6th Annual Slocum 50

6th Annual Slocum 50
Saturday, April 19th at 34 Raceway

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pearson Dominates Lucas Oil Event at 34 Raceway

Earl Pearson Jr. moved quickly from the inside of row three to take the lead from Don O’Neal on lap two and he then ran away from the field to take the $10,000 victory at 34 Raceway Sunday night. It was the second time in his career that Pearson has visited victory lane at the banked 3/8-mile oval near Burlington and this was the first-ever appearance for the Lucas Oil Late Model Series at the facility.

While Pearson was never challenged for the lead, he did have to survive two close calls with lapped traffic during the fifty-lap distance. On lap twenty-six Chris Wall spun to the apron exiting turn two just ahead of the leader setting up the last of three restarts in the race. Then on lap forty-four local favorite Boone McLaughlin got all the way sideways just in front of Pearson in turn three, but EPJ was able to take evasive action and McLaughlin made the save in order to keep the race under green.

This allowed Ray Cook to regain sight of the leader but there was no catching him over the final six circuits as Cook would finish where he started in second. Will Vaught made a big move from fifth to second on that lap twenty-six restart, but Cook would get back around him a lap later as Vaught would likely be happy with third after starting twelfth on the grid. Dale McDowell also made a big surge forward coming from the inside of row nine to finish in the fourth spot while Jimmy Mars, who started next to Vaught in row six, would take fifth. Scott Bloomquist came from fifteenth to run sixth with Brian Birkhofer chasing him in for seventh after starting fourteenth. Jimmy Owens, who came into the night tied for the series point lead with Bloomquist, faded from third to eighth. Dennis Erb Jr. would finish in the ninth spot while O’Neal would pit for tires on the last caution and then race his way back to tenth.

LOLMS @ 34 Notes……The first two cautions in the feature were for flat tires, on lap six for Jason Utter and on lap eight for Mike Marlar…..Forty Late Models filled the pit area, but two drivers Jason Hughes and Ricky Frankel, were not able to make qualifying attempts. Hughes slapped the wall during hot laps while Frankel had mechanical issues…..Jason Feger set quick time on the night after arriving late to the track due to not one, but two flat tires on his tow rig. Jason Frankel’s crew actually took their trailer back out on the road to tow in Feger’s #25 and Jason’s trailer arrived just before qualifying started. He hopped out, ran over to his car and then set quick time without even taking a hot lap……Feger faded to fourth after starting the first heat from the pole and was never a factor in the main event……Brad Neat, who is Pearson’s teammate at Bobby Labonte Racing, came from tenth to snare the third and final transfer out of the first B-Main…..The finish of the second B-Main brought the crowd to their feet as Jason Utter, Jake Meier and Boone McLaughlin raced three-wide to the checkers for the final two transfer spots. Meier was running second to race leader Bub McCool entering turn three on the final lap, but he was under assault from McLaughlin on the high side and Utter down low. McLaughlin rode the cushion off four to finish second while Utter nosed ahead of Meier by inches at the stripe to take third…..Shannon Babb was one of the "big names" on the trailer come feature time after dropping out of the first B-Main while running sixth.

The 305 c.i. Sprints ran a track point race in support with twenty-one cars on hand and it was definitely Kevin Hetrick’s night. Starting inside row five for the twenty-lap feature, Hetrick stormed to the front and blew past Cale Hutchings for the lead on lap four. He then maintained his advantage through a few more cautions and lapped traffic to take the victory ahead of Jarrod Schneiderman and Tony Davis. Bobby Mincer’s night didn’t start out well as he hit the pit entrance wall during hot laps and had to be towed back to the trailer with rear end damage. Later he was leading his heat before spinning out mid-race sending him back to the pits, but his night ended up pretty good as he raced his way from sixteenth to finish fourth in the main event. Nick Guernsey passed three cars in the final two laps to round out the top five.

A nice-sized crowd was on hand for the Sunday evening action that had been postponed from Friday due to cool and wet conditions. It was anything but that tonight as a hot sun and a stiff southerly breeze had the dust flying early and throughout the evening. But I’ll take dust and racing over a rainout any day!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quick Night In Donnellson as Lee County Runs a Saturday Night Show

After being rained out for the fourth time in five attempts of getting a weekly show in on a Friday night, the Lee County Speedway took advantage of an open date on the schedule at nearby 34 Raceway and ran a non-points event on a beautiful Saturday night in Donnellson. A solid field of ninety-two cars in five divisions thought the idea sounded good to them and despite the short notice, the crowd filled in just fine as well. When the first set of hot laps took the green there was dust flying from the racing surface, but it didn’t take long for that dry layer to peel away and there was plenty of moisture left behind underneath from yet another rainy week here in southeast Iowa.

The Sport Mod feature was first up and it was a race that Jim Gillenwater would dominate from the pole position leading all fifteen laps and pulling away on both restarts after two cautions slowed the event. Mike Shelton started right behind Gillenwater but couldn’t quite maintain the quick pace as he settled for second. Jason Cook started fourth and finished third with Joe Bliven and Derek Coleman completing the top five. Bliven started the event on the inside of row five and believe it or not, the two caution flags in this race would be the only two that we would see through all five features!

The four cylinder Wild Things were next up for their non-stop twelve-lapper and pole-sitter Jerry Ostby was gone from the drop of the green. Two top contenders, Chuck Fullenkamp and William Michel avoided disaster early in the race when they nearly collided in turn four, but both drivers were able to fight their way back to the front after fading deep in the pack. Fullenkamp would wind up second with Devin Still finishing in the third spot. Michel, who won the last time out at LCS, was fourth and defending track champion Dakota Fenton took fifth.

