five.

The Stock Cars were up next and the pre-race favorite had to be Mike Hughes who had drawn the pole position for the 16-lap affair. Nathan Wood gave chase though and was firmly planted on the back bumper of Hughes when the red flag waved on lap six. Michael McClure had gotten upside down in turn one with Riley Newton involved and it was fortunate that McClure emerged from his badly damaged Stock Car uninjured.

On the restart the two car breakaway of Hughes and Wood continued as Nathan tried to find a bite off the bottom exiting both turns two and four, but Hughes was too stout and he would hold on for the flag-to-flag victory with Wood a car length back in second. Mike Harward lost a wheel during the heat race so he started from ninth and then raced his way to third at the finish while Brad Egbert and Travis Bunnell completed the top five.

Nick Ulin was another fast driver to draw the front row of a feature, this one the Hobby Stocks and despite restarts on lap five and lap nine not even former All Iowa Points champion Dustin Griffiths could keep pace as Ulin took the win. Griffiths finished second while Scott Shull and his crew resolved whatever issues that his engine was having during his heat race to come from thirteenth up to third. Craig Brown finished fourth in his first night out this season while Doug Gorden Jr. filled out the top five.

The Sport Mods were up last and with the lightning flashing all around the hope was that they could least get in the first eight laps of their sixteen lap feature to score the race complete before the rains came. Two top contenders drew the front row for this one with Brett Lowry on the pole and Carter VanDenberg to his outside and it would be Lowry who would set the pace until the caution waved on lap seven. Colton Livezy and Kyle Hill were racing side-by-side for fourth exiting turn two and when they banged wheels Livezy went for a spin.

On the restart young Blaine Webster made a nice move into the top four, but after completing lap eight he spun in turn one sending several drivers scrambling to avoid contact. On this restart VanDenberg saw his opportunity as he powered to the inside of Lowry in turns one and two to take the lead and then the 2013 All Iowa Points Champion drove away to victory as the crowd scrambled out of the stands and headed for the parking lot. Lowry finished second ahead of Casey Lancaster, Jason McDaniel and Brandon Dale.

I felt one raindrop hit me just as I was getting into my car, but from what I understand it never rained hard enough to make a difference until about twenty minutes later. It is always nostalgic for me to return to the Eldon Raceway as my cousins Dean and Jean Church would bring me here with them in the mid-70's every Saturday night that I didn't have a Little League game. It is where I was introduced to Ed Sanger, Bill Zwanziger, Jerry Pilcher, Larry "Pee Vine" Pipes, Ron Jackson, Johnny Babb and many others. This year's Wapello County Fair comes back with another night of Stock Car racing this Sunday evening so if you are in the area treat your Father to a night of fair food and fun.

Tony Paris is either racing his horses or watching future draft pick Tyson Paris play ball somewhere tonight so I will join Dan Workman on the mic for Friday Night racing at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kay's Sweep of West Liberty Comes In Two Different Ways

Start him on the front row or start him in row six, it didn't matter to Justin Kay on Tuesday night as the Wheatland, Iowa, driver prevailed in both the Arnold Motor Supply Hawkeye Dirt Tour IMCA Modified and Deery Brothers Summer Series IMCA Late Model main events at the West Liberty Raceway. Neither victory came easy though on a sultry night in eastern Iowa.

Kay drew the outside front row starting spot next to Todd Shute for the 30-lap Modified main event and he would edge out Shute to lead lap one. Richie Gustin moved to second on lap two and those two would then separate themselves from the rest of the field with Kay maintaining about a four car length advantage over Gustin. After starting eighth, Cayden Carter made the pass of Shute for third on lap eight, but the leaders were a full straightaway ahead of him.

