Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Talladega Thoughts.....

I love Talladega. I have been to five Cup race weekends over the years at the Alabama superspeedway including Dale Earnhardt's thrilling victory where he came from mid-pack with five laps remaining to win with Kenny Wallace pushing him all the way. Sadly, as it turned out, it was Earnhardt's final victory. I have been to seven other Cup tracks over the years and they have all paled in comparison to what I have experienced at Talladega. In fact I can honestly say that I would only buy a ticket to one of those other seven, but I am always looking for some friends to join me on an Alabama road trip. Of course the fact that we can wander down to the dirt track (Talladega Short Track) on Friday and Saturday night while there just adds to the fun.

Watching the finish of Sunday's race at Talladega was downright scary. Our sport dodged a bullet when the catch fence did its job and thankfully only seven fans suffered non-life threatening injuries. I love Carl Edwards as well, how could I not? He is a hard driving midwestern boy who cut his teeth on many of the dirt tracks that we cover here at PR.com, but I cringed when he made the statement that NASCAR is going to race this way until they kill someone before making any changes. This type of statement is nothing new as many drivers, both Sunday and for years, have said that changes need to be made to the restrictor plate racing. But here is my question, just what "changes" do they suggest?

Do they want NASCAR to take the plates off? If Edwards would have been going 220 mph instead of 195 he likely would have floated even higher into the air and, heaven forbid, cleared the fence. Yes, taking the plates off might spread the field out a little more, but there will still be packs of cars drafting off of each other and with the increased speeds the margin of error will be decreased even further than it is now. I seriously hope that this is not the change that the drivers are looking for!

Do they want NASCAR to start penalizing for "blocking"? If Carl would have held his line, would this accident have happened? Seems to me that just about every Cup race at Talladega and Daytona finishes under caution anymore. Wasn't it great to see the Nationwide race finish under green on Saturday? And what a finish it was as David Ragan came from fourth entering the tri-oval to first at the finish. When did the Cup drivers become so unconcerned about the monetary cost of trashing a car just to pick up, or hold on to one position? I would think that in today's economic climate it would be much more beneficial to not throw that block on the final lap (and I'm not just talking about Edwards) and put the car in the transporter in one piece with a slightly lower purse check. Yes, the plates keep the field bunched together, but does it make you wonder how they can race three-wide ten cars deep lap after lap with no issues until the final ten laps? Can NASCAR legislate "common sense" by penalizing for blocking? Only after the fact, and that is usually after the wreck.

Do they want NASCAR to take away the "out of bounds" line? Brad Keselowski knew that Regan Smith was faced with the same scenario last year at Talladega and when he went below the yellow line to "win" the race, he was penalized to the back of the lead lap cars. No wonder Brad didn't go below the line when Edwards came down on him, after all he wanted to win the race. Should he have gone below the line anyway and settled for second since you are only penalized if you improve your position? I should hope not, he faked high and then went low and had the momentum needed to make the pass for the win! The problem is that I think that the "out of bounds" rule was established by NASCAR a few years back when drivers said that "changes need to be made", so how can they overturn it now?

I'm the first to admit that I am not a "rules guy" especially when it comes to the mechanical aspect of the sport, so maybe there is something more that can be done there. I hope so, because I really don't see any of the above as workable solutions which leads me to the one "change" that I truly hope is NOT on the minds of the drivers; to no longer race at Talladega.

Ugh....I saw a recap of an interview with Jimmie Johnson today (Thursday) stating that the change that he is looking for would be a new configuration of the track. Get the bulldozers out and reduce the banking so that drivers have to let off the gas going into the corners. My initial thought was "don't we already have other tracks like that?" :)

CJ Speedway has cancelled their races for Friday May 1st due to wet grounds.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

IMCA Late Model "Drive for Five" Helps to Kickoff the 2009 Season at Lee County Speedway

It was a night that had been anticipated since last October. That was when promoters Terry and Jenni Hoenig held a meeting for area Late Model drivers to announce a unique "series" of events for the IMCA Late Model division that would culminate in a Deery Brothers Summer Series event on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend where a driver who had supported the Late Model events at Lee County could win $5,000 rather than the standard $2,000 winner's purse for a Deery race. If that wasn't enough of an incentive the ten race schedule in Donnellson would pay a healthy $1,000-to-win and $150-to-start each night due to the support of several sponsors, many of them directly associated with one of the Late Model teams that would likely compete. Former LCS promoter and long-time driver/owner Lynn Richard played a major role in pulling this all together and Late Model fans and drivers had six months to get prepared for The Pilot Grove Savings Bank/Ideal Ready Mix "Drive for Five".

Thirty-three IMCA Late Models helped jam the pits at Lee County Speedway with a total of 114 cars for the season opener Friday night. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the car count in the Miller Lite IMCA Modifieds with twenty-nine drivers in attendance and as I scanned the roster it looks to me like at least twenty-two of those cars should be here on a weekly basis. On Thursday evening an unexpected blob of showers tracked across the southeast corner of Iowa and dumped nearly an inch of rain on the speedway. The extra moisture played havoc with the surface that is usually immaculate, but on this night the drivers had to navigate a rough track as they tried to start the season with a top points paying feature win.