The Hobby Stock feature turned out to be a heartbreaker for Jeremy Pundt as the hometown driver looked like he had his first-ever feature win in the bag before disaster struck. Pundt started the race in third and drove past Josh Tripp for the lead on the third lap. From there he stretched out his advantage while an entertaining battle for second waged on well behind him. Pundt had a full straightaway cushion as he took the white flag, but as he raced down the back stretch for the final time his left front controlling arm broke loose, dug into the track and forced him to spin into the infield. Jim Lynch had been chasing Pundt in second, but his pace was slowing quickly as smoke was rolling out of his hot engine, so Dave Cloke made a run on him entering turn three for the lead. Just then the right rear tire went flat on Cloke’s car and Lynch had just enough power to ease back by him to be the first to reach the checkers in a wild finish. Cloke would have to settle for second with Tripp finishing third, Lane Kauffman was fourth and Tanner Thomann completed the top five.

Corey Strothman appeared to be the man to beat in the fifteen-lap Stock Car main event, but with five laps to go his car started showing signs of overheating as well. Then to make matters worse his left rear tire went flat a lap later and in the scramble Jason Cook passed both Strothman and Dave Warth to take the lead. The defending track champion, Cook then pulled away over the final three laps for his second win in two outings this season at the Lee County Speedway. Warth would be the runner-up, Abe Huls finished third followed by Chris Webb and John Oliver Jr. Cook started the event next to Oliver on row five.

Modifieds rounded out the evening and they too ran a caution free event. Wyatt Lantz brought the field around on lap one, but on lap two Michael Long put the slider on him in turn three and then rocketed away from the pack. When Long had to deal with heavy lapped traffic late in the race Lantz made things interesting by closing ground quickly using the high line around the speedway. But he ran out of laps and came up a few car lengths short as Long earned the victory. Josh Foster started eighth and could only chase the leaders in for third, Jeff Waterman came from a sixth row start to take fourth while Dustin Crear finished where he started in fifth.

LCS Saturday Notes……The "off night" event did not require any track registration fees so several non-regular drivers made the trip in tonight including USRA B-Mod drivers Mike Shelton and Bill Gibson. Bob Woodrow of Hannibal and Corey Botkins of Columbia came up from Missouri after 24 Raceway in Moberly was forced to cancel due to wet grounds. Lane Kauffman is a top competitor in the Hobby Stocks on Friday nights in Columbus Junction while CJ Raceway Stock Car regulars Brett Timmerman, Devon Timmerman and Travis Finke were also on hand. Also in the Stock Cars Michael Jaennette from Newton, who is usually found in Marshalltown on Friday nights, made the trip down and finished tenth after starting fourteenth…..L.Z. Coleman won a bunch of races when the Modified division was introduced to southeast Iowa in the 1980’s and he debuted a sharp looking new Sport Mod tonight. It will be interesting to see if dad can keep up with his son Derek in the coming weeks.……Pundt was credited with a ninth pace finish tonight and while this one slipped away, I'm guessing that it won’t be long until he captures that first career win. And look for the second and third to be this year as well……Former Hobby Stock track champion Doug Fenton subbed tonight for Dane Fenton in the #3D and finished sixth in the Hobby Stock feature…..Jeff Mueller was trying out a new Stock Car tonight and was running near the top five before dropping out of the feature mid-race. His father Jim Mueller Jr., another guy who won his share of races back in the ‘80’s, was behind the wheel of Jeff’s other car and was credited with 13th in the fmain event……The show started right on time at 7 p.m. and the final checkered flag waved at 9:10…...This coming Friday May 28th will be the Casey’s General Stores Fan Appreciation Night at the Lee County Speedway featuring six divisions as the IMCA Late Models will join the five that ran tonight for what should be a great show. Fans can stop by the Casey’s stores around the area to grab a coupon that will get you admittance to the show for just five dollars. Then on Saturday night it will be motorized mayhem on the "Eve of Destruction" at the speedway. For details on both events visit http://www.leecountyspeedway.com/

The Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, was too wet to run on Saturday so they will be racing this Sunday night May 23rd. It will be the season opener and the first event for new promoter Wayne Messamaker. Details can be found at http://www.scotlandcountyspeedway.com/

Quincy Raceway will be running their weekly program on Sunday night and you can find out more by clicking on their logo in the left border of this blog.

The Lucas Oil Late Model Series will be at 34 Raceway this Sunday night May 23rd along with the 305 c.i. winged sprints. The grandstand opens at 3 p.m. with Late Model qualifying scheduled for six o’clock. There were forty-eight cars at the Lucas event at LaSalle, Illinois, on Saturday night so I am looking forward to another stout field at 34, hope to see you there!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rain Forces Change of Schedule at Two Southeast Iowa Tracks

Persistent rain, cloudy skies and cool temperatures have a forced two southeast Iowa tracks to postpone their events that were scheduled for tonight, Friday May 21st.

The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt series event at 34 Raceway near Burlington has been postponed until Sunday night May 23rd. The pit gates will open at 2 p.m., grandstands open at 3 p.m. with qualifying set for 6 p.m. and races to follow. The 305 c.i. Sprint Cars will run in support of the national touring series Late Models.

The music concert that is scheduled for Saturday night at 34 is still on but will be moved to the parking area so fans are reminded to bring a lawn chair. For more info visit http://www.34raceway.com/

Tonight's weekly racing action at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson has been cancelled one again by inclement weather. With this being the fourth time in five attempts to run a Friday night show at Donnellson this year, promoters Terry and Jenni Hoenig have decided to go racing tomorrow night instead. The racing on Saturday night May 22nd will be a draw/redraw format for the Modifieds, Sport Mods, Stock Cars, Hobby Stocks and Wild things with gates opening at 5 p.m., hot laps at 6:30 and racing at 7 p.m. Since there will be no track or IMCA points awarded there will be no track or entry fees required and no IMCA license needed. Weekly rules will apply to all five classes. For more information go to http://www.leecountyspeedway.com/

Forecasts call for sunny skies and much warmer weather for the weekend so get on out and enjoy the fun!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Foster First, Gustin Brothers Follow At Hawkeye Dirt Tour's Inaugural Event

The JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt Tour debuted in grand fashion Wednesday night as fifty-nine IMCA Modifieds from all parts of the state converged on the Independence Motor Speedway for the series opener. Six qualifying heats were up first to begin to whittle the field down to a twenty-five-car feature grid and, with only three cars advancing out of each, the driving was aggressive as only one heat went green to checkers with no cautions. Drivers settled down some for the three B-Mains that transferred two cars each and the field was then set for the thirty-lap finale that would crown the first-ever winner of the Tour.