That gap was erased though one lap later when Dan Brockert slowed in turn four trailing smoke from his #30 requiring a caution. The restart was short lived when Jacob Murray and Derrick Stewart tangled in turn two on lap ten and on the ensuing restart Kay was able to get away a bit as Gustin and Carter battled for second. After going back and forth for the position Carter would settle in as the primary challenger on lap fourteen and he steadily closed the gap on the leader, especially in turn four where Kay was drifting wide at the exit and Carter was kicking off the cushion and digging low off the corner.

On lap eighteen Cayden showed his nose to the leader and Kay now knew he had a challenger. Two laps later Carter's run off turn four was good enough that he nosed ahead at the stripe only to have Kay come right back to regain the lead on the following lap. With Kay now blocking the low line off of four Carter stayed up on the cushion and was able to let him know he was up there a couple times in the following laps before the caution waved with five to go when Jesse Sobbing, driving the #92 of Josh Most, stopped in turn four.

This brought Gustin back into the mix along with Joel Rust who had started eleventh, but just one lap into the restart the caution waved again for debris in turn two. Perhaps it was that debris that had cut down the right front tire for the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year Brett Moffitt as he went pitside to make the tire change during this caution. Moffitt was behind the wheel of Griffin McGrath's #64 and had raced his way up to tenth after starting in twenty-second.

Kay would bring the field back to green with four laps remaining and he was under fire from several competitors although Gustin slowed suddenly one lap later and pulled to the infield. With Rust digging on the bottom Carter could not just focus on the leader, but after clearing him Cayden had a run off turn four coming to score lap twenty-eight and he drove hard into turn one sliding up in front of Kay for the lead. Justin calmly made the crossover move though and regained the lead in turn two and Rust was able to move to second as well down the back stretch. Rust made his own bid for the lead in three and four coming to the white, one that Kay fought off as well and on the final lap neither challenger could make a bid for the win as they swapped positions one last time as Kay took the checkers in a fantastic race. Carter was second, Rust was right there in third and had the race been a few laps longer Kevin Kile would have been a factor as well as he took fourth after starting twelfth. Kelly Shryock will be the new point leader for the Tour after finishing in fifth, Larry Herring had a solid showing in sixth, Kyle Brown was seventh and Jacob Murray recovered to finish eighth ahead of Colby Springsteen and David Brown.

The forty lap Late Model feature would follow and in this one Kay would start from the twelfth position with current Deery series point leader Jesse Sobbing on the front row. Sobbing would jump out to a big lead early on only to have it wiped out when Kevin Kile couldn't quite coast far enough into the infield on lap nine. Kay had moved up to the sixth spot by that point and once back to racing it took him just five more laps to get to second. Sobbing had again pulled away from the field and had nearly a full straightaway on Kay, but that margin would shrink noticeably lap after lap until Justin was ready to make his bid for the lead at the halfway mark. Using a move similar to what Carter had used on him in the Modified race, Kay drove under Sobbing to take the lead on lap 22 only to have Jesse come right back to regain the lead on the following lap. Using lapped cars as picks when he was able, Sobbing did everything he could to fight off the challenge over the next three laps until Justin moved to the front for good on lap 27.

It was all over but for the shouting from there as Kay drove away to win by more than a straightaway over Sobbing who would have been under fire for second if the race had gone on any longer with Denny Eckrich and Matt Ryan closing fast in third and fourth. Pole-sitter Kyle Hinrichs finished in the fifth position, Chad Holladay was sixth followed by Andy Eckrich and Jeremiah Hurst who had started eighteenth, while veteran drivers Darrel DeFrance and Ron Boyse completed the top ten.

While some might raise their nose at the car count with 22 Late Models and 24 Modifieds, they might want to consider the quality of those drivers as this was a fantastic Tuesday night program on a well-prepared surface that ended at 9:45. Announcer Jerry Mackey started off the night with a touching tribute to Arlo Becker who passed away on Monday in a tractor accident on his farm recalling something that Arlo had told him not that many years ago when he was still putting on a show for the fans. "I don't care if they are booing me or cheering me, as long as they are making noise."