Tom Darbyshire sprinted out to a hefty advantage during the early laps of the Late Model feature while the rest of the field sorted themselves out well behind him. It was no surprise that it was the two Quincy hotshoes, Mark Burgtorf and Jason Frankel, who emerged from the pack and gave chase. When the caution flag waved on lap ten for a flat left rear tire on Jay Johnson's mount, Darbyshire's lead was wiped out and the race was on. For the next ten laps the large crowd was treated to an entertaining battle for the point as Burgtorf repeatedly tried to slingshot by the leader on the bottom groove and finally, with just four laps remaining, Burgtorf made it stick and took the lead down the front straightaway. Darbyshire tried to fight back on the outside in turns one and two and pulled nearly even with Burgtorf coming out of the corner as they quickly closed on the soon-to-be-lapped car of Tony Fraise. As Darbyshire tried to maintain his run on Burgtorf, Fraise was in his groove and the two made contact sending Fraise for a complete spin in the middle of the backstretch. Tony kept the car fired allowing the green flag to stay out and that was all Burgtorf needed as he pulled away over the final laps for his third straight feature win paying four figures. Darbyshire, whose trucking company that he operates along with his wife Sheila is one of the presenting sponsors of the series, finished in the second spot with Frankel not far behind in third. Terry Schlipman had another impressive run in Tom Goble's #69 as he started tenth and finished fourth while Curt Martin made the trip down from Independence to finish fifth.

For the past two years Michael Long has been winning about everything in the area running in the USRA and UMP type Modifieds, and in 2009 he has teamed up with Jim Gillenwater to compete in the IMCA Modifieds at the Lee County Speedway. Long served notice on Friday night that he just might be ready to dominate here as well as he started eighth and powered past Tyler Cale on only the third lap on his way to a convincing win. Young Nate Caruth from Ames slipped by Josh Foster and Cale late in the race to finish second while Rich Smith coasted across the line in fifth after dumping his driveshaft on the final lap.

The IMCA Stock Car feature was another great battle between good friends Jason Cook and Jeff Mueller. Mueller made several attempts to pass Cook using the bottom groove, but just could not find enough of a grip to grab the lead as Cook, the defending track champion in the Stock Cars, captured the opening night victory. Mueller was a car length back in second and John Oliver Jr., who was right there ready to pounce if the leaders made a mistake, settled for third. The race had a unique incident early on as then leader Abe Huls jumped the cushion in turn three and spun out. His brother Doug Huls was running mid-pack and, in his attempt to avoid Abe, he slid sideways and his wheels dug into the tack surface and the car rolled over onto its top. The banking then caused Doug's car to roll back the other direction where it ended up on all four wheels. After track officials checked on the condition of the driver he fired it up and took his place at the tail of the field for the restart. This drew a big cheer from the crowd and one fan even told promoter Terry Hoenig that he would add a fifty dollar bill to the winning purse if Doug could come back to win the race. Abe fared better though as he came back to finish fourth ahead of Chris Webb while Doug picked up a lot of new fans with his unusual seventh place finish.

The IMCA Sport Mods had a solid field of fifteen for opening night and the feature winner was decided literally by inches. Thad Gaylord picked up the lead from the start, fought off a mid-race challenge from Todd Holman and appeared to be headed to an easy win. Holman had other thoughts as he mounted one last run pulling even with Gaylord coming out of turn four looking for the checkers. At the line it was Gaylord by a bumper over Holman with Philip Cossell, Jacob Smith and Derek Coleman not far behind. It was an emotional win for Gaylord as he noted that his wife of ten years this day was not here to witness it as she was home with a sick child. You can bet that they were very excited when they got the call from Thad about the opening night triumph.

Doug Fenton was the 2007 Hobby Stock Track Champion here and he set the tone for a return to the throne by going flag-to-flag for the fifteen-lap feature win. 2006 champ Dan Wenig gave Fenton a challenge and crossed the line second followed by John Oliver Jr. who had started on the eleventh row. The official finish though was shuffled in the tech area as both Wenig and Oliver, along with the fourth place car of Derek Kirkland were disqualified due to assorted issues in the rearends of their cars. This moved Rob Wilsey from fifth to second and sixteen-year-old Derek St. Clair wound up third. Speaking of former Hobby Stock track champions, the 2008 titleist Dean Kratzer had a rough start as he dropped out early with a flat tire.

The Lee County Speedway returns to action next Friday night May 1st and the Late Model "Drive for Five" returns on May 8th. Check out the full schedule that also includes Midgets and Sprint Cars, plus my favorite event "Shiverfest" at http://www.leecountyspeedway.com/.

Race fans, if you would like to catch the videos of Tommy Elston's Late Model races this season go to www.richardrealtyauction.com and click on the Team 15 link.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Burgtorf Still The Master at Quincy; Tomlinson Tops Stocks

Late Model drivers have known for the past several years that when you come to the Quincy Raceway the man to beat is Mark Burgtorf. So it was no surprise on this Thursday night that it was Burgtorf who parked in victory lane after the fifty lap main event for stop number three of the 2009 Deery Brothers Summer Series.

Ray Guss Jr. took the early lead and held off a challenge from Terry Schlipman who is filling in for an injured Tom Goble. Burgtorf slipped past Schlipman on the highside on lap seven and then went to work on Guss for the lead. On the eleventh circuit of the beautifully prepared quarter-mile Burgtorf had a nice run off the cushion of turn four only to have Guss shut the door at the flagstand. Two laps later the scene was repeated, but this time Burgtorf was able to squeeze between the leader and the wall donw the frontstretch and he completed the pass off turn two. With no cautions the remainder of the distance Burgtorf worked traffic like a pro and opened up a full straightaway advantage.

The battle for second was a good one to watch as Jeff Aikey and Jason Frankel joined Guss in traffic. Guss made a nifty move on a lapped car late to put some space on his challengers and he wound up a distant second to Burgtorf. Frankel, who started fifteenth, picked up the third spot with Aikey finishing fourth. Local favorite Jerry "the hippie" Weisenberger completed the top five.