Veteran local driver Ed Thomas drew the pole position with young Ryan Gustin next to him and it was Gustin who vaulted to the lead at the drop of the green. A caution slowed the field on lap two and the field was put into a double-file restart alignment. The green waved again and as the twenty-five cars thundered into turns one and two one of the front runners, Jeff Feaster, had a problem as his car slowed suddenly and nearly everybody stacked up behind him. When the dust cleared there were six cars sitting tangled up in turn two and onto the back straightaway. Once the track was cleared, the green flag returned and the race started to get a rhythm.


Josh Foster (77) races around the outside of Rich Smith (8) during heat race action - photo by Scott Tjabring, Action Track Photography http://www.actiontrackphotos.com/

Ryan Gustin was setting the pace with Jay Noteboom and Michael Long giving chase, but it was the tenth-starting Josh Foster who was making some noise in his orange #77. Foster was dealing with a familiar foe when he went to work on Long for third as the two had raced side-by-side during the closing laps at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson last Friday night with Foster prevailing. He did so again in this battle with Long tonight and next on the menu was Noteboom who was behind the wheel of Joel Bushore’s #87 tonight after destroying his car in a crash at Eagle Raceway recently. Foster made quick work of Noteboom as well and he now had his sights set on the leader Gustin. On lap ten Josh planted his car firmly on the inside groove and pulled even with Ryan who was running more of a middle line and, just like that, the change was made at the front as Foster began to pull away from the field.

The Gustin brothers in action at Independence. Ryan up high and Richie down low - photo by Scott Tjabring, Action Track Photography http://www.actiontrackphotos.com/
The fourth and final caution of the event appeared on lap nineteen when Toby Hartman spun on the front stretch and on the restart Gustin had new life. He was able to stick a nose under Foster on two occasions, but the Montrose, Iowa, driver who might not yet be real well known to the followers of IMCA Modified racing fought off the challenge and cruised through the final laps for the $1,000 victory. Ryan Gustin racked up the runner-up position while Noteboom appeared to have third in the bag before he slowed going into turn three on the final lap. This allowed Richie Gustin to follow his younger brother in for third, Long finished fourth and Nate Caruth rounded out the top five after starting fourteenth. Unofficially I had Mark Schulte in sixth just ahead of a coasting Noteboom, Mike Jergens came from the tenth row to finish eighth, Rich Smith was ninth and Darin Duffy was completed the top ten.

Tour Director Bucky Doren presents Josh Foster with "the big check" following his historic victory in the first-ever Hawkeye Dirt Tour event for IMCA Modifieds - photo by Scott Tjabring, Action Track Photography http://www.actiontrackphotos.com/
HDT Notes…..With a field of fifty-nine cars you know that there are going to be some solid competitors watching from the trailer and that was definitely the case tonight…..Jeff Waterman, Chris Abelson and Andy Krieger were the drivers who came up one spot short of transferring out of the three B-Main events. Waterman did have better luck earlier in the night as he was one of the “door prize” winners of merchandise that was given away during the drivers’ meeting from title sponsor JR Motorsports…..Defending All Iowa Points champion and 2009 IMCA Modified National points runner-up Jeremy Mills had a night to forget as he ran only a couple of laps under green before being caught up in accidents in both his heat and his B-Main…..Cale Sponsler made the trip over from Grimes only to start his return home early after mechanical issues in hot laps…..Mark Elliott popped a motor while leading the sixth heat race and could not make a change soon enough to run his B-Main…..Kent Croskey appeared to have the third and final transfer out of the first heat race, but when he was disqualified for not having the proper IMCA stickers it moved Dennis Betzer up to a qualifying spot…..Ronn Lauritzen crossed the finish line first in the third heat, but he was penalized two positions for a “jackrabbit start” on one of the heat’s restarts thus giving the win to Toby Hartman…..All three drivers who are currently tied at the top of the All Iowa Points Modified list were in attendance tonight. Richie Gustin and Jimmy Gustin were both in the feature race that Scott Hogan was watching from the grandstands. Work commitments did not allow Hogan to have his car here to race, but he did enjoy the event as a spectator. The updated All Iowa Points can be found on the “Points” tab at http://www.positivelyracing.com/ ….Nate Caruth likely passed more cars than anybody else on the night as he came from tenth to third in his heat race before making his nine car advancement in the feature race…..Darin Duffy started shotgun on the twenty-five-car lineup as he switched cars after discovering mechanical issues on his #19D after running third in his heat race. Darin drove Chris Snyder’s #32 in the main event…..Jerry Luloff was added to the lineup as a track provisional…..Have I mentioned lately that I am not a big fan of double file restarts? I’m sure that I had at least six drivers who agreed with me for a least a few minutes after the lap two pileup. The Dirt Tour has a rule that after three cautions they will then go with a single-file realignment……The next event for the Tour will be on Memorial Day May 31st at the I-35 Speedway in Mason City and for more information on the Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds visit http://www.dirttour.com/hawkeye/index.html

A solid field of twenty IMCA SportMods were in attendance as well and an incident near the front of the field in turn one on the start of lap two would play a big part in the outcome. Unfortunately I was looking elsewhere when the scramble began so I don’t know what initiated it, but when I did look over there I saw Jeremy Embrey do a 360-degree spin and continue on while Kurt Hogan coasted down the track and into the infield as the caution waved. Track officials charged Embrey with the caution and sent him to the rear of the field while Hogan was placed just behind the leader Kaleb Bentley for the restart. It didn’t take Hogan long to go by Bentley as he had the lead when lap two was scored and he then dominated throughout for the win in the fifteen-lap main event. Bentley would hold off a hard charging Austin Kaplan to finish in the second spot as Kaplan would settle for third after starting twelfth. Young Tyler Droste would pick up the fourth position at the finish while Danny Dvorak, who started next to Kaplan in row six, would round out the top five.

