Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another Big Win for Burgtorf; Foster, Cook, Coleman, Wenig and Michel Also In Victory Lane at Donnellson

After three straight rainouts everybody wanted to go racing at the Lee County Speedway Friday night, so much so that drivers and fans were offering their services to help promoter Terry Hoenig to get the facility ready to go. Over four inches of rain pounded the track in Donnellson on Wednesday night and into early Thursday and the key word there was "pounded". When he checked things out on Thursday night Hoenig was amazed to find that, despite all the rain, he still would have a chance to race if the sun and some wind would help him out during the day on Friday. His theory was that it had rained so hard and so fast that it had firmed up the soil and ran off rather than sinking in and making a mushy mess.

One hundred twenty-eight cars found enough dry spots in the pit area as the six divisions prepared for their first points race of 2010. The Ideal Ready Mix/Trump Trucks "Drive for Five" Late Models topped the list with an impressive count of twenty-six. Mark Burgtorf is off to a hot start and he was the odds on favorite lining up on the outside of row three for the twenty-five-lap main event, but his chances would improve even before the green flag waved. Second row starter Gary Russell pulled to the infield on the parade lap moving Burgtorf up to fourth as the field took the green. Front row starters Colby Springsteen and Denny Woodworth were still trying to decide who would lead the first lap when the caution waved for Tony Fraise who spun just behind them in turn four. On the second attempt at the start Burgtorf saw an opening in turn two and drove under Springsteen and Woodworth to take the lead down the backstretch. After watching Mark dominate in his heat race I figured that the race would now be for second, but after a caution on lap seven Denny Woodworth tried to prove me wrong.

Woodworth made two strong moves to the inside of Burgtorf over the next couple of laps as he tried to force a mistake from the veteran driver, but Burgtorf kept his cool and fought off both attempts. Rob Toland picked off second from Woodworth and tried to keep pace with the leader, but not even lapped traffic would slow Burgtorf’s pace as he took the $1,000 victory by nearly half a lap. Toland was impressive driving from a fourth row start to take second, Woodworth maintained the third spot with Springsteen fourth and Jay Johnson was fifth after starting ninth. Justin Reed finished in the sixth spot, Andy Eckrich came from the seventh row to take seventh, Jeff Aikey started eighteenth and finished eighth while Matt Bailey was the final car on the lead lap in ninth. Tommy Elston rounded out the top ten as he debuted his own equipment tonight after his split with the Richard Realty "Team 15".

The IMCA Modifieds had a tough time getting their feature event started with a couple of early yellows, but the final four laps had the large crowd on the edge of their seats. Lonne Heap paced the first three laps before fourth-starting Josh Foster flew by him and opened up a nice lead. Michael Long started on the inside of row five and he moved quickly to the front and picked up the chase on Foster, but it looked like the two-time defending track champion would be able to maintain the advantage. A caution with four laps remaining was the break that Long was looking for and when the race went back to green he was able to pull even with the leader. The next two laps were exhilarating as Long and Foster executed a high-speed ballet side-by-side just inches apart and never touching while the crowd cheered for their favorite. When Long bobbled in turn two and danced up the track that allowed Foster to pull away while Brandon Rothzen then made a run at Long for second. At the checkers it was Foster with the win, Rothzen who had started next to Long in the fifth row was second, Long settled for third while Wyatt Lantz and Heap completed the top five.

The IMCA Stock Car main event was similar to the Modified feature as after a couple of early cautions that slowed the start, the race ended with a thrilling side-by-side battle to the checkers. John Oliver Jr. started from the pole and held the lead until Jason Cook drove by him on lap five of the fifteen-lap distance. Jeff Mueller was right on the tail of Cook and two laps later it was Mueller who used the inside line to takeover the lead. The caution waved for the third and final time when Aaron Brocksieck’s ride went up in smoke with two laps to go and that was the break that Cook needed. On the restart Mueller left the inside line open in turn one and Cook pulled even with him down the backstretch. The two friendly rivals passed under Ryan Bergeson’s white flag door-to-door and in true IMCA Stock Car fashion they ran that way the entire final lap with Cook taking the win by no more than a foot at the finish line. Oliver was right behind them at the stripe for third with Matt Greiner and Abe Huls completing the top five in this thriller that had the crowd buzzing.

The fastest growing division in IMCA is the Sport Mods and that is evidenced by the growth of the class here at Lee County. After having counts between twelve and fifteen throughout the 2009 season, the field swelled to twenty-three here for the opening points night and despite a wide-range of speeds from top to bottom they ran the first seven laps of their feature event under green. A crunching crash involving Justin Allerton and Rick Barlow under the flagstand put the field under red flag conditions while the track was cleaned up and thankfully both drivers climbed out of their machines without injury. A.J. Johnson and Joe Bliven brought the field back to green, but it was Derek Coleman who made a strong move to the front to take the lead down the backstretch. Coleman had started tenth and was now trying to fight off a challenge from Bliven before the challenger spun in turn two the following lap. Fortunately for Bliven the caution was already waving for a spin in turn four allowing him to restart the race in second. Despite his good fortune, there was no way that he could improve his position as Coleman drove away over the final seven laps to win his first career Sport Mod feature event. Defending track champion Rodger Dresden followed Bliven in for third, A.J. Johnson was fourth and Jason Cook drove the 3D Roofing ride in for fifth.

The top six Hobby Stock qualifiers participated in a grocery cart race sponsored by Hy-Vee to determine the order that they would draw for their starting position and it resulted in an interesting twist. With positions one and six left to draw and the father and son duo of Dan and Jake Wenig left to draw them, it was Dan who picked up the box of Shredded Wheat with the number six on the bottom. So not only did Jake get a box of Pop Tarts for breakfast on Saturday, but he also had the honor of starting the fifteen-lap feature from the pole, all courtesy of his father! Jake would lead the entire distance holding off a late charge from Jim Lynch to take the win while Lynch, who started seventh, would be the runner-up. Jeremy Pundt followed up his victory in the grocery cart race with a third-place run in his Hobby Stock while Rob Wilsey and Ray Raker completed the top five.

The four-cylinder "Wild Things" closed out the evening with a twelve-lap feature that saw pole-sitter Mike Fisher lead early on. William Michel came from a third row start and picked up the lead mid-race, then held off a hard charging Chuck Fullenkamp to take the win. Had it not been for Michel driving the sheep’s foot around the track since seven in the morning the event might not have even happened, so it was only fitting that he ended his long day in victory lane. Fullenkamp had problems in his heat race so he had started way back in eighteenth before finishing second, Fisher would hold off Jerry Ostby late for third while Dakota Fenton picked up fifth on the final lap.

Points racing for the track’s regular five divisions (Modifieds, Stock Cars, Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks and Wild Things) continues next Friday night May 21st and fans can stop in at area Casey’s stores to pick up a coupon for $5 admission. The Late Models return on May 28th for 70’s Disco Night at the Lee County Speedway.

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