Ron Elbe (3) and Dustin Griffin (20) battle in qualifying action - BWJ Photo

Tom Darbyshire (42) and Joey Gower (31) were two of the nine cars that finished on the lead lap placing 7th and 9th respectively - BWJ Photo

It was just a couple of years ago when I watched Kevin Tomlinson dominate Burgtorf and the rest of the field to win the opening night Late Model feature here at Quincy and that was following a season where he chased the Deery series in quest of the rookie-of-the-year honors. This year Tomlinson has decided that an IMCA Stock Car better fits his racing budget and in his first two outings he has served notice that there is a new contender in the division. After finishing third on opening night Tomlinson picked up his first career Stock Car victory on this night as he passed Abe Huls with only two laps remaining. Huls held on for runner-up honors followed by another Stock Car rookie Terry Houston. Chris Wibbell and Jason Cook completed the top five while Jeff Mueller, who won on opening night here April 12th, finished sixth. Mueller suffered a flat tire in his heat race and started the feature race from the seventh row.

Jim Powell completed an entertaining night of racing by taking the Hobby Stock checkered flag that flew at 9:50 p.m.

Andrew Griffin (25) works the low groove under Steve Steinkuhler (04s) in IMCA Stock Car action at Quincy Raceway - BWJ Photo

"Q" Notes…..The event was originally scheduled for Sunday April 19th, but was washed out by rain. The track dodged a bullet with the weather on Thursday when an upper air disturbance tracked from Kansas City to Chicago with a cluster of storms that passed about fifteen miles north of the speedway…..Forty Late Models were on hand tonight giving the series an average car count of 55.7 after three events……Quincy drivers (Burgtorf and Frankel) have won all three Deery events so far in 2009. We’ll see if that streak continues on Wednesday May 20th at Highway 3 Raceway in Allison…..Burgtorf started eighth in the first heat and passed Justin Kay on the final lap for the third and final transfer spot.….Frankel came from tenth to fifth in heat two and then ran second to Lonnie Bailey in the first B-Main. In the feature he made a big move early coming from row seven up to eighth in the first seven laps.….Schlipman started sixth and passed Darrell DeFrance late to win the fourth heat race. Jeff Aikey came from row five to qualify third in that same race..…Keith Pratt put his Late Model on its roof after jumping the cushion in turn one early in the second B-Main....Billy Genenbacher was running strong in a transfer spot in that second B before mechanical issues put him on the sidelines. Denny Woodworth capitalized on Genenbacher’s misfortune and passed Dustin Griffin coming to the white flag for the final transfer spot.

Thanks to the Quincy Raceway staff for their great hospitality and a very well run show on a very racy surface!

Check the ad our homepage at http://www.positivelyracing.com/ for the season opener at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson Friday night. Perhaps we’ll see you there?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Exciting Features Spice Up Fast Moving Show at Vinton

The Benton County Speedway in Vinton was the only Sunday night track to escape the rain and a good crowd was on hand all bundled up to ward off a cold sustained northwest wind. One of the things that I love about the racing at Vinton is that you know that Mick Trier and his crew will start on time and that the show will be run off without any delays. And on a chilly night like this that was enough to convince me to make the 100-mile drive to take in the action at the quarter-mile oval known as the birthplace of the IMCA Modified.

The Hobby Stocks were the first feature to hit the track tonight and they set the tone for some great racing the remainder of the evening. Vince Bucholz paced the field for the first five circuits before exiting with mechanical problems turning the lead over to Wes Stanek Jr. Last week’s winner Bill Bonnett worked his way up from the middle of the pack and went to work on Stanek trying to nose under the leader on several occasions, but Stanek was up to the challenge each time. The third place car of Brad Forbes also joined the battle over the closing laps and, on the final circuit, when Bonnett drove under Stanek into turn three they both drifted high and got a bit sideways after making contact. This was exactly what Forbes was hoping for and he drove to the inside to pass both of them coming to the checkered flag for the win as Bonnett edged out Stanek by a nose for second.

The IMCA Sport Compact feature saw Bill Whalen Jr. emerge from the pack as they bunched up in turn two on the opening lap leaving Nathan Chandler, Gary Pfeiffer and the rest of the field a full straightaway behind. Whalen hails from Riverside and you will find him just about anywhere in the Midwest where they are racing four cylinders so it was good to see him in victory lane.
The Sport Mods were up next and it only took four laps for Austin Kaplan to come from row five to take the lead from Ryan Coleman. Kaplan looked to have things well in hand for a second straight feature win at Vinton until a late caution bunched up the field. On the restart both Drew Fish and Jesse Sobbing were able to keep pace with Kaplan and on the final lap Sobbing was able to pull even with the leader coming out of turn two. Kaplan kept his cool though and regained the advantage through the final two turns to take the victory. Sobbing, who is in his first full year of running a Sport Mod coming out of the Hobby Stock ranks, made the long trip from the western Iowa town of Glenwood pay off by finishing second while Jim Buhlman passed Fish late to take the third spot.

The IMCA Stock Cars seem to always put on a good show no matter what track I am watching them at and tonight was no different. Norman Chesmore started from the pole and hugged the bottom groove to take the lead, but my eyes were on Damon Murty as he charged from sixteenth to sixth in the first three laps. Up front it was a tight four-car battle as Chesmore had Justin Temeyer and Paul Shepard often running side-by-side right behind him with Rod Grother also looking for racing room. With three laps remaining Temeyer had a run going on the outside of Chesmore and looked like he would make the pass for the lead only to have a lapped car spin right in front of the leaders brining out the caution. On the restart Temeyer tried the bottom and Shepard went to the top groove both trying to find a way past the leader. In turn four Chesmore checked up just a bit as he got loose and, after just a bit of contact, he got turned toward the infield allowing the next six cars to get around him before he scrambled back onto the racing surface. Shepard made one last bid over the final two laps only to come up short as Justin Temeyer picked up the exciting win. Murty wound up in third followed by Grother and Jason DeShaw.