It was no wonder that I did not see what started the incident in turn one as we had a couple of pleasant distractions that my colleague Kevin Trittien pointed out in front of us early in the evening. I think that he might have been paying better attention than I was at this point so make sure that you check out “TapFan’s Tours” at http://www.positivelyracing.com/ for another point of view on the night’s events. While at the homepage be sure to see what Dick and Joyce Eisele thought of the show in “The 4dFan Report” and for the view from the announcers tower take a peek at Ryan Clark’s “In Staging”. Did we have the Hawkeye Dirt Tour opener covered from top to bottom? Positively!!!
Here’s hoping that the forecasted rain for today and Friday is light and scattered and that it gets out of the way in time for the Lucas Oil Late Model Series event at 34 Raceway near Burlington Friday night. For details go to http://www.34raceway.com/ and we hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aikey Dominates Deery Stop at Marshalltown

There was plenty of action and movement within the twenty-four-car feature field at the Marshalltown Speedway Tuesday night, but the one constant was the lead position as six-time and defending series champion Jeff Aikey paced the final forty-six laps to win the annual Deery Brothers Summer event on the high-banked quarter-mile.

Greg Kastli and Jay Johnson made up the front row for the fifty-lap feature race with Kastli getting the advantage at the drop of the green. The first of five cautions waved on lap four when Darrell DeFrance spun in turn two and the field was lined up double-file behind the leader for the restart. Jeff Aikey wasted no time and drove past Kastli and Johnson to take the lead on lap five while drivers raced two and three-wide behind him. On lap eleven the face of the race changed immensely when Rob Toland, who was running mid-pack, had the driveline break apart on his #39 spreading debris and rear-end grease down the backstretch and into turn three. The caution waved and the field slowed, but when the third-place car of Mark Burgtorf encountered the fluid on the track, that and perhaps some contact from another car spun him sideways to a halt in turn three. Apparently the Deery Series has a rule in place that if a car stops under caution for any reason, other than being requested to do so by an official, that car will be penalized to the back of the field for the restart. Obviously Burgtorf did not agree with what he was being told and he pleaded his case with a couple of track officials before promoter Toby Kruse came out to the frontstretch to further explain the situation.

Burgtorf took his spot at the back of the field for the restart and the focus of most of the capacity crowd became elsewhere from the race upfront between the leader Aikey and his new challenger Ray Guss Jr. Never mind that Guss had clawed his way into contention after starting eleventh, there were other things to watch and it wasn’t just the progress of Burgtorf. Darrell DeFrance only gets to race on his hometown track once a year and he was making the best of it. After restarting twenty-third after his lap four caution “The Ironman” was picking his way through the field to the delight of his many fans and by mid-race he had cracked the top five. His amazing run would come to an end though on lap thirty-seven when his left rear tire blew forcing him to park the #99D on the frontstretch necessitating the final caution of the event.

Once back to green Guss was able to stick closer to Aikey’s rear bumper as they pulled away from the pack, but he could never mount a challenge over the final thirteen laps and Aikey picked up the $2,000 victory. It was the 54th career series win for Aikey adding to his lead in that category. Burgtorf worked his way past Jay Johnson and Terry Neal during the final green-flag segment and was reeling in the leaders over the final laps, but he would have to settle for third while Johnson and Neal rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth at the finish were Tyler Bruening, Andy Eckrich, Boone McLaughlin, Tom Darbyshire and Matt Strassheim.

Marshalltown Deery Notes……Despite a little dust flying the high-banked quarter was in prime shape allowing the drivers to make runs at many different grooves through the fifty-lap distance. Aikey started fifth while Guss, as mentioned above, came from eleventh……Burgtorf started sixth, moved to third, was sent to the back and returned to finish third……Terry Neal started nineteenth and was all the way up to third mid-race only to be shuffled back to fifth at the checkers……Tyler Bruening started his #16 in the sixteenth position and on the final restart he had me asking Dick Eisele “where did Bruening come from!”…..Andy Eckrich was running in the top ten when he spun in turn two on lap twenty-three bring out the caution. He then raced his way back to seventh at the finish……Boone McLaughlin made a nifty high-to-low move on Jason Perry to garner the third and final transfer position out of the second B-Main. He then started from row ten and consistently moved forward to finish eighth…..Tom Darbyshire advanced three spots from twelfth to ninth while his teammate Matt Strassheim used a provisional to start twenty-third and made the most of it by taking tenth……Jeremiah Hurst, along with Strassheim, used a Series points provisional while Mark Preston passed the most cars in the heat and the B-Main to earn the Hard Charger or “I just sucked at drawing tonight” provisional…..The ruling on Burgtorf I’m sure will be much discussed and if the rule states that no driver can stop on the track during a caution unless he is told to do so by an official, then the ruling tonight was correct. However, you can bet that at least one crew is going to be very intent on watching what drivers do now under caution for the rest of this year. What if a driver stops for a moment to adjust his own safety equipment, cinch the belts a little tighter or make sure that the steering wheel is on tight, will that driver be sent to the rear for the restart? I can understand the primary intent of the rule, especially when you go to an event on another series that allows drivers to make stops on the track to have an official look a car over and pull out body panels as needed, but perhaps a provision needs to be made going forward when the cause of the car stopping is due to fluid or debris associated with the original reason for the caution……Forty-three Late Models were on hand for the event with the next race on the Deery schedule coming on Memorial Day, May 31st at the Boone Speedway.

Thirty IMCA SportMods were on hand in support of the event with seventeen-year-old Brett Moffitt going flag-to-flag to take the fifteen-lap feature victory. Moffitt held a big lead early and on a lap nine caution it looked like we would be in for a battle up front as young Cayden Carter, who already has two wins here this year, was set to restart second. As they raced into turn one Carter got sideways and spun his #10 sending the field scrambling. They all missed him, but Moffitt’s top contender would now be starting from the back. As Moffitt cruised the final six laps for the win, the race for second was a good one as Kyle Brown gained the spot on the lap nine restart only to have Zach Rawlins come charging back on the high side to take it back at the finish. Defending IMCA Northern SportMod National Champion Jesse Sobbing made the trip over from Glenwood and finished fourth after starting twelfth while Rod McDonald held off Brad Iverson at the line to finish fifth. Moffitt, who is a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver, will be in action this weekend at the Iowa Speedway in Newton during the NASCAR Grand National East-West Shootout.