Next up, weather permitting, I will fill in for Tony Paris on the microphone tonight at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. Then on Thursday night I look forward to the first fair race of the summer, this one during the Wapello County Fair on the Super Half Mile in Eldon. Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Three Things.....Plus One

Three things caught my attention as I was checking out racing info on social media this weekend.....


I have previously stated my stance on Pay Per View events and I continue to feel that they are, overall, damaging to the sport. This is not a popular stance, especially for those who enjoy being able to stay at home and watch a race live online whether that event is close by or far away and the primary argument from the other side is that those who are dialing in a PPV were not going to be going to that event anyway so at least in this way the track can still gain some revenue by getting their cut of the fee for the telecast.

My argument is that when race fans stay home to watch a race online it will hurt the track that said fan would have likely gone out and bought a ticket for if not for the PPV.

Proof of my stance came this Saturday when a fan on the Iowastockcars forum stated that he was not coming to West Liberty because he was hosting a Dream viewing party for he and his friends. So, let's assume that this viewing party had eight people at it. I don't know what the PPV price was but let's assume $25 and that Eldora gets a 20% cut of that fee. With these assumptions that means that these eight race fans generated a total of five dollars that actually went to a race track on Saturday. Now, if not for PPV, those same eight race fans might have gone out and bought a $10 ticket at their local track generating $80 in revenue for a race track not to mention money that they might have spent on concessions. Heck, if even one of those eight actually went to the races it would have doubled the amount of money that is going to a race track.

Does this help illustrate my argument as to how the proliferation of Pay Per View is hurting our sport?


Hawkeye Downs put up a post on Facebook this week asking fans to no longer broadcast the racing there through Facebook Live.

This of course drew numerous comments of how wrong this is and how could Management be so stupid. One of the comments in general went something like this.....My nephew races at your track and we live in Des Moines so the only way to get updates on how he is doing is through Facebook live. He and his crew spend a lot of money at your track and to forbid this is ridiculous.

Really? What don't you understand about this request? Granted it will be nearly impossible to enforce without having security stationed throughout the grandstand, but how about Uncle Bunky and Aunt Nona hop in the car and make the two hour drive over to buy a ticket and actually watch their nephew race rather than relying on a crappy Facebook Live feed? And, if that is not going to work how about Mom or Dad just text them the results as the evening goes by?

Again, it is about lost revenue for the race track. I don't buy the argument that someone seeing something on Facebook Live makes them actually come to the races at a later date and, even if it does, I would firmly believe that more people stay home because of it instead resulting in a net loss for racing.

Besides all of you sitting there watching the race through your phones look rather silly to me since you actually paid for a ticket, but instead feel like you have to give it "live" to others who didn't.


Over on 4m the argument over race formats was brought up in regard to the Dream, but in general it had to do with the theory of "let's qualify and start the fast guys up front". I have referred to this entry many times before so no need to elaborate on my feelings, but what jerked my chain was the reference that by doing even the least little bit of inverting it is somehow penalizing a fast driver.

No, it is called putting on a show so that the fans will continue to buy the tickets. Last I checked the majority of us still like to see some passing when we go to the races and the race format currently used by UMP, Lucas Oil, World of Outlaws, MLRA, etc. does not promote that.

I went to two USAC Indiana Midget Week events last week and they qualified and then inverted six in the heats with the top four to transfer. They then inverted six in the feature as well. The racers raced and the fans showed up in droves. Isn't that what we are all looking for?

And One More....

This one is not racing related, but it really pissed me off this morning when Good Morning America teased their story on a fraternity member's death stating that Nancy Grace will join us after the break. How this woman can be considered an expert after she totally botched the Duke Lacrosse Team rape allegation analysis is beyond me. Watch the 30 On 30 Episode and you will share the same disgust when you see that face to the right.

Okay, that was therapeutic. There are several special events coming up over the next few days so turn off your computer, leave your phone in your pocket and go out and buy a ticket. That is what our sport needs!