The IMCA Modifieds next on the card and while their feature did not have quite the drama of the features before them, there was plenty of good racing nonetheless. Don Erger had a plain white car with a number six taped on it in orange and he started from the pole position for the twenty-lap event. This entry would have finished last at the car show, but looks aren’t everything as Erger drove away from the pack for a flag-to-flag victory. So the question now is does he save the "Feature Winner" sticker and put it on after the car is painted and lettered, or should he just leave it as is and keep adding more of those stickers? Troy Cordes made up a lot of ground in the closing laps as Erger patiently dealt with a couple of lapped cars and finished second. Joe Docekal took home the third spot ahead of Max Corporan who originally started thirteenth. Buster Pate drove a solid race to round out the top five.

What a fun night! Great racing and we were back in the car and headed home at 8:25 p.m. Now that is what Sunday night racing is all about!

The Deery Brothers Summer Series event that was rained out at Quincy on Sunday April 19th has been rescheduled for this Thursday April 23rd. This sets up a great doubleheader that we plan to take advantage of as the following night will be the season opener at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson featuring the Pilot Grove Savings Bank/Ideal Ready Mix "Drive for Five" IMCA Late Model series. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lee County Speedway Car Show

The Lee County Speedway held its annual preseason car show and kickoff party on Main Street in Donnellson Saturday. A nice group of cars and race fans were on hand enjoying free hot dogs and Pepsi products.

And when it started to rain this pop-up was one of several shelters to be filled with people!

Lee County Speedway opens its 2009 season this Friday night April 24th. Click the ad on the front page of http://www.positivelyracing.com/ for details.

Jeremy Townsend's IMCA Modified

Michael Browning's IMCA Modified

A Storybook Night at 34 Raceway

You couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Friday night’s action at 34 Raceway near Burlington was night number one of two for the Sebastian Sandblasting Sprint Nationals with two divisions of Sprint Cars on the card. The Ideal Ready Mix Sprint Invaders were the headliners for the weekend, but on Friday night the 305 c.i. division that competes at the track on a weekly basis was featured in a bittersweet manner. The 2008 track champion Brian Hetrick tragically lost his life in a motorcycle accident just a couple weeks prior from putting the closing touches on that championship and on this night his family and friends would pay tribute to him by raising the purse money for the Brian Hetrick Memorial.

Brian and his younger brother Kevin grew up in a sprint car racing family as both their father and their uncle drove the open wheelers at 34 Raceway and, when Brian started racing, it was in a 360 c.i. sprint car. He wasn’t an instant winner in the division, but as his experience grew the wins started coming and before his untimely death last August he had established himself as one of the men to beat on a weekly basis at 34. Kevin started his racing career in the two-driver "thunder car" division and when that class went by the wayside he transitioned to a Hobby Stock. When the track near Burlington brought sprint cars back as a weekly division with the 305 c.i. motors under the hood, Kevin upheld the family tradition by ditching the stock cars and taking the wheel of a winged sprint car. Coming into Friday night Kevin was still looking for his first sprint car victory, but keep in mind that in most of his sprint car races so far one of the drivers that he had to beat was his brother Brian. On this night though, they would work together.

Kevin started third in tonight’s main event, the race in memory of his brother, and the first two attempts at a start resulted in caution flags for incidents in turns one and two. With the drivers involved having to restart at the rear Hetrick now found himself starting next to Bobby Mincer on row two. Mincer, who was the winner on opening night two weeks ago, took the original green from the tenth starting spot and used his good fortune to take the lead from Ryan Jamison on lap number two. The red flag appeared moments later when Jarrod Schneiderman climbed the retaining wall coming off of turn four launching him into a wild series of flips including some significant airtime. Thankfully Schneiderman quickly crawled out of his destroyed racecar uninjured.

With Mincer set to restart out front, past experience would have lead fans to believe that the race would now be for second, especially with top contender Donnie Steward still deep in the field after being involved in one of the cautions at the start. Kevin Hetrick had another scenario in mind. After watching the Sprint Invader feature earlier in the night Hetrick knew that the high line was fast in three and four while the low groove was the place to be in turns one and two, so he went to work on the leader. On lap six Hetrick drove to the outside of Mincer in turn four and had just enough room to stay off of the wall and take the lead down the front straightaway. I could hear the crowd over the roaring engines as I watched from the infield and it was obvious that something special was to happen tonight.

Mincer stayed within striking distance and the laps seemed to take forever to click away. On lap thirteen David Saffell spun in turn two, right in front of Hetrick and Kevin calmly made the move to narrowly avoid him as the caution waved. With just seven laps remaining the crowd was electric on the restart and Hetrick was not to be denied. This did not look like a driver who was headed for his first win, a win in a race that is dedicated to the big brother that meant so much to him. You would have expected a tense moment or two over those final seven laps, perhaps a slip out of the preferred groove or a bobble that would have given Mincer an opportunity to make one last bid for the lead. No, Kevin drove those final seven laps just like a seasoned veteran would have, like a driver who had visited victory lane many times, like a driver who had won track championships. Kevin Hetrick drove those last seven laps just like Brian would have, and you can bet that this first win will not be his last.

Mincer is a competitor who hates to lose, but on this night he was satisfied with second. Matt Krieger drove a solid race to finish third followed by Jayson Ditsworth and Donnie Steward.