Nineteen Mod Lites and eight Dirt Trucks were also on the card making the total count for the night right at 100. Joel Huggins, Josh May and Tim Hennigar were your top three in the Mod Lites while Pat Fagan was a happy winner of the Truck feature ahead of young Bryan Nevins and Ed Nelson.

A big thanks to promoter Toby Kruse for the hospitality and to announcer Blake Anderson for giving PositivelyRacing.com a plug. There were more PR.com representatives there last night than I had dates in high school, so check out the other blogs for their points of view as well on this entertaining night of racing.

Up next for the “Back Stretch” will be the premier of the Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds. Hope to see you in Independence!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Knoxville's Dirt To Gravel? Nope, It's Dobmeier, Higday and Johnson in Victory Lane

The famous black dirt of the Knoxville Raceway was nearly turned over to Gravel Saturday night, but in the end it was track regular Mark Dobmeier who reigned supreme as the rain increased in victory lane.

A high school senior from Waterford, Connecticut, David Gravel ventured out to the Knoxville Raceway to make his first-ever appearance at the hallowed speedway and for the first half of the 410 feature Saturday night it looked as though he might just pull off a victory. Mark Dobmeier started the twenty-lap event from the pole with Gravel right behind him and the two ran one-two on lap one before the caution waved for Rager Phillips who had spun in turn two. On the restart Gravel made a run at Dobmeier down the backstretch and pulled even with him in turns three and four, but again Phillips spun in turn two slowing the event. As the field prepared for the restart a light rain started to fall on the speedway and if the cars did not get back up to speed quickly the track would be lost.

Back under green the battle continued between Dobmeier and Gravel and at one point it looked like the youngster had an opportunity to slide up and shut the door on the leader exiting turn two. But when he held his line down low, Dobmeier sprinted past him again down the backstretch and into turn three. This time Gravel tried to take a different approach as he followed the leader in to the low line into turn three and then drifted to the cushion in four. With nobody running the middle that groove had slicked up considerably from the light rain and Gravel lost a ton of momentum losing sight of Dobmeier and turning second over to Brian Brown. As the leader pulled away the race now became a battle for second with Brown, Gravel, Lynton Jeffrey and point leader Don Droud Jr. all involved. With the track now taking rubber on the bottom, getting increasingly wet/slick in the middle, and with the cushion pushed all the way out to the guardrail at both ends, passing became difficult. This was evidenced by the fact that Brown could not get around the lapped car of Bob Weuve over the final eight laps, but Droud’s experience here came into play and he slipped by both Jeffrey and Gravel in the closing laps. At the checkers it was Dobmeier comfortably out front for the win with Brown and Droud next in line. Jeffrey passed Gravel late to finish fourth and the kid from Connecticut will still have a pretty cool story to tell to his classmates when he returns home as he finished fifth.

The 360 Sprint main event came to a sudden halt on lap two when one of the top contenders Greg Bakker veered hard right exiting turn four and slammed the guardrail. Fortunately Bakker, like all of the other drivers involved in incidents here tonight, escaped serious injury. Once back to green there was no catching Josh Higday who was in a class of his own tonight. While Higday dominated, the battle for second through sixth was very entertaining as drivers threw slidejobs at each other throughout the event. Clint Garner started tenth and made a big move into the top five using the cushion on the lap two restart. And a few laps later he put a slider on Randy Martin for fourth that forced Martin to mash the binders or go for a ride. When the caution waved a few laps later Martin, who had faded several positions after losing his momentum, pulled up alongside Garner while the field circled the track under caution to say "hello" and then gave him a nice little bump on the rear bumper to express his displeasure. Once back to green Higday pulled away again and the battle for second between Jon Agan, Bryan Dobesh and Garner took center stage for the final five green flag laps. With Higday taking the win, Agan held his line well and finished second while Garner got past Dobesh late to come home third. Ryan Roberts, who started the 15-lap finale in row seven, rallied to a fifth place finish.

The 305’s were on the card tonight as well and it looked like the feature race would belong to Matt Stephenson, that is until disaster struck on the final lap. After taking the white flag and holding a solid lead over Austin Johnson, Stephenson ran the cushion through one and two as he quickly approached the slower cars of Nick Ross and Jamie Ball. Those two drivers exited turn two on the bottom groove and Stephenson cleared Ross on the high side, but midway down the back straightaway Ball and Stephenson ran out of room and the two made contact busting the left front of the leader. As his crippled mount came down the track Ross had no place to go and he hopped Stephenson’s wheel sending Ross for a tumble. It was a tough way to lose for the veteran from Altoona as his car came to a halt less than half a lap away from the checkers. On the restart there was no denying Johnson from his first career victory at the Knoxville Raceway. Steve Breazeale muscled his car in for second as his power steering had went away earlier in the race, Marty Stephenson came from eight to third while Bob Hildreth and Mitchell Alexander completed the top five.