Kevin Hetrick addresses the crowd after his emotional victory as announcer Jeff Broeg (left) and promoter Jeff Laue look on - Photo courtesy of Dewain Hulett at http://www.tristatespeedreview.com/

The Sprint Invaders put on a quite a show themselves on this first warm night for racing as the format consisting of qualifying and fully inverted heat races produced three and four wide racing all evening. Rookie-of-the-Year contender Ben Wagoner started from the pole of the twenty-lap main event and paced the field for the first circuit. Veteran driver Ryan Jamison dispatched the rookie on lap two, but the man to watch was Matt Rogerson. Starting twelfth, Rogerson was hooked up and hauling on the hub of the 3/8-mile oval and moved to third by driving past Brian Brown on lap number five. The caution appeared for a spin on lap six and the break seemed to take away Rogerson’s rhythm, but it was eaxactly the opportunity that Kaley Gharst was looking for. On the restart Gharst, driving the Plath Motoorsports #14P, went to work on Jamison and two laps later he flew around the leader on the outside of turn four. Jamsion tried to maintain the pace and challenged a couple of times over the next few laps, but there was no stopping the 2007 Sprint Invaders champion Gharst as he cruised to victory.

Jamison posted a strong runner-up finish with Rogerson not far behind in third, Brown settled for a fourth-place finish and defending series champion John Schulz completed the top five.

The Hobby Stock division provided some entertaining support class action tonight and it was Doug Fenton who picked up a win that he dedicated to his father Donald who passed away earlier this year. Dan Wenig was the early leader before mechanical issues put him on the sidelines handing the lead over to young Derek St. Clair. It was a battle between the youngster and the veteran mid-race and the veteran prevailed as Fenton picked up the lead on lap eight. Dean Kratzer, who ran the majority of the race with a damaged right front suspension, passed St. Clair late for second with Brandon Symmonds and Blaine Dopler completing the top five.

34 Raceway Notes…….Bobby Mincer was one of five drivers doing double duty tonight and his Sprint Invader effort got off to a rough start when he suffered a flat tire in his qualifying heat. Mincer came back to win the B-Main to start sixteenth in the feature and he put forth a solid effort to finish seventh…..Jerrod Hull was a double duty driver who had a tough night in both sprint divisions. Hull has the most wins in Invader history, but he dropped from his heat and scratched for the remainder of the evening. In the 305’s after being unable to make a qualifying run, Hull was able to get things together and run second in his heat race and in the feature he quickly moved from eleventh up to third. But the gremlins reappeared and he pulled to the infield mid-race to end a forgettable evening…...Kansas driver Pete Crall was leading the Sprint Invader B-Main coming to the white flag before tagging the frontstretch retaining wall and fading to sixth, one spot out of a qualifying spot. His luck turned though on a another driver’s misfortune as Russ Hall later scratched from the A-Main allowing Crall to start twentieth as an alternate……John Oliver Jr. started in the fourth row of the Hobby Stock feature and was up to second with two laps to go before his engine sputtered and he pulled to the pits.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Payne and Clark Take Checkers at MLRA/Lucas Oil Speedway Opener

After persistent rain for the two days prior, it took some extra time to get the 3/8th-mile oval at the Lucas Oil Speedway to pack in Saturday night for the track’s 2009 season opener that included the lid lifter for the O’Reilly Auto Parts MLRA Late Models. It was worth the wait though as the result was a track that yielded racing grooves from top to bottom for the 101 cars that showed up in two divisions. And for the second year in a row it was the young native Arizonan who now calls Springfield Missouri home, Jeremy Payne, walking away with the top prize.

Just a few years back the future of the MLRA, one of the longest running regional Late Model series in the country, looked a bit uncertain, but with fifty-one cars on hand tonight including drivers from a wide geographical area it is obvious that this series is set for a standout 2009 season. The driver roster tonight included hometowns stretching from Wichita to Omaha to east central Iowa to Quincy through southeast Missouri down to Texarkana and back to southwest Missouri. The fact that there are at least five drivers running for rookie of the year honors also confirms the strength of the series.

Tonight’s thirty-lap feature had Corning, Iowa, driver Bryant Goldsmith on the pole with Will Vaught on the outside. Vaught set a quick early pace as he, Goldsmith and the third starting Jeremy Payne began to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Earlier in the night Payne had shown his strength by steadily working his way to the front to win the fourth heat race, and that same sense of dominance was evident again here in the feature. Jeremy drove past Goldsmith on lap four and he then went to work on Vaught making the pass for the lead on lap nine. The next lap Vaught tried to pull a slider on Payne in turns three and four, but the new leader didn’t flinch, held his line and maintained his advantage down the front stretch.

With Payne pulling away through lapped traffic, there were two great battles for the fans to focus on. Jack Sullivan had closed in on Vaught and they jockeyed back and forth for the remainder of the race for the second spot while a full straightaway behind them you had a multi car battle that included Alan Vaughn, Eric Turner, Al Purkey and Goldsmith. Plus in the final laps you could add Chad Simpson, Duke Whisenant and Terry Phillips to that mix. This pack was running high, low and in between proving that sometimes the battle for fourth is every bit worth the price of admission. At the finish it was Payne by a half a lap over Sullivan and Vaught. Eric Turner prevailed in the race for fourth while Purkey completed the top five.

The fifty-car Modified field had their issues tonight, but when the green flag could stay on display their racing was frantic as well. It took until the fourth try to get the first lap in on the scheduled twenty-lap feature and even on that one the whole field did not make it back to the green as four of the cars at the back skirmished in turn three. Gary Clark, who was missing most of his driver side body work after contact with pole sitter Jeff Cutshaw who spun in turn two on the first attempt at a start, took the lead on that first completed lap and then held it for the other nine green flag laps that were scored before the time limit expired. Johnny Fennewald was second and commented during the post-race interviews that the race was too short for him to make a run at Clark. Eric Turner started tenth and finished third, David Hendrix was fourth and defending track champion Jamie Ragland finished fifth.