Knoxville Notes……Due to open dates on schedules of regional series, rainouts at other tracks and who knows what other reasons, there were several "surprise" entrants tonight as 31 410’s, 35 360’s and 18 305’s filled the infield. Along with Gravel, non-regulars in the 410’s included Sid Blandford, Kyle Hirst, Bill Rose, Mike Reinke, Phillip Mock, Scott Uttech, Jacob Ossenfort, Tony Bruce Jr. and Mark Shirshekan. A rainout at Lake Ozark Speedway likely brought Randy Martin, Jesse Hockett and Haley Arnold to town in the 360’s……Hirst and Paulus had problems all night and never ran more than a lap or two in competition, while Reinke had a transfer spot locked up in his heat before something let go under the hood…..Two of the top young drivers in the 360’s were involved in a red flag incident late in the feature as Lee Grosz spun in turn two and collected Jonathan Cornell. Cornell went for a wing bending tumble as both drivers were eliminated after running in the top ten……While disaster for Matt Stephenson resulted in a victory for Austin Johnson, the kid from the Twin Cities avoided his own disaster during the first heat race of the night. As Johnson tried to make a pass on the inside of Alan Ambers in turn one, Ambers pinched him down sending Johnson for a spin. Steve Palmer took evasive action and barely missed Johnson only to make heavy contact of his own with the turn two guardrail sending #2 into a wild sequence of tumbles. Matt Stelzer was also involved……The red waved again at the start of the second 305 heat when veteran driver Bob Lamb hopped a wheel and took a wild end over end ride that forced flagman Doug Clark to take a quick step back on his perch. Lamb was obviously shaken as the rescue crew talked with him, but with their assistance he slowly exited his damaged ride and walked to the ambulance……The Knoxville Raceway crew did a spectacular job of pushing the show along as they were obviously paying attention to the weather radar that showed a band of activity slowly creeping toward the speedway throughout the evening. Of course when we left home mid-afternoon there was not even a mention of rain in the forecast! Even a five minute intermission would have meant that the show would not have been able to be completed as the rain picked up a bit during all three victory lane presentations that were put off until the final checkered flag waved. This attention to the weather and the effort made to push the show along as quickly as possible was a stark comparison to an experience for me at another track earlier this year (see older blogs for details).

I had the honor of filling in for "Hot Rod" Pattison on the night’s live internet coverage by Hoseheads Radio, joining Bill Wright for the call of the racing action. Pattison was back home in South Dakota celebrating the graduation of his daughter and I appreciated the invitation to sit in for the evening. You can catch every race night live from the Knoxville Raceway at www.hoseheads.com and by clicking on the Hoseheads Radio link on the right side of the page.

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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guss Hustles To Win $1,000 At Quad City Speedway Opener

After making the trip up the week before only to have it rain out as the first heat race came to the track, I decided to return to the season opener at the Quad City Speedway on a beautiful Sunday evening, with Mom’s permission of course. A good-sized crowd settled in to watch eighty-five cars in five divisions do battle on the reshaped quarter-mile that is now being operated by the Rock Island County fair board.

The IMCA Late Models were running for a $1,000 top prize tonight and their twenty-car count topped the sign in sheets. Matt Ryan started from the pole and paced the field for the first ten laps that were scored in the thirty-five lap main event. Ray Guss Jr., who completely dominated his heat race earlier in the evening, moved quickly to second after starting on the inside of row four and after a lap nine restart he moved off the preferred inside groove and drove around Ryan for the lead. As Ryan spotted Guss going around him on the outside, he was then under attack from the inside as Rob Toland muscled by him a lap later to take over second. Toland had started twelfth and was able to keep pace with Guss as the two would drive away from the field after each restart and Toland stuck his nose under the leader once before Guss pulled away in the closing laps. It was the second win of the weekend for “The River City Hustler” as he pulled over to Des Moines on Friday after the show at Davenport was washed out. Toland would settle for runner-up honors, Ryan held on to third, Mike Muphy Jr. was fourth and Nate Beuseling, who started fourteenth, would complete the top five. The feature event was tarnished by eleven cautions, mostly for drivers spinning and, or colliding at the back of the pack.

Doug Crampton used the extreme low groove exiting turn four to move from the second row to the front on the first lap of the Pro Modified main event. He then fought off some high-side challenges from John Bull to go on to win the twenty-lap feature that was chopped up by seven separate caution periods. The action was fierce in the early going as drivers raced four-wide, and another two-wide just behind them off turn two and down the backstretch where you could have literally thrown a blanket over six cars as they entered turn three, but a caution flag for an incident well behind them greeted that group as they came past the flagstand. At the checkers it was Crampton, Bull, Chuck Hanna, Andy Werner and Craig Crawford in the top five.

The Street Stock feature was the first of the five main events on the evening following a seventeen-minute intermission and while it had the most drama, it also established the yellow fever that infected the Mods and Late Models as well. Greg Gill and Rick Schriner were racing hard for the lead when on lap five the two collided in turn three with leader Gill going for a spin. The caution waved and both drivers were sent to the rear of the fifteen-car field for the restart. Chris Lawrence picked up the point from there until lap eight when Rob Nylin moved past him for the lead. Gill was on the move and restarts for the fifteen-lap event’s seven cautions kept him close to the leaders. As the white flag waved Gill was able to pull even with Nylin on the inside going into turn one and the two cars made heavy contact. Both drivers were able to maintain control and Gill emerged as the leader heading down the backstretch and Nylin could not catch him as the checkers waved to a mixture of boos and cheers from the energized crowd. The crowd remained vocal during the victory lane presentation as Nylin parked his car about ten yards behind and to the right of Gill, stood on the drivers door and pumped his fists in the air while Gill had his picture taken with the checkered flag. Matt Werner finished in the third spot, Lawrence took fourth and Jimmy Simpson rounded out the top five. (Apparently Nylin's actions brought him a disqualification from the event as he is not listed in the official results that came out on Monday)

With the curfew looming just ahead the IMCA Modifieds and the Four Cylinders must have been inoculated for yellow fever while they prepared for their feature events as each of their races only had two cautions interrupt the racing action. In the Modifieds Jake Waterman charged from the inside of row four to take the lead from Rob Nylin on lap two and cruise to a convincing victory. Craig Crawford passed Andrew Burk late to take the second spot while Brad Tyler and Nylin completed the top five. Shane Kelly, a regular at Peoria Speedway on Saturday nights, stormed through the field after starting tenth to win the twelve-lap finale for the Four Cylinders. Jeremy Kingsley followed Kelly in for second, Chad Tucker was third with Matt Perrott and Chris Courson next in line. Early leader Scott Powell was forced to the pits when his right rear wheel folded under at about a forty-five degree angle, something that I had never seen before.