While Fennewald had the chance to say it, the one driver who really had to hate seeing the event shortened was 2008 All Missouri Points champion Tim Setzer. Setzer had a bad draw at the gate and started in the back row of his heat race. He was able to race his way up to fifth putting him near the front of the second B-Main that he then won with ease. This put him eighteenth on the starting grid for the feature race and, when the field was under green, he was the one driver who had something working on the very bottom groove. When the checkers flew on lap ten Setzer was all the way up to sixth and was closing fast on Jamie Ragland.

(Note: When the official results came out on Sunday, Hendrix had been relegated to 24th in the feature rundown moving Ragland to fourth and Setzer to fifth)

Lucas Oil Notes…..The Late Model feature went thirty laps green to checkers although a caution would have been needed if it were to go one lap further. Bryant Goldsmith had a left rear tire cut down during some three-wide action with four laps to go and valiantly tried to preserve a top ten finish. On the final lap the tire shredded down the back stretch and he coasted to the high side of turn three as the rest of the field took the checkers…..Eric Turner started sixteenth in the Late Model main and proved what I have said a few times already this season. He will be one to watch in his Late Model rookie campaign around the Ozark region…..Purkey who has teamed up with Omaha driver Bill Koons was equally impressive as his fifth place finish started from the seventh row……Terry Phillips spun on the opening lap of his heat race and had to win the second B-Main to start eighteenth in the feature where he raced his way up to ninth (saw later that Phillips was DQ'd for a physical altercation in the pits after the race)……Chad Simpson, who won the WDRL opener last week in Davenport, started fifteenth and finished seventh. His brother Chris came from twentieth to tenth…..Duke Whisenant who finished eighth in the feature had a little run in with Tony Jackson Jr. in the second heat race. Race officials stopped both drivers on the frontstretch after the race to calm the situation…..Vaught used a slide job in turn four on the final lap to edge out Aaron Seabaugh in heat race number three. The two drivers thrilled the crowd by racing side by side nearly the entire ten lap distance……Rookie-of-the-Year candidates had a wide range of success on the night. Rylan Long and Jeremy Kelley both finished second in their respective heats with Long finishing twelfth and Kelley 19th. On the other end of the spectrum Zach Goulden suffered damage in an incident during hot laps that apparently affected his handling for the rest of the night as he spun out four times, including once under caution…..The Modifieds made it through their heat races in fine fashion, but things went downhill beginning with the two B-Mains. After spending my last two race nights at tracks that use the “one spin and your in” rule during heats and B-Mains I couldn’t help but think that this is something that the Lucas Oil Speedway should consider. On at least four occasions tonight drivers would either get sideways or get too high in turns one and two where there is no retaining wall and they would obviously just shut the car down to pull a caution. Why wouldn’t a driver do this? After all, on the restart they are allowed to start right on the back bumper of the next to last car. If they would have kept their car running, and recovered from their own miscue they might be a full straightaway behind that car. So, in essence, they are rewarded for causing a caution, a caution that delays the show and likely interrupts a pretty good battle somewhere near the front of the track. Can you tell that I think that all tracks should use the “spin you’re in” rule?…..There were eight caution flags over the first six laps of the Modified feature. The final four laps were run under the green and as luck would have it the field looked like they had gained a rhythm and may have been able to make it to twenty laps. Nobody could argue with the early appearance of the checkers though…..The Modified division always draws a stout field to Lucas Oil and you can bet that they will be back on their game when the regular season gets underway here on April 25th.

Duke Whisenant had a top ten finish, but also had run ins with both Tony Jackson Jr. and Terry Phillips.

Rylan Long was the top finishing MLRA Rookie-of-the Year contenders.

A special thanks to the staff and management at Lucas Oil Speedway for some of the best hospitality that we come across anywhere on our racing travels. Make sure that you mark your schedule for Friday and Saturday May 8th and 9th for the Super Clean Diamond Nationals featuring the cars and stars of the Lucas Oil Late Model Series. You can check out their entire schedule that is dotted with several exciting special events at http://www.lucasoilspeedway.com/.

This weekend we will look to pull of our first “triple” of 2009 as on Friday and Saturday we’ll be at 34 Raceway near Burlington for the Sebastian Sandblasting Sprint Nationals, then on Sunday night we’ll head south to the Quincy Raceway to catch the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models. Hope to see you on the Back Stretch!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

No Frost, But Plenty of Wind at 34 Raceway

With temperatures approaching sixty degrees under bright sunshine one would have thought that it would have been a perfect night for the 1st Annual Frostbuster at 34 Raceway near Burlington. Just one problem though and that was the twenty-five to thirty mile per hour sustained wind that had quite a chill to it, especially when that sun went down. Lucky for the fans in the stands that wind was at their backs allowing them to enjoy a dust free night of action as the track opened its 2009 season. Those in the pit area were not so lucky!

A solid field of twenty-three IMCA Modifieds were on hand and their feature race was first on the docket. Pole-sitter Kevin Goben paced the first lap before yielding to Josh Foster on lap two. Lonne Heap, who made the trip down to West Plains a couple of weeks ago to compete in the three day Justin Stanfill Memorial, looked as if he had a few nights under his belt already as he drove past Foster for the top spot on lap five. The early laps of this race were littered with cautions and when the field finally settled into some green flag action Foster was able to drive past Heap once again on lap seven. With the laps winding down Heap was still within striking distance, but he now had to deal with a hard charging Scott Hogan who had raced his way forward from a sixth row starting spot. Hogan passed Heap coming to the white flag, but he was now too far back to pressure the leader as Foster cruised in for the opening night victory. Hogan and Heap were next in line with Dusty Kraklio and Adam Birck completing the top five.

Josh Foster preps the #77 for a winning night at 34 Raceway

Scott Hogan started twelfth and finished second Saturday at 34 Raceway

The IMCA Stock Cars were up next and they put on quite a show with more side-by-side action and fewer cautions than the race before them. This turned out to be a two-car battle for the win as John Oliver Jr. led the first half of the event before giving way to Jason Cook. With Cook hugging the bottom and Oliver running the middle groove the two drivers crossed the line twice late in the race in a virtual dead heat. With two laps remaining Cook hit his marks perfectly and established enough of a lead to take the checkers by just over a car length in front of Oliver. Abe Huls was right there behind them in third waiting for the leaders to make a mistake, while Jim Redman finished fourth and Darin Thye passed Jeff Mueller on the final circuit to take fifth.

Jason Cook (27J) picked up the IMCA Stock Car win while teammate Nick Fenton (17N) had a tough night.

When pole-sitter Marty Stephenson charged into turn one too hard and went over the top of the bank, Bobby Mincer went from third to first on lap one on his way to a flag-to-flag victory in the 305 Sprint Car division. Josh Schneiderman chased Mincer throughout the twenty lap distance and finished second with Rob Kubli, Donnie Steward and Jayson Dittsworth completing the top five.

Dean Kratzer and Tanner Thomann both have nice shiny Hobby Stocks with bodies that are yet to have a dent on them and despite a side-by-side battle for the lead over the final laps, both cars still look "showroom new". At the drop of the green Kratzer watched the front two rows drift high in turns one and two allowing Dean to go from the fifth starting place to the point down the backstretch. Thomann kept pace with Kratzer and on the final three laps Tanner decided to give the top groove a try. It nearly paid off as he was able to pull even with Kratzer on two occasions, but could not complete the pass as Kratzer pulled out the exciting victory. Young Derek St. Clair was a consistent third followed by Doug Fenton and Tony Witte.

The third place car of Derek St. Clair

With raindrops starting to fall the Four-Cylinders hit the track and put on a good race to close out the evening. Travis Yakle passed race-long leader Bill Whalen Jr. with four laps to go and then fought off a late bid by Whalen to earn the victory. Chuck Fullenkamp followed Whalen Jr. in for third with Geoffrey Theobald and Jeremy Sloan next in line.

The high winds and cool temps made this a tough night at the races and with two big special events coming up at 34 Raceway the next two weeks here's hoping that the weather turns for the better soon. This Saturday, April 11th, the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models will kick off their 2009 campaign here with the Slocum 50 in memory of the late Brent Slocum. Then, on Friday & Saturday April 17th and 18th, 34 Raceway will host the Sebastian Sandblasting Sprint Nationals featuring the 360 c.i. sprints of the Ideal Ready Mix Sprint Invaders as well as the track's 305 c.i. Sprint Car division. The Brian Hetrick Memorial will be part of this big two-day event that should draw a solid field of sprint cars in each division.

Check back mid-week for the first set of the All Iowa Points found on the "Points" tab at www.PositivelyRacing .com. Thanks for stopping by and checking us out. We'll see you on the Back Stretch.

Over 200 Cars Bust the Frost In An Exciting Fashion at Marshalltown

The 2009 racing season in the state of Iowa got underway Friday night as just over 200 racecars in five classes overflowed the pits at Marshalltown Speedway for the annual "Frostbuster" event. Yes, it was a bit chilly, but the temperatures were right around normal for this time of year as it was 55 degrees when I pulled into the parking lot at 6 p.m. and 39 degrees when the final checkered flag waved at just a few minutes past midnight. If you were bundled up, as the majority of the packed house was, then the weather was not a factor, but I did see at least five or six teenagers there prowling behind the grandstands wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt. Ah, today's youth.....you just gotta love their individualism!

Even they were probably warmed up by the racing action tonight as it was evident that promoter Toby Kruse and his crew have worked very hard on this racing surface over the past few weeks. Racing grooves could be found from top to bottom and I never did see a rut or ripple causing cars to jump around all night. Sixty-six IMCA Modifieds including one from California, one from Saskatchewan and a bunch from Wisconsin were on hand and the field was stacked from top to bottom, so just making the twenty-four car feature field tonight was an accomplishment. Chris Abelson started outside of row one in the twenty-five lap finale and snared the early lead while the field raced three and four wide behind him. On lap six The Sioux City hotshoe pushed the cushion just a little too hard and slipped off the topside of turn two fading several spots and turning the lead over to a fifth starting Jordan Grabouski. With Troy Cordes in pursuit "Grabo" maintained about a four car-length advantage over the next several laps and was able to set that advantage once again after a pair of restarts. With laps winding down the lead pair closed in on lapped traffic and that is when things started to heat up. Cordes closed in on the leader and as the two worked lapped traffic Jay Noteboom, who had started tenth, looked to make it a three car battle for the top.

Cordes made a run at Grabouski on the low side of three and four with two laps to go, but could not make it stick so he regrouped and gave it one last shot on the final lap. With a pair of lapped cars just ahead running in his high groove Grabouski held his line as Cordes drove hard to the bottom of turn three. Cordes nosed ahead momentarily in the apex of the turn while Noteboom looked to slingshot off the bottom of four to beat them both. The crowd rose to their feet as Cordes and Grabouski exited turn four wheel-to-wheel and it was the momentum off the high side that allowed Jordan Grabouski to nose ahead at the stripe for the victory. Noteboom was a close third while Jimmy Gustin, who started next to Noteboom in row five finished fourth and Ryan Ruter who appeared to be an early contender settled for fifth.