QCS Notes……It has been a couple of years since I have been at this quarter-mile oval and it appears that some of the banking has been taken out of each end of the speedway. I also don’t recall the infield tires, or corner markers being placed so far down especially in turns three and four. Heat race action had the drivers working several grooves and a nice cushion was there for use in turns three and four come feature time while in one and two it was now treacherously close to the wall. It looked to me that you could have fit at least six cars comfortably side-by-side between the infield tires and the cushion in three and four and there was another two car-widths between the cushion and the wall. My theory was that while there was a nice cushion up there available for use, it just made it too much further to go through the turn than it was on the bottom in order to make it work and that was why everybody was clamoring for the bottom groove. Mike Murphy Jr., who is a master at using the cushion, supported my theory when he tried to use the top line in three and four in his battle with Matt Ryan for third. While Murphy was fast up there he just gave up too much ground to the other competitors who were driving around the bottom and was actually passed by Nate Beuseling before returning to the low groove to regain fourth at the checkers. It will be interesting to see if those infield markers are placed a little bit further out when action resumes this Sunday night……Morning Sun’s Colby Springsteen looked good in the first Late Model heat as he challenged Rob Toland throughout the ten lap distance. He drew the sixth row along with Toland for the feature and suffered a flat tire on the first attempt at a start. While Springsteen was in the work area the second attempt at a start saw three cars at the back of the pack pile up in turn three, but the lap was scored and Springsteen was now a lap down to the field. He was notified of this after the next caution and he chose to put it on the trailer…...One of the things that I have always loved about East Moline is how vocal the crowd is. They have their favorites and they have their “villains” and they aren’t shy about letting you know who they are!…..The show started three minutes earlier than the six o’clock start time, the intermission included an on-track proposal involving two fans, and the final checkered flag waved at 9:54 p.m. She said “yes”, by the way……Racing action continues each and every Sunday night through the summer.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Midweek Thoughts, Points Update and I Like It In The Can Too.....

Hopefully we can break this cycle of dry weekdays and wet weekends that we have experienced over the past two weeks! But of course as soon as I say that I must keep in mind that the mid-week racing schedule kicks in tonight with the season opener at “The Beaver” in Alta, and gets into full swing next week as the Hawkeye Dirt Tour opens at Independence on Tuesday and the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa begins its weekly schedule on Wednesday. So let’s just hope that the rain starts happening overnight and in small increments so that all of the tracks in the area can get some shows in!

How bad has it been? On the weekend of April 23, 24 & 25 not a single track in the state of Missouri was able to hold a race, and in the Show Me state this past weekend only Winston, Springfield and Monett were able to get their full shows in. In fact LA Raceway in La Monte is running a show tonight (Wednesday May 5th) as a way to try to beat the weather. Hopefully one of our newest bloggers Rachel Knight will have a report for us from that show. I’ll have to poke her and make sure that she’s still interested in writing for PR.com!

The news has been a bit better for the “All Iowa Points” tracks as three facilities (Boone, Algona and Webster City) were able to squeeze a show in on that last full weekend of April and several more raced this past weekend. The forecast for this weekend looks like some rain early on Friday will then yield to cooler but dry conditions, so keep your fingers crossed.

The updated All Iowa and All Missouri Points should be up soon on the Points tab at www.PositivelyRacing.com and it is interesting to see some new names at the top of the charts here early in the season. Craig Preble has won all four of the NASCAR Late Model events at I-80 Speedway so far and that has him one-point better than defending champion Ray Guss Jr. in the All Iowa Late Model standings. With his three Deery Series wins Mark Burgtorf is another point back in third. Ol’ triple nickels Ryan Ruter has a one-point edge over Jeremy Mills and Richie Gustin in the Modifieds. Mills is the defending champion in the division while Gustin already has five feature wins in the division. Dustin Smith and Travis Shipman are tied atop the Stock Car standings with southern Minnesota driver Jeffrey Larson just two points back.

Tad Reutzel finished twelfth in the 2009 All Iowa Limited Modified points and he is the early leader in that division here in 2010. On the strength of five feature wins already Karl Brewer is only one point back in second while Jesse Sobbing is in third, the same position that he finished at last year. Keep in mind that 2009 champ Kevin Sather has moved on to Late Models this year. Devin Smith leads the Hobby Stock field early on with Dustin Larson and his four feature wins close behind in second. Chad Gentz already has eight top-five finishes this year and that has him ranked third at this time. It is no surprise that the northern Iowa drivers are dominating the Four Cylinder standings right now as they have been able to race more up that way than anywhere else so far this season. Jay DeVries, Patrick Barrett and Kelly Miller are one, two and three through May 2nd. Only two races each have been run in the 410 and 305 Sprint car divisions and in the 360’s it is Jack Dover out front ahead of defending champion Mike Boston and Gregg Bakker.

In Missouri, Jack Simmons and Justin Wells each have two wins to lead the Late Model standings while Jesse Stovall already has a seven-point advantage in the Modifieds on the strength of four feature victories. Erik Maggard and Johnny Bone Jr. follow Stovall in second and third. Four early season wins has Colt Cheevers at the top of the Limited Modified list with Steve Muilenberg in second and Roy Maynard in third. Feature wins at Sedalia and Lake Ozark puts Randy Martin out front of the Sprint car contingent with Jonathan Cornell close behind and in the Limited Late Models it I-55 Raceway Sportsman competitor Trey Harris out front. Doug Moore is in second with Joe McCain and Kyle Berry tied for third.

The updated point standings should be posted soon and if you would like to be notified when the new points are put up each week, or whenever our bloggers have added a new entry, go to our PositivelyRacing.com page on Facebook and click the “Like” button. You will also see that we are using that page to archive photos from both the present and the past..

On opening night at Sedalia they had a big screen video setup in the infield that was showing different camera angles of the racing and then, during breaks, would show commercials from the night’s sponsors Aflac and Budweiser. One of the ads definitely made Barry and I chuckle and knowing how much my buddy Herb would appreciate it, I had to include it here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBBcZjxd-bk

Have a great racing weekend and remember Be Positive, Support The Sport!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Local" Driver Takes Ten Grand Back To Muscatine

He is the "national" star who lives twenty miles away. He started his career driving a Street Stock here and on the dirt at Hawkeye Downs. And now, when the big money is on the line at the West Liberty Raceway, he is the man to beat no matter who is in the field. On Saturday night there was a $10,000 check waiting in victory lane for the winner of the Daufeldt Transport 50 and it was no surprise that it was Brian Birkhofer who was there to collect it.

A stout field of forty Super Late Models pulled into the Muscatine County Fairgrounds that was still a little wet around the edges from the strong thunderstorms that moved through the area the day before. And the car count was even bolstered a bit by the cancellation of the Lucas Oil series event earlier in the day down in Kentucky. Group qualifying, four heats and two B-Mains narrowed the feature field to twenty-four with outside pole-sitter Denny Eckrich snaring the lead at the drop of the green. Birkhofer, who started fourth, quickly slipped past Chad Simpson for second and took up the chase at the front. Eckrich fought off a couple of challenges over the next few laps and had actually opened up a bit of an advantage before the caution waved on lap eight for Jeremiah Hurst who had stopped at the entrance of turn one.

Action picked up on the restart as both Birkhofer and Simpson applied the pressure on Eckrich for the next two laps only to then have Simpson fall back a bit. Birky kept the heat on the "Flyin’ 50" though and pulled even with him coming down the frontstretch on lap seventeen. Eckrich fought back and regained the advantage down the back straightaway only to have Birkhofer dive to the inside of him again in turn three. Coming off of four you had a new leader for lap eighteen and it didn’t take long for Birkhofer to put some distance on the rest of the field. Shannon Babb was on the move after starting ninth and he drove past Eckrich two laps later to take the second spot.

As Birkhofer and Babb worked traffic the race to watch was now for third as Eckrich, Simpson and Terry Phillips ran three-wide for half a lap before Phillips cleared the two front row starters on lap twenty-six. Phillips was on the fly and quickly reeled in Babb blowing by him on lap thirty to pick up the second spot. Birkhofer’s lead was shrinking rapidly after a near disaster on lap thirty-three when he was almost pinched into the backstretch wall while trying to lap Brian Harris. When the caution waved for debris on lap thirty-five it looked as though he would now have his hands full with Phillips on the restart, but with the Delaware double-file alignment it was Babb who picked up that second spot when the green waved again.

Babb was able to keep Birkhofer in his sights for a few laps, but when he had to start dealing with the challenges of Billy Moyer, Birkhofer was able to pull away as he cruised the final laps for the big money win. Babb fought off Moyer to snare runner-up honors, Phillips had to wonder what might have been if not for that final caution as he settled for fourth and Simpson rounded out the top five. Don O’Neal in the Moring Disposal #M1 finished sixth after starting twelfth, Andy Eckrich was seventh, Brian Shirley finished eighth and Will Vaught passed Denny Eckrich late for ninth.

As announcer Jerry Mackey welcomed Birkhofer home to victory lane the second-generation driver got a bit emotional as he talked about his friends and family. He then said "this one is for Mel Morris" the former track champion here who, like me, Brian watched race many times as a youngster in the stands of this historic old fairgrounds speedway. "Give ‘em hell Mel" passed away late this winter. You can bet that this young man in the #15B is now a hero to many who watched him sharpen his skills here at West Liberty and they love to see him race here again.

Twenty-six Modifieds provided solid support action on the night and it was Jeff "Bone" Larson from Freeport, Illinois, who picked up the feature win. Larson was doing double duty on the night and actually came up just two car-lengths shy of transferring to the Late Model feature in the second B-Main when he couldn’t get past Ricky Frankel. "Bone" shook off that frustration as he climbed aboard his Modified, started on the pole and held back bids from Bruce Hanford and Brad Diercks to lead the twenty-lapper flag to flag. Diercks who picked up the season opener here two weeks ago in dramatic fashion started ninth and finished second tonight, Ryan Dolan came in third, Hanford settled in to fourth and Todd Hansen completed the top five. Larry Herring, Mike Zogg, Scott Dickey, Terry Walker and Trent Vrchockity unofficially completed the top ten.

Liberty Notes……Dave Eckrich set quick time on the night with a time of 19.223 and he was joined in the top six dash by younger brothers Denny and Andy……Jay Johnson did not take a qualifying run after suffering engine troubles in hot laps and Nick Marolf shut his car down after one lap of qualifying. Both drivers were done for the night……Three drivers were inverted in the four Late Model heats with the top three advancing to the A-Main. All twelve of the top qualifiers "held serve" so to speak and transferred from the heats……A tip of the hat to young Justin Kay who drove his IMCA spec engine configuration, topless and with the big spoiler, to the sixth and final transfer position out of the first B-Main. Kay held off Kevin Kile who two weeks ago finished second in the Spring Championship event here…..Notables not making the feature field tonight included MLRA regulars Denny Woodworth and Bryant Goldsmith as well as Minnesota driver Andrew McKay. Veteran driver Steve Boley, who has been helping out Late Model rookie Kevin Sather recently, climbed aboard the #74 normally driven by Peoria’s Russ Adams tonight. Boley finished ninth in the first B-Main and did not make the show…...Jason Schueller was running in the top five before dropping out on lap nine of the Modified main event……The only caution in the Modified feature came on lap thirteen when it looked like the leader Larson tagged the slower car of Zach Less. Less had moved up the track in turn three to get around another slower car and then found himself in the leader’s line of flight……Retired Late Model legends here Roger Dolan, Rollie Frink and Dave Birkhofer were spotted in the stands tonight and I enjoyed catching up with former Burlington area drivers Randy Samberg on Donnie Blint during the evening……With the rainout at 34 Raceway, current IMCA Late Model drivers Boone McLaughlin, Tom Darbyshire and Matt Strassheim were also spectators……A big "thank you" to track announcer Jerry Mackey who gave PositivelyRacing.com a fantastic plug! It sure was fun to hear "Helloooooo Race Fans" again tonight as Mackey continues to be one of the best in the business. And even better, he had a full grandstand tonight to talk to.

The May day twinbill continues on Sunday evening at the Farley Speedway where many of these same Late Model stars, and perhaps more, will take another run at a $10,000 top prize. Hot laps get underway at 5 p.m. For pit pictures of many of tonight’s competitors check out the PositivelyRacing.com page on Facebook, and for some great action photography from tonight make sure you check out Mike Ruefer’s work at www.LateModelAmerica.com