The IMCA Stock Cars always put on a show and at Marshalltown this night we saw them go five-wide on a couple of occasions. Sean Johnson of Independence paced the first two laps of the main event, but on a lap three single file restart Dustin Smith charged from third to first off of turn two. Smith, the defending All Iowa Points champion and the defending champion of this event, looked like he might walk away with this one until the closing laps when Ryan Gustin and Damon Murty made their charge. Gustin, driving John Hunnell's #62 that his father Rick has wheeled for the past few seasons, was driving like a teenager wearing shorts on a cold April night trying to get to somewhere warm working his way up from twelfth to second and closing quickly on Smith. Damon Murty sprung to life as well in the final laps to make it a three car battle and when Gustin made a slight bobble with two to go, Murty was able to take over the runner-up spot and take one last shot at the lead. There was no getting by Dustin Smith though as he held his line and cruised to victory ahead of Murty and Gustin. Dusty Vis who challenged Smith early in the race finished in the fourth spot while Michael Jeannette was impressive in fifth.

The cream definitely rose to the top in the Sport Mod division as Kevin Sather and Luke Wanninger finished one-two in the main event. Sather can win from anywhere, but on this night he drew the pole position for his heat race and then again drew the pole for the main event as he was never headed on the night. Wanninger had to work a bit harder for his runner-up spot as he started seventh and prevailed in a tight battle with Nate Chodur who finished third. Kyle Brown and Scott Davis had quite a battle of their own going back and forth before Brown prevailed for fourth with Davis settling for fifth.

Devin Smith controlled the Hobby Stock division going flag to flag for the victory and reminding everybody that once again the Lake City Iowa Smith brothers are going to be a force to reckon with again in 2009. Terry Shaffar held off Todd Reitzler to finish second with Brandon Pruitt fourth and Adam Armstrong made a pass of Steve Jones off turn four to finish fifth.

Random Notes

The count I had based upon drivers that were given in the heat race lineups were 66 Modifieds, 49 Sport Mods, 35 each in the Stock Cars and the Hobby Stocks and 18 Mod-Lites for a total of 203 although they announced that 205 were on hand. Either way it was a fantastic field of cars on what turned out to be a pretty nice night for racing.....Randy Brown of Chowchilla CA finished third in the fifth Modified heat and made the feature. The driver from Saskatchewan Devin Hummel (sp?) was very fast and was running fourth in his heat before he spun out on the final lap. That fourth position would have put him on the pole of a B-Main later in the evening. He also spun in the B-Main ending his night.....Two cars got upside down on the night the worst being a Modified B-Main crash where Erc Van Iten of Green Bay WI got into the frontstretch wall and rolled hard before being hit by Kyle Krampe who had nowhere to go. Van Iten crawled out uninjured but his used up racecar was dragged to the infield for pickup after the races. In the Stock Car B-Main Don Vis was part of a thrilling battle that saw drivers running five-wide for two laps until a skirmish on the back stretch left Vis upside down......Two drivers in that five-car Stock Car tussle were contenders Mike VanGenderen and Jeff Mueller. Van Genderen actually finished fourth in his heat race and would have been qualified for the A-Main except for the fact that he ran the final five laps on a flat left rear tire. Rules state that if you have a flat tire you will be black flagged, and he was for at least three laps, so his finish did not count. Mueller, who made the trip up from New London, started ninth in his heat and charged up to second only to be disqualified in tech for an illegal carburetor. Both drivers would be caught up in the Vis accident and have to retire to the pits with damage on the front end of VanGenderen's car and a flat tire for Mueller.....Back to the Smith brothers for a moment. Last year Dustin was the All Iowa Points Stock Car champion while Donavon finished third and in the final All Iowa Hobby Stock points Doug and Devin were second and third respectively behind Shannon Anderson, and Daniel Smith finished 18th in a list 339 Four-Cylinder drivers. Could they win three All Iowa titles in 2009? Doug is helping their chances of doing just that as he has moved to the Sport Mod division this season winning heat race number four tonight before struggling a bit in the main event.....2007 All Iowa Points Limited Modified champion Brett Moffitt brought out the first caution in the Sport Mod main spinning to the infield on lap two......Steve Meyer won the Stock Car B-Main to start twenty-first on the grid for the feature and moved quickly up to fifth before his motor let go mid-race.....Promoter Toby Kruse noted that since he doesn't have any commitments now on Saturdays he would auction off his services in order to raise money to build new bleachers for the "east siders" to match what has already been completed on the west side. For the high bidder Kruse said that he would come to their house, mow their lawn and then provide the food for a backyard barbecue that he would prepare. Last I heard the bid was over $200, but I'm not sure that they ever closed it out. If not Toby, I have over an acre for you to mow and two hungry college boys who will be back in June. I'm sure that I'll get my two hundred dollars worth!......The Frostbuster for tonight (Saturday the 4th) at Webster City was cancelled early in the day on Friday due to track conditions and an unfavorable forecast. The IMCA travelers have two events to choose from tonight (Saturday the 4th) as the SuperNationals Shakedown is scheduled for the Boone Speedway and 34 Raceway near Burlington hosts a Frostbuster of its own with IMCA sanctioned Modifieds and Stock Cars along with 305 Sprints, Hobby Stocks and Four-Cylinders......The Frostbuster at Vinton for Sunday night is still on if the weathermen have totally missed this one! The opening night for Quincy Raceway has already been postponed from Sunday April 5th to Sunday April 12th due to the forecast.

Look for additional reports from Marshalltown on the 4D Fan Report and TapFan's Tours at http://www.positivelyracing.com/. See you in Burlington tonight!